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Cape Wind: Clean energy vs. conservation

by The Green A-Team

Conservation collides with clean energy in a calamatous climate kerfoffel on Cape Cod.

Cape Wind has become Cape Fear for some Massachusetts coastal residents, including some at the posh Kennedy compound, but for wind energy advocates, this is one US project that’s creating more fanfare than fright.

Slated to be the first offshore wind farm in the continental US, Cape Wind will provide 130 mammoth turbines in the middle of the Nantucket Sound.  These energy generating windmills will deliver 420 megawatts of clean power, enough to to supply 75% of the region’s energy needs.

While this excites islanders looking to clean up their energy consumption, this project does have it’s critics.  An organization called Save Our Sound claims there are significant wildlife and safety hazards like interference with the 400,000 flights that traverse that air space.

Cape Wind plans to address those concerns and suggests a radar upgrade could eliminate the hazard.  This maneuver and stimulus billions available to support the project may get the wind farm’s propellers going after all.

For the latest on the Cape Wind controversy, visit some of the following links:

Cape Wind proposal clears big obstacle (Boston Globe)

A day at the beach remains unspoiled (Springfield Republican)

Cape Wind will proceed in face of political hot air (Worcester Telegram)

Cape Wind foes spent $2 million on lobbying (National Journal - Under the Influence)

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Reasoning with the smart grid

by The Green A-Team

America’s new energy grid gets smart.  What does the new stimulus package mean for your electric bill?

President Obama’s recent stimulus package includes large resources devoted to energy efficiency, renewable energy research, guaranteed loans, and tax credits.  This means big changes on the horizon for the way America produces the energy it needs to run itself.

The challenge is that renewable sources like solar and wind deliver power sporadically which means a new grid will have to be laid out in order to regulate the flow.

According to IBM and the Global Intelligent Utility Network Coalition, the so-called “smart grid” dramatically reduce outages and faults, improves responsiveness, handles current and future demand, increases efficiency and manages costs. Consumers benefit with new power options like customized pricing and real-time monitoring of their usage and costs.

The Intelligent Utility Network also helps consumers actively participate in solving critical energy problems by making “smart” homes and energy-conscious choices possible.

For a complete breakdown of how the smart grid works, check out IBM’s awesome podcast presentation:


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More than a hint of mint in the stimulus plan

by The Green A-Team

A breakdown of the numbers from the NRDC:

The bill provides:

$6 billion for clean and safe water, creating more than 200,000 jobs

  • This insures critical funding for the nation’s pipes and treatment plants.  We don’t often worry too much about where our clean water comes from and this line seeks to keep it that way.

$4.5 billion for greening federal buildings

  • The Federal building codes and standards apply to buildings constructed or used by any Federal agency that is not legally subject to state or local building codes.  This means that any building, not just the White House, Pentagon, Capital Building, etc., ANY building paying their energy bills with Federal money will be subject to completely revised energy efficiency performance standards which have been set by the DOE.

State energy grants, issued through the Treasury Department, that will fund renewable energy projects that are eligible for the available tax credits.

  • As of October of last year, the Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 2008 prolonged tax credits in solar, fuel cells, and microturbines; increased the credit amount for fuel cells; established new credits for small wind-energy systems, geothermal heat pumps, and combined heat and power (CHP) systems; extended eligibility for the credits to utilities; and allowed taxpayers to take the credit against the alternative minimum tax (AMT) subject to certain limitations.  If you’ve got these systems already in place are are planning to build new ones, you should apply here.

Funding for the state energy program, which includes important utility reforms and building code conditions.

$2.5 billion for energy efficiency and renewable energy Research and Development.

  • In many cases, the technology just isn’t there yet and it takes resources to get there, hence, this line item.

$5 billion for the Weatherization Assistance Program, creating approximately 90,000 jobs

  • The expansion of this service will help the program reach a critical mass and deliver what it was designed to do - help low income families make energy efficiency improvements on their homes and spend less on utilities.  See if you qualify here.

A multi-year extension of the renewable production tax credit.

  • Even greater insurance to individuals and corporations interested in these upgrades that their renewable energy improvements will be rewarded for many years to come.  This is the kind of thing that boosts investor confidence in green stocks.

A more effective tax credit for home efficiency upgrades.

$6 billion in loan guarantees for renewables, transmission and leading edge biofuels

  • This is a great boon for companies investing in these industries.  Now there will be real money to back up the loans guaranteed by the government.  This comes as particular significance to the USDA.

$2 billion for advanced batteries

  • More than just rechargeable batteries for your TV remote, this category of tech development may be the most important.  Certainly the automotive industry has a lot to gain with hybrid-electric vehicles seeking to replace the current fleet.  Here’s an interesting piece from the US Advanced Battery Consortium (USCAR).  The storage of electricity produced on a massive scale for residential and commercial use is also an integral component to making the new renewable grid happen.

$9.3 billion for intercity rail, including high-speed rail

  • With these new high-speed rail systems, the U.S. may actually be up to speed with the rest of the world.  Here’s a little more on that idea.

$27.5  billion for highways (this large pot of money is not exclusively for highways, and states and cities must use this flexibility to invest in fuel-efficient public transportation)

  • While this may seem a bit imbalanced up against the public transportation budgets, the ethos behind it suggests the auto fleet will be markedly cleaner by the time the highways are improved.  Like it or not, the U.S. is a car culture which means the industries and infrastructure must change to accommodate it.

$8.4 billion for transit

$1.5 billion in competitive grants for transportation investments (which could be used for public transportation)

  • These last two lines combined with the high-speed rail budget is a pretty formidable sum to help the country’s beleaguered public trans condition.  However, it may also prove to be a mere drop in the bucket if the other energy system improvements are not met.

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The price of green

by The Green A-Team

The high price of green energy culls consumers and Clean Air restrictions on big shipping have port workers gasping for air.

The New York Times released a comprehensive evaluation of American green power programs and found that only 2% of households can voluntarily afford electricity powered by renewables.  The study reveals that while green power may be expensive now, resources like wind and sunlight are free and safe from the price jumps found in oil, coal, or natural gas.

Los Angeles, California: The green wave has rolled into port and commercial shipping giants say less cargo will mean less revenue in 2009.  Pollution from big shipping isn’t from the boats but from the 16,000 trucks on land.  Old, dirty trucks are slated to be replaced with cash from municipal bonds but the weak market is preventing California state money from reaching the program.  The port hopes to postpone any further green initiatives based on declining cargo volumes.

For more on the price of green, check out some of the following links:

California study shows high cost of renewable power (Reuters)

Economists caution Oregon on high cost of biofuel (Renewable Energy World)

One-two punch of high cost renewables (ACCF)

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Birds killed by windmills: Fact or foul?

by The Green A-Team

Birds killed by windmills.

Should construction on new wind farms be stopped?

As we race to live the dream of clean energy we are confronted with obstacles on every front, whether it be inefficient technology, flawed design, or in the case of wind energy, bird life.

James Castle is a Lecturer in the Department of Environmental Studies at San Jose State University and an expert in a bird kill study at Altamont Pass, known to be one of the most notorious sites for avian mortality.

The industry itself is actually helping out.  They are shutting down wind turbines in the winter when the largest amount of birds are passing through.  They also have improved some of the new designs so that they reduced the impact on birds.

As windmill design has improved with larger, slower moving blades easily dodged by flying birds, the hazard to these animals has begun to diminish.  Wind energy remains one of our greatest hopes of achieving clean energy independence and the risk to wildlife has certainly been taken into consideration as we progress.

For more on wind energy and the birds at risk, try out some of the following links:

Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group

Altamont Pass, California (The Encyclopedia of the Earth)

The Deadly Toll of Wind Power (San Francisco Chronicle)

Putting Wind Power’s Effect on Birds in Perspective (AWEA)

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As the economy impolodes, green collar jobs explode

by The Green A-Team

Wall Street’s bailout has heads spinning but Green collar jobs are exploding!

In the weeks following the unanimous Congressional decision to extend tax credits for the production of solar and wind energy, jobs in clean energy have increased exponentially.

Here are just some of the American cities taking the Government’s help to the bank:

Little Rock, Arkansas: General Wesley Clark’s Polymarin Composites and Wind Water Technologies (WWT) announced that it will invest $20 million on an expansion creating 830 new jobs with an average wage of $15/hour.

Muncie, Indiana: Brevini USA, a wind turbine manufacturer announced plans for a new $60 million facility that will create about 450 permanent local jobs with annual pay averaging more than $46,000.

Newton, Iowa: TPI Composites newly-built plant replaces a former Maytag facility returning jobs to upwards of 500 Iowans.

For more on Green collar jobs in your area, check out the following links.

Good Jobs, Green Jobs National Conference (February 4th-6th, 2009 Washington D.C.)

Green Collar Jobs in American Cities (

What is a Green Collar Job, exactly? (

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Wind and Solar Tax Credits Still Worth It

by The Green A-Team


Likely feeling the pressure from the pundits, lobbyists, populace, and the benevolent voices deep inside their collective souls whispering to them the sustainable secrets of the universe, Congress unanimously agreed that tax credits awarded for renewable energy production should be upheld.

A gracious word from Gregory Whetstone, Senior Director of Governmental and Public Affairs at the American Wind Energy Association:

“We salute Members of Congress in both parties who fought under difficult conditions to keep the renewable energy production tax credit and small turbine investment tax credit on the agenda until the very end, and then pushed them across the finish line. These tax credits are essential to the continued growth of wind energy, to the economic and energy security of the United States, and to a successful beginning in the fight against global warming. We look forward to working next year with a new Congress and Administration to fashion a serious long-term clean energy policy that increases domestic energy, increases our reliance on clean renewable energy, and creates jobs for Americans.”

Photo by Charlene Burge.

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Senate Prepares to Vote on Wind Energy Tax Credit Extention

by The Green A-Team

Live C-Span coverage of the Senate’s renewable energy vote here.

Green Air Filter:

This just in!

Moments ago, by an overwhelming 93 to 2 vote, the full Senate approved the Baucus-Grassley tax extender bill, which includes a one-year extension of the production tax credit.  It still has to make it through the House.

They giveth and they taketh away.  Tax credits for renewable energy given to businesses and homeowners of solar and wind power systems (but not geothermal, hydroelectric, or kinetic generators for some reason) are slated to expire at the end of 2008.  If these tax breaks go away, the already jittery utility companies and investors of these technologies may go away and those of us who like our air, water, and power clean can start burning those short lived credits to keep warm.

Today, on the brink of this next round of Senatorial voting, Gregory Wetstone of the American Wind Energy Association delivered these inspiring words:

“On behalf of America’s wind energy industry and the millions of Americans who favor clean, domestic wind power, I applaud this critically important effort to move forward on renewable energy tax incentives before Congress leaves town at the end of the month.  We are grateful to Senate leaders from both parties who put aside their differences to come together around this bipartisan package.  Clean energy tax incentives are a vital part of the solution to our nation’s economic, energy security, and environmental challenges.  With more than 100,000 jobs and billions of dollars in clean energy investment at risk, we urge all members of the Senate to vote yes on the Baucus-Grassley Amendment to H.R. 6049 and on final passage of this important legislation.  We hope the Senate’s approval of this measure today will add to the momentum for swift action in the House of Representatives.”

The vote could happen any minute so cross your fingers and check that C-Span link.

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Fisherman’s Energy: Less Chum, More Power

by The Green A-Team

It’s the wave-making winds that matter more than the monk fish to the biggest names in commercial fishing.

Wind power is rushing to the forefront of America’s race for clean energy and dry land is becoming scarce for use as wind farms.  Small, densely populated coastal states like Rhode Island and New Jersey have availed the use of ocean plots which, until now, has been vehemently opposed by commercial fisherman.

Former commercial fishing tycoon turned wind power proponent, David Cohen, is President of Fisherman’s Energy, a partnership of the biggest commercial fishing outfits dedicated to developing offshore wind farms designed to power over 90,000 homes by 2013.  The plan benefits the fisherman by allowing them to share in the energy profits and convert their skills on the high seas to erect the massive turbines.

With big fish behind America’s clean energy upgrade, change is soon to follow.

Photo by CCBG.

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