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The generation of most electricity produces enormous amounts of heat which is typically wasted – literally up the chimney. Cogeneration – or “Combined Heat and Power” – systems make use of this otherwise wasted heat to warm buildings. Much of Manhattan is heated this way courtesy of several con-edison plants in the vicinity. It’s a brilliant solution to improve energy efficiency in an urban area, but doesn’t work so well in less urban areas. There, people typically rely on their own natural gas furnaces to heat their homes.
But what if you could reverse the cogeneration idea? Imagine taking an already efficient gas furnace and generating a home’s electricity directly from it, while it heats?
That’s the reality that Marathon Engine has in store for the North American market today. While not quite a start-up (they’ve been selling units in Europe for 5 years), the company’s “EcoPower MicroCHP” units look set to sell well, despite, or perhaps because of the economy downturn.
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Skyline Solar hopes to achieve grid parity within the next 18 months. According to research by Clean Edge, solar power and conventional electricity sources will reach a “crossover” point by 2015. In other words, electricity from the sun will be cheaper than electricity from fossil fuels.
Today’s peak solar price of 15-32 cents/kWh is expected to decline to 8-12 cents/kWh by the year 2015.* (The current national average is 9.8 cents/kWh. Check your state here.) Achieving this “grid parity” – a price at which renewable and conventional sources are comparable – has been a primary goal of solar since its inception. Click to continue reading »
Editor’s note: Correction, the city of San Jose will be processing yard and food waste, not human waste, as was originally reported.
For San Jose residents, “going green” may soon be as easy as, well, using the toilet. The city has revealed a plan to convert human waste (“biosolids”) into biogas and fertilizer using a cutting-edge organics-to-energy biogas system, thereby producing approximately 900,000 gallons of biogas, as well as high-quality compost, per 150,000 metric tons of flushables. The system would increase waste diversion, reduce emissions, decrease the city’s independence on imported energy, and build its green job market.Click to continue reading »
“The negative impacts of climate change are already causing migration and displacement.” So begins “In Search of Shelter”, a new report on the human impacts of climate change, released recently by a team of NGOs, including the United Nations, CARE International and Columbia University. Click to continue reading »
Due for a vote on the House floor today, H.R. 2454, the marked up climate change bill proposed by Congressmen Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Edward Markey Jr. (D-MA), fails woefully in terms of meeting the CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets climate change scientists are pushing for. Not to mention failing to lay the foundation for transitioning to a less polluting, low carbon energy and industrial infrastructure, according to environmental group Friends of the Earth.
Initially watered down in the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the “American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009″ has been weakened further in broader House negotiations as its sponsors have seen fit to acquiesce to the demands of House Democrats pushing for additional changes favorable to the oil and coal industries in order to increase its likelihood of passage. Click to continue reading »
In anticipation of a “historic” House vote on Friday that will decide that fate of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (H.R.2454) sponsored by Henry Waxman and Edward Markey, 20 of America’s leading corporations have sent an open letter to President Obama and Congress calling for definitive action and passage of climate and energy legislation that will help usher in a new energy economy, saying, in part:
Putting a price on carbon will drive investment into cost-saving, energy-saving technologies, and will create the next wave of jobs in the new energy economy
The letter, dubbed the “We Can Lead” campaign, is part of a broader effort lending support for passage of the legislation, even in the face of unprecedented lobbying from vested interests opposed to the bill (or any real action at all on climate and sustainable energy).
Among the more visionary and, for that matter, realistic companies pushing back against the enormous lobbying effort include Nike, Starbucks, HP, Duke Energy, PG&E, and Levi-Strauss (see Deborah Fleischer’s post for more about the companies involved).
The Waxman-Markey bill passed the House Energy and Commerce Committee last month, and faces what is expected to be a very close vote in the full House tomorrow. From there the bill moves to the Senate, where senators are drafting parallel legislation.
The full text of the We Can Lead open letter follows:Click to continue reading »
“Launching a real Green Revolution in America would be the best way to support the ‚ÄòGreen Revolution’ in Iran.”
Thomas Friedman had an interesting idea in his op-ed yesterday morning: The US should impose an immediate “Freedom Tax” of $1 per gallon on all gasoline. By putting economic pressure on oil producing regions, the US could potentially gain leverage on key Middle Eastern regions, in particular Iran, where both the current unrest as well as its nuclear program pose concern for the Obama administration.
According to him, the tax will result in three large and quantifiable results:
1) It would stimulate more investment in renewable energy now.
2) It would stimulate more consumer demand for the energy-efficient vehicles that the reborn General Motors and Chrysler are supposed to make.
3) It would reduce our oil imports in a way that would surely affect the global price and weaken every petro-dictator. Click to continue reading »
This week, the blogosphere was a buzz with the launch of Alice.com, a direct-to-consumer start-up committed to helping you never run out of toilet paper again. And a whole bunch of other consumer packaged good items that are always a hassle to run out to the store for. From Tech Crunch to Mashable to Venture Beat, and just about every other blog in my Google Reader, the new Alice.com brand was splattered all over the news.
But I had the advantage of knowing (read: being a complete and total fan of) Rebecca Thorman, a brilliant writer, observer and Gen Y entrepreneur who just happens to be the in-house marketing superhero at Alice.com. And yes, a Gen Xer can be a fan of a Gen Yer.
About a month ago, she got my attention (yet again). But this time, not for her no-holds-barred insights on social media or masterfully poignant posts; it was for a cause marketing campaign she was running as part of the pre-launch efforts for Alice.com. So, rather than tout all of the benefits of the service that the tech set have already
When Tod Arbogast, Dell’s Director of Sustainability, was interviewing for his current position, he posed a question to Michael Dell, the iconic namesake of the PC giant: “If I got this job, what would you expect of me first and foremost?” Dell replied, simply and profoundly: “Courage.”
Arbogast needed courage to carry forward issues that may be controversial, tough, and without the widest support both in the technology sector and within Dell itself. These days, Arbogast leads a small, yet surprisingly effective team. Last month, the technology research firm TBRI ranked Dell #1 in its inaugural Corporate Sustainability Index Benchmark Report, a study measuring the CSR initiatives of technology and computing companies.Click to continue reading »
Wednesday marked the start of the Virtual Energy Forum, billed as the World’s Largest Online Energy Conference. I was lucky enough to catch Amory Lovins’ web-cast, which he presented from Sweden where he was attending the 2009 Tallberg Forum. The Virtual Energy Forum’s presentations are in the video archives and you can view them for free once you register. The idea of a forum that requires no travel and very little resources is extremely sustainable!
A quick search on Triple Pundit yields many hits for “Amory”, but if you don’t know who the “energy-efficient design” genius behind the Rocky Mountain Institute is, then please do yourself a favor and start researching him. Not only do some of the biggest companies in the world seek out his advice, but so do entire nations. The thing I like most about Amory is that his advice is so simple and obvious, yet I’m always amazed at how so few people are following what he is preaching. As he said at the beginning of the web-cast, RMI is filled with “practitioners, not theorists”. He doesn’t seek out wild, hair-brained schemes, but simply implements efficient design principles!Click to continue reading »
As individuals, we want to do the right thing – but as businesses, we are challenged by the need to be profitable. The goal of sustainability is to accomplish both: to improve profitability today, while not compromising the environmental and social constraints of the future. As discussed in a previous post, Doing the right thing in business: Are you doing it right?, businesses must treat sustainability as a strategic opportunity, and move beyond eco-efficiency to achieve this greater goal.
Here’s how you can get started… Click to continue reading »
Company energy management programs are becoming a bottom-line necessity for corporations’ financial viability, social responsibility and environmental sustainability, according to the research and consulting firm Aberdeen Group.
And sustainability as an essential element in return on investment is increasingly on the minds of the suits sitting in the executive suite, but there’s still a ways to go on that score.
Energy management as a concept began as a cost-saving initiative, “but is now starting to become a strategic part of the company’s larger corporate social responsibility program,” says Aberdeen in a recent report, Energy Management, Driving Value in Industrial Environments.
A massively ambitious clean power project is underway in North Africa. The German insurance giant, Munich Re, announced last week that they are currently recruiting several European mega-investors to fund a project called Desertec. The project will build solar farms across North Africa, from Morocco to Egypt. Desertec will use a method called concentrating solar power, or C.S.P., which consists of huge mirrors that generate steam to power turbines. The turbines generate electricity, which will then be sent back to Europe via high-voltage direct current cables. Click to continue reading »
Photo Source: nytimes.com
One hundred and counting. That’s the number of comments that readers have submitted regarding a New York Times story published Wednesday that says the startup AltaRock Energy plans to begin exploratory drilling for geothermal energy sources in Northern California, using a method similar to one that caused earthquakes in a similar project in Basel, Switzerland. Many comments support the reporter’s findings, while a good number criticize the story as being one-sided or sensational.
This is, of course, not the first time that the merits of geothermal energy – whereby heat is mined from the earth, sometimes by pumping water into bedrock and capturing the resulting steam – have been contested. Some claim that on large scales, geothermal energy will contribute to climate change by emitting more heat into the atmosphere, and beside that, some say that it’s not scalable, anyway. But this article has highlighted a concern that residents of Anderson Springs, California, near the new drilling site, have had for a while now: that geothermal energy exploration causes earthquakes.
According to a PBS Quest story, California already gets more energy from geothermal sources than from wind and solar. And it’s near Anderson Springs, where AltaRock plans to drill, that much of this energy is derived, through more than 20 power plants in an area called The Geysers.
They look like cigarettes, act like cigarettes, give smokers their nicotine fix. And yet, they’re not cigarettes. They’re electronic cigarettes, or “E-cigs.” According to this CNN report, sales of e-cigs have been increasing over several years in the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Sweden and Brazil.
The claimed benefits? Instead of inhaling smoke, “e-smokers” (I just made that up) inhale a mixture of vaporized water, nicotine and propylene glycol (a common additive in food coloring and cake mixes). Yum. Their exhalation is not odorous second hand smoke, but just water vapor. According to the e-cig sellers, these battery-filled butts do not contain tobacco, tar, carbon monoxide or any of the other thousands of cancer-causing toxins in real cigarettes. Like the patch or the gum, e-cigs claim to help smokers kick their habit.
So are they healthier? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is not entirely convinced. E-cigs are still an unapproved new drug due of a lack of scientific proof that they’re safe or effective. Click to continue reading »