Monday, October 15, 2012

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Cleantech News from CleanTechnica

Link to CleanTechnica

From Bush to Obama, U.S. Army Goes Green, then Greener

Posted: 14 Oct 2012 11:30 AM PDT

The U.S. Army’s Garrison Grafenwoehr in Germany began winning environmental awards when President Bush was still in office, and now it bills itself as the leader in an ambitious new sustainability program launched under President Obama called the Army Net Zero initiative. As a military installation that also lays claim to the title “The Crown Jewel of U.S. Army Europe,” Grafenwoehr offers a critical lesson about the true meaning of genuine energy independence. After all, no matter how much the U.S. oil industry produces for civilians in the 50 states, military facilities and operations overseas still need to get their energy from somewhere.

Grafenwoehr leads in army net zero initiative

Army Net Zero Initiative

The Army Net Zero initiative launched in April 2011 with the goal of taking U.S. military facilities off the grid. That means using no more energy than can be produced on site or locally sourced, using only water harvested on site, and sending no waste to landfills.

With all the saber-rattling over the Strait of Hormuz and the broader fiscal and logistical issues surrounding military oil dependency, it’s more than obvious why the Pentagon has been transitioning as rapidly out of fossil fuels as current technology allows.

Net zero for water and waste might seem a little less obvious as strategic military goals, but water and waste are both critical factors in energy consumption and cost control, particularly when it comes to transportation and resupply issues.


Grafenwoehr Net Zero Waste

The Army began assessing facilities to lead the Net Zero program in 2010. Based on its past environmental record, Grafenwoehr was among only 15 facilities that made the cut. Not all facilities have a realistic chance of achieving net zero in all three categories, so Grafenwoehr’s goal only applies to waste reduction.

A recent update on Grafenhwoehr’s net zero progress notes that, since 2010, household solid waste has been reduced by 60 percent, easily beating a short-term goal of ten percent. Construction waste went down even farther, by 99 percent.

Recycling has played a major role in the progress, of course, but it’s also instructive to see how other aspects of the new waste initiatives interact with the community at large.

The non-recycled waste is shipped to an incinerator, producing ash that can be used as fertilizer (demonstrating, btw, the importance of transitioning to eco-safe household products).

Steam from the incinerator goes to a nearby factory where it is used both to heat the building and to run the operation. The factory also gets electricity generated by the incinerator, and anything it can’t use gets shunted into the grid.

Grafenwoehr Clean Energy

Grafenwoehr’s energy solutions also demonstrate community interaction, as new solar panels on six different buildings produce electricity that goes into the local grid. The German government pays the base back for every kilowatt-hour of clean energy it generates, which partly offsets the price that the base pays for grid-supplied energy.

As for achieving Net Zero energy status, that is beyond the reach of cold-climate bases like Grafenwoehr, at least given the current state of technology. However, the base is still forging ahead with new solar thermal systems along with stepping up its energy conservation measures, including more intensive educational efforts aimed at getting base personnel to generate less waste.

Green for the Army and the Rest of Us, Too

Grafenwoehr’s most recent environmental leadership award came in 2011, and this is where you can really see the direction that Net Zero is heading in terms of community impacts.

Aside from covering Grafenwoehr’s record in recycling and conservation, the award also recognizes the base’s cooperation with local civic and nature conservation authorities.

In a prepared statement announcing the award, Brig. Gen. Steven L. Salazar, commanding general of the Joint Multinational Training Command, said:

“Just like we take our responsibility to train Soldiers and care for Army families seriously, so, too, are we committed to being good stewards of the generous, highly complex, yet fragile environmental resources here.”

Keeping in mind that this is the same prestigious award that the base won twice under President Bush, it’s another reminder that until just a few years ago environmental stewardship received at least a minimal level of attention and support across party lines.

Image: Junior Office Competition at Grafenwoehr, some rights reserved by U.S. Army Europe Images

Follow me on Twitter: @TinaMCasey

Ford C-Max Energi Ranked America’s Top Fuel-Efficient Plug-In Hybrid

Posted: 14 Oct 2012 11:05 AM PDT

As electric and plug-in vehicles increase in demand due to customers wanting cleaner vehicles (for environmental concerns such as climate change, as well as pure economic reasons), it's obvious these vehicles will increase fuel efficiency records. The Ford C-Max Energi is one such vehicle doing so today.

Ford recently announced that its plug-in vehicle was given a rating from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of 108 miles per gallon equivalent (MPGe) for city use, along with a100 MPGe overall rating.

When stacked up against other vehicles, Ford noted that the C-Max Energi 100 MPGe outpaces the Toyota Prius by 5 MPGe.

The C-Max Energi, along with the Ford Focus Electric (110 MPGe in the city) are two of just a handful of cars that have a prestigious US EPA ranking of 100 MPGe or more. Ford is expected early next year to bolster its lineup of top-notch electric and plug-in hybrids with the Ford Fusion Energy plug-in hybrid. The new vehicle should also have a MPGe of 100, the release said.

Besides reaching over 100 MPGe, the Ford C-Max Energi could offer some big savings for customers, given constant struggles with gas prices. Ford notes:

“Over the course of five years, C-MAX Energi customers could save nearly $7,000 compared with the average new vehicle, according to the federal EPA label. Comparative savings could go even higher if the current trend of rising gas prices continues.”

While, it's cool to save money, this vehicle looks like it has some really neat bells and whistles to go along with its fuel efficiency. Some of the neat features include:

  1. Voice command that will allow consumers to manage climate, phone, and navigation functions in their car.
  2. Access through web or smart phones to do basic performances, including: finding charging stations, routes to get to the charging stations, current range on the battery, plus battery life available. Ford mentioned these features will have the green light by early next year.
  3. In-car visual displays that show drivers how to get better fuel efficiency with their vehicle.
  4. An EV-mode button, which gives the driver the option of switching between three modes (normal hybrid, all-electric, or battery conservation for later use).
  5. LED light showing battery charge status.
  6. An advanced lithium battery with a 100,000-mile component warranty/eight years. Ford noted these newer batteries in the car are much lighter than older models, which had nickel metal.

Ford officials are very optimistic about the Ford C-Max Energi's potential for energy efficiency for customers.

"Ford is giving customers the power of choice for leading fuel economy regardless of what type of vehicle or powertrain technology they choose," said chief nameplate engineer of C-MAX Energi John Davis.

"With $5-per-gallon gasoline, C-MAX Energi customers essentially will pay $1.25 per gallon for the same distance traveled compared with average vehicles estimated to achieve 23 mpg (miles per gallon)."

Heck, this vehicle even got a top GM Volt evangelist to switch cars!

Looking for more information? Here’s a video that Ford put out explaining what MPGe is and its relationship to plug-in hybrids and electric vehicles:

Source: Ford

Fox Wind Power Fact Check

Posted: 14 Oct 2012 10:53 AM PDT

I saw a video on Fox Business this morning about the Mid-Atlantic wind farm proposal, and the correspondents in the video made some controversial claims, so I decided to do a wind power fact check:

1. Wind power is CAN provide constant and reliable power. The first dubious claim made in the video was that wind power is “incurably intermittent.” This isn’t true, because wind farms can provide a 100% stable power output using battery energy storage, compressed air energy storage, or pumped hydroelectric storage. They can even use a relatively small buffer energy storage system to back them up for 15 minutes while peaking natural gas power plants start to back them up.

So, wind power intermittency is certainly curable, but what matters is that it is cured in the most economic way possible. I should also add that modern combined-cycle natural gas power plants, which are not only very efficient (up to 60%), but also economical, are capable of adjusting their power production in as little as a minute, which is substantially helpful in backing up wind farms when wind speeds slow down.

Additionally, it’s worth noting that the wind is always blowing somewhere. With a good grid, wind from one region can easily be sent to another.

Lastly, on this point, it’s important to point out that wind power is one part of the electric grid. It is not expected and will never be expected to deliver 100% of the grid’s electricity. When the wind is blowing, it is the cheapest form of electricity in many places, so whenever it is available, it has clear economic priority.

Wind power is useful. It can be stored. And it is one (very cheap) part of a broader energy mix.

Middelgrunden Offshore Wind Farm

2. The wind industry “only” hired 75,000 people. This may be true, but another way to look at that is that, while wind power doesn’t even account for 2% of nationwide electricity production, it has already generated 75,000 jobs. If that market penetration figure was increased from 2% to 50%, that could translate to many more jobs. A couple million jobs generated by wind farms, which do not import fuel from overseas, would be nice, wouldn’t it? And 75,000 is certainly nothing to scoff at, either. There are only 83,000 jobs in the US coal mining industry, and that industry provides 35-40% of US electricity. There are fewer than 48,000 jobs in the “Water, Sewer, and Other Services” industry – that’s quite a bit less than wind power’s 75,000.

3. Wind power is as eco-friendly as electricity generation gets. The claim that nuclear is “far more environmentally friendly” than wind power is absurd. What do you think — is radioactive nuclear waste less harmful than wind turbines that emit no pollutants into the atmosphere or water (read about acid rain) and don’t create waste that needs to be stored for millennia?

Wind turbines require a very small amount of space on the ground (~13 feet per turbine). The space around wind turbines can usually be used for agriculture. In fact, studies have found that it improves the yields of some crops.

Photo Credit: Kim Hansen from Wikimedia Commons.

Looking for an Eco-Friendly Office? Here Are Our Tips

Posted: 14 Oct 2012 04:00 AM PDT

As a small business — and a green one — you might sometimes have the difficult challenge of going about things in an eco-friendly way, yet presenting yourself as a professional outfit that can deliver on a big scale. This can create problems in all sorts of ways — such as having to plan in advance in order to arrive by train versus a quicker and more convenient (but greenhouse-gas-emitting) flight. Your challenge can even be something as simple as finding recycled materials upon which to print signs, brochures or other important marketing matter.

And then there’s the physical location of your business, which might be small and eco-friendly in certain ways, but likely presents challenges when it comes to hosting clients or making presentations in front of groups, due to its size and possibly due to its location.

One environmentally friendly solution is to consider using conference facilities from for occasional meetings, or for your weekly office needs. There are several advantages to doing this that can benefit your business and shrink your carbon footprint. For one, having a rented space in a large facility that shares cleaning services and is close to an urban centre can be much more efficient than businesses located further afield. Not only will your customer base be able to access you more easily and use less petrol to get to you, but you will be closer to services you might need, lowering transport costs and fuel consumption. Some conference facilities are even near bicycle couriers for efficient and clean transportation of office supplies and other items that your business might require.

Of course, a big benefit to renting office or conference facilities is that you will raise your profile and will be seen by clients or partners in a professional environment that says “you mean business” — a message that can bolster your company and cause, and, when done in an eco-friendly way, can even ease your conscience.

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