Public Policy Issues Take the Floor at Intersolar-SEMICON

3p Contributor | Monday July 20th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Over 17,000 solar and renewable energy specialists were in San Francisco last week attending the Intersolar North America Conference, with over 25 conference tracks, 170 speakers and about 500 exhibitors at Moscone West Exhibit Hall.

Among the issues on the public policy side was the recognition that changing global and national economics have impacted the solar industry, both photovoltaics and thin film, as well as large solar thermal plants. In the past, emphasis has been on the high cost of silicon and other basic materials used in the industry. Within the past year, solar module prices have been driven down by a combination of decreased demand, and oversupply of feedstock silicon.

One of the drivers of the decrease in demand was the lack of monitoring interconnections under the Spanish Feed-In Tariff which led to over 2.5 GW of solar installations in 2008, far more than the expected cap of 900MW. This led to a deep reduction in the cap to 500 MW in 2009, and 400MW is anticipated in future years. Combined with the weak markets in the US, China, and elsewhere, this has led to an oversupply in the market, and dramatic decreases in the price of silicon and silicon-based modules.

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Roadmonkey Starts Up an Adventure Philanthropy Company

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Friday July 17th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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There are vacations and then there are travels and they are not, I would venture, the same. People vacation when they want to lie on beaches or ride roller coasters or take bus tours. Traveling is about going somewhere new rather than just being somewhere. In his travelogue Travels with Charley, John Steinbeck wrote “…we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.”
Sounds great, doesn’t it? But here’s the rub: you can’t exactly plan a transcendent experience. You can, however, plan a unique experience that’s off the beaten vacation path. And as the growing trend in voluntouring (volunteering combined with traveling) indicates, people are becoming less interested in taking trips and more interested in trips that take them. At the same time, they are realizing that philanthropy can be more meaningful that just sending a check to a worthy cause.

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Green Is the New Hollywood

| Friday July 17th, 2009 | 2 Comments

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green writer logoHollywood isn’t the first thing you’d think of when it comes to being green. From elaborate productions that zap thousands of watts of energy to excessive on-set food trays that leave behind mountains of waste, one would guess the mecca of entertainment creates more of a drain on our natural resources than preserves them. I was on a shoot once that made Marie Antionette’s dessert table seem like a small town bake sale and lights that made me feel like I was about to be interrogated or probed by aliens. True story.
In fact, if anything, Hollywood is the pinnacle of excess, right down to the millions upon millions of pages of screenplays that get tossed in the trash on a daily basis. But Daniel Riser, founder of Greenwriter.org wants to change all that. And tackling Tinseltown is just the beginning.

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Texas Instruments Saves Big with Efficiency

| Friday July 17th, 2009 | 0 Comments

texas instruments CSRIn 2008, Texas Instruments (TI) saved $5.1 million through reducing energy use by 5% and water consumption by over 7%. As a result, TI reduced its worldwide carbon footprint to 2.07 million metric tons of CO2, which represents a 2.8% reduction in the company’s worldwide carbon footprint.
The company’s 2008 Corporate Social Responsibility Report outlines the 159 distinct initiatives that were undertaken to realize the company-wide savings. Entitled, “Building a Better Future,” the new report organizes the company’s environmental performance into eight categories including air quality, climate change, energy use, alternative transportation, water use, materials usage & recycling, sustainable site policies and principles.
However, the most captivating elements of the report are the environmental performance highlights.

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Coming Soon to Best Buy: Motorcycles?

| Friday July 17th, 2009 | 7 Comments

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enertia%20electric%20motorcycle.jpg“I bought my motorcycle at Best Buy,” is a sentence I bet you never thought you’d utter. And yet, that may be exactly what you do in the near future, if you were to buy an Enertia electric motorcycle from Brammo.
Along with the comic book sound effect name, Brammo has put a lot of thought into this bike. And they have answers for the questions people may have about them. Like the fact that regular motorcycles are already a lot more efficient then automobiles. True, twice as efficient, they acknowledge. And up to 15 times the emissions of them as well. That’s something I’d never heard before.
Addressing the deeper question of evenly comparing the environmental impact, they mention that on the gasoline based side, there’s the transport of the fuel to stations, and on the electric based side, there’s the emissions of the possibly coal and nuclear powered facility on the other end. I can appreciate their going beyond merely saying the vehicle itself has no emissions, end of story.
So how do they compare?

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Carbon Offsets: New Boon for Business? Or Trouble for the Forests?

| Friday July 17th, 2009 | 0 Comments

By Deborah Fleischer, Green Impact
No matter how you feel about carbon offsets, if the The American Clean Energy and Security Act becomes law, offsets, both domestic and international, will be a central component.
According to Carbon Positive:

The US cap and trade bill currently stands to deliver a huge stimulus to the clean energy and forest carbon sectors in North America and in the developing world. Whatever final form the scheme takes, it will produce the world’s biggest single carbon market from 2012, eclipsing the EU ETS. And it’s already clear generous international carbon offset provisions and linkages with other national emissions trading schemes will ensure the carbon market spreads well beyond U.S. borders. This is particularly so for the emerging avoided deforestation, or REDD, sector.

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Sustainability Lesson One: There Is No Such Thing

| Friday July 17th, 2009 | 7 Comments

yvon chouinardEarlier this week, Walmart announced their plans to unveil a new sustainability index that will grade various suppliers and products by a range of environmental and sustainable factors. The move will allow consumers to easily discern the sustainability of one product over another. Walmart, the nation’s largest retail giant, has had its fair share of criticism over the years, but is taking sustainability more seriously these days. It has even sought the guidance of Yvon Chouinard, environmental advocate and founder of the gear and clothing company Patagonia.
The unlikely pair have been working closely on establishing criteria for sustainable clothing, which is difficult given there’s not enough organic cotton in the world to supply Walmart’s needs. The goal is to stop the idea of consuming-discarding. Chouinard is determined to help companies like Walmart change they way they think about our resources. But you won’t find him simply resting on the promise of sustainability. Why? Because there is no such thing.

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Are Aluminum Bottles Greener than Glass?

| Friday July 17th, 2009 | 3 Comments

AluminumBottle.jpgAluminum as a substitute for glass bottles has been inching its way into the consumer experience in the last few years, most notably in the US in the form of beer bottles from Anheuser-Busch and Iron City Beer, a popular regional brand founded in Pittsburgh. Coca-cola has also announced plans to roll out aluminum bottles in this country, though only in limited venues.
Now Rexam, one of the world’s largest consumer packaging companies, has developed a lighter, resealable aluminum bottle that it hopes will replace glass bottles for many beverages, including wine.

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Re-Imagining: A New Approach to Sustainable Packaging

| Friday July 17th, 2009 | 2 Comments

We hear the terms reduce, recycle and reuse a lot. The words have practically become battle cries in most elementary schools these days. One company, though, is applying a new phrase to its sustainable packaging efforts: re-imagine. Icebreaker, a New Zealand outdoor apparel company, is asking its younger customers not to throw away or even to recycle the wrapping in which their fleece arrived. Icebreaker is designing packaging that can be turned into objects of creativity: toys, jewelry boxes and pencil cases.

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Greening the Cocktail Industry – San Francisco Organization Helps Bars Become Eco-Friendly

| Friday July 17th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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cocktailSan Francisco, well known for implementing city-wide sustainability measures, is also renowned for its nightlife. But, as San Fran-based startup Green & Tonic asks, does San Fran’s eco-focus impact the city’s clubs and bars? If the organization’s numerous projects – aimed at helping the bar industry become more sustainable – are any indication, the answer is yes.

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Climate Change and Border Conflicts – Military Researchers’ Two Cents

| Friday July 17th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Those concerned with border-related conflicts and those concerned with climate change may, if the Center for Naval Analysis is correct, share some unexpected common ground. The Center, an American military-research institute, reported that climate change has the potential to multiply instability in some of the world’s already volatile regions. The report is aptly named: “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change.” It begins, “…Global climate change presents a new and very different type of national security challenge.”

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Plan to Plant GMO Eucalyptus Trees Stirs Up Hornet’s Nest of Protest

| Friday July 17th, 2009 | 2 Comments


The US Dept. of Agriculture’s proposed approval of an ArborGen plan to plant more than 250,000 genetically engineered eucalyptus trees on 330 acres of land across seven southern US states has resulted in a storm of protest and more than 17,400 negative public comments.
The trees have been genetically engineered to be tolerant to cold weather, produce less lignin and altered their fertility characteristics in an effort to produce a fast growing feedstock for cellulosic ethanol. Dubbed “frankentrees,” environmental groups including the regional Dogwood Alliance have quickly put together a STOP GE Trees Campaign.
Industrial eucalyptus tree farming is already a highly contentious and heavily criticized issue. Adding genetic modification to the mix only compounds the high risks and potential costs of the plan. Among the many and varied criticisms of the proposal, environmental groups point out that eucalyptus trees are not native to North America, are highly invasive, reduce biodiversity and push out native species. Yet more disruptive, they soak up large amounts of ground water, are highly flammable and exacerbate drought conditions, critics of the plan point out.

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Brazilian Program Results in 90% Recycling of Agrochemical Packaging

| Friday July 17th, 2009 | 0 Comments

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Thanks to an environmental law, effective regulatory and recycling systems, and the cooperation of the agricultural industry, Brazil has become a world leader when it comes to recycling the wide variety of plastic and cardboard containers used to store agrochemicals.
Established in December 2001, the country’s non-profit National Institute for Processing Empty Containers (INPEV) has had remarkable success in implementing a shared system of responsibility for collecting, recycling and disposing of agrochemical packaging– from cardboard and plastic drums to cement containers and fuel oil packages.
Up to now, financed 17% by recycling revenue and 83% by the agrochemical industry, the program is costing Brazil R$50 million (~$25.9 million) a year. That’s due to change. Aiming to make it self-sufficient by 2015, Brazil has opened a facility that can produce new, certified agrochemical packages from recycled plastic sourced from used packages–the first of its kind in the world– and earned international certification for the products.

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Will Talking Trash Really Address the Root Waste Issues?

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Thursday July 16th, 2009 | 2 Comments

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People don’t really think that when they toss an empty cup–or an old ink cartridge, or whatever–into a trash can, that the item just, poof, disappears. Right? I mean, no one really thinks that. Regardless of whether they do, many people act as if that’s the case. Out of site, out of mind.
And so in an effort to give a face and a story to some of the trash that’s tossed in test sites in London, New York City and Seattle, a group of MIT researchers plan on using crews of volunteers to help them toss a few thousand wireless tracking devices out along with the trash. Then, they’ll use cellular networks and a cool GUI to track the whereabouts of the garbage for the next few months, giving an end-of-life story to the discarded goods and – hopefully – telling the tale of what happens to stuff after it’s thrown away. They say doing so will make everyone think twice before they eighty-six stuff rather than recycling it or disposing of it in a proper manner.

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Screw the Environment, Get Sued?

Nick Hodge | Thursday July 16th, 2009 | 2 Comments

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This is probably way off, and may not even happen, but it certainly paints a nice picture of growing positive sentiment for cleantech.
According to a Reuters write-up of a United Nations report released this week, “Investment advisors and asset managers could be sued for negligence if they do not consider the environment and other social issues when making investment decisions.”
Now, I’m not much on religion, but that would certainly be an Hallelujah moment.

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