Living building home

Check out this gorgeous Oregon ‘living building’ home. Huge windows look out on green meadows and forests, but its 3500 square feet of indoor space is expected to use only $50 a year in energy bills.  It uses solar panels, of course, but also has super insulation, heat-recovery ventilation, a roof overhang and window shades to control heating and cooling.  Eric Lemelson consulted with Green Hammer and worked with construction company, Hammer and Hand to create his home.

http://on.wsj.com/18IbY2p

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Cars that burn up the roads

Two articles appeared next to each other on the front page of the WSJ on August 18: ‘US Car Plants Shift to Top Gear,’ and ‘Decade of Drought Threatens West.’

We need to connect the dots.

The manufacture of 60 million new passenger vehicles in 2012 worldwide, 99% of them burning gasoline or diesel, guarantees us more extreme weather disasters.

With rising carbon emissions making the atmosphere warmer, increasing storm surges, floods, droughts and wildfires will destroy infrastructure, water resources, homes, and jobs.

The federal government gives tax credits for the purchase of electric vehicles and installation of solar panels that can be used to charge them, and also requires automakers to increase energy efficiency.  This is great, but we should do more.  A carbon fee should be imposed to make purchasers of fossil fuels to pay more of the actual costs of using those products.  Taxpayers now pick up the tab for spill clean-up, disaster aid, flood insurance, crop insurance and military protection of oil shipments.

A tax on oil, coal and natural gas at the wellhead, mine or point of entry, increasing each year, up to $100 per ton, with revenue returned to households would help level the playing field and allow more profitable production of clean energy alternatives.   With a tariff on goods from other countries not imposing a carbon fee, we could also encourage worldwide adoption of clean energy.

Streamline permits for solar

Citizens can promote sustainability by making sure that communities and states have updated their codes and standards for installation of solar panels. States, cities and even planning commissions can choose to encourage or to block homeowners and businesses from adopting cost saving solar power. There are wide differences in waiting time and cost for permits to install photovoltaics. As the cost of solar panels drops, old and costly permitting requirements can double to price of solar installation.The US Department of Energy studied and reported on major gaps in 2010 and helped fund the Solar ABCs, recommending standards and codes for installation. In half a dozen states, solar panels provide cheaper electricity even without subsidies. With current federal tax credits, solar rooftop electricity is competitive with local electric costs in all but a few states.

http://cleantechnica.com/2013/08/21/local-permitting-makes-a-bigger-difference-as-solar-gets-cheap/

http://solarabcs.org/about/index.html

http://www.ilsr.org/why-pay-double-solar-america/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/toddwoody/2012/07/05/cut-the-price-of-solar-in-half-by-cutting-red-tape/

Grid systems balance power as wind and solar increase

How do we keep refrigerators running 24/7 as more solar and wind power is installed? Texas, California and Iowa are now getting 20% of their electricity from renewables; and the US average is 13% and growing.

Electricity needs to flow continuously. All power plants stop sometimes, for maintenance or accidents, and demand changes by the minute, with temperature changes or popular media events.

Grid operators are the quarterbacks; they keep it happening; they call the plays. Working in giant control rooms with huge arrays of dozens of screens monitoring electric input and output,  they balance the supply and move electricity to where it is needed. Weather reports help  grid operators plan. When the wind is dying down, or  clouds are on the horizon, operators pull power from other areas that are making plenty of electricity, or  turn on idled plants, and increase supply. The bigger the area served by a grid station, the more options it has for balancing the electric load.

Check out this video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSiCRZcJnfE

Businesses Profit from City Solar

Lancaster CA has just updated its building code. Starting in 2014, all new single-family homes will have to include a solar system of at least 1.0 kW. The Republican mayor of Lancaster, R. Rex Parris, says the city wants to be the first to produce more electricity from sunlight it uses.

The city bought and installed solar panels on the roofs of 25 Lancaster schools that are now paying 35% less for electricity. Other solar installations have gone up on city hall, an arts center, stadium, and parking lots. There is a plan to create electric storage potential with more electric vehicles and batteries.

To get a permit to install solar in Lancaster takes 15 minutes.

 http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/09/us/lancaster-calif-focuses-on-becoming-solar-capital-of-universe.html?pagewanted=2&_r=0

Solar Competition in a Darwinian Marketplace

Arno Harris, CEO of Recurrent Energy, a developer of large utility solar projects was asked by Russell Gold, energy reporter with the WSJ about bankruptcies among solar energy companies.

This was his response.

“Nobody wants to see that kind of trouble, we think about jobs lost, it’s extremely painful. However, you have to put it in context. This is fundamentally a very exciting transformation This is an industry that in the last 10 years has taken the cost of solar panels from $5 per watt to around $.50 per watt.  As result of this transformation, it has moved solar power from one of the most expensive sources of electricity to one of the second or third least expensive sources of electricity.

Inevitably, a part of that process is going to be the creation of a very Darwinian, challenging environment, in which those who cannot keep up with the cost structure necessary to stay competitive are going to get restructured, fall by the wayside, get reabsorbed.

We have to put this event in that context.  There are numbers of solar manufacturers demonstrating they do have cost structures that work in today’s prices. So that means that this industry can continue to deliver solar electricity at increasingly competitive costs.”

http://on.wsj.com/16NdWOg

Free Investment Advice from an Expert

Jeremy Grantham, Chief Investment Strategist for GMO, an Management Firm that oversees more than $100 billion in investments, announced his opposition to the Keystone Pipeline in an interview with Charlie Rose Mar 11, 2013. Grantham is known for having predicted the last several financial crises.

Grantham says that climate change is a numbers issue; the rise of .8oC in temperature is obvious, we can see spring arriving earlier, and know that it took additional carbon in the air to make that happen. Grantham continues, explaining the problem with continuing to burn fossil fuels is that we can only emit 565 gigatons of carbon into the air before world temperatures reach “2oC which is considered the boundary, below which we might limp our way through.” But in fuel reserves there is five times that much, “enough to cook our goose and guarantee our grandchildren starve to death in floods and all.”

Every previous human civilization expanded, then met limits of available resources and collapsed. Grantham describes two gifts that our civilization has that give him hope. The first is our ability to limit birth rates, and the fact that when people get richer, they choose to have fewer children. A shrinking population puts less pressure on finite resources.

The second gift is alternative energy technology, solar, wind, geothermal, new grid, and batteries which give us the ability to “move fairly seamlessly” to using the renewable resource of energy from the sun which never runs out. “If you can capture the sun’s energy, you can keep civilization going.”

Then he added, “Science will not guarantee to save us it will only give us a possible out.”

Listen to the interview at :

http://www.charlierose.com/view/interview/12812