Fresno State University

Green businesses gain fame at Fresno event

Nine individuals or organizations with ties to the San Joaquin Valley are semifinalists for induction into the International Green Industry Hall of Fame during a ceremony and conference to be held May 10-11 at Fresno State University. Here's more in a press release from the university.

The VIP dinner will take place Thursday, May 10th from 5-9pm. Featuring live music by Tony Oliveira, wine pairing by Lange Twins Winery, gourmet Mediterranean dinner and dessert, special guest Alan Tratner, keynote speaker Shahram Javey, and a raffle/auction. Tickets available online through May 2nd – limited seating available, expected to sell out quickly!

The $75 Green Package ticket includes the Thursday, May 10th walking tour at CSU Fresno and the Friday, May 11th Ceremony and Conference;
o Walking tour 1-4pm, includes WET incubator, organic farm field and farm market, solar parking, and library. Tour begins and ends in front of the Satellite Student Union Center.
o Friday schedule:
 9:00AM–11:00AM: Registration/ Exhibitors open/ Continental Breakfast – Courtyard;
 11:00AM–1:00PM: Induction Ceremony  – Student Satellite Center;
 1:00PM–2:00PM: Mediterranean Style Lunch – Courtyard;
 1:00PM–3:00PM: Video Interviews with Inductees;
 2:00PM–5:00PM: Plenary Sessions – University Business Center

The Hall of Fame induction is the highlight of the conference. Eighteen semifinalists have been named, including these that have connections to the Valley. They are:

Electronic Recyclers International, a Fresno-based firm that is the nation's largest electronic waste recyclers

Glen Roberts of the U.S. Department of Commerce in Fresno and Bakersfield, who provides export business consulting in the clean energy field

GRID Alternatives, an Oakland nonprofit that installs solar panels on low-income households throughout California. The Fresno office has installed solar power systems on more than 300 homes in the Valley, all owned by low-income families

Kaiser Permanente Modesto, a health-maintenance organization that works to find environmentally friendly products, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and inform public policy to protect the health and safety of employees and members. Kaiser strives to build greener facilities, strives to purchases non-toxic materials and supports sustainable agriculture.

Real Goods Solar, which promotes adoption of renewable energy to reduce the human ecological footprint and has an office in Fresno

REC Solar, a San Luis Obispo-based company with an office in Fresno that specializes in grid-tied solar electric design and installation for commercial and residential customers

Taylor Teter, a Fresno architecture firm that incorporates sustainability into its designs

University of California Merced, where six buildings are LEED certified and students and faculty are leaders in solar-energy research

U.S. Green Building Council, which has a goal of making green buildings available to everyone within a generation.

                                            The remaining semifinalists are:

Alan Tratner, international director of FD3′s Green2Gold in Santa Barbara and president of the Inventors Workshop International and Entrepreneurs Workshop, director of the Small Business Entrepreneurship Center in California and former publisher of Lightbulb Journal and INVENT!.

Aquacue, a San Jose-based firm whose customers set a baseline, reduce waste and engage the community to reduce water bills and advance sustainability.

Climate Ride, a nonprofit based in Missoula, Mont. that organizes charitable bike rides to support sustainable solutions, bike advocacy and environmental causes

Coto Consulting, based in Orange County, provides environmental consulting services to private and public-sector clients

Ed Begley Jr.,an actor and environmental leader who is chair of the Environmental Media Association and Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy

Green Apple Horse Network, based in Marin County, helps the horse industry go green, and manages a directory of green products and services

H2 Purepower of Chandler, Ariz., which makes hydrogen generators for gasoline and diesel powered engines

Monterey Institute of International Studies, which has a student body from all over the world that is committed to environmental issues

Sunrun, a San Francisco-based company sthat offers solar leasing and power purchase agreements.

Three San Joaquin Valley colleges among nation's greenest

A college's commitment to sustainability is becoming more important to applicants, so to help them out The Princeton Review publishes an annual guide to 322 "green" schools. Here's a link to the 2012 version.

Thirty California campuses made the list, including three in the San Joaquin Valley: University of the Pacific; California State University, Stanislaus; and Fresno State, which is only three blocks from where I sit.

Academics, aesthetics, and extra-curricular activities still dominate the decision-making process, but 68 percent of students surveyed by Princeton Review in 2012 said environmental commitment was a contributing factor, according to this press release.

Here are some highlights about the three Valley schools, and some of the others:

University of the Pacific (Stockton)

1/ Sustainability is one of seven learning objectives for all students;
2/ All construction meets Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards;
3/ Home to the Natural Resources Institute, which is a forum for education and dialogue of natural resources

California State University, Stanislaus (Turlock)
1/ Green Campus Program pairs students with faculty and staff to develop energy plans and gain experience;
2/ Metal exterior of Naraghi Hall of Science is made from recycled material;
3/ Solar panels are due to be installed;
4/ New master's program in Ecology and Sustainability

Fresno State University (Fresno)
1/ Parking structure is the largest solar-covered parking structure on any U.S. college campus;
2/ New library has furniture made from recycled material;
3/ International Center for Water Technology is world renowned, and the college has slashed by a third the amount of water needed to irrigate the 380-acre campus core.

Other California campuses on the list include California State University, Monterey Bay (created a fund to pay for energy innovations on campus); Chico State University (Greeks Going Green, which promotes green programs in sororities and fraternities ); Humboldt State University (numerous green organizations); San Francisco State University (sustainability literacy course required for all students); University of California, Riverside (identified nine areas of campus sustainability)

Photo of University of The Pacific courtesy of university web site

Plan To Expand Broadband Access Gets Preliminary Approval

An ambitious proposal to expand broadband access to rural underserved regions of the San Joaquin Valley has received conditional funding approval from the California Public Utilities Commission, and could get the formal OK Dec. 1.

The grant proposal by The San Joaquin Valley Regional Broadband Consortium (SJVRBC) requested $150,000 for the first year, with the possibility of renewal for a second and third year. The Valley proposal was one of seven that received the highest scores upon review. Fifteen regional groups filed applications for funding last August.

The Valley Regional Broadband Consortium is under the umbrella of the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley, and is administered by the Office of Community and Economic Development at California State University, Fresno, with assistance from the Great Valley Center.

The Valley's program's goals include: Expand broadband access from Kern to San Joaquin counties, bridging the so-called "digital divide" in areas with limited access; develop a program that ensures high school students graduate with basic computer literacy skills; design a telehealth plan that connects clinics with medical centers; and work with neighboring consortia to develop a cohesive infrastructure.

Increased broadband access also facilitates development of the SmartGrid, which enables homeowners to monitor energy usage in real time - and adjust usage patterns accordingly. That saves homeowners money and aids in conservation efforts.

The grant comes from SB 1040, which was signed last year and expands the California Advanced Services Fund. The fund, operated by the Public Utilities Commission, allocates $125 million for the broadband program, and for a capital infrastructure revolving loan fund.

Improved broadband access is a necessity for California's global competitiveness, and is considered an essential part of the 21st Century infrastructure. Individuals without broadband connections are at a disadvantage when it comes to finding jobs, gaining skills and getting health care. An estimated 16 percent of Californians, most of them in rural areas, don't use the Internet.

The other broadband applications to go before the commission next month include a Central Coast group in Monterey, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties; an East Bay consortium in Alameda, Contra Costa and Solano counties; a group in Los Angeles County; and three in far Northern California.

The Coming Solar Energy Revolution in California and the San Joaquin Valley

It's not often that tiny Fowler hosts the governor, but that's what happened today when Jerry Brown used the Fresno County community of 5,500 people and a high school jazz band as the backdrop for signing three renewable-energy bills into law.

The legislation allows Fowler Unified School District to save $14 million in energy costs over 25 years; authorizes the California Public Utilities Commission to collect funds for renewable-energy rebates (typically, about $83 million each year); and requires the state Department of Fish and Game to accelerate its permitting process for clean-energy projects.

The Fowler school district will affix solar panels on Marshall Elementary, which will enable the district to save almost $500,000 the first year. But it won't be the only school in the state to get solar energy. The bill, SB 585, authored by Sen. Christine Kehoe D-San Diego, authorizes $200 million for the statewide California Solar Initiative, according to Brown's office.

Brown's office noted the bills were signed on the same day the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District issued its third dirty air alert of the week.

"California’s children deserve clean air and a bright future,” said Brown. “They deserve good jobs and a strong economy. The bills I signed today are part of a solar-energy revolution that is sweeping our state. These bills will help create jobs, lower electric bills and clean up the air we breathe.” Learn more here and in this Fresno Bee story.

The projects will help meet the state's objective of 20,000 megawatts from renewable sources by 2020. The California Solar Initiative, funded through utility companies, gives rebates for solar installations on commercial, industrial, nonprofit and government and other non-residential buildings, including schools.

The Department of Fish and Game bill, introduced by Michael Rubio, D-Bakersfield, could help speed up applications in the Valley and high desert region of Kern County, where, according to Fish and Game officials, thousands of acres of proposed clean-energy projects are proposed.

The Valley, with high power bills, lots of land and sun, along with a midstate location and access to transmission lines and bright minds at UC Merced, Fresno State University and Cal Poly, could be a leader in solar and other types of clean energy.

Brown's choice of words, describing a solar-energy "revolution" in California, was notable. His highly public event was on the same day that President Obama announced the winners of a $37 million "jobs and innovation" challenge that include a proposed collaboration between high-tech capital and technology in San Diego with the natural resources of Imperial County to create a "mega-region" of renewable energy.

The opportunity in California is staggering.

Fresno State University Is Showcase of Green, According to College Guide

With a world-famous water institute and the largest solar-paneled parking structure on any U.S. college campus, California State University, Fresno, is a showcase for clean and renewable energy.

As a result, it has appeared for the first time in Princeton Review's Guide to 311 green colleges in the United States and Canada. The guide does not rank the campuses, but lists them alphabetically with highlights of their green features.

Princeton Review noted the energy-efficiency features of the new Henry Madden Library, the solar parking structure and the innovation of the International Center for Water Technology, which, among other things, has helped Fresno State slash irrigated water use by one third.

"California State University, Fresno, is an impressive green campus in an impressive green state," the review states.

California State University, Stanislaus, and University of The Pacific also are featured in the guide. The publication highlights the Master's in Ecology and Sustainability at CSU Stanislaus, and the $4 million that faculty at UOP in Stockton received for environmental research since 2005.

Other college campuses profiled in the guide are Cal Poly, Pomona (methane from a landfill helps power the school); California College of The Arts in San Francisco (70% waste-diversion rate); Chico State (Sierra Club's "cool list"); California State universities Humboldt and Monterey Bay (both have revolving energy funds) and several University of California campuses, including Riverside (Center for Environmental Research & Technology and Center for Sustainability & Suburban Development.)>

My Alma mater, Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, was not featured in this year's guide, but University of Oregon (Sustainability Leadership Academy), where my daughter is an environmental studies major, was included.

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Clean Energy: The Pathway To A New Economy

Tim Sheehan's story in yesterday's Fresno Bee touches on a familiar theme here in the San Joaquin Valley: Diversifying the employment base.

The Valley is the nation's salad bowl. Its farmers produce $20 billion worth of food and fiber annually, most of which ends up on dinner tables worldwide or, in the case of cotton, is woven into shirts and other products sold in department stores.

But farm labor, which projections show could increase in demand, is not necessarily high paying. And the other projected growth industries in the Valley - retail and food service - also don't require much education and training - and pay low wages.

Thus, the need for creating new industries. The most obvious: renewable energy.

The resource-rich Valley is well positioned to be a leader in alternative energy. UC Merced recognizes that, and is conducting cutting-edge solar-energy research. Officials there see the Valley's sun resources as an attribute.

Pacific Gas & Electric and Southern California Edison recently announced or turned the switch on major solar projects. Farmers are increasingly embracing sun, methane and biofuels. The wind turbine-rich Tehachapi and Altamont passes are off our southern and northern tips respectively.

And there is something else: an increasing recognition that Valley officials are onto something. In October, the Valley was designated an Innovation Hub (iHub), which is designed to foster partnerships, economic development and job creation around specific research clusters.

UC Merced, California State University, Fresno, (which has innovative water and agriculture programs) and the Central Valley Business Incubator are key stakeholders in the iHub, which will focus on the interrelated issues of agriculture technology, water and energy.

"The iHub brings us together and gets us talking, " said Mike Dozier, interim director of the
Office of Community & Economic Development at Fresno State.

In addition, high schools and colleges are starting to expand green programs, studies are starting to reinforce the potential of green jobs here and elsewhere, and legislation is starting to include the Valley in proposed green programs.

Our non-profit, the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization, has a Web site that provides lesson plans and other resources to high school teachers, and job links to students and job seekers, and a component in a proposed bill would provide millions to facilitate green energy projects in the Valley.

With low incomes, a robust population growth rate, high power bills and asthma rates and a jobless rate that exceeds Appalachia, the Valley needs clean energy more than most places. Some people contend the Valley could generate enough power to be self-sustaining - or even a power producer.

Look at a map: The San Joaquin Valley is dead center in the state, is ringed by research universities such as UC Merced, Fresno State, Cal Poly and UC Davis, and is sandwiched between major population centers of Southern California, The Bay area and Sacramento that consume gobs of electricity.

Of course, budget issues are a factor. Deficits abound, but Dozier says those shouldn't curtail efforts. "We need to do what we can within the limitations of what we have," he said. "We need to grow intelligently."

Renewable energy could be to the San Joaquin Valley what high tech is to Silicon Valley and Hollywood is to Los Angeles.

Learn More About New CALGreen Regulations At Fresno State Event

California's building code is tighter and more environmentally friendly in 2011 thanks to mandatory requirements effective Jan. 1 under the state's new CALGreen program.

The new code includes rules for, among other things, water conservation, indoor air pollution, and construction waste, and will apply to residential and commercial properties. The Center for Sustainable Energy has more information here, state officials have a recap here, and this is a 181-page guide.

The new provisions are intended to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 3 million metric tons by 2020, and to cut energy and water use. To help prepare industry officials, Dave Walls, executive director of the California Building Standards Commission, will headline an all-day forum on CALGreen on Jan. 28 at California State University, Fresno.

The event will be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. in room 2206 in Henry Madden Library. The forum will be limited to 60 people balanced between building officials, design and construction professionals. The event is free, however firms are encouraged to donate $250 to help co-sponsor the program. Checks should be made out to "Fresno State Construction Management."

RSVP is required. Register at by Jan. 14.

E-mail for information.

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Farmers, Rural Businesses Eligible for Energy Grants

Farmers and businesses in rural communities interested in installing renewable energy systems are eligible for grants of up to $50,000 through The Rural Energy for America Program.

U.S. Department of Agriculture officials expect to approve 110 awards totaling $3 million. The filing deadline is Oct. 5.

"This grant is an excellent opportunity for rural businesses and farmers to take advantage of federal funding to reduce costs and upgrade their energy infrastructure. The California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley is very support of such measures of sustainability and growth for our rural partners," said Mike Dozier, director of the Office of Community and Economic Development at Fresno State University.

Eligible applicants are agriculture producers and rural small businesses. The farm companies have to generate at least 50% of their income from agriculture operations. The grants are to be used for feasibility studies for renewable-energy systems.

The Rural Energy for America Program is designed to help farm companies and rural small businesses reduce energy consumption and costs, and to help meet the nation's critical energy needs.

For more information, here's the link to the Federal Register.

Parking Garages, Bus Shelters, Roads As Solar Producers

I spend a lot of time on the road - my family is in the Bay area, my wife's family is in Southern California and my daughter will soon be living in Oregon - and often wonder if all those flat roofs I see couldn't be put to more productive use.

Car ports. Bus shelters. Acres of wasted space atop warehouses and distribution centers. Even the miles of roadways and sidewalks. Could they somehow be doing double duty? Perhaps generating power as they bake in the summer sun.

As it turns out, I'm not alone in my thinking. Increasingly, that's happening. We've written about solar panels on warehouses in Southern California and elsewhere. And we've noted that Fresno State University and Fresno Yosemite International Airport installed solar panels on parking structures and car ports.

Now, the city of Corona has a solar project on a bus shelter that is a mini power generator. According to, the meter will run backward on sunny days, helping offset the city's energy costs. That's a model that can be followed elsewhere; bus shelters are everywhere.

There's even talk about solar-powered roadways. Jerry Brown, who wants a do-over as California governor, has it in his green-jobs plan, and it's been touted elsewhere, including in this article by Scientific American.

Whether we ever drive on roads that help pay for themselves remains to be seen. After all, government budgets everywhere are in disarray and none of this is cheap. But wouldn't it be cool? I could drive my electric car on a solar road, generating power and helping the environment in one of the foulest air-quality regions in the nation.

The San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization is a nonprofit dedicated to improving our region's quality of life by increasing its production and use of clean energy. The SJVCEO works with cities and counties and public and private organizations to demonstrate the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy throughout the eight-county region of the San Joaquin Valley.
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