Archive for December, 2008
Solar maps could help community energy planning
by damian | Uncategorized

Time has an article today about engineering firm CH2M Hill’s efforts to map renewable energy potential in cities. They worked with the city of San Francisco and Google maps to create a map that shows solar installations and the potential for solar power in each neighborhood. A homeowner can zoom in to a satellite image of her roof to see exactly how much solar energy she could potentially harvest and what the savings would be in terms of carbon emissions. The site also tracks the number of solar installations and total ghg savings citywide. It’s pretty fun to play with.

Considering renewable energy development and efficiency projects in terms of microclimates at the neighborhood or even individual street level seems to be an idea taking hold in several communities across the country. The University of Nebraska has a pilot project to help a neighborhood lower its energy use by 25 percent, for example.

And I’ve heard from one sustainable development planner in Portland that there’s a regional effort underway in Portland and Seattle to create energy districts — local improvement districts in Oregon legalese — to help pay for neighborhood energy projects. All ratepayers in the district would pay the same set amount for utility bills, creating a pool of money to complete efficiency projects and incentive to encourage their neighbors to do the same. It seems like CH2M Hill’s renewable energy maps would be useful in directing energy investments at the community level.

Blumenauer says auto industry bailout should replace entire federal fleet
by damian | Uncategorized

Congressman Earl Blumenauer spoke last week at the Northwest Energy Coalition conference in Portland about a number of energy issues facing Congress in the coming months.

After speaking at length about what an Obama economic recovery plan should look like, he expressed his disgust for a proposed $34 billion auto industry bailout. He acknowledged that passage was likely, however, and proposed his own ideas for how it should go down. (The House approved a much smaller $14B package yesterday)

“We might just buy the flippin company [General Motors] and install a CEO who can run it and a board to oversee it,” said Blumenauer.

The feds should then insure that the money is used to invest in next-generation, clean technologies by placing an order with the Big Three to replace the entire federal fleet with plug-in hybrid electrics and cars that run on compressed natural gas or 100-percent biofuels, he said.

“We get something in return for our bailout money and we get to our goal,” for greener transportation options, said Blumenauer.

Blumenauer also had some ideas about how to allocate money to states for energy efficiency projects, which I wrote about today on the NYTimes Green Inc. blog.

Oregon cuts dams even as hydro gains steam
by damian | Uncategorized

The NYTimes’ Green Inc. blog has a posting today about the increased popularity of hydropower projects in U.S. rivers as a cleaner, sometimes cheaper, alternative to traditional energy resources.

In Oregon, this may not be exactly true. Many existing hydro projects are being decommissioned, including those on the Rogue River and the Sandy River, to allow for upstream fish passage. And I don’t know of any re-licensing projects here that are adding turbines to existing dams.

But at least one tech company, Symbiotics, is still building hydro projects here. Or, more accurately, they’re installing inflatable dams on top of irrigation dams to generate power where there was once just a concrete slab. And their work is going gangbusters. When I talked to COO Brent Smith a few months ago for the Relicensing Review he said he expects FERC to approve at least three more project licenses by the end of next year.