NREL cutting four percent of workforce, lays off solar researchers

Read the full story in the Denver Post.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden this week laid off 15 solar energy researchers and notified its workforce of plans to reduce its staff by another 50 to 60 people via buyouts, officials confirmed Wednesday.

The cuts — which would amount to less than 5 percent of NREL’s 1,600 person Colorado workforce — were triggered by the U.S. Department of Energy reducing funding and shifting the priorities of its solar research program, NREL spokesman George Douglas said.

The employees laid off Monday were engaged in long-term fundamental research.


New minor to be offered: Sustainability, Energy and Environment Fellows Program

Read the full story in Inside Illinois.

Six academic units came together to offer the new Sustainability, Energy and Environment Fellows Program, a campuswide undergraduate minor through the Institute for Sustainability, Energy and Environment to promote systems-level thinking about energy and sustainability, and to foster the development of an integrated view of the economy, society and the environment.

The minor provides selected students an opportunity to develop an integrated perspective on sustainability and understand the feedback, trade-offs and barriers to achieving it and the implications for decision-making.

Green Infrastructure Wizard (GIWiz)

GIWiz, EPA’s new green infrastructure information tool, offers you access to a repository of EPA-sourced Green Infrastructure tools and resources designed to support and promote sustainable water management and community planning decisions. The tools and resources available through GIWiz will help you analyze problems, understand management options, calculate design parameters, analyze costs and benefits, evaluate tradeoffs, engage stakeholders, and/or develop education and outreach campaigns.

Click on Quick Links to select Learn, Research, Design, or Assess options. When you select an option, the tool will ask you questions to help narrow your focus.

Click on Explore to browse resources. Again, the tool asks you who you are, what you’d like to do, what resources you’re interested in, etc. It also gives you a keyword search option.

Chicago is about to get the world’s largest rooftop greenhouse, and it’s the size of an entire city block

Read the full story at Business Insider.

In April, the eco-friendly soap manufacturer Method opened up its newest factory on Chicago’s South Side. This is no ordinary factory — the $30 million space is equipped with three solar “trees” that move with the sun and a 230-foot-tall wind turbine. Combined, the on-site renewable energy sources generate a third of all energy for the building.

But the most innovative element of the factory — designed by William McDonough + Partners and Heitman Architects— is on the roof, where a a 75,000 square foot greenhouse is set to be fully planted this fall. When complete, the space will be the largest rooftop greenhouse in the world, growing up to one million pounds of greens each year.

13th Annual P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet

Solicitation Opening Date: October 06, 2015
Solicitation Closing Date: December 08, 2015, 11:59:59 pm Eastern Time

Read the full RFA at

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announces the posting of the Request for Applications, P3-People, Prosperity and the Planet Award Program, with the goal to research, develop and design solutions to real world challenges involving the overall sustainability of human society. This college student design competition highlights the use of scientific principles in creating innovative projects focused on sustainability. The P3 Award program was developed to foster progress toward the three pillars of sustainability by achieving the mutual goals of improved quality of life, economic prosperity and protection of the planet – people, prosperity, and the planet. The EPA offers the P3 competition in order to respond to the technical needs of the world while moving towards the goal of sustainability.

This year’s P3 RFA includes the following research topics:

  • Energy;
  • Water;
  • Built Environment; and
  • Materials and Chemicals.

Supporting the development of sustainable methods is in line with the Sustainable and Healthy Communities (SHC) Research Program. EPA’s SHC Research Program provides useful science and tools for decision makers at all levels to help communities advance sustainability as well as achieve regulatory compliance. SHC is collaborating with partners to conduct research that will result in science-based knowledge to guide decisions that will better sustain a healthy society and environment in America’s communities. The research is intended for decision-makers at the federal, regional, state and community levels.

Water Connection Charges: A Tool for Encouraging Water-Efficient Growth

Download the document.

As many U.S. communities are struggling to support growing populations with limited water resources, very few of them are utilizing water connection charges to increase water-savvy residential development projects in their communities. So concludes a new report by Western Resource Advocates, Ceres, and the University of North Carolina’s Environmental Finance Center evaluating water connection charges used by 800 public water utilities in Arizona, Colorado, Georgia, North Carolina and Utah.

This first-of-its-kind report entitled Water Connection Charges: A Tool for Encouraging Water-Efficient Growth found that 93% of the fee structures in the Southeastern states and 62% of the fee structures in the Western states used uniform water connection charges for single-family homes that took no account of key factors in influencing the design of a home’s water footprint. As a result, owners of new homes are typically paying the same amount.

Let’s Modernize Our Environmental Laws

Read the full op-ed in the New York Times.

Last week the Environmental Protection Agency unveiled stringent new regulations on smog, and it’s crystal clear the agency has legal authority to impose these rules. The E.P.A. also recently announced an initiative to reduce greenhouse gases from power plants, though its legal authority to regulate emissions that cause global warming is murky. Some states will sue to block the plan; years of litigation may be in the offing.

Here’s the rub. Smog has been decreasing steadily, down 18 percent since 2000 and 33 percent since 1980. Greenhouse-gas accumulation in the atmosphere is increasing steadily. Yet perversely, the federal government has a well-defined authority to act on the environmental issue that’s getting better, but not on the one that’s getting worse.

Our major environmental laws are a generation or more out of date — written for conditions of the past, not the present.