|Ken Novak's Weblog
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Ken Novak's Weblog
Thursday, December 28, 2006
Wal-Mart Pledges to Sell 100 Million Compact Fluorescents in '07:
"Nov. 30, 2006 - Wal-Mart has announced an ambitious campaign to sell 100 million compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) at its Wal-Mart and Sam's Club locations by the end of 2007. .. [WalMart's] Ruben added. "Over the life of those bulbs, $3 billion can be saved in electrical costs and 20 million metric tons of greenhouse gases can be prevented from entering our atmosphere. This change is comparable to taking 700,000 cars off the road, or powering 450,000 single-family homes" 12:13:34 AM
Joel Makower commercializes greenbiz.com:
The green info market matures. "I've just launched a for-profit media company, Greener World Media, which has taken over publishing of GreenBiz.com, et al, from their nonprofit home, the esteemed National Environmental Education & Training Foundation, where the sites had lived happily for the past five years.
Why a for-profit? In 1998-99, when the idea for GreenBiz.com was germinating, there was no business model for giving away information on the Internet. That clearly didn't stop a lot of people, but it stopped me. So, I created "the resource center on business, the environment, and the bottom line," as we dubbed ourselves, as a not-for-profit resource, relying on grants, sponsorships, and the kindness of strangers.
That model worked for a while, but it wasn't sustainable. (There's precious little philanthropic money available, at least in the green world, for a nonprofit organization whose prime mission is to serve the needs of business.) And things have changed: There is a business model now for online information services, based on advertising, sponsorship, and other revenue sources. And the world of green and sustainable business has exploded, with plenty of new products, services, and company initiatives to be promoted." This is good news. In my 2001-2 Stanford Digital Vision fellowship, I concluded that information sources for sustainable energy were needed, and were on their way thanks to tech advances in blogging and the natural growth of the community. In the last 2 years, I've trimmed my own blogging in the topic area as others have other voices and services have grown. Now it seems to be completely mainstream. 12:07:01 AM
Wednesday, December 27, 2006
Wal-Mart's Solar Energy Vision:
Joel Mackower reports on Wal-Mart's "recently issued RFP, or request for proposal, to install solar energy systems on its stores in five states -- the largest procurement of solar ever proposed. Bids are due on January 5 .. Wal-Mart intends to notify the winner of the contract on February 28. ..
The confidential RFP document is part of the company's stated commitment "to reduce our overall greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent over the next eight years" and to "design a store that will use 30% less energy and produce 30% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than our 2005 design within the next 3 years," according to the RFP. ..
Wal-Mart says it will begin installing solar on its stores in five U.S. states: California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, and New Jersey. The company anticipates that "that only a portion of the stores in each state will be physically and economically suitable for solar installations," according to the RFP. It calls for bids for projects to be carried out during 2007, but is asking bidders for "expansion or build-out plans, including projected prices and costs, over the next five years." ..
What's the impact of all this? Wal-Mart doesn't mention a specific purchase size, but my sources tell me that the company could put solar on as many as 340 stores in the next few years. Assuming that each store utilized about 300 kilowatts of solar panels (it could be as much as 500 kilowatts), we're talking roughly 100 megawatts of solar. To put that into perspective, the solar system currently being installed at Google headquarters in California -- the largest single corporate solar installation in history -- is 1.6 MW, about 1/60th the size. Of course, it's unclear whether Wal-Mart will install solar in all of those locations. The company could look at the bidders' numbers and decide to install solar at only a handful of stores -- or none at all.
Assuming it moves forward with even a portion of its plans, Wal-Mart's move is significant, and historic. While a growing number of companies are staking their claim at being "carbon neutral" by purchasing power from developers of far-off wind farms or other large-scale installations, or have installed (often with much fanfare) solar panels on a single showcase facility, no one has yet made a long-term commitment to "alternative sources of energy at competitive prices and in a form that is replicable among multiple sites and multiple building formats," as Wal-Mart puts it." 11:41:31 PM
FT.com - Richest 2% hold half the world's assets:
"Personal wealth is distributed so unevenly across the world that the richest two per cent of adults own more than 50 per cent of the world’s assets while the poorest half hold only 1 per cent of wealth .. according to the data from the World Institute for Development Economics Research of the United Nations University (UNU-Wider). ..
Adults with more than $2,200 of assets were in the top half of the global wealth league table, while those with more than $61,000 were in the top 10 per cent, [and] to belong to the top 1 per cent of the world’s wealthiest adults you would need more than $500,000, something that 37m adults have achieved. So much of the world’s wealth is concentrated in few hands that if all the world’s wealth was distributed evenly, each person would have $20,500 of assets to use.
Almost 90 per cent of the world’s wealth is held in North America, Europe and high-income Asian and Pacific countries, such as Japan and Australia. While North America has 6 per cent of the world’s adult population, it accounts for 34 per cent of household wealth. The concentration of wealth in different countries varies considerably, with the top 10 per cent in the US holding 70 per cent of the country’s wealth, compared with 61 per cent in France, 56 per cent in the UK, 44 per cent in Germany and 39 per cent in Japan." 11:30:13 PM
Global Voices Online:
Interesting compilation of current blog material from citizens of many counties, including Lebanon, Libya, China, Iran, with coverage of local news. Would provide interesting inputs to the "open source intelligence
" movement. 11:24:52 PM
Inflated influence of India's IT-factor:
"In 2003, for example, India claimed to have exported US$8.7 billion
worth of software, most of which went to the United States. But US
companies recorded just US$420 million worth of software imports from
India — a remarkable 20-fold difference. The GAO believes that this huge inconsistency arises, in part, from
India misreporting financial data. For instance, India counts the
earnings of all temporary workers in the United States as part of their
exports figures. But this is against universally-accepted financial
disclosure conventions suggested by the International Monetary Fund.
The result is a gross over-representation of Indian software exports.Several factors also point to a relatively small impact on economic
development from India's IT industry. In 2005, for instance, the IT
exports industry was a marginal job-creator, employing 770,000 people —
just 0.21 per cent of the total labour force." 11:16:04 PM
Tuesday, December 26, 2006
Small car 'Reva' gets big funds:
"Venture funds are now seeing value beyong hot wireless and internet companies in India. India’s first and only electric car manufacturer, REVA Electric Car Company
, has attracted a $ 20 m investment from Draper Fisher Jurveston, Global Environment Fund (GEF) and Mellon HBV Master Global Event Drive Fund LP, according to officials. The company, which is joint venture between the Bangalore-based Maini group and the California-based AEV LLC, is looking at expanding overseas and consolidating its position in global markets with this funding. .. This is GEF’s first investment in India. ..
Reva has sold around 1000 cars in the domestic market and 600 in overseas markets. Apart from the United Kingdom, the company is targetting exports to USA, Norway, Switzerland, Cyprus, Japan, Srilanka and Malta. Its manufacturing plant, located in Banglaore, has an installed capacity of about 6,000 units. .. The entry model is priced around Rs 3 lakh [$6800]. Last year, the company collaborated with designer Dilip Chhabria and Encore, maker of the smallest tablet PC, to launch Reva-NXG. The model gives an extended 200 km per charge compared to the 80 km that is available on the entry model." 7:41:04 AM
Dealing with Tehran:
Assessing U.S. Diplomatic Options Toward Iran by former CIA official Flynt L. Leverett, The Century Foundation, 12/4/2006. An op-ed version of this was blocked from publication by the CIA. It "lays out the essential features of a U.S.-Iranian grand bargain. If Washington does not begin to pursue such an arrangement vigorously and soon, the window for this kind of strategic understanding between the United States and the Islamic Republic is likely to close. Under these circumstances, Iran’s development of at least a nuclear weapons option in the next few years is highly likely.
Thus, if it does not pursue a grand bargain with Tehran, the United States almost certainly will have to take up the more daunting and less potentially satisfying challenges of coping with a nuclear-capable Iran. And the standing of the United States in the world’s most strategically critical region will continue its already disturbing decline." See also commentary
from Newsweek's James Dickey. 7:16:57 AM
SoCal Edison to build massive wind farm:
US wind projects scale up. "Southern California Edison on Thursday announced a deal with an Australian firm to build the largest wind energy facility ever built by a U.S. utility. "This is triple anything that's ever been done. It's enormous," said Stuart Hemphill, director of renewable and alternative power for the Rosemead-based utility that supplies power to much of the Coachella Valley. The 20-year contract, to purchase power from a 50-square-mile wind farm slated for the Tehachapi area about 75 miles northeast of Los Angeles, is with Allco Infrastructure of Sydney. .. The deal with Allco, Hemphill said, allows SoCal Edison to begin to take advantage of the Tehachapi area's 4,500 megawatt wind energy potential." Nearby areas (e.g., Palm Springs) have additional GW of capacity. More details
: "All of California's wind farms together produce 2,300 megawatts of power; the Edison deal by itself would boost that number by 65%. The 1,500 megawatts in the new contract are enough to power nearly 1 million typical homes in Edison's 50,000-square-mile service territory. The Edison project would produce more than twice the electricity of the biggest U.S. wind farm, near Abilene, Texas. ..
In California, all utilities are pushing to meet a goal of generating 20% of the state's power needs from renewable sources by 2010. The looming deadline has triggered a flurry of new contracts by the energy companies lining up so-called green power. Although the deal announced Thursday would double Edison's wind energy production, the utility said it would still struggle to meet the 2010 target.
Company executives said the first batch of power from the project was expected to come online in 2010, but additional supply would have to be phased in over several years. The timeline — and the fate of the entire project — depends on whether and when the utilities can build a transmission line to carry the new wind power from the turbines to the state's power grid .. Edison and other utilities are working with state regulators on plans to construct the necessary transmission line. But the price tag is $1.8 billion, and the approval process for such projects can be contentious and lengthy." I wonder what the rollout of big wind would look like with national government backing, like the Tennessee Valley Authority or Bonneville Power Administration had in past years. This area has 4500 MW capacity, and it's news to grow to half that. 12:37:55 AM
WaterHealth International Closes Series C Funding:
, Inc. (WHI)
today announced the final close of its Series C funding for a total
equity investment of more than $11 million. SAIL Venture Partners,
L.P., anchored the latest investment of $4 million. Series A investor
Plebys International LLC, founded and led by WHI CEO Tralance Addy,
also invested in this round. The new investments are in addition to
the $7.25 million equity investment anchored by Dow Venture Capital
that WHI announced last month.
WHI has more than 450 installations of its water purification and
disinfection systems in developing countries around the world. This
additional funding further strengthens WHI and will allow for
accelerated growth in the company's target markets, primarily India and
South Asia, West Africa, the Philippines and Mexico." This is the product developed by Ashok Gadgil, which I've been following for a few years. Glad to see it get substantial backing. 12:25:16 AM
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Low temp geothermal:
"PureCycle® geothermal power plant at Chena
Hot Springs Resort in Alaska was selected as Project of the Year in the
renewable/sustainable energy category by Power Engineering magazine. .. The Chena
Hot Springs Resort in Alaska has the first geothermal power plant in
the state. It also is the site of the lowest temperature geothermal
resource (165°F) ever used for commercial power generation in the
world. The resort’s UTC Power PureCycle® geothermal system was
commissioned in August and provides power for the resort’s on-site
electrical needs. All 44 buildings at the resort – including a
greenhouse, hotel, cabins and ice museum – are linked by a geothermal
district heating system.
" More info:
"Although output from the installation is considered small for a base
load power plant, the Chena plant represents a huge leap forward for
moderate geothermal development and greatly expands the number of
geothermal resources that can be economically developed. Prior to the
operation of the power plant at Chena, the lowest temperature
geothermal resource ever developed for commercial power generation was
208 F." 9:29:11 AM
ADB lending for renewables growing:
"A financing facility of US$510 million has been approved to develop renewable energy resources in Pakistan.
ADB (Asian Development Bank) will establish the ‘Renewable Energy
Development Sector Investment Program’ to expand power supply in rural
areas through 600,000 new connections to 4.8 million people. The
multitranche financing facility is one of the first to be developed
under ADB's evolving clean energy initiative, through which ADB plans
to expand operations in developing countries to $1 billion per year. “Small-
to medium-sized hydropower plants offer the greatest renewable energy
potential for Pakistan, while possibilities also exist in promoting
greater use of wind, solar, and biomass power,” says Piya
Abeygunawardena of ADB." 9:17:16 AM
Thursday, December 07, 2006
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Carbon Neutral: Raising the Ante on Eco-Tourism: Another case where an initially obscure policy-wonk idea has rapidly gone mainstream. And the baggage tag is a nice touch... "Buzzword of the Year: carbon neutral. .. The term will be added to the New Oxford American Dictionary in 2007 ..
Several carbon-offset Web sites, like www.carbonoffsets.org or www.terrapass.com use an online “carbon calculator” to determine the approximate amount of carbon dioxide produced when they travel. Carbon offsets, usually anywhere from $5 to $30, depending on the length of the trip and the form of transportation, can be purchased through a growing number of travel companies. Expedia and Travelocity both rolled out new programs this year that let travelers buy carbon offsets. Travelers who buy offsets through Expedia and its partner TerraPass, a Web-based for-profit company in Menlo Park, Calif., for a medium or long-haul flight get a “Carbon Balanced Flyer” luggage tag. The charge is $5.99 to offset about 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide — the amount emitted, per passenger, on a round-trip flight of up to 2,200 miles; $16.99 for a cross-country flight of up to 6,500 miles; and $29.99 for an international flight of up to 13,000 miles." 8:24:05 PM
Anbar Picture Grows Clearer, and Bleaker:
"The U.S. military is no longer able to defeat a bloody insurgency in western Iraq or counter al-Qaeda's rising popularity there, according to newly disclosed details from a classified Marine Corps intelligence report that set off debate in recent months about the military's mission in Anbar province. .. The Marines recently filed an updated version of [the August] assessment that stood by its conclusions ..
The report describes Iraq's Sunni minority as "embroiled in a daily fight for survival," fearful of "pogroms" by the Shiite majority and increasingly dependent on al-Qaeda in Iraq as its only hope against growing Iranian dominance across the capital. .. True or not, the memo says, "from the Sunni perspective, their greatest fears have been realized: Iran controls Baghdad and Anbaris have been marginalized." Moreover, most Sunnis now believe it would be unwise to count on or help U.S. forces because they are seen as likely to leave the country before imposing stability.
Between al-Qaeda's violence, Iran's influence and an expected U.S. drawdown, "the social and political situation has deteriorated to a point" that U.S. and Iraqi troops "are no longer capable of militarily defeating the insurgency in al-Anbar," the assessment found. .. "Despite the success of the December elections, nearly all government institutions from the village to provincial levels have disintegrated or have been thoroughly corrupted and infiltrated by Al Qaeda in Iraq," or a smattering of other insurgent groups, the report says"
From the story on the August report
: "One Army officer summarized it as arguing that in Anbar province, "We haven't been defeated militarily but we have been defeated politically -- and that's where wars are won and lost." .. One possible solution would be to try to turn over the province to Iraqi forces, but that could increase the risk of a full-blown civil war. Shiite-dominated forces might begin slaughtering Sunnis, while Sunni-dominated units might simply begin acting independently of the central government."
The more recent story has a video shows Post correspondent Thomas Ricks reporting on an option circulating in the Pentagon to simply side with the Shiites and encourage formation of a large national Shiite-Kurdish army to restore order. This might reduce the importance of Shiite radicals like Al Sadr. Nothing is said in that report about the subsequent fate of the Sunnis in that scenario. 4:21:00 PM
The Election Is in the Mail:
In the 2006 election, "there was one state where all went well: Oregon, where everyone votes by mail. Since Oregon adopted Vote by Mail as its sole voting option in 1998, the state’s turnout has increased, concerns about fraud have decreased, a complete paper trail exists for every election, recounts are non-controvertible and both major political parties have gained voters. Moreover, in doing away with voting machines, polling booths, precinct captains and election workers, the state estimates that it saves up to 40 percent over the cost of a traditional election. ..
[If this was nationwide,] the country’s 35,000 post offices could provide information, distribute and collect voting materials and issue inexpensive residency and address identifications for voting purposes. Perhaps most important, given the concerns about voting machine security, mail ballots cannot be hacked. Tampering or interfering with mail is a federal crime, and the United States Postal Service has its own law enforcement arm, which works closely with a variety of enforcement authorities including the F.B.I. Trained election clerks can take the time to check signatures without delaying or discouraging voters. And the advantages of a paper trail outshine the glitter of black box electronic gadgetry.
Already, in order to help businesses that send out big mailings, the Postal Service uses bar-code scanning to inexpensively track large volumes of mail from origin to destination. With minor but careful modifications, this technology can be adapted for use with ballots — allowing voters to check on their location and status by entering a tracking number on the Internet or by phone." 10:04:41 AM