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Friday, August 22, 2014

Can green-themed TV shows gain mainstream success?

Any media attention to the cause of building a cleaner, brighter future, including themed TV, is welcome:

Tom Szaky, Guest Writer (@tom_terracycle)
Living / Culture
August 8, 2014


Pivot TV garbage is my passion

Reality television has become an integral part of Western pop culture whether or not you like it – and there are a million reasons you shouldn’t. Many of these shows highlight the glamorous lives of the outrageously wealthy, or the over-dramatized dysfunctions of the most banal D-list celebrities. For such a popular genre of television, many real-life topics pertinent to, you know, reality, are left by the wayside. Where are the shows that engage viewers about issues affecting us all, like the struggling health of our environment? For years, various television networks have tried to create successful “eco” reality programming, but none have been successful enough to make it past the first few seasons.
The Lazy Environmentalist was a 2009 program that followed my good friend, Josh Dorfman, creator of sustainable furniture store Vivavi, who traveled around the country showing people easy, cheap ways to make their lives greener. His approach was simple: relate to the everyday viewer who thinks he or she doesn’t have the time to be eco-friendly. Despite his simple approach, the show was canceled after two seasons and ended its run in 2010.
Many of you ought to be very familiar with the channel Planet Green, which featured 24-hour programming exclusively focused on ecology, green issues and the environment. Wa$ted, a reality series that began broadcasting on the channel in 2008, followed hosts Annabelle Gurwitch and Holter Graham as they toured the nation, confronting average households about their long-term impacts on the planet. The series had a similar approach to The Lazy Environmentalist, in that they would attempt to connect with the regular viewer by showing how even the smallest green changes can make a difference. Despite the opportunity that Wa$ted and the other eco-reality shows had to gain an audience, Planet Green was ultimately remade from the ground up in 2012 into Destination America.
These pitfalls suggest that the networks, channels and reality shows themselves have failed to excite viewers. What will it take to finally engage them about environmental issues in the same ways they are engaged about the inner-workings of some celebrity’s mundane life? To start, it might require selecting the right audience.
Pivot TV, a channel that specifically targets socially conscious millennials, focuses on programming that hopes to initiate discussions about urgent social and political issues applicable to all of us, including the environment. While there is obviously no absolute formula for success, a new reality TV series from TerraCycle and Pivot called “Human Resources” will hopefully be a step in the right direction. Premiering today, August 8th at 10pm ET/PT, we hope that the new series will redefine what “green reality TV” really means. The series follows the TerraCycle team as we work day-by-day to recycle and discover new solutions for the waste we are all responsible for generating. Human Resources won’t just show what goes on in the office behind closed doors; it will educate viewers on the ins-and-outs of upcycling, proper recycling techniques, and will offer various PSA’s and calls to action to engage socially conscious viewers into getting up and making a difference.
© Pivot
Plus, it’s more than just a show about recycling – it actually presents an opportunity to recycle! Viewers can go to takepart.com/humanresources and download free shipping slips to send their waste to TerraCycle, all at no cost. Or they can request standardized recycling labels from our nonprofit partner, Recycle Across America, who will also earn 2 cents for every piece of waste viewers send to TerraCycle.
Eco-reality shows have seen their fair share of losses in the reality arena, which is a shame because of how wildly popular and powerful of a platform it could be for the movement. But as the premiere for Human Resources fast approaches, we hope that it will lead to environmentally focused reality programming becoming more widely accepted by reality show audiences. Do we really need to see yet another “Housewives of Whatever” iteration, anyway?

Cigarette Butts A Commodity?

This is a strange twist on life...did you imagine a day when discarded cigarettes, killers for the people who smoke and flick them away, could  contribute to better electric storage and fuel EV's.  Amazing.

This story ran this week on our main site--http://www.renewablenow.biz/renewable-science.html.  Once you finish here, click over to our site and enjoy much more on the business side of green.  We'd love to hear from you if you are a smoker as well.

We've seen and read a lot about R & D on supercapacitors.  We know a group in Texas has made great progress in trying to bring them to the commercial market.  Stay tuned.



For those of use who have walked along a beautiful beach and enjoyed the warm water upon our feet only to have the moment utterly destroyed when we come upon a slew of cigarette butts in our path there may be some good news in possibly curbing such horrible pollution. News out of Seoul Korea just may make cigarette butts a commodity in helping build, of all things, electric cars!

SEOUL, South Korea, August 6, 2014 (ENS) – How can used cigarette butts contribute to the development of superior electric vehicles? South Korean researchers have found a way.

Five scientists from Seoul National University’s College of Engineering have converted used cigarette filters into a high-performing material for supercapacitors that could be integrated into electric vehicles to store energy.

Unlike batteries that offer limited charging/discharging rates, supercapacitors require only seconds to charge and can feed electricity back into the vehicle’s air-conditioning system, GPS, radio, and other devices as needed.

Publishing their findings August 5 in the Institute of Physics Publishing’s journal “Nanotechnology,” the scientists say they have demonstrated the material’s superior performance compared to commercially available carbon, graphene and carbon nanotubes.
cigarette butts

They hope the material derived from cigarette butts can be used to coat the electrodes of supercapacitors – electrochemical components that can store large amounts of electrical energy – while also offering a solution to the growing environmental problem caused by trillions of used cigarettes filters discarded annually.

It is estimated that as many as 5.6 trillion used-cigarettes, or 766,571 metric tons, are deposited into the environment worldwide every year.

Study co-author Professor Jongheop Yi said, “Our study has shown that used cigarette filters can be transformed into a high-performing carbon-based material using a simple one step process, which simultaneously offers a green solution to meeting the energy demands of society.”

“Numerous countries are developing strict regulations to avoid the trillions of toxic and non-biodegradable used-cigarette filters that are disposed of into the environment each year,” said Yi. “Our method is just one way of achieving this.”

Scientists around the world are currently working towards improving the characteristics of supercapacitors, such as energy density, power density and cycle stability, while reducing production costs.

As compared to the basic electrostatic capacitor used to tune radio frequencies, the supercapacitor is ideal for energy storage that undergoes frequent charge and discharge cycles at high current and short duration.

Carbon is the most popular material that supercapacitors are made of, due to its low cost, high surface area, high electrical conductivity and long-term stability.

In their study, the Seoul researchers demonstrated that the cellulose acetate fibers of which cigarette filters are made could be transformed into a carbon-based material using a simple, one-step burning technique called pyrolysis, conducted in a nitrogen-rich environment.

Used cigarette filters from Marlboro Light Gold, Bohem Cigar Mojito and The One Orange from the Korea Tobacco & Ginseng Corp. were collected.

They were pyrolyzed for two hours in an atmosphere of argon and NH3, a colorless, pungent gas composed of nitrogen and hydrogen.

The carbon-based material resulting from this burning process contained both tiny nano-pores and medium-sized nano-pores, increasing its performance as a supercapacitive material.

“A high-performing supercapacitor material should have a large surface area, which can be achieved by incorporating a large number of small pores into the material,” said Professor Yi.

The porous carbon material developed by Yi and his colleagues spontaneously contains both micropores, with pore diameters of less than two nanometers, and mesopores, with pore diameters of about 25 nanometers.

“The unique self-developed pore structure allowed a favorable pathway for electrolyte permeation and contact probability, resulting in the extended rate capability for the supercapacitor, said Yi.

“A combination of different pore sizes ensures that the material has high power densities, which is an essential property in a supercapacitor for the fast charging and discharging,” he said.

Once fabricated, the carbon-based material was attached to an electrode and tested in a three-electrode system to see how well the material could charge and discharge.

The material stored a higher amount of electrical energy than commercially available carbon, the researchers found. It also had a higher storage capacity compared to the graphene and carbon nanotubes reported in previous studies.

Monday, August 18, 2014

IKEA's Wind Farm & OFF THE GRID PLAN

We talk many times about how major (and smaller) co's will be part of the problem or solution as we look to build a green and healthy future.  This article, which we carried this week on our update--http://www.renewablenow.biz/renewable-business.html--is a great example of one co, IKEA--clearly being part of the solution.

What does it take fora co to get off the grid.  Well, unlike IKEA, it does not take investing in a wind farm.  Through great building efficiency and smart use of renewable energy, all of us (and we've done it at Arpin) can drastically drive down energy use and, yes, even get to net zero.

Interestingly, there's a group forming in RI that hopes to build the first, net-zero manufacturing facility here (think about that--getting to net zero energy use on a large manufacturing building; quite an accomplishment).  We say, bring it on and bring on many more into our transforming state.

As always we appreciate your comments and insight:



"The Windy City is about to get windier. And hopefully, less reliant on fossil fuels.  IKEA recently announced their purchase of Hoopeston Wind, a wind farm of 49 wind turbines near Hoopeston in Vermilion County, two hours south of Chicago.  The purchase is the first wind power investment IKEA has made in the USA and their largest renewable energy project ever.  And, it will put them off the power grid in the US. This is huge news.

Hoopeston Wind Farm will be operational in 2015 and is part of their larger strategy to offset the company’s energy needs by 2020. The investment coincides with their plans for growth in the US, opening two new stores in 2014 and partnering with a US-based supplier.  Apex Clean Energy, a renewable energy company based in Virginia will lead the project.  They know the business and hold a portfolio of over $10 billion in solar and wind energy.

Apex President Mark Goodwin said, “Wind energy has been the fastest growing source of new energy generation in the US, and the potential is only beginning to be tapped. This project with IKEA US is an opportunity for Apex to work with a new type of investor and partner to expand wind energy development in this country.”

Hoopeston Wind Farm is expected to generate up to 380 GWh of renewable energy each year. What does this mean in real numbers? The energy produced by the turbines is equivalent to the energy used by 70 IKEA stores.  In fact, this wind farm will produce 1.5 times the amount of energy needed by IKEA’s operations in the USA. This includes 38 of their mammoth stores, five distribution centers, two service centers and one factory.  Opening two, new stores this year will hardly put a dent in the excess. So what will they do with the surplus energy?

Offset? IKEA plans to sell the wind power on the open, energy market and recover their costs.

“We are committed to renewable energy and to running our business in a way that minimizes our carbon emissions, not only because of the environmental impact, but also because it makes good financial sense,” said Rob Olson, Chief Financial Officer of IKEA.

It makes more than ‘good’ financial sense for the company. It makes other companies who aren’t pursuing renewable energy options look like ancient, fossil fuel using dinosaurs. IKEA is moving full force off the grid. They will soon hold the number two spot for the largest solar owner and user in the US. The Hoopeston Wind Farm will completely offset their US operations and put them off the grid.

“It’s about taking care of the environment and living within our means,” Olson told the Chicago Tribune. “We invest in our own renewable energy sources so that we can control our exposure to fluctuating electricity costs and continue providing great value to our customers,” he said.

Well, Mr. Olson, keep leading the way so that the dinosaurs may be forced to follow."




Friday, August 15, 2014

Brad Pitt’s Org to Help Build Green Homes on Montana Reservation 0 Comments

Brad Pitt
BY NATALIA GALBETTI  

Brad Pitt is helping the Sioux and Assiniboine American Indian tribes of Fort Peck, Montana by building sustainable green homes for underprivileged families within their reservation.
The project is part of his charity organization Make It Right, which has already built 150 homes in New Orleans in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina; as well as many others throughout the United States.
In Fort Peck, more than 600 people are currently waiting for homes. The project aims to build 20 brand new LEED-platinum certified homes to fill that need –  focusing first on families with income levels below 60 percent of the area’s average, seniors and disabled veterans.
Architecture-for-Humanity-home-CREDIT-Make-It-Right-509x280
The homes, featuring solar power and reclaimed materials, will have three to four bedrooms and two to three bathrooms.
Sustainable-Native-Communities-Collaborative-home-design-CREDIT-Make-It-Right-501x280
To make sure that the homes were not only environmentally conscious but also respectful of the tribes’ customs and heritage, Make It Right met with tribal leaders last year for design meetings. In it, aspects like the round shape of homes, its traditional colors and placement of doors were discussed and incorporated into the architects’ plans.
“This is the first time in 130 years that anyone has asked us, ‘What do you want your home to look like?’” said Dr. Ryan, Fort Peck Tribes cultural expert and historian.
The homes will not be a gift, however. Families will participate in a low income housing tax credit’s “rent to own” program that will transfer the house to the resident’s name after 15 years of renting.
Photo Credit: Shutterstock





Thursday, August 14, 2014

Beijing BANS COAL!

This is great news.  Another chapter in the world's quest to close down coal-fired plants.

Will it make a big difference in Beijing's air quality?   Somewhat doubtful.  But, if closing down these remaining plants is part of a much larger plan to improve the environmental conditions in China, particularly around their urban centers, it is a very positive first step.



The use and sale of coal in Beijing's six main districts and other regions will be banned by the end 2020.
  
According to Xinhua News Agency, the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau will end coal's reign of choking terror in the districts of Dongcheng, Xicheng, Chaoyang, Haidian, Fengtai and Shijingshan in an effort to reduce air pollution.
  
Accounting for 25.4 percent of Beijing's energy consumption in 2012; coal's share is expected to drop rapidly - to less than 10 percent by 2017.
   
The coal industry has received a number of black eyes recently. India, a major destination for United State's coal, recently announced plans to double its tax on coal to finance renewable energy projects.
   
The price of coal is decreasing, but so too are the share values of the companies digging it up. To add to the industry's woes, some high profile investors such as 
Stanford University have announced they will divest of any current direct holdings in companies with a primary function of coal extraction.
     
The writing has been on the wall for quite some time and earlier this year, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) said major coal projects relying on new export markets such as India are a huge financial risk . 
    
While the future of coal in India and China - may be uncertain, the solar industry in both nations will continue to boom. India has set a target of deploying 20,000 MW of grid connected solar power by 2022 - more than 6 times greater then Australia's current solar capacity. 
    
According to People's Daily Online, China's central energy authority has announced a goal of installing 13 gigawatts of new PV power capacity this year.
    
The news from China saw the share value of Yingli Green Energy (NYSE: YGE); parent of the world's largest solar panel manufacturer, rise 4.4% and Daqo New Energy (NYSE: DQ) also experienced a boost.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Challenges for Wind Energy's Future

Thanks to Marco Uriati, who works with us, for a very interesting look at some of the challenges in developing wind energy.  We'll follow up with IPI for a radio show.

There's always controversy surrounding wind.  Both sides are very passionate and vocal of their support/opposition.  We've had good experts talk to us on both sides.  Clean energy experts agree, though, that most states, and most countries, cannot meet their renewable energy goals, as a percentage of the total power produced within their borders, without wind in the mix.

Also, it is also important to keep in mind:

1.  There's subsidies on fossil fuel, and have been for many years.
2.  Wind technology is getting better daily, as are most technologies.
3.  We are seeing renewable energy sources come in at very competitive rates, here in RI and many states, without government help.

As always, we appreciate your feedback and insight:

by Merrill Matthews | Publications | IPI Ideas

The quest for an economy driven by clean, abundant and affordable renewable energy remains an unfulfilled dream—though not for lack of lobbying, a supportive media and lots of government money. A highly touted source of such renewable energy is wind power—after all, wind is free, right?  Propelled by a number of beneficial policies, wind power has made some gains but still faces several probably insurmountable challenges to becoming a dependable part of America’s energy portfolio.
According to the U.S. government’s Energy Information Administration (EIA), wind provided 167 million megawatt hours (MWh) of U.S. electricity in 2013, up 19 percent from 2012.1 Even so wind accounts for only 4.1 percent of total U.S. electricity generation, and it is virtually certain it wouldn’t have achieved even that level without huge taxpayer subsidies.
And with that growth wind power is still a regional phenomenon. While wind turbines provide 27.4 percent of Iowa’s electricity, only 12 states produce 80 percent of U.S. wind energy, and large sections of the U.S., such as the Southeast, produce little or no energy from wind.
Some of wind’s other challenges include: 

It’s Expensive

The Energy and Policy Institute writes, “Wind energy is a rapidly growing and profitable business worldwide, usually at the expense of fossil fuel generation revenue and, more importantly, profits.”2 Actually, it would be more accurate to say that wind energy’s growth is at the expense of taxpayers and ratepayers.
Since 1992 the U.S. has provided a wind Production Tax Credit (PTC), a 2.3-cent per kilowatt-hour subsidy that costs taxpayers nearly $2 billion in 2013. That tax credit no longer exists for wind farms constructed after 2013, but existing ones can claim it for 10 more years.
And yet the federal government is still funding wind farm projects. The Department of Energy recently announced a $150 million loan guarantee for the construction of the Cape Wind offshore (Massachusetts) wind project, and that’s after scrambling to sign a contract with turbine-maker Siemens in the last days of 2013 in order to qualify for a $780 million PTC—after claiming it had begun construction, as the law requires, before signing the Siemens contract.
Wind energy defenders assert that fossil fuels get much larger tax breaks, and have been doing so for decades, but that claim is misleading.
(1) Most of the fossil fuel tax breaks are widely available to companies in other industries, and are not exclusive to the oil and gas industry. For example, critics often cite Section 199, which is part of the domestic production activities deduction included in the bipartisan 2004 American Job Creation Act. It provides a 9 percent tax deduction for businesses that manufacture, sell, lease or license a product, as well as related engineering and software activities. The deduction was intended to give domestic manufacturing a slight competitive advantage against foreign competition. Oil and gas companies use that tax break, but Congress only allows them a 6 percent deduction, rather than the 9 percent that other industries receive.
(2) Since wind energy, and renewables in general, generate only a small percentage of U.S. electricity, wind actually gets a disproportionately large tax subsidy. For example, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) reports that renewable energy received 45 percent of FY 2013 energy-related tax preferences, and projects promoting energy efficiency received 29 percent. Fossil fuels received only 20 percent.
Cost of Energy Related Tax Preference
Would the wind energy industry even exist without those breaks? The Union of Concerned Scientists admits: “Congress has extended the [PTC] provision five times and has allowed it to expire on five occasions. This ‘on-again/off-again’ status has resulted in a boom-bust cycle of development. In the years following [PTC] expiration, installations dropped between 76 and 93 percent, with corresponding job losses.”3 And investor Warren Buffett recently said about the PTC, “That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make [financial] sense without the tax credit.”
Taxpayers aren’t the only ones subsidizing wind—so do ratepayers. Wind energy lobbyists have managed to convince 29 states to require utilities to include a specific percentage or amount of renewable energy—creating, in essence, a government-mandated market for wind.
EIA data show that nine of the 11 states where wind accounts for more than 7 percent of electricity generation—CO, ID, IA, KS, MN, ND, OR, SD, WY—saw significantly higher energy price increases, between 14 percent (CO) and 33 percent (ID, WY).

It’s Harmful

Environmentalists contend that fossil fuels are harmful to the environment; well, so are huge wind turbines. And one of their primary problems is they kill birds, especially raptors like hawks and eagles. The U.S. Forest and Wildlife Service estimates that half a million birds are killed a year due to wind turbines. 
Because some of those birds are federally protected, the Obama administration recently finalized a rule thatgrants wind farms a 30-year permit. As long as they are trying to avoid killing protected birds like the bald eagle, federal officials won’t prosecute them.
There is also a human toll. Wind turbines can make a noise, sometimes within the audible spectrum, sometimes not. But they are alleged to negatively affect the health and quality of life of people living in close proximity, creating what is being called “wind turbine syndrome” (WTS).

It’s Unreliable

Wind power is unreliable, or “non-dispatchable,” which means it may not be available during peak usage. Thus, generating plants must have a ready back up of “dispatchable” fuel sources—such as coal or natural gas—that can be called on anytime to meet rising demand. That redundancy adds to the cost of wind energy.
As economist Charles R. Frank, Jr., writes in his study, “The Net Benefits of Low and No-Carbon Electricity Technologies”: “Wind plants can operate at a capacity factor of 30 percent or more and cost about twice as much per MW to build as a gas combined cycle plant. Taking account of the lack of wind reliability, it takes an investment of approximately $10 million in wind plants to produce the same amount of electricity with the same reliability as a $1 million investment in combined cycle plants.”4

It’s Losing Favor

When pollsters ask the public whether expanding renewable energy is a good idea, they respond in the affirmative. Everyone wants a clean environment.
However, when asked to rank priorities facing the country, somewhere between 3 percent and 8 percent think the “environment”—the broader and more generic term that often includes support for renewable energy—is a top issue. In addition, public concern over related issues such as climate change has been declining.

Conclusion

Though making dramatic advances over the past two decades, wind energy is still a marginal player in electricity generation. But even that marginal success has come at a huge taxpayer and ratepayer cost. The public’s willingness to continue to pour billions of dollars into wind energy, through higher taxes or rates, appears to be coming to a close.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Can green-themed TV shows gain mainstream success?

Given that we do radio and TV, we found this article very interesting.

Tom Szaky, Guest Writer (@tom_terracycle)
Living / Culture
August 8, 2014


Pivot TV garbage is my passion

Reality television has become an integral part of Western pop culture whether or not you like it – and there are a million reasons you shouldn’t. Many of these shows highlight the glamorous lives of the outrageously wealthy, or the over-dramatized dysfunctions of the most banal D-list celebrities. For such a popular genre of television, many real-life topics pertinent to, you know, reality, are left by the wayside. Where are the shows that engage viewers about issues affecting us all, like the struggling health of our environment? For years, various television networks have tried to create successful “eco” reality programming, but none have been successful enough to make it past the first few seasons.
The Lazy Environmentalist was a 2009 program that followed my good friend, Josh Dorfman, creator of sustainable furniture store Vivavi, who traveled around the country showing people easy, cheap ways to make their lives greener. His approach was simple: relate to the everyday viewer who thinks he or she doesn’t have the time to be eco-friendly. Despite his simple approach, the show was canceled after two seasons and ended its run in 2010.
Many of you ought to be very familiar with the channel Planet Green, which featured 24-hour programming exclusively focused on ecology, green issues and the environment. Wa$ted, a reality series that began broadcasting on the channel in 2008, followed hosts Annabelle Gurwitch and Holter Graham as they toured the nation, confronting average households about their long-term impacts on the planet. The series had a similar approach to The Lazy Environmentalist, in that they would attempt to connect with the regular viewer by showing how even the smallest green changes can make a difference. Despite the opportunity that Wa$ted and the other eco-reality shows had to gain an audience, Planet Green was ultimately remade from the ground up in 2012 into Destination America.
These pitfalls suggest that the networks, channels and reality shows themselves have failed to excite viewers. What will it take to finally engage them about environmental issues in the same ways they are engaged about the inner-workings of some celebrity’s mundane life? To start, it might require selecting the right audience.
Pivot TV, a channel that specifically targets socially conscious millennials, focuses on programming that hopes to initiate discussions about urgent social and political issues applicable to all of us, including the environment. While there is obviously no absolute formula for success, a new reality TV series from TerraCycle and Pivot called “Human Resources” will hopefully be a step in the right direction. Premiering today, August 8th at 10pm ET/PT, we hope that the new series will redefine what “green reality TV” really means. The series follows the TerraCycle team as we work day-by-day to recycle and discover new solutions for the waste we are all responsible for generating. Human Resources won’t just show what goes on in the office behind closed doors; it will educate viewers on the ins-and-outs of upcycling, proper recycling techniques, and will offer various PSA’s and calls to action to engage socially conscious viewers into getting up and making a difference.