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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Green Town Labs/For Today's Show

IF you don't know this world-leading incubator, then you must tune in today to the Renewable Now network (you can listen right off of this blog) as we interview two of their key team members and a very successful company that came through their system.

Today, we believe, is a great time to be an entrepreneur and founder.  Thanks to accelerators like Green Town, and ready investors, companies are being born and hitting the market at an historic rate.  So many of these start ups bring new expertise to business sustainability, and bring the world a whole new array of products that speed their mandate to go green.

Here's some information on this incredibly successful group.  Great timing to be talking to them this month as the announce an 11 million-dollar expansion.  That is a whole lot of new co's coming down the pike out of Boston, one of the world's great cities.

Greentown Labs, a Somerville-based clean tech incubator that has seen tremendous growth since it was founded in May 2011, announced Thursday an $11 million expansion project in Somerville.

Imagine a community of bold, passionate entrepreneurs creating game-changing energy technologies that transform the way we live, work, and play.

Welcome to Greentown Lab

Our Challenge

We face a growing global population and the resources required to meet expanding demand is today's most pressing challenge. New ways of producing and consuming energy are necessary to address this problem while minimizing further damage to our environment. We believe entrepreneurs are capable of innovating and inventing solutions to address this challenge with access to the right tools, resources, network and support. The relentless human energy of a few scientists, engineers, and business people can make a big difference. Why do we believe all of this? Because we see it every day.

We enable entrepreneurs to solve big energy problems. Our mission is to enable a vibrant community of entrepreneurs to work on their visions and to provide access to the space, resources, and funding that allows their early-stage companies to thrive. In our new location, in Somerville, MA, just 3.5 miles from downtown Boston, we offer 33,000 sq. ft. of prototyping lab and co-located office space, a shared machine shop and electronics shop, immersion in a growing community of energy and clean technology entrepreneurs, and on-site events and programs designed to enable start-ups to rapidly grow their networks and their companies.


Arsenal awarded prestigious Gold Award for their incredible green initiatives at Emirates Stadium

One of our specials on the TV side next year will be around sports and sustainability.  Last year we talked to the sustainability director at the NFL, and followed up this year with reports on Formula E, sports writers covering green changes in sports and many other segments that looked closely at this segment of our society getting in the lead on transformation.

Here's a shinning example of a team and stadium making the right changes.  Of course we have no doubt owners enjoyed great returns on these improvements.  The proverbial win-win-win and, in sports, everyone loves to win.

Arsenal pick up their first silverware of the season as Mayor hands over prestigious Gold Award

Arsenal have picked up their piece of silverware of the season as the Mayor of London awarded the club with the ‘Gold Award’ in appreciation of their green credentials in the Business Energy Challenge 2015.

The Gunners moved home from the historic Highbury stadium to the very modern, very high-tech and very green Emirates stadium in 2006 and their hard work in recycling and efforts to save energy has been rewarded by beating 10 other businesses to the award.
It is believed that the club have recycled around 10 tonnes of cardboard and plastic every month, while every matchday sees around 1.5 tonnes of glass salvaged
On top of their recycling efforts, the Emirates stadium have been commended for switching floodlights form the original halogen lights to the far more efficient LED lighting – a move that has cut energy consumption by 30 per cent.

The Gunners received the gold award for having the best ‘energy intensity ratings’ and it’s a victory that has delighted Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London:
‘In a few weeks I will be travelling to the UN climate conference in Paris and I am very proud that I will go with such great stories to tell about what our businesses are doing to play their part.’

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Geothermal energy/Overview

We get a lot of questions on the efficiency and operations of major geothermal plants.  On the radio side we had a great discussion with one of the major grids in New Mexico using this source of power.

This is a great piece that concludes, as you will see, that geothermal works from all aspects, including generating power at a competitive rate.  Great news.

Geothermal energy

Geothermal energy should play much bigger role in supplying global energy demand in years to come. Geothermal energy is non-carbon based energy source that is environmentally friendly, and doesn't release harmful greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Almost all energy experts agree that geothermal energy is very abundant renewable energy resource that has more than enough potential to satisfy energy needs of large part in the world.

Geothermal power plants info

Geothermal power plants use geothermal energy of our planet to generate power, and most geothermal energy is found along major plate boundaries where earthquakes and volcanoes are concentrated.

There are three basic types of geothermal power plants: 1.dry steam plants that use steam piped directly from a geothermal reservoir to turn the generator turbines. 2.flash steam plants that operate by taking high-pressure hot water from deep inside the Earth and convert it to steam to drive the generator turbines. 3.binary cycle power plants that operate by transferring the heat from geothermal hot water to another liquid, and afterward this second liquid is turned into the steam that drives turbines.

The first geothermal power plant was built in Landarello, Italy in 1904. This plant became commercial in 1911.

In 2007, all world's geothermal power plants supplied only 0.3% of global electricity demand.
Geothermal power plants are predominantly built on the edges of tectonic plates but with the recent improvements in drilling and extraction techniques they should be able to cover much larger geographical range.

Geothermal power plants require high investments but once built have very low maintenance and operational costs.

The largest group of geothermal power plants in the world is located at The Geysers, a geothermal field in California, United States.

Currently operating geothermal power plants emit an average of 122 kg of CO2 per megawatt-hour of electricity, which is very small amount compared to the emissions of coal power plants.

The construction of geothermal power plants can have negative environmental impact, it can affect the stability of the land, and even trigger earthquakes which of course can have negative effect on nearby ecosystems.

Unlike other power plants geothermal power plants require minimal land, and not a lot of water. Geothermal plants use 3.5 square kilometres per gigawatt of electrical production compared to 32 square kilometres for coal power plants. Also, geothermal power plants use only around 20 litres of freshwater per MWh compared to more than 1000 litres per MWh for coal power plants.

Geothermal energy costs info
With the recent development in technology geothermal energy is becoming more cost-competitive with fossil fuels. Geothermal energy uses heat stored within the Earth to generate electricity, and therefore requires no fuel, meaning that is not affected with fluctuations in fuel prices.

According to the data from the U.S. Department of energy a geothermal power plant built today would probably require about $0.05 per kWh. Operational and maintenance costs of geothermal power plants ($0.01 - $0.03 per kWh) are even lower than of coal power plants ($0.02 - $0.03 per kWh).

Geothermal energy has high startup costs, with average geothermal power plant costing around $2500 per installed kW, which is almost twice as much compared to average natural gas power plant. However, geothermal plants do not need to worry about fuel costs, and over a typical 30-year plant life the fuel costs for a natural gas plant is likely to represent twice their initial capital cost so long-term speaking geothermal power plants can be a very reasonable investment, especially if there are some tax incentives involved.

There are dozens of factors that influence the final cost of certain geothermal power plant. The most important factors are: * Costs of equipment and labor force * Terrain * Size of the plant * Power plant technology * Knowledge of the resource * Temperature of the resource * Chemistry of the geothermal water * Resource depth and permeability * Environmental policies * Tax incentives.

Geothermal power plants are characterized by high investments (exploration, drilling, and installation) but once geothermal power plant is built operational and maintenance costs are fairly low ($0.02 - $0.03 per kWh).

Recent studies have calculated that the geothermal power plant construction (with drilling costs included) will cost about 2-5 million € per MW of electrical capacity, with the levelized energy cost of 0.04-0.10 € per kW·h.

Enhanced geothermal systems have capital costs above $4 million per MW and levelized costs above $0.054 per kWh, according to the 2007 data.

The geothermal heat pump system for average home should cost around $7,500 without the drilling. The cost of drilling is usually the biggest factor affecting the final price as the cost of drilling can vary from $10,000 to $30,000, or even more, mostly depending on the terrain.

Is geothermal energy economically viable?
Cost-competitiveness is one of the factors that will play very important role in determining the future of each renewable energy source, and geothermal energy is no exception. Currently in terms of production cost, geothermal energy is very respectable energy source with 6.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, which is very similar to production costs of wind energy. Coal and nuclear power are still economically most acceptable energy sources with their 4-5 cent/kWh generation costs but if we look at natural gas production costs at 7 cents and petroleum around 10 cents, geothermal energy certainly looks to be economically viable alternative energy source.

Relatively low production costs are not the only reason why geothermal energy is economically viable renewable energy source. The fact that geothermal energy doesn't depend on weather is probably her main economic advantage since this gives geothermal energy excellent base load electricity. Solar energy and wind energy do not have this advantage since sun doesn’t shine every day, nor does the wind blow all the time. Geothermal energy doesn't have this problems, heat from Earth's core is available all the time, meaning that with geothermal energy it is fairly easy to predict the amount of generated electricity. This may not seem that big deal to some of you but companies that signed long-term projects definitely want to have a certain data, without have to worry about factors like underproduction or "wasted" production which is often the case with solar and wind energy.

Now, lets talk little about capital costs. Geothermal capital costs are relatively low. This is because geothermal energy projects usually require less land compares to wind or solar energy projects. Compared to nuclear and even coal power plants geothermal power plants also have one big advantage in form of fewer permits because they are less harmful to environment than nuclear and coal power plants. And since there are no emissions like this is the case with fossil fuels there is also no need to capture or sequester carbon emissions, a requirement that can add 40-60% to capital cost of fossil fuel projects.

Another big factor that makes geothermal energy economically viable is also very high load factor.
Load factor is the difference between how much the generator is designed to produce and how much it actually produces. The smaller the difference, the higher the load factor. The load factor of conventional power stations is on average around 50%, wind farms have the load factor around 30-40%, while geothermal energy has load factor close to 90% due to the fact that geothermal energy is impervious to weather conditions.

As you can see geothermal energy is not only energy source recommended from the environmental point of view but also from economic point of view, since it can easily compete with most fossil fuels, and provide reliable source of energy to many parts of the world.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Singapore:: Concrete jungle or greenest city on Earth?

There are so many valuable lessons in building a better future from around the world.  We bring you one shinning example of this today:  Singapore, clearly one of our urban models of change.

This article gives a great overview of the tangible steps they've taken to achieve such lofty standards.  Given their dense cluster of people and buildings, it is amazing they've cleaned their environment to gold levels.

Note their use of 3 major techniques of sustainability:  returning green corridors, renewables and use of new technology and devising future sustainability objectives.  Great work..  

Singapore: Concrete jungle or greenest city on Earth?

And yet, the city-state of Singapore is the greenest city in Asia, according to the Green City Index, and arguably has few competitors in the rest of the world.
As Singapore's population and economy grew, so did its green cover: it was about 36% in the 1980s and it now stands at 47%, according to the Center for Liveable cities.
And while the word "green" can take on a variety of connotations, Singapore appears to encompass them all -- lush environments, renewable energy and future sustainability.
"We take steps to ensure our self-sufficiency," says Yvonne Soh, General Manager of the Singapore Green Buildings Council. "In Singapore we have a lot of initiatives to promote sustainability."

That's crucial, as the city-state lacks any form of natural resource. Half of the nation's water supplies are imported from neighbouring Malaysia, with the rest sourced from desalinization plants, efficient catchment of rainwater and recycling of sewage.
Fuel is also imported to meet energy needs, making alternative energy a national priority.
But greenery in the literal sense is also prioritized.
"If you build a new development, you have to replace the same greenery you replaced," says Yoh.
Singapore is only country to incorporate green building requirements into its legislation, according to Soh.
"Environmental protection was not assumed to be at odds with economic development," says Khoo Teng Chye, Executive director of the Centre for Liveable Cities. "The government saw that it was an integral part of city planning," he says.
Green ratings
 One initiative in place to ensure a more sustainable 'green' status throughout the country is the Building and Construction Authority's Green Mark Scheme -- a rating system introduced in 2005 to evaluate all buildings based on their environmental impact and performance.

"This makes sure buildings are green through-and-through," says Yoh. Today, there are more than 1,180 green mark buildings.
The mark is awarded at four levels -- Certified, Gold, GoldPLUS, and Platinum.
"All buildings within the marina bay district are green-mark platinum," says Yoh. But this is now extending beyond the marina, with developers throughout Singapore now chasing after the highly regarded platinum status -- including UK architecture firm Foster and Partners, whose recent green complex on Beach road in downtown Singapore opened in-part this year with the rest due to open in 2016.
The importance of shelter
The Beach road project by Foster and Partners spans an entire city block and incorporates the Singaporean tradition of skyscrapers through its two towers containing residential and office space.
But the complex is setting new trends through a large undulating canopy that embodies a simple, yet innovative, concept -- shelter.
"The need was shelter and protection," says Jonathan Parr, a partner in the firm who led the project. In a hot, tropical climate like Singapore the need to cool and protect people from direct sunlight and shelter them from the rain ranks high on the list of priorities.
"The rain is torrential," says Parr.
Through a series of arcs, the canopy is designed to scoop wind at its entrance and draw wind through the space as a means of natural ventilation.
Combined with solar panels for power, solar tubes for hot water, harvesting of rainwater and certain floor levels lined fully with green plants, the complex is green in every sense of the world.
"Singaporeans love nature and green spaces," says Yoh. This is reflected through the recent opening of a 15 mile stretch of hidden parkland containing an unused railway in 2014, known as the Green Corridor -- resembling New York's highline, which was a people-led movement to conserve the land.
Renewable energy sources and rainwater harvesting have also become standard on all buildings in Singapore, including the man-made supertrees in the gardens by the bay and the lotus-shaped ArtScience museum nearby.

A happy future
"People are happiest when they're most connected to nature," says Chris Trott, Head of Sustainability at Foster and Partners, who believes setting schemes and legislation in this way can create awareness in the mind of both developers and the public.
"They're all aimed at a reduction in the use of energy and therefore reduction in carbon dioxide deposited into the atmosphere," says Trott.
Singapore pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 16% below business as usual levels in 2020, under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.
With such demand -- and competition -- for sustainability, when it comes to this target there may be no competition at all.

House votes to lift 40-year-old ban on US crude oil exports

So, the US could get back into the exporting of crude oil again.  Interesting paradox as we cut our own appetite for oil, and respond by wetting someone else's appetite. 

We understand the economic realities around using assets to make money.  Yet the US shows complete disregard for their global commitment to other countries to reduce emissions when they ship dirty fossil fuel for others to burn.  Did we not agree that our latest technology allows us to shift away from traditional fuels to clean, renewable sources? Obviously not if they see crude as a stable of the US future income.

We expect better than this.  This is the old way of doing things.  Keep the ban, cut costs, get efficient and get commuted in Washington, and around the world, to a new, sustainable industrial revolution.

House votes to lift 40-year-old ban on US crude oil exports                             

Sept. 15, 2015: A pump jack operates at a well site leased by Devon Energy Production Company near Guthrie, Oklahoma. (Reuters)
The House overwhelmingly approved a bill Friday that would lift the 40-year-old ban on exporting U.S. crude oil, a restriction that critics say hurts job creation and U.S. national security.

The House approved the bill on a bipartisan 261-159 vote. However, the White House has threatened to veto the bill should it make its way to the president’s desk, calling it unnecessary and arguing that the decision rests with the commerce secretary.

The bill heads next to the Senate. While it easily passed the House Friday, the 261-vote tally falls short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a presidential veto.

The export ban was signed into law by President Gerald Ford in 1975 in response to the oil embargo by Arab OPEC nations against the U.S. for its support of Israel in the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. But repeal supporters say the policy is now outdated -- and failing to repeal it would cost jobs.

"In my view, America's energy boom has the potential to reset the economic foundation of our economy and improve our standing around the world," Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio said in a statement.

"Let’s use the peaceful tools of energy development while creating jobs in America [to] replace the weapons of war in Europe and the Middle East. Let’s use our influence for good by selling this American made product – produced by American workers. Let’s do it in a bipartisan fashion today,” Rep. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said Friday.
Cramer, one of the original co-sponsors on the legislation, had told Thursday that Republicans hoped to get a significant bipartisan vote in the House in order to put pressure on the White House and challenge the veto threat.

Meanwhile, opponents say the bill would only benefit oil companies.

"This bill is an unconscionable giveaway to Big Oil at the expense of American consumers," said Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla.

Selling U.S. oil to foreign markets would result in higher gas prices at the pump and ultimately benefit China and other economic rivals, Castor said.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., said the bill is not needed as long as the U.S. continues to import millions of barrels of oil every day.

"Every barrel exported by this bill will have to be replaced by a barrel of imported oil," she said.
However, supporters of repeal  have said that, should the ban be lifted, U.S. allies might be less likely to rely on Russia and possibly even Iran for their oil needs, which would have important national security benefits for the U.S.

“It is unfortunate that the White House fails to understand the national security and geopolitical benefits of lifting the ban on oil exports,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska., said in a statement Thursday.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Costa Rica survived 255 days with almost 100 percent clean energy

What a great story and achievement.  As reported many times, Costa Rica is racing to a very bright, clean future.  Cutting imported oils and producing energy locally is, for us all, the next great revolution.  It is nirvana in the world of profitable transformation.

We applaud their great work and diligence.  We'd love to see the financial gains broken down in a country in which you push to the edge of a world powered 100% by renewables.

Note they are using a great mix of power sources and, yes, some weather related.  Is their some risk?  Yes.  Is their great rewards.  Yes, yes, yes.

Thanks to Alexander Steele at Arpin Group for a great, inspirational post.  Send us yours.

A wind turbine farm. Photo: AP Photo/Matt Young

Data from the National Center for Energy Control (CENCE) showed that Costa Rica survived an accumulated 255 days using clean energy only.
The Costa Rican Electricity Institute (ICE) reported that 98.82 percent of the electricity generated for domestic use came from renewable sources such as wind, geothermal, solar, biomass, and hydroelectric plants. Only 1.18 percent of generated electricity came from fossil fuels, used as a backup in the events of unfavorable weather conditions.
“The decline in oil imports has positively impacted electricity prices, as well as the expansion strategy and exchanges with the regional electricity market,” said ICE CEO Carlos Manuel Obregon. Luis Pacheco, ICE manager, added that their projections show the trend continuing in 2016.
ICE announced in March that the country’s initial target is to survive on 97.1 percent of clean energy.
Costa Rica has long been a leader in using renewable sources for electricity, prior to world leaders focusing on  other sources of energy as a result of climate change. Earlier this year, ICE announced that the country  ran on 100 percent clean electricity for the first 75 days of the year. This was considered a huge feat by the international community, but more importantly, it was good news for consumers as electricity prices were cut by 7 to 15 percent.
The feat can be attributed to rainfall that Costa Rica received in the first part of the year, as the country mostly relies on the hydropower generation.
Costa Rica is committed to be carbon-neutral come 2021.

A Snail That Has a Jump on Climate Change

This week we've been covering a lot of marine science and what changes we may see as our waters get warmer.  Will they all disrupt aquatic life?  Perhaps not, as you will see below.

A Snail That Has a Jump on Climate Change

by James Gorman

A coral reef can be a scary place. There are predators like the marbled cone snail, with its deadly darts. They can make other snails jumpy. Literally.
The humpback conch is one of them. It also known as a jumping snail. And one of the things that make it jump is the smell of a nearby predator. That sensitivity is very useful for researchers who are studying how the snail responds to warmer temperatures and more acidic seawater.
That’s important, according to Sjannie Lefevre, who studies snail physiology at the University of Oslo, because such conditions are predicted as a result of climate change. Scientists expect damage to reefs, but not much is known about how snails and their relatives may respond.

Dr. Lefevre and a colleague at Oslo and two other researchers at James Cook University in Australia used water tainted with cone snail odor to provoke the small conchs to leap (a few inches at most).
The researchers tested their oxygen consumption to see if increased warmth or acidity interfered with their physiology.
They did not. Neither warmer temperatures nor higher acidity stopped the snails from ramping up their use of oxygen to make the leaps.
This is good for the jumping snails, but this test focused on only one aspect of snail life and physiology. Earlier experiments showed that acidity could cause some snails not to respond to cone snail odor the way they did in less acid water.
These snails were jumpers, however, and researchers put them — one at a time — in a small chamber called a respirometer to test not their willingness to jump, but the physiology of energy use during jumping.
Oxygen presence in the water was measured, which showed how much the snails were taking up. Just a bit of water from an aquarium with a cone snail in it was needed to make a jumping snail hop for its life.
Measurements showed that the jumping metabolism was fine, and not affected by the changes in environment. The researchers published their findings in the October issue of The Journal of Experimental Biology.