Sunday, July 31, 2011

Verizon Turns to NREL for Energy Efficiency

I can appreciate the forward-thinking that Verizon is attempting here. What better way to learn about becoming a more sustainable business than to partner with the world-renowned National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL). Verizon is interested in learning how to make their data centers more energy efficient as well as developing new technologies to utilize its vast communications network to help homes and businesses save more energy. It's a smart move considering that mobile communications are already ubiquitous (with each mobile device consuming electricity) and showing no signs of losing flavor with consumers. I hope that others in the telecom space follow Verizon's lead and start the process of becoming a responsible business with the intent of reducing its carbon footprint.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

In Conversation: Sustainability and the City

Sustainability is such a simple word yet it conjures up all kinds of meanings in people's minds. The definition of sustainability, which to me is the most easy to understand, is the one developed by the Brundtland Commission of the United Nations, "sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs." In other words, a sustainable society doesn't gobble up all of the resources so that there are none left for our children.

We (the planet Earth "we") are going to have some hard choices coming up here rather soon with respect to the topic of sustainability. Economic and physical growth are inevitable but need to be at a sustainable pace. So what choices can we make so that this growth doesn't put future generations at risk?

I was encouraged to see this article from Smart Planet on a recent meeting set up by the software company SAP (who by the way has an awesome online sustainability report). SAP brought together policy makers, energy companies, and city planners to discuss the possibility of sustainable economic and physical growth led by our urban centers. The ideas brought up were encouraging and I hope this model of bringing diverse backgrounds together to discuss the impact we have today on future generations gains rapid acceptance.

Report Ranks Colorado in the Middle on Clean Economy

I saw this article headline out of the corner of my eye and I had to look twice. Part of me can't believe that Colorado is ranked 20th for number of clean economy jobs. I went to the report on the Brooking Institute's website (PDF) to see what other figures I could find about Colorado. Some of the statistics are as follows:

  • Colorado has 51,036 "clean jobs"
  • 51,036 clean jobs equals 2.2% of all jobs in the state
  • Colorado grows its clean economy sector by 5.6% annually
  • Median wage for clean jobs in Colorado is $45,973 (median wage for all jobs in CO is $40,892)

Although these numbers are healthy and even one clean economy job is a good thing I still think that we can do better. Colorado's state policy, private investment, and incentives can all help grow the clean economy faster than the 5.6% listed above. I know this is definitely possible with the the incredibly smart and savvy people here in this state.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Habitat Builds First Energy Efficient Homes

Habitat for Humanity of Broward in Florida has just received LEED Gold certification for some of their new builds. They are the first builder in the Florida county to get this certification on their new builds. In order to receive the LEED Gold certification they had to demonstrate building performance in five areas: water conservation, sustainable site development, indoor environmental quality, material selection and last but not least energy efficiency. The families that are going to move into those homes are going to have a positive impact on their lives. Congrats to Habitat for Humanity in Broward County for thinking about the future.

DOE Explores a New Frontier In Quest for Cheaper Solar Panels

I love how ambitious the Department of Energy's (DOE) goal is in their "SunShot" program: "...eliminate 75% of the total installation costs for solar energy systems by 2020." That's incredible. There are working with utilities, software providers, and local governments to meet this goal so as to make rooftop solar arrays more affordable for property owners. With the collective brainpower of those entities, I think that this goal can definitely become reality in just nine years.

Biofuels Take Off in Europe

Congrats to KLM and Lufthansa airlines for taking the necessary step of testing the use of biofuels on their "regular routes". KLM is going to use biofuels on their Paris to Amsterdam route and Lufthansa will use it on their Frankfurt to Hamburg route. These airlines are using a processed oil from camelina a biofuel crop. The camelina can be planted in wheat fields during a time when the fields would be left fallow (farmland left unsown for a time to restore its fertility). The European Commission is also in support of the airlines using biofuels as long as they don't use food-based feed stocks to create the fuel and as long as the feed stock is grown and processed in Europe. I'm glad that these airlines and the European Commission are baking sustainability into their planning and policy. Let's see if the Americans can follow suit.

Vestas CEO on the Renewable Energy Index and Wind Market

Via Colorado Energy News we have a quick article on the information the Vestas CEO recently told Bloomberg TV. Although the "Corporate Renewable Energy Index" he mentioned peaks my interest, I think this quote is the most powerful:

"90% of all consumers in the world would like to have more renewable energy, and 80% of those consumers actually believe that companies that have the right behavior in renewable energy are companies that they would like to support."

It's really a no brainer folks - governments and businesses need to invest in renewable energy simply because constituents/consumers want more renewable energy. Right?

Boulder Wind Power, NREL Receive Energy Department Grants

Excellent news for local Colorado organizations. The two will receive a portion of a $7.5 million Department of Energy grant to help expedite next-generation utility-scale wind turbine drivetrains. According to their website Boulder Wind Power has a new design for a direct drive wind turbine generator, which they claim is more efficient, reliable, and cheaper than current direct drive or alternative geared systems on the market. And we all know the quality research that NREL is doing on wind turbines. This is money well spent and I can't wait to see what they come up with.

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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