July 13th, 2009
Want to get a first hand glimpse of a net-zero energy home that generates all its necessary power from renewable energy? You may get a chance if you live in one of the areas that the Living Zero Home Tour is traveling through. Starting just a week ago in Chicago, the Living Zero Home Tour is showcasing a net-zero energy home featuring energy efficient appliances and building technologies. The home will continue to travel through November so you can experience and see for yourself how energy efficient technologies are integrated and how they can easily lower monthly utility bills as well as your reduce environmental impact. (more…)
Popularity: 7% [?]
June 14th, 2009
Major League Baseball teams have been working hard these last couple of years to get better, faster, stronger and greener. In the spring of 2008, the MLB and NRDC partnered up to help major league teams become more sustainable, waste less, reduce energy use and educate their fans. The new effort is due to a number of interwoven factors, like concern for the environment, money savings, and a sense of responsibility to to their fans. Major League players and teams have hero status anyways, so it’s no surprise that many teams are proving to be excellent examples of eco-warriors.
Popularity: 7% [?]
June 3rd, 2009
There has certainly been a lot of media coverage on the growing array of “green jobs.” That is a pretty broad term– encompassing renewable energy, green building, bio-fuels, energy-efficiency technologies and much more. All of these sectors have been affected by the larger global economic challenges we are facing, but there’s little doubt that in the long run these industries will offer many new employment opportunities.
So, where can you find these green jobs?
Fortunately there is a ton of resources available online. It seems like a new green jobs board crops up almost every day! Here is our review of the leading sources:
- Green Dream Jobs is one of the best job boards out there. They have a good cross-section of low to high level jobs spanning many industries. They’ve been at it since 1996 so they know what they’re doing!
- EcoEmploy is another good resources. They tend to have more technical job listings, as well as some non-profit positions.
- Treehugger has a strong job board. You’ll find traditional as well as some “zany” listings– like “deli staff and cyclist” or “adventure planner.” Fun!
- GreenBiz.com also has a job list with solid geographic reach.
- VentureLoop is a site I find most people don’t know about–which is too bad. This is a site that features jobs from companies that are backed by major venture capital outlets. There are technical, sales, marketing and management positions in the mix. Not all of the jobs are green jobs, but there are many exciting, high-growth green companies included on the job board. You just need to do a bit of reading about the companies.
- SustainLane recently launched a green job board and we’ve seen some good listings there. They are still growing and adding more cities.
- SolarJobs can be good if you’re specifically interested in that industry.
- Idealist.org is great if you want to find environmental non-profit jobs.
If you know of other good resources, please share them in the comments section.
Also, if you happen to be in the Los Angeles area, there is a great event coming up called Green Jobs, Healthy Communities: Building a Green-Collar Economy. They event is being hosted by the California Endowment on June 9 at 6PM. Learn more about the event here.
Popularity: 4% [?]
May 13th, 2009
Residential wind turbines are an appealing option for renewable energy at home. Per rated unit of output they seem to be cost-effective, somewhat less than solar PV panels. Each successive new product is more attractive than its predecessors, with many as suitable for a sculpture garden as for your rooftop. And, there’s something primal and satisfying about the thought of a spinning turbine in the yard, perhaps harkening back to the pinwheels of our youth. We’ve written previously about some of the most compelling residential-sized options that combine these benefits.
But before you put one at the top of your green dream list, make sure you read this article by Alex Wilson of Building Green. Mr. Wilson is one of the true giants in the green building field, and he’s literally written the book on how to design and build a functional green home (and a good book it is - we highly recommend it!).
What he has found after talking to many testers, developers and manufacturers is that building-integrated wind turbines fall far short of their stated promise. Why? He points out a number of factors that result in poor wind turbine performance:
- Buildings cause turbulence, and wind turbines don’t like turbulence. Wind turbines are generally designed to face directly into a laminar (i.e. smooth) flow of wind. Predicted performance statistics are developed under these ideal conditions. But buildings and accompanying structures redirect wind, causing it to separate into streams that “confuse” wind turbines. This turbulence causes turbines to perform at less than their rated levels even if the building accelerates actual wind speed.
- Turbines can be noisy and cause vibrations. Although vertical axis wind turbines are significantly better, even today’s latest wind turbines can create significant noise and vibrations. Part of this comes from the turbine itself, but another component is the oscillations (and associated resonance) that the turbines create in building structures.
- Actual performance is often much less than predicted performance. For a variety of reasons, small wind turbines mounted on buildings almost never produce as much energy as predicted. Mr. Wilson cites a conversation with Ron Stimmel, an executive from the American Wind Energy Association (the industry trade group), in which Mr. Stimmel says that he’s never seen a small building-mounted wind turbine that achieves the expected performance. In many cases, actual performance was only 5-10% of predicted performance, and some systems generated less electricity than their control electronics used! This all leads to …
- High cost relative to other renewable energy sources. At face value wind turbines seem to be less expensive than PV and other forms of renewable energy (when you look at $ / watt of capacity). But when you factor in the higher cost of mounting a turbine on a building combined with the poor performance mentioned above, solar PV ends up being a more economical choice.
We’re sure that technological advances will continue, and that innovative wind turbine manufacturers will develop better turbines for buildings in the future. But until then, proceed with caution. As much as you might want a wind turbine spinning away on your San Francisco (or Boston) home, they’re probably still best suited for a ranch in Montana!
Popularity: 2% [?]
April 22nd, 2009
Despite advances in technology, falling prices for raw materials and an ever-growing number of installations, solar PV panels are still not affordable for most families. Typical setups for even mid-sized homes can come in at well over $20,000 before rebates and incentives.
Fortunately, local, state and federal government agencies are continually adding programs that bring solar PV panels ever closer to affordability. Net metering programs allow you to sell excess electricty back to your utility. Many agencies offer rebates that cut from 30-50% off of the total cost of a system. The Obama Administration recently announced changes to the federal tax code that remove a cap on renewable energy tax credits. And, private companies have stepped into the fray offering a variety of innovative financing and group purchasing programs.
What’s next? Well, CleanTechnica recently published a piece on new loan programs that are springing up (now in California, and hopefully elsewhere soon) that allow you to finance the full price of your solar installation and then pay it back (with interest) via your annual property tax payments.
Several cities are already out of the gate and running:
- Berkeley launched a pilot program in November with funding of $1.5M. The program sold out in NINE minutes, and 39 homeowners signed up. A bit of pent-up demand, perhaps?
- Palm Desert launched its program in August 2008 and has already funded over $7.5M in projects. The Palm Desert program is also open to energy efficiency projects and upgrades.
- San Diego, Encinitas, Solana Beach, Sonoma County, Santa Cruz and many more cities and counties are in the planning phases.
How expensive are these loan programs? Interest rates for the programs launched so far are in the 7% range, which compares favorably with current home equity loan rates (if you can even get one).
The crazy oversubscription rates demonstrated by the Berkeley and Palm Desert programs clearly show that there’s huge demand out there, so we hope that more governments and companies step in to fill this need!
Popularity: 3% [?]