Environment Forum

Al Gore, pessimist?

rfkjr1.jpg   A Kennedy may be showing up Al Gore as a small time dreamer. 
   Robert Kennedy, Jr. says the Goracle’s challenge to the United States to generate its electricity entirely from renewable sources within 10 years is not fast enough.
   “Al Gore said the other day we can do this in 10 years, and a lot of people were skeptical about that. But we can do it in less than 10 years,” he told U.S. and Mexico border state governors at a meeting this week., arguing that it would be great for the economy, too.
   In solar energy resplendent border states of Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas, setting up solar plants would prove cheaper than building more conventional sources of energy, he said.  “These are the Saudi Arabias of sun.”
   “We can build those plants anywhere, we can build them cheaper than nuke plants, cheaper than old coal plants, and cheaper than oil plants, and faster than any of them,” said Kennedy a member of the U.S. political dynasty and a senior attorney for the environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council.
(Reporting by Syantani Chatterjee)

German power boss goes renewables route…at home too

You know the wind is changing for renewables — so to speak — when the head of Europe’s biggest power producer becomes an advocate — and then even decides to reduce his own personal reliance on fossil fuels by powering and heating his new house with photovoltaic and geothermal energies.
Eon’s Wulf Bernotat

Wulf Bernotat, the chief executive of E.ON, admits he became rather belatedly an advocate for renewable energy, even if his company still gets the lion’s share of its 70 billion euros in annual turnover in 30 countries from burning fossil fuels. The reasons for the change of heart? It’s one answer to climate change, it’s the way the political winds were blowing, and there are profits to be made.

“We had a certain reservation about renewables until about a year ago and then we abandoned those reservations because we recognised that renewables are desired politically,” Bernotat said after a recent presentation to a group of journalists in Berlin. “That’s why it’s the right decision for us to get more actively involved.”

Climate change, it’s snow joke

snowshow1.JPGIt’s summer at the G8 media centre in Hokkaido. Yet underneath the building are tonnes of snow to keep journalists cool as they write about global warming.

Japan budgeted $283 million for security at the summit and $30 million to build a temporary, low-emissions media centre far from where the G8 leaders are meeting in a luxury hotel.

The centre took five months to construct next to a ski resort and the company that built it says 95 percent of the materials will be recycled or reused once the building is torn down in the weeks after the G8 meeting.

A land rush in the desert, or plenty of room for everyone?

solar1.jpgThe U.S. housing market may be in a serious slump, but competition for big chunks of land in the hot, dry Southwest is heating up.

Developers of solar and wind power projects are scrambling to get their hands on swathes of land in the U.S. West that not only have lots of sun or wind, but are also close enough to critical transmission lines.

“There is a lot of activity staking out that land,” said Dan Kabel, chief executive of Acciona Solar Power, the unit of Spanish building-to-energy firm Acciona that is building solar thermal power plants in the United States. “People keep talking to me about a land rush. They say there is a land rush. The evidence I’ve seen personally is the patchwork effect of all the applications for solar and wind. There is very active prospecting for solar land.”

What’s a green winery to do?

far-niente-3.JPGWhen Napa Valley winery Far Niente resolved to embrace solar power, it faced a big hurdle: how to install ground-mounted panels without sacrificing acres of valuable Cabernet vines.

Enter the latest solar innovation — solar panels that can float on the water rather than being mounted on the ground.

The system, which was given the witty name “Floatovoltaic,” was made by securing 1,000 solar panels on pontoons and floating them on an irrigation pond at the 100-acre Martin Sterling Vineyard, whose grapes make Cabernet Sauvignon wine.

Solar power for less than your cable bill

solarpanels.jpgSolar power companies have been working around the clock to drive down the price of clean electricity from the sun so it can one day be as cheap as the energy we get from dirtier sources, like coal plants.

Until we get there, however, some solar panel installers have come up with a solution that they say will give more people access to solar energy. How are they doing it? By allowing customers to lease, rather than buy, the photovoltaic solar panels for their roofs.

It’s the same idea, really, that has enabled some people to get behind the wheel of a luxury car they could otherwise not afford — low or no upfront costs followed by a monthly bill.