Archive for September, 2010

Meer | Mehr | Mais | Mas | More “Green Gone Wrong :: How Our Economy Is Undermining the Environmental Revolution”

Right-o. I just completed reading Heather Roger’s “Green Gone Wrong.” A MUST sustainability development read for EVERYONE.

I read this book thinking as a species we actually already know everything that should not be done, AND, we know everything that needs to be done. The current models are not working. I strongly believe, to avoid a catastrophic collision (that I already think is in the making), a non-trodden path must be the approach. Our biosphere is finite, all cultures need to be understood, and economies cannot continue to function w/o the involvement or services of the ecosystems i.e. understanding thermodynamics and biodiversity MUST be embraced as of the utmost importance.

Straight-up, Malthus was certainly on to something, and if the way things are currently progressing continue, I’d say he was dead-on. Growth, the quantity of accumulation, does indeed have limits. Development, the liberation of creative possibilities, on the other hand, does not. If there is too much growth, the quality of life decreases. So now, the USA is an under-developing nation. So many people these days living in cars is not what I would call development. Bong bong.

What is so UTTERLY troubling to me is, so many see nature as a subsystem of the economy; on the contrary, it’s the other way around. Leadership, and each and every one of us need to start telling the truth. You have heard of this operative, local. If we are going attempt to mitigate the effects of this positive feedback loop I am convinced is already in full-effect, if we are going to be hard-headed about being consumers, we need to start bringing consumption closer to the product. This will not only humanize the product, but lower the adverse impacts on our ecosystem(s) of space ship Earth.

Life and all of its manifestations are of the utmost importance–it’s NOT just about we humans. So what now you’re thinking? I think, the more you have, the more greedy you become. Time to bring this ‘supertanker’ about face.

NB: I’m not trying to impose myself or lifestyle on others. I do, however, think it’s important you understand I am trying to, after all, be a renewable energy ‘evangelist’/engineer who practices sustainability development. No foolin’,  I have downsized to just ~30 cubic feet of crap (books, bicycle, bits & bytes/computers, body gear/clothes), recycle, compost, bicycle everywhere I can, or walk, utilize mass transpo, car share, purchase as much local foodstuffs as I can and try to eat a predominant vegetarian diet. I aspire to be agile, live a Spartan lifestyle of ‘enough’ and do my part to contribute to the wellness of the greater good.

In her closing chapter, Notes on the Possible, Heather writes,

“…somehow a catastrophe continues to seem profoundly unreal…an inability to comprehend a loss of environment we live with every day. Governments and major corporations in the most developed economies are fully apprised of the findings of the world’s top climate scientists. Regardless, the majority of leaders continue with policies and practices that so obviously exacerbate the situation, including promoting ecologically themed but ineffective products. By accepting green consumer goods as a way out, we consent. Compared to the scale of the disaster, such solutions are extraordinarily inadequate…”

Well, I don’t consent, nor do I intend to acquiesce. I hope in sharing I have inspired whomever reads this to be informed, to push our unwilling and unwitting leadership to move toward MASSIVE transformations, post haste.

MORE “Green Gone Wrong” :: Nissan LEAF EV

NB: This is a partial cross post to comments I made under my ‘Green Gone Wrong’ :: Consumption == the bane of human existence? by bla bla blat a few days ago. Since I started this thread, I’ve had not only the opportunity to engage colleagues in the LinkedIn matrix on the GReEN Group, but Nissan motors, as well. Here’s more…

On the comment section to my post above, I go on to say…

An ancillary note: It appears as if the US EPA isn’t completely being taken-in by auto manufacturers zero emissions claims. I just hope they don’t lose their ability to regulate carbon/GHG emissions in the USA.

Electric Vehicles Losing Their ‘Zero Emissions’ Claim in U.S.

[snip]
EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson explained:

“Electric vehicles are frequently advertised as zero emissions, but we all know that that’s not entirely true, because when you plug in, there’s some emissions from the source.” Currently in the U.S., that source is often burning coal, and that means greenhouse gas emissions.”

Yet, there are troubling concessions being made that are utterly misleading…


“Each manufacturer can count its first 200,000 EVs, fuel cell vehicles and the electric portion of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles produced in model years 2012-2016 as “zero emissions.”

“Several of the major automakers had urged the EPA to keep the “zero-emissions” label permanent, in part to raise consumer confidence in a relatively new type of vehicle.”


This, on the part of auto manufacturers, is disturbing, disingenuous, dishonest and frankly, I repeat, UTTERLY MISLEADING.

And to one of my new colleagues, Arno Evers, Mr. Hydrogen of Munich, Germany, who is well-versed with the California Fuel Cell Partnership, CAFCP.org, and in complete agreement with my assertions, I went on to say…

I took a recent look at the California Fuel Cell Partnership web site, to find out if they have been successful at moving away from the reforming of hydrocarbon fuel as the input, and closer to electrolyzing water for hydrogen production in an effort to move toward closing the zero emissions loop. I located this: http://www.cafcp.org/hydrogen-station-configuration

[snip]
Other stations use electrolyzers and solar panels to make hydrogen from water and electricity. Electrolyzers look like commercial refrigerators and are attached to the water line. The equipment to produce, compress and store the hydrogen can be on the forecourt or on the canopy. Solar panels are connected to the grid, producing electricity for the utility during daylight hours, then the electrolyzer “buys back” the electricity to make hydrogen at night, when the demand”and rates are lower. Currently available electrolyzers can make enough fuel for up to 50 vehicles a day.

And this is promising, but I can’t help but think the efficiency is still low and not financially feasible. We have to start somewhere, yes? http://cafcp.org/site-electrolysis

[snip]
Several stations in California produce fuel on site through electrolysis, using solar or wind energy. It’s one way to meet California’s regulation SB1505 that requires 33% of hydrogen for transportation be produced from renewable sources.

The station pictured is a Shell station in West Los Angeles. The electrolyzer, compressor and storage tank are on the roof of the canopy, maximizing space at the station.

Also, the CAFCP trial with buses has been successful, such that second phase deploying more transit buses in the SF Bay Area (Alameda County Transit, Santa Clara VTA) and SunLine Transit Agency in SoCal was invoked in 2008.

http://cafcp.org/transit-buses
[snip]
The third phase of the program, which starts in 2010, will put 16 fuel cell buses in operation under the aforementioned transit routine and will include four additional transit agencies; Golden Gate Transit, San Francisco Municipal Transit Agency (SF MTA), San Mateo County Transit (SamTrans), and the City of Burbank.

And so it goes. I sent a letter to Nissan, raising my concern about how they are not being completely up-front about the Zero Emissions moniker they aspire to attach to the LEAF. Well, I’ll give Nissan credit. My inquiry did not fall into a ‘black hole.’ Here’s a response, that I already thoroughly challenged. You can see integrity is undeniably not one of their stronger suits. If they are going to tout this as Zero Emissions, they should offer crystal clear clarity, it is a “Zero Emissions vehicle from the tailpipe on”, in their copy on their web site and in all their marketing prose–there IS a difference.

Dear Kimberly King,

Thank you for taking the time to personally contact us about your interest in the Nissan Electric Vehicle.

How can this the LEAF be tagged a Zero Emissions vehicle if the batteries are not charged from a station that only delivers electrons strictly from renewable energy generation? Isn’t this an untruth and just more greenwashing?

We apologize for any confusion. The Nissan LEAF is a zero emission vehicle because it does not emit any pollution to move the vehicle forward. Yes, the electricity used to charge the Nissan LEAF’s battery pack could create emissions depending on its source. Refining oil to create gasoline also creates emissions, and then once in an internal combustion engine vehicle gasoline creates emissions in order to propel the vehicle forward.

Please note that the “grid” is 60 percent cleaner than gasoline, even when it’s energy source is “dirty.” And unlike gasoline, which will retain the same properties over time, the electrical grid, like the auto industry – is working to become cleaner, tapping into alternative forms of power such as wind, or solar. Besides the efficiency of an electric engine is much higher than an internal combustion engine (an electric car can drive around 60km with the energy equivalent to 1 liter of gasoline) having a huge impact on the energy consumption.

Rest assured that we are not greenwashing. The Nissan LEAF is a 100% electric, zero emissions vehicle. Please contact us if you require further assistance in this matter.

We appreciate your time, and encourage you to share our contact details with friends and family. For your convenience, we can be reached:

By return email.
Through our website at www.nissanusa.com
By phone at 877-664-2738.
We’re here to serve you from 7:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. (CST) Monday through Friday and 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (CST) on Saturday

Sincerely,
________________
Meg
Nissan EV Customer Support
www.nissanusa.com/leaf
1-877 NO GAS EV (664-2738)

Bottom line: I cannot and will not capitulate to Nissan’s zero emissions reasoning put forth. Arno and I strongly believe, we can only proceed in telling the truth. And acting with high ethics…

Nature won’t wait for us :: Monbiot – Climate change enlightenment was fun while it lasted. But now it’s dead

I think George Monbiot summed this up rather well on his blog yesterday, and the Guardian UK today.

The Process Is Dead

It’s already clear that the climate talks in December will go nowhere – so what do we do?

[snip]

What all this means is that there is not a single effective instrument for containing man-made global warming anywhere on earth. The response to climate change, which was described by Lord Stern as “a result of the greatest market failure the world has seen” (7), is the greatest political failure the world has ever seen.

Nature won’t wait for us.

I blogged about this a few days ago, if AB32 is suspended because the California ballot initiative Proposition 23 passes, I will be in COMPLETE agreement with George’s assertions above. For starters, I think it all boils down to invoking a carbon tax and reducing consumption, so economies  based on social forces that keep consumption rates too high will need to invoke MASSIVE transformations. I think the oil conglomerates are aware of this, otherwise they would not be ‘dabbling’ in (mediocre) support of renewable energy technologies.

I would like to have hope that one day, all will come to a conclusion (sooner than later) that no one uses more that they require, and still be able to maintain a high quality of life, as per the tenets laid out in the 2,000 Watt Society.

The 2000-watt society (2,000-Watt Society) is a vision, originated by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich at the end of 1998, in which each person in the developed world would cut their over-all rate of energy use to an average of no more than 2,000 watts (i.e. 17,520 kilowatt-hours per year of all energy use, not only electrical) by the year 2050, without lowering their standard of living.

MORE ‘Green Gone Wrong’ (??) :: Greenway Self-Park WTG installation, Chicago, IL, USA

Based on what I have been able to locate, I think this structure is another example of ‘Green Gone Wrong.’ I reiterate, I think we need to be mindful about NOT over-hyping some green(er) technologies. I also understand we can model a technology to death, but until this machine/device is actually installed in the environment it is expected to perform, we will not know the true performance outcome–and this, naturally, will only come with time.

To the best of what I have been able to garner so far, I also understand this VAWT (vertical axis wind turbine) installation has been under-performing. I, however, aim to find out more, before I issue my final ruling. I located this article:

Greenway’s turbines were made by Helix Wind, though the initial plan was to use Aerotecture, a Chicago-based solar and wind energy company. But after studying the wind patterns near the garage, the company decided the site was “too low power” says Bil Becker, Aerotecture CEO. To avoid making himself–and the burgeoning wind-power industry–look bad, they withdrew from the project. They’ll try to [force] you into building a sculpture, he says, but, we don’t make sculptures.â

I have made contact with the vendor, Helix Wind, to see if I could garner more enlightenment on how this installation is actually performing and what the history of this installation truly encompassed. Mind you, my goal is to cheer lead, and ensure that greener deployments are viewed favorably and not undermined due to short-sightedness or misinformation.

I understand that this parking structure was originally to be commissioned back in September 2009. But due to there being a change in wind turbine manufacturers, this building was commissioned and the wind turbines became operational approximately Feb 2010. I placed a call into the Helix Wind technical support desk, and asked the engineer the following:

  • Which model of your VAWT is installed on the Greenway Parking Self-Park in Chicago, IL?
  • And how long has this installation been commissioned/deployed?
  • How long have you been collecting wind data?
  • How is it performing? Capacity factor?
  • What is Cp (coefficient of power) of your designs? I understand for a Hybrid/Savonius WTG, the theoretical max is ~= 0.24.
  • What is the gap between the turning bodies? I understand the optimal range for this parameter is 0.1-0.15m.

When I know more, you’ll know more…

What’s the hold-up? “The Valley of Death: Why Energy Is Not Like IT”

I caught this read/podcast today and thought it warranted re-posting. I like how some sages brought Moore’s Law into the discussion, which I have often heard folks in the RE industry use to suggest how the RE industry will follow Moore’s long-term trend. Naw, ain’t gonna happen. For those of you that do not know, Moore’s Law is based on how the number of components on an integrated circuits had doubled every year from the advent of the integrated circuit. Um, yeah, nope, this trend isn’t happening in the RE industry.

The Valley of Death: Why Energy Is Not Like IT

We can draw parallels between energy technologies and information technologies all we want. But the simple fact is that ET is not IT.
Published: September 14, 2010

New York, New York — We often wonder when the next Google of clean energy will materialize. When will the lone inventor finally emerge from his garage to change the world and solve our energy problems? What stealth company will bring the establishment to its knees? Our recent experience with IT makes these questions seem relevant. But some analysts say they ignore the realities of energy.

I agree with the respondents that cite $/kWh in the PV sector will be a major driving force in more adoption by the masses, why a carbon tax is necessary to level the playing field against the fossil fuel industry, AND, why until there is a catastrophic event/pain for a looooonggggg time to promote change in consumer behaviour, before we will see REs come online on a MASSIVE scale. Then again, if some stealth, sexy, fun technology/game comes along, I’d be down with that, too. We’re in the age of bent on consumerism and poking more holes into our space ship after all. Itisiwhatitis…

I also agree that fossil fuels will continue to be a necessary part of the energy mix for the foreseeable future. Altho I would like to think there could be, I do not think there is an all-encompassing RE panacea–heck, the sun doesn’t shine 24/7/365. Bring on the hybrid RE systems and distributive energy systems, beeby!

‘Green Gone Wrong’ :: Consumption == the bane of human existence?

Preface: Before I launch into another bla bla, let me preface by saying, as a renewable energy ‘evangelist’,  I do my best to practice what I preach to minimize my carbon footprint. Because I aspire to be a project engineer, taking work where ever it may present, I have downsized my belongings to ~35 cubic feet, bicycle, walk, or take mass transpo just about everywhere (and when I cannot do this, I use a car sharing service), go out of my way to purchase local produce, eat very little meat, compost, recycle and thrift for clothes (when needed). Essentially, when I consume, I do my best to try to relegate it to just foodstuffs, and purchasing local foodstuffs at that.

For many years now, I have wondered if all this comodification of the environmental revolution was indeed as mindful about preserving our living space as intended. It was about five years ago, while in The Netherlands, when I was sitting in an environmental science class that focused on energy and resources, that this notion piqued my interest. I wondered, if my toxic emissions from, say flying, were singularly mine. What I came to learn in this class, is my emissions are linked to a larger socioeconomic reliant on polluting to maintain it’s status–mopping up our ‘mess’ cost more than dumping, poking holes in our space ship and extracting its rich resources. I was/am troubled.

I was duly troubled in this class when I came to better understand more about the Kyoto Protocol Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), after only months prior to, performing quantitative carbon sink calculations in a Quantitative Aspects of Global Environmental Problems course at UCBerkeley. For those of you that don’t know what the CDM represents, it is a mechanism that…

…allows a country with an emission-reduction or emission-limitation commitment under the Kyoto Protocol (Annex B Party) to implement an emission-reduction project in developing countries. Such projects can earn saleable certified emission reduction (CER) credits, each equivalent to one tonne of CO2, which can be counted towards meeting Kyoto targets.

I have often wondered if ‘green’ is truly as green as intended. So, I instead,  go out of my way to use the operative ‘greener.‘ I often cogitate on whether the well-intended purchasing of organic foodstuffs (Certified Organic, Fair Trade, etc.), energy efficient homes/appliances, biofuels, green cars, CO2-offsets really all that ecologically green.

I have been reading Green Gone Wrong – How Our Economy is Undermining the Environmental Revolution. I have found a like-minded, empathetic soul in Heather Rogers and her sobering read. As she closes in her Introduction:

…we have the capacity to find solutions that are not simply products to buy, but ways of engaging with how we live and what we want our world to be.

Ja, buying/consuming to me equates to certain death of our ecosystem–that is, if we persist in conducting our lifestyles the current manner–and if this climatology positive feedback loop I am certain we are immersed doesn’t end up sanitizing all life/current lifestyles as we know it.

I am looking forward to reading the chapter on one of the greenest cities in the world, Vauban neighborhood of Frieburg, Germany which has been practicing sustainable development for years. I was fortunate enough to engage some of these visionaries this past summer at the InterSolar 2010 Convention in San Francisco. I had some nice chats on how this city rose from the ashes of WWII dealt with a finite amount of electricity to service a growing population, scale and passive, more sustainable living spaces where green living is compulsory–but, they have had their own growing pains, too.

And so, to ask the question, since it’s highly unlikely humans will cease consuming, will Earth-friendly products save our space ship? Dubious…

Next up on the chopping block? PACE?

I understand last week, the FHFA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac issued guidance letters that threaten existing green retrofit programs/PACE participants. From what I have read, they are effectively destroying the promising energy efficiency and renewable energy financing program called Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE). In California, this is also known as AB 811, which was passed in July 2008.

AB 811 authorized all California cities and counties to designate areas within which willing property owners could enter into contractual assessments to finance the installation of distributed renewable energy generation, as well as energy efficiency improvements, that are permanently fixed to the property owner’s residential, commercial, industrial or other real property. These financing arrangements would allow property owners to finance renewable generation and energy efficiency improvements through low-interest loans that would be repaid as an item on the property owner’s property tax bill.

To date, there have not been comparable models offering the same scope and scale of green job benefits and greenhouse gas reduction as PACE. If Congressional action does not resolve this, it’s even more dubious the greener industries will get back on track.

You can read the particulars of this program, here. Efforts to protect PACE are here.

The latest on California’s AB32 vs Prop 23 => Stop TX Oil & 10-10-10


I’m not sure if the LinkedIn matrix community is attuned to what is transpiring in the state of California these days. We have an election coming up  on 2 November 2010. One of the most heated items being challenged is Proposition 23. But let me back up a moment…

For those of you unaware, California is the 12th biggest carbon emitter in the world. Our AB32  Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 is supposed to go into effect at the start of 2011, as a means to mitigate climate change. It is one of the most aggressive offerings in the world to invoke these measures. For starters…

Proposition 23 would suspend all of those measures adopted to date, including CARB’s low-carbon fuel standard, restrictions on high global warming potential refrigerants, increased landfill methane capture, SmartWay truck efficiency, tire pressure program, reduction of high global warming potential greenhouse gases in consumer products, ship electrification at ports, reduction of perfluorocarbons from the semiconductor industry, and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) reductions in non-utility and non-semiconductor applications.

If Proposition 23 AKA California Jobs Initiative passes, AB32, California’s landmark clean energy and climate solutions law, will be undermined/suspended–essentially:

…the dirty energy proposition would repeal the state’s clean energy regulations until unemployment reached 5.5 percent or less for four consecutive quarters’ a market condition that has only occurred three times in the last 30 years.

California’s unemployment rate is at about ~12.2% now. If AB32 is repealed, then the greener, renewable energy industries in Cali will be COMPLETELY compromised and likely crawl to a standstill for many years to come. Furthermore, what happens in California could very well affect the rest of the USA. California has historically been a vanguard in passing sound, sensible environmental legislation. If California cannot keep this much-needed legislation on the books how willing will lawmakers in other states in the USA be likely to expend political capital on such a fight?

The Union of Concerned Scientists, of which I am a member, has a fact sheet you can download here. And a summary of the key points are outlined here.

What can you do?

Oil companies have had their filthy go, time for them to make way, step down and those of us who are stewards in mitigating the adverse effects of our anthropogenic exacerbations take charge and invoke more greener, holistic measures and practices–this way, future generations can even attempt to have a chance at a quality of life we have been accustomed…


..:: The CESR Proposition ::..

Well, I continue to investigate the non-trodden path opportunities for work. I  am currently immersed in busting a door wide open with developing a consultancy that is focused on creating a sustainability development strategy titled Corporate Environmental and Social Responsibility (CESR), sometimes just known as Corporate Social Responsibility. My hope is this schema will be beneficial to renewable energy companies.

This CESR strategy can be used to reveal where there may be profit-making opportunities that can become net-revenue generating activities by using the people, planet, profit Triple Bottom Line (TBL) methodology.

I, however, cannot reveal too much detail at this time–I am, after all, trying to carve a niche out for myself here. You understand. A cursory outline of the process path I am developing follows:

1. Method: Analysis of the renewable energy technology.
2. Energy efficiency improvement.
3. Energy management.
4. Build energy scenario(s).
5. Investigate policies for efficient energy use and renewable energy.

More to come…

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What is a Hybrid RE Engineer?

An engineering generalist with an understanding of sustainable development whose skills set are typically comprised of an amalgam of mechanical and electrical engineering. One who is able to design and assemble systems and components that are comprised of more than one renewable energy (RE) technology i.e. solar, wind, hydro-kinetic (ocean/wave/micro-hydro), biomass, hydrogen fuel cell, geothermal and storage (battery, fly wheel, pumped-hydro). The RE technologies selected depend on one's geographical predisposition, resource availability, the end-use need, practicing conservation (behavioral change) to name a few considerations...

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