Saturday, February 28, 2015

Tim Cook: New solar farm

We did a great show with a major shareholder of Apple's who was upset, and said so loudly at a meeting, with their significant investments in clean energy.  He, and the group he represented, thought the spend was too much.

Tom Cook blasted him and said, in essence, "we will not put earnings and profits over environmental protection".   He also pointed out, and this has been our experience, the investments in renewables have brought tremendous ROI's to Apple, and he expected to continue to expand those investments.

Keep in mind, too, Apple is fixing their electricity costs with these systems.  We see the same great costs reduction and solid returns at Arpin.

Tim Cook: New solar farm will be Apple's 'biggest and boldest project ever'

Summary:"We're not focused on the numbers. We're focused on the things that produce the numbers," asserted Apple CEO Tim Cook on successes and failures under his tenure since 2011.
SAN FRANCISCO---The upcoming Apple Watch might be the most anticipated release from the iPhone maker in 2015, but there is plenty more coming for the enterprise market this year too.
Speaking at the Goldman Sachs Technology and Internet Conference at San Francisco's Palace Hotel on Tuesday, Apple CEO Tim Cook elaborated on Apple's new business software deal with IBM first announced last summer.
"Just how we changed consumers' lives, we want to change the way people work," Cook posited, admitting Apple didn't have the right foundation to start on this strategy alone.

Though historically Apple and IBM have been considered rivals, Cook insisted the "skills of the two companies are complementary."

"IBM has very deep knowledge of a number of verticals. Apple doesn't have that. IBM has enormous field resources. Apple doesn't have that," Cook acknowledged.

However, Apple has the devices enterprises want to deploy, Cook continued, but IBM doesn't.

"We'll begin to see that relationship bear fruit this year as apps begin to roll out," Cook promised.

The first wave of mobile apps from the Apple-IBM collaboration already began to trickle out in December. Built specifically for iPhone and iPad, the 10 industry-specific apps are targeted toward enterprise customers in banking, retail, insurance, financial services, and telecommunications for governments and airlines.

Bolstering its infrastructure for that project among many others, Apple announced at the beginning of February that it would be converting a failed Arizona sapphire plant into a data center.

Cook followed up on Tuesday by dropping news about what he characterized as Apple's "biggest and boldest project ever."

That would be the construction of a 1,300-acre solar farm in Monterey County, California, just a few hours south of corporate headquarters in Cupertino.

Cook touted this solar farm would be able to produce enough power for almost 60,000 California homes, or translated another way, enough energy to fuel Apple's new spaceship-like campus still under construction as well as all of its retail and data center locations in California.
Few further details are available at this time, but the seeds for Apple's solar farm are already sprouting praise.

Greenpeace analyst Gary Cook wrote in prepared remarks soon after on Tuesday arguing the tech giant still has a lot to do in shaping up its environmental footprint, but Apple's CEO has already demonstrated an understanding of the urgency demanded here.

"It's one thing to talk about being 100% renewably powered, but it's quite another thing to make good on that commitment with the incredible speed and integrity that Apple has shown in the past two years," he lauded.

Ringing up to a roughly $850 million investment, Cook told the analysts and investors in the audience that he knows "this is a financial conference, and some of you are interested if this is a good use of funds or not."

Nevertheless, Cook said Apple can expect "significant savings because we have a fixed price for renewable energy," which is quite a difference from the pricing model for "brown energy."

According to Goldman Sachs, Apple has seen its stock rise by 120 percent and annual revenue up 56 percent under Cook's tenure thus far. Since he became CEO in 2011, Apple has sold 750 million iOS devices and returned more than $100 billion to shareholders.

When asked about Apple's biggest accomplishments in 2014 alone, Cook retorted that one of the many lessons instilled by the company's co-founder and his predecessor Steve Jobs was that "putting limits on your thinking are never good."

"We're not focused on the numbers. We're focused on the things that produce the numbers," Cook asserted.

Nevertheless, Cook highlighted a number of releases that did generate plenty of buzz (and money) last year, including but not limited to iOS 8, Yosemite, the iPhone 6, and the addition of Touch ID on iPad.

"We've taken iOS and extended into your car, into your home, and into your health," explained Cook. "All of these are critical parts of your life and none of us want different platforms for different parts of our lives. That is huge for our future."

Apple Pay alone -- a project that has been in the works and expected to roll out for years before finally becoming available in 2014 -- is already accepted by more than 2,000 banks and credit unions.

Cook also boasted about Apple's continued path into China, growing its online and brick-and-mortar retail footprints in the market as well as a partnership with state-owned telco China Mobile.

Still, Apple Watch will be one of the core products to, well, watch in 2015. Cook quipped one of the biggest surprises to Apple Watch will be "the breadth of what it can do."

Friday, February 27, 2015

Electric range-extended trucks

Improving fleet efficiency is a very important part of the clean-air equation.  EPA, through their Smartway Program, has done a great job of helping commercial transportation companies improve their miles-per-gallon, and switch to alternative fuels.

We've reported on companies like e-Now ( that add solar/batteries to large trucks to take load off the alternator, and replace small diesel engines completely on other equipment.

Now we see electric range-extended trucks--with terrific ROI's--coming onto the market.  Interesting, as you will see, that the founder was a a co-founder of Tesla.  No organizations seem to understand electric transportation better than Tesla, so we have high hopes for these trucks and their acceptance by buyers.

Electric range-extended trucks can double fuel economy

When it comes to electric vehicles, we hear plenty about electric cars being launched into the consumer market but not too much about commercial vehicles. Maybe that’s because not too many people have to concern themselves with what type of delivery or garbage truck they are going to buy next. Nevertheless, such considerations matter, since the electrification of commercial fleets promises considerably larger efficiency gains than cars.

Four-year-old California company Wrightspeed, started by Tesla co-founder Ian Wright, has developed a technology that zeros in on a specific niche of the commercial fleet market, bringing both fuel savings and emissions mitigation for commercial fleet operators.

Coming from his background at Tesla, Wright remains convinced of the benefits of going electric, but he recognizes that EVs can be perceived as expensive in some markets. In starting Wrightspeed, he says the mission was to figure out, “How do you get more bang for your buck?” And the answer was to just focus on building power-trains for trucks.

Staying true to vehicle electrification, Wrightspeed’s power train combines powerful electric motors and batteries, but in order to cover the distances commercial trucks run, the power-train incorporates a gas-turbine range extender; the whole package is then retrofitted into vehicles from truck OEMs. While the company sources the gas-turbine extender and batteries from outside, the electric motors, inverters, transmission and control electronics are all of the company’s own design.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Minnesota Group Works To Help Low-Income

We've said many times that sustainability can be a wonderful builder of social and economic equity.  Over the years we've witnessed great use of renewables on low-income housing to reduce operating expenses and lower housings costs for owners and tenants.

Here's another great example of how communities are rethinking efficiency and the best way to heat and cool, or provide electricity  to their homes.

Minnesota Group Works To Help Low-Income Families Go Solar

A solar garden built by by Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL) in Rockford, Minnesota.
A solar garden built by by Rural Renewable Energy Alliance (RREAL) in Rockford, Minnesota.
The Rural Renewable Energy Alliance, a 15-year-old organization that’s made increasing access to solar power its mission, is taking that goal one step further. The group is creating a system in which families on the federal government’s energy assistance program can get their power from solar, instead of from fossil fuels.

Jason Edens, founder and director of RREAL, told ThinkProgress that the project, dubbed Community Solar for Community Action, would be the first to create a system in which low-income families could gain free access to free solar power. Right now, families who receive energy assistance through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which is federally funded but whose funds are distributed among the 50 states, don’t have a say in where that energy comes from — their utilities simply receive money for the heating and electricity bills they aren’t able to fully pay.

“Utilities are among the single biggest beneficiaries of energy assistance,” Edens said. “Frankly, energy assistance is yet another fossil fuel subsidy.”

But, Edens says, it doesn’t have to be. Under RREAL’s plan, these families would instead be able to get their energy free from a community solar garden. RREAL is planning on building a solar garden that will be owned by a community action organization — the specific one, Edens said, is yet to be decided on. That community action group will allocate shares of the garden’s power to families eligible for federal energy assistance. Then, instead of the federal energy assistance dollars going directly to utilities, those families will see the credits they get from the solar garden show up on their electricity bill.

Edens is still hammering out the details of the project — RREAL is planning on partnering with a yet-to-be finalized Minnesota utility on the project, and Edens is hoping to also gain the support of the federal energy assistance program. He’s not sure yet exactly how many families could benefit from the project — no fewer than 40, he thinks, but it will depend on the size of the community solar garden. On the funding side, RREAL got a grant from the McKnight Foundation in December to help jumpstart the project’s creation.

But though there’s still work to be done, Edens says he’s “convinced” that the Community Solar for Community Action model will eventually move beyond Minnesota to “transform the way that our nation delivers energy assistance.” The model makes sense, he said, not only because it increases the amount of clean energy used in Minnesota, but because it’s beneficial to low-income families in multiple ways.

“Low income communities are among the most profoundly affected by volatile nature of fossil fuels,” Edens said. When a family is struggling to make ends meet, he said, even a small increase in energy costs can greatly impact their ability to budget.

Ryan Burns, a Minnesota business-owner who also works for RREAL, understands that struggle. In 2007 — before he started working for RREAL — he signed up for the organization’s Solar Assistance program, which installs solar heating systems in the homes of families receiving energy assistance. The heaters help shield the families from rising costs of fuel by providing a more efficient heating system. Burns said the Solar Assistance program made it possible for him and his two children to stay in their home after he got divorced and became a single father.

Dan Bye, a Peaquot Lakes, MN resident who’s been on RREAL’s board for about a year and a half, got his solar heating system through the Solar Assistance program about five years ago. He said the heating system has made life easier: before he had it, he and his wife relied mostly on a wood-fired stove and electric heaters to heat their home, so if they left the house for a few hours, the wood would run out and the house would turn cold. Now, the solar heating system keeps the house consistently warm.

Bye also appreciates the system from an environmental standpoint, and he’s certain that other Minnesota families do too.

“We’re not the only low income family concerned about our impact on the environment, and we’re not the only low-income family that wants to see less mercury in our fish from coal plants,” he said.
Bye said he was excited to see the Community Solar for Community Action project take off in Minnesota, and eventually spread around the country.

RREAL isn’t the only local group that wants to make solar more accessible for people and organizations, regardless of their financial standing. In West Virginia, an organization called Solar Holler is helping churches and other nonprofits install solar for just $1. The installations are all community-funded: in the church’s case, local families agreed to contribute the $100 they received for installing controllers on solar water heaters towards the church’s solar panels.

GM To Power Mexico Facility With Wind Energy

This from our front page update on Renewable

We've come a long way on harnessing clean energy when we can power GM's facilities to manufacture cars.  Good to see this happening in Mexico as we thing about some of the air-quality issues in their congested hubs.

We believe this investment by GM helps future customers garner pricing benefits as they have now fixed their electricity costs in this plant.  Not only do investments in green bring great environmental benefits, but financial returns and bring value to the consumer market.

This story fits nicely with our radio shows this week that spanned the globe and looked at many different aspects of renewable energy sources--including geothermal, which surprised us--and smart grids.

General Motors (GM) will be using wind energy to help power one of its manufacturing facilities in Mexico.

GM says the 34 MW of wind power will enable the company to achieve its corporate goal of renewable energy use four years early.

The clean electricity will be supplied under a PPA (Power Purchase Agreement) with Enel Green Power; which is commencing construction of a major wind farm in Palo Alto, California in the second quarter of this year.

GM says with the addition of the wind power, 12% of  the company’s North American energy consumption will come from renewable sources – up from a current 9%. Seventy-five percent of the energy coming from the seventeen 2-MW wind turbines will power most of GM’s Toluca Complex and the remainder will be used at its Silao, San Luis Potosi and Ramos Arizpe facilities.

“Our commitment to sustainable manufacturing processes is one way we serve and improve the communities in which we work and live,” said Jim DeLuca, GM executive vice president of Global Manufacturing. “Using more renewable energy to power our plants helps us reduce costs, minimize risk and leave a smaller carbon footprint.”

Among its other renewable energy efforts, GM has 46 MW of solar capacity at 18 facilities globally. Its Zaragoza, Spain facility was the world’s largest commercial rooftop solar installation until 2012. Half of the electricity consumed at GM’s California distribution is sourced from solar power via what was the first U.S. public solar project over 1 megawatt; which began operating in 2006.

The cheapest and greenest watt being the one that doesn’t have to be produced, GM has also made solid inroads in energy efficiency.

“We reduced energy use at our global facilities 28% on a per-vehicle-produced basis from 2005 to 2010 and 10% from 2010 to 2013,” 
states the company’s web site.

Enel Green Power North America, Inc. (EGP-NA) has projects operating and under development in 21 U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. The company owns and operates over 90  hydropower, wind, geothermal and solar energy plants with an installed capacity exceeding 1.9 GW. EGP-NA has more than doubled its total North American installed capacity since 2010 and says it plans to double it again within the next 5 years.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Natural Breakdown of Petroleum

Thanks to Virginia Tech for more bad news and environmental risks to our health.

Natural Breakdown of Petroleum May Lace Arsenic into Groundwater

In a long-term field study, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and Virginia Tech scientists have found that changes in geochemistry from the natural breakdown of petroleum hydrocarbons underground can promote the chemical release (mobilization) of naturally occurring arsenic into groundwater. This geochemical change can result in potentially significant arsenic groundwater contamination.

While arsenic is naturally present in most soils and sediments at various concentrations, it is not commonly a health concern until it is mobilized by a chemical reaction and dissolves into groundwater. Elevated arsenic levels in groundwater used for drinking water is a significant public health concern since arsenic, a toxin and carcinogen, is linked to numerous forms of skin, bladder, and lung cancer.

For the past 32 years, a collaborative group of government, academic, and industry-supported scientists have studied the natural attenuation (biodegradation over time) of a 1979 petroleum spill in the shallow, glacial aquifer at the National Crude Oil Spill Fate and Natural Attenuation Research Site, near Bemidji, Minnesota.

Working at this intensively surveyed site, the researchers in this USGS-led investigation focused on a specific question: whether naturally occurring arsenic found in the glacial aquifers in this area might be mobilized in the presence of hydrocarbons because of chemical interactions involving iron hydroxides which also occur naturally. To address this question, arsenic concentrations were measured for several years in groundwater and in sediment up-gradient, within, and down-gradient from the hydrocarbon plume at Bemidji.

Carefully measured samples from the field reveal that arsenic concentrations in the hydrocarbon plume can reach 230 micrograms per liter — 23 times the current drinking water standard of 10 micrograms per liter. Arsenic concentrations fall below 10 micrograms per liter both up-gradient and down-gradient from the plume.

The scientists attributed the elevated arsenic in the hydrocarbon plume to a series of interrelated geochemical and biochemical processes that involve arsenic and iron oxides (both are commonly found in sediments across the country) and the metabolization of carbon–rich petroleum by microbes in anoxic (low oxygen) conditions. The complex chemical process is explained further at this USGS website and in the published research article.

The results from this work also suggest that the arsenic released in the plume may reattach to aquifer sediments down-gradient from the plume. This reattachment could be considered good news for limiting the extent of the arsenic contamination in the groundwater.

Continue reading at USGS.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Freight Farms: How Boston Gets Local Greens, Even When Buried In Snow

If you are in New England, you love this story and the fact you can find fresh local vegetables and fruits despite a brutal couple of months getting to the store:

Freight Farms are shipping containers modified to grow stacks of hydroponic plants and vegetables — anywhere, 365 days a year.
Freight Farms are shipping containers modified to grow stacks of hydroponic plants and vegetables — anywhere, 365 days a year.
Courtesy of Freight Farms

The United States imports more than $100 billion of food every year from farms across the globe, often in the big metal shipping containers you see on cargo ships. Now, entrepreneurs are using those shipping containers to grow local produce.

"Freight Farms" are shipping containers modified to grow stacks of hydroponic plants and vegetables. It's a new way for small-scale farmers to grow crops year-round in a computer-controlled environment, even in the middle of the city.

Freight Farms co-founders Jon Friedman and Brad McNamara started their Boston-based company in 2010. At first, they tell Here & Now's Jeremy Hobson, they were looking at growing food using urban rooftops.

Then they "realized that there was a much larger opportunity to empower more people in different spaces than just your unused roof space," McNamara tells Hobson. Friedman and McNamara say their goal was to cut down on the number of miles it takes to get greens from farm to table, so you can grow local food anywhere.

Jon Friedman (left) and Brad McNamara (right) are the co-founders of Freight Farms.Courtesy of Freight Farms

The shipping containers are insulated, and all the systems – from pumps to irrigation to LED growing lights – can be digitally controlled. The Freight Farms are also Wi-Fi hot spots, so farmers can check on things like pH levels remotely using a mobile dashboard.

"They can set alerts. They can set alarms," McNamara says, adding, "So if you're at home and it's really cold outside, your farm is covered in snow, you don't actually have to leave your house to go check on things."

Freight Farms says it has sold about 25 of the containers so far, at a cost starting at $76,000 each.

Shawn and Connie Cooney are two urban farmers putting the technology into action in Boston.

"In a city, you can grow enough produce using this technology to make a scalable business. So you can sell wholesale as well as retail and have a real business," Shawn Cooney tells Hobson.

The couple is currently growing greens including kale, cilantro, mustard greens and wild mint. Like a library of plants, the herbs and vegetables are neatly organized in towers of leafy greens. The Cooneys sell most of their produce to restaurants via wholesale distributors.

Lettuces, brassicas and herbs grow in a Freight Farms container.Courtesy of Freight Farms

"No we're at the point where we're asking what the restaurants want," Connie Cooney says. Mustard greens, with their wasabi-like finish, are a popular request.

With a 365-day growing season, the Cooneys are always in business. Their four freight containers can yield as much produce as four acres of land – in less time, they say, than it would take to grow on a traditional farm.

"If you give them the right nutrients, they taste as good, or better, as they would coming out of a dirt farm," Shawn Cooney says.

Even though watering, lighting and the addition of nutrients are all automatically controlled, "there's still a lot of farm work going on," Shawn Cooney says, adding, "You still have to come in and take care of the plants."

At this point, the Cooneys' business is breaking even. Now that they have a handle on the farming aspects, they can tailor their produce to what people want and focus on profit.

And while the Freight Farms system may seem particularly useful right now to Bostonians, with their city entombed in snow, Friedman hopes to see farmers all over the world adopt his company's growing system.

"We see a lot of potential in a lot of other countries besides the U.S. [that] don't have access to food, [that] either have a large urban sprawl or just don't have the distribution system that we have in the U.S," Friedman says.

This story comes to us via Here & Now, a show produced by NPR and member station WBUR in Boston. You can listen to an audio version of this story on WBUR's website.

Solar Panels Floating on Water

Interesting but limited application of solar.

Solar Panels Floating on Water Could Power Japan's Homes

More solar power plants are being built on water, but is this such a good idea?

by Bryan Lufkin

Picture of a similar floating solar plant     

Floating solar array take advantage of open water             
Nowadays, bodies of water aren't necessarily something to build around—they're something to build on. They sport not just landfills and man-made beaches but also, in a nascent global trend, massive solar power plants.
Clean energy companies are turning to lakes, wetlands, ponds, and canals as building grounds for sunlight-slurping photovoltaic panels. So far, floating solar structures have been announced in, among other countries, the United Kingdom, Australia, India, and Italy.
The biggest floating plant, in terms of output, will soon be placed atop the reservoir of Japan's Yamakura Dam in Chiba prefecture, just east of Tokyo. When completed in March 2016, it will cover 180,000 square meters, hold 50,000 photovoltaic solar panels, and power nearly 5,000 households. It will also offset nearly 8,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions annually. (Since the EPA estimates a typical car releases 4.7 tons of CO2 annually, that's about 1,700 cars' worth of emissions).
The Yamakura Dam project is a collaboration by Kyocera (a Kyoto-headquartered electronics manufacturer), Ciel et Terre (a French company that designs, finances, and operates photovoltaic installations), and Century Tokyo Leasing Corporation.
So, why build solar panels on water instead of just building them on land? Placing the panels on a lake or reservoir frees up surrounding land for agricultural use, conservation, or other development. With these benefits, though, come challenges. (See related story: "How Green Are Those Solar Panels, Really?")
Solar Enters New Territory
"Overall, this is a very interesting idea. If successful, it will bring a huge impact," says Yang Yang, a professor of engineering at the University of California, Los Angeles who specializes in photovoltaic solar panels. "However, I do have concerns of its safety against storms and other natural disasters, not to mention corrosion."
Unlike a solar installation on the ground or mounted on a rooftop, floating solar energy plants present relatively new difficulties. For one thing, everything needs to be waterproofed, including the panels and wiring. Plus, a giant, artificial contraption can't just be dropped into a local water supply without certain precautions, such as adherence to regulations on water quality—a relevant concern, particularly if the structure starts to weather away.
"That is one reason we chose Ciel et Terre's floating platforms, which are 100 percent recyclable and made of high-density polyethylene that can withstand ultraviolet rays and corrosion," says Ichiro Ikeda, general manager of Kyocera's solar energy marketing division.
Another obstacle? Japan's omnipresent threat of natural disasters. In addition to typhoons, the country is a global hot spot for earthquakes, landslides, and tidal waves.
Aerial view of the Yamakura Dam
The planned floating solar array for Japan would sit atop the Yamakura Dam, east of Tokyo.
Photograph courtesy of Kyocera.
To make sure the platforms could withstand the whims of Mother Nature, Ciel et Terre's research and development team brought in the big guns: a wind tunnel at Onera, the French aerospace lab. The company's patented Hydrelio system—those polyethylene "frames" that cradle the solar panels—was subjected to very high wind conditions that matched hurricane speeds. The system resisted winds of up to 118 miles per hour.
Why Japan Could Be the Perfect Spot
Given its weather, why build floating solar panels in the storm-filled, Ring of Fire-hugging Land of the Rising Sun? The reason: Many nations could benefit from floating solar power. And Japan is their poster child.
The largely mountainous archipelago of Japan suffers from a lack of usable land, meaning there's less room for anything to be built, let alone a large-scale solar plant. However, the nation is rich in reservoirs, since it has a sprawling rice industry to irrigate, so more solar energy companies in Japan are favoring liquid over land for construction sites. Suddenly, inaccessible terrain becomes accessible.
Kyocera's Ikeda says available land in Japan is especially hard to come by these days, as the number of ground-based solar plants in the country has skyrocketed in the past few years. (See related story: "Japan Solar Energy Soars, But Grid Needs to Catch Up.")
But, he added, "the country has many reservoirs for agricultural and flood-control purposes. There is great potential in carrying out solar power generation on these water surfaces."
In Japan's case, Ciel et Terre says that the region's frequent seismic fits aren't cause for concern, either. In fact, they illustrate another benefit that floating solar panels have over their terrestrial counterparts, the company says.
"Earthquakes have no impacts on the floating photovoltaic system, which has no foundation and an adequate anchoring system that ensures its stability," says Eva Pauly, international business manager at Ciel et Terre. "That's a big advantage in a country like Japan."
Solar's Potential Ecological Impact
Floating solar panel manufacturers hope their creations replace more controversial energy sources.
"Japan needs new, independent, renewable energy sources after the Fukushima disaster," says Pauly. "The country needs more independent sources of electricity after shutting down the nuclear power and relying heavily on imported liquid gas."
This up-and-coming aquatic alternative impacts organisms living in the water, though. The structure stymies sunlight penetration, slowly making the water cooler and darker. This can halt algae growth, for example, which Ciel et Terre project manager Lise Mesnager says "could be either positive or negative." If there's too much algae in the water, the shadow-casting floating panels might be beneficial; if the water harbors endangered species, they could harm them.
"It is really important for the operator to have a good idea of what kind of species can be found in the water body," Mesnager says.
Since companies must follow local environmental rules, these solar plants are usually in the center of the water, away from banks rich with flora and fauna. Plus, companies might prefer building in man-made reservoirs instead of natural ones, as the chances of harming the area's biodiversity are smaller.

Could the Future Include Salt Water?
More than three-quarters of our planet is ocean, which might present alternative energy companies a blank canvas on which to dot more buoyant energy farms. But moving floating panels to the open sea is still in the future. Kyocera's Ikeda says it would bring up a whole new realm of issues, from waves to changing water levels, which could lead to damage and disrupted operations.
Ciel et Terre is experimenting with salt water-friendly systems in Thailand, but ocean-based plants might be impractical, as offshore installations are costly, and it's more logical to produce electricity closer to where it'll be used.
For now, companies are aiming to build floating energy sources that conserve limited space, are cheaper than solar panels on terra firma, and are, above all, efficient. Ciel et Terre says that since its frames keep Kyocera's solar panels cool, the floating plant could generate up to 20 percent more energy than a typical ground system does.
The Yamakura Dam project might be the world's biggest floating solar plant, but it wasn't the first-and it almost certainly won't be the last.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Citi Announces $100 Billion, 10-Year Commitment to Finance Sustainable Growth

This is a wonderful commitment from Citi Corp to sound, balanced growth in our future economy.  It is wonderful to see a major bank fully supporting our migration to a clean-energy economy.  We hope others jump in with investments/loans as well.

For those of you building companies that will thrive in the green economy, this helps assure seed and capitol to help you grow.

NEW YORK – On Wednesday, Citi announced a landmark commitment to lend, invest and facilitate a total of $100 billion within the next 10 years to finance activities that reduce the impacts of climate change and create environmental solutions that benefit people and communities. Citi’s previous $50 billion goal was announced in 2007 and was met three years early in 2013.

With this $100 billion initiative, Citi will build on its leadership in renewable energy and energy efficiency financing to engage with clients to identify opportunities to finance greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions and resource efficiency in other sectors, such as sustainable transportation. As part of a commitment to helping cities thrive during this period of unprecedented urban transformation, Citi will seek to finance and support activities that enable communities to adapt to climate change impacts and directly finance infrastructure improvements that increase access to clean water and manage waste, while also supporting green, affordable housing for clients, including in low- and moderate-income communities.
“Citi has demonstrated its deep commitment to not only taking environmental consequences into account, but also finding innovative ways to finance projects that lead to sustainable growth,” said Michael Corbat, Chief Executive Officer of Citi. “For more than 200 years, Citi’s mission has been to enable progress by facilitating economic growth and financing transformative projects. The core mission hasn’t changed, but the way we approach it has. Incorporating the principles of sustainability into everything we do improves our own operations, enhances our clients’ work, and contributes to a better world.”

“Reducing carbon emissions and becoming more climate resilient is a key priority and major challenge for the world’s megacities and their business communities,” said James Alexander, Head of the Finance and Economic Development Initiative at C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, a network of the world’s biggest cities working to become more sustainable. “C40’s ongoing partnership with Citi is helping global cities overcome their climate finance challenges. This announcement from Citi will add further opportunities to help cities achieve their climate targets, and allow businesses to become more sustainable.”

This environmental finance initiative is part of a new five-year sustainability commitment that also focuses on environmental and social risk management and sustainability goals for Citi’s own businesses and operations.
Citi has established new environmental footprint goals for 2020, including 35 percent reduction in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, 30 percent reductions in energy and water use and 60 percent reduction in waste, all against a 2005 baseline. The initiative also includes a longer-term 2050 GHG emissions reduction goal of 80 percent, created using a climate science-based methodology. Targeting 33 percent of its real estate portfolio to be LEED certified, Citi will also seek LEED Platinum certification for its 388/390 Greenwich Street facility in New York City, which will become the company’s global headquarters once it is fully renovated.

In 2013, the company met 2015 operational performance goals for GHG emissions and waste two years early, reducing emissions by 25 percent and waste to landfill by 41 percent, all from a 2005 baseline. Citi is on track to meet its 2015 goals of reducing water usage by 20 percent, and see its global real estate portfolio 20 percent more energy efficient, and 15 percent LEED certified.

Environmental and social risk management remains a key priority and policy and standards will continually evolve in response to emerging risks and new product development. Citi was one of the founders and original signatories of the Equator Principles, which provide environmentally responsible guidelines for investing in the developing world.
“Climate change is expected to impact virtually every sector of the economy,” said Mindy Lubber, President of the sustainability nonprofit group, Ceres, which gave input and convened stakeholders to provide feedback as the commitment was developed. “The financial services industry has a big role to play in scaling up global clean energy investments, and we applaud Citi's leadership as the company continues to innovate and expand its efforts.”

Friday, February 20, 2015

Bringing Light to the Darkness

This is a nice piece.  Sustainability, as we've noted many times here and on the show, can help bring global social and economic equity.  This writer makes some valid points on those parts of the world most ravaged by severe droughts and weather changes, recognizing they contribute the least to carbon levels and air pollution.

The technology is here now to make a difference.  Let's do so.

Power to the People: Bringing Light to the Darkness in the Developing World

by Mike Freni

Thursday, February 19, 2015

One More Generation

In case you missed their interview with us on the radio back in Oct, we just posted it to our main site:


Never again will I lament the lack of interest from young people (of course, I was wrong anyway) in sustainability.  Not after meeting, on this radio show, two kids who started building their legacy at the ripe ages of 8 and 9 and a half.

Carter and Olivia Ries, with encouragement from their wonderful parents, took their love of animals, their heartfelt desire to save endangered species from extinction, and in an incredibly short period of time, built a wonderful non-profit organization, One More Generation, that  is having a powerful impact on the world and on kids in every part of the globe.

How did pre-10 year olds accomplish so much so quickly?  Where does their raging passion come from?  From their personal involvement in the Gulf clean up, working long days cleaning wildlife soaked in oil, to their mission of eradicating plastic from our oceans, these two kids, with a influential non-profit, will never cease to amaze you and they will be unforgettable characters that you will be telling your kids and grand kids about.

We are honored to bring you the extraordinary kids at One More Generation.  

New York And Other Major Cities Face More Power Outages

In addition to storm-related risk, we know in New England the experts have predicted, many times now on our radio show, will not have enough base-load electrical generation by the end of this decade and will, possibly, routinely, suffer brown outs and black outs.

New York And Other Major Cities Face More Power Outages Thanks To Climate Change


Lower Manhattan in New York City, during a power outage caused by Hurricane Sandy.
Lower Manhattan in New York City, during a power outage caused by Hurricane Sandy.
Major cities like New York and Philadelphia could see a big uptick in power outages if climate change continues unabated, a new study warns.

Climate change is likely to up the severity of future storms through a range of factors — higher precipitation, flooding, high winds, sea level rise, and the like — that pose a threat to electrical grids across the United States. So a research team at Johns Hopkins University used a series of simulations to test how a range of different global warming scenarios would affect storm behavior, and what those changes would mean for the power systems of 27 different cities. They found that cities along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts in particular will be at significantly higher risk of blackouts from hurricanes in future decades.

“Topping the list of cities most likely to see big increases in their power outage risk are New York; Philadelphia; Jacksonville, Florida; Virginia Beach, Virginia; and Hartford, Connecticut,” reported on Monday. “Cities at the bottom of the list, whose future risk of outages is unlikely to dramatically change, include Memphis, Tennessee; Dallas; Pittsburgh; Atlanta; and Buffalo, New York"

One of the benchmarks for the study was what’s called the 100-year storm scenario: how severe the impacts would for a storm of such power that the odds of it happening are only once a century. A 100-year storm is itself something cities need to plan for, since, while they may not occur often, when they do the damage is lasting. But how bad a 100-year storm can get is also an indication of storm severity for weaker storms all the way down the odds distribution: as the 100-year intensity goes up, so does the intensity of storms that occur more often.

The researchers found that for cities like New York and Philadelphia, climate change could drive up 100-year storm severity by 50 percent, leading to power outages for far more people much more often. For other cities like Miami and New Orleans, who already sit in the paths of significant storms, the increase is on the level of 30 percent. And for cities more protected by geography, like Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, the uptick would be around 20 percent.

“The range of results demonstrates the sensitivity of the U.S. power system to changes in storm behavior,” said Seth Guikema, an associate professor in the Department of Geography and Environmental Engineering at Johns Hopkins, and a member of the team who carried out the modeling. “Infrastructure providers and emergency managers need to plan for hurricanes in a long-term manner and that planning has to take climate change into account.”

Thanks to sea level rise, storm surges are going to become increasingly able to top Manhattan’s sea wall, for instance, threatening a possible repeat of the flooding that occurred with Hurricane Sandy. So the city of New York has already allocated several hundred million dollars to improve the resilience of its infrastructure in the face of storms and flooding, including levees and flood walls around Staten Island, and a revamp of the city’s public transit system.

The latest research suggests six feet of sea level rise is possible for 2100, and since carbon in the atmosphere is cumulative and its effects delayed, it’s not clear what amount of that rise can even be prevented at this point. With a six-foot rise, about half of southern Florida would be underwater. So the city of Miami is mapping out future sea level rise and identifying hazardous areas so developers know where not to build, and the city is working on several water conservation efforts.

Other cities with lower threat levels are places like Houston, Texas, which faces possible damage to its shipping port — one of the busiest in the world — and the city could ultimately suffer the world’s seventh-largest increase in average economic losses per year from sea level rise. After a big flood in 2012, Houston set about overhauling its drainage systems and its street infrastructure.

Then there’s Boston, another Atlantic coast city that faces new flooding in coming decades. It’s been holding symposiums to hash out plans for new canals, absorbent streets, floodable parks, and other infrastructural innovations. And the state of Massachusetts has allocated $50 million to protect its coastal communities against sea level rise.

“We provide insight into how power systems along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts may be affected by climate changes, including which areas should be most concerned and which ones are unlikely to see substantial change,” Guikema said of his team’s research.

“If I’m mayor of Miami, we know about hurricanes, we know about outages and our system has been adapted for it. But if I’m mayor of Philadelphia, I might say, ‘Whoa; we need to be doing more about this.”

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

SunEdison Announces 22MW LA Solar Power Development Deal - See more at:

This is not surprising at all given the excellent work and many partnerships Sun Edison has launched over the last few years, equating to mega investments and mega clean energy projects coming on line.  

Nor should we be at all surprised by the innovation and creativity coming out of LA and Southern Cal.  We captured much of that last year as we helped host and broadcast a conference from UCLA.

Keep tuned to Renewable for the stories and updates.

SunEdison, Inc. (NYSE: SUNE) has announced an agreement with a Los Angeles-based solar company to develop, build and operate 22 megawatts of distributed rooftop solar capacity.

Part of the Beacon Bundled Solar contract the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) awarded to SunEdison in July last year, SunEdison struck the deal with local company Permacity.

SunEdison will supply financing, SunEdison solar panels, procurement and engineering expertise while PermaCity will manage the construction of the projects.

“The City of Los Angeles and the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power have presented the local community with a fantastic opportunity to earn extra income by utilizing their roof space,” said Rafael Dobrzynski, SVP – General Manager Commercial & Industrial Distributed Generation at SunEdison. “The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power program supports the use of local developers and we are proud to be working with PermaCity on this project.”

In addition to generating a significant amount of electricity, the program will give property owners additional income through the leasing of their rooftops or other benefits. Owners will receive an annual lease payments, or roof repairs, their own solar power system, or energy efficiency upgrades and building control systems.

Systems will be installed using  PermaCity’s non-penetrating racking system, SolarStrap. The mounting system is in use at a recently completed 5.1 MW installation for fashion retailer Forever 21. SolarStrap was literally ” baked” into the building’s new roofing and supports 15,512 modules. That system is currently the largest single-rooftop solar panel array in Los Angeles County and the third-largest in California.

As well as this 22 megawatt project, the Beacon Bundled Solar contract requires SunEdison to develop 88 megawatts of utility-scale solar power at the Beacon site in Kern County, which will be completed next year. Combined, these projects will  generate 700 jobs and assist Los Angeles attain its goal of sourcing 25% of the city’s energy needs from clean energy by 2016 and 33% by 2020.
- See more at:

Yoga Boosts Brainpower

Sustainability starts within.  We hope everyone finds peace so we can work together on global healing as well.  

New Research Shows that Yoga Boosts Brainpower, Decreases Stress and Increases Happiness
by Megan Thompson
It turns out that the benefits of practicing yoga may reach much farther than physical fitness, weight loss and increased flexibility. In fact, new research is suggesting that those who do yoga regularly are reaping important benefits for their brains as well.

Less Stress = Greater Happiness

For many people, practicing yoga provides a welcomed chance to step away from their busy, hectic lives and gain some necessary quiet and deepened perspective.  The great news is that yoga’s ability to decrease stress and lower anxiety is actually supported by science. In a study at the University of California, Los Angeles, participants who did yoga for just 12 minutes a day for 8 weeks showed a lowered response in their immune systems’ inflammation. This physical response, which happens when the body is overstressed, is a main contributor to many stress-related chronic diseases. The world-renowned Mayo Clinic is one of the many institutions which encourage yoga as a way to battle stress.

When we can pull our minds out of a state of stress and be present, we open the doors to increased happiness. Research has shown that the simple act of living in the moment improves mood and boosts levels of reported contentment. Yoga helps participants stay present by combining physical and mental exercises which encourage reflection and inner peace during class and in the world outside.

Yoga Helps Manage Bipolar Disorder

New research published in The Journal of Psychiatric Practice suggests that regular yoga may help people manage bipolar disorder. A group of 100 was surveyed and asked to rate the influence of yoga practice on their lives and their ability to cope with the diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Participants commonly responded that yoga provided positive emotional effects and reduced anxiety, while 1 in 5 called their experience with yoga “life-changing.”

Yoga Boosts Brainpower

According to a study conducted at the University of Illinois, doing as little as 20 minutes of yoga helps increase brain function, improve focus and boost information retention. If you find yourself drinking coffee or eating sugary snacks in order to focus at work, doing a simple yoga routine every morning may be a much healthier option for your body and brain.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Snow Is Down and Heat Is Up

It is ironic we run this today as, here in New England, we are buried in snow and arctic-like temperatures.  However, the Arctic Report Card, as published by NOAA, portends potential damage to our planet, and our existence, as we inch up global temperatures.  

The good news in New England is our continued investments in efficiency and clean energy have resulted in less fossil fuel burned to heat our homes and buildings, despite record cold and snow.  We can do more with less.  What have you done so far this year to cut your carbon footprint?   There's plenty of time left in 2015 to do much more.

Snow Is Down and Heat Is Up in the Arctic, Report Says


As sea ice retreats, more sunlight reaches the upper layers of the sea, leading to more phytoplankton blooms, seen here in the Bering Sea this fall. Credit NOAA

SAN FRANCISCO — The Arctic continues to warm faster than the rest of the globe, and with greater repercussions, scientists are reporting.
The new findings appear in the Arctic Report Card, first published in 2006 by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and updated annually. The report card catalogs the wide-ranging changes caused by the rising temperatures, in large part driven by emissions of greenhouse gases.
Snow cover, measured since 1967, was below average and set a record low in April in the Eurasian region of the Arctic. Sea surface temperatures are rising, particularly in the Chukchi Sea, northwest of Alaska, where the waters are warming at a rate of almost one degree Fahrenheit per decade.
The extent of Arctic sea ice, which retreats in summer, did not hit a record low in 2014. But it was the sixth lowest since satellite measurements began in 1979, and the scientists noted that the eight smallest extents have occurred in the last eight years.
“We can’t expect records every year,” Martin Jeffries of the Office of Naval Research, who edited this year’s report, said at a news conference here at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union. “It need not be spectacular for the Arctic to continue to be changing.”
With less sea ice and more open water, sunlight entered more of the ocean, leading to a bloom of tiny marine plants. On land, the greenness of the tundra continues to increase, the report said, indicating fewer snow-covered areas.
The decline in sea ice also diminished the number of polar bears in western Hudson Bay in Canada from 1987 to 2011, but populations appeared to be stable elsewhere. Polar bears rely on sea ice to travel and hunt.
In Greenland, scientists observed that melting occurred on almost 40 percent of the ice sheet during the summer, and in August, the ice sheet reflected less of the sunlight than at any time since the beginning of satellite observations in 2000. In a separate news conference, scientists reported that NASA satellite measurements have confirmed that a darker, less reflective Arctic absorbs more heat and accelerates melting.
The mass of the Greenland ice sheet, however, remained steady from 2013 to 2014, compared with major losses two years ago. The report card also noted the unusual jet-stream wind pattern last winter, often labeled the polar vortex, that led to frigid weather across much of the United States but balmy temperatures in Alaska.

The NASA reflectivity measurements found that since 2000, the amount of absorbed solar radiation in the Arctic during the summer months rose 5 percent. No significant change was seen for the rest of the planet. The Arctic areas with the greatest increases corresponded to the areas of declining sea ice. The change is equivalent to a 10-watt light bulb shining over every square meter, or 10.76 square feet, of the Arctic Ocean. In areas of greater warming, like the Beaufort Sea north of Alaska, the increase is 50 watts per square meter.
Many scientists expect the Arctic to become ice-free in summer by the end of the century, with some predicting that it could happen much sooner.
“I think the important point about the models is not to dwell on the fact that they differ, but it is to dwell on the similarities,” Dr. Jeffries said. “They all point in the same direction.” The decline of ice will continue to affect life in the Arctic. It will also open up shipping lanes and the possibility of oil drilling. “You don’t have to go to zero for these to become a big deal,” Dr. Jeffries said.
Year-to-year variability also remains large, so much so that it is not certain that the extent of sea ice will shrink in the near future.
“If someone asked me if sea ice is going to go up or down in a decade, I’d flip a coin,” said Jennifer Kay, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Colorado. But she also had no doubts about the long-term trend toward a warmer Arctic with less ice.
“If it’s 30 or 40 years out,” she said, “I have no need to flip a coin.”