Village of Erie, Illinois Residents Going Green

Many people assume that going green is an expensive choice. The residents of the Village of Erie, Illinois have proven all these skeptics wrong. The residents of the Village of Erie, Illinois will be given the opportunity to reduce their carbon footprint while saving money through the transition from their regular gas electric supplier to green energy supplier Nordic Energy Services.

Climate change has been on the news headlines for the past couple of months. The increased intensity and frequency of natural disasters such as earthquakes, severe droughts and tsunamis is evidence of the climate change phenomenon. The international community has thrown its weight behind climate change management initiatives geared towards sustainable development.
Although this is a positive change, a lot of the responsibility of mitigating climate change rests on our shoulders. Everyone living on this planet is in a position to make choices that will slow down the effects of climate change, no matter how little. The residents of the Village of Erie, Illinois are showing us by example how we can all play a part in making the world a greener place for future generations.

The transition to green energy by the Village of Erie, Illinois will see residents switch from regular non-renewable energy sources formally supplied by ComEd to green renewable energy supplied by Nordic Energy. The agreement between Nordic Energy and ComEd will enable residents to switch to greener and cheaper energy for the next three years.

The three year contract ensures that ComEd continue to handle the technical and commercial aspects of the supply of energy while Nordic Energy acts as primary energy suppliers to the community. This means that ComEd will continue to handle repairs and issue electric bills. The transition will essentially not affect the residents except for a reduction in their monthly bills. Going green could not be any easier.

Residents will still have the choice to opt out of the transition if they feel they are not comfortable with it. However, chances are that the prospect of saving money as they conserve the environment will convince most residents to stick with ComEd and Nordic Energy.

The Village of Erie, Illinois stands out as a fine example of what a community can do through the making of greener choices. Not only will the community save money but it will also ensure that natural resources will be enjoyed by generations to come.

Green is NOT the new Red White and Blue

Green is NOT the new Red White and Blue Green is NOT the new red, white and blue, not on the stars and stripes, anyway. In late May, the Green Investment Bank was announced as the first ever public bank in the United Kingdom. With an initial £3 billion, GIB will invest in clean energy technology, with the goal of lessening the country’s reliance on fossil fuel and developing technologies to keep the UK competitive in the economies of the future.

Such support for green energy investment stretches across the Atlantic: A similar effort is being made in the United States, known as the Clean Energy Deployment Administration (CEDA).

In England, the Green Investment Bank received support from all corners: from green-minded advocates, from private sector businesses, from trade unionists and top-level ministers alike; even while fiscal austerity measures have insisted on sharp cuts across government programs.

In America, insiders on Capitol Hill have been doubtful that an American clean energy bank will be established any time soon – largely due to the current political stalemate in the US Congress and a much different public perception of the global energy crisis.

Emily Baker, the vice president for federal policy at the National Venture Capital Association, told Alex Wagner of Huffington Post that “when it comes to the commercial side, VCs can’t provide the capital – and it’s too risky for commercial and investment banks…no question the issue has gotten even more complicated than it was…now that Republicans took control of the U.S. House of

Representatives, her group is “trying to help Congress members connect the dots on how this is an investment that will pay long-term dividends…Everybody had been behind the GIB.

Whether or not American politicians are willing to take an affirmative position on an issue which many do not even think exists is doubtful at best. Especially with new presidential elections around the corner, the time for change in the sector may be an awkward one; and for bi-partisan greenies, it can be argued that Obama might not have done enough for

Meanwhile, the rest of the world is taking impressed by the move toward a low carbon economy in the United Kingdom.

U.S. Gets a B For The Development of Green Technology

According to the Bloomberg news report, John Doerr, a billionaire venture capitalist at world’s leading venture capital firm, has awarded a “C” grade for United States for alternative energy development. Doerr said United States should practice more on green energy instead of spending much on Saratoga chips. Even though still United States deserves the B grade in the development of biotechnology, they are really coming behind other nations in development of medical-testing and drugs, he added.

He told that without the loan assurances of 20 billion USD for green energy plans granted under United States President Obama’s stimulus project, my rating would have been the “D grade” or even an “F grade”.

According to the Time magazine report, before becoming the President of the United States, Barack Obama was the severe supporter of dirty power plants and coal concerns. But, as United States President, he supported among the biggest growths in national support of clean technology in the history of United States.

“Barack Obama’s stimulus project is and was supposed to be fly-by-night and seasonable, and we should modernize in United States the marketplaces for the financial capability and sustainable green energy to make them to develop,” Doerr said in the interview to Bloomberg. However he added that the market is dull and uninterested to grow due to the failure of privately funded development and research, and lack of financial marketplaces to back up this area. But, certain positive impacts comprised the concord with auto manufacturers to improve the vehicle’s fuel economy they trade in United States.

John Doerr has gained his place on the Forbes magazine’s list of yearly wealthiest people in the planet. But, in past few years, he has redirected his skills from choosing prosperous start-up firms to lobbying the administration of Barack Obama successfully into the supporting “clean” technology initiatives.

As a head of Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers (KPCB), Doerr is responsible for the company’s flourishing investments in many giant corporations. Google and KPCB have both invested big amount of money in alternative energy. He handles approximately five hundred million USD in investments of alternative energy, and Doerr’s portfolio comprises solar battery MiaSole start-up, and Bloom Energy fuel cell manufacturer. In 2008, He told that the clean technology can be “biggest economical opportunity of twenty-first century.”

Wind Turbines Present Health Concerns

A group of residents living close to wind farms in Canada have joined forces to form an anti-wind power movement. According to CNN, the group is concerned with complaints that turbines may cause health problems.

Wind power is growing quicker in Ontario than in all other parts of the country, and government officials are relying on green technology to not only provide clean energy, but they also come with new job opportunities.

Wind Turbines FarmIn the United States, studies have found that 80% of residents in the Northwest support having wind farms near their homes, while the minority of homeowners in the United States, have complained about wind turbine noise.

While a small number of people that live near wind turbines complain of sound-related health concerns and anxiety, citizens living near oil, coal and natural gas sites complain of poisoned water, cancer, lung disease, earthquakes and death.

The risks of drilling for oil have also been observed recently in the news. The effects of the massive BP oil spill will last for years to come. And then there is the recent verdict that Chevron should pay $8 billion to Ecuador’s neighbors along the Amazon border for the environmental and health damage it caused through harmful drilling practices.

Heavy Metal: More Business For China

“Seventeen metals on the periodic table of elements are the commotion from Tokyo to Washington, D.C.”

Writes Catherine Ngai of National Geographic.

Rare-earth metals or REMs are composed of element number 21, scandium; number 39, yttrium; and the 15 lanthanides, numbers 57-71, on the periodic table. They are often found in clusters, but you would not call them rare.

These metals are crucial ingredients in making motors and batteries for hybrid and electric cars, Low energy light bulbs, solar panels and wind turbines.

And outside of the green energy forum, they are crux also in the art of weapons building. “Smart bombs” which use neodymium-iron-boron magnets to control their direction when dropped out of an aircraft, yttrium-aluminum-garnet used in determining the range of enemy targets at far distances, lasers that employ neodymium and neodymium-iron-boron permanent magnets used for sound system components utilized in psychological warfare are among their numerous practical uses.

The only U.S. mine, near the Mojave National Preserve in Mountain Pass, California, became inactive in 2002 after 50 years of production, due to economic and environmental issues.

The Chevron-owned mine was taken over in 2008 by Molycorp Minerals LLC. A company that spent more than $400,000 since 2008 lobbying Congress about rare-earth minerals.

In 2009, 90% of the U.S. imports for rare-earth metals were from China, according to data from the U.S. Geological Survey. Though, according to USGS, the figure this year is 9%.

Consumption of the products which use rear-earth metals has decreased radically during the economic downturn, according to a USGS report. A 55% decrease from $186 million imported in 2008, in 2009, the estimated value of these products imported by the United States was $84 million, a 55% decrease from $186 million imported in 2008.

On the other hand, looking toward the future, the demand for rare-earth minerals would rise as electric cars and more alternative energy and efficiency applications comes on the market. There is a rumor that China plans to stop exporting their metals in 2012, reserving them for their own economic exansion, though this stands to be verified.

China now exports roughly 30,000 tons a year; only one-fourth of the world demand.

In order to facilitate the building of more “green” technology, the world will require 200,000 tons of rare earth elements by 2014.

One solution is to offer China an incentive by spawning more imaginative green technology ideas. This is if lobbying Congress to utilize whatever is at America’s disposal proves ineffectual, or if that supply eventually vanishes.

Green Groweth the Holly

Prince Charles

As 2010 is drawing to a close, one lesson I learned about achieving green dreams is the merit of ingenuity as opposed to trying to make the ancient family car start by repeatedly kicking it.

How did I come so far outside of the box? Well, because the industry did. In the UK that is! I think that I can safely say they are this year’s winner of the Most Creative in the Quest for Alternative Energy Award.

A personal favorite that I recently wrote about is Adnams Bio Energy anaerobic digestion plan – working in partnership with National Grid – which uses brewery and local food waste to produce renewable gas to be used as liquid fuel.

There are also firms that flex unpredictable muscles of imagination such as EDF energy, REA (Renewable Energy Association), Segen Microgeneration, PPL Training and British Eco to name a few.

Here are some more surprises:

At Didcot sewage works in Oxfordshire, England, Centrica will be producing renewable gas from sewage for the use of households.

Here’s how it works:

Sewage arrives at the plant, is stored for 18 days, and is turned to sludge – then the solid part of the waste is further treated in anaerobic digestion – similar to Adnams’ green beer gag (plus other companies have come up with similar ideas) – so that bacteria breaks down the biodegradable material and behold: you’ve got enough gas to power about 200 homes!

Of course the gas is cleaned before it is fed into the grid. This process takes around 20 days from lavatory flush to the re-piping into homes.

This is the first time in the history of turning sewage into gas through anaerobic digestion that the bio-gas has been pumped directly into the grid for home use.

The project is a joint venture between Thames Water, British Gas and Scotia Gas Networks and costs about $4.3m.

It is held by those who know that 15% of all gas consumed could come from human waste, sewage and food thrown away by supermarkets and households.

Meanwhile, Centrica plc, the parent company of British Gas, today announced that its British Gas division has acquired a 15.96% stake in AlertMe, a UK based company providing home energy management services, for $9m cash. British Gas, following the transaction, will also hold a seat on AlertMe’s Board.

As part of the investment, the increasingly eco-minded British Gas signed a commercial agreement, potentially worth over $32m, to deploy AlertMe products and services to UK customers and help them to save energy and providing smarter ways to take control of their energy use.

Prince Charles

OK OK – and here’s the Really Big UK Green News – I mean Royal!

One Prince Charles, heir to the throne of Wales is supping up his Gloucestershire estate with ground and air source heat pumps to reduce carbon emissions and cut electricity bills!

The Prince and the Duchess of Cornwall say that the nations have less than 100 months to save the planet from irreversible damage due to climate change.

Who’s doing the job? Why, it’s one Ecovision Systems

He’s working quick to reduce his “fossil fuel footprint” also at his Highgrove digs and his Georgian home.

The Prince, whose annual report last year revealed that his household had generated 18% less C02 emissions than the previous year, declares himself “carbon neutral” because he “offsets” his emissions through an outside agency.

At Highgrove he has installed solar panels and woodchip boilers; rainwater is collected and used to irrigate land and flush bathrooms! The estate’s insulation is eco-friendly thanks to a double-glazing and reed-bed sewage processing system.

All of which is installed by Ecovision Systems, a firm that has also installed equipment at historic English houses such as Castle Howard in North Yorkshire and Harrow School in north-west London.

Cheers to the UK! The world of green energy apparently has a lot to live up to!

A Green Machine

August was a brow-lifting month for American green energy enthusiasts and so will be October. So will be every month until we see some actual change!

The congressional Democrat resolution to not even bring to the senate floor a major energy bill invites the question: “how serious is President Obama about the environment?” reads:

The country that harnesses the power of clean, renewable energy will lead the 21st century. For too long, politicians in Washington have been beholden to special interests, but no longer. Our new, responsible energy policy recognizes the relationship between energy, the environment, and our economy and leverages American ingenuity to put people back to work, fight global warming, increase our energy independence and keep us safe.
But Obama-reality has failed Thomas Friedman’s “moon-shot” at best:

Barack Obama

After temporary off-shore drilling expeditions and foreign oil purchases, Obama’s dedication to green energy jobs in his weekly address last Saturday sounds like nothing more than a repetition of his original platform shpeel.

“There is perhaps no industry with more potential to create jobs now — and growth in the coming years — than clean energy…” said the Pres, but what was the point besides plugging one BrightSourceEnergy firm?

Meanwhile, Osama Bin Laden called for action against climate change in what appeared to be a new audio tape from the al Qaeda chief issued last Friday.

It was the second time that the mass-murderer made climate change a prominent theme of one of his statements, confidently holding it responsible for natural disasters:

“The huge climate change is affecting our (Islamic) nation and is causing great catastrophes throughout the Islamic world…It is not sufficient anymore to maintain the same relief efforts as previously, as it has become crucial to deliver tents, food and medicine.”

Raising Gas Taxes Will Speed-Up Electric Cars

In Thomas L. Friedman’s latest New York Times column he proposed that the United States of America is way behind China, laying out the infrastructure for a green globe future.

Recalling the plans Shai Agassi has for Israel and Denmark next year he cites:

Thomas L. Friedman

“The auto industry was the foundation for America’s manufacturing middle class” thus warning that “the country that replaces gasoline-powered vehicles with electric-powered vehicles — in an age of steadily rising oil prices and steadily falling battery prices — will have a huge cost advantage and independence from imported oil.”

Here are the facts as Mr. Friedman spat them:

“Europe is using $7-a-gallon gasoline to stimulate the market for electric cars; China is using $5-a-gallon and naming electric cars as one of the industrial pillars for its five-year growth plan. And America?”

Here it comes…

“President Obama has directed stimulus money at electric cars, but he is unwilling to do the one thing that would create the sustained consumer pull required to grow an electric car industry here: raise taxes on gasoline.”

While Friedman may be correct about Chinese and European business models laying out the green carpet for the electric car industry – this is what the Obama administration is doing while ignoring the gas tax issue: as Friedman acknowledges, they’ve begun building plants which manufacture electric cars, batteries and all of the other accessories

Actually, the United States is now set to produce 40% of the world’s advanced batteries by 2015. And by “advanced” I hope American manufacturers come up with something that will actually make the electric car dream, a pragmatic reality.

Jason Forcier, vice president for automotive solutions at A123Systems Inc. said during a July conference:

“Can we export our batteries to China? The answer is no. You have to build them in-country. And China’s making sure that it happens by the way that they’re structuring incentives…”

Last year, the Department of Energy gave A123, based in Watertown, Massachusetts with a Chinese joint-venture, $250m to expand battery manufacturing in the United States.

And speaking of which…

Coda Automotive will have 14,000 electric cars on California roads by next year. Costing $37,000, these can travel 100 miles on just one overnight charge. They are a hybrid amalgam of Chinese-made batteries and “complex American-system electronics — all final-assembled in Oakland.”

Gotta run guys, my car is almost done charging!

Body Heat in Sweden

Picture this:

It’s 7:30 a.m. on a cold winter morning in downtown Stockholm and a sea of Swedish nationals are flooding Central Station to catch a train to work. Thanks to the busy shops and restaurants and the body heat being generated by the 250,000 commuters, the station is nice and toasty. Well, this heat used to be lost by the time the morning rush hour ended. Now, engineers have learned a way to harness it and transfer it to a newly refurbished office building down the block.

Says Karl Sundholm, a project manager at Jernhusen, a Stockholm real estate company, and one of the creators of this new system:

“They’re cheap and renewable…this is old technology, but used in a new way…It’s just pipes, water and pumps, but we haven’t heard of anyone else using this technology in this way before.”

Here’s how the system works:

The heat generated by the commuters is captured by the station’s ventilation system and used to heat water in underground tanks. The water is then pumped through pipes to the 13-story Kungbrohuset office building, roughly 100 yards away, where it is incorporated into the main heating system. The company expects to lower the energy costs in their office building by as much as 20% per year. And building the new heating system, including installing the necessary pumps and laying the underground pipes, only cost the firm about $30,000.

According to Sundholm:

“It pays for itself very quickly,” he adds. “And for a large building expected to cost several hundred million kronor to build, that’s not that much, especially since it will get 15% to 30% of its heat from the station.”

While drawing on a crumpled napkin during a coffee break two years ago Sundholm and his colleague Klas Johansson stumbled upon the idea:

“[The excess body heat] was previously just let out into the air. We thought we could do something with it,” says Johansson, head of Jernhusen’s environmental division. Both men are optimistic about the possible future uses of the technology: if they can figure out how to harness excess body heat on a mass scale, it could offer a significantly cheaper way to heat homes and reduce carbon emissions. Sundholm says the aim is to one day transfer body heat generated in residential areas at night to office buildings in the morning, and back again in the afternoon. “It could even be our next project.”


One obstacle for total success is that the buildings need to be close together for the engineering to work:

“It is very hard to move low-temperature heat very far. The buildings would have to be very close together by 100 to 200 yards and they would have had to really do some magnificent engineering to make sure they were not using more energy to pump the hot air over in the train station into the office building,”

Says Lester Lane, director of Carnegie Mellon University’s Green Design Initiative. Lane also says:

“countries like the U.S., where energy is not as expensive as it is in Sweden, may not see the same financial benefits after investing in the insulation, pipes and pumps. Also, if people don’t regularly turn up to the train station or other high-density place where the energy is derived from, there won’t be enough body heat to fuel the heating systems”.

Calera to Produce Carbon Absorbing Cement

Calera logoA Silicon Valley start-up says that it has found a way to capture the carbon dioxide emissions from coal and gas power plants and absorb them in cement.

Cement production is one of the largest sources of carbon emissions in the United States; coal-fired electricity plants are the biggest source.

“With this technology, coal can be cleaner than solar and wind, because they can only be carbon-neutral,” said Vinod Khosla, a Silicon Valley billionaire. His venture capital firm, Khosla Ventures, has invested about $50 million in Calera. On Monday, Calera will announce that Peabody Energy, the world’s largest coal company, has invested $15 million.

Calera says that by changing carbon into a building material, it can make carbon reduction economically attractive, especially in places where there are no government subsidies or carbon taxes.

In 2007, Brent Constantz and Mr. Khosla formulated plans for Calera. Though the company declines to share precise details of its process, it says that it combines carbon dioxide with seawater or groundwater brine, which contains calcium, oxygen and magnesium. It gets left with calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate, used for making cement and aggregate.

To make its cement more usable for manufacturers of traditional Portland cement, it is also making concrete blends of 20% Calera cement and 80% Portland cement – the calcium silicate binder used in concrete for buildings, bridges and highways.