Thursday, August 31, 2006

Sharp Solar Panels to Be Offered on All Homes in New California Community

BLU S.K.Y Homes Makes Solar Power a Standard for 300 New Homes In Bakersfield

Sharp, the world leader in solar cell production, will supply solar panels for up to 300 new homes that are being built by BLU S.K.Y Homes in Bakersfield, California. Juliana's Garden, located in the new master-planned community of City in the Hills, will be the first of several communities BLU S.K.Y Homes builds which will feature the solar systems. Both the Camellia and Wisteria neighborhoods within Juliana's Garden will offer Sharp's solar power system as a standard feature on all homes.

Camellia and Wisteria homes will range from approximately 1,589 to 3,429 square feet and present three to six bedrooms, up to four bathrooms, an attached two- or three-car garage, and depending upon the floor plans, will include large family rooms, sunrooms, great rooms and Italianate courtyards.

Depending on the size of the home, solar energy systems will range in size between 1.7 and 3.5 kilowatts (kW). All systems will utilize a combination of Sharp's 62- and 142-watt rectangular modules and 72-watt triangular modules to supplement the electricity supplied from the local utility company. Renewable Energy Concepts (REC), a leading installer of residential solar electric systems, will be responsible for the installation. Construction on Camellia and Wisteria's first homes began this month and will continue for the next two to three years.

"We've embedded environmentally friendly methods into virtually all areas of the Camellia and Wisteria neighborhoods," commented Van Roberts, president of BLU S.K.Y Homes. "In addition to Sharp's state-of-the-art solar energy systems, these homes will also include landscaping with automatic drip irrigation systems for lower water usage, and low wattage and motion-sensing lighting to cut electricity consumption. Virtually every aspect allows for a greener and healthier lifestyle. We are committed to creating exquisite communities where families can live, work and thrive. Working with Sharp to put solar in this development is a perfect example of this commitment, and is a win-win for the community and prospective homebuyers because it benefits the environment and gives homeowners real financial benefits."

A recent survey conducted by Sharp found that the majority of Americans believe homebuilders should offer solar power as an option for all new home construction and are even willing to pay a premium for it. "Consumers are embracing solar energy and requesting it as an option for their homes," said Ron Kenedi, vice president, Sharp's Solar Energy Solutions Group. "BLU S.K.Y Homes realizes the economic and environmental benefits that can be passed onto homeowners by providing solar as a standard on new homes."

Commissioned by Sharp, the Roper survey found that eight out of ten Americans believe that homebuilders should offer solar power as an option for all new home construction, and two-thirds of Americans are willing to pay a premium for homes that have solar systems installed, when told that solar homes have a proven higher resale value.

Sharp Electronics Corporation is the U.S. subsidiary of Sharp Corporation, Osaka, Japan. With solar cell production capacity of 450 megawatts (MW) worldwide and more than 200,000 installations per year, Sharp is the world's solar production leader, a position the company has held for more than 5 years. As a corporation, Sharp is committed to achieving a company-wide net zero energy operation by 2010, part of its long term commitment to solar and to the environment. Further information on Sharp's commitment to solar energy and its solar product line is available online at

Sharp Electronics Corporation is the Mahwah, N.J.-based marketing and sales subsidiary of Japan's Sharp Corporation, a worldwide developer of the core technologies that are integral to shaping the next generation of home entertainment products, appliances, networked, multifunctional office solutions, solar energy and mobile communication and information tools. Leading brands include AQUOS(R) Liquid Crystal Televisions, 1-Bit(TM) digital audio products, SharpVision(R) projection products, Carousel(R) microwaves, IMAGER(TM) digital multifunctional systems, and Notevision(R) multimedia projectors. Sharp Electronics Corporation employs approximately 2,000 people throughout the U.S. supporting more than 50 product lines.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

CO2 emissions from new cars down by more than 12% since 1995Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from new cars sold in the EU-15 have decreased further. Ac

Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from new cars sold in the EU-15 have decreased further. According to the European Commission's annual report on CO2 emissions from new cars, published today, in 2004 average emissions were 12.4 % below 1995's level (in 2003 they had been 11.8% below 1995). The report welcomes this progress but underlines that the industry will need to make major additional efforts to meet its commitments to cut average CO2 emissions to 140g/km by 2008/9, a reduction of around 25% from 1995 levels.

Commission Vice-President and Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry Günter Verheugen said: “Car manufacturers have made continuous and substantial progress since 1995. The situation is not satisfactory. I urge industry to step up their efforts. We expect that industry sticks to its commitments.”

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas added: "To combat climate change and respect our Kyoto commitments we have to reduce CO2 emissions from transport – a sector whose emissions contribute significantly to overall emissions. I appreciate the efforts of some car manufacturers to market cars that emit less CO2. I urge the car industry to step up its efforts to meet the 140 g of CO2/km target under the voluntary agreement. This will be crucial to achieving the Community objective of 120 g of CO2/km by 2012 at the latest.”

Commissioners Verheugen and Dimas underlined that if industry did not honour its commitments, the Commission would have to consider taking measures, including legislative ones, to ensure that the necessary CO2 reductions were achieved.

The EU strategy to reduce CO2 emissions from cars rests on three pillars. The most important of these consists of separate voluntary commitments by the European, Japanese and Korean car manufacturers’ associations to reduce CO2 emissions from their cars to an average of 140 g/km by 2008 (for European manufacturers) and 2009 (for Japanese and Korean producers). The other two pillars of the strategy are consumer information (chiefly through fuel efficiency labelling of cars) and fiscal measures to promote the most fuel-efficient cars.

The commitments by European, Japanese and Korean manufacturers are an important measure to help the EU-15 reach its Kyoto Protocol target of cutting emissions of climate-changing greenhouse gases to 8% below 1990 levels by 2012. Cars are responsible for more than 10% of EU CO2 emissions.

Since the start of the commitments in 1999 and 2000 ACEA and JAMA have achieved continuous progress in reducing CO2 emissions, although less so in 2003 and 2004 than in previous years. KAMA achieved a very substantial reduction in 2004 which enabled it to respect the agreed interim target range.

Despite this progress, however, all three associations have to make considerable further efforts if they are to reach the 140g CO2/km target by 2008/9. In the remaining years, until the deadline, annual reduction rates will need to reach 3.3% for ACEA and KAMA and 3.5% for JAMA.

The Commission is currently reviewing the strategy and the options available to further reduce CO2 emissions from light-duty vehicles in the EU-25, subject to an impact assessment and taking into account the work of the CARS21 high-level group. The revised strategy will be based on an integrated approach to reduce CO2 emissions from cars, involving various stakeholders and extending, amongst others, to car technology, fuels, infrastructure and driver behaviour. The Commission recently launched an online consultation (see link below) to seek the views of the public on measures to further improve cars' fuel efficiency and reduce their CO2 emissions. A Communication to the European Parliament and Council on the outcome of this review will be presented in the second half of this year.


Road transport generates more than one fifth of all CO2 emissions in the EU, with passenger cars being responsible for more than half of these emissions. CO2 emissions from road transport have risen by 22% since 1990, notably due to increases both in the number of cars on the roads as well as in the distances that are driven annually.

Further information is available at the following internet addresses:
Emissions from cars:
Online consultation on CO2 from cars:

Binder choice with recycled cardboard is basis for green business launch

Bradley Hole launched the Sustainable Group in Seattle, Washington to create environmentally friendly office products. He explains how the concept developed in a letter to In Business:
“The idea to create Rebinder came to use while working in an office with many vinyl three ring binders. We found that we were always looking for the right way to dispose of the old ones with ripped covers or bent rings. It felt terrible having to throw the entire thing away. Knowing how toxic it is to manufacture vinyl and dispose of it, our quest was to find a better solution. Unlike traditional vinyl three ring binders, Rebinder's cover is made of durable corrugated cardboard (35-38 percent postconsumer recycled). The cover is removable (by unscrewing the two screws that affix it to the spine) and 100 percent recyclable. New covers can be used with the old ring metals and assembly. Available in three sizes, all our products are made in Washington State and assembly is done by a back-to-work program at Goodwill Commercial Services (Tacoma, Washington). Our newest product, Repocket, is a little different than traditional two pocket folders. We used a thicker bending chip board (20 point thickness) made from 100 percent recycled fibers (56 percent postconsumer and 44 percent postindustrial).
“Our customers tell us that our products help communicate an important message about sustainability and social responsibility. Clients from LEED Certified Architects, green businesses, law offices and schools are replacing their vinyl binders and folders with more sustainable alternatives.”
For more details or to place orders, contact Bradley Hole at Sustainable Group, 844 NW 49th St., Seattle, WA 98102. (206) 706-0966.

visit Sustainable Group

Monday, August 28, 2006

SeQuential Biofuels Opens 1st Solar-Powered, Biofuel Retail Station

Yesterday was the grand unveiling of what is being billed as a first-of-its-kind biofuels retail station. SeQuential Biofuels, the first major fuel retailer in the Pacific Northwest to offer several biofuel-blended motor fuels to the mainstream market under a single, branded canopy, says the new station is no ordinary pit stop. Renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable design elements are themes throughout the site. The station features 244 solar panels covering the fueling islands that provide 30 to 50 percent of the electrical power that the station will require annually. A "living roof" of 4,800 live plants installed in five inches of soil on the roof of the convenience store will help cool the building during the summer.

Other eco-friendly design elements include stormwater detention "bioswales" where plants will filter pollutants from rainwater that rinses the roadways and parking areas and will clean the water before it leaves the site. SeQuential also has made a significant effort to source building materials that are made in the Pacific Northwest region.

Located just off Interstate 5 in Eugene, Oregon, the biofuels station will provide biofuel blends approved for use in all gasoline and diesel vehicles:
-- 10% ethanol with 90% gasoline for all gasoline vehicles
-- 85% ethanol with 15% gasoline for E85 Flex Fuel Vehicles
-- 5% biodiesel with 95% diesel for all diesel vehicles
-- 20% biodiesel with 80% diesel for most diesel vehicles
-- 99.9% biodiesel with 0.1% diesel for some diesel vehicles

"We have watched the offering of mainstream organic products and recycled products expand significantly over the last five years," said Ian Hill, project developer and SeQuential Biofuels co-founder. "Today our customers are demanding domestically-produced, renewable motor fuel options as well."

The land where the station is located was the site of a previous fuel station that shut down more than ten years ago. Under supervision of the former owner, the site had been contaminated by leaking gasoline tanks and pumps and the owner had abandoned it. SeQuential worked with Lane County and with the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality to clean up the previously polluted "Brownfield" property and put it back into productive use.

The fuel station also includes a convenience store that carries top-shelf natural foods and beverages, many of which are produced by regional companies. The store also houses an annex of Sweet Life Patisserie, an established local coffee and pastry shop renowned for its premium coffees, baked goods and savories, complete with wireless Internet and an inviting seating area. Local farmers will stock a seasonal fresh produce stand also located at the station.

Boeing hydrogen plane set to lift off

BOEING is developing a light aircraft powered by fuel cells and electric motors, making it potentially the greenest plane ever to fly.

It would emit no carbon dioxide, the main gas blamed for global warming, or other pollutants, leaving just a trail of water. It would also be almost completely silent. The hitch? It would fly at only 70mph.

The decision to develop the plane comes amid growing concern over high carbon dioxide emissions from passenger jets.

Boeing is working with Intelligent Energy, a British fuel cell designer. It hopes the two-seater aircraft will make its maiden flight in the next 12 months.

“What we are designing is a demonstrator aircraft to see if it can be done,” said Boeing. “This technology is in its infancy but it has great potential.”

The aircraft is based on the Diamond Dimona, an Austrian plane chosen for its light weight. Boeing engineers in Madrid have stripped out its fuel tank, replacing it with a bottle of compressed hydrogen that will feed into a fuel cell.

There, the hydrogen will be chemically combined with oxygen from the air to generate power. This will then be fed to an electric motor to turn the propeller.

The system is mechanically simple. Fuel cells have no moving parts and run silently. They tend, however, to be bulky and expensive, which is why their use has never become widespread.

Dr Jon Moore, director of communications at Intelligent Energy, based in Loughborough, Leicestershire, said technological advances were now making such devices far lighter and cheaper, but aviation remained the biggest challenge.

“The secret lies in making a fuel cell powerful enough to get an aircraft off the ground and to keep it climbing,” he said. “That takes a huge amount of energy and it is a big obstacle.”

Boeing has overcome this by backing up the fuel cell with batteries that provide extra power for take-off and then recharge while the aircraft is cruising.

The Boeing project will be the first manned fuel cell- powered aircraft. Last year AeroVironment, a Californianfirm, flew an unmanned surveillance plane, the Global Observer, which was powered by a fuel cell.

Even if Boeing succeeds with its aircraft it will take many years to scale it up for commercial use.

Another big problem is finding a supply of “green” hydrogen. Most commercially produced hydrogen is synthesised in refineries from fossil fuels such as natural gas. Critics call this “black hydrogen” because carbon dioxide is generated as a by-product, cancelling out many of the potential benefits.


Saturday, August 26, 2006

Norway's First Hydrogen Fueling Station Opens

Norway's first hydrogen filling station for motor vehicles opened Tuesday as a step in creating a clean-air highway in southern Norway.

Companies, government and organizations participating in a joint effort called HyNor hope to create a "Hydrogen Highway" between the capital, Oslo, and western Norway's port of Stavanger.

By 2009, HyNor plans to have enough fueling stations along the 580 kilometer (360 mile) route to allow hydrogen cell powered vehicles to routinely make the trip.

The first clean fuel station was opened at a ceremony on the outskirts of Stavanger by Statoil ASA, the Norwegian state-controlled oil company that is branching out into alternative energy.

"Road travel contributes substantially to the emissions of climate damaging gasses," said Norwegian Environment Minister Helen Bjoernoey at the opening ceremony. "Development of hydrogen vehicles and infrastructure for them are important to ensuring more environmentally friendly transport."

The only emissions from hydrogen fuel cells are water and heat. However, the vehicles remain expensive, have short range and, in most areas, have few places to refuel.

The Norwegian HyNor plan calls for five refueling stations along the main highway from Oslo to Stavanger, the center of the national petroleum industry that makes Norway the world's third largest oil exporter, after Saudi Arabia and Russia.

The aim is to extend the network through much of Scandinavia under the Scandinavian Hydrogen Highway Partnership, a joint organization formed by HyNor, Sweden's HyFuture and Denmark's Hydrogen Link in June.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Rubbersidewalks: From Garbage to Gold

In 2001, outraged at seeing 26 trees marked for destruction in her Gardena (Calif.) neighborhood because their growth was damaging area sidewalks, Lindsay Smith, a Hollywood screenwriter, unwittingly became an activist and an entrepreneur, soon launching Rubbersidewalks. "These were healthy, mature trees that were being destroyed because the city couldn't afford to repair the broken sidewalks," she says. "We weren't even given the opportunity to weigh in on the choice."

Smith went into action. "It turns out this was a really big problem," she says. And not just in her neighborhood. According to Rubbersidewalks, 330,000 miles of U.S. sidewalks are damaged annually. Moreover, many municipalities simply cut down the trees because it has become too costly to constantly repair the sidewalks.

After doing some investigating, Smith got a grant from the state of California to do research on using rubber pavers as a substitute for concrete sidewalks. Smith spent two years in R&D, eventually coming up with a product made entirely of recycled rubber tires.

Rubbersidewalks are a cost-effective and environmentally sound solution to the chronic problems caused by tree-lined sidewalks. Cities across the country struggle with the public safety concerns and financial burdens posed by tree roots lifting concrete sidewalks. Rubbersidewalks' modular sidewalk system allows air and water to easily reach soil below so trees develop less aggressive roots, which can be easily maintained during periodic inspection. One-square-foot of Rubbersidewalks recycles waste rubber from one passenger tire and in California alone more than 34 million passenger tires are disposed of each year creating 408 million pounds of waste rubber. Each 20 square foot installation saves one tree from removal Rubbersidewalks' pavers are recollected and recycled at the end of their life cycle.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

George Clooney rides green

George Clooney buys a Tesla Roadster Electric sports car builder Tesla Motors said it had sold out the proposed inaugural production run of 100 of its two-seat, high-performance roadsters, just three weeks after sales began.Customers, including actor George Clooney, each paid $100,000 in advance to reserve one of the roadsters, scheduled to be built and delivered next year, Tesla said. The cars use electric motors powered by rechargeable batteries. They can travel 250 miles on a single charge and accelerate from a stop to 60 mph in about 4 seconds, the company said.

London's metropolitan police to introduce greener cars

Honda (UK) has secured Britain's biggest ever fleet deal for hybrid cars. The Metropolitan Police has ordered 117 Honda Civic Hybrids for its Community Support Officers to use as part of a Safer Neighbourhoods scheme – an initiative to increase police presence on the streets. Officers will use the cars to travel from their operational bases to the start of their foot patrols.

The deal underlines the public sector’s growing interest in ‘greener’ vehicles. Over the past year, the Honda (UK) Corporate Sales department has seen a sharp increase in the number of quotations requested by agencies and organisations in the public sector.

Honda's petrol-electric Civic Hybrid was selected by the Metropolitan Police for its ease of use and strong environmental credentials.

Speaking at the National Association of Police Fleet Managers Conference, Stuart Middleton, Director of Transport Services at the Met Police, said the Hybrids would help "meet police requirements and at the same time fulfil social responsibility to try and make our fleet of vehicles as green as possible. The police, like many other like-minded people, want to do their bit."

The fact that hybrid cars are becoming more financially viable was also a key influencer. Middleton explained: "We need to balance the desire to produce a vehicle with the lowest environmental impact with the cost to the tax payer that funds the vehicles."

He continued: "It’s now widely acknowledged that hybrids provide the middle stepping stone to hydrogen fuel cell cars – our long term goal. Hybrid technology utilises a vehicle that performs in the same way as a conventional car but has the advantage of a reduced emissions footprint."

Leased through the Lex ‘Emergency Services VT fleet’, the cars are contracted for a two year, 24,000-mile period.

Honda announced earlier this year that it intends to build a small, purpose-built, family-sized hybrid car in 2009.

The Civic Hybrid went on sale in the UK in April 2006.

From bamboo to electricity

A bamboo-fuelled eco-friendly power station is to come up in Mizoram to help meet the energy needs of India's northeast. Mizoram produces annually 3.2 million tonnes of bamboo, which has never been tapped to generate electricity.

The power station will be set up in Sairang village at an estimated cost of Rs.28.50 million.

"This cost-effective project has been conceived by the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, along with the Ankur Scientific Energy Technologies, a private enterprise," said Benjamin L. Tlumtea, project coordinator of Zoram Energy Development Agency (ZEDA).

"Raw material for the power project is easily available. Once the plan gets going we have plans to use the energy in some industrial units," Tlumtea told IANS.

Bamboo would be first harvested and then dried before it is processed for feedstock to produce gas, which would finally get converted to electricity.

"With the help of such bamboo power projects and power generation through other non-conventional schemes, the state will surely solve its energy crisis," the official said.

An estimated 9,000 sq km area is under bamboo cultivation in Mizoram.

India, the world's largest producer of bamboo after China, grows about 80 million tonnes each year, more than half of it in the northeast.


Sunday, August 20, 2006

How to make a solar panel for a solar shower in just ten easy steps....

Similar solar panels cost more than £1000 and are between 90% and 95% efficient. Ours will cost you nothing. Its about 50% efficient, but that is still good enough to make piping hot water even in the UK.

Just follow our simple step by step instructions and you could be the proud owner of a solar panel that can make gallons of hot water per day for free!

How to make a solar panel for a solar shower:

The solar panel
1 Get hold of an old central heating radiator. Take a look in skips around the streets of your neighbourhood or at your local tip or recycling centre. This just needs to be an ordinary flat house radiator.
2 Paint it with black paint.
3 Get hold of some fibreglass loft insulation or old emersion tank lagging. You will probably be able to find these dumped in skips too.
4 Put the insulation or lagging into the bottom a box made out of wood. The box needs to fit the size of your radiator, with a wooden bottom and sides about 20 to 30 cm deep.
5 Place you black radiator on the insulation inside your box and attach a piece of glass or clear plastic on the top of the box.
Similar solar panels cost more than £1000. You have just made you solar panel for free!

Your panel will heat about 12 litres of water for every square meter of panel. If the radiator that you started with was 1 meter by 2 meters, that’s 24 litres of hot water per day.

The hot water tank
1 Get hold of a something that will be your tank. The best thing is an old insulated hot water tank saved from a skip.
2 Your tank needs to be mounted about 1 meter above your solar panel.
3 Connect a tube, hose or pipe from the bottom of the tank to the bottom of the panel. This is also where you need to connect a tap or a shower head.
4 Take a tube, hose or pipe from top of the tank to the top of the panel.
5 Add water and sun.
The cold water from the tank will sink to the bottom of the panel, as the sun shines and heats it, it will rise go into the top of the tank, the cycle repeats meaning that no pump is required.

At the end of the day, when you feel most sweaty and dirty, the water will be ready for your shower. Enjoy!


Deutsche Borse launches global green energy index

A new green energy index recently launched by the German stock exchange will track the performance of the biggest players in the alternative power market.

The DAXglobal Alternative Energy Index tracks the 15 largest companies worldwide in the areas of natural gas, wind energy, solar energy, ethanol and geothermal energy. Within the index, the five sectors are weighted with 20 per cent each, each containing three companies. To be included in the index, companies must be at the top of their business segment in terms of market capitalization and average trading volume.

Fifteen companies have made it onto the list, including wind power giants REPower, Vestas and Gamesa, solar power companies Tokuyama and Solarworld, and ethanol-makers Headwaters, as well as BP in the natural gas sector.

The Daxglobal alternative energy index on Deutsche-Borse

Scientists add years to ozone recovery

The atmosphere will take up to 15 years longer than previously expected to recover from pollution and repair its ozone hole over the southern hemisphere, the United Nations' weather organization said Friday.

Thinning in the ozone layer — due to chemical compounds leaked from refrigerators, air conditioners and other devices — exposes the Earth to harmful solar rays. Too much ultraviolet radiation can cause skin cancer and destroy tiny plants at the beginning of the food chain.

Scientists said Friday it would take until 2065, instead of 2050 as previously expected, for the ozone layer to recover and the hole over the Antarctic to close.

"The Antarctic ozone hole has not become more severe since the late 1990s, but large ozone holes are expected to occur for decades to come," ozone specialist Geir Braathen told reporters in summarizing a new report by the World Meteorological Organization and the U.N. Environment Program. The report will be released next year.

The ozone hole, a thinner-than-normal area in the upper stratosphere's radiation-absorbing gases, has formed each year since the mid-1980s at the end of the Antarctic winter in August, and generally is at its biggest in late September.

Experts said they extended the projected recovery because chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, would continue to leak into the atmosphere from air conditioners, aerosol spray cans and other equipment for years to come.

But there was cause for celebration, they said, noting a decline in CFCs in the first two atmospheric layers above Earth.

"The level of ozone-depleting substances continues to decline from its 1992-1994 peak in the troposphere and the late 1990s peak in the stratosphere," WMO secretary-general Michel Jarraud said in a statement.

Less of these chemicals are used every year, he said, after 180 countries in 1997 committed to reducing CFCs under the Montreal Protocal.

"This shows that the Montreal Protocol is effective and is working," he said.

Last year, the ozone hole reached about 10 million square miles on Sept. 20 — just below its largest size in 2003 of about 11.2 million square miles, WMO experts said.


Here Comes The Sun: Solar Saves With Incentives

It gets incredibly hot during summer in Sacramento, Calif., but the 95 families who own homes in the Premier Gardens subdivision outside the state capital don't worry about air conditioning. They live in houses whose utility bills are less than half the norm, thanks partly to rooftop solar panels.

These photovoltaic sheets generate so much electricity in the daytime, when most people are away working, that some homes have surplus current to send to the power grid. A net metering system measures how much, so a homeowner can accumulate credits and potentially cut his electric bill to zero by giving as much to the grid as he gets.

Such energy-efficient houses are marketed as zero-energy homes. In typical use they trim power bills, but do not do away with them.

It's no surprise that sunny California is the world's top market for residential solar power. Builders such as Premier Homes of Roseville, Clarum Homes in Palo Alto and Los Angeles' Pardee Homes -- a unit of Weyerhaeuser Co. (NYSE:WY - News) -- are putting up zero-energy houses in California and Nevada.

But the states that are runners-up in adopting solar power aren't known for year-round sunshine: New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut. In Massachussetts, a $6 million development of 26 solar-powered town houses is going up in Brockton, near Boston.

Toast Of The Coast

Why embrace solar power in New England and Mid-Atlantic states? "Because it's difficult to build new power plants and transmission lines in a place like New Jersey," said Rhone Resch, president of the Solar Energy Industries Association. "Densely populated states are turning to solar because it helps stabilize the power grid."

About 1.1 million U.S. homes rely on some sort of solar power, Department of Energy data show. Most such homes have thermal panels to heat swimming pools. But a growing number are being built with NASA-designed photovoltaic panels. These send direct current to a microwave oven-sized inverter that converts the current to AC electricity, which powers a house.

Eight out of 10 Americans believe home builders should offer solar power as an option in new home construction, according to a Roper survey conducted earlier this year. Half of those surveyed said they would pay up to 10% more for a solar-equipped house. In the past, home buyers were reluctant to opt for solar since the equipment needed to halve energy consumption cost $15,000 to $18,000. But the real cost of solar power is falling, thanks to cash rebates, tax credits and other financial incentives from the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

"Both home builders and consumers can receive up to a $2,000 tax credit, thanks to this legislation," said Emily English, manager of the National Association of Home Builders' Green Building Program. "In New Jersey, state rebates can reduce the cost of solar equipment by 70%."

Doubling Up

State and federal incentives abound. Local governments and utilities often match them. In Virginia, many communities exempt solar energy equipment from local property tax. Maryland offers income tax credits up to 15% of the installed cost of a system. On the Hawaiian island Oahu, homeowners who install a $5,000 solar water- heating system can get tax credits and rebates that trim net cost to about $1,900. Incentives in California can bring the cost of a $15,000 solar system down to $8,000.

"Government tax credits, utility rebates and the soaring price of oil have created a tipping point where residential solar power makes economic sense," said Joyce Mason, a Pardee Homes vice president.

"The return on investment starts with the first utility bill," she said. "I love to watch a new homeowner smile the first time he sees his electric meter spinning backward."

Pursuing A Payoff

A solar electric system raises home values $20,000 for every $1,000 cut in home operating costs, says the Appraisal Institute. Data compiled by analyst Andrew Black for the American Solar Energy Society indicates that spending $17,500 on a 2.6-kilowatt solar setup for a California house trims an $80 monthly electricity bill to $7 and raises home value $17,600. Big solar power systems can recoup 157% of cost vs. 75% for kitchen remodels.

Investors are looking at solar too

"Three of the top high tech IPOs for 2005 were solar companies," Resch said, adding that with investment in the field "we expect solar power to account for 10% to 20% of all new electricity generated within 10 years' time." The initial public offerings were for San Jose, Calif.-based SunPower (NASDAQ:SPWR - News), Chinese firm Suntech Power Holdings Co. (NYSE:STP - News) and German company Q-Cells, traded on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange.


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Bruce Willis goes green

BRUCE WILLIS is buying an electric car.

"It makes sense to use an alternative to digging up oil"

The actor was so affected by his role as a racoon in family movie Over The Hedge that he is trading in his gas-guzzler and going green.

He said: "I live in Los Angeles and spend about five hours a day in a car. I do know a lot of people who used to own those big cars but are changing over.

"I'm getting one of those electric cars because it makes sense to use an alternative to digging up oil.

He added: "The best thing about the car in Over The Hedge is that it doesn't burn any oil. Do you know why? It's because it's an animated car!"

Willis recently joked that he trained for the film by living with a family of racoons.

He quipped: "I went out and lived with a family of them for about three months.

"Sadly, it didn't really work out because I couldn't understand what they were trying to tell me. They kept giving me bits of pine bark and little pieces of tin foil."

He added: "There is one that still calls me - all hours of the night. I still can't understand what he's saying though."

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

BioWillie welcomed in Tennessee

BioWillie is moving north. Willie Nelson's brand of B20 biodiesel is being sold for the first time in Tennessee. The inaugural station is the Mid-Tenn Auto and Truck Plaza in Cookeville, which is located between Knoxville and Nashville on Highway 70 off of I-40.

BioWillie was first sold in Texas, and is now available in California, Georgia, Mississippi and South Carolina through Earth Biofuels. BioWillie has got a lot going for it, with a good brand identity, hardworking truckers who love the fuel and I doubt the expansion of places where you can buy the fuel would be going on like this if it wasn't making the fuel shops some money. Anyone want to make a prediction when you can get BioWillie in all of the Lower 48?

source: eTrucker via autobloggreen

The Venture Capital frenzy over solar company SolFocus; VCs shower it with $32M

SolFocus, the Palo Alto company that produces solar power with less silicon -- a major advantage given today's silicon shortage -- is about to finish raising $32 million.

The SolFocus deal, reported this morning by VentureWire (sub required), is significant because it underscores how hot this sector is right now. VentureWire did not mention some of the back-story: We're hearing there was a major fight by venture capitalists for this deal -- that a major venture firm swooped in and stole the deal from another.

Here is why SolFocus' technology, specifically, is attractive: Known as CPV, for Concentrator Photovoltaics, it uses lenses and mirrors to concentrate sunlight on a small, heat-tolerant silicon chip -- in the end creating energy with less silicon, which is a really good thing given the dearth in silicon supply right now.

Venture capitalists are also telling us that the latest heat-wave here in Silicon Valley is helping green technology companies raise cash -- as news of power outages in LA (shutting down MySpace) and around the southern San Francisco Bay Area brings the energy problem to everyone's real lives.

We haven't pinned down the details of this deal, and don't want to speculate until we are certain. Let's just say we've mentioned the aggressive ways of the Menlo Park firm New Enterprise Associates, which recently finished raising a huge venture fund. It has a serious vault of cash to put to work.

So the word is that NEA has led with an $18 million investment, and that the full venture round is still being finished. NGEN Partners, which invested in the $3.5 million seed funding, along with Yellowstone Capital and individual investors, apparently also boosted its investment.

Scott Sandell, a general partner with New Enterprise Associates, will join Steven Parry, a partner with NGEN Partners, on the company's board. We've contacted to Sandell to see if he will fill us in with more.

We first reported about SolFocus back in February when it announced a partnership with PARC, the research institute, to develop technology it said will cut the cost of solar power in commercial buildings by at least half.

It will be in production this year. And they want to cut costs even more within three years.


North hoyle and Scroby Sands offshore wind farms on course

First annual reports published for north hoyle and scroby sands offshore wind farms

Enough clean energy produced to power almost 80,000 homes; more than a quarter of a million tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions saved; minimal impact on bird and sea life, a good safety record and valuable lessons learned for the future development of a key industry.

These are the main findings of the first progress reports published today from the two projects at the vanguard of the UK's offshore wind farm sector.

Welcoming a promising first year the Minister for Energy Malcolm Wicks said:

"It was suggested earlier this week that the UK has the potential to become the Saudi Arabia of offshore wind energy. There are hurdles to be overcome before we achieve that status but the resource is there and we must harness it.

"The Government has invested £107 million in the first round of offshore wind farm development and the Energy Review published last month outlined measures to provide it with a further impetus as we move forward.

"The UK is one of the countries leading the way in the sector and those companies that have got their projects in the water producing clean, green electricity are to be congratulated."

The first major wind farm to be built in British waters was North Hoyle, which is located off the North Wales coast between Rhyl and Prestatyn. This 30 turbine / 60 MW project was developed and is operated by npower renewables and became fully operational in April 2004.

The second, Scroby Sands is near Great Yarmouth in Norfolk. This 30 turbine/60 MW scheme has been developed and run by E.ON UK Renewables.

Each project received £10 million in Government support and under the terms of these grants the developers are required to report back to the DTI for the initial three years of operation.

As well as a good record on the technical side, the wind farms have also received a positive response from the public. Surveys were carried out into residents' attitudes in Rhyl and Prestatyn before and after construction of North Hoyle. They showed a rise in support for the project from 62% to 73% once the wind farm was in place, with only 5% opposing the scheme.

In addition, the Scroby Sands information centre had 35,000 visitors in its first year, illustrating the keen interest in renewable energy projects of this type.

The annual reports published today provide details of the wind capacity at the sites over the first 12 months of operation, as well as the impact on access from adverse weather conditions. There are also details of the ongoing environmental monitoring, information on maintenance plus health and safety records.
Kevin McCullough, managing director of npower renewables said:

"North Hoyle was the first major offshore wind farm to be built in the UK, and as such represents a major achievement and milestone in the UK's drive to increase levels of renewable energy generation.

"It performed well during the first full year of operation, with both operating costs and generation broadly in line with expectations. Availability of the wind turbines for generation improved during the year, giving confidence that if wind speeds are in line with budget, greater generation will be achieved in future years.

"Our close working relationship with Vestas Celtic Wind Technology Limited, our operations and maintenance contractor, has reduced health and safety risks. Despite the challenging environment, in excess of 10,000 transfers between boats and wind turbine towers have been completed without a major incident.

"Our environmental monitoring has shown that the construction and first year of operation of the wind farm have not had any significant effects on the environment, with all results largely as predicted in the Environmental Statement for the project. The monitoring programme is due to continue until 2007 and additional data will give further reassurance that no impacts are occurring."

Jason Scagell, Director of E.ON UK Renewables, said:

"We were very happy with Scroby's performance in the first half of the year, particularly as the operation was in its infancy, but the second half was less satisfactory due to a number of defects with the gearboxes and the generators.
"That meant we had to carry out an extensive programme of modifications but, despite that, the wind farm still generated 153GWh, which is around 90% of our forecast annual output.

"Scroby Sands was and remains a pioneering project from which lessons will be learned.

"We're certainly keen to continue working offshore and have four projects in various states of advancement that will allow us to use the
lessons from Scroby in larger developments."

Notes to Editors

1. A copy of the North Hoyle report can be found here (2 parts):

2. A copy of the Scroby Sands report can be found here:

Department of Trade and Industry

7th Floor
1 Victoria Street
London SW1H 0ET
Public Enquiries +44 (0)20 7215 5000
Textphone +44 (0)20 7215 6740
(for those with hearing impairment)

Monday, August 14, 2006

Hydrogen to power Australia’s Antarctic field camps

Expeditioners working in Australia's remote Antarctic field camps will soon be baking bread, heating their huts and powering their laptops with clean, green hydrogen.

The Australian Government's hydrogen demonstration project, led by the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD), will operate out of Mawson station and a nearby penguin-monitoring field camp at Béchervaise Island, this summer.

The project – the first of its kind in Antarctica – aims to investigate safety and operational aspects of using hydrogen, with a long-term view to running Australia's Antarctic field camps and stations without fossil fuels.

"As the cost of fossil fuels continues to rise, we need to explore renewable energy options to supplement or completely replace them," AAD engineer Peter Magill said.

"We have already reduced our fossil fuel use at Mawson by installing two wind turbines. And we can reduce it further by using any electricity generated by the turbines, in excess of station requirements, to produce hydrogen."

Mr Magill said the hydrogen, which is made by electrolysing or splitting water molecules into their component hydrogen and oxygen molecules, will be transported in cylinders on a specially designed trailer across the sea ice to Béchervaise Island, some four kilometres away. The trailer will be towed using a hydrogen-powered quad bike modified at the University of Tasmania. The hydrogen will then be used in a hydrogen/LPG gas stove for cooking and in a fuel cell that will generate electricity to run heaters, lights, computers and a bread-maker.

Hydrogen generated by the wind turbines will also be stored in high pressure vessels at Mawson. If the demonstration project is a success, this hydrogen could be used to provide electricity and heating for the station when the wind drops, through a large scale fuel cell system or in an internal combustion engine generator.

"This will reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions in Antarctica, as well as our intercontinental transport costs for delivering petrol, diesel and gas to our stations and field camps," Mr Magill said.

The hydrogen demonstration project is supported by a $750 000 grant to the AAD from the Australian Government and financial contributions from the Swedish Energy Agency and BOC. The University of Tasmania is undertaking modelling work to identify the infrastructure needed to run Australia's stations and field camps on 100 percent hydrogen.


Saturday, August 12, 2006

Shell to provide financial boost to innovative low carbon business

Shell Springboard is a programme that provides a financial boost to innovative, low carbon business ideas from across the UK. Successfully piloted in 2005, here's how it works:
• Up to 6 awards of between £20,000 and £40,000 are on offer in each of the 3 UK regions.
• The regions are: North (Scotland / Northern Ireland / North East England - Durham and Northumberland / North West England - Cumbria). Central (Central England - East & West Midlands, Yorkshire, Lancashire, Cheshire & Wales). South (Southern England - South West, South East, East Anglia & London).
• The number & quality of entries will determine the number of awards given. Each region has a maximum number of awards it can give, but no minimum. The actual number of awards made, and the level of each award will be at the judge's discretion.

• Awards will be made in early 2007.

• The deadline for applications is midnight on Friday 10th November 2006.

• Judging will be carried out by 3 regional panels of independent experts.

• Up to 2 businesses from each region will then meet a national judging panel prior to the announcement of the overall UK winner.

• The Winner and Runner up from the UK judging panel will be awarded with a valuable consultancy session to help them develop their project.

• Previous applicants can reapply for the fund.

• Previous winners can only reapply for the fund with a new project. Projects supported by Shell Springboard will not be supported in subsequent years.

In short, the judges are looking for business plans for a product or service which:
• will lead to greenhouse gas reductions;
• is commercially viable; and
• is innovative.

There are two further aspects that the judges will take into consideration; 1: the likely material impact that the Springboard award will have on your project; and 2: the credibility of the team behind the project.

Eligibility criteria:

There are strict eligibility criteria. Please only submit an application if you:
• are a business set up as a sole trader, partnership, limited company or community interest company (including university or government spin-outs)
• have been established for a minimum of 3 months
• have less than 250 employees
• operate in the UK
• have a project which is your own and/or which you are free to disclose
• have a project that has not previously been supported by a Shell Springboard award

Application process

This is how the process works for applications:
• Submit your application form through this site using the on-line Application Form and Submission Contract. You will be issued with a unique PIN and user name so that you can enter the required information and revise any details online at any time over the application period.
• The deadline for submission is midnight on Friday 10th November 2006. After this time you will not be able to access your application form again.
• An independent group will assess applications (in anonymous form). You will not be contacted for further information so please ensure that you describe your ideas as completely as possible in the application form.
• Unsuccessful applicants will be informed at the beginning of 2007 but no correspondence or appeal can be entered into.
• Shortlisted businesses will then be interviewed at a face-to-face meeting with the judges at one of three UK regional judging events to be held in February 2007. The regional judges will evaluate your idea based on its carbon-saving potential, the degree of innovation and commercial viability. They will also consider the material impact the award will have on the business and the credibility of the team behind the project.
• Awards will be made to the most compelling applications and feedback given to all finalists including those who are disappointed.
• Up to two businesses from each region will also be interviewed at a face-to-face meeting with a national judging panel in March 2007 and an overall UK winner will be announced. The national judges will look at your idea's carbon-saving potential, innovation and commercial viability too, but they will also make an assessment of the credibility of your presentation and team. In other words, they will look at your idea from the perspective of potential investors.
• The Winner and Runner up from the UK judging panel will be awarded with a valuable consultancy session to help them develop their project.

Obligations on winners

The only obligations if you win an award are:
• to spend the funding on the project set out in your application
• to write a letter to Shell at an agreed time, describing what you have achieved (or challenges to achieving your goals - which are just as important)
• to provide material for this website and other publicity
• to participate in a judging panel next year (if requested)

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Bringing meters out of the closet

There are growing calls for gas and electricity meters to be dusted off, brought out from the cupboard underneath the stairs, and given pride of place in people's living rooms and kitchens.

Advocates of so-called "smart meters" say the information provided by the devices can revolutionise the way households consume energy, and can reduce demand by up to 10%.

The domestic sector in the UK is responsible for about one-third of the nation's carbon emissions, and the government has become increasingly focused on the need for greater energy efficiency in the nation's homes.

Tony Blair on Tuesday gave business leaders a sneak preview of the government's energy review.

He said the twin aims of cutting harmful emissions and improving security of supplies meant that "a step-change in energy efficiency" was "back on the agenda with a vengeance".

The electricity and gas consumer council, otherwise known as Energywatch, says smart meters are vital if these goals are to be realised.

"People do get a lot of messages about energy and the consequences to the environment," says Energywatch's head of campaigns, Jonathan Stearn.

"But the one key link that is missing is the ability for consumers to know how much energy they are using.

"At the moment, there is a box underneath the stairs which they cannot make head nor tail of because it is all in kilowatt hours, and a quarterly bill that may or may not mean anything to them."

"If people do not have any idea how much energy they are using, how can you expect them to change their behaviour?"

Smart move

"Smart meters" is a catch-all phrase used to describe a new generation of devices that have a range of extra functions, unlike existing "dumb meters" that only measure gross gas and electricity consumption in a home.

continue reading...

Friday, August 04, 2006

New York Plans Plug-in Hybrid Conversion Program

New Alternative Fuel Research Lab and $10 Million Program for Plug-in Hybrids Will Help to Reduce Dependence on Imported Energy

Governor George E. Pataki and Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno today announced plans for the construction of a state-of-the-art alternative fuel research laboratory at the Saratoga Technology + Energy Park (STEP) and a new $10 million State program to convert vehicles in the State fleet to plug-in hybrids.

“This year, New York State has taken significant steps to reduce our dependence on imported energy, and we will continue to promote cutting-edge research and technology that will build a brighter energy future here in the Empire State,” Governor Pataki said. “This new vehicle testing laboratory and our investments in plug-in hybrids are critical to this effort, and will help spur the innovation necessary to transition away from a petroleum-based transportation sector.

“These new programs are important tools in our effort to develop clean and renewable fuels, promote greater energy efficiency, and create jobs in the emerging energy sector,” the Governor said. “The Saratoga Technology and Energy Park is an exciting venue for renewable and clean energy companies, and today we take another step to solidify New York’s position as a national and global leader in alternative energy research and development.”

Senate Majority Leader Joseph L. Bruno said, “Rising energy costs make it imperative that we continue doing everything possible to promote, develop, and utilize alternative energy sources. This state-of-the-art facility will be a tremendous addition to the Saratoga Technology and Energy Park, creating new jobs and fostering innovative research capabilities into the clean energy technologies that are rapidly emerging as a significant part of our state’s economy. This announcement, coupled with additional funding for expanded hybrid vehicle usage, will also strengthen New York’s status as a world-renowned leader in alternative, clean energy initiatives.”

Assemblyman Roy McDonald said, “I want to thank Governor Pataki and Senator Bruno for their continued leadership in helping to bring another integral component to the technology park here in Malta. Alternative fuels are the future and the decision to have a research laboratory in Saratoga County solidifies its place as one of the most important counties in the country.”

The $10 million plug-in hybrids program will facilitate the development and deployment of these advanced, high-mileage vehicles, which can achieve a fuel economy of up to 100 miles per gallon. Under this program, the 600 hybrid vehicles in the State fleet will be retrofitted to be plug-in hybrids. Once the State’s hybrid vehicles have been converted to plug-in hybrids, the program will be made available to private vehicle owners through a competitive process.

Plug-in hybrid vehicles can be plugged into the electric grid – such as a normal 120 volt household outlet - to boost mileage. This will allow the vehicles to operate on emissions-free battery power, reducing the amount of fuel utilized and significantly decreasing the release of harmful pollutants, including greenhouse gases. Since the utility grid has lower demand during overnight hours, the recharging of plug-ins would not add to the peak load.

The New York State Alternative Fuel Vehicle Research Laboratory, the first of its kind in the nation, will develop scientific data to formulate new programs to conserve energy, diversify our energy supplies, decrease our dependence on imported fuels, and protect our environment. The facility will conduct testing for advanced and emerging technologies such as fuel cell propulsion systems, alternative fuels, and greenhouse gas reduction technologies. Special focus will be on test systems to quantify all emissions from diesel buses and trucks, which will help to develop advanced control and retrofit technologies for these vehicles.

The laboratory also will promote public-private partnership projects and educational programs, including research grants, technology development, and technician training applicable to emerging technologies such as alternative fuel concepts.

DEC Commissioner Denise M. Sheehan said, “Governor Pataki, DEC and NYSERDA are again taking the lead in exploring new ways of improving air quality through innovative research and collaboration. This facility will help increase efficiency in the transportation sector and expand the available range of energy sources to power our vehicles, for the benefit of both our environment and our economy.”

Peter R. Smith, NYSERDA President and CEO emphasized STEP’s collegial development capability. “These three developments represent the best of Governor Pataki’s strategy for our State’s energy future, as well as STEP’s mission. The STEP campus serves as an interactive R&D center where participants can develop, produce, test and manufacture energy-related products that benefit the State’s energy security, economy and our environment.”

In addition, the Governor announced that Electrovaya, a Canadian high-tech battery manufacturing firm, plans to expand Canadian operations into 5,000 square feet of manufacturing space at STEP, with additional expansion planned. The company’s lithium-ion batteries can be used in a variety of products and applications.

The Saratoga Technology and Energy Park, which is operated by NYSERDA, is the nation’s first site dedicated to developing clean-energy and environmental technology companies. It was designed to attract companies involved in alternative and renewable energy, environmental technologies, transportation technologies, power generation, buildings, and clean-energy workforce development. STEP, which is owned and administered by NYSERDA, supports collaboration and interaction in a campus-like setting, and is an entry point into New York’s network of state agencies, universities, and centers of excellence.

This year, Governor Pataki proposed an energy independence plan designed to reduce our State’s dependence on imported energy, promote greater use of clean, renewable fuels, and spur additional research and development into clean and alternative energy sources. Among the initiatives proposed by the Governor and approved by the State Legislature were:

• The elimination of all State taxes on renewable automobile fuels, including ethanol (E85), biodiesel, and compressed natural gas (CNG), hydrogen, and other renewable fuels, providing a savings of approximately 40 cents/gallon for consumers.
• A $10 million competitive grant program, administered by NYSERDA, for private sector gasoline companies to install renewable fuel pumps for E85, biodiesel, CNG, or other renewable fuels. It is estimated that the program will support the installation and operation of between 400 and 600 renewable fuel pumps at private stations across the State. The New York State Thruway Authority is already moving forward with its program to install renewable fuel pumps at all 27 Thruway travel plazas.
• The expansion of the State’s Empire Zones program to provide tax benefits to clean energy companies regardless of where they are located in New York State. These tax incentives will be available to qualifying companies engaged in research, development, or manufacturing of energy-efficient or renewable energy technologies or products.
• A new $10 million program to retrofit the 600 hybrid vehicles in the State fleet to be plug-in hybrids, which allows them to be plugged into the electric grid to boost mileage in excess of 100 miles per gallon while significantly reducing emissions of harmful pollutants. Once the State’s hybrid vehicles have been converted to plug-in hybrids, the program will be made available to private vehicle owners through a competitive process.
• A $5 million competitive grant program, administered by NYSERDA, for start-up companies that are developing or deploying the next generation of vehicle batteries, propulsions systems, and lightweight vehicle parts and components.
• The elimination of "exclusivity contracts" between fuel providers and retail service stations, which only allow the service stations to sell specific brands of fuel. In most cases, these brands do not include renewable fuels. Since the “exclusivity” contracts prohibit service stations from obtaining renewable fuels like ethanol (E85) from other sources, these fuels are not available for sale to consumers.
• Tax credits to cover up to 50 percent of the cost of purchasing alternative fuel vehicle refueling equipment that would be used by facilities selling E85, biodiesel, CNG, hydrogen, natural gas, liquefied or petroleum gas.
• A $5 million competitive grant program, administered by NYSERDA, for the development of hydrogen fueling stations across New York and the conversion of existing internal combustion vehicles to be able to operate using hydrogen fuel.


Home made from scraps from Big Dig

As a prototype for future Big Dig architecture, the structural system for this house is almost wholly comprised of steel and concrete from Boston’s Big Dig, utilizing over 600,000 lbs of recycled materials. Although similar to a pre-fab system, the project demonstrates that subtle, complex spatial arrangements can still be designed and customized from pieces of the I-93 offramps: Varying exterior and interior planes create an ascending relationship from ground to roof as large upper-level plantings blur interior and exterior relationships.

Australia: a solar tower to power some 100,000 homes

With innovations like a skyscraping solar energy system, Australian entrepreneurs have taken the lead in finding fossil-fuel alternatives--and grabbed a beachhead in a huge global market.

IDEA NO. 26 If your domestic market is small, go global in pursuit of investors as well as customers.
IDEA NO. 27 When economic factors spur demand, look to the past for ideas that were ahead of their time.
IDEA NO. 28 Striking design can offset objections to large-scale industrial projects.

RATTLING DOWN A RED DIRT ROAD ON THE EDGE OF THE Australian outback, Roger Davey hits the brakes and hops out of a rented Corolla. With a sweep of his arm, he surveys his domain--24,000 acres of emptiness stretching toward the horizon, the landscape bare but for clumps of scrubby eucalyptus trees and an occasional sheep. It's a dead-calm antipodean winter's day, the silence of this vast ranch called Tapio Station broken only by the cry of a currawong bird. Davey, chief executive of Melbourne renewable-energy company EnviroMission, aims to break ground here early next year on the world's first commercial "solar tower" power station.

"The tower will be over there," Davey says, pointing to a spot a mile distant where a 1,600-foot structure will rise from the ocher-colored earth. Picture a 260-foot-diameter cylinder taller than the Sears Tower encircled by a two-mile-diameter transparent canopy at ground level. About 8 feet tall at the perimeter, where Davey has his feet planted, the solar collector will gradually slope up to a height of 50 to 60 feet at the tower's base. If Stanley Kubrick had put a power station in 2001: A Space Odyssey, it would've looked like this. Acting as a giant greenhouse, the solar collector will superheat radiation from the sun. Hot air rises, naturally, and the tower will operate as a giant vacuum. As the air is sucked into the tower, it will produce wind to power an array of turbine generators clustered around the structure.

The result: enough clean, green electricity to power some 100,000 homes without producing a particle of pollution or a wisp of planet-warming gases. Unlike wind farms and traditional solar panels, which generate electricity only when the wind blows or the sun shines, the solar tower is designed to replace carbon-spewing power plants. "We're aiming to be competitive with the coal people," says Davey, 60. "We're filling a gap in the renewable-energy market that has never been able to be filled before." And although its final dimensions are still being tweaked, the 50-megawatt Tapio Station plant is just the small model: A half-mile-tall version is in the works for China, and EnviroMission is scouting sites in the American Southwest for other possible skyscraping power plants.

continue reading...

Vail Resorts- 100% Powered By Wind

Vail Resorts said it will buy enough wind-generated electricity to replace all the power used by its five ski areas and more than 135 other stores, lodges and offices.

Vail said Tuesday it would purchase nearly 152,000 megawatt-hours of wind-generated electricity a year, making it the second-largest corporate purchaser of wind power in the country. It did not immediately disclose the cost.

In January, Austin, Texas-based natural food grocer Whole Foods Market Inc. said it would buy 458,000 megawatts of wind-generated electricity annually to replace all of its power consumption.

"By embracing wind power as a clean and renewable source for 100 percent of our companywide electricity use, we want to reinforce our commitment to the natural environment in which we operate and be a leader on this critical effort within the travel industry," said Rob Katz, chief executive officer of Vail Resorts.

Vail is the second-largest ski operator in North America, after Intrawest Corp., based in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Vail Resorts owns and operates Vail, Beaver Creek, Keystone and Breckenridge ski areas in Colorado, Heavenly in Nevada and California, and Grand Teton Lodge Co. near Jackson, Wyo.

In addition to its ski resorts, Vail owns or operates about a dozen lodges and 125 retail stores. The company announced in April it is moving its headquarters from the Vail Valley to the northwest Denver suburb of Broomfield.

Source: Associated Press

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

High street solar panels on sale

A major British electrical retailer is selling solar panels in high street shops for the first time.
Currys has launched a pilot scheme in three of its stores selling the off-the-shelf green technology.
Shoppers in West Thurrock, Essex, and Fulham and Croydon in south London, will be able to snap up the £1,000 panels, manufactured by Sharp.
An installed system that could halve the bill of a typical three-bedroom home costs £9,000, Currys says.
Solar panels are already offered by a number of specialist manufacturers and suppliers, but are often expensive.
Customers visiting a participating Currys branch will be offered an in-store consultation followed by a free home assessment to check that their property is suitable.
The retailer says the panels will help "future proof" homes against rising fuel prices.
Customers can apply for grants to help offset the cost of a system.
Applications for government grants under the Low Carbon Buildings scheme are assessed using criteria laid down by the Department of Trade and Industry. Most householders will have to achieve energy efficiency standards before they are eligible.
The Energy Saving Trust, which administers government grants, calculates that a system for an average-sized house would cost between £8,000 and £18,000, and yield annual savings between £75 and £125.
Some electricity supply companies will buy back any excess electricity generated by the panels.
Although sales of solar panels are increasing in Britain, they remain far behind some other countries including Germany.


Unlimited power from Universal Geothermal Energy

The answer to the world’s energy needs may have been under our feet all this time, according to Jefferson Tester, professor of chemical engineering at the MIT Laboratory for Energy and the Environment. Tester says heat generated deep within the earth by the decay of naturally occurring isotopes has the potential to supply a tremendous amount of power—thousands of times more than we now consume each year.

So far, we’ve been able to harvest only a tiny fraction of geothermal energy resources, taking advantage of places where local geology brings hot water and steam near the surface, such as in Iceland or California, where such phenomena have long been used to produce electricity. But new oil-field stimulation technology, developed for extracting oil from sources such as shale, makes it possible to harvest much more of this energy by allowing engineers to create artificial geothermal reservoirs many kilometers underground.

Tester calls it “universal geothermal” energy because the reservoirs could be located wherever they’re needed, such as near power-hungry cities worldwide.

Technology Review spoke with Tester about the potential of universal geothermal energy and what it will take to make it a reality.

Continue reading: Technology Review

Tuesday, August 01, 2006


Sub Pop Records Sets New Industry Standard by “Greening” Label with the Bonneville Environmental Foundation

Best Known for Representing Upcoming Artists, Label Becomes the First to Purchase Green-e Certified Green Tags

Seattle, Wash. (July 31, 2006) – Sub Pop Records, the music label that has given rise to bands ranging from Nirvana to The Shins, announced today that it has purchased enough Green-e certified Green Tags, also known as renewable energy credits, from the Bonneville Environmental Foundation to equal 100 percent of the company's energy use. To date, Sub Pop records is the first Green-e certified record label in the United States.

"I was made aware of the program by one of my co-workers. I was, quite frankly, shocked by how easy it is to support renewable energy. Green Tags are a simple way for anyone to choose wind energy, which, in turn, lowers dependence on burning fossil fuels for energy," said Jonathan Poneman, president of Sub Pop Records. "Green Tags fulfill an important commitment to both the planet and the Pacific Northwest, where Sub Pop is rooted."

Earlier this year, Sub Pop Records’ recording artist Kelley Stoltz released Below the Branches as the first album to be green powered and to incorporate the Green-e label on its packaging. Like Kelley Stoltz, Sub Pop Records is promoting climate recovery by supporting new renewable energy, such as wind and solar power.

“Sub Pop has been synonymous with helping talented, new artists support their passion for creating music,” said Patrick Nye, director of sales of Bonneville Environmental Foundation. “Now, Sub Pop Records is directing the same energy toward new, renewable sources of power.”

Both Sub Pop Records and Kelley Stoltz hope to influence other artists and music fans to consider what they can do to shift our nation’s energy model to clean renewable technologies.

About Sub Pop Records
Sub Pop Records started eighteen years ago with releases from bands that were relatively unknown at the time, including Mudhoney, Nirvana and Soundgarden. The label continues to champion new artists that have quickly become part of the music lexicon including The Postal Service, The Shins, Iron and Wine, Wolf Parade, and Band of Horses. Sub Pop is based in Seattle, Washington.

About Bonneville Environmental Foundation
The Bonneville Environmental Foundation (BEF), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, was established in 1998 to restore watershed ecosystems and further the development and use of new renewable energy resources. Through revenues generated from the sales of green power products such a Green Tags, BEF funds projects that restore damaged watersheds and support new renewable energy products from solar, wind and biomass. BEF pioneered the sale of Green Tags in 2000 and has helped establish national standards for certification and trading. Created by regional environmental groups and the Bonneville Power Administration, the Foundation operates collaboratively with but independent of both.
About Green-e and the Center for Resource Solutions
Launched in 1997, the Green-e Renewable Energy Certification Program is the leading independent certification and verification program that sets standards for renewable energy options. The Green-e logo serves as the national symbol for consumer protection and "seal of approval" indicating high quality, verified renewable energy. Green-e provides an easy way for consumers to find environmentally friendly energy options that fit their budget and present much less environmental impact than electricity generated primarily by fossil fuels. To learn more about certified renewable energy available in all 50 states, visit, or call 888.63.GREEN.

Green-e is a program of the Center for Resource Solutions, a national nonprofit organization that works to make it easier for people and organizations to use renewable energy as a tool for mitigating climate change. CRS designs and operates national and international programs that support the increased supply and use of renewable energy resources such as wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, low-impact hydroelectric power, and other clean energy sources. To learn more about CRS, visit:


For Sub Pop Records:
Chris Jacobs

For Bonneville Environmental Foundation:
Michele Hirschhorn

For Green-e:
Sarah Krasley