Day: August 15, 2013

Minnesota leads in mercury control

Read the full story in the Echo Press.

Ninety percent of the atmospheric mercury that falls into Minnesota lakes and streams comes from outside of the state. When it comes to controlling the other 10 percent, Minnesota is leading the nation.

Unilever Crowdsources Eco-Friendly Shower Ideas

Read the full story in Environmental Leader.

Unilever is reaching out to consumers to crowdsource the design of an environmentally friendly shower that uses less water and has a smaller carbon footprint than current models.

Unilever will award €10,000 ($13,000) and a trip to London to develop the winning idea. Submissions for the “shower of the future” competition need to be cost efficient and affordable to the end user, have an innovative design that fits within a typical modern bathroom and should use no more than 10 liters (2.6 gallons) of water in a single use.

Webinar: Tying Energy Efficiency to Compensation and Performance Reviews

Tuesday, September 3, 2013 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM CDT
Register at

Employees have long enjoyed bonuses, stellar annual reviews, and even free vacations for meeting sales targets or other corporate goals. Why not extend the practice to sustainability? Join
Better Buildings Challenge Partners Alcoa, HEI Hotels, and TIAA-CREF to learn about initiatives their organizations have in place to reward employees for meeting energy efficiency goals.

Webinar: The Secrets of Sustainable Leadership in Business

August 20, 2013,1:00-2:00pm EST
Register at

As sustainability becomes increasingly woven into the fabric of business, so has the need for executives who can show the way. It’s no longer just about efficiency or packaging or waste — but about systems: supply chains, logistics, human resources, operations, and their impacts on employees, communities and customers. It embraces an understanding of social issues as well as environmental ones.

The world of corporate sustainability professionals is changing, too. Today’s leaders need diverse business skills, the ability to navigate complex systems and relationships and a lens on society’s ever-shifting expectations. They also need to effectively manage a new generation of employees for whom sustainability is second nature.

Where do such leaders come from? What does it take to be one? How do you navigate your career to meet these emerging opportunities? 

Join a panel of experts to hear about the latest thinking on sustainability leadership and career development. In this hour-long webcast, you’ll learn:

  • how sustainability leadership is being defined inside companies
  • the skills and expertise companies are looking for
  • where the field of corporate sustainability is headed

Protecting the Electric Grid from Increasingly Severe Weather Due to Climate Change

Read the full post at The Energy Blog.

This week marks the tenth anniversary of one of the worst power outages in the United States, during which tens of millions of Americans were affected across parts of Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Jersey. Severe weather is the number one cause of power outages on the nation’s electric grid, which serves as the backbone of the nation’s infrastructure that delivers electric power to millions of Americans in homes, schools, offices and factories across the United States.

A new report from the White House Council of Economic Advisers and the Energy Department evaluates the economic cost of power outages and calls for increased cross-sector investment to make the electric grid more resilient in the face of increasingly severe weather events due to climate change.

NREL Report Firms Up Land-Use Requirements of Solar

The Energy Department’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has published a report on the land use requirements of solar power plants based on actual land-use practices from existing solar facilities.

“Having real data from a majority of the solar plants in the United States will help people make proper comparisons and informed decisions,” lead author Sean Ong said. The report, “Land-use Requirements for Solar Power Plants in the United States,” was written with NREL colleagues Clinton Campbell, Robert Margolis, Paul Denholm and Garvin Heath.

Ong gathered data from 72% of the solar power plants installed or under construction in the United States. Among the findings:

  • A large fixed tilt photovoltaic (PV) plant that generates 1 gigawatt-hour per year requires, on average, 2.8 acres for the solar panels. This means that a solar power plant that provides all of the electricity for 1,000 homes would require 32 acres of land.
  • Small single-axis PV systems require on average 2.9 acres per annual gigawatt-hour – or 3.8 acres when considering all unused area that falls inside the project boundary.
  • Concentrating solar power plants require on average 2.7 acres for solar collectors and other equipment per annual gigawatt-hour; 3.5 acres for all land enclosed within the project boundary.

By the third quarter of 2012, the United States had deployed more than 2.1 gigawatts of utility-scale solar generation capacity. Another 4.6 gigawatts was under construction. There has been a long-running debate over the comparative land needs for various forms of energy, old and new. But that’s not the purpose of the new report, Ong and Denholm emphasized.

“The numbers aren’t good news or bad news,” Denholm said. “It’s just that there was not an understanding of actual land-use requirements before this work. However, we were happy to find out that many of the solar land use ranges and estimates used in the literature are very close to actual solar land use requirements that we found.”

These land-use estimates can also be compared with other energy-production land uses. For example, a study by Vasilis Fthenakis and Hung Chul Kim of Columbia University (2009) found that, on a life-cycle electricity-output basis—including direct and indirect land transformation—utility-scale PV in the U.S. Southwest requires less land than the average U.S. power plant using surface-mined coal.

A previous NREL report, “Land-use Requirements and the Per-capita Solar Footprint for Photovoltaic Generation in the United States,” had estimated that if solar energy was to meet 100% of all electricity demand in the United States, it would take up 0.6% of the total area in the United States.

This time, the data come not from estimates or calculations, but from compiling land use numbers from actual solar power plants. Every solar energy site analyzed in the study is listed in a detailed appendix.

“All these land use numbers are being thrown around, but there has been nothing concrete,” Ong said. “Now people will actually have numbers to cite when they conduct analyses and publish reports.”

NREL previously had released a report on land-use needs for wind power. Doing the same other generation resources including coal, natural gas and nuclear — estimating land use via huge sample sizes — would help inform decisions, Denholm said.

The report provides fundamental data that can be used to understand the impacts and benefits of solar. “Modelers and analysts, people looking 10 or 20 years into the future can use this report to evaluate the impacts solar energy may have,” Denholm said.

NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy’s primary national laboratory for renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. NREL is operated for the Energy Department by the Alliance for Sustainable Energy, LLC.

Friday Night Lights: Thanks to DOE, It Won’t Cost as Much to Light Your High School Football Field

Read the full post from American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.

Next time you’re at a night game or in a big box store, look up—if you see bright white lights housed in dome-shaped fixtures, you’re probably looking at metal halide lights. Strong  new energy efficiency standards for metal halide lamp fixtures proposed yesterday by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) would save businesses and consumers money, and would be a step toward meeting President Obama’s goal of reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) greenhouse gas emissions by 3 billion metric tons by 2030 through efficiency standards.

Boston Pilots Composting Program

Read the full story in Environmental Leader.

Boston is piloting its first public composting program, inviting residents to drop off compostable food scraps for free at three city farmers’ markets.

The program was inspired by feedback during community presentations around the city’s urban agricultural zoning amendment Article 89, and contributes to the city’s “Greenovate Boston” initiative, which seeks to educate the public on climate actions like recycling and waste management.

Microsoft ‘Challenges’ Companies’ PC Purchasing Behavior

Read the full story in Environmental Leader.

Microsoft has launched a challenge and website to help companies and consumers better understand the environmental impact of buying, using and disposing of a PC.

The Greener IT Challenge website has video and text about environmentally friendly PCs. It includes a “training” section that gives business customers the information they need to purchase PCs that have been manufactured in more sustainable ways and understand power options to make PC use more energy-efficient, Microsoft says. It also instructs how to dispose of used electronics so they can be reused and recycled.

The site also has links to green IT standards including the Electronic Product Environmental Tool (EPEAT), e-Stewards, WEEELabex, Energy Star and R2 Solutions.

Managing Green Teams: Environmental Change in Organisations and Networks

Read the full story in The Guardian.

Many US companies are increasing their sustainability, but are reluctant to promote their efforts, writes Tensie Whelan.

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