Renewable Energy? Go Fly a Kite!

| Wednesday December 12th, 2007 | 3 Comments

Wind dam may soon harvest renewable energyThough harvesting wind energy with a kite or a sail is ancient technology, it is enjoying something of high-tech renaissance. Examples include the vision of Makani Power to harvest high altitude wind energy and English architectural firm Chetwood Associates’ design to “dam the wind” in a mountain gorge near Lake Ladoga in Northern Russia.

You may recognize the basic shape of a spinnaker sail in the Chetwood design, considered both an efficient means of capturing wind as well as an aesthetically pleasing structure designed to be “much less of a blot on this beautiful and unblemished landscape…” according to Laurie Chetwood, principal architect for the project. Attached to the sail is, of course, a turbine and power conduits to convert and transfer the wind energy.

If the project is approved, the wind dam will measure about 25 meters high by 75 meters wide (82 feet by 246 feet), at a cost of $5 million. Wind dam in concept

This leads me to think of my brother-in-law, a wildlife biologist in the business of assessing the damage to bird populations from wind power installations in Northern and Central California. I invite his comment on this design, as I do the for other biologists and experts in the field. What is the potential consequence of such a large, if elegant, “wind dam”?

Maybe we should all just go fly a kite?

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IBM’s Green Drive Reaches South Africa

| Wednesday December 12th, 2007 | 0 Comments

ppp017ewaste-india.jpg According to the base case reference scenario built into the US Energy Information Administration’s International Energy Outlook 2006, worldwide electricity demand is expected to grow at a healthy average 2% per annum pace between 2000 and 2030 – increasing from 400 to more than 700 quadrillion BTUs per year. The majority of increasing demand will be in industrializing countries where more than 80% of the world’s population will live by 2030.
Africa, for instance, currently accounts for only 1.4% of global carbon emissions, but foreign investment has been pouring into countries across the continent. Demand for increasingly costly natural resources is a primary driver, but there is a definite and growing focus on environmental health and sustainable development on the part of both governments and business organizations.
Leading IT companies like IBM are playing an important role in such efforts. IBM has appointed executives, such as Maureen J. Baird, to lead a “Big Green” drive across the organization’s far flung operations. “IBM is uniquely positioned to work in all industries and all sectors bringing thought leadership and industry best practices,” according to Baird, IBM South Africa’s Business Development, Winback & Solutions Executive.

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AT&T Phone Book Outrage – For Shame!

| Monday December 10th, 2007 | 33 Comments

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Take a look at this pile of waste. This is my foyer last week piled high with brand new yellow pages wrapped in plastic bags. It almost makes me sad, in a nostalgic sort of way to witness the demise of such a venerable icon as the phone book, but let’s be realistic here – no one in my building is going to pick one up. Well, almost no one. The fact is, these days, a phone book is only useful for propping up your chair. There are certainly some folks who insist on having one, but in the internet age, there is simply little use for these giant pieces of newsprint (to say nothing of the plastic bags).
As a shareholder in AT&T, I’m equally disappointed that the company continues to shell out god-only-knows how much money each year printing and distributing these things. The phone book should be an option for customers who specifically request it, not an unwanted tome thumped on your doorstep.

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Treasure Island Plan: Most sustainable city on the planet

| Monday December 10th, 2007 | 6 Comments

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Treasure Island, the man-made lump made up of 20 million cubic yards of sea floor soil sandwiched between 287,000 tons of rock and finally glazed over with 50,000 yards of loam.
The island was created for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition and then claimed as a Naval base until it was decommissioned 11 years ago. Since that time the city of San Francisco has been mulling over a re-facing and studying how to redevelop the bleak landscape on the horizon.
Following some-odd 300 meetings among officials, engineers, architects and the public, a plan has emerged and it is a bright green one. The task is to create a 13,500-person inhabited “urban oasis” consisting of the latest technology and natural systems that is expected to leave the slightest footprint on Earth!
In 2009, Treasure Island will begin the initial phases of construction and the little known city will suddenly blossom as a hot-bed and laboratory of “green” development. The latest in water conservation, energy efficiency, waste management and low-impact living will be implemented. The goal: to create the most ecological city in the world, a shining example of what the future holds.

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How It All Ends Up – Great Climate Change Video

| Monday December 10th, 2007 | 3 Comments


If you haven’t seen this video, take a peek. It’s not “new” news to those of us who’ve been following the issue for a while, but it’s a great, simple argument to pass around. The one thing I’d add to it is that taking action on climate change may actually be a boon to the economy, not a detriment, unless you’re stuck in the fossil fuel business and are unwilling to change!
The author of this great series of videos remains un-named, though deserves great credit. His “index” of many more videos can be seen here. If you know his name, please leave it in the comments!

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AskPablo: Katrina’s Trees

| Monday December 10th, 2007 | 2 Comments

katrina%20trees.jpgWhen hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast it not only uprooted and killed citizens, but it also killed millions of trees. In fact, Tulane University researchers estimated the number at 320 million. Not only does this loss decrease the amount of CO2 sequestered from the atmosphere, but the trees will actually contribute greenhouse gases to the atmosphere as they decay. I will examine just how big this problem is and explore some possible solutions.

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Larry Brilliant: Reasons for Optimism

| Friday December 7th, 2007 | 1 Comment

Larry Brilliant, executive director of the non-profit Google.org, spoke earlier this year at the Skoll Foundation World Forum on his reasons for optimism in such a destabilized world.

I was just browsing YouTube videos without the intention of finding one to post here at TriplePundit, but as I listened to Larry it seemed to me this was the perfect place for it (it’s worth 20 minutes of your time).

 

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Grasscrete: Sustainable Urban Drainage Product

| Friday December 7th, 2007 | 0 Comments

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Grasscrete, the green alternative to standard concrete surfaces for parking lots, driveways, and access roads for vehicles or fire trucks. The benefit to Grasscrete for businesses and developers is that it drains at about the same rate as would an ordinary lawn in the same location. The presence of concrete has little effect on the drainage; the soil and the slope are the controlling factors which makes it beneficial for erosion control as well.
The idea is a simple one, the surface area of Grasscrete is 47% concrete and 53% holes (to be filled with Grass). Grasscrete is a pervious reinforced concrete structure for all types of areas that require traffic, either foot or wheel. Grass will generally spread and cover much of the concrete in areas not subject to regular vehicle traffic. Holes may also be filled or covered with crushed stone, seashells, and a wide variety of other drainable materials in cases where grass is not desired.

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How to Get the Fuel Efficient Cars We Need

Shannon Arvizu | Friday December 7th, 2007 | 2 Comments

We know that major car manufacturers won’t get serious about increasing the fuel efficiency of their vehicles until government legislation says they have to. This week, the House of Representatives passed a bill to increase those standards to 35 mph. The same bill also requires utility companies to get 15% of their energy from renewable sources by 2020 and ends federal oil and gas subsidies totaling $20 billion dollars. Given what we know about the rate of climate change and the need to decrease carbon output, this bill proposes very modest steps. Nonetheless, they are in a move in a positive direction.
Yet, every major news source predicts that ths bill has zero chance of passing the Senate or getting the signature of the President. How much longer will the oil and gas industry continue to exercise such considerable influence on our country’s leaders?

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Economic Growth: The Silver Lining of Climate Change?

| Friday December 7th, 2007 | 2 Comments

Good Environmental Policy is Good Economic PolicyGood environmental policy equals good economic policy 100% of the time”
Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.

As the UN Framework Conference on Climate Change winds up its first week in Bali, scientists reiterate their call for quick and decisive action as the United States remains opposed to any mandatory cuts in emissions for fear of “undermining economic growth”.

Perhaps I’m being overly simplistic, but I’ll go out on a limb here and say that nobody seeks to undermine economic growth.

Funny thing too, for it seems as if progressive policy and action will very likely do just the opposite.

The UNEP issued a press release on Thursday with preliminary research findings from a draft report, due to be released early next year, entitled Green Jobs: Can the Transition to Environmental Sustainability Spur New Kinds and Higher Levels of Employment? 

The report was commissioned in partnership with the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and shows that, in quick summary, “the challenge of climate change… presents opportunities for new industries and employment”. In other words, economic growth in response to an inevitably changing world.

That is, I might add, if we don’t wait too long to realistically face the challenge.    

 

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Shorter, stouter…skinnier?

| Friday December 7th, 2007 | 0 Comments

coke_bottles.jpgBeing in the sustainable business realm, it makes for interesting conversation with the relatives during the holidays. From the father who thinks that global warming is based on loose science and is politically motivated to the mother who asks at the restaurant whether the fish is farmed or wild caught, you’re in for some interesting mind openings about what and how much people that are outside the “green bubble” of your peers know, and what they care about. It gives hope and confirmation that you are indeed not just shouting into the void.
A particularly interesting exchange happened when my in law was talking about greenwashing, and what a farce it was that Arrowhead water was claiming to have an “eco shape” bottle and that it was all a PR sham. Inquiring further, I found that it was made with 30% less plastic in the bottle, with a similarly smaller label, a pretty admirable development on their part, from my perspective. But to my surprise, my suburban San Diego in law said he would like to see them do away with plastic all together, for something all together much more environmentally friendly.
True enough, this would be desirable, said I, though it should be acknowledged that the cumulative impact of this reduction should be noted, that it would lessen the actual resources used, diminish the weight to transport, reducing the fuel consumption of the vehicles transporting it, therefore reducing the emissions produced, and lessening the impact on global climate change. He gave a thoughtful smile and said he’d think further about that, chewing his baked honey ham.

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Meter, Meter on the Wall: Giving & Taking from a Smarter Grid

| Friday December 7th, 2007 | 3 Comments

ppp016-lightbulbban.jpg Use of, and plans to use, electricity net metering are spreading around the country driven by a pressing need to modernize and upgrade the nation’s electricity grid in the face of forecast increases in demand and an equally urgent drive to reduce carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, net metering is a key element of efforts to build a Smart Electrical Grid, which in and of itself may be one of the largest generators of power and cost savings, as well as catalysts for increasing use of renewable energy sources.
More than 35 states currently offer net metering programs. In addition to enabling electricity suppliers to better manage and increase the efficiency of power generation and distribution, net metering is considered to be among the best ways of providing incentives for consumers to invest in renewable energy generation.
Able to turn backwards, net meters enable customers to offset their electricity consumption over a billing period by putting surplus electricity they don’t use or generate themselves back into the grid. In return customers receive retail prices for their electricity surplus. In contrast, programs that entail installation of a second meter to measure electricity that flows back to the provider typically credit customers’ accounts at a below market rate, according to the Dept. of Energy Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy’s Green Power Network.

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New Battery-Electric Vehicles Entering the U.S. Market

Shannon Arvizu | Thursday December 6th, 2007 | 6 Comments

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At this week’s International Electric Vehicle Symposium in Anaheim, California, several exciting all-battery electric vehicles were on display. These vehicles have already been successfully introduced into the European market and are now available to American consumers. If you are looking for ways to reduce your corporate carbon output, it is worthwhile to invest in electric vehicles because they are currently our cleanest form of transportation.

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NREL to Cut Emissions 75% by 2009

| Thursday December 6th, 2007 | 3 Comments

The Environmental Protection Agency’s National Renewable Energy Lab is at the forefront of change in the nation’s energy resources sector. Its R&D and public-private partnership programs run the gamut of emerging new renewable energy and clean technology, enabling the crucial transition from “bleeding edge” to “leading edge” to take place. Its outreach efforts, meanwhile, are catalysts for the adoption of comprehensive, long-term climate change strategies in both the private and public sectors.
On Tuesday at the EPA’s Climate Leaders meeting in Boulder, Colo., NREL committed itself to cutting its greenhouse gas emissions 75% between 2005 and 2009. Two new renewable energy projects are expected to go a good way towards achieving its goal: a five-acre solar cell array will provide some 7% of the Lab’s electricity needs while a biomass combustion plant using forest thinnings as fuel stock will replace 75% of the natural gas currently used to heat the Lab’s research buildings.
The initiative also entails purchasing Renewable Energy Certificates, which will be purchased to offset the indirect emissions generated as a result of using electricity from non-renewable sources, as well as from Lab operations such as employee commuting and business travel.

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Stop the Vote! Can a Cap-and-Trade System Really Work to Reduce Emissions in the U.S.?

Shannon Arvizu | Wednesday December 5th, 2007 | 1 Comment

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In theory, a U.S. Federal Cap-and-Trade System provides market incentives to lower our nations’s carbon emissions. That is why the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is seriously considering adopting the Warner-Lieberman Bill this week (albeit with currently over 150 amendments). But the E.U. experience with a Cap-and-Trade market shows that carbon emissions have increased under this policy. The author of a recent report, “Europe’s Dirty Little Secret; Why the E.U. Emissions Trading Scheme Isn’t Working,” is interviewed on E&E’s OnPoint today. Neil O’Brien says that a fluctuating carbon value may be less effective in mitigating carbon output than a straight carbon-tax and additional incentives for the adoption of eco-efficient technology. Watch the video here.

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