clean energy

Statewide LG EE Best Practices: Weekly Update



News



Credit:  City of Imperial


Credit: Getty


Credit: Yale 360


Credit: Getty


Credit: Grid Alternatives

Read more news



Resources & Opportunities

Resources:

Opportunities:

Find more resources and opportunities



Job Announcements



Upcoming events

Conferences/Workshops:

Webinars:

Find more events

Copyright © 2018 Statewide Local Government Energy Efficiency Best Practices Coordinator, All rights reserved.
The wEEkly update for Local Governments and their partners.

Our mailing address is:
Local Government Energy Efficiency Best Practices Coordinator
980 9th St., Suite 1700
Sacramento, CA 95814

Statewide LG EE Best Practices: Weekly Update


Exciting Announcements



9th Annual Statewide Energy Efficiency Forum

The Annual Statewide Energy Efficiency Forum will be offered at no-cost for local government staff and officials, and will provides over 300 participants with the opportunity to connect with state leaders, learn about new strategies and best practices, and network with peers from across the state.




POWER WITH PURPOSE: Community Choice Energy Best Practices Symposium
June 4-5 in Sacramento!
The Business of Local Energy Symposium will be the premier convening of innovative leaders and experts to discuss, debate, and consider how we can most effectively contribute to Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) adoption. This is the place for local government policy makers, program leaders, and community advocates to inspire others and be inspired.

On June 5th, CCA experts and leaders will come together for a day-long event. On June 4th, there will be a pre-symposium workshop in the afternoon on distributed energy resource projects that build local resiliency, provide unique customer services and contribute to local economic development. More information about the Pre-Symposium workshop and the Symposium is available here: https://climateprotection.org/business-local-energy-symposium-2018/



News



Credit: Noel Brinkerhoff, Eagle


Credit: Agnetwest


Credit: Save Porter Ranch


Credit: Flicker


Credit: Air Resources Board


Resources and Opportunities 

Find more resources and opportunities



Job Announcements



Upcoming events

Conferences/Workshops:

Webinars:

Find more events



Copyright © 2018 Statewide Local Government Energy Efficiency Best Practices Coordinator, All rights reserved.
The wEEkly update for Local Governments and their partners.

Our mailing address is:
Local Government Energy Efficiency Best Practices Coordinator
980 9th St., Suite 1700
Sacramento, CA 95814

Clean Energy Cars Coming Your Way

With the new year upon us California, who is the State leading the way on clean air initiatives, is releasing new rebates and incentives for clean energy cars. These types of cars can range from hydrogen fuel cell's, hybrid's and plug-in electric cars. With the sticker price of a clean car on average being higher than a gas guzzler having some financial help can help you make a difference in your communities air quality as well as help your pocket book. 
Below we have included some helpful links to incentives and rebates that are currently available or that will become available in 2016. We hope to see more clean cars on the road in 2016! 
Clean Vehicle Rebate Project
The Clean Vehicle Rebate Project (CVRP) promotes clean vehicle adoption by offering rebates of up to $5,000 for the purchase or lease of new, eligible zero-emission vehicles, including electric, plug-in hybrid electric and fuel cell vehicles. As long as funds are available, eligible California residents can follow a simple process to apply for a CVRP rebate after purchasing or leasing an eligible vehicle.
Drive Clean
DriveClean.ca.gov is a web site of the California Air Resources Board developed as a resource for car buyers to find clean and efficient vehicles. The web site is designed to educate Californians that pollution levels range greatly between vehicles, and there are a variety of clean vehicle options available today that offer the same style, performance and luxury features as traditional gasoline vehicles. DriveClean.ca.gov provides information and resources to learn about clean advanced vehicle technologies and fuels, and offers a variety of useful search and comparison tools to help car buyers find the cleanest vehicle that suits their lifestyle.

Would You Stream Your Energy Data Like A Netflix Movie?

As we embark on the the second month of 2015 we have already seen how our government feels about a clean energy future in the United States. The Obama administration is pushing for an 80 percent greenhouse gas emission reduction by the year 2025.[i] But, wait to get those reductions don’t "we the people"need to make a change too? Homeowners as well as business owners are not large government entities that have endless amounts of disposal income. So, where does one start to becoming “green”?   Well let us here at SJVCEO help to point you in the right direction, since we have a bit of experience with energy benchmarking and upgrades.

When SJVCEO takes on a project with one of our local governments we always start with gathering energy usage data. To some this task may seem daunting, but trust us this step can be pretty easy when you have the right tools. The obvious choice would be to get your utility data downloaded monthly from your utility website. But, for those of us that like to know the up to the minute data there are a few new options on the market this year.

The first option for those types is wattvision. This product has you set up a sensor on your meter outside and connect that to the gateway that transmits the data. Your energy usage is then stored in the “cloud” of wattvision. Then you are able to login and access your up to the minute energy data, which comes in intervals of 15 seconds. This device will also alert you when you have an energy spike; that’s only if you tell the app to do so.  Wattvision also has a fun competitive nature about it. The product will allow you to share and compare with other users. Who knows you may even show up on their “Top Energy Savers Leaderboard.”

The second option would be the PowerCost. This tool has s sensor that is installed on your meter and will information wirelessly to a hand held monitor, pictures to the left. This tool allows you to see your kilowatt usage as well as cost per hour. PowerCost as is developed to work with 3rd party apps. One app that the company recommendeds is PloWatt.

Now we come to the third and final option Bidgely HomeBeat Energy Monitor. This device takes energy usage collection to a whole new level. This device doesn’t need to have anything connected to your meter, since it uses a specific program that allows it to wirelessly communicate.  This energy monitor collects data every 5 to 10 seconds and can be called somewhat of a “detective”. [ii]  This gadget can be put to detective mode, which will then allow you to see how much energy is being used by household items. One other fun item that Bidgely has to offer is the customer support tool. This tool helps to show utility customers why their utility bills are as high as they are. It makes it easier on everyone involved when it comes to billing disputes.

When all is said and done energy saving is in the hands of those that use the energy. If we are aiming to hit the 80 percent reduction we all need to make a change. Take the first step in making that change by monitoring your energy usage today!





[i] “The Obama-Biden Plan”, Feb., 9, 2015, http://change.gov/agenda/energy_and_environment_agenda/

[ii] “Bidgely’s New Real-Time Energy Disaggregation Tools”, Feb., 9, 2015,  http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/biddgelys-new-real-time-energy-disaggregation-tools




Guest Blogger: Can solar calm the coming storm?

Tom Cotter is a renewable energy evangelist, social entrepreneur, activist, trained presenter for the Climate Reality Project, and ordained minister. Professionally, Tom is Regional Sales Manager at Real Goods Solar. He is Chairman and President of the International Green Industry Hall of Fame and serves on the boards of both the Solar Living Institute and Restore Hetch Hetchy. You can learn more about Tom on his website, SolarTomCotter

This article was originally published on November 9 on the Examiner.com.

A screen-grab of the Hurricane Sandy Wind Map infographic taken at 10:26 AM 30 Oct 2012. The surface wind data in this beautiful wind map from Hint.fm (Fernanda Viegas and Martin Wattenberg) comes from the National Digital Forecast Database. 







Going solar is part of solving the climate disruption we are experiencing. 
Though climate change failed to emerge as a topic during the 2012 presidential debates, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg did raise it in the final days before the election and in the wake of Hurrican Sandy's devastation, citing President Barack Obama's leadership on the issue as his reason for endorsing the president for a second term. 
“Our climate is changing,” Bloomberg wrote for Bloomberg View. “And while the increase in extreme weather we have experienced in New York City and around the world may or may not be the result of it, the risk that it might be - given this week’s devastation - should compel all elected leaders to take immediate action.”
If the issue is indeed now on the table, the next question is what can we do to slow or reverse the effects of climate change?
Clean energy is a key part of the equation. Clean energy creates electricity by tapping into natural cycles and systems, turning the ever-present energy around us into usable forms while producing little or no pollution, including avoiding greenhouse gas emissions.
Out of the variety of clean energy sources, solar power, geothermal, ocean currents, wind, hydroelectric and biomass, solar is an obvious strong option, especially in California, where we typically have lots of sun.
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, solar energy from the sun is a vast and inexhaustible resource around the globe. Just 20 days of sunshine contains more energy than the world’s entire supply of coal, oil, and natural gas.
In Fresno County, California, which suffers, even in good times, from more enduring high unemployment than the rest of the state and nation, solar is an even brighter spot.
Data from the California Solar Initiative (CSI) shows that solar growth over the past several years has primarily come from lower and middle income zip codes. With an average median zip code income of $43,000, Fresno County saw a 122 percent increase in CSI applications from 2007 to 2011.
In looking at what is going on across the country with solar jobs, the solar industry in the U.S. increased its workforce by 6.8 percent from August 2010 to August 2011, according Solar Energy Industry of America. That is a growth of nearly ten times faster than the overall economy.
More good news for Californians is the passing of Proposition 39, which is estimated to create 20,000 to 30,000 jobs for disadvantaged youth, veterans and others in clean energy projects and building efficiency retrofits. In closing a tax loophole that gave out-of-state corporations an unfair advantage over those based in-state, this change will increase annual state revenues by roughly $1 billion, with half - capped at $550 million - going to a new state Clean Energy Job Creation Fund for the first five years and the remainder going into the state’s general fund, according to the Yes on Prop 39 website. It accomplishes this without raising taxes on Californians.
Those are the kind of positive economic force the Valley can use. Jobs, lower energy costs and efficient buildings that are cheaper to operate are not only a win for residents, but also for our environment.
Scientists tell us that by continually dumping 90 million tons of pollution into the atmosphere every single day, we are altering the environment in which all storms develop. As the oceans and atmosphere continue to warm, storms are becoming more energetic and powerful. We are beginning to see the effects on humans from this atmospheric experiment.
The impacts of climate change can be daunting, even frightening. But we are not helpless. It is wise and prudent to increase our use of available and affordable clean forms of energy. These choices will reduce global warming pollution and help turn things around both now and for the future.
As this planet is the only home we have for now, we have an obligation to ourselves and to future generations to be responsible stewards.
If you like this article, please Share it, Tweet it, Subscribe (above) or LikeSolarTomCotter on Facebook.
The views expressed by our guest bloggers are those of the author(s) and not necessarily representative of or an endorsement by the Organization

Who? How? When? Is Solar ever going to be really affordable?


Recently I checked out how much it would cost me to put solar on my house. To my surprise, it was much more than I wanted to spend, especially since I’m not convinced that I really want to stay there for more than five more years. The economics of it just didn't add up. I had question like: Who would pay for the remaining balance if I decided to sell the house before the solar units were paid for?  Would the house actually meet an appraisal value that would include the cost of solar in the sales price? 

Unfortunately, the financing options for me weren't exactly attractive and leasing didn't appeal to me either.  Lucky for me and you, the Department of Energy (DOE) has just launched a new competition that could solve my problem.


The DOE has developed the SunShot Initiative, a collaborative national initiative to make solar energy cost competitive with other forms of energy by the end of the decade.  The first step in this aggressive endeavor focuses on removing municipal barriers such as permitting and structural engineering cost (which SJVCEO is a named partner with Optony, Inc.under The Solar Roadmap). 
Now, the DOE is going one step further by launching the SunShot prize competition, a very unique competition. This competition is working to install solar energy systems at a fraction of today’s price. The SunShot Initiative is reducing the installed cost of solar energy systems by about 75% and will drive widespread, large-scale adoption of this renewable energy technology while restoring U.S. leadership in the global clean energy race.



-Dee

Photo Credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/cocreatr/5387532886/

Space-based clean energy could alter the future

Harry Harrison at his best.
Clean and cheap energy has been percolating in innovators' minds for centuries.

Far longer ago, alchemists and wizards sought the source of ultimate power somewhat differently, calling it magic.

The economic consequences of cheap clean energy would be tremendous. Imagine energizing rural Africa or infusing India's poorest neighborhoods with uninterrupted inexpensive power. All that brain power just waiting for an opportunity to connect with a money-making idea could make substantial changes in technological development, not to mention economic might.

So far, however, that pursuit remains unrealized. Recall cold fusion? How about the mythic magnetic power generator, a device that purports to produce "free" electricity.

Alas, it's a crock. So far, anyway.

Pursuing clean energy

That doesn't stop the pursuit of some nearly free energy source. Or the daydreaming. Or the bona fide research bringing existing clean energy technologies more in line with the cost of conventional carbon-creating fuels.

Writers regularly take on the challenge, imagining star travel as the likely result of conquering energy. Isaac Asimov's universes were fueled by atomic power. Even Albert Einstein and Otto Stern envisioned a hidden source of power in all things. They called it Nullpunktsenergie, which was later translated to zero-point energy. Imaging that is one thing. Tapping it is another.


With this in mind, I decided to do some research. For mean that meant looking up the sci-fi masters. Of course, clean energy wasn't the only thing on my mind. Reading offers equal-opportunity inspiration.

Back to the barn

Used book stores exude a musty eclectic chic. Often they're stuffed with type-packed cast-offs just waiting for somebody to give them another look.

At the recently expanded and somewhat aptly named Book Barn in my town of Clovis, Calif. I tagged along as my high school English teaching wife, Peggy, scoured the shelves for teen lit. Werewolves, vampires, angst and drama. The usual stuff.

Meanwhile, I hit the science fiction shelves. I dug around in the recesses of my memory for authors I once read and scanned the carefully sorted titles. Good lord, Gardener F. Fox had a couple of books. He wrote in the style of the incomparable Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan the Barbarian. Fox's publisher didn't have anything on the author in the series of skinny little paperbacks available, so it's not surprising he's totally out of print today.

I nabbed one, even though it read like something I had consumed before. Many times before.

Charlton Heston's legacy

On the next shelf over, I found several by Harry Harrison, who startled my generation in 1966 with the story, "Make Room, Make Room," which explores the consequences of unchecked population growth. Most recall the somewhat altered movie version, "Soylent Green," starring Charlton Heston in the leading role of detective Thorn and Edward G. Robinson as his roommate Sol. It was to be Robinson's final film.

Harrison has penned a number of novels in various sci-fi sub genres, and many contained themes of social commentary. Although not so much with the "Stainless Steel Rat," a space criminal anti-hero who had a bit of a soft side. I believed I had consumed nearly all of his books but found a couple in the Book Barn that proved me wrong. "Invasion Earth" tells the story of an invasion by aliens by means of a high-stakes con job, and "Skyfall" outlines the struggles of a U.S.-Soviet (the Reds still had stamina in this 1978 novel) project to ship a deep space solar collector into the heavens to provide clean, cheap energy to the the globe.

In "Skyfall," the project isn't easy. In fact, disaster lurks at just about every turn. Not surprising. Actually, the story is somewhat timeless, other than the Soviet connection. Swap CCCP characters for Russians and it could spark interest a decade from now when climate change is a freakish reality, sending residents of island nations and low-lying countries like Bangladesh into their neighbors' garages and outbuildings.

"Skyfall" isn't Harrison's best. It drags. Its characters have all the zip of a lead brick. The pilot is an idiot chauvinist. The U.S. president is a jerk, not as "crooked as Tricky Dicky, but he's craftier." The Russian female pilot is underdeveloped and somewhat two-dimensional. The narrative doesn't zing like most of the author's work.

Space-based solar

But the Prometheus Project sounds great. The idea is to deploy huge unfurling solar collectors where they could collect solar energy without nighttime interruption and beam it via microwave to points on earth. The cost is immense and the project massively controversial. The book's antagonist is a Newsweek reporter who wants to write about nothing but potential doom.

Coretta Samuel, one of the crew, tells him at one point, "Just the physical reality that, at the present rate of consumption, we're going to burn up all the Earth's oil in a couple more years. So we've got to do something drastic about it."

Doing something. Sounds great to me. Back when this book was published, I was thinking about earning gas money for my mini truck and enjoying the spoils of refined fuel while spinning broadies in the East High parking lot in Anchorage.

Current political discourse has all but ignored climate change. That's an issue for our children, apparently. They will have to make the tough decisions because there will be no alternative. Most likely they will curse the previous generation for short-sightedness.

I know I would.

Solar solutions

There is an alternative. Investment in a number of solar projects will reveal over time that there is money to be made in clean energy. There's certainly economic development in clean energy. Spending on facilities that continue to generate money in the form of electricity offer a steady payoff as well as the initial injection of construction jobs.

Just as a wider road or bridge facilitates travel and movement of goods and services, clean energy facilities generate energy without the constant effort of the extraction of natural resources. Drilling will recover only what history has left. Mining for coal will get increasingly expensive as the easy-to-extract sources play out, while oil recovery is already tapping the tremendous technological talents of engineers.

Federal dollars should continue to be funneled into clean energy research. You never know what some grad student will pull out of a beaker after long nights and neuron-firing inspiration.

The National Space Society promotes the concept Harrison wrote about in "Skyfall." Maybe it's not far-fetched. It's definitely massively expensive and would require almost worldwide coordination of resources.

Space Office study

An October 2007 study by the National Security Space Office says the U.S. Department of Energy and NASA have spent about $80 million over the past three decades study space-based solar. In contrast, it says the U.S. government has spent about $21 billion studying nuclear fusion.

The study concluded that space-based solar "does present a strategic opportunity that could significantly advance U.S. and partner security, capability and freedom of action and merits significant further attention on the part of both the U.S. Government and the private sector."

The study also says while significant technical challenges remain, the concept "is more technically executable than ever before and current technological vectors promise to further improve its viability."

Intriguing.

Sounds a little like I read this somewhere. Oh yeah, in just about every book I consume. Hugh Howey is my latest favorite author. His "Bern Saga" series takes energy sources, space travel and future economic and cultural conflict and turns everything inside out. His concepts stretch my imagination, certainly.

Possibly, Howey and others writing quietly in their home offices will change the direction of mankind. For the better.

Leaving clean energy solutions to Alien Boy Lem

Petra "Alien Boy" Dorn with monkey in Fairhaven, Wash.
After repeated viewings of the animated movie "Planet 51," my 3 1/2-year-old granddaughter decided her name was no longer Petra.

She assumed the persona of the lead character in the movie. Turns out not only is he male but alien and green. Didn't daunt the girl formerly known as Petra. For two months this summer, she was Lem. And despite questions and interrogations by parents, family and friends, she defended her identity and stayed in character like DeNiro.

"This alien boy Lem lives with Petra's mom," she'd say.

To the Paradise

To my question of what happened to Petra, she would respond, "Petra's gone to the Paradise." Never wavering.

Intense and I guess somewhat unsettling. But we went along with it. I let her mom do whatever she wanted when she was a kid. Mostly. But Petra's mom never became somebody else. My little sister did become a kitten for about a year when she was about the same age. Irritated my grandmother to no end. Julie wouldn't talk, just meow.

Petra/Lem is now another character. Looks the same. Cute as can be.

Kids adapt. Their interpretation of their surroundings is fluid. Anything is possible. In fact, they can accomplish just about anything they put their minds to. Adults have figured out how to operate within the confines of established rules. The parameters of our culture, codes and conditioning have been beaten into our heads.

We need innovation

Not that there's anything wrong with that. American individualism and the freedom to pursue dreams in the United States has driven many to break barriers and achieve success and scientific discovery.

But as a nation and a world, we need innovation. We're close to fouling our planet with climate changing carbon. This was OK for the start of the industrial revolution, but we have the potential to figure out a better method of extracting energy. Fuel prices spike repeatedly. The latest boost in vehicle fuel costs in California had to do with the early August 2012 fire at the Chevron refinery in the Bay Area.


It hurt. Dairy farms are filing for bankruptcy in increasing numbers in Fresno County California, citing feed prices. Feed prices rise when fuel prices increase. Business in general is in the same boat. Cut energy prices and enhance the bottom line.

President Obama is pursuing an all-of-the-above strategy for energy development. It's a decent agenda and one that should make sense on both sides of the domestic political spectrum. Energy policy is linked to national security. We need more autonomy, not greater reliance on Saudi oil.

Tackle clean energy issues

Solar and other alternative energy sources remain limited in their potential. We need a way to either come up with a new form of constant and cheap clean energy or overcome those limitations. That means taking new approaches.

Like something Alien Boy Lem would do. Antimatter perhaps?

Taking inspiration from Mars

NASA landing engineer Adam Steltzner and his crew at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory took a unique approach with the landing of the Mars rover Curiosity. They used a sky crane concept to lower the research vehicle to the surface of the Red Planet. Upon landing, the crane portion of the lander blitzed off and crash landed, leaving the rover intact.

Mars rover Curiosity.
National Public Radio's Joe Palca did a story on Steltzner describing how he went from a rock and roller to one of the top engineers at the space agency. What he said inspired me. "The thing that engineering and physics gave me was, there's a right answer, and I could get to it," he tells Palca.

He comes at problems from different directions. When they work, he and his team exploit them.

Curiosity likely will uncover amazing things. It won't solve the energy crisis, but it could provide insight or inspiration to somebody who can. A little spark of an idea, a hint of possibility.

You never know.

Greenland as canary

We need all the help we can get. Changes are afoot. Greenland's melting glaciers are shedding more water than ever, breaking a seasonal record and more water than 2010, according to a piece by Jeanna Bryner in Livescience.com.

Bryner quotes researcher Marco Tedesco, assistant professor of Earth and atmospheric sciences at The City College of New York, as saying, "This year's overall melting will fall way above the old records. That's a Goliath year — the greatest melt since satellite recording began in 1979."

I just tossed the Greenland piece to show that change is happening faster than I thought possible. Growing up in Fairbanks, Alaska always made me wish for warmth. But the ramifications are deadly. Pick any coast, raise the water table and problems could be costly.

Meet the Robinsons

I'd rather have troubles like Andy Griffith did on a weekly basis in Mayberry. But that's not likely.

Meanwhile, Petra's taken on a new identity. Lewis from "Meet the Robinsons," another animated feature. He's a "brilliant inventor who meets mysterious stranger named Wilbur Robinson," according to imdb.com.

Hmm... I wonder if Petra has the right idea. By the time she's an adult, the problems we've either failed to address or partially solved will be more pronounced. Her generation will need to deal with them good or bad.

Channel that inner Bruce Lee to clean energy

Bruce Lee was more than a movie star to those of us who watched all his movies many, many times in the early 1970s and beyond.

He was THE movie star. The guy we all wanted to be. Somebody who didn't necessarily want to get involved (note the opening scenes in "Fist of Fury") but ended up spinning a couple of nunchucks ("Return of the Dragon") in a back alley with a grin on his face and kicking some serious, um, tail.

Enter Sir Richard

I thought of Lee while watching a video-taped interview of Richard Branson, the Virgin Group billionaire and knight of the United Kingdom, at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro. Likewise, here's a guy who has his own island, is one of the world's richest men and wants to make the world a better place by enhancing sustainability and renewable energy.


Talking to Joel Makower, executive editor of GreenBiz Group Inc., Branson says every business and individual can make a difference. "Every single decision they make can put the environment first," he says, adding "don't do it in a way that will bankrupt you."

Branson's got that combination of instinct, moxie and ability to make things happen in the business world, much like Lee could do on the silver screen.

Unlike Lee, he doesn't do any leaping kicks (see a particularly neck-breaking fight scene in "Enter the Dragon"). But he does know how to make a point.

Asked for his opinion of Rio + 20, Branson says he's heard "lots and lots" of initiatives and ideas from attendees but "sadly, I think our leaders are letting us down."

Time is not on our side

Others appear to be thinking similarly. Gerard Aziakou of French news service AFP says thousands of protesters marched in support of saving Brazilian rain forest. Rio + 20, he writes, drew representatives from 191 United Nations members, "including 86 presidents and heads of government."

U.N. Chief Ban Ki-moon addressed the gathering, saying, Aziakou reports, "The world is watching to see if words will translate into action as we know they must ... It's time for all of us to think globally and long term, beginning here now in Rio, for time is not on our side."

Gauging the results of past summits, this one will likely turn out little in effective policy. But looking deeper into what Branson says may be the key. Cleaning up the world is an individual endeavor. No superhero is going to drop from the sky and clean up our mess. Everybody's got to play a role.


And here, Lee's philosophy may provide some insight. He called his style of martial arts Jeet Kung Do, which he said "is just a name, a boat used to get one across, and once across it is to be discarded and not to be carried on one's back."

In other words, do what you have to and get on with it.

Battlefield Earth

The battle to improve the planet won't be easy, and every day the situation grows more dire. That means those who can should lead by example wherever possible.

Again, here's a little advice from Lee ("Enter the Dragon"): "A good fight should be like a small play, but played seriously. A good martial artist does not become tense, but ready. Not thinking, yet not dreaming. Ready for whatever may come. When the opponent expands, I contract. When he contracts, I expand. And when there is an opportunity, I do not hit. It hits all by itself."

And remember, Bruce Lee is the only guy to have whupped Chuck Norris. And that's something.

Rio Earth Summit: Welcome to the 'insidious conspiracy'

Twenty years ago, Pres. George H.W. Bush told those gathered at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro that he brought an action plan to combat climate change.

"It stresses energy efficiency, cleaner air, reforestation, new technology," he said.

The 41st president also started his speech with a Chinese proverb: "If a man cheats the Earth, the Earth will cheat man." He then followed with, "The idea of sustaining the planet so that it may sustain us is as old as life itself. We must leave this Earth in better condition than we found it."

Blast from the past

That was then. The United Nations' Rio + 20 Earth Summit this week has ushered this debate back into the political scene.

Bush's words show how much he was ahead of his time. Now Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney skirts the entire issue, leaning as far from the entanglements of climate change as he can. According to Neela Banerjee at the New York Daily News, Romney "expresses doubts about climate science like the majority of his party."

Romney says if elected he would support expanded coal and oil production and work to "amend (the) Clean Air Act to exclude carbon dioxide from its purview," according to his official website. He also calls solar and wind failures.



Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., takes aim at such positions in a fiery speech on the Senate floor on the eve of Rio + 20. If he had looked like this during his failed presidential bid, things may have turned out much differently.

"We should fight today's insidious conspiracy of silence on climate change," he says. "The danger we face could not be more real."

Kerry fights back

Kerry singled out those on the green side of the fence by referring to the "timidity of proponents." He likewise railed about those who marginalize and misrepresent the facts.

"Every major national science academy in the world has reported that global warming is real," Kerry says. "It is nothing less than shocking when people in a position of authority can just say — without documentation, without accepted scientific research, without peer reviewed analysis — just stand up and say that there isn't enough evidence because it suits their political purposes to serve some interest that doesn't want to change the status quo."

Rio should be interesting. And no, solar and wind aren't failures. In fact, Brad Plumer of the Washington Post speculates that policy makers may be significantly underestimating their potential. He cites a recent study by the U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory that says the country could generate 80 percent of its electricity from renewables using existing technology by mid century. He also cites the exponential growth of solar as an indicator.

We could use the jobs. A report by the McKinsey Global Institute says that between 90 million and 95 million low-skill workers -- or 2.6 percent of the global workforce -- will not be needed by employers by 2020 and will be vulnerable to permanent joblessness, according to a story in Huffington Post by Bonnie Kavoussi.

That means we'll be needing something for them to do. Clean energy is a solid investment and a great return jobs wise. Toss in the cleaner air, and we've got a winner. One that members of both parties would approve of more openly just 20 years ago.

Heading to the skies flying all electric

Solar flight continues to make international waves.

The Solar Impulse aircraft that had made a successful 19-hour 8-minute flight from Madrid, Spain to Rabat, Morocco has again made a safe flight. However, in this case the airplane, which has a 207-foot wingspan, turned back after attempting to reach Ouarzazate, Morocco, its final destination on a two-continent flight.

The pilot, Andre Borschberg, decided to turn around about halfway between Casablanca and Marrakesh due to deteriorating weather. "This situation is a perfect reminder of how challenging and difficult the Solar Impulse missions are and how flexible and prepared the entire team and the host country must be," officials write in a post on their official website.

Regardless, the Solar Impulse has made its mark, showing just what can be done with innovative engineering and a team willing to push the envelope.

A bit to the north at Lake Hepari near Kirkkonummi, Finland, pilot Pekka Kauppinen made the first test flights of the FlyNano electric single-person float plane on June 12, 2012.

"Now we will continue to work on further development. Many thanks for your support and patience. We'll be back with more flights as soon as possible," officials from the Finnish start-up wrote on their website.

Ben Coxworth of gizmag.com writes that in April 2012 "some readers expressed skepticism, rightly pointing out that there was no video of the plane actually flying. That changed."

I guess seeing is believing. The FlyNano is tiny and amphibious, reminding me of a cross between a Grumman Widgeon and the more rare Grumman Duck. The Widgeon is phenomenally fun to fly and can go anywhere there's a beach.

Coxworth writes that the company has "apparently already presold 35 planes" and has moved the initial delivery date up to the end of 2013. Price is about $34,000.

Evolution or revolution? Clean energy movement is expanding


The Great Recession left the economy in shambles and turned lives upside down, but it forced more people to  cut spending and energy and, in some ways, was a good thing, according to a survey of more than 2,800 consumers and business people by Deloitte Center for Energy Solutions.

The 2012 survey revealed people and businesses are more aware of the cost-cutting potential of energy efficiency, that younger adults have strong appetites for clean technology and that businesses are setting more aggressive energy goals - in large part because their customers demand it.

"Customers care, so companies do too," the report states.

Authors noted that near two-thirds of businesses surveyed said their customers want more environmentally considerate solutions, up from 49 percent only a year ago. Meanwhile, more than 75 percent of those businesses actively promote their green campaigns.

The surveys found that businesses continue to invest in energy efficiency even as finding capital becomes more challenging, and as a majority of them acknowledge it is hard to track available financial and tax incentives. The companies are motivated by the strong cost savings and competitive edge associated with energy efficiency, but public good - "it's the right thing to do" - also is a catalyst.

Employers also are becoming more interested in carbon emissions. Almost eight in 10 surveyed said cost of carbon should be factored into use of traditional energy sources, and 72 percent say they plan to acknowledge it on their balance sheets - up from 58 percent a year ago. However, they also overwhelmingly said it is difficult to measure carbon with any confidence.

One of the most surprising findings was that 61 percent of the consumers surveyed said the recession taught people to become more efficient and responsible. "...It reminds us what is important," the report quoted the respondents saying. Almost two-thirds said they would support a mandatory surcharge on their electric bills to support alternative energy intended to reduce pollution and to add American jobs.

Natural gas is gaining favor among consumers, although over half still want their utilities to invest in solar and wind power.

Here are links to a blog post about the survey and to the reports here and here.

The findings reflect what our nonprofit has noticed: the green movement is accelerating. Business, real estate developers and landlords, the military and even professional sports realize that going green is good for multiple reasons.

This story notes  the San Francisco 49ers are using low CO2 concrete in their new stadium because they want to reduce their carbon footprint. Meanwhile, the owners of the  iconic Empire State Building say their energy retrofits will save them $4.4 million per year - a 3-year payback. Now, that's a good investment! More here.

Some analysts describe an evolution ; others describe a revolution., Whatever it is, it is clear that clean energy and energy efficiency are gaining a higher profile.

Photo of Empire State Building by Eggo

Energy efficiency: Some states perform better than others

The top states for encouraging energy efficiency are Massachusetts at No. 1 and California at No. 2, according to a clean energy research organization.

Both have strategies and programs in place to enhance the clean energy mix of their energy production and encourage a shift to cost-saving measures and clean energy. Their efforts have been followed, mimicked and analyzed many times.

But the bottom performers? Not so much.

"There is plenty of room for improvement," say Michael Sciortino, Rachel Young and Steven Nadel in "Opportunity Knocks: Examining Low-Ranking States in the State Energy Efficiency Scorecard." They work for the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, a nonprofit research and policy analyst.

The worst 10 states in promoting energy efficiency in descending order, with the last being the worst, are: South Dakota, Alabama, Missouri, West Virginia, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Kansas, Mississippi, Wyoming and North Dakota. ACEEE ranks the states according to policies and programs that advance efficiencies in buildings, transportation and industry.

While many states have improved over the past several years, these have lagged. The study is meant to provide direction.

The study points out that those interviewed "dwelled on the rate impacts of programs and little else." It also says utilities fail to see the practice as a resource, perceiving it more as a "societal benefit" and arguing that programs cost too much and "do not align with the utility business model."

Energy efficiency is considered the low-hanging fruit of a move toward sustainability and clean energy. It cuts utility bills significantly and is being adopted increasingly by the private sector as a core business practice.

In essence, energy efficiency practices (which include replacing light bulbs and other electric users with more miserly units) save money. And while it can cost a bundle up front, the payback is often quite fast. Sometimes it's a matter of a few years or months.

Other measures that could improve the low-ranking states' standings include improving building codes. This would slow energy loss either through preventing heat loss in winter or by retaining air conditioning in the summer. The study shows that the benefits of improved building requirements on a new home, which amount to an average $896.16, pay for themselves in less than 10 months.

The study also reports reluctance on the part of local governments to "lead by example." It provides a number of routes governments can take, including leveraging federal funding and on-bill financing.

Not all governments around the San Joaquin Valley were overly enthusiastic about energy efficiency retrofits just two years ago. Now, however, it's a different story. Many are moving to the next phase of renewable energy.

Hitting the hydrogen highway is the ultimate video game

Hydrogen is not yet a viable, cheap and easy-to-use fuel.

But the quest to solve that clean energy puzzle continues.

Sciencedaily.com reports that scientists at Brookhaven National Laboratory have developed a nickel-molybdenum-nitride catalyst to more cheaply crack hydrogen from water. Chemist Kotaro Sasaki is quoted as saying his team wanted to find a high-activity low-cost method of extracting hydrogen.

He says the catalyst "actually outperformed our expectations."

And according to globalenergyworld.com, Lynne Macaskie, professor of applied microbiology at the University of Birmingham in England, reports a method of creating hydrogen from food waste. "The bacteria can produce hydrogen," says Macaskie at a bioenergy workshop in São Paulo, Brazil. "At the moment manufacturers pay to dispose of waste, but with our technique they could convert it to clean electricity instead.”

Not ready for prime time

Impressive. So what's the hold-up? Why can't entrepreneurial ingenuity figure out a way to get a clean fuel on the market that could transform our skies and reduce the competitive pressures forcing up the price of gasoline, diesel and other fossil fuel?

The answer thus far has been cost and technology. Solve the dilemma and emission-free power remains a matter of infrastructure.

The benefits are many. Hydrogen is the most plentiful element in the universe and No. 3 on Earth.

However, the reality painted by this Pres. George W. Bush-era study remains relatively static.

"To be economically competitive with the present fossil fuel economy ... the cost of producing hydrogen must be lowered by a factor of 4." The study, Basic Research Needs for the Hydrogen Economy, published by Argonne National Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Energy in May 2003, says the performance and reliability of hydrogen technology for transportation and other uses must be "improved dramatically."

The ultimate gamer's quest

Unless, of course, somebody figures out the game. Compare the challenge to one found in a video game, perhaps the most difficult ever, with multiple levels, constant attacks by impossible to kill opponents, no cheats and the most elusive final key in recorded history.

Carrying this analogy further, I introduce gaming expert Pyree, who posted this answer to the question of most impossible game on tomshardware.com forum: "So apparently the hardest game is this one called 'Dark Souls,' made by Japanese game studio From Software."

Pyree, whose alter ego appears to be Wall Street Journal reporter Ryan Kuo, says the game makes it simply impossible to avoid dying excessively and horribly. There is no way to save or pause the game and if your avatar dies, the level resets. "Only attempt it if you are the hardcorest of the hardcorest rpg gamer and love to take on a near impossible challenge," he says.

Dark Souls to clean energy

Whether or not hydrogen is the Dark Souls of the clean energy world, I don't know. But I do know it will take some serious smarts and tenacity to break the code, find all the clues and track down the ultimate treasure.

How close we're getting depends upon whom is asked. I posed the question to a guy I've gotten to know here in the San Joaquin Valley. His answer surprised me. "Getting close," he says.

How close? By the sounds of it, very. I may be providing an update to my series on the hydrogen highway quite soon. A hint is here in a post by Laurence O'Sullivan on suite101.com that says, "Combined together, wind and hydrogen can cancel out their inherent defects and be an effective tool in the battle against carbon dioxide and global warming."

Pulling onto the hydrogen highway

There is also activity on the corporate front. Mercedes-Benz recruited drivers like actress Diane Kruger to drive its electric fuel cell vehicle, the B-Class F-Cell in California. Kruger is one of more than 35 "environmental enthusiasts and early adopters" in the state. Kruger, who stars in "Farewell, My Queen," drives the rig, which converts compressed hydrogen into electricity to deliver a range of up to 240 miles and an average of 55 mpg equivalent while emitting only water vapor.

I also checked in on Bob Lazar, whose company, American Hydrogen Energy, is gearing up to produce kits that convert gasoline-burning automobiles to run on hydrogen. Lazar converted his 1994 Corvette to run on H2 produced by solar panels.

Lazar explains how it works this way: "The hydrogen gas is safely stored in a solid form (advanced metal hydride) and is in fact safer in a collision than your Gasoline tank. The only exhaust you get from burning Hydrogen as a fuel is water vapor (steam), with very small amounts of nitrogen oxides. It's about a 'green' a fuel as you can get."

Rare Earth complications

Yet Lazar has encountered trials. His latest has to do with source materials. He says in a recent update on his website that the conversion system is dependent upon rare Earth metals and compounds. The Chinese government's decision to limit export of the country's domestic supply means prices have skyrocketed and more than quadrupled the cost of his conversion kits.

China dominates the rare Earth market. U.S. deposits exist but remain mostly out of reach due to a lack of mining. The materials have names like lanthanum, cerium, yttrium and neodymium and also are used in the manufacture of electric car batteries, wind turbines and solar panels.

China has spent the past several years locking up supply of these elements, planning ahead and banking on their value escalating.

"We are looking into all possibilities," Lazar says.

So the game continues. I'll drop in another quarter, and push "Ready Player One."

Photo: Actress Diane Kruger fills up her Mercedes B-Class F-Cell.
More posts:
Hydrogen Highway: Demonstrating a fill-up in LA
Hydrogen power integration as fast as a Zeppelin
Hydrogen Highway is possible but unrealistic, for now

University teams square off for national clean energy finals

Northwestern University's team also won Rice competition.
The best and brightest minds at U.S. colleges squared off recently, gathering their collective intelligence, imagination and ideas in a competition to come up with the most formidable and commercially promising clean energy innovations.

The preliminary results have just been unveiled. Regional winners of the U.S. Department of Energy's National Clean Energy Business Plan Competition have been named. Northwestern University, University of Utah, University of Central Florida, MIT, Stanford University and Columbia University will go on to compete in the first national competition in Washington, D.C. in June.

"The winning teams have developed effective strategies for bringing innovative technologies into the market that will help keep America competitive in the global race for clean energy technologies," Energy Secretary Steven Chu says in a statement.

Each regional winner receives $100,000 in prizes.

Officials explain the competition this way: "Each team of students identified a promising clean energy technology from a university or national lab and created a business plan around the technology that detailed how they could help bring it to market. This includes financing, product design, scaling up production and marketing."

Final projects include:

Northwestern University — NuMat Technologies: NuMat Technologies invented a nanomaterial that stores gases at lower pressure, reducing infrastructure costs and increasing design flexibility. One potential application for this innovation is in designing tanks to store natural gas more efficiently in motor vehicles.

In a preliminary showdown for the DOE competition, NuMat won the 2012 Rice Business Plan Competition in April, taking home $874,300 of the more than $1.55 million in cash and prizes presented at the awards banquet. Rice officials say NuMat Technologies is in discussions with some major chemical and technology and transportation companies to commercialize its nanomaterials.

University of Utah — Navillum Nanotechnologies: Navillum Nanotechnologies proposed expanding the commercial use of quantum dots. Quantum dots can emit a wider range of light using less energy than existing materials and could be used in future generations of solar panels, televisions, cell phones and related products.

University of Central Florida — Medsi Systems: Mesdi Systems developed precise manufacturing modules that increase production capacities and reduce costs of lithium ion batteries used in vehicles, consumer electronics, and medical devices.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology — SolidEnergy: SolidEnergy's battery technology innovation, which improves the safety and energy density of rechargeable lithium batteries, is intended to accelerate the deployment of electric vehicles.

Stanford University — Stanford Nitrogen Group: Stanford Nitrogen Group developed a biological wastewater treatment process that removes and recovers energy from waste nitrogen and recovers phosphorus.

Columbia University — Radiator Labs: Radiator Labs developed a low-cost, easily installed radiator retrofit that converts radiator heating systems into a highly controllable zoned system to significantly reduce the energy waste while increasing the heat distribution and consistency of building interiors.

The regional winners will pitch their business plans before a panel of expert judges. The pitching, which is open to the public, is scheduled for Wednesday, June 13th in Washington, D.C. Organizations providing assistance include the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, law firm Mintz Levin, the Clean Energy Alliance, Battelle Ventures and the Cleantech Open.

Swiss teacher drives around globe in solar car


Swiss school teacher Louis Palmer takes his homemade solar powered car on a trip around the world just because he could.

He's Swiss so why not? And he calls it a solar taxi because so many people want to ride along.

This video from The Associated Press has been around a couple of years but it still offers a look at zero fossil-fuel travel and the possibility of not having to plug in. "Technology is here today," Palmer says.

Solar technology is improving each year with panels getting increasingly efficient. Perhaps at some point electric cars or plug-in hybrids will offer integrated solar to enable greater range.

Breathe deep: Beating greenhouse gases won't be easy

Contemporary cast of musical Hair, courtesy Joan Marcus.
Recession does have some positives.

The stalled economy reduced demand for gasoline and diesel and electric power. People drove less, bought fewer items and used less energy as a result. The production of greenhouse gas -- carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases -- peaked in 2007 at 2.752 billion metric tons, dipped to a low of 6.608 billion in 2009 before showing a little robust "recovery" by increasing to 6.821 billion in 2010, the most recent year for which numbers are available.

These and other fascinating facts can be found in 2012 Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. While that may sound encouraging, a deeper look at the numbers shows that U.S. consumers, business and government continued to show a prodigious hunger for fossil fuels.

Bad air on the rise

Production of greenhouse gases just from fossil fuel combustion (that's vehicles and stuff like energy generation) rose to 5.388 billion metric tons in 2010, a 13.7 percent increase from 1990.

The culprits? Electricity generation accounts for 34 percent, transportation 27 percent and industry 20 percent. The rest comes from agriculture, commercial, residential and other sources. Just for a little perspective, an average automobile produces 5.2 metric tons of greenhouse gases each year.

This stuff isn't good. In addition to mucking up the skies, the EPA ruled in 2009 that greenhouses gases are the primary cause of climate change. This leads to higher temperatures and longer heat waves and, among other things, threatens the health of Americans. Increases in ground-level ozone pollution, which is created by chemical reactions between nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds, have been linked to asthma and other respiratory illnesses.

Forecast in the 60s

The information is hardly new. A prediction can be found in the original Broadway cast recording of "Hair." The song, "Air," is as real now as it was then: "Welcome sulphur dioxide, Hello carbon monoxide. The air, the air is everywhere. Breathe deep, while you sleep, breathe deep." And so on. The lyrics are permanently seared into my brain, courtesy the first record I laid my hands on. --


Strange to think that "Hair: The American Tribal Love-Rock Musical" debuted off Broadway in October 1967. Seems like yesterday. I'm kidding. Seriously, I tried getting my arts friendly son Calvin, now in his first year at Seattle University, interested in the soundtrack.

Nothing. No response. Nor did any of my kids seem to get Cheech & Chong. Oh well.

Aiding the cause

The bigger plan is getting them thinking about the air. Facts and figures do little to inspire most people, but add an effective anecdote of how it affects somebody and interest can increase geometrically. We learned this in the newspaper business. A good photo, a great story people can relate to and a writer and photographer could fill a city council chamber.

But I'm no longer a journalist and this will never appear in newsprint. Still, the axiom holds. I offer up an observation many in the San Joaquin Valley can relate to: On sunny hot days in the depths of summer, the skies often look like they've been coated with a fine layer of mud. The views of the Sierra from Valley towns and farms, which were once so crystalline and vibrant, just don't exist. And the air kind of tastes like dirt.

The solution is obvious. We've got to reduce the national production of greenhouse gases. The alternative is something I'd rather not contemplate. Sure, we could experience total economic meltdown. For instance, Spain just reported an unemployment rate pushing a quarter of its work force. That's one way. But hardly optimal.

One building at a time

Another approach has been adopted by many colleges, government agencies and private sector organizations. It involves reducing the climate footprint. This can be done relatively painlessly through building retrofits, practices like benchmarking energy use and policies that encourage reduction in water and waste as well as electricity.

California Gov. Jerry Brown took the plunge, issuing an executive order that state agencies reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 10 percent by 2015 and 20 percent by 2020. The order also said that all new state buildings and major renovations after 2025 be designed and built to meet requirements of net-zero facilities. That means they generate as much energy as they use.

Brown's Order also says that as of 2020 half of new facilities should meet the net-zero requirement and that state agencies should make half their existing facilities meet the rule. It also includes reducing water use and adding plug-ins for electric cars and other changes.

"Doing something real about the growing threat of global warming requires more than just new laws. We must lead by example,” Brown says in a statement. “Greening the state’s buildings will shrink our environmental footprint and save taxpayers millions of dollars.”

No new world order

Pursuing climate friendly policies costs money. Not so much when it comes to green buildings but more so when looking to retire fossil-fuel-burning power plants.

Even the governments of Germany and Japan, which earlier pledged to push all out for green energy, are having trouble sticking to their goals. National Public Radio's Richard Harris, reporting from a meeting in London of energy ministers from around the world, says, "It turns out that right now, just about everything is conspiring to make it harder to clean up the world's energy supply."

Harris reports the International Energy Agency warned that nations are nowhere near being on track to avert significant climate change. He quotes David Victor at the University of California, San Diego, who says, "What's happened across the industrialized world is the governments are feeling poor these days."

Feed-in tariffs, which provide subsidies to make renewable energy competitive, are drying up and other incentives are being lost. The result has been a contraction of solar and wind companies in Europe and the United States. The reduction in price of natural gas, a direct result of hydraulic fracturing tapping new reserves, also has compounded the clean energy industry's problems.

The solution is to continue plugging along. Economic pressures will continue. The forecast continues to be in positive territory but disappointing.

So breathe deep, this won't be easy. And if you're looking for a way to help, 350.org is a great place to start.

Rice hull walls, algae oil & portable solar win at P3 competition

An artificial wetland to treat household gray water, structural wall panels made of rice hulls and algae biofuel systems number are the projects selected to receive grant money in a recent competition between university and college teams across the country.

A total of 15 teams participating in the People, Prosperity and the Planet competition, also known as P3, split $1 million in grants from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The event was held at the 8th Annual National Sustainable Design Expo on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.

The winners were selected from 45 teams. Their mission was to create innovative environmental solutions. Judging was provided by a panel of national experts who provided recommendations to the American Association for the Advancement of Science. EPA then selected the award-winning projects "from the most competitive pool of teams ever."

Many of the projects "have the potential to make significant impacts on our nation’s sustainable future and development of environmental technologies," says Lek Kadeli, acting assistant administrator for the EPA's Office of Research and Development, in a statement.

Each winning team will receive up to $90,000 to further develop the projects, "apply it to real world applications or move it to the marketplace." EPA officials say previous award winners have started successful businesses and are marketing the technologies domestically and internationally.

Winners of this year’s awards include:

Appalachian State University for developing an artificial wetland suitable for recycling of grey water from small businesses for immediate reuse.

Butte College for developing structural insulated panels for building construction using rice hulls, an abundant agricultural waste, as the primary raw material.

Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University for designing a foldable solar power water purification system that can fit into a backpack for easy transport for use after a disaster affecting drinking ether supply.

Gonzaga University for developing a simple ventilation system for kitchens in rural dwellings using electrical power generated from thermoelectric cells driven by waste heat from cooking fires.

Oregon State University for raising awareness of pollution associated with the production and use of plastic mulch by farmers and testing alternative biodegradable mulch material.

Princeton University for developing, testing and deploying an electricity generation system that can be transported in a standard shipping container and rapidly set up in rural communities and post disaster areas.

Santa Clara University for developing a fuel cell capable of continuous sustainable energy supply to meet energy demands in rural communities in developing nations lacking reliable energy grids.

Southern Illinois University - Carbondale for developing methods to extract (recycle) metals from Coal Combustion Byproducts (CCB) to reduce mining and to produce a concrete with reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

SUNY College of Environmental Science and Engineering for studying ways to recover struvite, a slow release fertilizer, from digested animal manures and assesses its marketability.

Texas State University - San Marcos for converting rice husks, a byproducts of agriculture, into a starter material called lignocellulose for producing fabrics, biofuel and silica nanoparticles.

University of California, Riverside for designing a solar collector to heat ambient air for use in home appliances, such as clothes dryers and space heaters, to reduce home energy consumption.

University of Cincinnati for developing a pilot scale system to convert trap grease from restaurants, a waste set to landfill, to renewable biodiesel.

University of Connecticut for investigating ways to use local industrial byproducts such as steal slag and lime kiln dust to control erosion and to stabilize roads in Nicaragua.

University of Oklahoma, Norman for design, field-test, construct, instrument, analyze and document a habitat for humanity house built of compressed earth blocks, aka CEB.

Vanderbilt University for developing a biohyrid solar panel that substitutes a protein from spinach for rare metals (mined) and is capable of producing electricity.

Honorable mention winners include:

Christian Brothers University for developing technologies to improve energy efficiency in the building envelope of residencies in Memphis, Tenn., that focus on the thermal properties of materials, fire safety, material stability and cost.

Clarkson University for studying the feasibility of using waste heat and leachate from a solid waste management facility for energy to produce biodiesel from algae.

Drexel University for designing a pilot-scale reactor for local landfill that uses algae to produce biofuels from landfill leachate and gas.

Purdue University for designing, building and installing affordable ram pumps in Haiti to improve the availability of water for its citizens.

Rochester Institute of Technology for designing a hydrofoil system that harvests energy from a river while minimizing the harmful effects that dams create for river flow and sediments.

Santa Clara University for developing a high efficiency solar absorber/exchanger that can bring low cost energy to urbanites who have limited space for solar collectors.

Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville for evaluating the use of selenium-polluted plant waste materials harvested from phytoremediation sites to produce selenium-enriched edible mushrooms.

University of Texas at Austin for designing, constructing and testing vermicomposting (composting with worms) bins to improve public health in the Dominican Republic by reducing water contamination from organic waste.

University of California, Davis for designing and monitoring an affordable green roof technology that uses the shading from plant to cool roof surfaces and reduce peak electricity demand by up to 75 percent.

Missouri University of Science and Technology for developing a control system that opens and closes windows to maximize natural ventilation and save energy by sensing differencing in outdoor and indoor climate conditions.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for creating and implementing a point-of-view disinfectant for drinking water that is cheap, non-toxic and effective in reducing waterborne illness in developing nations.

Photo of Appalachian State University team.

Zotos goes green using wind power, others take notice

Zotos International Inc. is a hair-care products manufacturer.

It's also an expert on green energy. The company ranks No. 18 on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Top 20 on-site green power generation list because it installed two massive wind turbines to provide energy to its 670,000-square-foot Geneva, N.Y. plant.

"This wind project has helped us transform Zotos into one of the fastest-growing and greenest manufacturers in the global beauty industry," Zotos President and CEO Ron Krassin said. "More and more consumers are demanding sustainable products and as a beauty company, we have a moral imperative to meet this demand. All of us want a healthier and more beautiful planet and we're proud to be doing our part."

Earth Day and green jobs

Zotos took the opportunity of Earth Day 2012 to laud its achievements. And why not? The company's efforts vaulted it into the national cleantech spotlight.

Others appear to be following suit. A report by employment search engine Green Job Bank says postings in the green sector more than doubled in the first quarter. The service says it indexed 36,500 green job postings in the first quarter of 2012, an increase of about 127 percent from the same period a year earlier.

"This increase ... is due to the growth of the green economy," says Bernard Ferret, founder and CEO of the Green Job Bank, in a statement. "It is the proof that the market for renewable energy, clean technology and environmental projects is healthy, and growing at a steady pace."

Hiring across the spectrum

Growth comes despite the spate of bad news in the cleantech sector, highlighted by last year's Solyndra bankruptcy. It indicates that demand for services and product remains. Green Job Bank's top hiring companies include First Solar, REC solar, Solar City, SunEdison and Vestas. Also on the list are energy management companies EnerNOC, Locus Technologies and OPower; energy storage maker A123 Systems; EV automaker Tesla Motors; the National Renewable Energy Laboratory; and environmental and energy infrastructure companies AECOM, AMEC, Cardno ENTRIX, ERM and URS Corp.

John Davies from GreenBiz.com focuses on the lighter side of corporate green in a recent post, listing more typical corporate Earth Day activities such as park clean up, electronic recycling and eco exhibitions. He says Microsoft this year even allowed companies to test out electric vehicles, offering a test ride in a Fisker Karma. Nothing overly dramatic. "I wanted to find out whether Earth Day has grown too last century or if it's still meaningful to corporate America," Davies writes.

Green power popularity

Corporations seem to think so. More continue to embrace sustainability.

Performance varies. But the EPA shows in its overall Top 50 list that companies' green power purchases climbed 12 percent to 15 billion kilowatt hours in 2012. No. 2 Kohl's Department Stores increased its power purchases 8 percent to 1.52 billion kWh over 2011, while WalMart boosted its total 231 percent to 872,382,088 kWh to move to No. 3 from No. 12 the previous year.

No. 1 on the Top 50 list for 2012 remains Intel Corp. with an unchanged 2.5 billion kWh of green energy purchases.

Zotos' effort stand out because it installed its own wind turbines, a feat that also earned the company recognition from the American Wind Energy Association for having one of the top on-site wind projects at a U.S. manufacturing company. The turbines, which became fully operational in January 2012, generate about 6.5 million kilowatt hours a year for about 60 percent of Zotos' operational needs. The company plans to purchase the rest of its energy from green sources.

Expect others to follow

On the EPA Top 20 on-site generation list, Zotos' energy generation numbers are overshadowed by the sheer bulk of Kimberly-Clark Corp., the No. 1 company. The Dallas-based consumer products manufacturer of brands like Kleenex, generated 193 million kWh of on-site power. However, Kimberly-Clark's generation accounted for 8 percent of its power.

Can other companies follow the examples set by those on the EPA lists? Anthony Perdigao, Zotos vice president operations and chief sustainability officer, offered this statement: "If we can do it, so can others."

There's definite interest. Megan Connor Murphy, Zotos vice president of public affairs, says the company "has received multiple inquiries from others both regionally and nationally about our wind project and are ready to share our experiences with them."

This clean energy stuff is getting around.

Another post of possible interest:

Green power purchases trend upward