Environment Forum

from Route to Recovery:

Water rights make El Centro an oasis

November 4, 2009

ROUTE-RECOVERY/

If you head east to El Centro from San Diego, Interstate 8 takes you through arid scenery, climbing to 4,000 feet through barren mountains so fast that your ears pop. Then comes the oasis.

Solar heads to developing world

October 15, 2009

While solar power has investors on Wall Street seeing green, countries in the developing world also see a bright future in solar technology.

Could patents bring solar power companies more revenue?

October 9, 2009

The high tech industry regularly sees lawsuits fly over intellectual property rights.

Schwarzenegger household green plan: short showers, hydrogen Hummers

September 24, 2009

Here’s some advice for Californians who think Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s climate change policy goes too far: just be happy you’re not his kid.

SolarCity envisions California “solar corridor” for green drivers

September 23, 2009

Electric cars can be smooth, quiet and environmentally friendly. But they still need fuel.

The race for U.S. smart-grid cash

September 18, 2009

Utilities across the United States are rushing to a federal stimulus program that is doling out money to create a “smart grid” — systems that will upgrade the electricity grid.******In this story, Reuters correspondent Eileen O’Grady looks at the tough job facing the U.S. Department of Energy: They have to divvy up $4.5 billion in smart-grid money among some 565 applications.******Smart grid technology measures and modifies power usage in homes and businesses and improves grid reliability. Experts envision that it will open the door to a new era with “smart” appliances that turn themselves on and off, electric cars, more renewable energy and more efficiency on power lines.******San Diego Gas & Electric is one of the utilities hoping to launch a smart grid through the federal program and has applied for $100 million in stimulus funds.******Their plan would build micro smart grids at the University of California, San Diego and a residential community in San Diego County. They would work with companies like IBM, Cisco and Itron on the system technologies, software and hardware.******”They not only have to talk with each other but we have to make sure the entire network is secure. So from an intellectual security standpoint, we’ll ensure that we have that set-up, that we have the ability to communicate from one device and we make it seamless for the customer,” said Michael Niggli, chief operations officer at San Diego Gas & Electric.******Another major issue the utility hopes to solve is what happens when energy from renewable resources is intermittent, with its power generated fading or spiking.******”If the wind stops blowing or if the sun has clouds that intervene, so you can be in a situation where the power supply is affected,” Niggli said in a phone interview with Reuters.******”That’s a lot different than what we have today … where it’s like driving a car. If you want to go faster, you push the accelerator.”******Niggli envisions a system where customers can control their home energy use remotely, turning on the air-conditioning from a computer through the Internet or even on¬† their handset.******Some companies that are partnering with utilities are not putting all their eggs in one basket in the race for the smart-grid stimulus funds.******IBM is working as a vendor with a dozen utilities that have applied for money.******If the smart grid is done right, then customers won’t even notice a difference, said IBM’s Stephen Callahan, who leads the company’s Intelligent Utility Network unit for the Americas.******”Those customers shouldn’t see anything but improvement in cost, reliability, all those things,” Callahan said.******We wanted to know what readers think about the federal program to jump-start smart grid projects. What should the DOE prioritize? What kind of projects would you like to see?******(Photo: The sun is shown as it rises between power transmission lines in Burbank, California. Photo credit: Fred Prouser/Reuters)*********************

New Jersey has best payback on residential solar in U.S.

September 16, 2009

California may be the Golden State, but it’s New Jersey where U.S. residents get the best deal on their solar power systems, new research shows.

from Global Investing:

Turning to the sun

August 11, 2009

With oil prices more than doubling from Dec-Feb lows, those who are lucky enough to enjoy the sunshine are turning to the sun as alternative energy, but lingering effects of the credit crisis might be discouraging consumers from turning to this still-costly alternative energy.

Mickey Mouse meets Mr. Polar Bear at green theme park

August 10, 2009

Southern California — home to Disneyland, the mother of all amusement parks — welcomed a new attraction this month. But this theme park has no Mickey Mouse or roller coasters and is housed inside a mall instead of spread out over a swath of space.

Timber! Big trees declining in Yosemite

August 3, 2009

Large diameter trees are not doing well in California’s Yosemite National Park — there were 24 percent fewer in a recent decade than the 1930s, the U.S. Geological Survey and University of Washington scientists said in a new report. Climate change is the likely culprit they say, cutting snow pack, which cuts available water, which cuts growth of big trees, which cuts production of seeds for new trees, which — you get the idea, but basically the whole ecosystem is strained.Meanwhile, fewer fires has led to growth in the type of trees that are not fire-resistant — so future fires may be particularly bad, especially with warmer, drier conditions.The comparison of trees in 1988-1999 versus 1932-1936 was published in Forest Ecology and Management.California’s Yosemite may not be alone — Polish woods also face an uncertain future due to climate change, according to a new Reuters story.Photo by ROBERT GALBRAITH/REUTERS