Category Archives: Environment

Stuff about the environment and our relationship with it

Google Goes Solar

With Whole Foods going 100% wind (by using green tags), and many other companies following suit, as well as some government agencies, its no wonder that Google would go solar.

I would imagine that Google uses a shit-tonne (that being more than a butt-load, and less than a ho-billion) of electricity could really use a large 1.6 MEGAwatt installation.

mock up of solar system on Google campus

From here

Google Inc. plans a solar-powered electricity system at its Silicon Valley headquarters that will rank as the largest U.S. solar-powered corporate office complex, the company said on Wednesday.

The Web search leader said it is set to begin building a rooftop solar-powered generation system at its Mountain View, California, headquarters capable of generating 1.6 megawatts of electricity, or enough to power 1,000 California homes.

“This is the largest customer-owned solar electric system at a corporate site,” said Noah Kaye, director of public affairs at the Solar Energy Industries Association, an industry group based in Washington, D.C.

A Google executive said the company will rely on solar power to supply nearly a third of the electricity consumed by office workers at its roughly one-million-square-foot headquarters. This does not include power consumed by data centers that power many of Google’s Web services worldwide, he said.

You can watch a video of the potential installation here.

A little run down of the system from the designers website shows the system stats as the following.

Mountain View, California

System Size:
1.6 MW
Energy Output:
2,611,719 kWh per year
$393,000 + annually
C02 emissions reduced by 3.6 million pounds/year (equivalent to 4.28 million car miles/year)

Read the PDF stat sheet here.

The payback on a system of this size is amazingly fast.

By building the largest solar power system ever installed at a single corporate campus, Google will save more than $393,000 annually in energy costs — or close to $15 million over the 30-year lifespan of its solar system. At this rate, the system will pay for itself in approximately 7.5 years.

Lets hope this inspires other tech giants to start doing the same.

Sweet Solar Parking Meters In Boston

Boston is going to be installing solar powered parking meters. If that is not cool enough they also take credit cards, speak three languages, and still take normal coins (with the added fun of taking dollar bills now).

The only flaws I can see is that because of the ticket system used the meter will produce a waste stream, that’s all we need is more paper floating around the streets (I was similarly not impressed when Boston moved from a re-usable T coin to the current paper ones), and you will not be able to use the rest of the time on someones meter unless they give you their ticket.

Other than that however, these things are an idea that should have been implimented years ago.

From here

The city plans to begin installing solar-powered meters that take credit cards on a four-block section of Newbury Street in the Back Bay next week.

Officials hope the new meters will allow more parking spaces to fit along congested streets, as well as being more convenient.

“This is a new era in parking in Boston,” Thomas J. Timlin, Boston’s transportation commissioner, told The Boston Globe. “It is the biggest step since the city first purchased meters so long ago.”

But the new machines will still take cash: quarters, dollar bills and one-dollar coins. They also can be used in English, Spanish or French.

The 23 meters, which cover eight parking spots each, are the first step in a citywide upgrade. The machines will print out tickets with time stamps that drivers will place on their cars’ windshields.

Parking rates won’t change; each 15 minutes will still cost 25 cents and the time limit will still be two hours. And drivers won’t be able to use time someone else has left on the meter.

City workers won’t have quite as heavy a load to empty the machines, whose solar panels make them lower-maintenance. The city collects about 32 million quarters a year from the standard parking meters, about $8 million dollars worth.

From here.

They are powered by solar panels, eliminating the need for city workers to replace batteries. The new meters also have wireless communication devices that inform transportation workers of problems, reducing the risk of out-of-order meters. The city for years has struggled with disabled meters, with several hundred of the city’s 7,300 meters broken or vandalized at any given time.

Its a wonder more cities have not gotten on the solar power bandwagon for things like this. This is a perfect application for solar power, you have lots of small power loads that would make it hard to wire them to a central power system, it cuts down the cost of replacing batteries year after year, and its super low maintanence. Many cities and states have already moved over to solar powered street lights (another perfect match for solar), saving them lots of money on electricity. Lets hope this trend continues.

Mega Giving

Keith has yet another thought provoking article up over at The Earth Blog. This time he takes on the world of the mega-giver, and asks a question many of us may not have. Is giving large amounts of money to certain causes really good for the world?

There is a well known Jewish concept called tzedakah, which roughly translates as “charity”. The 12th Century Jewish philosopher Maimonides, formalised tzedakah into 8 levels, each subsequent level being less righteous than the previous one. Taken in a secular sense they are as follows:

1. Giving a poor person work so he will not have to depend on charity
2. Giving charity anonymously to an unknown recipient
3. Giving it anonymously to a known recipient
4. Giving it to an unknown recipient
5. Giving it before being asked
6. Giving adequately after being asked
7. Giving willingly, but inadequately
8. Giving unwillingly

As a key facet of Jewish tradition, obviously charity has a long and often noble history. Philanthropy is defined as “charitable giving”, but the philanthropy we are most familiar with is that which links the giver of, often large sums of, money to the charitable cause. This is excellently described in Joseph Epstein’s article on celebrity giving, which notably exposes the link between giving and publicity. Epstein hints that such philanthropy doesn’t even lie on Maimonides’ scale; I would go further as to say that such “philanthropy” isn’t charity at all.

Read more here.

Climate Change And Renewable Energy Forums

PCCS and Congressman Delahunt to Co-Sponsor Climate Change & Renewable Energy Forums

al gore and cliamte change project
Provincetown Town Manager Keith Bergman
and former Vice President Al Gore

(Provincetown, Cape Cod, MA) – Preparing for climate changes and exploring renewable energy options for the future are subjects of three forums the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies (PCCS) and Congressman William Delahunt will co-sponsor in October. The first forum in the series will feature Provincetown Town Manager Keith Bergman who will deliver an illustrated presentation on global warming on Tuesday, October 17, at 7 p.m., at the Center’s Marine Lab at 5 Holway Avenue.

Bergman is one of 50 people who just returned from Al Gore’s global climate change training program, and is among the first on the Cape to join this movement to educate Americans about global warming and stir them to action through the former vice president’s Climate Project. He was nominated to participate by Congressman Bill Delahunt.

A second public forum, this one on community-based wind energy, will be held on Tuesday, October 24, at 7 p.m. at the Marine Lab, and is also co-sponsored by PCCS and Congressman Delahunt. John MacLeod, former manager of the Hull Municipal Light Plant that uses wind energy, is among the panelists. Hull is developing a new wind farm there that, when completed, will enable the community to draw 100% of its electricity from wind energy. The current cost of electricity to Hull residents is only 12.5 cents a kilowatt hour.

The Provincetown Board of Selectmen has applied for assistance from the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative to explore the development of wind energy similar to Hull’s efforts. Keith Bergman, Provincetown’s Town Manager, will discuss the town’s vision involving the community in this effort.

A third forum at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, October 31, will feature a discussion of the Cape and Islands Renewable Fuels Partnership, an effort organized by Congressman Delahunt’s office and Provincetown Town Manager Keith Bergman. The Partnership was convened to encourage Cape Cod towns to adopt the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement adopted from the Kyoto Protocols, an international treaty to limit greenhouse gas emissions, and to build local demand for the use of renewable fuels such as bio-diesel and ethanol throughout the region.

PCCS Executive Director Peter Borrelli will deliver opening remarks at all three events and will be among the experts available to answer questions from the public and media. All three events, co-sponsored by PCCS and Congressman Delahunt, begin at 7 p.m. The forums are free and open to the public but reservations are recommended to ensure a seat. Seating is limited. Phone 508.487.3622, extension 104, to register.

Largest Solar Energy System In New England

The Brockton Brightfield, the Largest Solar Energy System in New England, to be Dedicated on Oct. 26, 2006

brockton brightfield

Largest Brightfield in the Nation Establishes Brockton as a Solar Energy Champion

What: Inauguration of the Brockton Brightfield, an environmentally remediated brownfield that now features a 425 kilowatt (kW) solar energy system designed and constructed by Global Solar Energy Inc., using SCHOTT Solar modules manufactured in nearby Billerica, Mass.

Brockton’s installation of this new brightfield (a solar energy power plant located on a brownfield) has transformed a community liability into an environmental, educational and aesthetic asset. The Brockton Brightfield will be the largest solar energy plant in New England, and the largest brightfield in the nation.

With the new brightfield, Brockton, long known as the City of Champions, establishes itself as Massachusetts’ solar energy champion, with the largest installed capacity of photovoltaic solar power of any city in the commonwealth.

At the ribbon cutting and dedication event celebrating the completion of the brightfield, federal, state and local officials, solar industry experts and community leaders will provide insight and background on this unique solar energy installation and the future of renewable energy in Massachusetts.

Members of the press will also be able to

· Tour the site

· Interview speakers

· Visit the SCHOTT Solar PV production facility in to Billerica, Mass. where the photovoltaic (PV) solar panels used at this site were manufactured.

Who: Currently scheduled event speakers include:

· U.S. Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.),

· Mayor James E. Harrington (D) of Brockton

· City Council Representative Linda Balzotti (D) of Brockton

· Dr. Warren Leon, Director of the Massachusetts Technology Collaborative’s (MTC) Renewable Energy Trust,

· Robert W. Varney, Regional Administrator of the New England Office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Where: Brockton, Mass. Corner of Grove St. and E. Union St.

When: Thursday, October 26, 2006 at 10:00 am

RSVP: Please confirm attendance with Jason Brown of Spector & Associates: jbrown (at) spectorandassociates (dot) net or P (212) 943-5858.

Seems this location has been in the works for over five years now.

From here.

A long- awaited green light was flipped this week on a large, half-MW solar project in Massachusetts known as the Brockton “Brightfield.” At its heart is a plan to make use of a formerly polluted EPA-designated “brownfields” site and convert it into a local solar energy power plant — said to be the largest such solar project in New England.

“It is so gratifying to see this project finally coming to fruition after five years of feasibility studies, legislative approvals, financing, and contract negotiations. This particular neighborhood truly deserves an environmentally benign development considering some of the environmental burdens it has experienced.”

— Lori Colombo, Brownfields Coordinator

Brockton Mayor James E. Harrington signed the contract with Global Solar Energy for the company to take the lead on the project. “Brockton is very fortunate to be able to redevelop an idle brownfield into a solar ‘Brightfield’ that generates emission-free solar energy,” Harrington said. “The Global Solar team gave Brockton a compelling and cost-effective proposal, and we are eager to work with them to move the project forward.”

Global Solar Energy and its partners will design, install, operate and maintain a 425 kW DCSTC [Defense Communication Station Technical Control] photovoltaic system. The system will use 1,395 ASE300 (310 kW) modules from Schott Solar, which could generate more than 535 MWh of electricity the first year. This is enough to power City Hall and a fraction of the police station load. Using clean, renewable energy reduces emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

The Brockton City Council voted on March 13, to authorize the Mayor to sign the contract. The project has a budget of $3.037 million, which will be paid through $2.1 million in city funds and grant funds from the Massachusetts Renewable Energy Trust and the US Department of Energy. The project design will commence immediately — site preparation will begin in April and system installation will begin in May.

“The Renewable Energy Trust is proud to work in partnership with the city of Brockton and its new Mayor Jim Harrington to develop the largest solar installation in New England,” said Trust Director Warren Leon. “The City’s execution of this contract represents another important milestone for a project that will generate clean electricity, help educate people about the need for alternative energy sources and stand as a symbol of what is possible when leaders from the public and private sectors work together toward a cleaner energy future for Massachusetts.”

Global Solar Energy assembled a team that includes equipment manufacturers’ Schott Solar modules, Satcon Technology power conversion systems, and Fat Spaniel Technologies data acquisition systems. Landerholm Electric Company, a Brockton-based company, will perform installation, security, and operations and maintenance services. J. Derenzo Company and Coler & Colantonio will provide additional site preparation and engineering services.

Bay State Gas Company, the property owner, is contributing to the project through its clean up activities, land acquisition, and by adding attractive landscaping and fencing around the property. The company will lease the property to the City for 30 years.

“It is so gratifying to see this project finally coming to fruition after five years of feasibility studies, legislative approvals, financing, and contract negotiations,” said Brownfields Coordinator Lori Colombo. “This particular neighborhood truly deserves an environmentally benign development considering some of the environmental burdens it has experienced.”

Using electricity generated by Brockton’s Brightfield will avoid the emission of about 595,300 pounds of carbon dioxide each year. That is the equivalent of taking 45 cars off the road, or the amount of carbon dioxide that would be absorbed by planting 89 acres of trees. Brockton’s project also avoids emissions of other greenhouse gases — about 1,000 pounds of sulfur dioxide and 370 pounds of nitrogen oxide per year.