It’s Saturday night and I wanted to jump into the weekend with a cartoon that I noticed on the Building Seattle Green blog. It made me laugh, but unfortunately, the humor belies a sad reality. Consider this: In what way do we encourage greater reliance on oil (through transportation) by land use policies that further growth in the suburbs? In what way do we encourage building in suburbs by having greater access to cheap gas and enormous, cool vehicles? Maybe I’m overthinking this, but these issues are more inter-related that one would otherwise think. Enjoy the weekend! Tom Toles Comic Archive at Washington Post. Too Tired for Irony, April 14, 2006.
I first heard that Whole Foods was going to be selling a Wind Power Card ($15 family – 750 kWh + $5 individual – 250 kWh) from eco-entrepreneur Shea, a co-founder of Renewable Choice Energy (the provider of the Wind Power Card). What did I do? I went a bought a $15 card to offset my blog. I love Typepad, but they determine my hosting situation and I can’t change that, so I wanted to offset my blog’s impact. I’m not sure how long this will last, but that’s okay because I’ll find out eventually. The big question is, however: Should you buy a card? The bloggers at boingboing equivocated, but everyone else in the country seems to think it’s a good thing. I’ll explain what I know, but I hope you’ll continue to research the issue of offsets and wind energy credits, if you have an interest.
First, if you want to power your home with renewable energy, you can do a few things: green build your home, install solar panels, put a wind turbine in your backyard, use energy-efficient appliances, etc. After you reduce your own reliance on the grid in these ways (aka, minimize your own environmental footprint), you have a few more options: (1) you could buy electricity from an eco-conscious company, like Green Mountain Energy, that feeds clean energy into the distribution grids, or (2) you could buy electricity from your regular company and purchase renewable energy credits in amounts that offset your energy usage. There are slight differences with each choice. Importantly, whenever energy producers create energy, it is routed into the regional/national grid, and that grid distributes the power to individual homes. As a result, the energy grid conducts various types of energy such as coal (primarily), solar, wind, water, biomass, natural gas, geothermal, etc. Depending on your location, you will receive a concoction of energy from all these types of sources, but the national average concoction = Coal – 52%, Nuclear – 20%, Natural Gas – 16%, Large Hydroelectric – 7%, Oil – 3%, and Renewables – 2%.
With wind energy credits, and more particularly, the Wind Power Card, you’re not reducing or affecting the electricity bill that comes in the mail each month. What you do is ensure that the electricity you use is replaced onto the national power grid with wind energy. Every time you buy renewable energy credits, less non-renewable energy is fed into the grid. This concept is hard to grock, but it’s true. Think of this, though: you’re paying a premium, but if you have money to do this, why not support clean energy generation and pay for renewable energy credits? We can’t neglect the negative externalities (those that aren’t reflective in pricing) of dirty energy such as coal. Our energy decision will increasingly impact the way we live in the future.
A Closer Look at Whole Foods Wind Power Card Displays [Sustainablog]
Boing Boing Mischaracterizes Wind Credits, WF Wind Cards [Sustainablog]
Support for Wind Power Picking Up Speed [Nurenberg - CNN]
American Wind Energy Association on Renewable Energy Credits [AWEA.org]
Renewable Energy Credits + Offsets Certification [Texas PUCT]
On September 20, 2006, Cincinnati City Council took a bold step to pass an ordinance, at the motion of council members Laketa Cole and Chris Bortz, that provides tax and $ incentives to residential and commercial developers that build or rehab structures to LEED standards (Certified, Silver, Gold, or Platinum). Even more notable was the simultaneous creation of a Community Development Block Grant, which aims to provide financing to residential (low or qualified mixed-income) structures built to LEED standards by paying the difference between the cost of the LEED building versus the cost of the building if it were built to standard codes.
City Council is thinking also about establishing a "green permitting" process, which would allow green developers to bypass the bureaucratic bottlenecks and move to the front of the line for development approvals. This is great news. Developers are always looking for a way to get their projects approved, so green permitting will force them to rethink their options.
The LEED-H standard, which is the USGBC‘s standard for residential green homes, is relatively new, when compared to the LEED standards for commercial building. LEED buildings will start to gain in popularity and provide tangible benefits to the city because green buildings use less water, less energy, and pollute less. And from what I understand, there are tons of cities out there (other than Cincinnati) that have water shortages, energy shortages, and dirty skies–why not empower your citizens and businesses to solve resource problems by building green? It’s one of the smartest things you can do as a politician, regardless of your partisan affiliation.
We don’t need no stinkin’ coal! Fort Bliss is right on the money with their visionary plan to build a 1-gigawatt (yes, that’s what the article says), 10 square mile solar farm at Fort Bliss by 2010. That’s a big solar farm, and supposedly, the largest solar farm in existence is the 12-megawatt one in Germany. Various projects and technology development will continue under a partnership between Fort Bliss and the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. The new technology, including a controller than can extract energy even on overcast days, should cut the cost of solar energy in half.
U.S. Representative Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) says the coal plants may not be necessary if the solar technology lives up to expectations. The plan is to start powering Fort Bliss, and later, energy can be pumped into the national power grid to be exported nationwide. In January 2007, post engineers will begin installing a 1.5 megawatt system. After that, the project should explode with 20 megawatts in 2007, 40 megawatts in 2008, and 1 gigawatt in 2009.
"The new technology, which has been in development for about three years, is already charging the battery packs of soldiers in the 18th Airborne Corps and the 75th Ranger Regiment in Iraq and Afghanistan, Tudor said. That equipment includes hood-mounted Humvee panels that also can charge the vehicle’s battery, pack-mounted systems that charge batteries as a soldier walks, and tent-mounted systems that can provide power for a heated sleeping pad and to charge other batteries." via El Paso Times. See also KVIA News Report.
Green Wombat reports that the Governator was pumping up California’s commitment to create 3,000 megawatts of new solar-produced, clean energy by 2017. Think about that. We’re talking about governmental support for empowering and supporting residents to generate their own energy. Relatedly, the Solar Umbrella House is a modern + green example of what can happen when home owners take advantage of the governmental benefits of clean energy subsidization. It was an AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Project in 2006, by architect Pugh + Scarpa. What more can I say than that the Solar Umbrella House looks good and sunlight provides 95% of the electricity (less than $300 /year in energy bills).
In addition to being designed passively to optimize the balance of sun and shade, the home has 89 amorphous photovoltaic panels that are connected to the grid with a net meter provided by the city of Los Angeles. The house is decked out with energy-efficient everything. Indoor air quality is perpetually monitored. The design is LEED-H (v2) consistent. Certified wood, recycled materials + salvaged materials were used all over the place.
The photovoltaic system, solar hot-water system, thermally broken glazing, and energy efficient appliances cost about $39,000. Not cheap, but that’s where rebates come in. To pay for the solar panels, there was a $18,600 rebate from the City Department of Water and Power and a $4,000 rebate from the federal government. After applying the rebates, the payback on this investment becomes 12 years, and the solar panel warranty lasts for 25 years. Not bad.
So what’s the big deal? If your city isn’t on board with clean energy, there isn’t a 12 year payback and you continue to buy electricity created from dirty coal plants (unless it’s a green provider). Which is better? Option A) independent, site-generated electricity that pays for itself after 12 years + is warrantied for 25 years + creates lower electricity bills or B) no site-generated electricity + persistently increasing electricity bills + dirty air. This is common sense, get your state and local governments to support renewable energy so that you can create a better living environment for your family. If you do it like the Solar Umbrella House, you can do it in green style!
On October 8, 2006, Tali (wife) and I participated in the 40-mile Livestrong Challenge in Austin, Texas, benefiting cancer patients. We had a great time and were thankful to participate on the GMAC-sponsored TeamMBA, which included others associated with SMU’s MBA program. In total, our team raised +$62,788.00. Beautiful Tali raised $635.00, and I raised $750.00, many thanks to you. I wanted to thank the sponsors and other friends that were so generous with their support. And I will say, we did see Lance Armstrong (he participated in the 5k run and 40-mile bike; pictured below on the left). More than that, however, we saw many people of all ages who were riding "in memory of" or "in honor of" loved ones. It rocks you’re world to feel how many people have been affected/afflicted by cancer, and I was touched by strength and commitment of others in this event. This is the type of event that if you can just show up, you’re automatically elevated by the warm energy of everyone else. I just wanna say thanks.
- miniHOME – you’ll notice their link on the right. I blogged about them a little bit back…needless to say, their miniHOME is all the rage in the modern + green prefab movement. Thanks Lloyd Alter!
- Ecorrazi.com – their link is on the right as well. This website is the official location for all gossip green + celebrity related. Thanks Rebecca Carter!
- TECS Diversified + Todd Sheets – Todd Sheets is one of the greatest and greenest in the Central Oregon area (Bend, Redmond, etc.). He’s been working on green renovations, green homes, energy efficient everything, and smart tenant improvements in Central Oregon for a long time and has a history of excellence in his work. Thanks Todd Sheets!
Thanks also to the rest of you: Margaret (Texas belle with a West Coast Green heart), Jim (longtime mentor), Les (the real estate Longhorn), Mike (my boss of nearly 4 years), Stacy (comrade on the China trip and MBA group member), and TeamMBA. You all were extremely kind and generous!