organic solar

An Energy Trust Could Help Jump-Start A Green Revolution

The big themes in government in this post-election environment revolve around curbing expenditures and cutting deficits. The chatter is loud and the emerging green industry must figure out a way to be heard.

Energy conservation saves money in the long run, but businesses, homeowners and local governments have to find ways to finance the initial costs. The Center for American Progress says it has found at least a partial solution.

Create an Energy Independence Trust.

The Trust would be able to borrow from the U.S. Treasury and help businesses and the rest of the private sector finance clean-energy ventures. That could be combined with regulatory reform to help create jobs and markets, and transmission infrastructure to accelerate development of a green development strategy.

"By encouraging private investment and reforming the energy marketplace, Congress can immediately take action to drive down the cost of clean-energy innovation for consumers, while improving American manufacturing competitiveness and technology leadership," according to the report called, "Cutting The Cost of Clean Energy 1.0."

The study concludes that this approach does not add strain to the federal budget because there are no direct appropriations. As proposed, the Trust would would contain enough reserves to protect the Treasury from loan losses and would offer a variety of financing options, loan guarantees and tax credits that would draw private equity into green energy.

"linking a low-cost financing vehicle with efforts to rationalize and simplify federal and state energy regulations and increase demand through bold clean energy standards could help to organize the broader energy market...," the report states.

The authors don't say this approach should supplant climate legislation, but is a way to help jump-start a new industry that could move the economy into a new direction.

The Center acknowledges the skeptics who will argue that any kind of energy legislation is unlikely with the new Congress, but said that precedent shows otherwise. The Telecommunications Act of 1996 became law two years after the Republicans gained a strong foothold during the Clinton Administration.

The emerging clean power and energy efficiency industry could benefit us in the San Joaquin Valley in a big way. We have high power bills, low incomes, double-digit unemployment, and huge swaths of former farmland that can become sites for solar and other forms of green power in one of the nation's dirtiest air regions.

Studies show that minimal investment could yield maximum returns, especially in cutting power bills. The Valley also is ripe for an explosion of green-energy jobs, according to this report from a University of California, Merced, professor.

Saving money, conserving energy and creating jobs. What a combination.

Green Building Council Urges “No” Vote on Prop 23

The Central California chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council believes passage of Prop. 23, the so-called “dirty energy proposition,” will devastate the emerging green building and technology industry in the state.

The chapter recommends a “no” vote on the legislation, which would suspend AB 32, California’s landmark Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, until the state’s unemployment rate stays below 5.5% for four consecutive quarters – which has happened only three times since 1980.

Texas-based oil companies and a large coal company are pouring millions into the Prop. 23 efforts. The Green Building Council, however, believes the proposed legislation, which will be on the Nov. 2 ballot, will:

· Stifle a blossoming green industry in California. Since 2005, green jobs have grown 10 times faster than other industries. There are currently 500,000 green jobs in the state, of which 68,000 are in construction – an industry that has been hit hard in the recession;
· Put California’s new green building code at risk;
· Threatens green building and investment. The state has 12,000 clean-tech firms and received $10.4 billion in investment capital between 2006 and 2010.

The Central California chapter is urging members to get out and vote and to spread the message to 20 colleagues or friends through e-mail, USGBC CAC or StopDirtyEnergyProp on Facebook.

The “No on Prop 23” campaign has strong bi-partisan support. Both gubernatorial candidates, Meg Whitman and Jerry Brown, also oppose the legislation, as do many business, health, labor and environmental organizations.

Solar planned for White House

Author and environmental activist Bill McKibben has got to be smirking.
U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu and Council of Environmental Quality Chair Nancy Sutley just announced President Obama's intention to install solar panels and a solar hot water heater on the White House roof. The message?

That the solar installations "will be part of a Department of Energy demonstration project showing that American solar technologies are available, reliable and ready for installation in homes throughout the country."

That's in stark contrast to last month when McKibben and a crew of Unity College students hauled a solar panel all the way from Maine to the White House. It had been installed on the White House by President Carter's administration and taken down by President Reagan's.

The move was symbolic. A "softball" to President Obama to embrace solar.

However, the response from the White House when the Unity crew arrived was chilly. No big reception. Just a couple of staffers reciting party lines about energy efficiency policies. Wow.

The organizers of -- another McKibben-supported group -- let out a collective groan. The group is seeking to build enthusiasm and work crews for its 10/10/10 initiative, which means to launch into environmental cleanup and clean energy projects across the globe on that date. A grassroots go-green-for-real movement.

But somebody must have been listening in the Obama administration.

"By installing solar panels on arguably the most famous house in the country, his residence, the president is underscoring that commitment to lead and the promise and importance of renewable energy in the United States," Sutley said in a statement.

"Good for the White House," McKibben tweeted soon after the announcement. He linked to The Associated Press story by reporter Dina Cappello.

Part of the mission was to promote Oct. 10, or 10/10/10, an effort launched by McKibben and students to stage a global work day in which teams pursue clean energy projects across the globe. is the website coordinating various projects.

Part of the Unity mission was to promote Oct. 10. is the website coordinating various projects.

On the site this morning, the White House move was top news. McKibben, never at a loss for words, had this to say:

“The White House did the right thing, and for the right reasons: they listened to the Americans who asked for solar on their roof, and they listened to the scientists and engineers who told them this is the path to the future.

"If it has anything like the effect of the White House garden, it could be a trigger for a wave of solar installations across the country and around the world."

McKibben also said Obama's not the only world leader taking the challenge, explaining that Maldivian president Mohammed Nasheed will install panels on his official residence.

Along with Obama's announcement, the U.S. Department of Energy also released "Procuring Solar Energy: A Guide for Federal Facility Decision Makers" to support the use of solar energy throughout the federal government.

State Forms Site For Green Jobs

California energy officials have created a Website devoted to green jobs.

The site describes 48 training programs that are offered by workforce investment boards, community colleges, labor and trade organizations and private industry. There are links to workshops and to industry and employment reports. People also can can register to receive e-mail alerts on items related to green energy.

Worldwide, about 2.3 million people are employed directly or indirectly in renewable energy, according to the independent research Worldwatch Institute. In California, the figure is about 433,000 workers, or 3.4% of the labor force.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger believes green-energy jobs will grow, and the new Website is part of what he says is the largest state-sponsored green jobs training program in the nation.

"The (Website) is a showcase for the training program in which government and private industry are coming together to make our state a leader in the new, sustainable economy," he said.

It remains to be seen how fast the green economy grows in this time of deficit budgets, penny-pinching and fighting over California's landmark greenhouse gases law, but colleges and high schools are moving forward. At West Hills Community College in Coalinga, students learned to install solar panels, with 70 of them finding work on a 40-acre solar farm in Mendota, on the west side of Fresno County.

High schools also are getting into the act. Buchanan High School in Clovis is debuting an energy academy this year. It exposes students to renewable energy and features wind turbines, solar panels, floor heating and water storage from rain runoff to irrigate a rooftop garden, according to The Fresno Bee and this blog item.

Edison High School in Fresno, New Energy Academy in Stockton and Independence High School in Bakersfield are developing renewable-energy programs in cooperation with Pacific Gas & Electric.

"Green energy is a growing field that is critical to turn the tide on climate change. I am excited that California students in these programs will be learning about technologies that can help the entire planet," said State Superintendent of Education Jack O'Connell.

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 and alternative 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.

Community Colleges Going Green Summit

Community colleges such as West Hills in Lemoore, Firebaugh and Coalinga are on the front lines of the efforts to "green" America's workforce.

Toward that end comes the Green California Community College Summit Oct. 12 and 13 in Pasadena.

Speakers include Doug Henton, chairman and chief executive of Collaborative Economics, who will discuss green job development in California, and Alec Loorz, the teenage founder of Kids Vs. Global Warming.

Professionals in career technical education, workforce investment boards and economic development are encouraged to attend.
Participants will learn about CALGreen, the state's new green-building code that is effective in January 2011.

The event is at the Pasadena Convention Center. Information: Cindy Dangberg, summit director, 626-577-5700,

Envelope yourself in sun power

Sci-fi writer Phillip Jose Farmer wrapped his best stories in fascinating and mind-boggling concepts.

In his Riverworld novels, everybody who died since the beginning of the human race reappeared suddenly on another planet to live without dying. In the Dayworld trilogy, man is allowed only to live one day a week because of overpopulation, spending the other six days in stasis.

Such concept story-telling aptly describes a technology under development by a team at the University of Southern California that eventually could mean solar T-shirts at the Gap.

"Imagine people powering their cellular phone or music/video device while jogging in the sun," Gomez De Arco, a team member, told

Researchers combined organic photovoltaic cells, which use organic polymers to absorb light and convert it energy, with transparent graphene films to create the flexible power-producing material. "Graphene solar cells demonstrated outstanding capability to operate under bending conditions," according to a paper the team published in science journal ACS Nano. "Our work indicates the great potential of CVD graphene films for flexible photovoltaic applications."

Definitely cool. Apply a coating to Iron Man's suit of armor and all he has to do after battling a superfoe is fly into the sun to recharge. Or slap a layer of the stuff all over my 1974 Super Beetle and I'll never have a dead battery. Plus it might keep the paint from oxidizing further.

The USC team includes Chongwu Zhou, Cody W. Schlenker, Koungmin Rye, Mark E. Thompson, Yi Zhang and De Arco.

Alternative Energy wrote while the graphene-organic photovoltaics don't produce electricity nearly as efficiently as standard silicon panels, they make up for that lack with "low cost, conductivity, stability, electrode/organic film compatibility, and easy availability along with flexibility."

Farmer in his heyday could have worked with the possibilities and taken solar on graphene to even greater heights. Then again, 3M may do the same thing in a couple of years.

Who knows?

Graphic: ACS Nano