Sunday, July 29, 2012

Colorado Tapped for Government's New Solar Energy Zones

This is pretty big news. The U.S. Department of Interior has designated solar zones across the western U.S. where utility-scale solar power plants will be built generating up to 24,000 megawatts of clean renewable power. By my conservative calculations, 24K megawatts can power at least 5 million homes, but other sources say that it could power over 20 million homes. Regardless, millions of homes with clean renewable power is a good thing. A little over 16,000 acres has been identified in Colorado for these solar power plants. However, since it is utility-scale power this will require transmission lines across some pristine western country. I go back and forth on the issue of utility-scale renewables versus distributed generation (DG). I'm not sure what the right answer is. What I do know is that more of our electricity needs to come from renewable sources as quickly as possible, and it probably needs to be a combination of utility-scale and DG.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Opening My Eyes to Possibility: An Insider’s View of WREF 2012

Before I attended the combined 2012 World Renewable Energy Forum (WREF) and American Solar Energy Society (ASES) national conference, I was just an islolated blogger toiling away on my own blog during my dwindling free time. I was writing as much as I could about the impact of energy efficiency, renewables, and sustainability to an audience that was frankly non-existent. I actually pondered giving up on the blog altogether. Why should I keep feeding energy to something that received an iota of comments, usually from some language challenged spam bots? I discovered the answer to that question at WREF 2012.

When I walked into the Denver Convention Center, I really didn’t know what to expect. I had been to a few other week long conferences unrelated to renewable energy and they were usually 90% yawns with the occasional gem of a speaker. But this conference was different. Oh yes, of course I’m a renewable energy junkie always looking for news on increases in solar cell efficiency or the gradual improvement of renewable portfolio standards in states across the nation, so I probably can’t be trusted to provide an unbiased opinion. However, you have to believe me when I tell you that being in the midst of people representing nations on every continent except Antarctica was intoxicating. During the week, my eyes were slowly opened to possibility once again.

Scientists, policy makers, advocates, radicals, environmentalists, community organizers, academics,geeks, and nobodies like me were gathered together for a week exchanging ideas, asking questions, sharing success and failures, and perpetuating possibilities of a future planet that practices, as the Brundlandt Commission stated, “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” I realized during a dizzying week of Ignite presentations, panel discussions, and plenary sessions that there were indeed kindred spirits working on behalf of a future while focusing on the present. WREF recharged my old fuel cell for what I hope is a long and fruitful life working towards a renewable, efficient, and sustainable world.
And last but not least, a huge thank you to the good folks at ASES who worked countless hours to organize a global conference nestled at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. You’ve contributed fond memories to this blogger that I trust will last a lifetime. Now, I must get back to work…

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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