Organized Crime Mixed Up in Environmental Initiatives — Again

| Wednesday November 18th, 2009 | 0 Comments

Godfather_croppedAs goes the financial markets, so go the renewable energy markets. If there’s an opportunity to make a buck, or in this case, a euro, by ripping people off, rest assured, someone will do it.

In the latest case, two Italian businessmen are accused of involvement in a scheme to collect public subsidies for wind power by building sham wind farms. A two year investigation, dubbed “Gone With the Wind” by Italian anti-fraud police, culminated Tuesday with the arrest of Oreste Vigorito, head of the IVPC energy company and president of Italy’s National Association of Wind Energy, and Vito Nicastri, a Sicilian business associate on allegations of defrauding the government of millions in subsidies, according to the Financial Times.

Anti-mafia investigators in Sicily, where some of the wind farms are located, have launched a parallel investigation.

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Recession Provides Opportunities For Land Conservation

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Wednesday November 18th, 2009 | 4 Comments

700px-Panorama_presa_las_niñas_mogan_gran_canaria

The housing market collapse presented land conservation trusts with the opportunity to purchase land slated for development. As a study by the Land Trust Alliance puts it, “land trusts are attractive buyers (to banks) because they don’t require further infrastructure investments.”

Land trusts all over the country are taking advantage of those opportunities. In Northern California, several land trusts acquired parcels this year. The Trust for Public Land bought chaparral-covered land for $4 million that was going to be bulldozed. The Peninsula Open Space trust paid $16 million in June for the 966-acre Rancho San Vicente, a former cattle ranch. The Ranch was slated to have 300 units and 16 large estates built.

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Is There a Generational Failure on Climate Change? Not Yet.

3p Contributor | Wednesday November 18th, 2009 | 2 Comments

earth-daysBy Eban Goodstein, Director of The Bard Center for Environmental Policy

I have attended a lot of college climate change talks lately by 50+ year old white guy experts. They all feature a curious line directed at the students: “Our generation screwed up; we are sorry to leave you this mess, but it’s going to be your job to fix it”.

There’s a problem with that logic. In fact, it’s our 50+ generation that currently has all the power, and we don’t look to be letting it go for the next couple of decades. The only way to transform the planet will be a generational partnership, with folks our age laying a solid foundation for the revolution in technology and consciousness that will indeed be the life work of today’s college and graduate students.

A tragic generational failure – and lots of success too—is illustrated in a beautiful new film by Robert Stone, called Earth Days. The movie follows the lives of a handful of 70+ environmental warriors, primarily Stewart Udall, Stewart Brand, and Denis Hayes. Stone documents the creation of the environmental movement in the 1960s’, sparked by Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring and Paul Ehrlich’s Population Bomb; the movement’s symphonic arrival on Earth Day 1970, orchestrated by an intense and charismatic Hayes; and the phenomenal legislative success early in the decade, in which the we see the sunny (but still creepy) side of Nixon—with Tricky Dick signing the Clean Air, Clean Water and Endangered Species Acts, NEPA, and creating the EPA, all in the space of a dizzying two years.
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Greenbuild 2009 – The Three P’s in Action

3p Contributor | Wednesday November 18th, 2009 | 1 Comment

greenbuild-banner

By Amy Berry

I recently returned from the United States Green Building Council’s (USGBC) 2009 Greenbuild Expo in Phoenix, Arizona. The conference boasted more than 28,000 attendees and more than 1800 exhibitors. Former Vice President Al Gore gave the keynote speech as leaders of the green building world converged to discuss the future of building and the impact this community of architects, designers, builders, project managers and corporate sustainability managers can have on mother earth’s future. Attendees snacked on organic appetizers and drank from compostable plastic cups. Student volunteers filled the convention center excited, to be able to participate in the event, and in exchange spent their time sorting attendees’ garbage into the appropriate recycling, composting or trash bins.

As one of those 1800 exhibitors (we had a full Windspire wind turbine up in our booth) I spent the majority of the show on the expo hall floor. The energy on the floor was described as electric, engaging and awesome by those tweeting with the hashtag #Greenbuild and by some of the more than 100 media in attendance. If you believe that smarter buildings that use less energy and water are a real solution to global warming, this was the place to see and be seen. The USGBC must be applauded for educating so many on real solutions to the global climate crisis.

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Coming Up: Sustainable Industries Economic Forum with Paul Hawken

| Tuesday November 17th, 2009 | 0 Comments

susty-forums

If you haven’t heard Paul Hawken speak lately, and you happen to be in the Bay Area this week, now is a good time to put it on your to-do list.

Our friends at Sustainable Industries are putting together another phenomenal breakfast forum on Thursday the 19th at the St. Regis Hotel in San Francisco. It’s a $75 event, and having been to the last one I can tell you it’s more than worth it for the speeches as well as the panel that follows. In addition to the legendary Paul Hawken, Colin Wiel will moderate a panel featuring Lisa Michelle Galley of Galley Eco Capital, Phil Williams from Webcor, Matt Cheney from Renewable Ventures, and Peter Rumsey of Rumsey Engineers. Register online here.

If you’re not in the Bay Area, consider some other upcoming locations here. Or stay tuned to 3p for a write-up later in the week.

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Green Building supports 7.9 Million U.S. Jobs

Jeff Siegel | Tuesday November 17th, 2009 | 1 Comment

greenbuildingconstruction

I’m not typically one to debate the merits of green jobs because I see the value of green job creation every single day.

Sure, there are a number of studies out there that question the validity of some green jobs or seek to find a more precise definition of what a green job is. And this is all relevant stuff.

But there are also studies that I have to call out as being nothing more than politically-charged rhetoric.

Like the “7 Myths About Green Jobs” study that came out earlier this year.

I won’t get into the nuts and bolts, but despite what seemed like an honest approach to a valid question: How do special interest groups calculate how many green jobs new energy policies would create? I quickly found myself reading what hinted at some questionable intentions hiding behind the guise of academic research.

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Syfy Creates a “Sanctuary” for Kids

| Tuesday November 17th, 2009 | 2 Comments

hollywood & green
S4K_logoThere are few things more influential than entertainment, and the ability for characters (and the celebs who portray them) to drive retail consumption and inform pop culture. Every generation has spawned a myriad of fads from Farah Fawcett’s feathered bangs to Jennifer Aniston’s signature “Rachel” haircut to iPods, mobile apps, the vampire craze and Ashton Kutcher’s popularization of Twitter. Even Mad Men’s 60s style has infiltrated the Gap and Banana Republic, along with Brooks Brothers’ limited edition suit (which is absolutely gorgeous, by the way).

While these are superficial elements, what’s powerful about trends is that they spark conversations, evoke emotions, and make a memorable mark on the individuals who embrace them. And I’ve often said that this same process can be replicated by harnessing the power of entertainment for social good, which is exactly what SyFy’s television series, Sanctuary, is doing with their new endeavor, “Sanctuary For Kids” (S4K), a call back to their tagline, “Sanctuary For All.” According to the website, the mission of Sanctuary for Kids is “to improve the lives of children around the world who need protection and are in crisis – those who are exploited, dispossessed and threatened.”

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EV Tech Center Abuzz Over an Electrified Future

Mary Catherine O'Connor | Tuesday November 17th, 2009 | 2 Comments
Photo courtesy Southern California Edison

Photo courtesy Southern California Edison

Electric vehicles and the changes they promise to bring to our transportation infrastructure are making lots of headlines these days, but to Ed Kjaer, the director of Electric Vehicle Tech Center, EVs are old hat.

Kjaer drives an electric Toyota RAV-4 every day. He’s logged 83,000 miles on the rig, which he drives to Southern California Edison’s Pomona facility, home of the EV Tech Center. And when he gets to work, it’s all EV, all the time. It’s clear from talking to Kjaer that he’s an EV advocate. But EV technology is about more than just zero-emission vehicles. It’s about a new approach to energy management and storage.

Step inside the EV Tech Center and the first thing you’ll notice, aside from shiny new electric concept cars from the likes of Ford and other carmakers, is an electrical buzz—similar to the buzz you’ll hear walking past power lines in a rain storm. Must be all those power and battery systems that researchers in the lab are putting through their paces. Of particular focus, not surprisingly, are banks of automotive grade lithium-ion batteries.

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Careers in Wind Farm Development: Project Developer

Sarah Lozanova | Tuesday November 17th, 2009 | 10 Comments

wind farm developmentWind energy capacity in the U.S. grew by 8,358 MW last year, an impressive 50 percent jump in total capacity. This trend was accompanied by a 35 percent increase in jobs in the industry. Unlike trends in many industries, career opportunities are expected to expand, as wind power plays a key role in President Obama’s goal of doubling renewable energy production within three years, renewable portfolio standards are met, and stimulus funding is utilized.

Currently about 7 million households are powered by wind energy and 85,000 people were employed by the wind energy industry, up from 50,000 the previous year, according to the American Wind Energy Association. These jobs are very diverse, and include turbine manufacturing, wind farm development, wind farm construction, and turbine maintenance.

Developing an industrial-scale wind farm requires a team of people with a variety of abilities. This seven part series will examine the skills needed achieve this feat. The first job we will explore in this series is project developer.

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SolarCity CEO Says Solar Installation Biz Splitting into Big Guys and Little Guys

| Tuesday November 17th, 2009 | 5 Comments

SolarCity_Lyndon RivecroppedSolarcity CEO Lyndon Rive said in an interview Friday that he is seeing a growing market schism between the thousands of small, local solar panel installers and a “half a dozen or so” national players that can provide “a trusted brand focusing on scale and services.”

Rise of the Brand Names

Solarcity, which the 32-year old Rive co-founded in 2006, has grown to be one of the leading solar panel installers in California, and perhaps the most recognizable solar installation company in the country.

The solar panel industry is still one where success is measured in the thousands of customers, not millions or billions, however, and despite its high-profile status in the news media, solar installers are still in a very niche business.

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Spacing Out on Solar Energy

Bill DiBenedetto | Tuesday November 17th, 2009 | 2 Comments

jaxaP-022-0015-15495Solar power satellites are the yin to the yang of Ronald Reagan’s 1980s Star Wars fantasy, and almost as old. Scientists for decades have explored the potential of using space-based solar cells to beam power to the Earth.

It’s an idea with very long legs, as they say, but now the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has gone beyond whimsy by actually signing up several major collaborators to launch a giant one-gigawatt space solar power satellite into space. The players are huge – Fujitsu, Mitsubishi Electric and Sharp – and the bucks that JAXA has indicated it will invest in the project are also huge, $21 billion worth of huge.

The plan, according to various recent news reports including London’s Telegraph, is to have the test version of the Space Solar Power System launched in 2020. The final system would go operational in 2030. The station would send down power by laser or microwave.

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Landmark “Electrification Coalition” Plays Down Environmental Benefits of EVs, Plays Up Oil Dependence

| Tuesday November 17th, 2009 | 1 Comment

EC-Roadmap-croppedMore than a dozen top executives ranging from Nissan’s Carlos Ghosn to David W. Crane of NRG Energy and Frederick W. Smith of FedEx Corporation jointly announced Monday the launch of the Electrification Coalition, a serious and rigorous industry-backed non-profit with the goal of having 75 percent of all miles driven in this country in 2040 powered by electricity.

The non-profit, non-partisan Coalition’s first act was to release the Electrification Roadmap, a 91-page report “detailing the dangers of oil dependence, explaining the benefits of electrification, describing the challenges facing electric cars, and providing specific policy proposals to overcome those challenges.” The Roadmap is available from the organization’s website. For anyone the slightest bit interested in the challenges and promise of electric cars, it’s required reading.

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Why Solar Rebates Are Becoming Extinct

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Tuesday November 17th, 2009 | 2 Comments

180px-Depuradora_de_LlucSolar rebate programs are winding down. Austin Energy cut solar rebates for homeowners by a third. Xcel Energy will cut its rebate program by about 50 percent. The Long Island Power Authority made an immediate cut in its rebate program, and one scheduled for January. New York reduced its solar incentive by 50 cents per watt in October. Massachusetts closed its rebate program, and California is gradually decreasing its incentives. Australia also stopped its rebate program. However, a 30 percent federal tax credit still exists.

Popularity and the impact on budgets are the reasons why rebates are being reduced according to New York Times’ Green Inc blog. Barry Cinnamon, chief executive of installer, Akeena Solar, said, “I do not believe that the more the merrier is the right approach. Instead, I believe that incentives should decline as costs decline — that way ratepayer dollars are used most efficiently.”  

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JumpStart Helps Cleveland’s New Entrepreneurs

Gina-Marie Cheeseman
| Tuesday November 17th, 2009 | 0 Comments

100px-Cleveland_seal-TCleveland is part of the “rust belt,” the moniker given to the upper Midwest because many of its factories and plants are no longer in operation. However, in 2004 Cleveland’s business leaders, government, and foundations created the nonprofit corporation JumpStart to help entrepreneurs. JumpStart invests only in companies that have the chance to grow between $30 million and $50 million in sales within five to seven years and have innovative products.

JumpStart has helped 40 companies who have the potential to create 2,400 jobs at an average salary of $65,000. Last year JumpStart spent $9 million last year, generated $75 million in local spending, and Cleveland made $8 million through payroll taxes.

Early stage investment starts at $250,000 and goes up to $600,000. The nonprofit corporation assigns an experienced CEO to help create a business plan. In order to qualify for JumpStart’s help, companies must have the following:

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Secrets of Successful Social Intrapreneurs: Advice From Three Major Brands

| Monday November 16th, 2009 | 2 Comments

Sustainability careers are in high demand, judging from the record-breaking attendance at the 2009 Net Impact Conference this past weekend (2,400 participants, 60% of which were MBA students).  Problem is, there just aren’t that many full-time positions with “sustainability” or “corporate social responsibility” in the title.  But, it is possible to create a full-time sustainability position where none exists, report three successful social intrapraneurs.

logo-accentureDo what you love.   A self-described “soft-techy guy,” Accenture’s Mike Nicholus had a reputation of being able to deliver results in a global setting.  He was also known as a tree-hugging guy who spouted phrases like “peak oil” and kept preying mantises around his home.  After filling a variety of roles at Accenture and working closely with the CEO, Nicholus was tapped when the company decided to implement a work-at-home initiative.

Like most sustainability efforts, it paid off in several ways – substantial cost-savings for the firm, a reduced carbon footprint and workplace flexibility that employees crave.  Now as director, global environment programs, Nicholus promotes programs to measure and manage Accenture’s environmental impact across operations in 49 countries.  His strategy for selling “green” initiatives:  “You need the ability to identify your key ‘buyers’ and make a sound business case for your proposal.”

Nicholus’ advice:  Figure out how to do your day job in four days and spend the fifth day doing what you love. Then flavor the other four days with that.

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