Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Xcel to Buy Power from RES Americas’ Planned NE Colorado Wind Farm

A new wind farm will be built by a Colorado company (Renewable Energy Systems Americas, Inc.) and will reside in Eastern Colorado. The company also signed a 20-year deal with Xcel Energy to buy 252 megawatts of clean wind power from the farm. I have a hunch that this deal was inked in response to the recent increase in Colorado's renewable energy standard, which requires Xcel Energy to acquire 30% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Oh and this wind farm will create 200 jobs and will staff about 12 people once in operation. How cool is that?

Colorado Senate Passes Clean-air Bill Favoring Natural Gas

Good news for Colorado's air quality. The Colorado Senate passed a bill to retrofit existing coal-fired electricity plants to plants fired by natural gas. This will reduce the toxins and pollutants that significantly contribute to the Denver metro area's brown cloud in the winter and smog alerts in the summer. Using natural gas to fire electricity plants will also ease the transition to renewable energy supplies such as wind and solar because of the ability of natural gas to come online quicker than coal and meet the base load demand when the sun isn't shining or the wind isn't blowing. Also in the bill is a provision that requires Xcel to cut emissions of nitrogen oxides by 70-80% by 2017. Natural gas will help to meet this requirement. Nice job Colorado legislature!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Solar in Schools Adds Energy to California Solar Rush

I like this idea of teaching K-12 students about solar energy. It's hard enough educating working adults about the benefits of renewable energy, so why not start a little early? This program, titled the Solar School Initiative is done in California with help from the state's large utility, PG&E. The students get to observe a ground-mounted, one-kilowatt photovoltaic system located on school property. What is incredible is that PG&E has already contributed $9 million to the Solar School Initiative program. I wonder if Colorado's large utility, Xcel Energy, would be open to a program like this? I truly believe that investment in renewable energy education will not only help us adopt clean energy at a faster rate but also help Colorado meet its CO2 emission reduction goals and renewable energy standards.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Oregon Solar Parts Maker PV Powered Bought by Colorado's Advanced Energy

Just a little acquisition by Colorado's Advanced Energy for a cool $90 million. The purchased company, PV Powered out of Oregon, makes solar PV inverters for residential and smaller commercial customers. Advanced Energy focuses on selling inverters (amongst other solar products) to larger commercial customers. Looks like Advanced Energy is expanding into other markets and will also benefit from PV Powered's large manufacturing operations. Keep an eye on Colorado's Advanced Energy.

Denver Ranks Fourth in EPA Efficient Building List

Nice! Denver moved from 7th to 4th on the EPA's efficient building list. Here's a quote from the article which should be memorized by us all, so we can get to 1st place on the list:

"Energy efficiency is the lowest hanging fruit and it's the cheapest and easiest way to save money on energy costs."

Congrats to all the Denver public, private, and non-profit organizations that have been working towards a more energy efficient future.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Scientists Develop Highly Recyclable Plastic

Since I'm on a technology kick, here's an article from the NY Times blog that speaks to researchers at Stanford and IBM developing a plastic that can be "continuously recycled". I don't know about you but I was unaware that plastic couldn't be recycled indefinitely and typically is recycled once then ends up in a landfill. Reason being is that there is a metal oxide in the polymers used to form the plastic that continues to breakdown each time it is recycled. This "breakdown" ultimately makes the plastic weaker and unusable. The researchers at IBM and Stanford have substituted an organic catalyst for the metal oxide, which according to them, "makes certain types of new polymers that have other properties plastics don't have." This will allow the plastic to be recycled numerous times. IBM and Stanford, Mother Earth thanks you!

Ultra-Efficient Gas Engine Passes Test: 64 to 98 MPG!

From Technology Review we have an interesting bit of tech that increases the efficiency of the internal combustion engine. Transonic Combustion claims that their fuel-injection system will improve the engine gas efficiency by 50%. Their process is to essentially heat and pressurize the gasoline before it goes into the fuel-injection chamber. They claim that this allows for "fast and clean combustion." Pretty cool huh? The company claims that the technology can get 64 miles per gallon and that at a steady speed of 50 miles per hour they can get 98 mpg! Even if the technology isn't scalable for mass production, it never ceases to amaze me that there are brilliant minds working right now on the next technological breakthrough.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Governor Ritter Signs Landmark Renewable Energy Bill

From Colorado Energy News we find out today Colorado Governor Ritter signed into law legislation that requires the state to acquire 30% (up from 20%) of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Thirty percent! That's the highest renewable energy standard in the Rocky Mountain West and we are slowing nipping at the heels of California's standard. This will bring more jobs and cleaner energy to this state. Congrats to everybody who worked to pass this bill and get it signed into law.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

FCC Broadband Plan Goal: Use Broadband to Manage Energy Consumption

Nice. How forward thinking is the FCC? They are about to release their "Broadband Plan" next week and one of the items in it is:

"To ensure that America leads in the clean energy economy, every American should be able to use broadband to track and manage their real-time energy consumption."

There are a ton of companies in Colorado that are developing technologies to monitor your home's energy consumption and to make the grid smarter. This move by the FCC to expedite energy efficiency in the U.S. via broadband is good news.

GEO Launches Statewide Consumer Rebate Program April 19th

Get ready for some rebate love. The Colorado Governor's Energy Office (GEO) is going to release some of the Recovery Act funds in the form of rebates starting April 19th. According to Colorado Energy News, items eligible for rebates will include:
  • Equipment such as dishwashers, clothes washers, refrigerators, as well as furnaces and hot water heaters.
  • Residential energy efficiency measures such as insulation and air sealing, duct sealing, whole-house energy audits and whole-house energy monitors.
  • Renewable energy projects, including solar photovoltaic systems, solar hot water systems for homes and businesses and small wind installations.
Here's a link to more info on the GEO web site regarding the rebates.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bill to Cut Coal Power in Colorado Has Widespread Backing

The Denver Business Journal reports that bill HB 1365 Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act was introduced into the Colorado legislature yesterday and zoomed through the House Transportation and Energy Committee with a 10-1 approval. This bill would retrofit coal-burning power plants with natural gas. A couple of things make this a smart bill: Colorado has an abundance of natural gas and natural gas has lower carbon dioxide emissions than coal. Plus this bill has broad support with the only dissenter happens to be the coal industry. It's a no brainer for Colorado to pursue policies that help work towards cleaner air, create jobs, and provide a reliable energy source for our base load power (when solar and wind aren't working). We are still going to need coal for the foreseeable future, but anything we can do to help ween ourselves off coal (whether it be with renewable sources or lower emitting natural gas) is good for posterity in my humble opinion.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Sustainability Tip of the Week: It's Fix-a-Leak Week

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Water Sense group says it's fix-a-leak week March 15th to 21st. If you have any leaky faucets spend a little time this week and fix them, because that little old leak can waste more than 3,000 gallons per year. In an arid climate like the one we have in Colorado, water is a precious resource. Here's a good tip for a suspected leaky toilet:

"One way to find out if you have a toilet leak is to place a drop of food coloring in the toilet tank. If the color shows up in the bowl within 15 minutes without flushing, you have a leak."

There's much more on the Water Sense web site. Check it out, save some money, and save some water.

Solar Industry Learns Lessons in Spanish Sun

There are lots of lessons to be learned from the boom and bust solar market in Spain. This article in the New York Times highlights what can go wrong when a market is solely dependent on government subsidies. However, emerging markets need subsidies at first to create stability in that market. Even though the U.S. is behind Europe in terms of renewable energy production, I think we are in the position to shape the global solar energy market towards sustainable growth. So read the article and leave your suggestions on what are the best approaches the U.S. can do, from a public and private perspective, to assist and help shape the emerging solar industry.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Gov. Bill Ritter: Advancing Colorado's New Energy Economy

Here's an opinion piece in the Denver Post from Colorado Governor Bill Ritter on Colorado's "New Energy Economy". Progress towards this goal is happening on several fronts. First, the Colorado legislature just upped the amount of electricity that Colorado must acquire from renewable energy sources from 20% to 30% by 2020. Second, Colorado is home to a "research corridor" of universities and laboratories devoted to the advancement clean energy technology. Finally, there are numerous clean tech companies (smart grid, thin-film PV, wind turbines, etc.) that are setting up shop in Colorado due to the friendly clean energy environment and copious amounts of brain power in this state. My hope that Colorado would be the clean energy thought leader of the United States is starting to come to fruition. Are you excited?

Survey: Power Companies Still Unsure of Smart Grids

As with any of the clean technologies that are coming out fast and furious these days it's going to take more education, money, and patience. Microsoft Corp. released the Worldwide Utility Industry Survey 2010 and it demonstrated that utilities are a little behind implementing smart grid technologies. The smart grid market is still nascent and it will take some time for utilities to find and implement the best technologies for their power grid. I am optimistic about smart grid technologies as well as the Colorado companies that have formed to bring these technologies to market.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Boulder-area Solar Companies Wary of 'Community Solar Gardens' Bill

Yesterday I wrote a bit about the solar garden phenomenon. Personally, I see it as a positive development for the solar industry, as well as communities in Colorado. However, there are some in the Colorado solar industry that think the solar garden bill introduced in the legislature today needs a few tweaks before it goes prime time. Here's an article from the Daily Camera that gives the contrarian point of view. Let me know your thoughts in the comments on the pros and cons of solar gardens. Thank you!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The First Working Solar Garden in Colorado: A New Model for Community Groups

Here's a cool concept for neighborhoods that would like to generate their own renewable power. The concept is called "distributed generation" and it essentially means generating power close to the point of use. Generating power locally can eliminate the need to build new transmission lines and other issues during the transition to clean energy resources. Read more about distributed generation here and here. Think solar panels on your house, your neighbors house, your church, and commercial buildings all generating their own clean power.

A solar garden "allows people to come together in groups from 10-1,500 to establish community-scale power plants. A solar garden can be located on multiple homes, large buildings, or integrated into working agricultural land." A new solar garden is opening in Westminster, CO tomorrow at 11am at 4800 West 80th Ave. The same day the Solar Gardens bill (HB 1342) will be introduced into the Colorado State Assembly by Claire-Levy (D-Boulder, Gilpin). Read the press release here.

I am new to this solar garden concept but I believe that it follows the creed of "localization" that society is going to have to embrace with respect to their food, their work, and of course their energy. As oil prices rise so does the cost of everything else. If we begin to produce the basics (food, shelter, and clothing) locally we will then be able to absorb the economic impact of ever rising oil prices. Keep your eye on solar gardens.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Ascent Solar Signs $6.5M Sales Deal with FTL Solar of Texas

Kudos to Thornton-based Ascent Solar for landing a $6.5 million deal with a FTL Solar of Austin, Texas. FTL Solar will use Ascent's thin-film photovoltaics in "specialty-market products" (think tents, umbrellas, and sails). This is probably the first-step to the ubiquity of thin-film solar PV on products used outdoors. These are exciting times for thin-film solar.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Colorado Senate Advances Higher Renewable Energy Standard

Inch by inch Colorado is drawing closer to getting 30% of its energy from renewable sources. The Denver Business Journal reports that the Colorado Senate just passed the bill and it now goes back to the House for final approval. An extra 10% is a large step forward for a healthier environment, reduced carbon footprint for the state, and job creation in the renewable energy and energy efficiency sector.

Also in that article was the mention of an announcement by the Governor Ritter, environmentalists, and Xcel Energy that legislation will be introduced called Colorado's Clean Air-Clean Jobs Act. This legislation will force the retrofit or replacement of Front Range coal-fired power plants with natural gas or other low-emitting energy sources by 2017. So let me get this straight: government, environmental advocates, and a power utility come together and create a forward-thinking plan for the good of Colorado's public's health and economy? Yes, coalitions can still be formed between disparate interests. Kudos to those three groups. The people of Colorado will thank you one day.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Renewable-energy Mandate Bill Could Create 23,000 Jobs in Colorado

Excellent. Further proof that increasing Colorado's renewable energy standard from 20% to 30% is a good idea. Not only will it increase the amount of energy Colorado gets from renewable sources it will also create 23,000 jobs in the state. Sounds like good policy to me. Pass that bill Colorado legislature!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Energy Efficient Building Design at NREL

It never ceases to amaze me that right here in our own backyard, nestled up against the Rocky Mountain foothills are modest men and women of science working together to make our energy future renewable, sustainable, and efficient. The National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) is putting their money (and brains) where their mouth is. Set to open this summer, NREL has been developing the de facto standard for energy efficient commercial office buildings. From a building that tells you when to open the windows because it's too hot inside to windows that tint (electrochromic) when direct sun hits them, the folks at NREL know how to analyze every aspect of a structure to ensure efficient energy use. Hopefully they'll have tours of this building after it opens!

Wishful Thinking

*Before adding PV, wind, or solar thermal to your residential or commercial structure, the first step is to analyze this structure's energy consumption through a professional energy audit. I'd like to see some public education on the importance of an energy audit for any structure. Remember Smokey the Bear's forest fire shtick drilled into our heads over the last few decades? How about something like, "Henry the House" desperately wanting to know how much energy he consumes and wastes throughout the day?

*With over 300 sunny days a year on the Front Range is it too much to ask for solar PV and thermal modules on every residential and commercial unit (after an energy audit of course)?

*How about affordable plug-in electric cars that go more than 100 miles on a charge with PV and wind powered recharging stations?

*Dreaming of companies large and small adopting business sustainability practices to maximize profits, reduce their carbon footprint, and enhance the lives of their employees and the communities that surround them.


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