Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Study: Kerry-Lieberman Climate Bill Would Prompt Decade of Job Growth

A bit of good news on the Kerry-Lieberman Climate Bill. The non-partisan Peterson Institute for International Economics studied this bill and determined that it would create numerous jobs in the clean energy sector from 2011-2020. The bill would also spur investment in technologies that will reduce fossil fuel consumption (through renewables and nuclear) and support energy efficiency measures in our homes and transportation. The bill also puts a price on carbon and caps greenhouse emissions. It's a great start and will begin the transition of helping the U.S. reduce consumption of coal and petroleum. With the tragedy and damage that is going on in the Gulf of Mexico, don't you think it's time to begin weening ourselves off of fossil fuels? Or should we just proceed with business as usual?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

CSU to Boost Solar Power and Become Largest University Installation in Nation

Way to go Colorado State University. Not content with third place, CSU is going for the number one position in the nation for university solar power. One of the interesting points in the article is that CSU has realized that prospective students and their parents are paying more attention to universities that have "green" policies. CSU can now use the solar installation as a recruiting tool. Also, with higher education budgets tight these days, solar on the Front Range makes economic sense because once the initial capital outlay for the solar modules occurs, one never has to pay for fuel (the sun's rays are free!). So future fluctuations in natural gas or coal prices will have reduced impact on their electricity budget. How's that for a little risk mitigation?

Monday, May 17, 2010

DOE Funds to Stretch Concentrated Solar Power Through Salt Storage

Glad to see the Department of Energy (DOE) is investing $62 million in salt storage. It is cheaper and easier to store energy as heat than electricity. The way concentrated solar thermal power essentially works is that the sun's rays are focused on a tube of liquid, the liquid heats up to steam, and the steam turns a turbine which creates electricity. Once the sun stops shining the heat starts to dissipate and the process starts all over again in the morning. Well, instead of letting that heat dissipate into the atmosphere in the evening what if you could store it in something like salt? If you store the heat you can use it again in the morning so the concentrated solar power (CSP) panels don't have to work as hard to heat up the liquid to steam. Storing the excess heat will also allow a large-scale CSP plant to run for many more hours after the sun goes down. Doing this causes the economics of a CSP plant to start looking better and better!

Kudos to the DOE for recognizing an opportunity to help drive down the cost of renewable energy.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

How Will Gulf Spill Affect Energy Debate? A Chat With Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter

In the midst of what will probably turn out to be the worst environmental disaster the United States has ever experienced, we haven't yet had the time to reflect on the impact this oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico will have on our energy and environmental policies. It is safe to say that there will be some impact on the policy debate in Washington. Hopefully the result of that impact will be a policy that includes a way forward to energy independence while radically reducing the use of fossil fuels.

The U.S. is addicted to cheap coal and cheap oil to the detriment of our health and our environment. This damage from fossil fuels is playing itself out slowly over time. On the other hand, the oil leak at the bottom of the Gulf is a rapid and expedited look at the profound damage fossil fuels can do to our environment. I hope that the black sludge that is currently suffocating and killing the marine life in the Gulf of Mexico and that is single-handedly destroying the livelihood of many American fisherman will remain in our memories for a long time. I also hope that it will cause us to pause and reflect every time we fill up our tanks with cheap gasoline. We need to seriously address our energy policy soon.

Oh and here's a quick interview with the Colorado governor on how the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico might influence the energy policy debate.

Colorado Seeks a Renewable Energy Peak

Good article from National Geographic on whether or not the renewable energy boom in Colorado can be used as a template for other states. I tend to think it can, although not as large a scale as what's happening in Colorado. We have such plentiful renewable sources here (solar, wind, and geothermal) and a world class research center (NREL) that it behooves us to move full steam ahead into a renewable future. However, we can certainly export this intellectual property to other states and the world when the time comes.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Colorado: A Clean Energy Future Done Right

Here's a great synopsis of what's been happening in the Colorado clean energy front. The nutshell? Good public policy coupled with cooperation from private enterprise. It's possible to begin the process of supplanting fossil fuels with renewable energy such as wind, solar, biomass, and geothermal. But it's also necessary to use cleaner fossil fuels, such as natural gas, to bridge the transition to renewables. What's encouraging about Colorado's new energy economy, is the process - government and business coming together in the interest of the environment and of profit. Colorado has shown it's possible to have both clean air and water and profit if changed is not feared.

Gov. Ritter Signs Bill into Law to Expand Geothermal Energy Production

Step by step, inch by inch, Colorado is slowly making it easier to use and develop renewable energy sources. This time, the good Governor makes it easier to obtain permits and establishes a process to resolve land disputes for geothermal. I'm glad we are looking at all available clean energy sources to supplement our use of non-renewable, fossil fuel sources.

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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