August 2011 Archives
August 04, 2011 |
Japanese researchers recently announced that they had discovered an enormous quantity of rare earth metals on the seabed of the Pacific Ocean. The British journal, Nature Geoscience, writes that a team of Japanese scientists were able to locate large quantities of rare earth metals at 78 undersea locations in international waters east and west of Hawaii and east of Tahiti in French Polynesia. These deposits were found at depths of between 3,500 and 6,000 meters beneath the ocean’s surface. The Japanese team estimates the quantity of these rare earths at between 80 and 100 billion metric tons, significantly larger than the known deposits found on solid ground. The U.S. Geological Survey had previously estimated global rare earth reserves at just 100 million metric tons, found mainly in China, Russia, and the neighboring Caucuses, and the United States.
According to the Japanese team, the metals are readily obtainable simply by pumping the material up from the seafloor and using acid to extract the rare earths from the sea sludge. Despite such optimism from the Japanese, most industry analysts appear skeptical as to the feasibility and practicality of harvesting these metals at such extreme depths given the pressure and onset of corrosion that comes with operating in such environments. The demands and costs associated with working at such depths make it unlikely that these deposits will become economically viable anytime soon.
At the same time, there are mining companies that are pursuing various metals in the ocean floor. Canada’s Nautilus Minerals is exploring the viability of an underwater copper project off the coast of Papua New Guinea. Additionally, the diamond industry has been mining the seafloor off the Namibian coast for many years. The value of mining these minerals is unclear, particularly when one considers the large number of companies competing to develop and extract rare earth deposits on solid ground.
Due to the enormous costs associated with the undersea mining of rare earths, the market value of these metals must also be high in order to ensure the economic viability of such a venture. While prices for many rare earths have grown exponentially within the past 12 months, they are yet to match market prices for very rare materials such as gold.
Such ventures are therefore unlikely to materialize within the near future, particularly as new mines outside of China begin to come online within the next five to ten years. These new supplies from China are expected to stabilize prices and further dismiss the viability of costly undersea ventures.
Euan Sadden is a research analyst contributing to Pike Research’s fuel cells and smart energy practices.
Biofuel may soon be produced quickly, efficiently, and at a cost comparable to gasoline thanks to a discovery from researchers at the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center. The research team has identified several genes that improve yeast's ability to digest the natural sugar xylose. This means that it will soon be possible to efficiently produce bio-ethanol from cellulosic biomass--waste matter such as the stalks, leaves, and husks of plants, wood chips, sawdust, and dead trees--as opposed to land-intensive crops like corn. The unlikely source of the genes: fungus living symbiotically with bark beetles.
Cellulosic materials cost about half as much as corn per ton, but are historically more difficult than corn to convert to ethanol. Current strains of yeast used industrially for the purpose of converting cellulosic biomass to ethanol have difficulty fermenting the plant sugar xylose, and can do so only after all glucose is exhausted. As xylose makes up nearly half of all available plant sugars, this marks a great loss in ethanol yield.
The team chose bark beetles on account of their woody, xylose-rich habitat. By comparing the sequencing of two xylose-fermenting fungi that live alongside the beetles--Spathaspora passalidarum and Candida tenuis--the researchers was able to identify several genes that effectively increase fermentation of the sugar.
Ethanol can be used as a fuel for cars, but is usually used as a gasoline additive to increase octane and improve vehicle emissions. Production of corn-based ethanol in the United States is just over thirteen billion gallons per year. While biodiesel offers a fossil energy ratio of 5.54 to 1, there is still apprehension about its production and use. These concerns are linked to increased food prices because of the large amount of arable land required for crops as well as the energy-intensive production process (especially corn-based fuels). With available US cropland diminishing, the ability to convert woodier waste will be an important factor in keeping bio-ethanol part of the alternative fuels discussion.
As bark beetles and their related fungi are devastating forests from the northern Rockies to the Czech Republic, it's nice to know they may provide some great ecological benefit alongside the destruction.
Reprinted with permission from Earth & Industry
In countries like Australia that experience regular water shortages, many people use dual-flush toilets to help conserve water. Although North America may not yet face such a severe challenge, the Environmental Protection Agency reports that by the year 2013, an estimated 36 states will experience water shortages.
It’s important to be familiar with home improvements that can be made now to drastically reduce consumption.
Toilet flushing accounts for about 30 percent of total indoor household water consumption, and conventional toilets can use as much as 9 – 12 liters (2.5 – 3 gallons) of water on every flush. By using a WaterSense labeled toilet or dual-flush toilet would help save almost 67 percent of water. Because there are two choices when it comes to flushing, solid and liquid waste can be treated differently with the amount of water needed to clear the toilet.
If a brand new toilet isn’t the budget, you can also convert your existing latrine to a dual flush with a simple kit. Select A Flush was developed by a LEED Accredited Professional (LEED APs) to give the most optimum water savings and is cUPC certified. With the Select A Flush kit, you can retrofit your current toilet to perform like a low-flow toilet and in some cases saves more water than a high priced HET toilet. No need to buy a new toilet and send your old toilet to the dump.
The only drawback of dual flush toilets is that you have to teach kids and guests on how to use them properly. For kids it would just take a few practices and they should get the hang of it. And for guests, if it’s necessary a small laminate card posted by the toilet should be sufficient enough to do the job.
Reprinted with permission from Insteading
As part of the Green Economy series
After the first year of the Dodd-Frank reform in the USA, the too-big-to-fail financial bubble still looms. The deficit debate revealed decades of unsustainable policies, practices and money-corrupted politics. Subsidized fossilized industries still dominate in energy, healthcare, agriculture, military and on Wall Street. Massive misallocations of capital led to the financial crises of 2008-9 (see FCIC), papered over by bailing out the perpetrators. The USA was stuck with a symptomatic debt to GDP ratio of 90 percent and reckless, diversionary politicizing of the debt ceiling. The best way to cut the deficit: closing tax loopholes and putting Americans back to work, so as to restore lost tax revenues. MSNBC's Dylan Ratigan calls for restructuring US debt—and facing up to the global debt overhang.
Missed by Frank-Dodd are the obsolete fossilized asset allocation models and Rigged Carbon Markets. An explosive new report from Carbon Tracker shows how these errors in asset valuation have saddled stocks and sovereign bonds with unrealistically over-valued fossil fuel reserves. These coal, oil and gas deposits carried on company and government books as "assets" may actually prove unmarketable and worthless! This bombshell hits investors already reeling from the financial crises of 2007-2008 still requiring massive debt write-downs.
The Carbon Tracker reports:
- The top 100 coal, oil and gas companies' combined value: $7.42 trillion.
- Stock exchanges in London, Sao Paulo, Moscow, Toronto and Sydney all have an estimated 20-30 percent of their market cap connected to fossil fuels.
- The total carbon emissions potential from burning the Earth's known fossil reserves: 2,795 gigatons of CO2 (65 percent from coal, 22 percent from oil and 13 percent from gas).
- UN scientists and governments have concluded that CO2 emissions need to be capped at 565 gigatons to avoid exceeding 2 degree celsius of global warming.
So we join Carbon Tracker in asking why are financial and accounting models carrying on their books as "assets" these fossil fuel reserves, which governments have agreed can never be burned? For example, Britain, like other EU countries, imposes mandatory caps on CO2 emissions. Yet, one third of the London's FTSE 100 lists the "assets" of Shell, BP and other fossil-based companies and continues to list new company IPOs without disclosing or assessing what percentage of these "proven reserves" must remain in the ground!
James Leaton, Carbon Tracker author, estimates that if all these proven reserves were recovered and burned, this would release 745 gigatons of CO2. Yet, limiting CO2 emissions to below 2 degree celsius of temperature rise sets that maximum at 565 gigatons. Leaton and Jeremy Leggett, executive chair of Solarcentury and chair of Carbon Tracker, reveal that company prospectuses ignore these issues that are material to investors, i.e., at zero risk! Leaton adds, "This illustrates how disconnected the world's capital markets are… It shows that the short-term profit based approach of today's financial instruments do not recognize the signals of long-term regulatory action to limit climate change." Leggett concludes, "Regulators should require reporting of reserves and potential CO2 emissions by listed companies and those applying for listing. They should aggregate and publish this data."
We at Ethical Markets agree and have called for updating fossilized asset allocation and retraining of all portfolio managers beyond out-dated "Modern Portfolio Theory," "efficient markets" to the behavioral science view that markets exhibit "herd behavior" and require ESG valuations ("Changing the Game of Finance," SRI in Rockies) and triple bottom line models (Winninghoff, E. "New Tools for Investing in a Black Swan World").
Dodd-Frank is falling further behind. Congress starves regulators mandated to implement its feeble rules. Meanwhile, credit default swap positions still total a notional $600 trillion while global GDP is only $65 trillion; Europe's PIIGS teeter toward restructuring while Congress dithers. The world needs the global debt write-down I describe as the "Great Jubilee of 2014" in my forthcoming article, "Looking Back from 2020."
Good news: financiers are waking up. John Fullerton, Capital Institute, sees a stunning choice: blow through the 2 degree celsius rise in global warming or write off up to $23 trillion on global balance sheets. Meanwhile, our Green Transition Scoreboard tracks the accelerating shift beyond fossilized sectors and stranded assets totaling over $2 trillion of private investments in greening the global economy since 2007. As UNEP-FI's upcoming Roundtable in DC for institutional investors, we are at the Tipping Point!
Photo by Marc Forrest/flickr/Creative Commons
Reprinted with permission from CSRwire
Denver International Airport (DIA) and Constellation Energy (NYSE: CEG) announced the completion of a 4.4-megawatt (MW), ground-mounted solar system.
The airport now has over 8 MW of solar - the most at any US commercial airport.
Constellation Energy built, owns and maintains the solar installation, and DIA will purchase the electricity produced by the system over a 20-year period.
"With the addition of this solar facility, Denver International Airport's three solar array systems now produce approximately 6 percent of the airport's total power requirements," says Kim Day, aviation manager for DIA. "Denver International Airport now has one of the largest solar installations in North America."
The system is expected to supply approximately 7,000 megawatt-hours of electricity to DIA each year, using approximately 19,000 Yingli Solar (NYSE: YGE) photovoltaic panels.
Denver-based Oak Leaf Energy Partners originally developed the project; its third at DIA. Oak Leaf has developed 27 commercial and utility scale solar projects in Colorado, totaling over 35 MW of production.
Quanta Services (NYSE:PWR) Intermountain Electric, which installed and manages DIA's 2 MW and 1.6 MW solar facilities, installed the 4.4 MW project.
Constellation Energy owns and operates 95 MW of solar installations that have been completed or are under construction for customers throughout the US. By structuring its solar projects as power purchase agreements, Constellation Energy requires no upfront capital from its customers and is able to provide power at a fixed cost that is less than projected market rates.
Reprinted with permission from Sustainable Business
One of the most annoying areas of household cleaning may be dusting. In certain regions, like the desert, dust is an never-ending battle. While the market is full of cleansers made for wood and now even all purpose for wood and glass, sometimes the solution is much more simple. Here are a few ways to send those dust particles packing.Preliminary Strike Against Dust
Make the first move by removing as much surface as possible. Dust accumulates everywhere, on desks, tables, chairs and even the floor. It also accumulates on knickknacks, decorations and books. If there is an inch of space, dust will take up residence and multiply. The best way to decrease the chances of having dust is to take away potential areas for it to collect on. Clear out tchotchkes and unnecessary items. Not only will dusting be easier and necessitated less often, but it will do wonders to create a less cluttered space.Seal the Home
Dust creeps into homes through tiny cracks and crevices. Tiny particles can filter in through the tiniest holes, so seal them out. There’s even more reason to deal with tiny openings, like ensuring energy efficiency in your home and keeping out pests. Use silicone sealer, caulking or Great Stuff to fill in holes. Very small cracks can even be filled with school glue, although the water solubility makes this inefficient in moist areas of the home.Woo-Hoo for Water
Water is one of the first ingredients to turn to for cleaning. Water and a little elbow grease can clean up most trouble spots without adding chemicals. A damp cloth run over accumulated dust removes it for a preliminary cleaning or for daily upkeep. Make sure the cloth is only slightly damp as you don’t want to damage wood surfaces. As with any new product, you should always test on inconspicuous areas first.The Power of Lemons
There is a great natural wood cleaner calling for only three ingredients: water, lemon juice and olive oil. Mixed together and spritzed on a cloth, this will not only wipe away dust, but condition wood and disinfect the surface. Again, test a hidden area before use. An added benefit is the clean and crisp lemon scent that helps deodorize and freshen the area.Fast Dust Solution
Sometimes we have mere moments to clean before guests arrive. It is hardly at the top of cleaning ethics, but blow dust to the floor where it becomes less pronounced. Using a hair dryer, blow the dust off surfaces allowing it to fall to the floor. If time allows, spend it focusing on the floors which now hold the bulk of dust and dirt.
Do you have any tips on how to keep your home naturally dust free?
Reprinted with permission from Green Living Ideas
Tesla Motors (TSLA) appears to be on track for a launch of its much anticipated Model S electric sedan for next year. The company has begun assembling beta versions of the vehicle, a few of which will make its way into Tesla showrooms later in the year.
The success of Tesla will most likely be closely tied to the success of its Model S because they are targeting families rather than wealthy sports car enthusiasts as they did with the Roadster. Granted, the Model S won’t be within the means of many families particularly in a tough economy, so sales could certainly disappoint just as they have with the LEAF and Volt. Less than 7k of the LEAF and Volt combined have sold in the first half of the year although it’s important to keep in mind that supply constraints added to the lack of buying. 2012 will provide a much better read on the appetite for electric cars as Nissan and GM ramp up production and Tesla joins in with the Model S.
On a positive note, the appetite for the Model S appears to be strong ahead of the launch with the company closing in on 5000 reservations at $5000 a pop for a down payment. Considering that the Model S is priced nearly 50 percent higher than the LEAF and Volt at $57K, that’s an impressive number ahead of the launch. It’s quite possible that Tesla will be the “must have” Apple of electric cars while the Volt will be seen as the PC. It’s not too far fetched! Remember that Tesla hired a former Apple marketing exec (the same guy responsible for the Apple stores) to head its marketing strategy.
Photo by Steve Jurvetson/flickr/Creative Commons
Reprinted with permission from Green Stocks Central
I have developed a natural aversion to plastics over the years. They are unsightly, everlasting and a hazard to the environment and our fragile eco-system.
However, their insidious existence seems unavoidable at times. No matter how much I try to minimize our family’s dependence on it, the plastics find a way back into our home.
As much as I want to ban plastic in my home and life altogether, I find it nearly impossible with a toddler who squeals for the latest plastic toy when toy shopping and casts asides anything wooden and natural I purchase for her.
It even gets more difficult when we are grocery shopping and have forgotten the reusable bags. I will usually hand carry the items if it’s few, then go with paper bag since I can recycle that and use plastic as the last resort. The guilt over any use of plastic increases when times I favor convenience over the Environment because after all, even I am human.
Then there are times when I am visiting someone else’s home or at a group function and they bring out the plastic ware. It would seem ungrateful and uninviting to mention the environmental hazard of plastic in someone else’s home. So I use them silently with hopes that the hostess at least recycles.
Would it even be polite for me to mention that as well? I am quite the quiet environmentalist in hopes that my efforts and efforts of other greenies will surely make up for my non-confrontational style of green living.How Plastic industry fights aggressively against plastic bans
So How do we really combat this plastic conumdrum?
The obvious choice would seem that it would have to come from the policy makers and ban them outright. However, with the plastic industry peddling the plastics the way tobacco makers did in the early 90s; the plastics are here to stay. According to Grist, the only solution to the plastic conundrum is prevention-not using them at all; however plastic industry does not look favorably upon that outcome.
Some of the methods used by the plastic industry are
- Lobbying against any ban or fees imposed for use of plastic bags by retailers and local level
- Filing lawsuits against recycled bag manufacturers
- Filing lawsuits against cities and municipalities that ban plastic bags or impose a fine for using them
- Spread misinformation about use of reusable bags. For example that reusable bags contain dangerous bacteria hazardous to health
Sounds so eerily familiar to the tactics that the tobacco companies used in the 90?s. And that’s because the companies that tobacco companies hired to lobby the congress are the same ones employed by the plastic companies according to “The Plastic Bag Wars” by Kitt Doucette.
The policy makers and manufacturers of reusable bags face heavy opposition from American Chemistry Council (ACC), a conglomerate of petro-chemical companies whose interest in plastics is also merged with their livelihood. For an extensive list of companies that make up ACC, here is the link.
So how do we really get rid of plastics?
“They’re using the same underhanded tactics — and even using the same lobbying firm that Philip Morris started and bankrolled in the Nineties,” says Amy Westervelt, founding editor of Plastic Free Times, “They will stop at nothing to suppress or discredit science that clearly links chemicals in plastic to negative impacts on human, animal and environmental health.”
If there’s a beacon of light in this uphill battle, it’s that the places that have banned the use of plastic bags or limiting their use with a fee, the outcomes have generally been very favorable. In Ireland, the fifteen-cents bag fees have cut down the plastic bag use by astonishing 90 percent. Even D.C. has seen decrease use from 22 million bags to 3 million bags with a mere five-cent fee. Even China has started reducing their plastic bag consumption by 60 percent all within a year.
The movement to become plastic free have increased over time. In 2001, San Francisco became the first U.S. city to ban plastic bags and many cities are following suit. Concerned communities are enacting upon the public health and environmental hazards of plastics.
Small townships and municipalities are enacting local laws to ban plastic in their life. The fight against plastics have been mostly enacted by community leaders and local citizens worried about the environmental and health hazard of plastics which is giving way to success.The Future of Plastic Free Life
Perhaps in the near future, we will see plastics as less worthy because the products are more damaging than the convenience it provides. After all, changes can only come when the disadvantages outweigh the advantages. The prime recent example of this being tobacco. The backlash and the public perception of tobacco’s negativity has changed drastically within the last 10 years.
Although we as a society are miles away from being completely plastic-free, there are ways to reduce our dependence and consumption. Here’s a handy infographic provided by Reuse This Bag, a reusable bag company. You can read another take on plastics on sister site, “Planet Save”, ” and click on this infographic.
Reprinted with permission from Green Building Elements
SunPower Corp. (NASDAQ: SPWRA, SPWRB) and Citi (NYSE: C) announced a new $105 million fund for residential solar leasing projects.
Citi is contributing $80 million to the fund.
SunPower, which makes solar panels and builds systems, will use the fund to extend its 20-year SunPower Lease program to customers in eight states, expanding the financing options available to homeowners interested in solar power systems.
The SunPower Lease is now available in Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.
Leasing programs for residential solar systems are growing in popularity, as they avoid high up-front costs for homeowners while locking in electricity prices that are generally less expensive than grid-supplied power.
In June, Internet giant Google invested $280 million to fund solar lease programs with SolarCity.
SunPower's program offers an early buy-out option that allows homeowners to capitalize on solar home resale values.
Homeowners can also obtain SunPower systems through cash purchase or SunPower's loan program.
Citi was named "America's Greenest Bank" in 2010 by Bank Technology News and "Most Innovative Investment Bank in Climate Change and Sustainability" by the Financial Times' Banker Magazine in 2009 and 2010 for its ongoing commitment to environmental sustainability.
The bank is in the midst of a 10-year, $50 billion initiative to support the commercialization and growth of alternative energy and clean technology in markets around the world. To date, Citi says it has directed over $30 billion as part of this initiative.
Photo by SunPower
Reprinted with permission from Sustainable Business
Ener1 (HEV) is announcing a lithium ion battery cells distribution deal with the leading high performance electric motorcycle manufacturer, Lightning SuperBike. They will also eventually supply cells for Lightning’s commuter bikes and scooters which will be developed over the next few years. Lightning is expected to come out with a street legal version of its record breaking high speed bike soon.
"We’ve tested many different battery solutions over the last year, including Ener1 and several of its competitors," stated Richard Hatfield, founder of Lightning Motorcycles. "The Lightning data and test results showed us that Ener1's lithium-ion batteries far out-perform those from competing companies, which is why we’ve switched to using their cells in our electric motorcycles. Lightning Motorcycles is committed to using what we believe to be the most powerful, safest, best-of-breed batteries on the market, which is why we’re also extremely pleased to be representing Ener1 as an official distributor.”
Technically, shares of HEV remain in a long downtrend and currently trade below the buck level. Shares aren’t moving on this news and there is no reason to believe a bottom is in at this point. The stock needs a couple big up days to get back above the buck level.
Reprinted with permission from Green Stocks Central
Taxi stands and bus stops in Japan can now by lit by the sun, thanks to a partnership between Sekisui Jushi and Kyocera. The companies have introduced the Eco-Shell, which combines Sekisui Jushi’s conventional multipurpose shelter unit and Kyocera’s solar power generating system and energy efficient LED lighting.
And not only will it keep people dry (and well lighted), but the Eco-Shell comes with an outlet that allows it to be used as an emergency power source during emergencies.
Besides reducing energy consumption and CO2 emissions – and the emergency use we mentioned – the shelter has other benefits: It can be used to meet surrounding electrical needs, like lighting up advertising displays, according to the companies. They also say excess energy can be sold back to power utilities, helping Japan better cope with post-Fukushima power shortages, especially during the hot summer months.
The product launched this month and is available nationwide in Japan, but, alas, only Japan.
Reprinted with permission from Earth Techling
The U.S. housing market, like most of the economy currently, is a bit of a mess. People are looking for any way to help make it easier for them to pay for their house or purchase a new home. One thing that can help get you a better loan is applying for an Energy Efficient or Energy Improvement Mortgage.How an Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM) Works
An Energy Efficient Mortgage (EEM) is a mortgage that credits the home’s energy efficiency in the mortgage itself. An EEM allows you to finance energy-saving measures as part of a single mortgage and stretch debt-to-income qualifying ratios on loans, meaning that you can receive a larger loan than you would with a standard mortgage.
The monthly dollar amount of energy savings adds to the monthly payment that the borrower qualifies for, so the more energy-efficient the house is, the larger the loan the applicant can qualify for. An EIM is much the same, however it is used to obtain a loan in order to finance energy-efficient improvements on an existing property.How to get an EEM
In order to get an EEM, you need to have an energy rater come and rate the energy-efficiency of the home using the home energy rating system (HERS). Factors they consider include insulation, appliance efficiencies, window types, local climate, and utility rates.
The report includes an overall rating index of the house as it is, recommended cost-effective energy upgrades, estimates of costs, annual savings, useful life upgrades, improved rating index after the installation of those recommended upgrades, and an estimated annual total energy cost for the existing home both before and after upgrades.
The rating ranges from 1 to 100, with the lower number indicating greater energy efficiency. The index is based on the percentage of energy that the property uses in relation to the most recent International Energy Conservation Code benchmark.
These ratings cost between $300 and $800 dollars, which can be paid for by the buyer, seller, lender or real estate agent, and can sometimes be financed as part of the mortgage. There is a database at the Residential Energy Services Network that lists firms that offer HERS rating evaluations.
After you have received the HERS rating, you must approach a lender for an EEM. There are three different types of EEMs offered in the U.S.
- The Conventional EEM through Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
- The U.S. Federal Housing Authority EEM
- The Veteran’s Administration EEM.
The U.S Federal Housing Authority has a database that contains the banks that offer EEMs that can be searched by state, county, zip code, or other specific criteria.Why Use an EEM
The biggest reason to apply for an EEM over a standard mortgage is to help a buyer increase the amount of the loan that they qualify for. This means being able to afford to own a house that might normally be out of your price range without the EEM, thanks to the higher loan.
The energy-efficient nature of the house is also a big plus for a variety of reasons, the obvious being money saved on monthly energy bills. Besides that, however, having an energy-efficient home also increases its resale value substantially.
Most importantly, however, an energy-efficient home is more sustainable for the environment and the planet. So with an EEM you can save yourself some money and more easily afford a nicer home, all while also doing your part to help the Earth.
Reprinted with permission from Green Building Elements
Massive international companies are not usually known for being particularly conscientious, polite, employee-friendly, or “green,” but the wildly successful and hugely profitable internet giant Google certainly is. Not only does Google have amazing ratings for employee satisfaction, serve 100 percent local food in its massive cafeteria, and power its “Googleplex” with over 9,000 solar panels situated atop its four main buildings, but now Google plans to help homeowners get solar panels to power their own homes as well.
Who doesn’t want solar panels? One simple fact prevents the world from turning to “free energy,” and that is that it isn’t free. Sure sunlight is free. Yes, you will save money over the next 15 years, but not that many people can afford an upfront cost that ranges from a few thousand to the tens of thousands depending on the size and scope of the needed system.
In California, SolarCity has been leasing solar panels to consumers so that they can pay over time for their renewable energy. The homeowner doesn’t actually own the system, but pays SolarCity each month to have the panels installed on the homeowner’s property, wired to their house, and properly maintained. The need for upfront money to construct and install PVC panels has limited the project’s growth to some extent, but it has still managed to spread to a number of western states.
Now, Google has put up $280 million to fund SolarCity’s financing project. The money will allow SolarCity to expand into yet another state, which will give it operations in 11 states in the US and allow the company to make more power purchase agreements with homeowners, businesses, and schools. Not only will it increase the availability of solar power, but it will also decrease the payments these individuals and businesses make for the power they use. It’s good for everyone, except the power companies.
Google says that its investment is as much about business as it is about doing something good. Google expects to eventually see return on its cash at the same time that it wants to ensure that it is able to get its own increasing power needs met through sustainable sources. Both businesses hope to show that investments in renewable energy can pay returns at the same time that they reduce our use of non-renewable resources and our production of greenhouse gasses.
At the rate that SolarCity is expanding its contracts, the idea of an electric car somehow makes more sense. Cars that plug-in to recharge their batteries do little to reduce greenhouse emissions if that electricity has to come from a coal-burning power plant.
The catch is really almost funny to those who are counting the tons of CO2 produced each way; but if the electricity could come from solar panels on the homeowner’s roof, for less than the home’s current power bill, now that would be something. Parked behind all those garage doors of suburbia could be sunlight-powered vehicles that plug in to a SolarCity constructed set of solar panels, financed by Google’s forward-thinking investment, that the homeowner pays for with the payment of their reasonable electric bill made out to SolarCity.Dude, Where’s My Solar Energy Infrastructure?
Why did we have to wait for Google to invest in building our solar energy infrastructure? What has happened to the government’s commitment to green energy and creating jobs in the green sector?
It looks like it took the money-making minds of Silicon Valley to come up with the idea of backing this brilliant scheme. SolarCity says they don’t have to beat the price of coal, they only have to beat the price the consumer pays its utility company. The consumer will vote with their dollars even if they don’t care about being green at all. It looks like with the help of Silicon Valley and Solar City, capitalism may eventually trick the United States into going green.
Reprinted with permission from Ecolocalizer
We live in challenging times and people are seeking jobs anywhere they can. Necessity is a powerful mother of invention, and there is plenty of necessity to go around, with unemployment still stubbornly high. After sending out countless resumes more and more people are realizing that the best new job is one they make for themselves by starting their own business. And as people reevaluate the direction of their lives, they’re finding that they don’t want just any job or business; they want a business or career that means something, one that has a purpose as well as paying the bills. Becoming a Certified Eco-Consultant could be the answer they are looking for.
The ideal business to start fills an important need, a market that exists today. Greening of our homes and businesses fits this description to a T. We’re wasteful at work and at home, throwing away valuable resources that could be easily saved with a nudge in the right direction. We don’t turn out the lights, we waste paper, and we waste water. All of this waste costs us a great deal of money as well as taking an environmental toll, which means it’s an opportunity that’s ready for the right people to take it on.
If it’s such a big opportunity, then why don’t people make these changes? One reason might be that our intentions are good but our habits are bad. We are simply used to doing things a certain way, and changing these habits takes effort. People also have many wrong assumptions about going green that can hold them back, believing that going green is difficult, expensive, and doesn’t work well. And finally, they lack the tools and knowledge to get the job done.
While most of us believe that going green is the right thing to do, few of us want to make a full time job of it or spend a great deal of money at it. We need a little help. Eco-consultants can provide this help by changing habits, changing minds, and changing the information we have to make greening your business or home easy and profitable.
GoEco Certified based in Newport Beach, California, offers regular training courses on the internet to become a Certified Eco-Consultant. As an internet-based training system, their courses are available to people everywhere without the cost of travel, and according to the schedule of the student. The flex training course over four weeks allows students to review the material on their own schedule every week, while the live course allows students to log into a virtual classroom with the instructor every week to interact more directly. Students get follow up after the course is complete, and help like marketing materials to get their business started quickly.
When I took a look at the outline for the course, it was dominated by the practical steps Eco Consultants need to get a business going. Most of us have heard plenty about the problems in the world, often living them first hand. Practical solutions like this are what we all need, and what an Eco Consultant needs to take their business from an idea to a success, including specific doable steps about marketing, pricing, planning, competition, and bringing in money.
“I really had doubts about this class when I first started, and now that I have taken it I wish I would have known about this a year ago!” said Nicole in Southern California. “Great stuff they are teaching and I love how they explain everything in detail and make it so the average person (like me) can start helping businesses and homes with their green futures.”
We face great challenges both in our economy and the environment. While some still believe that you can either do the right thing for the environment or make money, more and more people are finding that you can do both, and that we need to do both. We need both a strong economy and a healthy environment to live in, and shouldn’t be asked to choose one or the other. Becoming a Certified Eco Consultant is one way for more people to take charge of their lives, moving our economy and our environment in a positive direction, and moving us all along with them.
Reprinted with permission from Ecopreneurist
Let’s add two more people to the “who wants to make a change?” list. Julia Silverman and Jessica Matthews have come up with another means to fight the battle against the lack of electricity in developing and third world countries. How, you ask? Through the use of a soccer ball.
As part of a Harvard undergraduate group project, the two students have come up with a way to harness the force of energy behind a moving soccer ball. Every time you kick, hit, or throw the ball, the kinetic energy is harnessed and stored inside the soccer-ball-shaped battery. sOccket, as the product is named, when played with for 15 minutes can collect enough energy to power an LED lamp for three hours. Simply plug an LED light into the sOccket (pun intended of course) and you’re good to go.
What an ingenious idea considering that soccer is the most popular sports game in the world, especially in developing and third world countries where other indoor luxuries and entertainment aren’t so easily afforded. So far, sOccket has been tested in Spain, Haiti, South Africa and Nigeria. Testing in these various countries has led to some significant improvements in the final product. The look of the ball has been changed and it has been refashioned to be a lot sturdier than the prototype, something that is needed since the target group for sOccket most likely won’t be able to afford replacements easily. The original was said to last for a few months but the final product, which will be showcased in August or September, can supposedly last for at least a year.
SOccket is thought to be able to power more than just an LED lamp, but as to what other products it can power… the jury is still out. So far, Matthews and Silverman have been hush hush on other types of electrical equipment that sOccket will support. Matthews and Silverman have plans bigger than the sOccket soccer ball and are in the process of creating a sOccket basketball due out by next year.
Score one for the good guys.
Reprinted with permission from Cleantechnica
One tenet of green living is eating in season, but who doesn’t love a good tomato sauce in the middle of winter? Or some strawberry jam on toast on a cold morning? Food preservation and canning offer the opportunity to enjoy the pleasure of summer fruits and vegetables well into the season. National Can It Forward Day is a great time to learn the art of canning.
I own a vast collection of canning books, follow canning blogs, and love to ogle at canning Flickr pages. It should be quite clear: I love canning. That said, let’s be honest – canning is not easy work. It’s hot, it’s messy, and it’s time consuming, but the result is rewarding. I’ve found that the bigger the task and the more people involved, the more fun a long day of canning becomes.It’s a Group Activity
As canning often involves lots of prep work, cooking, and then the actual preservation, most canning projects can easily be divided into tasks and shared with a group. My mom remembers long days spent with her mother canning and we’ve tried to re-create the same memories often inviting my sisters along as well. Planning is key. We start relatively early at the local farmer’s market, bring home our goodies, and begin the canning process. By the time dinner rolls around, we usually have cases of preserved bounty that can be stored for many months to come. A very enjoyable day overall. National Can It Forward Day is a great excuse to learn canning, or to start a new canning tradition in your house.The Details
Canning Across America (CAA) has created a National Can It Forward Day to be held Saturday August 13th, 2011. If you’re in the Seattle area, CAA is holding an event at Seattle’s Pike Place Market. There is also a list of scheduled events in major cities on CAA’s site. If you have well-honed canning skills and are willing to teach others, the site has instructions for holding your very own canning party. Finally, there will be a series of canning demonstrations streaming online.
What is your favorite thing to can or preserve? Do you have a treasured canning memory?
Reprinted with permission from Green Living Ideas