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March 31, 2008

Five of the Best Micro Wind Turbines

aeroenvironment, architectural wind, small wind, micro wind turbine, urban wind, wind energyI recently published a list of five of the top 'micro' wind turbines at Despite it's billing as a 'top-five,' this short piece was intended to showcase five very different products, sizes, and applications.It wasn't scientifically rigorous, but it was hardly random. Please use this information with caution: you must not cloud your judgment with images of backward-spinning electric meters and negative utility bills, as the economics will be different for everyone. Interconnection laws vary by country, state, province, municipality, etc. So, before spending ANY money on one of these gizmos, be certain that you have an adequate wind resource, and if you are planning on connecting to the grid, that you understand the interconnection standards that apply.


March 25, 2008

The World According to the Blogosphere

This very interesting cartographic tool from L'Observatoire des Medias below creates flash cartograms that distorts the size of a particular size of a country based upon how much attention it received from various media outlets.

Fascinating stuff.

March 24, 2008

Wyoming's New Legal Framework for Carbon Capture & Sequestration?

[Originally posted at Red, Green, and Blue on 3/18/08]

Last week, Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal signed a bill that recognizes that surface owners control the underground pore spaces where carbon dioxide (presumably from coal-fired power plants) could be stored or sequestered. A companion bill, gives the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality the authority to regulate the long-term storage of carbon dioxide. More...

Photo: Kevin Winslow

March 22, 2008

The State of Blog Relations is Not Strong

Question: Do public relations professionals effectively communicate with bloggers?
Answer: That depends upon who you ask.

The public relations trade association Council of Public Relations Firms and APCO Worldwide have just published the results of a survey they conducted last year with PR pros and bloggers. "The State of Blog Relations" reports that bloggers perceive their medium to have unique properties that most PR professionals just don't get.
The survey indicates that there is a considerable gap between how PR folks perceive their communication with bloggers and how bloggers perceive it. In short, "PR professionals who understand the blogger 'culture' are having more success in communicating in this online channel than those who do not." With that said, some public relations professionals do get bloggers. And I appreciate those that make the effort to communicate more effectively with this unprecedented medium. I also appreciate that, instead of releasing the findings in a standard format, David Wescott of APCO and his colleagues published them on a new interactive wiki, that allows anyone to help choose the questions that will be asked the next time the trade group conducts the survey.

Colbert on World Water Day

Stephen Colbert celebrates World Water Day - the way only he could.

...and introducing Aqua Colbert...

...field trip to the museum to give a scientist a hard time...

...and now for an incredible technology that could help billions of people get clean drinking water...

March 20, 2008

Did CSU Name Their New 'Clean Energy Supercluster' Biz After an Oilfield Logistics Company?

tim-hurst, colorado-state-university, clean-energy-supercluster, fort-collinsOne of my almae matres, Colorado State University has finally launched the business-end of its long-awaited renewable energy "supercluster." The supercluster will serve as a clean tech incubator, moving research and development of clean energy and energy efficiency from the lab to the marketplace. CSU President Larry Penley joined Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter and Colorado Senators Wayne Allard and Ken Salazar to make the announcement Thursday at the state Capitol.

"CSU is home to the world's finest faculty and student brain trust in the environmental sciences, in the development of alternative energy technology and biofuels and in the management of state forest lands," said CSU President Penley. "In the long run, all these achievements are insufficient if we can't get our research to market rapidly and in ways that are sustainable from a business perspective," Penley said.

The university's new business arm of the Clean Energy Supercluster took the painfully ironic name, Cenergy. Not to be confused with the large corporation of the same name, that provides logistical support for onshore and offshore oilfields worldwide. You'd think that someone at the university would have done a Google search on the name 'Cenergy' before getting the new stationery printed!

These are supposed to be researchers we're talking about, right?

Photo: Tim Hurst
Press Release
Colorado State University Clean Energy Supercluster

March 19, 2008

Jämtland: A County Fuelled by Biomass

Fascinating and well produced piece about the use of biomass and combined heat/power(CHP) to provide 90 percent of the heating needs of this Swedish county. Officials hope to get that figure to 100 percent in the near future. The project is part of a program called Sustainable Energy Europe, a European Commission initiative which aims to contribute to the achievement of the European Union's energy policy targets within the fields of renewable energy sources, energy efficiency, clean transport and alternative fuels.Running time is about 8 minutes.

March 18, 2008

Community Wind Faces Financing & Market Obstacles

community wind, wind energy, wray, community-based wind, cooperative wind, americas wind energy corporationThe largest wind turbine in the world owned by a school district is about to go online in Wray, CO. Apparently, the parts for the Americas Wind Energy turbine came from all over the world to tiny Wray, population 2100 and falling. The blades came from Spain, the generator from Holland, the tower from South Korea and the copper wire came from Canada. Ironically, even Americas Wind Energy itself is not an American company, it is Canadian.

After originally deciding on the size and type of turbine needed, the community found they couldn’t buy just one turbine in that size range. Because of the bottleneck in American wind turbine production, the large wind farms and energy development companies are dominating the turbine purchasing market, trying to get their projects online before the end of 2008 when the production tax credit (PTC) is currently set to expire. The current market uncertainty is favoring the large turbine orders, whilst moving small orders to the fringes.

It is possible this bottleneck will loosen as Vestas has just opened its first North American turbine blade facility in Windsor, CO. The wind giant has recently taken an order (pdf) for 109 turbines in the US that they said would not affect any of their existing orders. However, E.ON Climate and Renewable Energy, who placed the order, will not be scheduled to have all 109 turbines up and running by the end of 2008. Their project is not projected to be finished until the middle of 2009.

It is my guess that even if the PTC does not pass this year, it will pass at the beginning of next year, when there is a strong chance there will be a Democrat in the White, and maybe even a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. It is also quite likely that Congress would extend the PTC retroactively back to the beginning of 2009, as if it never expired. Even if that is the case, there is certain to be some downturn in the renewable energy industry as investors may get a little sheepish without the security of a production tax credit this year.

Fort Morgan Times
Photo: Americas Wind Energy (AWE 52-900)

March 16, 2008

Feast or Famine Cycles of American Clean Energy Development

[Originally posted at CleanTechnica on March 13, 2008]. In my first post about the feast or Famine Cycles of American Clean Energy Development, I touched upon the up and down nature of federal funding for renewable energy deployment in the late 70s and early 80s. The following examination adds some more context with a historical-institutional perspective of what went down in the early 80’s, how, and why. And in the spirit of some of the earlier posts this week that covered the technology of solar thermal, and the practical application of solar thermal technology to entire neighborood developments, I have decided to follow suit by writing about solar thermal as well. I hope to show that the decline and slow fazing out of federal support for solar thermal research and development during the Reagan and George Bush administrations has had a substantial effect on where the industry is today. More...

March 12, 2008

Telluride Shushing Democratic Theory

democracy in tellurideTucked away in a box canyon along the San Miguel river, Telluride, Colorado is known for its great skiing, music festivals, oversized second (and third) homes, and quaint Victorian charm. Now, whether the townspeople want it or not, the town may become known for turning its back on transparency. The Town Council in Telluride holds the power of executive session, and it is considering extending that power to other boards that are handling "sensitive issues." Executive sessions are used by all kinds of committees and boards in corporations, associations, and governments to discuss issues of a discreet nature. Executive sessions are certainly not new in government, but that doesn't mean they are good.

From the Telluride Daily Planet:

The Open Space Commission already has the authority to bar the public from its meetings. Now, the council is mulling granting this power to the Planning and Zoning and Historic and Architectural Review commissions. Town Attorney Kevin Geiger said that as the matters these commissions deal with “mature and become more controversial,” the need has occasionally risen for attorney-client privileged communications... ...Past boards and commissions have been granted these powers, on occasion and by specific ordinances, such as one that allowed the Valley Floor Advisory Board to enter into executive session with the town’s legal team."


March 11, 2008

March 10, 2008

Three Cheers for the Red, Green, and Blue

I am proud to announce my position as the lead writer in an exciting new endeavor on the Green Options Media network. Red, Green, and Blue will focus on "environmental politics from across the spectrum."

I cannot think of a better time to be launching a niche blog that is focused on environmental politics. Record numbers of people (especially young people) have already turned out to vote in their state’s primaries and caucuses. Nearly everywhere we go and virtually everything we consume is being infused with green hues (or attempting to be infused with green hues). With that said, politics are as natural as the trees, oceans, and mountains.

This blog is not intended to be only about American environmental politics. In computer parlance, “Red, Green, and Blue” refers to three color model that is used to create a broad spectrum of colors from just those three primary colors. And that is what we are aiming for as a blog. By welcoming and encouraging thoughtful and informed discussions about American and global environmental politics from across the political spectrum, we hope to fill a gap in the blogosphere which is critically underdeveloped.


March 9, 2008

Can I Re-energize My REA? I've Got to Win an Election First

In 2004, Colorado became the first state in the country to pass a citizen-initiated renewable energy standard (RES). Amendment 37 required all investor owned utilities get 10 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2015. Xcel Energy made such strides towards meeting the requirement that, in 2007, Gov. Bill Ritter signed a bill doubling the RES for investor owned utilities to 20 percent by 2020. Why am I rehashing all of this? Because, during the period from 2004-2008, while Xcel was building substantial renewable energy capacity, nearly all of the state's rural electric associations carried on with business as usual, because the renewable energy requirement did not apply to them. And that's where I come in. It is time to let the cat out of the bag: I have spent the last several months campaigning for a seat on the Board of Directors of my co-op, the Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association.

I decided early on that I would not use any of the Green Options blogs as a bully pulpit, and that I would also steer ecopolitology away from my PVREA board candidacy. With that said, now that the election is only a few days away, and most people who intend to vote have already done so, I have decided to tell my readers a little more about the whole thing. But instead of me telling you about it, I will let others do the talking for me. Below are two sets of excerpts, the first is from a media statement released by a non-profit called PV-Pioneers, a group that I am proud to be associated with. The second set of excerpts is taken from a recent article by Dan MacArthur that appeared in the North Forty News.

The Colorado non-profit organization, PV-Pioneers, has announced its support of Tim Hurst, Steve Szabo, and Roger Alexander, in this year's Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association Board of Directors election.

The local citizen's group, which promotes energy efficiency, renewable energy, and rate reform by PVREA, encouraged members to watch for election ballots in their mail box, for the co-op's first mail-in election. Candidate Steve Szabo said, "This is an opportunity to join other utilities who are saving money by making smart investments in efficiency, wind and solar power and who are passing savings to their customers." The Longmont area organic grower added, "PVREA has been overcommitted to yesterday's technologies and has been slow to adopt effective and aggressive energy efficiency programs. The unfortunate result has been higher rates for everyone."

Roger Alexander, candidate for the PVREA Board seat representing Larimer County, said "This election is about your money, and your electric rates. It is important to support a vision with programs that will keep our electric bills low by promoting energy efficiency, wind, and solar." Alexander, a Fort Collins energy efficiency consultant and solar energy system integrator noted that PVREA rates have jumped 30% over the past 3 years. He added "Our first priority is to proactively choose efficiency programs which minimize costs for customers and the utility."

Tim Hurst, candidate for the at-large seat, supports increased investment in clean energy. He exclaimed, "This is a terrific chance to simultaneously protect our environment and create new jobs and economic growth for the area's rural community." Hurst further explained that "Our vision of a clean, cost-efficient energy future begins here in Larimer, Weld, and Boulder counties, not exclusively with distant, costly coal based electric plants."

PV-Pioneers president Kevin Markey explained that the citizens' group looked for candidates with a progressive vision, who were willing and able to face the electric cooperative's challenges with new ideas and new vigor. He said, "The traditional ideas and conservative management style of the current board may have worked when energy prices were stable and the energy world was predictable. Now we need to replace that thinking with a more proactive, entrepreneurial management." He also noted that the three candidates, although in disagreement with current PVREA policies, have worked constructively with PVREA Board and staff.

Challengers Energize REA Voting

By Dan MacArthur - North Forty News

The theme of change dominating presidential politics is seeping down to the local level in the fierce race for election to the Poudre Valley Rural Electric Association board of directors.

A slate of three alternative energy advocates allied as the PV Pioneers is waging a concerted campaign for three of the four director seats up for election at the March 15 annual meeting.

The race makes apparent the changing face of the consumer-owned, nonprofit cooperative.

Formed nearly 70 years ago in the wake of the Depression, its mission was bringing electricity to far-flung farms across Larimer and Weld counties.

Today it serves 35,618 increasingly suburban members. The REA maintains more than 3,800 miles of line spread over 3,600 square miles of Northern Colorado.

"Previously there were few contests for the 11 board seats. They typically were held by long-time directors associated with agriculture. In 2007, however, a pair of relative newcomers pushing renewable resources and challenging continued reliance on coal-fired electric generation came within a whisker of unseating two incumbents.

Roger Alexander and Steve Szabo challenged plans by the REA's wholesale supplier, Tri-State Generation and Transmission, to build two new coal-fired power plants in western Kansas and a third in southeastern Colorado.

Tri-State insisted the plants were needed to meet future demands. But Alexander and Szabo maintained the $5 billion total cost was excessive and unnecessary. Those needs, they asserted, could be met more economically and environmentally soundly through greater conservation and use of renewable energy.

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment rejected the power plant plans, however, and a compromise is now being drafted by the Kansas Legislature. It would allow construction of the plants to proceed, providing Tri-State minimizes the carbon dioxide emissions widely believed by scientists to contribute to global warming.

Those two PV (Poudre Valley or Photo-Voltaic) Pioneers are back again, with the addition of Tim Hurst, campaigning on a plank of three R's - rates, reliability and renewable energy. They want Poudre Valley and other co-ops to press for greater development of renewable energy by Tri-State.

"This year's contest has been quiet and civil for the most part with candidates from both camps expressing respect for the ideas and opinions offered by the other. Beneath it all, however, is a deep split between those convinced coal-generated electricity is the only real option in the foreseeable future and those equally convinced it should be the last option.

"There are two very different philosophies," said 18-year board member Jim Park, who is being challenged by Hurst.

"They think green power is the answer to everything," said Dean Anderson, who's being opposed by Roger Alexander. While green power has its place, Anderson said it remains expensive and unreliable. It is available only when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing and can't be stored for later use when it is needed most.

There also is a less profound split about whether global warming is a consequence of the carbon dioxide produced by the combustion of fossil fuels.

"I don't think (the directors) really understand what's happening with climate change. It's kind of irrefutable," said Szabo.

"Quite frankly, I don't buy into that totally," Park said. He suggested such warming instead could result from long-term cyclical variations.

"It really seems that it's only in the U.S. that the discussion still exists," said Alexander. Disputable or not, he asked, "What's the downside of moving away from fossil fuels now? Why would you gamble with the future of the human race?"

March 7, 2008

Spanish Renewable Energy Firms Eye US Market

renewable-energy, energy industry, green-collar-jobs, wind, solar, investing, financeObscured by all of the buzz about the opening of wind energy giant Vestas' first North American blade plant, a delegation of about 30 renewable energy executives and government officials from Spain recently visited Colorado to learn about investment and expansion opportunities in the region. Some of the visitors were already in the US for the dedication of Acciona’s new concentrating solar power plant outside of Las Vegas. The Spanish delegation met with state and local public officials, including Gov. Ritter, and toured a number of sites including the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) in Golden and Colorado State University in Fort Collins. Others involved in the visit include the US Department of Commerce, Metro Denver Economic Development Corp. and the Northern Colorado Economic Development Corp.

It is no secret that Spanish renewable energy companies like Acciona, Iberdola, and Finavera are aggressively positioning themselves to be major manufacturers in the in the American renewable energy industry. The Spanish delegation is not visiting Colorado on a whim. The state has recently shown with the opening of the new Vestas plant, that it is willing to give cash incentives and employment bonuses to clean energy businesses who want to set up shop in the Centennial State.

Photo Credit: TheFriendlyFiend via flickr

March 6, 2008

Video: State of Resolve

This short pbs video highlights California's relatively progressive environmental policy and juxtaposes it with our (lack of) federal policy. The well-produced piece also does a good job of linking our drive for material wealth as a contributor to environmental pollution in China. About 4 minutes.

March 3, 2008

Vestas Quietly Opens First North American Blade Plant

vestas, wind-turbine, wind-energy, renewable-energy, coloradoDanish wind-energy giant, Vestas, has apparently already opened the doors to its $60 million, 400,000 square foot blade manufacturing facility in Windsor, Colorado. Even though the plant was not officially scheduled to open until this week, The Coloradoan has reported that manufacturing stealthily began as much as four weeks ago. The Windsor factory is the company's first manufacturing facility in North America.

Construction on the plant began in June 2007 with the intent of having a 200,000-square-foot facility with 400 workers. Those workers were to run four production-lines and create 1200 turbine blades per year (enough for 400 turbines). But, as I reported back in November, Vestas announced they would bump the total number of manufacturing jobs up to 650. Since making the announcement, company officials have been relatively tight-lipped about the potential change in production output brought on by the addition of employees.

With 35,000 wind turbines installed, and a market share of 23%, Vestas has 15,000 employees worldwide. In the USA, Vestas has installed more than 4,000 megawatts of wind energy. The company hopes that the centrally-located blade facility in Colorado will ease the bottleneck in US turbine manufacturing and deployment.

Photo Credit: sky#walker via flickr

Fort Collins Coloradoan

Denver Post