New Year’s Day in Portland: 2030

3p Contributor | Friday January 23rd, 2015 | 0 Comments

Editor’s Note: As a lead-up to Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, Jan. 17-24, Masdar sponsored a blogging contest called “Describe the Ideal City in 2030.”  The following post was a runner-up.

In 2030, Portland's skyscrapers will be transformed into , predicts Masdar Blogging Contest runner-up

In 2030, Portland’s skyscrapers will be transformed into vertical farm habitats, predicts Masdar Blogging Contest runner-up Ozzie Gonzalez. 

By Ozzie Gonzalez

Julio, my compadre from Minas Gerias, Brazil, is being dropped on the roof of my vertical farm habitat by a DroneCab.

Although he was the best man at my virtual wedding last month, Julio and I have never met in person. Last night during our telepathic Skype session, he impulsively booked a seat on the Mach-5 Skylon from Brazil to my home in Portland, Oregon, 6,800 miles away. (Of course he complained about the boring 2-hour flight to get here.)

Julio is justifiably proud that, way back in 2014, his state of Minas Gerais created an international model of regional planning. Its bold concepts for sustainable housing, transportation and resource management inspired the transformation of other regions around the world.

But when Julio arrives it will be my turn to show off. Like so many international communities in recent years, my city has an impressive sustainability story to tell.

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Calculating the True Cost of Energy Storage

3p Contributor | Friday January 23rd, 2015 | 5 Comments
A researcher tests batteries at the Idaho National Laboratory testing lab.

A researcher tests batteries at the Idaho National Laboratory testing lab.

By Anna W. Aamone

With regard to energy storage systems, many people erroneously think that the only cost they should consider is the initial – that is, the cost of generating electricity per kilowatt-hour. However, they are not aware of another very important factor.

This is the so-called LCOE, levelized cost of energy (also known as cost of electricity by source), which helps calculate the price of the electricity generated by a specific source. The LCOE also includes other costs associated with producing or storing that energy, such as maintenance and operating costs, residual value, the useful life of the system and the round-trip efficiency. Some of these factors will be discussed in this article, so if you want to get a solid grasp of the matter, check the information provided below.

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Will China’s Mining of the Moon Make It the Indisputable Global Power?

Leon Kaye | Thursday January 22nd, 2015 | 6 Comments
Helium-3, moon, moon mining, Leon Kaye, renewable energy, fusion, space exploration, China, moon exploration, renewables, Chinese space program

Some suggest it is time to not man, but mine, the moon.

China is close to becoming the third country, after the United States and Russia, to land spacecraft on the moon. As a result, the blogosphere has been buzzing with one of the reasons why the Chinese have apparently decided to invest in space exploration: to explore the possibility of the isotope helium-3, rare on Earth but possibly plentiful on the moon, in order to research its viability as a clean and powerful form of energy.

Such potential is a reminder of the movie “Avatar,” the premise of which was based on humans traveling long distances across space to exploit valuable natural resources from a planet in order to meet the insatiable needs for humankind.

In the case of Chinese moon exploration, the reason is to test the viability of helium-3 as a perfectly secure form of energy. For years the buzz was that cold fusion could solve Earth’s energy conundrum without the nasty effects of pollution and greenhouse gasses. That hype has long died down, but now helium-3 could be that Holy Grail. The oft-quoted claim bouncing across the Internet suggests that 25 tons of helium-3, when reacted with deuterium, would generate enough electricity to power the United States for one year.

Considering the wars over oil and the challenges that renewables pose, you’d think it would be easy to make the case that we should be hauling lunar rocks from the moon, extracting the helium-3 and solving all of our energy problems. After all, the Chinese are looking into it, so shouldn’t we? One author suggests the U.S. would do it, too, but powerful corporate and political interests are getting in the way.

If it were only that simple.

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Solar PV: Own or Lease?

| Thursday January 22nd, 2015 | 2 Comments

vivint-solarSolar leases and power purchase agreements (PPAs) have supercharged installation of residential photovoltaic (PV) energy systems in the U.S. At least this is the case in states such as Arizona, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, New York and others where energy industry regulators permit them to be offered.

Due to a variety of factors, including the scheduled ratcheting-down of the federal solar investment tax credit (ITC) at the end of 2016, U.S. solar energy finance-and-installation companies, such as market leader SolarCity, are increasingly turning to solar loans as a means of financing, however.

In two new reports, the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) compares the costs and benefits of financing PV installations via third-party ownership (leases and PPAs) and direct ownership via solar loans and low-cost financing.

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Why This Top College Apparel Company Pays Living Wages

| Thursday January 22nd, 2015 | 3 Comments

JP.-SHIRT-2-popupAs college football season drew to a close, fans were certainly more fixed on the final score of the championship than on the “made in” label on the back of their college T-shirts and hoodies. Take a closer look at your (or your kid’s) college sweatshirt, though, and you’ll discover a college apparel company with values at its core.

In an industry that manufactures most of its apparel in developing countries that pay garment workers a little more than subsistence wages, Alta Gracia Apparel – a clothing factory in the Dominican Republic that pays employees 300 percent above the legal minimum wage – is a one-of-a-kind social enterprise.

Through a partnership with Follet Corp., one of the nation’s largest campus retailers, Alta Gracia Apparel makes college T-shirts, sweaters and sweatshirts for more than 350 U.S. colleges. Alta Gracia gear is sold in more than 800 college bookstores across the country.

The four-year-old company, owned by South Carolina-based sports apparel giant Knights Apparel, is the only apparel factory in a developing country to pay workers a living wage, maintain high health and safety factory conditions, and negotiate a collective bargaining agreement with a workers’ union. And all of these accomplishments have been verified by the independent labor rights organization Worker Rights Consortium.

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Marketing for Good: The (Often Overlooked) Power of Design

3p Contributor | Thursday January 22nd, 2015 | 2 Comments

Editor’s Note: This is a recurring series of excerpts from Marc Stoiber‘s new book, “Didn’t See It Coming.” 

didnt see it comingBy Marc Stoiber

I’ve made a career of connecting dots. Working in advertising, design, sustainability and innovation, I’ve found myself in the interesting position of being a conduit between disciplines that often didn’t communicate or share terribly well.

But if we’re going to change the world, we desperately need to share.

In that spirit, I have a few observations on design – a field we should pay far more attention to if we’re going to bring more consumers aboard the good ship Sustainability. 

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U.N. Global Compact Expels Hundreds for Non-Compliance

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Thursday January 22nd, 2015 | 8 Comments

Logo_of_the_United_Nations2014 was a mixed year for the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC) initiative, which has been working to increase the adoption of sustainable practices in the global business sector.

The organization announced last week that it had expelled 372 companies in the last half of 2014 for not submitting their Communication of Progress (COP) reports, which members are required to submit on a yearly basis. The COP details the member’s progress in meeting the 10 goals of the UNGC.  So far, the number of expelled companies for 2014 stands at 657.

“These expelled companies represent 10 percent of the 3,760 participants due to submit a Communication on Progress (COP) within the second half of 2014,” said the UNGC, which pointed out that the organization also took on 729 new members in the last half of 2014.

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Dubai: A City That Answers Its People

3p Contributor | Thursday January 22nd, 2015 | 0 Comments

Editor’s Note: As a lead-up to Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, Jan. 17-24, Masdar sponsored a blogging contest called “Describe the Ideal City in 2030.”  The following post was a runner-up.

Dubai is famous for its skyscrapers, but by 2030 the city may be known as a hub for sustainable development, predicts Masdar blogging contest runner-up

Dubai is famous for its skyscrapers, but by 2030 the city may be known as a hub for sustainable development, predicts Masdar blogging contest runner-up Christina Thomas.

By Christina Thomas

“You take delight not in a city’s seven or seventy wonders, but in the answer it gives to a question of yours.” – Italo Calvino, “Invisible Cities”

Dubai certainly has its share of wonders and answers. Shellstone minarets and glass skyscrapers once symbolized the city’s tenacity in contest with the harsh desert. But in the years leading up to 2030, Dubai has come closer to reconciling with nature and responding to environmental concerns.

The city has also been answering the many questions continually posed by its millions of residents. Some ask, “Where can my children play?” “Why are the streets flooded whenever we get an inch of rain?” Others ask, “Do they sell local vegetables nearby?”

As an urban planner, my job is to make sure that the city can provide many of those answers, be it though green parks maintained with recycled water or porous roads and sidewalks that collect runoff.

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Report: Offshore Wind Better Job Creator Than Offshore Drilling

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Thursday January 22nd, 2015 | 1 Comment

offshore windWhile proponents of offshore drilling along the Atlantic coast tout it as a job-creator, the practice would actually cost jobs, according to a new report.

Offshore drilling would put at risk some of the almost 1.4 million jobs and over $95 billion in gross domestic product that rely on healthy ocean ecosystems. Offshore wind could provide twice the amount of jobs and energy as offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean, a new report by Oceana finds. Oceana’s projections only show the amount of jobs that could be created by 2035. However, many more could be created after that date, according to the report.

Gradually developing offshore wind energy on the East Coast would result in 143 gigawatts of power being generated over the next 20 years. That is enough energy to power over 115 million households. In the next 20 years, offshore wind could create about 91,000 more jobs than offshore drilling. The energy created by 20 years of offshore wind in the Atlantic could produce 5 billion barrels of oil equivalent (BOE) more than the oil and gas that is recoverable in the same area. Extracting and using all of the economically-recoverable offshore oil and gas in the Atlantic would only meet oil demand for 132 days and gas demand for 283 days. Offshore wind could generate more energy in just 13 years than all of the economically-recoverable offshore oil and gas resources, the report concludes.

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Palo Alto in 2030: How One Small City Advanced the ‘Sustainability’ Revolution

3p Contributor | Thursday January 22nd, 2015 | 1 Comment

Editor’s Note: As a lead-up to Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, Jan. 17-24, Masdar sponsored a blogging contest called “Describe the Ideal City in 2030.”  The following post was a runner-up.

Bicycles are already commonplace in Palo Alto, but by 2030 the city may be entirely car-free, predicts Masdar blogging contest runner-up Gil Friend.

Bicycles are already commonplace in Palo Alto, but by 2030 the city may be entirely car-free, predicts Masdar blogging contest runner-up Gil Friend.

By Gil Friend

Palo Alto in 2030 is still the beautiful, desirable, park-like suburb it had been for more than 100 years, still the booming heart of Silicon Valley it had been for more than more than 70. Now it is climate positive, car-free and a vibrant laboratory for the innovations that have rapidly transformed the global landscape over the past 15 years.

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A Powerful Tool for Getting Insight into State Energy Policy

Hannah Miller | Thursday January 22nd, 2015 | 0 Comments

logo cneeAbout 80 percent of energy regulation goes on at the state level, estimates Jeff Lyng, senior policy analyst at the Center for the New Energy Economy in Denver. But until last year, finding out exactly what states were doing was incredibly labor intensive: One had to go to each individual state government website separately.

Last year, however, the center unveiled the Advanced Energy Legislation Tracker – a simple, comprehensive, easy-on-the-eyes database of state-level public policy from across the nation. You can check the status of PACE in Arkansas, feed-in tariffs in Hawaii, or gas-tax replacements anywhere: free and searchable. (The kind of thing that the American Legislative Exchange Council has had for a while.)

“Most of the energy business is regulated at the state level. And states are leading. The mission of this center is to work with states,” said Lyng. (CNEE is a part of Colorado State University, with former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter as its director.)

Energy is a hot topic now, judging from the volume of legislation being proposed: 489 policies were enacted last year and 713 the year before (the drop-off due to the state legislatures that hold abbreviated sessions in even years.)

Last month, the CNEE released its 2014 year-end report of state energy policy, covering the main policy categories (both for and against):

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Best Business Innovations of 2014

3p Contributor | Thursday January 22nd, 2015 | 0 Comments
Google passed

Google’s autonomous vehicles passed 500,000 driver-free miles last year. But that wasn’t the only buzzy-worthy business innovation of 2014.

By Debbie Fletcher

2014 saw a range of new innovations within the business world. Numerous companies won awards for their innovative ideas and services, and below you’ll discover some of the best.

1. Google leads the way

Internet giant Google led the way for innovations, developing numerous projects that could change the world (or at least the way you live and do business). Shopping Express is one of the company’s innovations, experimenting with the idea of same-day delivery. Very few companies offer this service yet it is something that many of us would love.

Another innovation from Google that did quite well in 2014 was its range of autonomous vehicles, which reached a milestone of 500,000 driver-free miles last year.

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Masdar Launching Desalination Project Powered by Renewables

Leon Kaye | Wednesday January 21st, 2015 | 4 Comments
Masdar, Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, Abu Dhabi, desalination, renewable energy, solar, Leon Kaye, Middle East,

Masdar is betting this solar desalination project can transform this growing and energy-intensive industry.

Desalination is one reason why the Gulf region has enjoyed spectacular growth over the past two decades. Harvesting fresh water out of the sea is also one long-term economic and environmental problem that countries such as the United Arab Emirates will have to confront.

Effluent resulting from removing salts and minerals from seawater is often discharged into the Gulf, creating one environmental problem. And while most desalination plants in the Middle East are actually cogeneration plants that generate electricity from natural gas, heightened demand for power in the summer means many such plants generate more potable water than can be consumed. In turn, the unneeded water is released into the Gulf, creating even more ecological burdens. And at a pragmatic level, fossil fuels used to operate power-hungry desalination plants means less of them can be exported or even used for local electricity and power requirements.

Desalination fueled from solar or other renewables offer potential, but as of now the amount of energy required has not made renewable energy a viable alternative. A pilot project launched by Masdar in Abu Dhabi, however, could pave the way to a future where desalination could be possible with less of a carbon footprint.

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Yellowstone River Oil Spill Prompts State of Emergency

Jan Lee
Jan Lee | Wednesday January 21st, 2015 | 2 Comments

Glendive_Yellowstone_River_oil_spill_TimEvansonResidents in the town of Glendive, Montana, have been told not to drink their water after an oil pipeline broke on Saturday, dumping an estimated 50,000 gallons of Bakken light crude into the Yellowstone River.

The breach was discovered approximately 10 miles upstream from the town of 6,000, which serves as the agricultural hub for eastern Montana.

A spokesperson for Montana Gov. Steve Bullock said the pipeline was shut down quickly.

“We think it was caught pretty quick,” said Dave Parker. “The governor is committed to making sure the river is cleaned up.”

By Sunday, however, residents in town were reporting an odd odor. Initial tests conducted on the town’s water supply indicated elevated levels of hydrocarbons, prompting officials to order a warning against drinking the water.

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Abu Dhabi Project Could Transform Aquaculture and Aviation Biofuels

Leon Kaye | Wednesday January 21st, 2015 | 0 Comments
Abu Dhabi, Middle East, United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, biofuels, aviation biofuels, Masdar, Masdar City, Masdar Institute, Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium, halophytes, mangroves, renewable energy, food security, Leon Kaye

A pilot project announced this week could help revive mangroves in the Abu Dhabi region.

The Gulf region is certainly rife with ambition: In addition to the audacious architecture emerging in its cities, Doha, Dubai and Abu Dhabi are competing to build the world’s largest airports — which means far more demand for aviation fuel. Meanwhile the vast majority of food consumed here is imported, meaning more investments to ensure food security that critics say are not much more than a land grab.

The fact this region has one of the world’s hottest and harshest climates has not stopped its rapid growth, in turn bringing up countless questions about the Middle East’s long-term sustainability. Add the questions of water with its demands for more desalination while aquifers have become depleted, and the future with more people and demand for resources does not look too promising. With 97 percent of the world’s water in oceans and 20 percent of its land desert, other countries will have to face this same dilemma.

But what if it were possible to grow food sustainably in the desert while creating aviation biofuels? A pilot project to launch later this year in Masdar City was announced yesterday at a press conference during Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week.

The Sustainable Bioenergy Research Consortium (SBRC), an initiative of the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, has announced what it says will be the world’s first bioenergy pilot project to use desert land, irrigated by seawater, to produce both food and energy.

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