Articles With "alternative energy" Tag

Top Sustainable Cities: Portland + San Francisco, the Eco-Innovators

Top_50_overall There are cities and leaders in the US that are taking bold steps to change public perception of green principles, and I wanted to share their words and vision with you.  I’ve included a new section on my right sidebar for some informative, watershed videos.  I use the word watershed because future generations will respect these leaders for their foresight, they will be heros.  Are you one of these leaders?  If you’re a CEO, can you count yourself among the lonely ranks of eco-warriors like Ray Anderson, Jeff Immelt, and Lee Scott?  If you’re a mayor, can you count yourself among the growing ranks of eco-leaders like Gavin Newsom, Tom Potter, Mufi Hannemann, Greg Nickels, and Will Wynn?  If you’re not a mayor or CEO, are you an eco-leader in the world that you live in? 

There’s a video on the right with Tom Friedman speaking.  You’ll know him from the bestselling book, The World is Flat.  He makes some critical points, but one of the most important points is that the chase for sustainability will create money-making, business opportunities for innovation in the 21st century:  opportunities that the US is currently abdicating to China.  Do we want to shift our middle east energy dependence by becoming dependent on China for renewable energy technologies?

So SustainLane released its yearly Top 50 US Cities, which is a report card on urban sustainability.  I was surprised to find Dallas at #24; one thing that holds us back is our addiction to cars–I don’t see how that will change without 10-30 years of persistent city planning + changing, considering how the city is currently laid out.  That’s okay, however, the rankings are there to get us to study other cities and make positive changes.  You can read about each city at SustainLane.  I encourage you to watch the video on #1 Portland (urban transportation and LEED building superstar) and #2 San Francisco (recycling superstar). 

Wind Power Cards Available at Whole Foods Market

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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. 

Extra Links:
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]

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Entrepreneurial New Resource Bank + Green Lending Residential Solar Systems

New_resource_b Sustainable business entrepreneurship requires sophisticated financiers, so I wanted to let the Jetson Green readers know about an innovative, newly-founded banking institution called "New Resource Bank."  They are "financing sustainable resources in [their] community."  The bank was started by a group of entrepreneurs with expertise in the banking industry, and their start-up story is revealing:  240 founding shareholders subscribed to $24.75 M of the bank’s stock offering, and the community backed it as well bringing the initial subscription amount to $35 M–that’s a 60% over-subscription.  This made it one of the largest initial capitalizations for a start-up bank in Northern California.  Talk about suppressed demand for sustainably-minded banking institutions and investments!

They are all about green.  The bricks + mortar bank was certified LEED-CI Gold.  Plus, they announced an alliance with SunPower Corp. (company that manufactures high-efficiency solar cells and panels) to provide one-step financing of residential solar energy installations.  Under the program, customers work out a home-equity type loan that allows monthly payments on the solar installation while they save money on their electricity bills.  Factoring in governmental incentives, and if there are local incentives, you could end up with a mad case of energy and financial independence.  Typical financing is for 25 years on a system ranging from $20,000-40,000 (before federal, state, + local incentives).  If you’re a Californian, after the Governator’s program kicks in, there should be no reason not to go solar.  Tip via GreenBiz.

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Sustainable Building Precursor: Opportunities + Widgets

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Every now and then I get a question on green building, or I’ll ask someone a question on green building, and almost every time, the reaction I receive is bitter beer face.  What’s the problem?  It’s like by saying the word "green building," I’m a hippie, a crazed environmentalist, or worse: "a tree-hugger."  I don’t know about hippie, but words like "environmentalist," "tree-hugger," and "sustainability," are losing that subtle, pejorative connotation in a quick way.  In fact, the real smart cities (i.e., San Francisco, Austin, Portland, Honolulu, and San Diego) are often the greenest.  Catch my drift?  Green = Smart; Green = Opportunity.  Intelligent people are rethinking antiquated notions about the environment and are moving in a green direction. 

That said, I want to clarify and delineate the two main categories of green building that you might be interested in:  (1)  Building and (2) Maintenance.  Lets explore the myriad of sustainable opportunities to be found in each category. 

  • Building – this includes new construction, renovation, and rehabilitation.  Opportunities to save money + energy, pollute less, create less waste, and discover new uses for old materials abound.  There are hundreds of entrepreneurial opportunities along the building spectrum from design to build, from deconstruction to renovation.  We’re talking xeriscaping, getting solar panels, incorporating passive solar design, insulating correctly, using the right windows, and finding the right mixture of water, electricity, and gas-guzzling appliances. 
  • Maintenance – this includes everything related to using and abusing a structure on a going forward basis.  You will find money + energy saving opportunities in energy efficient appliances, light bulb choices, decorative decisions, and lifestyle choices.  Here, we’re talking about choosing the right TV, light bulbs, lamps, blinds + shades, decorative paints, and furniture.  We’re also talking about cutting out waste in your lifestyle, like running the water while you brush your teeth for 8 minutes every day. 

Think big, think innovative, and think independent.  Going green requires taking proactive choices about how you interact with the world we live in.  I like to think of all these green opportunities as web widgets that you can pull out of the sky and place them in your home.  I’ll take the Energy Star appliance widget, the plug-in hybrid vehicle widget, the CFL light bulb widget, the zero-VOC paint widget, the dual-flush toilet widget, etc.!  For motivation

Cincinnati City Council Passes Ordinance Granting Tax Benefits to Green Builders

Cincy_skyline 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. 

Carew_tower 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. 

Fort Bliss Plans to Create Largest, 10 SQ Mile Solar Farm

Ron_tudor_with_test_panels 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. 

Interesting Applications:
"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

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