1. SmartReads: Week of April 27

    We know you can’t catch every article during your busy work week, so we’ve consolidated the week’s top articles for you in one easy list. Share your favorite energy, environmental and efficiency related articles with us on Twitter using the hashtag #SmartReads.

    CLEAN & RENEWABLE ENERGY

    Huffington Post: Earth Day Energy Quiz Yields Alarming Results Rather than telling people how to be more energy efficient this Earth Day, SmartPower decided to test consumers’ knowledge of energy efficiency with a 10-question quiz. Instead of receiving the varied results we expected, we noticed that there were some surprisingly common incorrect answers. [April 25, 2012]

    Market Watch: New Data Shows 97% of Americans Overestimate the Cost of Installing Solar PanelsSunrun, the nation’s largest home solar company, today announced results of a nationwide poll assessing Americans’ beliefs about the desirability and costs of installing a home solar system. Among the results is data indicating 97% of Americans overestimate the cost of going solar, while nearly 8 out of 10 of those who do not already have solar panels say they would install solar if cost were not a factor. [April 25, 2012]

    CNN: Turning up the heat to drive down carbon emissions and energy bills – It’s an illuminating idea which its creators hope will help drive up energy efficiency and bring down buildings’ carbon emissions. Mixing the idea of Google’s Street View with multi-spectral thermal camera technology, Massachusetts-based startup Essess is building a giant database mapping residential and commercial properties in the U.S. [April 24, 2012]

    Phoenix Business Journal: APS listed as top solar energy developer – Arizona Public Service Co. landed third on a list of the nation’s top ten utility developers of solar power in 2011, according to a report by the Solar Electric Power Association. [April 22, 2012]

    Yahoo!: NRG Energy, MidAmerican Solar and First Solar Celebrate 100 MW Milestone for 290 MW Agua Caliente Solar ProjectRepresentatives from NRG Energy, Inc. (NRG - News), MidAmerican Solar and First Solar, Inc. (FSLR - News) gathered with federal and local officials today at the 290 megawatt (AC) Agua Caliente solar project in Yuma County, Ariz., to celebrate the project’s first 100 megawatts (MW) being delivered to the grid, making it North America’s largest photovoltaic (PV) power plant in operation. [April 25, 2012]

    ELECTRIC VEHICLES

    POLITICO: Chevy Volt a charged issueAbout 15 months after the Volt and Nissan Leaf hit the market, dealers have reported selling about 23,300 cars of both models. By comparison, it took Toyota five years to reach the same figure with its Prius in the U.S. [April 24, 2012]

    GENERAL GREEN

    The Atlantic Cities: Green Infrastructure Could Save Cities Billions – Compared to canvas grocery bags or CFL light bulbs or even solar panels, larger “green infrastructure” projects such as roof gardens or permeable streets can be hugely expensive. It turns out, however, that they’re actually not that expensive when compared to the costs of building more traditional infrastructure, and can even save money. [April 24, 2012]

    Earth Techling: eBay Adds More Renewable Energy To Power Data Center – You probably don’t think about all that email you have saved in your inbox. But all of those correspondences, not to mention documents, pictures and videos are being saved thanks to the help of data centers located all over the United States. And those data centers are energy hogs. [April 21, 2012]

    USA Today: Family takes long, winding road to their ‘green’ house – Some people love cars, the faster the better. Others indulge in food, fashion or football. I like houses, always have. And lucky me, I got the chance to build my dream home. [April 23, 2012]

    Los Angeles Times: Public split over elimination of U.S. energy subsidies, poll finds – The American public is divided about whether to eliminate federal subsidies for any form of energy and is giving less support to nuclear power and U.S. funding of renewable energy, a new poll has found. [April 26, 2012]

    USA Today: ‘Green’ schools that go beyond basics: One Indiana school is not only drilling its students on academics, but it’s also drilling holes in its campus to tap geothermal energy. A Vermont college is into burning wood chips as a way to save money. [April 20, 2012]

  2. Energy.gov got a new look today with a header that screams electric — cars that is. The government agency’s website makeover is a clear attempt to push drivers and automakers in the direction of domestic, sustainable, electric vehicles. Can’t say we’re mad. 

    Energy.gov got a new look today with a header that screams electric — cars that is. The government agency’s website makeover is a clear attempt to push drivers and automakers in the direction of domestic, sustainable, electric vehicles. Can’t say we’re mad. 

  3. Solar Cells That Can Fit In Your Pocket.

    By Mark Ellis 

    Given the progression of our world revolving around our electronic devices, it’s not an overstatement to say we need power sockets practically everywhere we go. Well, thanks to a group of dedicated engineers at MIT, the next generation of solar cells may be printed on paper. 

    Yes, I said paper.

    The new generation of ultra thin solar cells can literally fit in your pocket! Instead of 

    confining solar power to rooftops or solar farms, paper photovoltaics can be virtually used anywhere, making energy ubiquitous.

    The implications of these new solar cells are huge. First, the wide implementation of these cells would single handedly eliminate the use of traditional batteries as well as our dependency on home electrical outlets — therefore saving incredibly large amounts of energy by harnessing the power of the sun.

    And you can bet these solar cells are expected to be a big hit. According to an April report by Lux Research, a Boston base advisory firm,

    the new market [for these solar cells] may grow to as much as $470 million by 2020.

    This represents the beginning of a new generation of power. If we can continue our pursuit of alternative energy, namely from the sun, by investing in both these thin solar cells, we will literally be able to have sustainable energy at our fingertips.  

    (Source: bendbulletin.com)

  4. Heat Waves, Snow Storms… Climate Change is Real

    By Sarah Kiner

    These past few weeks, America has been experiencing a staggering heat wave, which can be linked to climate change.

    Nationally, 1,966 daily high maximum temperature records have been broken or tied so far this month. 66 of these records were all-time maximum temperature records.

    It is important that Americans become concerned about climate change because we need to have citizens aware of this problem and keep it prevalent in the public eye, so that action to reduce our impact on the environment can be made.

    NOAA has conducted reports that also stress the need for attention. The increase in U.S. temperatures has forced there to be a “new normal” for what scientist expect the U.S. climate to be.

    In fact, in the time period of 2080 to 2099, it is predicted that Chicago will experience 25% more heat waves annually. Los Angeles may be in even greater danger with the number of heat wave days increasing from currently 12 days a year to 45 to 99 days.

    If we continue to make changes now, we may be able to lessen the harsh impacts of climate change on the U.S., as well as the world. It is time to rally people to care about the climate!

    People for the most part tend to care about the climate and climate change when there are heat waves or large snowstorms. Yale and George Mason took public opinion poles from a large populace and found that the increase in the amount of snowstorms and heat waves have in fact increased many peoples’ belief in climate change.

    We need to continue this public interest so that people can make lifestyle changes. Small actions such as buying locally or changing a regular light bulb to a CFL light bulb is something that everyone can do to help reduce the effects of climate change.

    (Source: desmogblog.com)

  5. The 2011 SmartPower interns walked over to Founding Farmers and then a few blocks farther to GW’s campus where they climbed the stairs to the roof to get a look at some bees. The bees are to provide a local, sustainable source of honey to the LEED certified gold restaurant in downtown D.C. See what the buzz is all about!

  6. Cleaning products clean up with clean energy

    By Chandler Clay

    Remember the last time you wrestled that thick plastic casing that even the best of scissors couldn’t fracture? Well the days of carving-knife-impenetrable packaging are history.

    Proctor and Gamble, the world’s largest packaged goods company, just announced its “New Long-Term Vision" — an incredible revamping of the way goods are packaged and disposed of. 

    Check it out:

    This is big.

    P&G produces practically every consumer good in your home. Well, that’s an exaggeration, but it’s not all that far from the truth! Among the company’s products are Tide, Gillette, Dolce & Gabbana, Crest, Scope, Pampers, Swiffer, Pantene, the list goes on…

    With 100 percent renewable energy, 100 percent recycled and renewable packaging, and no waste to landfills, P&G is changing the way goods are designed, produced, distributed, used and disposed of. 

    I can’t say they were the quickest to catch on to the benefits and business sense of sustainable production, but I can applaud the magnitude of their goal. This is one large step for P&G, and one giant leap for sustainable production.

    (Source: stumbleupon.com)

  7. "In June, the Solar Energy Industries Association and GTM Research released the U.S. Solar Market Insight: 1st Quarter 2011 report showing that in the last three years the U.S. solar industry has gone from a start-up to a major industry that is creating well-paying jobs and growing the economy in all 50 states.

    Solar’s robust growth in the past years has been the result of a very favorable combination of new, innovative business models, affordability for consumers, rapidly decreasing manufacturing costs, and most importantly, a strong commitment from the Obama Administration and other policymakers in Washington.

    In the first quarter of 2011, the solar industry installed 252 megawatts of new solar electric capacity, a 66 percent growth from the same time frame in 2010. There are now almost 3,000 megawatts of solar electric energy installed in the U.S., enough to power 600,000 homes. In the manufacturing sector, solar panel production jumped 31 percent.

    And with the growth of the solar industry, thousands of jobs have been created. In fact, solar energy creates more jobs per megawatt than any other energy source. According to the Solar Foundation’s National Solar Jobs Census, 93,000 Americans were employed in the U.S. solar industry in 2010 and that number is expected to grow between 25-50,000 this year.

    The Obama Administration has taken solar energy initiatives to unprecedented levels and is leading the effort to win our clean energy future.”

    — The White House

  8. Churches care about utility bills too

    By Chandler Clay

    The spacious sanctuaries, large meeting spaces and multi-use buildings of churches, synagogues and other religious spaces are often open day and night, draining the funds required for expansions, events and maintenance into the hefty, thirsting utility bills.

    Churches and other religious meeting places are confronted with utility bills that can run into the thousands of dollars each month. They have as much, if not more, incentive as everyone else to reduce energy costs, with the added intent of meeting their duty to care for God’s creation. 

    Eleven churches and a nonprofit youth group decided to act. They got together here in Washington to solicit reduced-rate bids for electricity — largely from renewable sources. The group expects a combined savings of nearly $100,000 after its first year in action. 

    After growing membership and parish-wide interest, the alliance plans to exercise even more leverage in its next year by requiring bidders to extend the same discounted rate to individual parishioners and members. The New York Times reported,

    Felipe Witchger, the lead organizer with the DC Project, said that the next contract will require participants, which now also include synagogues and affiliates like unions and advocacy groups, to either buy renewable energy or commit to energy-efficiency upgrades. For the upgrades, he said, workers from neighborhoods with high unemployment and poverty rates would be hired.

    The specific energy-saving techniques adapted by various churches and synagogues in the district include installing motion sensor lights and purchasing wind power through local utility providers. St. Columba’s Episcopal Church in northwest Washington has already installed these energy upgrades and is reaping the benefits. The church expects to save up to $12,000 in its first year.

    Paul J. Barkett, St. Columbia’s chief operating officer, said,

    Every dollar we’re not giving to Pepco for electricity, it’s a dollar we can put into our mission and ministry and furthering our presence.

  9. U.S. Air Force and Army’s Battle for Clean Energy

    By Sarah Kiner

    This past week, the first ever joint Army-Air Force Forum took place with the main objective of finding a way to lessen the dependence of the U.S. military on outdated conventional fuels. The Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army for Energy and Sustainability, Richard Kidd, along with CleanTechnica’s Dr. Geiss, believes the Army and Air Force can achieve this goal with innovation, technology, conservation and sustainability.

    Dr. Geiss reminded the roundtable that during the 1988 National Security Strategy, the military wanted to focus on energy as a systematic element in the long term national defense strategy, but the U.S. still has not achieved this goal.

    The Iraq and Afghanistan wars has intensified the need for cleaner fuels due to such core issues as financial costs, loss of life due to transportation and storage risks, and the construction of operational flexibility.

    At the roundtable, Geiss was optimistic about the ability of the biofuel industry to meet the Air Force’s interest in jet biofuel because of a recent alternative fuel partnership with the commercial aviator sector.

    Kidd went on to stress that the only way the Air Force and Army can implement biofuels is if energy, waste, and water solutions are done in sync with local communities.

    The entire battalion from Fort Raley, Kansas has been deployed to Afghanistan with sustainable technology. This has reduced the operational burden and supply logistics that conventional fuel and batteries can place on the Army and the Air Force.

    Clean Technica’s Tina Casey wrote,

    As these service members cycle in and out of the civilian world, that enthusiasm for new sustainable technology will reach virtually every community in the U.S.

    Casey concluded, 

    It’s unfortunate that in the very moment that the U.S. military has adopted a transformational concept of sustainability, some federal legislators are digging in their heels and pushing for “dirty fuels,” but perhaps events like the Energy Forum will help convince more policymakers that there is a lot more to “support our troops” than waving a flag at them.

  10. Are We Trying Too Hard?

    By Mark Ellis

    There is always a delicate balance in the level of effort when trying to eradicate a problem. Some feel it is necessary to pull out all the stops while others find it more effective to analyze simple steps to fix what is needed. With the ongoing saga of America’s dependence on foreign oil, we my be complicating the issue more than is necessary. 

    Currently, we are investing billions upon billions of dollars in an attempt to completely revolutionize the automotive industry. In the vain of fuel efficiency, automakers are compromising an incredibly large aspect of car, consumer appeal. I am not saying that the general consumer is not interested in reducing oil consumption, in fact

    in a survey published by Consumer Reports, nearly 80% of respondents supported the national goal of reduced dependency on foreign oil. 

    Though in the very same report, 94% said the high price of environmentally friendly cars is enough to put them off buying them. There must be another solution here. 

    If you, the average American motorist, feels that gas prices are simply too high, please let me direct your attention to the current rates throughout Europe and Asia. For example, 

    drivers in the Netherlands pay the equivalent of about $6.73 a gallon at the pump. The gas itself costs $2.61. The rest, $4.12, represents the tax. 

    In context, that is a 158% tax on oil. The United States in comparison is selling gas at wholesale prices given that the average tax on our fuel is a mere 15%. With this limited tax on gas, we open the door to discretionary driving. Instead of using our cars for necessary trips to the market, work, etc., more often Americans don’t thinking twice about driving basically anywhere. And I will agree that we currently live in a nation that is spread out, accustomed to long commutes, and incredibly deficient in terms of public transit, if we are to truly weaken our dependency on foreign oil, things need to change. 

    If we were to place a larger tax on gas, maybe not the astronomical 158%, but say a considerable 70% (yes, there would be a period of political fallout), there would be a noticeable change in the mind of the average driver. You would truly think about each gallon you use, and the net effect would be a reduction in gas consumption across the nation. With this, we may be able to turn our attention and funds to public transit. Being a Los Angeles native, I have yet to see even a tenth of the public transit potential.

    We have many decisions to make in respect to our energy consumption, and I feel it is necessary to weigh the options before diving head first into the first idea that may sound right.