Today’s solar technology is the most sustainable way of generating energy. Solar power is inexpensive on a kilowatt per hour basis, is low maintenance, has zero fuel requirements, generates no emissions, and is completely silent.
But even solar leaves a waste footprint, primarily because there is a lot of equipment that is manufactured and installed. Energy is consumed during component and equipment manufacturing, shipment and installation — whether on a utility-scale field, commercial flat roof or home. Waste is inevitably generated, especially packaging materials (I was kicked out of my first home office because we were recycling too much cardboard).
Perhaps the biggest waste footprint issues will arise when solar installations are de-commissioned at the end of their life. Aluminum and steel racking can be profitably recycled. However, as with many other consumer and industrial products (tires, electronics, etc.), there are significant costs associated with shipping and recycling solar panels. It is not an easy process to separate the aluminum, glass and silicon that are the primary components of solar panels.
This all comes back to the concept of sustainable solar development, and in the solar industry, sustainability is more than just a buzzword. We strive to walk the talk. As a result, most solar companies have solar panels on their roof, use EVs in their fleet and are compulsive about recycling.
Our guest on this week’s Energy Show is TJ Kanczuzewski, CEO of Inovateus Solar. Based in South Bend, Indiana, Inovateus is emphasizing corporate sustainability on all of their projects. Please listen up to this week’s Energy Show as TJ discusses how Inovateus Solar has established their sustainability plan, and how they are extending sustainable solar development for their projects and with business partners.
As our society recovers from the triple threats of Coronavirus, economic collapse and social unrest, the longer term threat of global warming continues to hang over our heads. Earlier this year — just as the Coronavirus hit and our economy went into a recession — the Trillion Trees Act was introduced.
Representative Bruce Westerman, a pro-logging advocate from Arkansas introduced this act, along with several Republican colleagues. Representative Steve Stivers of Ohio hailed the act as offering a powerful solution to combat our changing climate. And President Trump declared the US will join this initiative. A fundamental claim of this initiative is that a trillion trees is an important part of solving the global climate crisis. In itself, this claim is an acknowledgment by Republicans that there is indeed a global warming problem that humans can effectively address.
Both political parties to some degree acknowledge that global warming is a man-made problem. With abundant apologies to Joyce Kilmer: “I think that I shall never see, a Global Warming Solution as lovely as a tree. So the real question becomes: “how effectively can a trillion trees solve global warming?”
Please listen to this week’s Energy Show as we delve into a few of the scientific and economic issues related to the Trillion Trees Act, including: how trees sequester carbon, how much CO2 will a trillion trees remove, how much land is required, how much will it cost to plant a trillion trees, how long will it take for these trees to capture atmospheric CO2, and to cap it all off — can Congress pass such a bill.
With the Stay At Home orders in place throughout a large part of the U.S., many of us are now 100% dependent on our home’s electric grid for work — as well as lights, refrigeration, HVAC and entertainment.
Unfortunately, our old fashioned electric grid is not up to the challenges of wildfires and storms, not to mention ever-increasing maintenance costs. Transmitting power long distances over high voltage transmission lines is particularly vulnerable to disruptions. Although this old grid was good for over a hundred years, new technologies — particularly battery storage, solar and smart appliances — are more reliable and less expensive.
These new technologies move the generation and storage of electricity much closer to the buildings that need this power — a design that is called Distributed Generation. In suburban areas there is often enough available roof space for solar panels; power for these systems is generated Behind the Meter (on the customer’s side of the meter). But in urban areas there is rarely enough roof space; instead, large solar power systems can be installed over parking lots, on brownfields, or on warehouse rooftops. With this design the power is generated on the utility’s side of the meter — a concept called Wholesale Distributed Generation.
Wholesale distributed generation makes terrific environmental and economic sense. The Clean Coalition was established in 2009 to accelerate the deployment of wholesale distributed generation. They advocate for a modern, efficient power system that takes advantage of these new solar and storage technologies to provide clean, reliable and more affordable energy.
My guest on this week’s show is Craig Lewis, the Executive Director of the Clean Coalition. I’ve known Craig for almost 15 years — going back to his work at GreenVolts, one of the pioneering solar concentrator companies. Please Listen Up to this week’s Energy Show as Craig shares how the Clean Coalition is working to create fair, transparent, and effective policies and programs to help power the United States with renewable energy from local sources.
The global warming crisis is a slow-motion train wreck that requires an all hands on deck response. Individuals, businesses and government all need to pull in the same direction to minimize the effect of this crisis. Unfortunately, our federal government continues to focus more on supporting the incumbent fossil fuel industry instead of the clean energy technologies encouraged by the rest of the world.
The good news is that leadership in many state and local governments are stepping up with practical, effective and affordable climate change solutions — and the City of San Jose is clearly a leader when it comes to implementing these solutions. A key component of the City’s efforts is the award-winning Climate Smart San Jose program. This community-wide initiative focuses on reducing pollution and improving the quality of life for San Jose residents. Basically, it’s the city’s plan to align with the targets of the Paris Climate Agreement.
Our guest on this week’s Energy Show is Ken Davies, Director of Climate Smart San Jose. For over ten years Ken has been at the forefront of Silicon Valley’s environmental efforts. There is no doubt in my mind that the work he and his team are doing in San Jose will exceed our local goals for the Paris Climate Agreement.
Please listen up to this week’s Energy Show as Ken discusses some of the key components of Climate Smart San Jose, including electrification rebates, the Climate Smart Challenge, zero net carbon buildings, vehicle electrification, San Jose’s Reach Code, and 100% green electricity.
Buildings consume 40% of our energy, most of that for heating and cooling. Almost all of this energy is supplied by fossil fuels, resulting in tremendous CO2 emissions. Building electrification solves this problem. Instead of burning fossil fuels in homes and businesses, we can heat, cool, wash and cook using electricity generated from clean, renewable sources.
San Jose is one of the first cities to establish building codes that pursue a zero net energy policy by strongly recommending all electric new homes. But what about existing homes? To find out first hand what was involved in getting to a zero net energy home, my wife and I embarked on a project to completely electrify our 50 year old home in San Jose.
I’ve done quite of bit of energy upgrading on homes and businesses over the past 40 years. Nevertheless, I checked in with a few friends who had done some electrification of their homes (thanks to Howard, Jeff and Dick). The steps we took mostly followed conventional wisdom: address the easy and cheap items first (LED lights, controls), extra insulation, solar with battery backup, EV charger, heat pump HVAC, heat pump water heater and induction cooktop.
There were only two real hassles with this electrification project. The first hassle is familiar to anyone doing a renovation or maintenance project: finding the “best” contractor for each individual task. Because building electrification involves so many different types of contractors, there is no one “general contractor” who can do everything both efficiently and cost effectively. We ended up with five different contractors: insulation, pool, solar, electrical and HVAC. Since I’m capable of screwing in a lightbulb, I took care of the LEDs lights and controls. The biggest hassle was on the electrical permitting side and coordinating with our local utility. Nevertheless, when everything was done and connected, we are enjoying a net negative (for the year) electric bill — including all of our heating, cooling, cooking and most of our driving.
Perhaps the most rewarding event was when our local gas utility PG&E sent an inspector to our house to find out why the gas meter almost stopped completely! To learn more about electrifying your home or business, please listen to this week’s Energy Show. And if you are thinking about making the switch from fossil fuel home appliances to electrical appliances run by solar and battery storage solutions, take a look at our 10 steps to whole house electrification.