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2003–2008


Our Energy Future

2008

2008 Dec. Pelamis Wave Power. Marine-power firm Ocean Power Technologies... New report suggests Great Britain could derive 20 percent of energy needs from ocean power...
ScottishPower is going big with tidal, as Scottish waters open up for the first commercial wave and tidal projects in the U.K....
Google captured headlines with news of its patent for floating data centers... floating platform designs with its reliance on wave energy converters to power the floating grid.

2008 December 27. Win, Win, Win, Win, Win... By Thomas L. Friedman, The New York Times. Excerpt: ...I could only cringe when reading this article from CNNMoney.com on Dec. 22: “After nearly a year of flagging sales, low gas prices and fat incentives are reigniting America’s taste for big vehicles. Trucks and S.U.V.’s will outsell cars in December ... something that hasn’t happened since February. Meanwhile, the forecast finds that sales of hybrid vehicles are expected to be way down.”
...That is why I believe the second biggest decision Barack Obama has to make — the first is deciding the size of the stimulus — is whether to increase the federal gasoline tax or impose an economy-wide carbon tax....
...The two most important rules about energy innovation are: 1) Price matters — when prices go up people change their habits. 2) You need a systemic approach. It makes no sense for Congress to pump $13.4 billion into bailing out Detroit — and demand that the auto companies use this cash to make more fuel-efficient cars — and then do nothing to shape consumer behavior with a gas tax so more Americans will want to buy those cars. As long as gas is cheap, people will go out and buy used S.U.V.’s and Hummers.
...A gasoline tax “is not just win-win; it’s win, win, win, win, win,” says the Johns Hopkins author and foreign policy specialist Michael Mandelbaum. “A gasoline tax would do more for American prosperity and strength than any other measure Obama could propose.”...

2008 December 22. At a Sleek Bioenergy Lab, a Lens on a Cabinet Pick. By Kenneth Chang and Andrew C. Revkin. Excerpt: EMERYVILLE, Calif. — The Joint BioEnergy Institute, which encompasses the fourth floor of a high-tech office building here in a neighborhood of biotech companies, radiates a sleek ecological modernity: floorboards manufactured of recycled materials and laminated to look like bamboo, trendy office furniture and laboratories stocked with new equipment...For years, Dr. Chu has been unambiguous in stating that carbon dioxide emitted by cars, power plants and industry is a direct cause of global warming and that urgent action to slash emissions is needed to avoid upheaval of the planet’s climate.He has not said anything publicly about his plans or goals as energy secretary, and he has not talked to the news media since being selected. But his actions as Lawrence Berkeley’s director, including the creation of JBEI, offer hints of how he might harness the 17 national laboratories — or at least the ones not dedicated to nuclear arms research — to address climate and energy issues.JBEI, whose mission is to use so-called synthetic biology to convert plant cellulose into fuel, moved into its Emeryville home last May. It is one of several major forays by Lawrence Berkeley into alternative fuels, an area where the lab conducted almost no research before Dr. Chu became director in 2004...Biofuels, fermented and distilled from plants, may offer a solution. Although the burning of biofuels still emits carbon dioxide, it is the same carbon dioxide that the plants had sucked out of the air...

2008 November 24. Spain city sets up solar cemetery. BBC News. Excerpt: A Spanish city has found an unusual place to generate renewable energy - the local cemetery.
Santa Coloma de Gramanet, near Barcelona, has placed 462 solar panels over its multi-storey mausoleums.
Officials say the scheme was initially greeted with derision, but families who use the cemetery eventually supported the idea following a public campaign.
There are now plans to erect more panels at the cemetery and triple the amount of electricity generated.
The cemetery was chosen for the project because it is one of only a few open, sunny places in the crowded city, which has a population of 124,000 crammed into 4 sq km (1.5 sq miles).
The installation cost 720,000 euros (£608,000) but will keep about 62 tonnes of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere every year, said Esteve Serret, a director of Conste-Live Energy, the company that runs the cemetery and also works in renewable energy.
"The best tribute we can pay to our ancestors, whatever your religion may be, is to generate clean energy for new generations," he said.
...The panels will create enough energy each year to supply the needs of 60 homes....

2008 October 22. Solar parking garage generates buzz. By Margaret Jackson, Denver Post. Excerpt: Gov. Bill Ritter flipped the switch Wednesday on one of the largest solar parking structures in the country.
The 1.75-megawatt solar-power system was built on three parking garages at Belmar, a mixed-use project in Lakewood developed by Continuum Partners.
Designed and installed by San Jose, Calif.-based SunPower Corp., the system uses more than 8,000 solar panels. Other partners in the project include MMA Renewable Ventures and Denver-based Oak Leaf Energy Partners, a project-development and consulting firm for renewable-energy transactions....

2008 October 6. A New Flexibility With Thin Solar Cells. By Henry Fountain. Excerpt: Photovoltaic cells, the basic building blocks of solar panels, are more efficient and less costly than ever. But manipulating cells (which are usually made of semiconductor materials) and incorporating them into different panel designs is not necessarily easy.
John A. Rogers of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and colleagues have come up with a novel method for creating extremely thin solar cells that can be combined in flexible, even partially transparent, arrays....
The technique involves creating a series of precisely spaced “microbars” on a block of single-crystal silicon. These bars, which have a thickness of a few micrometers, have doped regions that create p-n junctions, the main feature of most photovoltaic cells.
Through an etching process, the bars are undercut so they can be lifted off the remaining silicon using a block of rubbery material. They can be transferred to a substrate of another material, and this transfer-printing process can be repeated many times to build a cell....
The technique may allow the fabrication of solar arrays with a variety of characteristics. For example, the researchers say it would be possible to print the cells on rollable plastic sheets that would be easy to transport and install....

2008 Sep 29. Lawmakers at Impasse on Incentives for Renewable Energy. By ROBERT PEAR. NYT Times. Excerpt: WASHINGTON - The House and the Senate conceded Monday that they were in a stalemate over proposals to provide tax incentives for the production and use of renewable energy, leaving the future of the nascent industry in limbo.
Tax credits for investing in solar energy and producing wind energy will expire at the end of the year unless Congress resolves the impasse, and lawmakers said they saw no immediate prospect of an agreement.
The deadlock comes at a time when economists and politicians of all stripes are saying the United States must rapidly develop solar, wind and other energy sources as alternatives to oil.
"Congress is furthering our dependence on foreign sources of energy - dirty, polluting sources of energy," said Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association, a trade group. "It's scaring away investment, just as our industry is beginning to get a toehold. Solar projects are already being delayed."...

2008 September 23. Solar Panels Are Vanishing, Only to Reappear on the Internet. By KATE GALBRAITH, The New York Times. Excerpt: DESERT HOT SPRINGS, Calif. - Solar power, with its promise of emissions-free renewable energy, boasts a growing number of fans. Some of them, it turns out, are thieves.
Just ask Glenda Hoffman, whose fury has not abated since 16 solar panels vanished from her roof in this sun-baked town in three separate burglaries in May, sometimes as she slept....
Police departments in California - the biggest market for solar power, with more than 33,000 installations - are seeing a rash of such burglaries, though nobody compiles overall statistics.
...Last November, someone tried to sell solar panels stolen from a toll road in Newport Beach for $100 each on eBay. Detectives from the local police department entered the bidding and won the panels, which were worth nearly $1,500 apiece, according to Sgt. Evan Sailor, a Newport Beach police spokesman.
When Nathan Tyrone Mitchell, a resident of Santa Monica, showed up to hand over the panels, the police greeted him with handcuffs.
Mr. Mitchell, who was charged with possession of stolen property, has pleaded not guilty. His lawyer, Charles Stoddard, said that his client had bought the panels from someone on Craigslist and then tried to resell them on eBay for a profit. "Our contention is that Mr. Mitchell is just an innocent purchaser who kind of got caught up in this thing," Mr. Stoddard said.
...For Tom McCalmont, president of Regrid Power, a solar installation business near San Jose, the problem hit home in late June. His own headquarters was struck by thieves, who took more than $30,000 worth of panels from the roof.
The panels were disassembled expertly, he said, leading him to suspect that someone in the solar industry had done it....
"This is the crime of the future," Mr. McCalmont said....

2008 August 23. Stationary bike designed to create electricity. By Nick Czap, Special to The Chronicle. Excerpt: Like a number of highly motivated people, David Butcher starts every day with a workout. His poison: 45 minutes on a stationary bicycle.
Fitness is part of the incentive, but Butcher's primary motivation is a long-standing, and possibly obsessive, quest to generate his own electricity. So Butcher's stationary bike...is not your standard-issue exercise machine: It's a homemade power plant.
Butcher designed his ingeniously simple pedal generator for maximum comfort and efficiency: As the rider pedals, a wooden flywheel drives an electric motor, which generates an electric current that flows into a bank of salvaged lead-acid batteries for storage. A buried cable connects the batteries to a set of conspicuous orange outlets (denoting the off-the-grid energy source) in Butcher's home office, where he works as a Web project manager. The orange outlets power several devices, including a computer monitor (but not the computer), cell phone chargers, a high-efficiency area light and a small Roomba robotic vacuum.
...When he took up his pedaling regimen two years ago, Butcher tipped the scales at 180 pounds. Today, at age 53, he weighs a lean 150 and possesses a pair of legs that wouldn't look out of place on the Olympic cycling squad. Butcher's pedaling has become so efficient that he has pretty much abandoned his car (electric, incidentally) in favor of bicycling, reducing his carbon footprint still further.
...The combination of these positive impacts inspired Butcher to market the plans for his invention, and to date he's sold more than 300 sets of blueprints around the world....

2008 Aug 14. Washington Elementary Goes Solar. By Rio Bauce, Berkeley Daily Planet. Excerpt: Yesterday, construction workers for the Berkeley Unified School District (BUSD) laid down 480 solar panels on the roof of Washington Elementary School as part of a project by Kyoto USA, a climate change group located in Berkeley.
...After current superintendent Bill Huyett took over, he continued support for the project, and yesterday it was finally finished.
"The School Board had an interest in going solar," said Huyett. "We started this project for several reasons. Firstly, we wanted to set a good example for the students. Renewable energy is good for the planet. Secondly, we wanted to become more green. And lastly, we saw that it had a financial benefit: it reduced our electrical bills." The solar panels system at the Washington School is a 103-kilowatt photovoltaic system, which will reduce greenhouse gases by 721 tons per year. This is the equivalent of taking 119 cars off the road.
...Jane Kelly revealed the next school on her group's radar, saying, "We want to get Berkeley High School to have solar panels."

2008 Aug 14. Two Large Solar Plants Planned in California. By MATTHEW L. WALD, NY Times. Excerpt: Companies will build two solar power plants in California that together will put out more than 12 times as much electricity as the largest such plant today, the latest indication that solar energy is starting to achieve significant scale.
...The plants will cover 12.5 square miles of central California with solar panels, and in the middle of a sunny day will generate about 800 megawatts of power, roughly equal to the size of a large coal-burning power plant or a small nuclear plant. A megawatt is enough power to run a large Wal-Mart store.
The power will be sold to Pacific Gas & Electric, which is under a state mandate to get 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2010.
...Though the California installations will generate 800 megawatts at times when the sun is shining brightly, they will operate for fewer hours of the year than a coal or nuclear plant would and so will produce a third or less as much total electricity.
OptiSolar, a company that has just begun making a type of solar panel with a thin film of active material, will install 550 megawatts in San Luis Obispo County. The SunPower Corporation, which uses silicon-crystal technology, will build about 250 megawatts at a different location in the same county.
The scale is a leap forward.
...Both are good at producing power at a time of day when the prices tend to be high, in the afternoon....

2008 July 24. Work Begins on Washington School Solar Panels. By Riya Bhattacharjee. Excerpt: Washington Elementary is set to become the first school in the Berkeley Unified School District to go solar, once construction of photovoltaic cells on its roof is completed in August. Work to replace the school's roof began at the end of June, district officials said, and solar panels are expected to go up in the next couple of weeks.
Estimated to cost $1.2 million, the HELiOS (Helios Energy Lights Our Schools) project is expected to cover 100 percent of the main building's electricity needs and is being funded by grants from the Office of Public School Construction, PG&E and district money.
...Tom Kelly of Kyoto USA, who spearheaded the proposal along with his wife Jane Kelly, said he was happy to see the project get underway.
"The Washington community is very excited about it," he said. "The installation is likely to lead to educational opportunities for the kids. The cost of electricity from utilities is skyrocketing, so this investment in solar is likely to pay off very quickly. And it's helping to reduce the amount of pollution and global warming gases-created by the burning of fossil fuels to produce the electricity the old-fashioned way."
...The bids for the photovoltaic system and the new roof, Kelly said, came in at $900,000.
Kelly said Kyoto USA was already looking at its next school. ..."We'd very much like to do the high school," he said.
...To help finance the project, the organization is building a framework for a "community offset fund" so that donors will be able to offset their greenhouse gas emissions by making a tax-deductible contribution to a local project like HELiOs.

2008 July. Home photovoltaic systems for physicists. By Thomas W. Murphy Jr, Physics Today. Excerpt: In 2007 I built a PV system to power my living room. Though reasonably well informed on the semiconductor physics of PV junctions, I felt unsuitably prepared to evaluate the practical realities of owning and operating a personal solar PV system. Because I believe physicists can play a role in our energy future that extends beyond the confines of advanced research, I want to share my experiences in the hope that others might develop home PV projects. What better way to motivate innovation in the alternative-energy sector than to get a talented pool of physicists engaged on a personal level?
Residential PV systems range from very small arrangements that generate less than 100 W to those generating more than 5 kW. They can be integrated into the local electricity grid—in which case they're called grid-tie systems—or can be standalone battery-based systems. Hybrid systems are tied to the grid but have battery backup. In the US, most states allow net metering of grid-tie systems, in which consumers pay only for electricity not produced by their own PV systems...Overproduction is seldom rewarded with a check from the electric utility, however, as is done, for example, in Germany.
By offsetting electricity bills, properly sized grid-tie systems can recover the cost of installation in as little as 8 years in states with rebate programs—though 15 years is a more typical time frame... For the sake of learning, I implemented two parallel systems. One used a 64-W triple-junction thin-film flexible panel to power the lighting. The other used a 130-W polycrystalline silicon panel to run the entertainment system...
perfectly clear day with the Sun straight overhead may deliver as much as 1000 W/m2 of solar flux across all wavelengths. A typical polycrystalline PV panel can convert about 16% of that to electrical power...
...Average energy demand is...the most important parameter in sizing the system...
For instance, two hours of TV watching per day at 100 W plus 22 hours of 8-W off-state power consumption (2 W for the inverter, 6 W for the entertainment equipment) yields about 400 Wh per day. Note that the energy used when the appliances are off is about the same as when they are on!...Such discoveries are part of the unanticipated learning that happens when one experiences PV power firsthand. They make us far more efficiency-minded, something we'll need for our future...

2008 July 15. Country, the City Version: Farms in the Sky Gain New Interest. By BINA VENKATARAMAN, NY Times. Excerpt: What if "eating local" in Shanghai or New York meant getting your fresh produce from five blocks away? And what if skyscrapers grew off the grid, as verdant, self-sustaining towers where city slickers cultivated their own food? Dickson Despommier, a professor of public health at Columbia University, hopes to make these zucchini-in-the-sky visions a reality. Dr. Despommier's pet project is the "vertical farm," a concept he created in 1999 with graduate students in his class on medical ecology, the study of how the environment and human health interact.
... Dr. Despommier estimates that it would cost $20 million to $30 million to make a prototype of a vertical farm, but hundreds of millions to build one of the 30-story towers that he suggests could feed 50,000 people.

2008 July 4. Japan Sees a Chance to Promote Its Energy-Frugal Ways. By MARTIN FACKLER, The New York Times. Excerpt: KUMAGAYA, Japan — With its towering furnaces and clanging conveyer belts carrying crushed rock, Taiheiyo Cement’s factory looks like an Industrial Revolution relic. But it is actually a model of modern energy efficiency, harnessing its waste heat to generate much of its own electricity.
The plant is just one example of Japan’s single-minded dedication to reducing energy use, a commitment that dates back to the oil shocks of the 1970s that shook this resource-poor nation.
Now, with oil prices hitting dizzying levels and the world struggling with global warming, the country is hoping to use its conservation record to take a rare leadership role on a pressing global issue. It will showcase its efforts to export its conservation ethic — and its expensive power-saving technology — at next week’s meeting in Japan of the Group of 8 industrial leaders.
Japan is by many measures the world’s most energy-frugal developed nation. After the energy crises of the 1970s, the country forced itself to conserve with government-mandated energy-efficiency targets and steep taxes on petroleum. Energy experts also credit a national consensus on the need to consume less.
“Japan taught itself decade s ago how to compete with gasoline at $4 per gallon,” said Hisakazu Tsujimoto of the Energy Conservation Center, a government research institute that promotes energy efficiency. “It will fare better than other countries in the new era of high energy costs.”

2008 June 30. Solar Water Heaters Now Mandatory In Hawaii. Environmental News Network. Excerpt: Hawaii has become the first state to require solar water heaters in new homes. The bill was signed into law by Governor Linda Lingle, a Republican... Hawaii relies on imported fossil fuels more than any other state, with about 90 percent of its energy sources coming from foreign countries, according to state data...
State Sen. Gary Hooser, vice chairman of the Energy and Environment Committee, first introduced the measure five years ago when he said a barrel of oil cost just $40. Since then, the cost of oil has more than tripled.
"It's abundantly clear that we need to take some serious action to protect Hawaii because we're so dependent on oil," Hooser said. "I'm very pleased the governor is recognizing the importance of this bill and the huge public benefits that come out of it."
...

2008 June. Utility Solar Assessment Study. Solar Catalyst Group-Coop America. Excerpt: Solar power has been expanding rapidly, growing an average of 40 percent per year since the beginning of this decade. In the past five years, global solar installations have expanded more than fourfold from approximately 600 megawatts (MW) in 2003 to nearly 3000 MW (the equivalent of three conventional power plants) in 2008.
Many industry analysts and experts believe that solar offers the promise of contributing a significant percentage of America's and the world's energy needs moving forward. How much could it reasonably contribute? Today, solar still represents a minuscule amount of U.S. energy supply-less than one tenth of one percent of total electricity generation. What would it take to dramatically increase this number to make solar a significant portion of electricity use, transforming the way U.S. utilities think about solar in the process? Our research indicates that the solar contribution could be quite considerable, realistically reaching 10 percent of total U.S. electricity generation by 2025 by deploying a combination of solar photovoltaics (PV) and concentrating solar power (CSP).
...solar offers a number of significant benefits to utilities struggling with the complex issues of today's energy landscape. These benefits include:
--Solar can offer a price hedge against volatile and increasing costs for fossil fuel resources like coal and natural gas. Once installed, solar provides stable fixed prices to utilities and users.
--Solar is becoming a cost-effective peak generation resource.
--Within a decade, solar power will be cost-competitive in most regions of the U.S. on a kilowatt-hour (Kwh) basis.
--Compared to coal, nuclear, and gas-fired power plants, solar has no fuel costs, low maintenance costs, and will provide credits, rather than costs, in a carbon-regulated world.
--Solar PV is a widely available resource, suited to most locales around the nation....

2008 May 30. As Oil Prices Soar, Restaurant Grease Thefts Rise. By SUSAN SAUL, NYTimes. Excerpt: The bandit pulled his truck to the back of a Burger King in Northern California one afternoon last month armed with a hose and a tank. After rummaging around assorted restaurant rubbish, he dunked a tube into a smelly storage bin and, the police said, vacuumed out about 300 gallons of grease. Nick Damianidis, an owner of Olympia Pizza and Pasta in Arlington, Wash., has had oil stolen. The man was caught before he could slip away. In his truck, the police found 2,500 gallons of used fryer grease, indicating that the Burger King had not been his first fast-food craving of the day.
Outside Seattle, cooking oil rustling has become such a problem that the owners of the Olympia Pizza and Pasta Restaurant in Arlington, Wash., are considering using a surveillance camera to keep watch on its 50-gallon grease barrel. Nick Damianidis, an owner, said the barrel had been hit seven or eight times since last summer by siphoners who strike in the night.
"Fryer grease has become gold," Mr. Damianidis said. "And just over a year ago, I had to pay someone to take it away."
Much to the surprise of Mr. Damianidis and many other people, processed fryer oil, which is called yellow grease, is actually not trash. The grease is traded on the booming commodities market. Its value has increased in recent months to historic highs, driven by the even higher prices of gas and ethanol, making it an ever more popular form of biodiesel to fuel cars and trucks.
In 2000, yellow grease was trading for 7.6 cents per pound. On Thursday, its price was about 33 cents a pound, or almost $2.50 a gallon. (That would make the 2,500-gallon haul in the Burger King case worth more than $6,000.)....

2008 April 30. Chevron Energy Solutions Completes First Phase of Contra Costa Solar Project. Chevron Energy Solutions and the Contra Costa Community College District (CCCCD) have completed the first phase, 2.65 megawatts of solar car ports, is the largest solar power installation ever constructed for an institution of higher learning in North America. The final phase will add 534 kilowatts this year.
...The program includes three types of improvements: a 3.2-megawatt solar power generation system comprising photovoltaic panels mounted on 34 parking canopies in six parking lots at Contra Costa College, Diablo Valley College and Los Medanos College ...high-efficiency lighting and energy management systems ... as well as high-efficiency heating, ventilation and air-conditioning equipment ...
...and high-voltage electrical system replacements ...The solar installation is expected to generate about four million kilowatt-hours of power each year, supplying up to half of CCCCD's peak electricity needs. This renewable power will offset the production of about 5.6 million pounds of carbon dioxide emissions annually - equivalent to removing 629 cars from the road or planting 636 acres of trees.

2008 March. Solar Cooker Review. Excerpt: In October 2007, [Gabriele Simbriger-Williams, SCI Board Member] took part in an evaluation of the solar cooker project in Iridimi refugee camp in Chad. Iridimi has become the temporary shelter for 18,000 refugees driven out of their villages in Darfur, Sudan, by Janjaweed militias and the Sudanese government. This semi-desert region has very limited firewood resources and cannot sustain the influx of thousands of refugees and their need for household energy. Since the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) provides only about a third of the refugees' firewood needs, women and girls have to leave the camp to collect more, exposing them to attack and rape by bandits, Janjaweed and the local population that resents having to share its meager wood resources.
Something needed to be done. With UNHCR approval, Derk Rijks of the Dutch KoZon Foundation started a solar cooker demonstration project in 2005. Solar Cookers International (SCI) has provided technical and financial support since the beginning. ... CooKit solar cookers were introduced in Iridimi as part of an effort to reduce reliance on scarce firewood and lessen the ecological footprint of the camp. By minimizing the need to leave camp and collect wood, refugee women are safer.
These women now earn income by manufacturing CooKits in Iridimi and training more women to use them. Thus far, 4700 women have been trained in solar cooking and over 15,000 solar cookers have been distributed, two or more to every household depending on family size. In October 2007, the security situation was good enough that a team could visit the camp and assess the acceptance and effectiveness of the project....

2008 Feb 8. Studies Deem Biofuels a Greenhouse Threat By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL NY Times. Excerpt: Almost all biofuels used today cause more greenhouse gas emissions than conventional fuels if the full emissions costs of producing these "green" fuels are taken into account, two studies being published Thursday have concluded. The benefits of biofuels have come under increasing attack in recent months, as scientists took a closer look at the global environmental cost of their production. These latest studies, published in the prestigious journal Science, are likely to add to the controversy.
These studies for the first time take a detailed, comprehensive look at the emissions effects of the huge amount of natural land that is being converted to cropland globally to support biofuels development. The destruction of natural ecosystems - whether rain forest in the tropics or grasslands in South America - not only releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere when they are burned and plowed, but also deprives the planet of natural sponges to absorb carbon emissions. Cropland also absorbs far less carbon than the rain forests or even scrubland that it replaces.
Together the two studies offer sweeping conclusions: It does not matter if it is rain forest or scrubland that is cleared, the greenhouse gas contribution is significant. More important, they discovered that, taken globally, the production of almost all biofuels resulted, directly or indirectly, intentionally or not, in new lands being cleared, either for food or fuel.
"When you take this into account, most of the biofuel that people are using or planning to use would probably increase greenhouse gasses substantially," said Timothy Searchinger, lead author of one of the studies and a researcher in environment and economics at Princeton
University. "Previously there's been an accounting error: land use change has been left out of prior analysis." ...The clearance of grassland releases 93 times the amount of greenhouse gas that would be saved by the fuel made annually on that land, said Joseph Fargione, lead author of the second paper, and a scientist at the Nature Conservancy....


2007

15 November 2007. In Eco-Friendly Factory, Low-Guilt Potato Chips. The New York Times - By ANDREW MARTIN. Excerpt: CASA GRANDE, Ariz. - At Frito-Lay's factory here, more than 500,000 pounds of potatoes arrive every day from New Mexico to be washed, sliced, fried, seasoned and portioned into bags of Lay's and Ruffles chips. The process devours enormous amounts of energy, and creates vast amounts of wastewater, starch and potato peelings. Now, Frito-Lay is embarking on an ambitious plan to change the way this factory operates, and in the process, create a new type of snack: the environmentally benign chip.
Its goal is to take the Casa Grande plant off the power grid, or nearly so, and run it almost entirely on renewable fuels and recycled water. Net zero, as the concept is called, has the backing of the highest levels of corporate executives at PepsiCo, the parent company of Frito-Lay.
...The company...intends to advertise that its popular SunChips snacks are made using solar energy.
...From coast to coast, more companies are thinking about how much fossil fuel they use and ways to conserve energy. Venture capital money is also pouring into fledgling green technology.
Only a few years ago, Andy Walker, a government engineer, pleaded with companies to tackle the problems but got blank stares. "Now, my phone is ringing off the hook," said Mr. Walker, who works at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory of the Department of Energy in Colorado. ...The retrofit of the Casa Grande factory, scheduled to be completed by 2010, would reduce electricity and water consumption by 90 percent and its natural gas use by 80 percent. Greenhouse gas emissions would be cut by 50 percent to 75 percent, the company said.
Frito-Lay hopes the project will help the company save money on energy costs, particularly as oil prices approach $100 a barrel. What works in Casa Grande, one of 37 plants it operates in the United States and Canada, would then be replicated at other sites where possible....

10 October 2007. New Space Solar Power Organization Announced - The Space Solar Alliance for Future Energy. SpaceRef.com Excerpt: "...study concludes that space-based solar power deserves substantial national investment as a path towards addressing America's future energy needs via a renewable energy source with no carbon emissions or hazardous waste. In the Space Solar Power concept, developed in the late nineteen-sixties by Dr. Peter Glaser, energy from sunlight is collected in space and transmitted wirelessly for use on Earth."
Date: Thurs, Oct 11 2007 comment from: "Ron Proctor" Production Director, Ott Planetarium - Weber State University - I don't buy it. How many kWh can we get with ground based solar, wind, and wave sources for the same amount of money? I'm no expert, but I'll bet it's competitive. When the system needs maintenance, who do you send? Highly trained and expensive astronauts, right? With ground based solutions, you send some guy in a truck at $15.00 an hour. What is the angular size of this thing in our sky? Should we trade the wonders of backyard stargazing, Optical and Radio Astronomy for something that could be installed on the ground?

16 July 2007. Solar Power Wins Enthusiasts but Not Money. By ANDREW C. REVKIN and MATTHEW L. WALD, NY Times. Excerpt: The trade association for the nuclear power industry recently asked 1,000 Americans what energy source they thought would be used most for generating electricity in 15 years. The top choice? Not nuclear plants, or coal or natural gas. The winner was the sun, cited by 27 percent of those polled.
...some of the most ardent experts and investors say that moving this energy source from niche to mainstream - last year it provided less than 0.01 percent of the country's electricity supply - is unlikely without significant technological breakthroughs. And given the current scale of research in private and government laboratories, that is not expected to happen anytime soon.
...coal-burning power plants, the main source of smokestack emissions linked to global warming, are being built around the world at a rate of more than one a week.
Propelled by government incentives in Germany and Japan, as well as a growing number of American states, sales of solar panels made of silicon that convert sunlight directly into electricity, known as photovoltaic cells, have taken off, lowering manufacturing costs and leading to product refinements.
... research on solar power and methods for storing intermittent energy has long received less spending, both in the United States and in other industrialized countries, than energy options with more political support.
...In the current fiscal year, the Energy Department plans to spend $159 million on solar research and development. It will spend nearly double, $303 million, on nuclear energy research and development, and nearly triple, $427 million, on coal, as well as $167 million on other fossil fuel research and development....

26 June 2007. Enjoy Your Green Stay. The New York Times. By Martha C. White. Excerpt: Remember when all a hotel had to do to show its concern for the environment was to ask its guests to reuse their towels? Hotels now are rolling out all sorts of green programs, in part because their business guests in particular are demanding it, and in part because the hotels are finding that going green saves money. ... “Environmental issues are one of the hottest issues within the travel industry right now,” said Bill Connors, the executive director of the National Business Travel Association.Mr. Connors’s view is borne out by the rise in hotels registering to be certified under the United States Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, a commercial-building rating system. ... There are currently two certified hotels in the United States — a Marriott in Maryland and a Hilton in Washington — and several more are on the way. In a 2005 survey, Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants found that 16 percent of guests choose their properties because of the company’s environmental practices. The chain’s housekeepers use nontoxic cleaning agents, there are in-room recycling bins and the hotels plan to switch all light bulbs to compact fluorescents within the next 12 to 18 months. Hospitality executives and consultants point to the marketing potential of a green designation. ... Another reason behind the green push is economics. There are financial benefits to installing light bulbs that use less energy or bathroom fixtures that limit water flow. ...

12 June 2007. Solar Panels, Biofuel and Tidal Turbines in Bloomberg Plans. By DIANE CARDWELL, NY Times. Excerpt: Moving to harness cleaner forms of energy to meet the city's growing power demands, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced a plan yesterday to outfit municipal buildings with solar panels and to begin buying heating oil containing biofuels. At the same time, he said, a project that uses turbines beneath the East River to deliver electricity will be significantly expanded.
...In the hydropower project, begun in 2002, six turbines spin with the tides like underwater windmills, producing electricity without dams to power a supermarket and parking garage on Roosevelt Island. Officials at Verdant Power, the Virginia company given permits for the project, plan to expand, according to Mr. Bloomberg, with more than 300 turbines producing enough power for 8,000 homes a year....

2007 June 12. Honda Solar Cell System - aims to have solar arrays to power homes as well as to provide hydrogen to run Honda FCX fuel cell cars.

14 May 2007. Wash. Utility to Build Solar Project. By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. Excerpt: ELLENSBURG, Wash. (AP) ...At least 20 states, including Washington, have passed laws requiring utilities to boost their clean power sources. The secret about solar energy is that it's been increasing at well over 30 percent a year for about the past 10 years, said Brad Collins, executive director of the American Solar Energy Society, a nonprofit group that promotes renewable energy development. The increase has been fueled largely by government incentives, similar to those established in Germany in 2000 to expand renewable energy, Collins said. Germany now generates one-third of the world's wind power, and 50 percent of the solar modules produced worldwide are installed in the country, which sees less sunlight than Seattle. Japan also now provides significant incentives for solar power, pushing the United States to third in an area where 10 years ago, it led the field. ...Puget Sound Energy plans to start construction next month on a $3.7 million solar project next to its wind farm overlooking the Columbia River, about 115 miles east of Seattle. The 500-kilowatt project, enough to power about 300 homes, would easily be the biggest in the region. ...Just west on Interstate 90, the municipal utility in the small city of Ellensburg ... is pushing ahead with its own solar adventure ... residents may invest a minimum of $250 toward the purchase of solar modules. The resulting power goes directly onto the utility's power lines, but residents receive a credit on their electricity bills. The utility, which has about 8,000 customers, maintains and operates the system. That allows residents who live in a shady area or who can't afford to spend thousands of dollars on rooftop modules to tap into green power. ...The cost for solar power is typically about 25 cents per kilowatt hour, compared with about 4.5 cents for natural gas and 4-5 cents for hydropower, according to Mike Nelson, director of the Northwest Solar Center, part of Washington State University's energy program.

May 2007. A Greener Roof-Literally. Greentips, Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Excerpt: Is your roof in need of replacement? If so, you might consider one of the following high-tech roofing options, which reduce your home's energy demand while avoiding the use of fossil fuel-derived asphalt shingles.
Green Roofs - A "green" (or "living") roof is, in most cases, exactly what the name implies: plants growing on a building's roof. ...you can have a roof covered with grass, flowers, or even shrubs. Besides looking pretty, green roofing offers numerous advantages: Lower energy costs...an extra layer of insulation.... Environmental benefits ... food and shelter for insects, birds, and other wildlife, and plants' natural mechanisms for filtering impurities help improve air and water quality. Green roofs can also play a small role in flood prevention by reducing storm runoff....
Solar Shingles ...Photovoltaic (PV) shingles provide the same look, protection, and durability as asphalt shingles but have the added benefit of converting sunlight into electricity that can power your home (or specific appliances), reducing the need for electricity generated from fossil fuels and lowering your electricity costs. ...These environmentally friendly roofing options do cost a lot more up front: approximately $10 to $25 per square foot (including installation) for green roofs and $20 per square foot (materials only) for PV shingles, compared with $1 to $2 per square foot for asphalt shingles. Unlike asphalt shingles, however, green roofs and PV shingles can save energy (and money) over their lifetime. Local, state, or utility incentives (see the related links) might be available to lower the up-front costs.... Subscribe to this free monthly newsletter or read past issues in the Greentips section of the UCS website.

March 2007 Solar energy conversion. George W. Crabtree and Nathan S. Lewis. Physics Today Online, page 37. Excerpt: If solar energy is to become a practical alternative to fossil fuels, we must have efficient ways to convert photons into electricity, fuel, and heat. The need for better conversion technologies is a driving force behind many recent developments in biology, materials, and especially nanoscience. The Sun provides Earth with a staggering amount of energy-enough to power the great oceanic and atmospheric currents, the cycle of evaporation and condensation that brings fresh water inland and drives river flow, and the typhoons, hurricanes, and tornadoes that so easily destroy the natural and built landscape. The San Francisco earthquake of 1906, with magnitude 7.8, released an estimated 10^17 joules of energy, the amount the Sun delivers to Earth in one second. Earth's ultimate recoverable resource of oil, estimated at 3 trillion barrels, contains 1.7 ? 1022 joules of energy, which the Sun supplies to Earth in 1.5 days. The amount of energy humans use annually, about 4.6 x10^20 joules, is delivered to Earth by the Sun in one hour. The enormous power that the Sun continuously delivers to Earth, 1.2x10^5 terawatts, dwarfs every other energy source, renewable or nonrenewable. It dramatically exceeds the rate at which human civilization produces and uses energy, currently about 13 TW....

27 February 2007. Scientists Urge Global Action on Clean Energy. By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. Excerpt: UNITED NATIONS, Feb. 27 (AP) - A scientific panel convened at the request of the United Nations called Tuesday for drastic reductions in fossil-fuel emissions around the world and rapid increases in spending on clean-energy research to head off the worst effects of global warming. In a 166-page report, two years in the making, 18 scientists from 11 nations forecast a turbulent century of rising seas, spreading drought and disease, weather extremes and damage to farming, forests, fisheries and other economic areas. It said the United Nations must better prepare to help tens of millions of "environmental refugees," and it urged all governments to discourage new building on land less than one meter - about 39 inches - above sea level. ... the scientists who produced the new report said global carbon dioxide emissions should be made to level off in the years 2015 to 2020, and then be cut back to less than one-third of that level by 2100. This would happen, they said, through a vast transformation toward greater efficiency, away from fossil fuels and toward biofuels and solar and wind technology. The scientists urged governments to immediately ban the construction of coal-fired power plants, except for those designed to capture carbon dioxide and store it underground or under water....

27 February 2007. Practical Fusion, or Just a Bubble? By KENNETH CHANG, The New York Times. Excerpt: LOS ANGELES - ... sound-driven fusion. A bubble floating in the liquid - phosphoric acid - started to shine, brightening into an intense ball of light like a miniature star. The shining bubble did not produce any significant energy, but perhaps someday it might, just like a star. A few small companies and maverick university laboratories, including this one at U.C.L.A. run by Seth Putterman, a professor of physics, are pursuing quixotic solutions for future energy, trying to tap the power of the Sun - hot nuclear fusion - in devices that fit on a tabletop. Dr. Putterman's approach is to use sound waves, called sonofusion or bubble fusion, to expand and collapse tiny bubbles, generating ultrahot temperatures. ...Other researchers already have working desktop fusion devices, including ones that are descendants of the Farnsworth Fusor invented four decades ago by Philo T. Farnsworth, the television pioneer....Mainstream science is pursuing fusion along two paths. One is the tokamak design, trapping the charged atoms within a doughnut-shape magnetic field. An international collaboration will build the latest, largest such reactor in southern France in coming years. The $10 billion international project, called ITER, could begin operating around 2016 and is intended to demonstrate that all the scientific and technological challenges have finally been tamed....The other mainstream approach is blasting a pellet of fuel with lasers, creating conditions hot and dense enough for fusion. The National Ignition Facility at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California is to start testing that idea around 2010. The cost of the center, with 192 lasers, has soared to several billion dollars. Harnessing that approach will also take decades...."I personally think there should be more of these smaller ideas funded," said L. John Perkins, a physicist at Lawrence Livermore. "Ninety-nine might fail, but one might pay off."....

25 January 2007. Can Polyester Save the World? By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL for The New York Times. Excerpt: ..."If it falls apart, you just toss it away!" said Jo Jo, proudly wearing her purchase. Environmentally, that is more and more of a problem. With rainbow piles of sweaters and T-shirts that often cost less than a sandwich, stores like Primark are leaders in the quick-growing "fast fashion" industry, selling cheap garments that can be used and discarded without a second thought. Consumers, especially teenagers, love the concept, .... But clothes - and fast clothes in particular - are a large and worsening source of the carbon emissions that contribute to global warming, because of how they are both produced and cared for, concludes a new report from researchers at Cambridge University titled "Well Dressed?" ...women's clothing sales in Britain rose by 21 percent between 2001 and 2005 alone to about £24 billion ($47.6 billion), spurred by lower prices, according to the Cambridge report. And while many people have grown accustomed to recycling cans, bottles and newspapers, used clothes are generally thrown away. ...Dr. Julian Allwood ... noted ... that it is now easier for British consumers to toss unwanted clothes than to take them to a recycling center, and easier to throw clothes into the hamper for a quick machine wash and dry than to sponge off stains. ...In their efforts to buy green, customers tend to ... purchase "natural" fibers like cotton, believing they are good for the environment. But ...while so-called organic cotton is exemplary in the way it avoids pesticides, cotton garments squander energy because they must be washed frequently at high temperatures, and generally require tumble-drying and ironing.... A polyester blouse, by contrast, takes more energy to make, since synthetic fabric comes from materials like wood and oil. But upkeep is far more fuel-efficient, since polyester cleans more easily and dries faster.
Over a lifetime, a polyester blouse uses less energy than a cotton T-shirt.
One way to change the balance would be to develop technology to treat cotton so that it did not absorb odors so readily. Also, Dr. Allwood said that "reducing washing temperature has a huge impact," speaking of a significant drop from about 122 Fahrenheit to 105. Even better, he said, would be to drop washing temperature below normal....

24 January 2007. Bush Seeks Vast, Mandatory Increase in Alternative Fuels and Greater Vehicle Efficiency. By EDMUND L. ANDREWS and FELICITY BARRINGER, NY Times Excerpt: WASHINGTON, Jan. 23 - Vowing to reduce the nation's thirst for foreign oil, President Bush called on Tuesday for a huge government-mandated increase in renewable fuels - mainly ethanol - and tougher mileage standards for cars and light trucks.....The centerpiece of Mr. Bush's proposal, which he said would cut the projected use of gasoline by 20 percent over the next decade, was a nearly fivefold mandatory increase in the production of ethanol and other alternative fuels for cars and trucks. The most obvious beneficiaries would be makers of ethanol and other biofuels, but it could also promote the production of liquefied coal. Mr. Bush called for a mandatory requirement that makers of fuel produce 35 billion gallons of alternative fuels a year by 2017, replacing about 15 percent of the projected gasoline use in that year. A second major plank of Mr. Bush's energy proposal calls for increasing fuel-efficiency standards of cars and trucks by 4 percent a year - about one mile per gallon - starting in 2010 for cars and 2012 for trucks. ...In a third proposal, Mr. Bush called for doubling the amount of oil in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to about 1.5 billion barrels of oil. The doubling would take place at a snail's pace over the next 20 years. Even so, advance word of the idea helped push up oil prices by $2.46 a barrel on Tuesday to $55.04.....


2006

16 November 2006 Microorganisms one part of the solution to energy problem, says report. Excerpt: The answer to one of the world's largest problems -- the need for clean, renewable sources of energy -- might just come from some of the world's smallest inhabitants -- bacteria -- according to a new [28 page] report, "Microbial Energy Conversion," released by the American Academy of Microbiology. ... The future might look like a new power plant on the edge of town - an inconspicuous bioreactor that takes in yard waste and locally-grown crops like corn and woodchips, and churns out electricity to area homes and businesses," says Judy Wall of the University of Missouri - Columbia, one of the authors of the report.

17 October  2006. Search Power Takes a Stand for Sun Power. By MATT RICHTEL. NY Times. Excerpt: SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 16 - ...Google said Monday that it would build a large solar electricity system to provide about 30 percent of the electricity used each day at its one-million-square-foot office complex in Mountain View, Calif. The system, which would use 9,200 solar cells - capable of powering 1,000 average California homes - would be one of the largest corporate solar installations, alternative energy experts said. David Radcliffe, vice president for real estate at Google, ... said it would pay for itself in 5 to 10 years. ...Nicholas Parker, chairman of Cleantech Venture Network, a trade and research group for investors in alternative energy technology, ... estimated that such a project could cost Google $10 million. The system is being constructed by El Solutions, a division of Energy Innovations, based in Pasadena, Calif. Andrew Beebe, president of El Solutions, said solar cells that capture the sun's energy would cover the rooftops of Google's main buildings, along with the tops of several parking structures. ...Google was drawn to solar energy for economic, social and motivational reasons, Mr. Radcliffe said. He said the solar power system, in addition to paying for itself over time, would be socially responsible and would help attract smart, high-level engineers who wanted to work for a company trying to diminish the damage it does to the environment. ...Google might even be able to generate surplus solar electricity that it could sell back to PG&E, creating another stream of revenue, said Mr. Parker of Cleantech Network....

14 September 2006. The First Tree Genome is Published; DOE Joint Genome Institute. Poplar Holds Promise as Renewable Bioenergy Resource. Excerpt: WALNUT CREEK, CA--Wood from a common tree may one day factor prominently in meeting transportation fuel needs ...analysis of the first complete DNA sequence of a tree, the black cottonwood or Populus trichocarpa, lays the groundwork that may lead to the development of trees as an ideal "feedstock" for a new generation of biofuels such as cellulosic ethanol. ...Trees store captured carbon dioxide in their leaves, branches, stems, and roots ...provides opportunities to improve carbon removal from the air by producing trees that effectively shuttle and store more carbon below ground in their roots and the soil. Moreover, bioenergy crops re-absorb carbon dioxide emitted when biofuels are consumed, creating a cycle that is essentially carbon neutral."
Poplar's extraordinarily rapid growth, and its relatively compact genome size of 480 million nucleotide units, 40 times smaller than the genome of pine, are among the many features that led researchers to target poplar as a model crop for biofuels production.
"...poplars can add a dozen feet of growth each year and reach maturity in as few as four years, permitting ...large-scale sustainable plantation forestry," said Dr. Sam Foster of the U.S. Forest Service. "This rapid growth coupled with conversion of the lignocellulosic portion of the plant to ethanol has the potential to provide a renewable energy resource along with a reduction of greenhouse gases."
...The poplar project supports a broader DOE drive to accelerate research into biofuels production, under the Bush Administration's Advanced Energy Initiative. ...Secretary of Energy Samuel W. Bodman has set a departmental goal of replacing 30 percent of current transportation fuel demand with biofuels by 2030.
DOE scientists envision a future where vast poplar farms in regions such as the Pacific Northwest, the upper Midwest, and portions of the southeastern U.S. could provide a steady supply of tree biomass rich in cellulose that can be transformed by specialized biorefineries into fuels like ethanol....

Comment from Debbie J Avalone-King:
I've recently heard of some significant downsides to rapid growth trees and frequent harvesting for production of cellulosic ethanol - one being that it's effects on soils are increasingly detrimental to nutrients in concert with acid rain effects. This type of harvesting technique is exacerbating the loss of soil nutrients in forests and causing a greater impact on water bodies from the effects of acid rain as well. This approach is not the all wonderful panacea for environmental
impacts. There are some "hidden" downsides we need to consider when managing forests in this way to avoid detrimental effects. A new Study on the Acid Deposition Impacts in Maine - soon to be released will provide insights into this issue in the near future. I will pass the info on the study on as soon as it is released this winter.

12 September 2006. A CONVERSATION WITH JAMES E. LOVELOCK—Updating Prescriptions for Avoiding Worldwide Catastrophe, By ANDREW C. REVKIN. NY Times. Excerpt: Few scientists have elicited such equivalent heaps of praise and criticism as James E. Lovelock, the British chemist, inventor and planetary diagnostician who has long foreseen a clash between humans and their planet. His work underpins much of modern environmentalism. The electron capture detector he invented in the 1950's produced initial measurements of dispersed traces of pesticides and ozone-destroying chlorofluorocarbons, providing a foundation for the work of Rachel Carson and for studies revealing risks to the atmosphere's protective ozone layer. His conception in 1972 of the planet's chemistry, climate and veneer of life as a self-sustaining entity, soon given the name Gaia, was embraced by the Earth Day generation and was ridiculed, but eventually accepted (with big qualifications), by many biologists. ...In his latest book, "The Revenge of Gaia: Why the Earth Is Fighting Back - and How We Can Still Save Humanity" (Perseus, 2006), Dr. Lovelock says that any risks posed by nuclear power are small when compared with the "fever" of heat-trapping carbon dioxide produced by burning coal, oil and other fossil fuels....
Q. What's your perception of where we're headed with even conservative predictions for growth of both populations and energy use?
A. I think we're headed straight back to the Earth's second stable state, which is a hot state that it's been in many times before in the past. It's about 14 degrees warmer than it is in these parts of the world now. It means roughly that most life on the planet will have to move up to the Arctic basin, to the few islands that are still habitable and to oases on the continents. It will be a much-diminished world.
Q. Can you explain why you think nuclear power is so vital?
A. The really bad thing we did way back when was starting to burn things in the atmosphere to get energy. We started with fire, just cooking food, and probably could have gotten away with that. But once we started burning forests to drive the animals out as a cheap way of hunting, then we started on our downward course. What we're doing now with fossil fuels is just as bad.
We live in a nuclear-powered universe. We're the oddballs by getting energy from burning carbon. My justification of nuclear power is that we've reached a stage now where the dire things that threaten us are so great that even the results of an all-out nuclear war pale into insignificance as unimportant compared to what's going to happen.
Q. You seem to say we have to get over the idea that renewable energy sources - wind, solar - in the short run, are a useful way out of this.
A. I feel they're largely gestures. If it makes people feel good to shove up a windmill or put a solar panel on their roof, great, do it. It'll help a little bit, but it's no answer at all to the problem....

September 2006. Staggering Towards Community. by Lisa Stapleton, Terrain magazine, Ecology Center. Excerpt: Between 1973 and 1981, Michael and Judith Corbett were part of a small group of people who advocated for, designed, financed, and built a 240-unit development on 60 acres of land on the outskirts of Davis, a city noted for its environmentally friendly bent. The Village Homes development incorporated many of the features that have come to define sustainable living: a mix of single-family homes and apartments, bike paths, edible landscaping, passive solar design, community areas, natural drainage, narrow streets, and a design that doesn't prioritize the automobile. ...The group encountered resistance from city planners and had to negotiate over what were at the time very unusual features. The completed homes sold instantly to people seeking an alternative to traditional tract-home design. The Smart Communities Web site lists these benefits:
* A 1990 study found that Village Homes residents use 36 percent less energy for vehicular driving, 47 percent less electricity and 31 percent less natural gas per household than a conventional neighborhood control group.
* Tree-lined streets keep the temperature about 10 percent cooler than surrounding neighborhoods.
* Open space accounts for 25 percent of the development.
* Village Homes residents know 50 percent more of their neighbors than do residents in nearby developments.
* Initially, Village Homes sold for the same price as other homes in Davis. On average, they now sell for $11 per square foot more.
...Michael served as city councilmember and mayor of Davis. Hoping to expand upon the success of Village Homes, he designed Covell Village, a much larger development. ...It required a vote to annex the land to the city of Davis. After a very heated campaign, the measure was voted down last November, with about 60 percent voting against the measure. "It was really hard to see it voted down," says Corbett, "especially since I'm of an age where I probably won't get a chance to have such an impact again." I caught Michael Corbett at his office in Davis, where he works as a planning consultant. What lessons do you think planners and developers learned from Village Homes?
I have no indication that most people have learned much at all. It's still a fight for natural drainage, edible landscaping, and narrow streets. The north-south orientation rule [which required that homes be built on a north-south orientation so that passive solar power was possible] also has been relaxed, so developers aren't doing north-south orientation any more. ... That development was the best possible model development. It was big enough for jobs and was designed near bus lines, schools, commercial development. It had edible landscaping, permanent agricultural set-asides-everything you could want, really. But Davis has become so anti-growth....

May/June 2006. Try A Solar Water Heater. RealMoney - Co-op America. With a solar water heater, you'll get the hot water your household needs while saving money and energy and reducing your dependence on coal-fired power. ...Solar Water heater resources.

14 April 2006. Forget Computers. Here Comes the SunBy JOHN MARKOFF. The New York Times. Excerpt: SAN JOSE, Calif. - T. J. Rodgers is surrounded by a sea of silicon wafers on the roof of his company's headquarters in a Silicon Valley industrial park. No, not the ones that Mr. Rodgers, who founded Cypress Semiconductor in 1982, used to make high-speed computer memories or the newer specialized chips that go into iPods and high-end Mercedes-Benzes. These wafers are soaking up the sun's rays and turning them into electricity. ...Mr. Rodgers has plenty of motivation to keep an eye on his roof. The growth of his company may soon depend on SunPower, a small subsidiary that employs the six-inch-square silicon wafers to make a more efficient solar cell. ..."I think T. J. has found a lot of good things in SunPower," said Alan F. Shugart, a Silicon Valley disk-drive industry pioneer and a Cypress board member. "The tail could easily end up wagging the dog." In Wall Street's eyes, the tail is already in motion.
Cypress owns 85 percent of SunPower, which went public in November. Cypress is valued near $2.5 billion, with its stock trading at $17.24. SunPower's capitalization is about $2.38 billion; since its offering, its stock has risen from $24.42 to a closing high of $44.07 on March 1. This suggests that much of the value of Cypress these days comes from SunPower. ... that is the beauty of the six-inch squares of silicon that are colored black to absorb the sun's radiation. SunPower is on track to gain the ability to make about 35 million wafers a year by the end of 2006, enough to produce 100 million watts of solar power annually. That should give SunPower an important stake in a market that is expanding at a 31 percent compound annual rate. After years of promise, the market for solar power is finally taking off, with annual demand expected to increase to as much as 2,500 megawatts by the end of 2008, from about 1,000 megawatts now (which is the size of a large nuclear power plant). Mr. Rodgers argues that his SunPower subsidiary has a crucial advantage over both larger and smaller competitors. While most of the industry has a conversion efficiency of around 14 percent, the SunPower photovoltaic cell will reach 21 percent, a 50 percent advantage that translates into both cost and performance leads for the company. ....

19 March 2006. Rebates put shine on solar power. Poised for boom. By Steve Raabe, Denver Post Staff Writer - DenverPost.com. Excerpt: Jim Edwards has a powerful new toy: an electric meter that spins backwards. On sunny days, Edwards' rooftop solar panels generate more electricity than his Lafayette home uses. Instead of paying for power, he'll soon be getting credits on his bill from Xcel Energy. Edwards is among the first Coloradans to benefit from new rebates and tax incentives that are bringing the cost of sun power down to earth. ... solar electric is poised to boom, thanks to financial incentives stemming from Colorado voters' passage of Amendment 37 in 2004. The law requires the state's largest utilities to obtain 10 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2015. While much of the power will come from wind farms, the law requires a portion to come from solar energy. "Our phone has been ringing off the hook with people asking about this," said Blake Jones, president of Namaste Solar Electric in Boulder. "There's just a huge amount of interest." Xcel Energy's recently announced rebates cover half the cost or more of a photovoltaic system up to $20,000. In addition, the new federal energy bill provides a tax credit of $2,000. The net result: A typical household PV system costing at least $16,000 can be had, after rebates and credits, for about $5,000, according to renewable energy consultant Morey Wolfson. ...Payback on the investment can be measured two ways: in psychic satisfaction or by financial return. ...For a financial return, depending on a home's electrical use, the payback period for a typical household system could be about 16 years based on current prices for electricity. If power prices rise in coming years - which most energy experts predict - the payback period could be reduced by several years.

February 2006. What's Your Carbon Footprint? Union of Concerned Scientists Green Tips. Many of our daily activities affect the environment, but few people have stopped to consider the most important: their personal contribution to global warming. The fossil fuels we burn to satisfy our transportation and energy needs generate carbon dioxide (CO2), the heat-trapping gas primarily responsible for climate change. In fact, the average American generates 20 tons of CO2 every year-about the same amount as three new cars! Several online calculators are available to help you determine your own annual production of CO2, or carbon "footprint." (see Related Links). ... strategies ... to shrink your carbon footprint...


2005

22 December 2005. The year-end EnergyNet Update on state clean energy policies is now available at: http://ucsaction.org/ct/C1LDvRs1yX47/ This EnergyNet update summarizes progress made on state clean energy initiatives in 2005. This year, Delaware and Montana established renewable electricity standards. Meanwhile, Texas and Nevada increased their renewable electricity standards, with Texas more than doubling its original requirement. Several other states are considering an increase in their current standards, including Arizona, California, New Jersey, and Wisconsin. To date, 20 states and the District of Columbia have implemented renewable electricity standards. The Union of Concerned Scientists projects that these requirements will support nearly 32,000 megawatts (MW) of new renewable power by 2017, an increase of 237 percent over total 1997 U.S. levels (excluding hydro). This represents enough clean power to meet the electricity needs of 20.3 million typical homes. By 2017, annual new renewable energy production from all state renewable electricity standards programs will reduce carbon dioxide emissions, the heat-trapping gas primarily responsible for global warming, by 77.1 million metric tons. This level of reductions is equivalent to taking 11.5 million cars off the road.

November 2005. Moving Toward a Hydrogen Economy - Presentation (PDF) by Rosa Young, Ovonic Hydrogen Systems

20 October 2005. Sunny Future for Nanocrystal Solar Cells: Berkeley Scientists Synthesize Cheap, Easy-to-Make Ultra-thin Photovoltaic Films. By Lynn Yarris. Excerpt: Imagine a future in which the rooftops of residential homes and commercial buildings can be laminated with inexpensive, ultra-thin films of nano-sized semiconductors that will efficiently convert sunlight into electrical power and provide virtually all of our electricity needs. This future is a step closer to being realized, thanks to a scientific milestone achieved at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab)...Researchers with Berkeley Lab and the University of California, Berkeley, have developed the first ultra-thin solar cells comprised entirely of inorganic nanocrystals and spin-cast from solution...According to the Energy Foundation, if the available residential and commercial rooftops in this country were to be coated with solar cell thin films, they could furnish an estimated 710,000 megawatts of electricity across the United States, which is more than three-quarters of all the electricity that this country is currently able to generate.

2005 Summer. The Promise of a Solar Future. Coop America Quarterly #66. Article titles:
Introduction: Bringing Solar to Scale.
Solar: Your Questions Answered.
Bringing Solar Home.
How Susanne Went Solar.
World Solar Leaders.
The Solar Road to Prosperity.
Resources.

April 2005. State of the Art of Solar Cooking: A Global Survey of Practices & Promotion Programs
By Barbara Knudson, Ph.D. (Dr. Barbara Knudson is a sociologist who has specialized in women's affairs in the developing world for the last 40 years. A leading advocate of solar cooking since the mid-eighties, she has applied her professional discipline to evaluation of the technology's potential and to documentation of its promotion. Dr. Knudson has extensive experience with the organization solar cooking programs in the field. She is a charter member of Solar Household Energy, inc.) Executive Summary: In her new global survey of solar cooking Dr. Knudson reports that despite an urgent need for the technology and strong demand in many communities where it has been introduced, there is still much work to be done. Specifically, the study finds ongoing promotional efforts in only a small fraction of countries where the technology could offer great social, economic, environmental and health benefits. This suggests a good news/bad news situation: Opportunities to improve lives through the introduction of solar cooking are as extensive as the need is compelling. However, inherent challenges have impeded proliferation of this technology. Trees, shrubs, dung and fossil fuels are the household energies of the developing world. As the supply of these traditional fuels continues to diminish or increase in price, there is evermore urgent need for an alternative. One exists. People can cook with the free energy of the sun on all continents except Antarctica. In fact, for many millions, solar cooking is becoming their only option.

March 2005. Building the Hydrogen Boom. On Earth magazine-NRDC. ... Nearly 30 years ago, Iceland was looking for ways to reduce its reliance on imported fossil fuels and replace them with local, renewable sources -- geothermal and hydroelectric power. But a chemistry professor named Bragi Arnason ... realized that the country was planning to tap only a small fraction of the energy resources that lay hidden beneath its volcanic surface. That convinced him that Iceland could become the first nation in the world to power its economy entirely with what is now widely seen as the energy of the future: hydrogen. Arnason understood that Iceland offered a unique laboratory for exploring the potential of a hydrogen economy. The country's small size (40,000 square miles) and population (just 294,000) would simplify the challenge of transforming its energy infrastructure. Most important, he believed that the energy required to split water molecules and produce hydrogen could be provided by Iceland's cheap, abundant supplies of geothermal and hydroelectric power. -- Cynthia Grabber

January/February 2005. Solar Today - Chair's Corner. The Future's So Bright. Tom Starrs. Where solar energy will make its ultimate mark, however, is in power generation. The electricity industry is the single largest source of industrial pollution in the world, and one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Over 80 percent of the world's electricity and 90 percent of U.S. electricity comes from nonrenewable fossil and nuclear sources. The transition to sustainability will require important contributions from geothermal power, hydropower, biomass and wind power, but solar power is likely to be dominant. The main reason solar energy has so much potential is its ubiquity. Other renewable resources are concentrated through natural forces, making them easier to extract. But they are concentrated enough to be technically and economically viable in only a relatively small number of places. Solar is more diffuse, making it more expensive to extract, but it is much more evenly distributed over the Earth's surface. For example, wind power densities in the windiest parts of the United States average over 1,000 watts per square meter, while much of the country has average wind power densities that are about one-tenth as high. Meanwhile, the difference between the best and worst solar power potential in the Lower 48 states is a factor of about two. Another reason solar energy has so much potential is its availability where power is needed. Because humans tend to live in places that have plenty of sunshine, solar power is locally available practically anywhere it is needed - in the world's largest cities or its most rural villages. ...With all this potential, why does solar energy produce less than 1 percent of the world's power? Quite simply, it is because the technologies to convert sunlight to electricity have been too expensive. But the cost of solar power has been declining steadily since the first photovoltaic (PV) cells were made, and the technology - which once produced power that was 50 times the price of conventional electricity - now costs only about twice the price. Virtually every serious analysis of the industry indicates that PV technology will be cost-competitive within five to 15 years....

January/February 2005. Bringing Light to Low-Income Communities. By Tim Sears, P.E. Solar Today, p. 24. In California, affordable-housing owners are eligible for rebates on photovoltaic systems on these homes or apartments. What better way to help them take advantage of the rebates than by matching them with individuals eager to gain experience installing the systems? It was just this goal that led to the creation of the Solar Affordable Housing Program. By providing free installation, access to low-interest financing and assistance with rebates, permitting and utility agreements, the program is bringing solar to a new set of homeowners.... Get full-text pdf of this article. This article is republished courtesy of SOLAR TODAY, the award-winning magazine dedicated to energy-efficiency and renewable energy technologies. www.solartoday.org.

January 2005. Japan Takes the Lead, by Dan Bihn.
...Through aggressive government subsidies and policies, solar-powered houses are now common in Japan, and Japanese manufacturers dominate the global PV market. By mid-2005, Japan expects to have more than 1 gigawatt (GW) of installed PV capacity, predominately iin consumer-owned residential systems. The country is well on the way to achieving its goal of 4.84 GW of installed PV by 2010. PV is an important part of how Japan is meeting the threat of global climate change through a progressive, profitable industrial strategy - a strategy that is igniting a vibrant, consumer-driven market in which reducing greenhouse gases is not just the right thing to do, but the cool thing to do. The Japanese PV story is also a wake-up call for U.S. policy-makers who, through skepticism of and indifference to the climate change threat, continue to lull all but the most visionary domestic businesses into complacence. Get full article as PDF. This article is republished courtesy of SOLAR TODAY, the award-winning magazine dedicated to energy-efficiency and renewable energy technologies. www.solartoday.org.

January/February 2005. Solar Today, p. 10. INVESTING IN CLEAN ENERGY. Tracking Clean Energy. New benchmark makes it easier than ever to invest in renewable energy. By Rona Fried, Ph.D. ... green investors can soon invest in a basket of renewable energy stocks through the new WilderHill Clean Energy Index, which debuted on the American Stock Exchange in August. It's the brainchild and consummation of a dream for Robert Wilder, Elias Azrak and Josh Landess, long-time clean energy advocates. ...Investors don't place money directly into an index, but into a fund that mirrors the index, such as exchange-traded funds (ETF5). When PowerShares Capital Management, a company specializing in ETFs, offered to create a fund that mirrors their clean energy index, Wilder and Azrak decided to put the index on AMEX. "It costs tens of thousands of dollars each year for AMEX to calculate the index," explains Wilder. "When PowerShares came forward, that's when we decided to take the plunge."... criteria are qualitative: no fossil fuel, oil or coal companies. "We're including companies that stand to benefit substantially should global warming and carbon become more of an issue, and those that may grow as society moves toward the use of cleaner energy and conservation," says Wilder...Though General Electric (GE), the world's second-largest wind turbine manufacturer, is a powerful force in wind energy, and Shell Solar (RD) and BP Solar (BPA) are among the largest producers of solar systems, they aren't in the index. If a company dabbles in solar but their main business is oil, they are out. Beyond GE's involvement in nuclear weapons and other negatives, the overriding reason it is excluded is that when the stock price of this immense company moves, it doesn't reflect its activity in clean energy or the clean energy sector as a whole. Learn more: Enter the symbol ECO at http://www.amex.com 

2004

December 2004. Product Lifecycle Management Project for Environmental Traceability of Electrical and Electronic Equipment. Hitachi Corp: Eco & PLM Project for Environmental Traceability of EEE. Previously, manufacturers of EEE (electrical and electronic equipment) have not been held accountable for the traceability of their products in the way food and vehicle manufacturers have, because these products do not have the same direct impact on human life. In recent days, however, environmental laws with strict regulations and accountability about included substances and restrictions on hazardous substances are being introduced worldwide. These regulations impose additional expenses on producers for the recycling and collection of EEE. ... Taking into consideration recent environmental laws, we have started to construct an integrated traceability system for EEE as an Eco & PLM (product lifecycle management) project. This term refers to not only ecology but also product lifecycle management. Thus the Eco & PLM project has two missions: to observe environmental laws and to manage all records of product lifecycle.

December 2004. The Hydrogen Economy. Physics Today. George W. Crabtree, Mildred S. Dresselhaus, and Michelle V. Buchanan. If the fuel cell is to become the modern steam engine, basic research must provide breakthroughs in understanding, materials, and design to make a hydrogen-based energy system a vibrant and competitive force.

28 November 2004. Hydrogen Production Method Could Bolster Fuel Supplies. By Matthew L. Wald. NY Times. WASHINGTON, Nov. 27 - Researchers at a government nuclear laboratory and a ceramics company in Salt Lake City say they have found a way to produce pure hydrogen with far less energy than other methods, raising the possibility of using nuclear power to indirectly wean the transportation system from its dependence on oil.

July 2004. Basic Choices and Constraints on Long-Term Energy Supplies. Paul B. Weisz. Physics Today. Population growth and energy demand are exhausting the world's fossil energy supplies, some on the timescale of a single human lifespan. Increasingly, sharing natural resources will require close international cooperation, peace, and security.
See also "Letters" -- More Options Offered for Long-Term Energy Solutions

26 August 2004. Focus on hydrogen economy has things backwards. An op/ed by Dr. David Suzuki. As summer slides towards fall, fuel-cell manufacturers and automakers are out on the streets of major cities around the world, showing off million-dollar prototypes of hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles. The cars are technological marvels. They're cool. They're futuristic. And they're virtually useless - for now. As much as "gee whiz" stories abound about new hydrogen fuel-cell technologies, one can't help but wonder if we aren't getting a tad ahead of ourselves. While it's great to have these vehicles to show off, it would be much better if we had a way to produce hydrogen in sufficient quantities cleanly. Or had a way to store the stuff. Or an infrastructure to move it around. Or any number of a host of other major hurdles we need to jump before we are able to reach the vaunted goal of a "hydrogen economy."

6 August 2004. California EPA wants to spur solar-home development By Don Thompson, Associated Press. SACRAMENTO, Calif. - California officials are proposing that half of all new homes in the state be running on solar energy in 10 years, an effort spurred by $100 million in annual incentives paid for by electricity consumers. The move comes three years after the state suffered through an energy crisis that left utility customers paying off billions in debts incurred when wholesale electricity rates hit record-high levels. The plan proposes that the state give rebates to home builders who install solar panels on new homes, and incentives for installing panels on existing homes, according to a copy of the California Environmental Protection Agency draft. The program would be paid for with a new monthly utility bill surcharge of about 25 to 30 cents per household, projected to raise $1 billion before the surcharge ends in 10 years. But homeowners would be free to sell excess solar energy back to electricity companies, leaving them with no net cost.

3 August 2004. California. Administration Proposes Strong Initiative To Achieve Governor's Solar Homes Goal: Environment California Calls On Governor To Adopt As His Own SACRAMENTO ...a representative of the California Environmental Protection Agency announced a "Million Solar Homes Initiative" to achieve Governor Schwarzenegger's promise of building half of all new homes with solar power. The policy aims to reduce peak energy demand while bringing cleaner energy to the state. "The goal is to build more solar homes and by all measures this proposal would put us on the right path in a very bold way," said Bernadette Del Chiaro, clean energy advocate for Environment California, a non-profit environmental group that is sponsor of the Solar Homes Bill, SB 1652 (Murray). "This proposal is strong because it combines incentives with mandates. The question at this point is whether the governor is "manly-man" enough to adopt this as his own or, better yet, come out with something even stronger in time to meet legislative deadlines.

Solar Catalyst Group -- http://www.solarcatalyst.com/ -- a nonprofit consortium of business, government, investors, labor, and environmental and community groups and individuals working to catalyze the solar energy portion of a renewable energy future by creating a mass market for solar photovoltaics (PV).

February 2004. Can Solar Energy Fit Your Budget? Union of Concerned Scientists http://www.ucsusa.org/ -- If you ever considered installing solar collectors on your house but chose not to follow through because the costs sounded prohibitive, it might be time to reconsider. Solar power is one of the most environmentally benign energy sources available. Just 20 days of sunshine produces the same amount of energy as everything stored in Earth's reserves of oil, coal, and natural gas-yet does not come close to producing the same amount of environmental damage as even one of those options.

13 February 2004. Scientists develop new hydrogen reactor MINNEAPOLIS, Minnesota (AP) -- Researchers say they have produced hydrogen from ethanol in a prototype reactor small enough and efficient enough to heat small homes and power cars. The development could help open the way for cleaner-burning technology at home and on the road. Current methods of producing hydrogen from ethanol require large refineries and copious amounts of fossil fuels, the University of Minnesota researchers said. The reactor is a relatively tiny 2-foot-high apparatus of tubes and wires that creates hydrogen from corn-based ethanol. A fuel cell, which acts like a battery, then generates power. "This points to a way to make renewable hydrogen that may be economical and available," said Lanny Schmidt, a chemical engineer who led the study. The work was outlined in Friday's issue of the journal Science. ...The Minnesota researchers envision people buying ethanol to power the small fuel cell in their basements.


2003

25 December 2003. Court Blocks U.S. Effort to Relax Pollution Rule, by KATHARINE Q. SEELYE and JENNIFER 8. LEE. A federal appeals court on Wednesday at least temporarily blocked a Bush administration rule, due to take effect on Friday, that would have relaxed existing regulations and so allowed hundreds of aging power and industrial plants to make upgrades without installing modern pollution controls.


 

Articles from 2003–2008

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