Wednesday, May 5th, 2010
While questions have arisen about the potential crushing effects of the current economic situation on the trend toward green commercial building and retrofitting, a team of economic researchers has concluded that the value of green building remains strong.
Among them is Nils Kok, a professor at Maastricht University in the Netherlands and a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley. Speaking at an April workshop hosted by the California Center for Sustainable Energy in San Diego, Calif., Kok presented an analysis of the financial performance of green office buildings in the United States. The study is based on actual market transactions and not simply engineering estimates.
Kok said that office buildings with energy efficiency certification can command higher rents, expect better occupancy rates and garner a greater sale value. The initial study was published in 2008, but follow-up analysis in October 2009 showed these values held even during the global economic crisis. (more…)
Monday, May 3rd, 2010
Last week electric vehicle services company Better Place demonstrated a fleet of electric taxis that will operate in Tokyo and have batteries that can be replaced in about two minutes. The taxis will utilize Better Place’s battery swapping stations, which today cost around $1 million each for the equipment to automate the process.
Urban taxis are a suitable application for battery swapping because they:
a) Take frequent short trips.
b) Don’t often stray far from a geographic area.
c) Need to be kept on the road for as much of the time as possible.
d) Idle frequently (when stopped, or running the engine in between customers to control the vehicle’s temperature). (more…)
Monday, May 3rd, 2010
The energy world operates under the premise that more is better. If we build more power plants, we’ll have ample supply, and electricity prices will drop. Even better, if those plants are clean and green, we’ll displace older, dirtier plants and reduce emissions. That will help our economy by producing jobs.
But is that the right way to think about power?
Truth be told, new energy sources are likely to play a smaller role in economic recovery than advances in energy efficiency, according to speakers at a recent symposium held by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, as part of its 30th anniversary celebration.
“Cost-effective investment that can reduce the amount of energy necessary to support a dollar of economic activity is the single most important driver of economic productivity within the United States and around the world,” said John A. “Skip” Laitner, director of economic and social analysis, American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy. (more…)
Wednesday, April 28th, 2010
(Reuters) – Europe took the first steps toward a massive roll-out of electric vehicles on Wednesday, backing up past rhetoric with plans for pan-European standards that the industry has cried out for.
“Without strong standardization work, I think it will be difficult to develop a market for electric cars,” European Union industry commissioner Antonio Tajani said as he launched his E.U. green vehicles strategy.
“This is not an abstract concept, it’s a set of 40 practical actions,” he added.
French carmaker Renault has joined forces with California’s Better Place in a project to put electric cars and their charging infrastructure on the roads of Denmark and Israel by 2011.
But critics question whether common standards will be ready in time, or whether investors risk laying down infrastructure that will later have to be torn up and replaced. (more…)
Monday, April 26th, 2010
Sunny Milpitas, California is the newly announced home of SunPower’s first domestic manufacturing operations. Yep, you heard right. More green manufacturing jobs right here in the U.S.A. (In November, Chinese solar powerhouse Suntech announced that its first U.S. manufacturing facility would be located near Phoenix, Arizona).
SunPower’s 75-megawatt production line is expected to employ 100 by the end of the year, and spread the wealth around even more by sourcing equipment and materials from a host of other states throughout the United States. At the Vote Solar Initiative, we like to remind folks that manufacturing is only a fraction of solar’s overall job creation opportunity. In fact, about 75 percent of solar employment is related to system installation, jobs that are inherently local in the first place. Nevertheless, manufacturing is near and dear to most Americans, and this new production facility is tangible proof that the green economy has a real role to play in bringing those jobs back home — with the right policies, that is.
As was the case with Suntech’s Arizona selection, SunPower’s decision to locate manufacturing in California is a testament to the state’s market-building solar policies. And so it is appropriate that stalwart renewable energy supporter, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, joined in making the announcement. During the event, Schwarzenegger highlighted a few initiatives that have been so instrumental to the state’s new energy economy that we think they bear repeating: (more…)
Thursday, April 22nd, 2010
The Plastiki, a sailing boat made out of 12,500 reclaimed plastic bottles and other recycled waste products, has been sailing in the Pacific Ocean for more than 30 days.
Plastiki started its journey March 20 from San Francisco, with the intention to create public awareness about the effects of plastic usage on marine pollution and consequently sea life.
The Plastiki crew aims to explore a number of environmental hotspots, such as soon-to-be-flooded island nations, damaged coral reefs and the challenge faced by acidifying oceans and marine debris, in particular plastic pollution.
Plastiki’s journey is also scheduled to go through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a zone of trash one suspended on the water’s surface, twice the size of Texas, and stretching from the shores of California to the Sea of Japan.
The boat crew consists of six scientists, environmentalists and artists, led by the British adventurer David de Rothschild. The 60-foot boat is sailing with an average speed of five nautical miles per hour and the voyage is set end in Sydney in about three months. (more…)
Wednesday, April 21st, 2010
For consumers, discussion of electric cars tends to focus on how long the vehicle travels before needing a recharge and what it will cost to buy. But a new report backed by several large corporations takes a broader view of what the electric car will mean to our overall finances.
And the news is good.
Fueling our cars with electricity instead of gasoline – this one change – could avert a lot of economic pain, according to the “Economic Impact of the Electrification Roadmap” report by the Electrification Council. (more…)
Tuesday, April 20th, 2010
While electric vehicles are the most environmentally friendly transportation solution of today, there is one start-up that thinks further ahead. What might sound like a futuristic idea borrowed from a sci-fi movie will soon become reality in some cities.
I’m talking about personal rapid transit, a system somewhere between mass transportation such as metros and buses, and more private transportation such as taxis. The Finnish start-up BM Design has the solution to our transportation needs of tomorrow.
Asko Kauppi, Founder of BM Design and among the several hundred people who invented personal rapid transit, describes it as “packaged routing of people.” The idea itself is nothing new and has its roots in the 1960s and 70s. However, a company still needs to present a viable commercial solution for PRT.
The advantages of personal rapid transit include this: Instead of you waiting for a bus or metro to arrive, the PRT vehicle — a lightweight, battery operated vehicle seating two to three — is waiting for you. (more…)
Monday, April 19th, 2010
Want to lower your utility bills or even get energy for free? Companies like Dow Chemical are developing solar shingles and other innovative technologies to turn your home into a personal power plant. Energy will be essentially free.
Three decades ago information was expensive and scarce. Data processing was autocratic, monolithic, and centralized. There were big mainframe computers ‘out there’ and ‘dumb’ users here. The personal computer, the internet, and mobile telephones changed all that.
Today information is essentially free.
Scarce data turned into the Internet torrent and now data is so abundant that the first company who helped us intelligently filter this onslaught of information became the most successful company of the last decade: Google. Today information technology is distributed, grid-independent, and scalable. Now billions of people with a mobile phone, personal computer, and internet connection can generate, store, process, and publish data. The basic architecture of information technology changed.
Energy is where data was three decades ago.
Wednesday, April 14th, 2010
Many moons — and political news cycles — ago, I was very critical of the Obama administration’s “Cash for Clunkers” program, as much on green (environmental) impact as on green (cash) grounds. Later, I briefly became a darling of the Republican right when I was similarly skeptical of the “Cash for Refrigerators” appliance rebate proposal (they subsequently boomeranged on me when I questioned the relevance of ClimateGate).
But this is not about me. It is about the future of the “Cash for Stuff” model. Even as odds of getting a comprehensive energy and environment bill wane in this congressional session, a “Cash for…” proposal worth supporting has emerged.
And to the delight of bloggers and wordsmiths everywhere, it is as alliterative as it is promising. I give you “Cash for Caulkers.” (more…)