Monthly Archives: May 2013

Innovation Allows More Households to Go Solar

Colorado’s Community Solar Gardens Act paved the way for the installation of a 500 kW array of solar panels called the Boulder Cowdery Meadows Solar Array. REC Solar, who designed and installed the array, announced the completion of the community solar project in Boulder, Colorado earlier this month.

Xcel Energy, the power provider in the Boulder area has embraced Colorado’s efforts to promote solar power with their Solar*Rewards Community Program. This is the first community solar project completed under the program, which allows Xcel Energy’s customers to purchase electricity directly from “solar gardens” such as the Boulder Cowdery Meadows Solar Array.

“This innovative model expands solar access to all Xcel Energy customers who are interested in the carbon-reducing and cost-savings benefits of solar, regardless of location or income,” said Andy Noel, of REC Solar. Xcel Energy’s Solar*Rewards Community program extends the cost-savings benefits of renewable energy to many groups who previously could not go solar, including renters, those with shaded properties, and residents without the financial means to purchase or finance a solar array.

Finally, Some Momentum is Starting to Build

The U.S. Army is launching the first in a series of renewable energy contracts that will total $7 billion by the end of this year. They are using power purchase agreements and a standard procurement tool that is expected to overcome obstacles that are put in its path. That includes the notorious budget sequester as well as objections from the anti-renewable energy crowd in Congress.

The Army’s renewable energy initiative is included in a wonderfully ambitious program that addresses energy, water and waste called Net Zero Vision. For details, go to .  Several years ago a representative from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said, “For those of us who are part of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, it’s one more day in our journey toward ensuring that our actions are sustainable and that we are the very best stewards we can be of this country, of this planet…We are the nation’s environmental engineer. No other federal agency is addressing environmental issues of the same scope and magnitude as we are…”

Then, in 2011, the Army created the Energy Initiatives Task Force to streamline the process for getting utility-scale renewable energy constructed on its bases, the idea being that on-site energy sourcing is more secure than relying on a remote grid. The idea being that by establishing a defined process, individual base commanders would not have to work so hard to ensure their base was a part of this new, more secure, better for the planet way to power their base.

Under the power purchase agreements the Army pays no up-front costs. These agreements provide that the renewable energy facility is built on Army property but is owned, operated and maintained by its developers, which sell the power it generates to the Army at an agreed-upon price. The contracts will be announced in a series through 2013 for solar, wind and biomass. The geothermal contracts were first up and were announced last week, going to five energy companies: Constellation NewEnergy, ECC Renewables, Enel Green Power North America, LTC Federal, and Siemens Government Technologies.

Grim Milestone Reached May 9, 2013 – Do We Have Your Attention Yet?

The level of carbon dioxide has passed a long-feared milestone, scientists reported Friday, reaching a concentration not seen on the earth for millions of years. Scientific instruments showed that the gas had reached an average daily level above 400 parts per million “It symbolizes that so far we have failed miserably in tackling this problem,” said Pieter P. Tans, who runs the monitoring program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that reported the new reading.

Ralph Keeling, who runs another monitoring program at the Scripps Institutution of Oceanography in San Diego said, “It means we are quickly losing the possibility of keeping the climate below what people thought were possibly tolerable thresholds”. Most car rides, every plane trip and, in most places, every flip of an “on” switch adds carbon dioxide to the air.

Scientists from some of the most prestigious institutions are weighing in on this occasion, “It feels like the inevitable march toward disaster,” said Maureen E. Raymo, a scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, at Columbia University. Mark Pagani, a Yale geochemist said, “I feel like the time to do something was yesterday.”

It’s a Win Win, So Give it a Try

Do you live in or near a city? Are you tired of traffic, congestion and delays? Do you wish that you had more time to exercise, but rarely manage to actually get out and get your heart pumping and break a sweat? Try using one of the over 500,000 bicycles that are now part of advanced bike-sharing programs in more than 500 cities in 49 countries. 

Cities with bike-sharing programs are finding that promoting the bicycle as an option can lead to more mobility and safer streets for all. Let alone the reduced use of gasoline based transportation and the resulting reduction in exhaust. Bike-sharing programs are well positioned to hook people up with a bus or metro system, accommodating the last mile or so between home or work and mass transit. 

Modern bike-sharing systems have greatly reduced the theft and vandalism that hindered earlier programs by using easily identified specialty bicycles with unique parts that would have little value to a thief, by monitoring the cycles’ locations with radio frequency or GPS, and by requiring credit card payment or smart-card-based membership in order to check out bikes.

As of last month, there were 26 active modern public programs in the United States, a number expected to double within the next two years. The largest U.S. program in early 2013 was Capital Bikeshare, with more than 1,800 bicycles spread across 200 stations in Washington, DC and nearby communities. Nice Ride Minnesota, covers the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, comes in second, with 1,550 bikes at 170 stations. The Boston metropolitan reports 1,100 shared bikes. Miami Beach is planning to add 500 bikes to the existing 1,000 it has and will extend into Miami this year. Denver is one of more than 15 public systems that give members access to bikes when they travel to different cities, including Madison, Fort Worth, Fort Lauderdale, San Antonio, Charlotte, and Kansas City.

New York’s Citi Bike program is poised to roll out 5,500 bicycles at 293 stations in Manhattan and Brooklyn this month, with the ultimate goal of reaching 10,000 bikes. Chicago plans to start in June, working up to 4,000 bikes at 400 stations in 2014. Southern California reports bike sharing programs opening in Los Angeles (4,000 bikes), Long Beach (2,500), and San Diego (1,800). A pilot project of 1,000 bikes in San Francisco and Bay Area cities south along the rail line hopes to begin what could ultimately be a 10,000-bike program.

As impressive as these numbers are, and there are comparable stories throughout Europe, North and South America, and Asia, not surprisingly, China dwarfs these growing programs with 79 bike-sharing programs, with a combined fleet of around 358,000 bicycles in early 2013. Expansions and new projects could soon bring China’s public bike fleet to just less than 1 million bicycles.