Friday, August 14th, 2009
The Obama Administration in March announced $5 billion in funding to weatherize low income homes, but today little of that money has been spent. The logjam of Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) money that should be going to upgrade windows and insulation has been blamed on the Departments of Energy and Labor because of confusing rules over wage rules.
According to the DOE half of the money has been sent to the states. But many states have not distributed funds to the cities and local community organizations for fear of running afoul of the 1931 Davis-Bacon Act. The rule was instituted to ensure fair wages on public works projects.
Federal weatherization programs have existed for 30 years, but this is the first time that Davis-Bacon rules were applied. Lacking a precedent of what are fair rates for weatherization laborers, many states have been waiting for the Department of Labor to set guidelines. The DOL is to issue rules for 15 states today, with the remaining state guidelines to be out by the end of August.
Thursday, August 13th, 2009
One year after opening, and about two years after construction began, the Poh Ern Shih Temple (or Temple of Thanksgiving in English) is looking great. I’m dropping by to visit the temple and check out progress on this green Buddhist sanctuary.
The place is bustling with activity, and thankfully the first phase of construction has now been completed. On the day of my visit, several different religious study groups are in session upstairs, catering to the younger members of the Buddhist congregation. I locate Boon, the temple president, just before lunch and we sit down for a chat.
“The building performance has been great,” he tells me. “We’ve generated 15 megawatts of power from our first phase PV systems so far in the first year, and we’re going to install another set in our second phase of construction.”
Wednesday, August 12th, 2009
It is understandable why some utilities might be hesitant to embrace smart grid technology. It’s expensive (Repower America says implementation will cost upwards of $400 billion) and at the same time will reduce their ability to sell their core product (energy).
Getting the utilities and regulatory agencies on board requires ample amounts of carrots (financial incentives) and sticks (limiting carbon emissions), according to energy efficiency experts Portland Energy Conservation Inc (PECI).
PECI’s new report “Wiring the Smart Grid for Energy Efficiency goes into deeply depressing detail about the many formidable challenges to implementing the smart grid. Among the toughest to tackle are that buildings are ill-equipped to participate in demand response systems, and the near total lack of interoperability today between grid equipment and building energy management tools. There’s also a lack of university and professional training programs to fill the gaping hole in HVAC engineers who can maximize energy efficiency programs.
Tuesday, July 21st, 2009
Phoebus Energy unveiled its hybrid water heating system last week at the community center in Gilo, a neighborhood of Jerusalem, according to an article in The Jerusalem Post.
Phoebus Energy, founded in 2007 with $2 million in seed funding from Terra Venture Partners, has developed a hybrid heat pump system that integrates with existing oil-based systems to make them more efficient. Newly appointed CEO Yaron Tal told The Jerusalem Post that Phoebus Energy’s system saves between 50 and 70 percent of oil and reduces pollution by 80 to 90% compared to a traditional heat pump system.
Thursday, July 2nd, 2009
The week before last was the culmination of a labor of love for Sunil Paul and Claire Tomkins with the launch of the Gigaton Throwdown in DC after 18 months of hard work, researching and – as I witnessed first hand – coralling the efforts of other researchers.
What is the Gigaton Throwdown?
The Gigaton Throwdown Study was launched as a Clinton Global Initiative in 2007. It was started as a project to educate and inspire entrepreneurs, investors, and policy makers to think big about solving the climate crisis. It was an effort to answer Sunil’s question, “What does it take to make a difference with clean energy technology?” (more…)
Friday, June 26th, 2009
The explosive growth of modern refrigerants, originally developed to replace ozone-destroying chemicals, could become a significant cause of global warming if they are not soon replaced by a new class of coolants, according to Dutch and U.S. researchers.
Reporting in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the scientists said that hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) – now used in most air conditioning in cars and buildings – are a potent greenhouse gas whose heat-trapping effects currently equal less than one percent of all CO2 emissions worldwide. But booming economic growth in the developing world and the rapid spread of air conditioning mean that by 2050 HFCs could cause at least 25 percent of human-induced global warming, the study said.
Wednesday, June 24th, 2009
Green roofs have been a part of building for over a thousand years. The current green building movement has, however, had the greatest impact on the growth of the green roofing industry.
A green roof is commonly defined as a roof that consists of vegetation and soil, or a growing medium, planted over a waterproofing membrane. There are two basic types of green roofs, an extensive roof, which has a few inches of soil cover and an intensive roof that has two feet or more of soil for a variety of grass, trees, bushes and shrubs.
Thursday, May 28th, 2009
Bernie Focker, aka Dustin Hoffman of Meet The Fockers, once said, ”If it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down.”
Bernie Focker, though an imaginary character, spoke of real life issues: water conservation. Even though the water crisis has taken a backseat to other issues such as carbon emissions, the problem is real: By 2025, the world will experience major freshwater shortages. Though 97% of water comes from oceans, only about 3% of it is freshwater. From that, 2.4% is permanently frozen in glaciers and ice caps, 0.5% of Earth’s water is ground water, and the rest can be found in rivers and lakes (also known as surface water).
Since our water comes from ground and surface water, that’s a small percentage overall. And because of our ever-growing population and water needs, rising temperatures and droughts, the US government estimates that about 36 states will face water shortages by 2013.
Wednesday, May 13th, 2009
The US Environmental Protection Agency has some suggestions on how we can save energy this summer, and reduce our emissions of Green House Gasses. The energy used in an average home costs more than $2,200 a year and contributes more greenhouse gas emissions than a typical car. Looking at the Energy Star ratings on home appliances, cooling equipment, computers and entertainment devices can, collectively, make a large difference.
Here are some tips from EPA to save energy and help protect the environment at home and at work:
Monday, April 27th, 2009
You know the song: “Rain, rain, go away/Come again some other day.”
Heavy rain in places with older sewer systems (Michigan and elsewhere), often results in combined sewage overflows. But it doesn’t have to be that way. And the solution doesn’t have to cost billions of dollars.
First off, combined sewage systems are problematic because they take in sanitary sewage (toilet) in the same pipes as stormwater runoff (manhole). When it rains, water that runs off of impervious surfaces like rooftops and parking lots can overwhelm combined systems.