Analysts ganging up on solar stocks are worried about the insecurity of demand in the wake of cheaper conventional energy prices. Reduced government subsidies for the photovoltaic solar industry in Germany and Spain are also frequently cited as a reason to downgrade solar stocks. But it’s not all doom and gloom. There still are exceptional companies to be found.
Research house iSuppli recently put out a report estimating that worldwide turnover of solar PV panels will decline by 20% this year. Turnover of solar panel sales will dip from over $15 billion in 2008 to $13 billion in 2009 – marking the sector’s first ever contraction. The reason they say? Overproduction in 2008. Solar panel manufacturers produced 7.7 Gigawatts of solar capacity last year but only half of that production was actually connected.
Method Products, the cradle to cradle cleaning company, is an intriguing example of how marketing and green are not mutually exclusive. This San Francisco company, which generated a breathtaking $75 million worth of turnover in 2007 has opened its doors in the UK and will soon expand further into Europe.
Its worth keeping an eye out on what its directors, Eric Ryan and Adam Lowry, are doing,
if only because the Obama-Biden team spotted them and invited Ryan to the inauguration ceremony.
The same guy – a former marketing guru – also struck a recent deal to provide Microsoft with a modern image. He acts himself in the computer giant’s latest tv commercial, an animation themed ‘Be Weird – Be Different’. Check out the ad on the company’s blog here.
What Can Jobseekers Expect From Obama’s $30 Billion Incentives Package To The Renewable Energy Sector?
President Barack Obama’s plans to increase the production of renewable energy to double the current levels by 2012 and one of his first acts has been to provide $30 billion in tax incentives to this industry. That was $10 billion more than had been anticipated. The move supports the optimism of the people who anticipate surging growth in the green jobs market.
Recent research by think tank and academic institutions shows that significant job increases in the green sector is expected. The reports provide helpful information for people interested in employment in a green job. Many of them offer detailed information of anticipated growth per sector and region, which is exactly what job seekers need.
A recent survey of the Academy for Educational Development (AED) advises green job seekers to consider a community college as their ‘dream school’.
Motorola recently launched what they claim to be first ever carbon neutral phone at the Consumer Electrics Show in Las Vegas. Additionally, the plastics used in the phone’s exterior are made from recycled water bottles. Enter the MOTO™ W233 Renew. The company signed up with Carbonfund.org to offset the carbon produced during the manufacturing process of the handset. Distribution and operating activities are also offset. Motorola invests in the Carbonfund’s program of renewable energy and reforestation investments.
When you take a close look at the phone you will see that the Carbonfund investment is not a free ticket to environmental utopia because the press buttons and the robust exterior are entirely made of the kinds of metals that still will need recycling at the end of the phone’s life. But, having said that, knowing that the plastics are 100% made of recycled bottles is hopeful, especially when competitors like Nokia and Samsung are using bioplastics made from food crops. The Carbonfund also awarded Motorola with its CarbonFree® Product Certification after an extensive product life-cycle assessment.
In the debate about climate change, politicians will likely become polarized between cap-and-trade supporters and carbon tax proponents. There’s no precedent for a carbon tax, but it’s definitely a viable alternative to carbon trading.
Last week, Exxon Mobil Corp.’s chief executive officer Rex Tillerson said he’s in favor of taxing carbon dioxide emissions. “[It's] a more direct and transparent approach,” Tillerson said, comparing the tax to trading carbon. Aside from Tillerson, proponents of a carbon tax include Al Gore and Ralph Nader.
The magic words associated with the carbon tax debate are “revenue neutral.” That means the government lowers other taxes in order to generate the carbon tax. In addition to what seems to be consumer central thinking, the carbon tax is supposedly easy to implement on short notice. Proponents also say a new tax is efficient and relatively fraud proof.
Supermarket chains in the UK are exploiting every conceivable opportunity to outsmart their competition. Hyper-inflating green credentials to win customers’ favor is part of the game. That’s why it’s easy to be skeptical about the efforts by Tesco superstores. Arriving at a typical Tesco shop, customers are greeted by overly jovial texts on billboards. The phrase “Helping You Spend Less” complements equally vague messages about the environment. But the shop’s management is working to clean up their act, embarking on a crusade to offer customers products that actually lower their carbon footprint. Tesco is even beginning to think about the “greenness” of the very shelves on which these products are placed.
Earlier this month the “greenest ever” Tesco outlet was opened in Manchester. The new store is, in fact, a progressive example of sustainability in many aspects of superstore retailing.
A fashion shop in Glasgow, Scotland, has taken a rather unique approach to up-cycling. It offers customers the chance to restyle problem vintage garments.
Raw Vintage is located in Southside Glasgow’s Shawlands. It ain’t Glasgow’s highstreet but customers will pass for no less than full blown designer addicts wearing its produce. The shop’s co-owner and creative brain Lisa Carr spent the last three years re-fashioning ill fitting vintage garments to fashionable pieces. This is how come the ‚Äò50s, ’60s, ‚Äò70s and ‚Äò80s items on sale in the store ALL look like a dream instead of the odd item. This is upcycling revolutionary style.
Raw Vintage’s regular stock is an inspiration for customers who can bring in their own problem garments for re-styling. On offer are both modern Scottish designer clothes (including Sweet Jayne, Onnie, Torres, Jennie loof, Gasoline and Electra French) and retro and vintage garments which Lisa already has turned her attention to. The restyled collection dates from the 1920’s to the 1980’s. Everything mixes – the retro styles look modern but their vintage spirit is still intact. The collection includes evening and prom wear and street style clothes.
The upgraded clothes were recently officially critiqued in The Skinny a local entertainment paper which commissioned Ms Carr to upcycle some seemingly hopeless and outdated vintage garments. Photos supplied here are copyright The Skinny.
Battery production hasn’t been a major US industry for a long time. In recent years, US firms have become more and more involved with developing new technology to make batteries last longer. Now they’re ready to lure the actual production of batteries back to the US. A group of automobile manufacturing companies has formed a coalition and raised $1 billion in government funds to set up domestic battery production facilities – primarily inspired by the anticipated demand for hybrid and all-electric vehicles.
The coalition, the National Alliance for Advanced Transportation Battery Cell Manufacture, is backed by various established and start-up companies including Johnson Controls-Saft Advanced Power Solutions, 3M Co, ActaCell, All Cell Technologies, EnerSys, Envia Systems, MicroSun Technologies, and Townsend Advanced Energy.
All around the US, homeowners are getting paid by their energy utility to have solar panels installed. That’s because power companies have an urgent need for roof space. They’re in a race against the clock to replace ever greater portions of the regular energy supply by power sourced from renewables.
The trend began with deals between energy companies and various large companies and local municipalities to install solar panels on large premises in return for a fee. One example is ProLogis, a large distributor in California, getting solar energy from systems installed and run by outside energy companies. The first such deal was when General Motors got solar panels installed on the roofs of its Spain production facilities (see picture).
Now the energy companies are beginning to tap the residential sector. The inherent logic of this development is obvious; once they’ve got local authority approval, energy companies can extend their ‘solar parks’ quickly and with relatively little hassle by fixing normal residents up with solar power. Home owners are interested because they get a fee for renting out their roofs to professionally managed solar panels. It’s hard to imagine a better way to reduce your footprint. Or is there?
Despite the compelling logic of the roof rental schemes, the cost/savings equation of the plans of Duke Energy in North Carolina aren’t immediately sky rocketing. Duke recently became the latest in a spate of energy companies to announce it would start renting the roofs of ordinary houses for solar power generation. The energy giant will rent 425 roofs across the state as early as next year.
It sounds iffy; running your company’s network on a WiFi connection that is entirely powered by solar energy. But a Mountainview, CA firm says it provides a 100% uptime solution. And it reports a mad dash for its products by companies in the range of 50 to 200 employees.
Mesh WiFi firm Meraki started shipping its Meraki Solar December 4th, after a year long delay because it needed to improve its battery technology.
The delay lands both the firm and customers in a slightly awkward situation. The worldwide run on solar power equipment seemed overly justified when oil prices spiked. Now that the price of oil is in the 40 dollar bracket, what should solar be priced at? Meraki has found a creative way around this stumbling block. Customers can bring their own panels! They’re selling solar Wifi solutions for apartment blocks or businesses and small communities at $749 a piece for a bring-your-own-panel model up to $1,499 for areas with shorter days or less light which require a battery.
Company cofounder Sanjit Biswas told ArsTechnica that Meraki decided to change from sealed lead-acid to lithium iron-phosphate for greater capacity.
Biswas said this dropped the battery’s weight, which in turn reduces shipping costs for the many remote areas that the Solar unit is being deployed.
Governmental Climate Change Mitigation Efforts Are Less Costly When They Target Temperatures Rather Than CO2 Emissions Reductions
Climate change mitigation packages should be aimed at reducing temperatures rather than lowering carbon emissions. This makes global government investment in protecting the environment a lot less expensive, say European scientists.
The researchers, in the Netherlands and Germany, have found scientific grounds for the commonly held opinion that high initial costs of eco-friendly solutions are rewarded in the long term by savings from lower energy usage.
Rather than focus on a CO2 emissions cap which is the common approach to climate solutions, the researchers modeled changes based on a cap for future temperature rises.
Working with a temperature cap makes sense in many ways, especially financially, says Michiel Schaeffer of Wageningen University in the Netherlands and lead author of the study. This is because the cost estimates associated with limiting a pre-determined level of carbon emissions often rise rapidly, even exponentially, as the scale of emission reductions to be reached increases.
There’s a paradigm shift going on in the US real estate sector. Yet will home owners justify paying extra for green building if the economic situation continues to deteriorate?
The US homeowner population has been silently suffering for years now. Numbers from the Center for Housing Policy show that between 1996 and 2006, homeowners have been spending an increasing portion of their income on housing (the current crisis notwithstanding). A household would typically spend 21.5 percent of its total income on housing in 1996 and this had risen to 26.2 percent in 2006. Nearly a sixth of homeowners were far worse off, spending more than 50 percent of their disposable income on their homes in 2006. Another harrowing fact: housing expenses went up 64.9 percent over the ten year period, while homeowner incomes increased by only 36.3 percent.
It makes you wonder how sustainable the sustainable building wave will prove to be. “In order to avoid repeating the dire situation so many home owners are in today, it is critical that our thinking evolve around home costs,” said Michelle Kaufmann, founder and chairman of Michelle Kaufmann Designs, an architecture firm specializing in sustainable designs. Kaufmann’s recently published white paper “Redefining Cost: A Beacon of Hope Shines through Housing Market Gloom” (PDF link). The study hones in on the current troubles in the US housing industry outlining why it is imperative to consider cost structures in a changed perspective.
Europeans are far ahead of North Americans when it comes to adopting green living standards by large groups and local communities. The Danish Island of Samso is a brilliant example of how a community can adopt a self sufficient lifestyle within a relatively short space of time. North America is beginning to catch up with Europe. The case of a brand new Alberta community living on solar energy shows a unique approach to a sustainable lifestyle.
The Danish island is located in central Denmark, and home to 4,000 people who have spent the last ten years collaborating intensively to achieve self sufficiency and carbon neutrality. Samso’s energy needs are generated by wind turbines, eleven of which are placed in green fields and ten in the surrounding coastal waters of the North Sea. Visitors to the island will agree that if any place deserves carbon neutrality it’s Samso. It’s a romantic place which in 1214 was given by King Valdemar the Victorious to his new queen once they got married. There are plenty of goats grazing in the fields underneath those wind turbines and a photovoltaic panel array at a solar heating plant. Most farmers rear organic pigs below the unsynchronized rotating blades of the wind turbines.
The houses in which the inhabitants live are 70% heated with natural resources such as rye, wheat and straw. The roofs are paneled neatly with solar panels. There are cars and thirty percent of the houses are dependent on oil for their heating yet all the carbon emissions are more than offset. What’s the most amazing is that it all has been achieved in under ten years’ time.
Datacenters that are faced with the challenge of cooling their servers have a brilliant opportunity to jump on the green bandwagon and distribute energy. A European IBM outlet, an Israeli Intel facility and a Scottish Microsoft center are all using the heat their datacenters produce to warm up buildings and other facilities. IBM is even commercializing its method.
The Zurich Research Laboratory is a grand name for the defunct military underground bunker in which IBM housed one of its European datacenters. The company is putting the datacenter’s heat waste to good use; it is cooling its servers with water which is subsequently used to heat a local swimming pool.
A report on IEEE Spectrum indicates that instead of using air-conditioning or fans, the IBM datacenter simply has devised a water pump system through micro channels within the computers themselves. The water then absorbs the heat from the datacenter and sold to the neighbors. “A 10-megawatt datacenter could produce enough energy to heat 700 homes,” according to the article in IEEE Spectrum. Nifty or what?
The reason that IBM opted for heating up the pool rather than its own facility was that there wasn’t an office to heat up because the bunker is based in an inconvenient location and underground. “Through reclaiming the heat, approximately 130 tons of carbon emissions can be saved. This corresponds to the CO2 discharge of mid-size cars driving 500,000 miles,” according to IBM spokesman. “It’s a nice solution. It’s obviously a terrific example of the private sector and the public sector working toward each other’s mutual benefit.”
A recent report has revealed that data centers will face critical shortages of energy in less than three years. By 2011, two thirds of all datacenters won’t have enough electricity to perform critical computing tasks.
The survey, carried out by Emerson Network Power is based on interviews with datacenter professionals. 64% of the 167 respondents estimate that they are going to run out of data capacity by 2011 because they will be faced with energy shortages by then.
The situation in Europe is no better than in the US. IDC recently issued a report that had similar findings, indicating that European data centers will land in an energy crisis in the near future too. The main reason being that energy consumption increased by more than 13% between 2006 and 2007. The report predicted that energy consumption by data center facilities would reach more than 42 terawatt hours in 2008.