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Heinz has reduced its carbon emissions by 17,000 tons since 2006 at its UK factories in Kendal, Cumbria and Kitt Green with the help of Carbon Trust, reports Food and Drink Digital.

The foods company also has cut its energy costs at the UK factories, saving more than 13 percent of its annual energy costs in the Kitt Green food-processing complex alone, over the last two years, reports Carbon Trust. An energy audit of Heinz’ production lines helped the foods company achieve the energy savings.

Heinz energy managers discovered that a lot of energy was required to heat cold water to rehydrate the dried beans, as well as create the steam to cook the beans in their cans, reports Food and Drink Digital.

By capturing and recycling the waste heat from these processes, less energy is now needed to heat the water, which also has resulted in a drop in carbon emissions, says Carbon Trust.

Hugh Jones, director, solutions, the Carbon Trust, told the news site that there many opportunities to save energy and cut carbon emissions by changing the way companies manufacture everyday products.

Other initiatives that helped Heinz cut energy use and carbon emissions include improving the efficiency of its boilers and making design changes to production line machines.

The foods company also is looking at ways to produce power from waste and use more renewable energy in an effort to help the company meet its goal to cut global carbon emissions 20 percent, based on 2005 levels, by 2015, reports Carbon Trust.

Heinz, along with some of the UK’s largest retailers Asda, Boots, Tesco and Sainsbury’s, also has voluntarily agreed to reduce the carbon footprint of its grocery packaging by 10 percent by 2012.

Source: Environmental Leader.


As the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) releases an energy-savings guide to help quick-service restaurants reduce their energy use by 50 percent, Starbucks continues to move ahead with plans to make the restaurant chain’s stores environmentally friendly.

Starbucks is part of a growing trend by retailers to reduce their impact on the environment despite the initial cost premium for their efforts, reports The Washington Post.

About 1,300 retail locations have enrolled in the U.S. Green Buildings Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification program through September, compared with 900 for all of last year, and represent about eight percent of all 6,000 buildings that are LEED certified, according to The Washington Post.

Starbucks strategy calls for 50 percent of its energy to come from renewable sources and to achieve LEED certification for all of its “ground-up” sites worldwide. The company is one of several working with USGBC on a new certification program that offers operators the option of pursuing the designation for multiple properties at once, reports The Washington Post.

Starbucks will build or renovate 10 test stores around the world as part of the test program.

Starbucks would not reveal to the newspaper how much the green retrofits cost other than noting “it has been pricey.” However, the restaurant chain expects to achieve a full return on investment for these projects in a few years.

To help restaurants reduce their energy consumption, the DOE and its Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) have released a technical report that provides recommendations on how to achieve up to 50 percent energy savings in quick-service restaurants.

The guide, “Technical Support Document: 50% Energy Savings for Quick-Service Restaurants” (PDF), provides a number of energy-efficiency measures that cut energy use in quick-service restaurants by up to 50 percent compared to a baseline standard in less than five years. The 50 percent goal covers the reduction of site energy use in all eight U.S. climate zones.

PNNL used EnergyPlus, an energy simulation program, to determine the energy savings provided by the energy-efficiency measures. The prototype 2,500-sq.-ft. building model was analyzed across all U.S. climate zones, which were divided into 16 representative climate cities.

The report also provides an estimate of the incremental first costs and simple payback years.

Some of the energy-efficiency measures include the following:

–Ultra-efficient cooking appliances that reduced kitchen exhaust air flow

–An optimized HVAC system configuration to better utilize a dedicated outdoor air system and runaround coil loop heat recovery

–Efficient exterior and interior lighting with dimming controls in the dining room

–Enhanced insulation, cool roofs, and high-performance window glazing

The DOE says the 50 percent savings report will provide the foundation for the next series of Advanced Energy Design Guides (AEDGs), which are “how-to” guides that show architects, engineers, and building designers how to achieve above-code energy performance for buildings using existing technologies available today.

The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) works in collaboration with DOE, the American Institute of Architects, the Illuminating Engineering Society, and the U.S. Green Building Council to develop and publish the free design guides.

The DOE has published guides in several categories for commercial buildings. For example, in September, DOE and its National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) released two technical reports that provide recommendations on how to achieve 50 percent energy savings in new and existing large office buildings and large hospitals.

Source: Environmental Leader.

Aurora Biofuels, Green Rock Energy and the City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder are set to share in $8 million of Western Australian State Government funding for new low emission energy projects.

Announced by Western Australian Environment Minister Donna Faragher and Western Australian Energy Minister Peter Collier, the funding will draw from the Low Emissions Energy Development Fund.

Aurora Biofuels will receive $2million towards a project to source CO2 from a major industrial plant in the Karratha region for use as feedstock for algal production, with subsequent production of biodiesel and other algal products.

Green Rock Energy will receive $5.4 million towards its project for the commercial demonstration of direct use of geothermal energy in hot sedimentary aquifers beneath the Perth metropolitan area to replace electricity for building air-conditioning at The University of Western Australia’s Crawley campus.

The City of Kalgoorlie-Boulder has been granted $559,000 for a project to install ground source heat pumps, paired with solar photovoltaic panels, to provide renewable energy for pool heating at the Kalgoorlie-Boulder Oasis Recreation Centre.

Source: Eco Generation.

At what point does something become normal? It’s not quite a simple as waiting for the moment when a majority of the population supports an issue. Plenty of philosophies and technologies are adopted by just a small minority of people and yet are deemed normal, while there are also incidences throughout history, most of them tragic, where something is deemed normal but in retrospect emerges as being staggeringly abnormal.

The identification of this crucial tipping point, to use the Gladwellism, between niche and normal is of huge importance to any social and economic movement – not least the transition to a low carbon economy.

The roll out of low carbon technologies and business models faces many economic and cultural challenges, but one of the most important and least well understood is the perception that green solutions are not yet the norm. Whether it is the solar panel on your roof, the hybrid car in your drive, or the carbon label on the bottle of milk you just bought, there is a sense that these products are in some way unusual, niche, perhaps even elitist.

It is in this context that President Obama’s decision to put a solar panel on the White House roof may prove to be of immense significance.

It is easy to see why the Obama administration agonised for so long over this decision, initially rejecting calls to install a solar system before this week announcing that panels would now be deployed. The last President to install solar panels on the White House roof was one term Democrat Jimmy Carter and the last thing Obama needs during election season is to provide right wing nutjobs with another excuse for them to characterise him as an effete elitist tree-hugger.

But regardless of the inevitable brickbats this move will attract, the Obamas have done the low carbon economy a huge service by announcing the installation. The White House is arguably the most famous home on the planet and while this is unlikely to prove the tipping point for mass adoption, installing solar panels at such a high profile site inevitably helps to move the technology a step closer to normalisation.

For anyone who sneers at the Obamas’ environmental concerns, others will conclude that if it is good enough for the president it is good enough for them.

It is for this same reason that the UK’s recently introduced feed-in tariff is so important. As many critics have pointed out the scheme is not the most cost effective means of reducing carbon emissions, but in addition to increasing renewable energy capacity each solar panel and wind turbine installed as a result of the incentive is helping to normalise low carbon technology. It will become much harder for people to be cynical about the green agenda when they can see it in action on their street.

I attended a round table event last week where one of the participants argued that we needed to reach a stage where a solar panel could be installed on the Queen Vic and no one would regard it as strange.

Currently, any effort to feature solar panels or smart meters as part of a long running soap would prompt accusations of government-approved preaching, or even worse, subliminal advertising. But were such technologies to become an increasingly normal part of the urban fabric, then they would also become part of the media landscape, further encouraging real world adoption in what would become a virtuous circle.

Similar adoption curves can be seen time and time again throughout history and they remain one of the few reasons to be optimistic about the prospect of us building a sustainable economy over the next few decades.

Whether it is the break-neck pace at which people bought iPods during the noughties or the decades-long battle to normalise equality in the workplace that is gloriously illustrated in TV show du jour Mad Men, it has repeatedly proved possible to engineer economic and social tipping points.

The lesson for those businesses and governments keen to drive the development of the low carbon economy the lesson is clear: there are benefits attached to the visible deployment of green technologies and business models that go over and above the immediate carbon and energy savings.

This is particularly the case for those firms in the media sphere that have the potential to accelerate or slow the normalisation process.

One of the most significant victories secured by environmentalists in recent years was Rupert Murdoch’s acknowledgement of the threat posed by climate change and his promise to mobilize his vast media resources to address the challenge. What followed was an encouraging season of green programmes and articles across the News International portfolio that served to further push the environment up the political and social agenda in the run up to last year’s Copenhagen Summit.

Unfortunately, since then Murdoch has reverted to type, unleashing Fox News to attack the Obama administration’s green agenda and providing millions in funding to a Republican Party that remains in hock to climate change sceptics.

If ever there was an illustration of why it is so important to change what is regarded as the norm, this is it.

Source: Business Green Blog.

“They’ve been around since their inception 10 years ago, but it took years to perfect the product and to get approval,” Bergholz says. TAPCO’s website lists Fort Worth, Tucson and Richfield Township in Ohio among other solar signal clients.

In Baton Rouge, flashing yellow lights at school zones went “green” before the start of the current school year, says Ingolf Partenheimer, the city-parish’s chief traffic engineer.

“We are putting out 90 of them,” Partenheimer says, adding that they can electronically change the signals instead of having to change them manually. “If a school has early dismissal, we can change the signals school-by-school or globally.”

Branson installed solar signs at a cost of about $1,000 each a few months ago at two intersections that had seen numerous accidents, says Keith Francis, the city’s assistant director of public works.

“We had had numerous accidents at these locations, and it was kind of a dark area and didn’t have a lot of street lighting, so we decided to put these up to get people’s attention,” Francis says. “Flashing lights automatically get people’s attention and make them slow down.”

“The solar portion cuts down on costs,” he says. “The solar panels (batteries) will run for 11 days without being charged.”

Shreveport, La., was among the early users, installing solar-powered lights five years ago, city traffic engineer Michael Erlund says. “We went with solar lights because electricity costs us money constantly,” he says.

A solar-powered flashing stop sign was installed at a three-way stop in Hammond, La., in Tangipohoa Parish in early September, according to Gordon Burgess, Tangipahoa Parish president. It is one of 10 that will be installed on parish roads, he says.

In deciding where to place the signs, Burgess says, officials looked at several dangerous intersections.

“We have a lot of intersections, some with four-way stops, so we looked at where they’ve had accidents, and with our volume of traffic, we more or less prioritized the ones with the high traffic count,” he says.

Source: FFG Gippsland.

We have seen a handful of carbon neutral houses of late, but Eyeful Home Company of Tostem Housing Institute Co Ltd offers what it calls a “carbon minus home.” Christened the “Super-sustainable Model House Next+ Nagaiki Style,” the green house comes loaded with green and health-related devices. The house contributes to absorbing more carbon dioxide than it emits.

The Next+ Nagaiki Style features a photovoltaic (PV) system that produces 6.93kW of energy, a water heating system equipped with a heat pump using solar heat, brightness adjustable LED lighting equipment, OLED lighting equipment on the walls and a timer function for using nighttime power to charge an electric vehicle.

The list of green features doesn’t end there, as the house also includes “SAMOS,” a sash that has high light and heat shielding performances, “Miracle Healthy Brick,” a brick that is highly hygroscopic and helps stabilize humidity and “Pellet Heater,” a stove that uses wood obtained by thinning forests. In addition, it flaunts “Luminous porcelain,” which can be used as an entrance lamp, “Fractal Sunshade,” which is used on the terrace and “Smart Watch” and “ERIA Monitor,” which visualize the consumption of electricity.

The Next+ Nagaiki Style is the third-generation model of the concept home that Tostem Housing started to build in 2008. The first- and second-generation models are aimed at CO2 neutrality, while this third-generation model aims at obtaining a “CO2 minus life.” All the data regarding the electricity consumption will be automatically sent to the server of the company. There are plans to provide a service to analyze the data and advise the residents to adapt ways to save energy.

Source: Eco Friend.

By now, it’s clear to most that accelerating the transition to renewable energy is critical for a variety of climactic and geopolitical reasons. Nobody wants to see continued environmental destruction, and even deaths, from air pollution and increasingly extreme weather, which we must conclude are at least partially caused by the way we currently generate energy. Not to mention, few of us want to keep funding corrupt and violent dictatorial regimes that are enriched by our consumption of oil.

There’s something else that nobody seems to want, too: the invoice.

While state legislatures, under pressure from constituents, have provided utilities with target dates to reach higher levels of renewable energy capabilities, state governments are unlikely to hike taxes that might provide subsidies for the utilities to cover the costs of delivering clean power. Utilities are also sometimes finding it difficult to get state utility commissions to approve the raising of their rates to be able to fund these projects. That would cost politicians votes and utilities customers.

This same lack of willingness to find a way to foot the bill also discourages voters from being willing to bankroll an improvement in air quality. Everyone is green, in the abstract, as long as it doesn’t demand much of them personally. In most constituents’ minds, renewable energy is something the bloated utility companies ought to be able to spring for. Life is expensive enough these days, they figure.

How, then, can we expect the utilities to be excited about clean energy, when they are the ones who will have to pay for it? Infrastructure change will cost billions of dollars, not to mention the losses on the assets they’ve already invested in.

When enough cheap energy capacity already exists via coal plants (5 times cheaper than solar) and natural gas, and when no related rise in consumption or patronage is promised to them as a future result of their efforts, why should they bother? Why should they lay out capital aimed at new forms of renewable energy generation when consumption is hardly expected to rise? And why should utilities be expected to be greener than either the state government or the utility customers (the voters) are willing to be, in practical, pecuniary terms?

However, utilities can’t say that it’s bad math for them to convert to clean energy. That would be even worse for business (from a PR standpoint at least, seeing that many of these companies are actually monopolies — another problem altogether.)

Instead, utilities invoke “insurmountable” logistics: namely, their inability to run underground transmission lines through the necessary private areas, or the lack of a good utility-scale storage solution (short of a dam, which can’t work just anywhere.) Given the intermittency of solar and wind generated energy –the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow 24/7 — the utilities would be correct in suggesting that these issues are crucial if they are to provide a workable solution.

Citing these issues whenever conversion deadlines (Renewable Portfolio Standards) loom, the utilities have managed to largely avoid the real issue: They aren’t that into it. It doesn’t make sense to them economically.

Other than huge government subsidies from an already deficit-ridden federal budget, the only solution I see emerging successfully is technology. Demand pricing, rate hikes and carbon taxes could do a little. But ultimately, I’m betting on better technology to kill the coal plant, much as VoIP killed the telecom monopolies.

Within the better technology category, I’m staying focused on utility-scale storage.

While I believe that distributive-scale storage is also a possible solution (i.e., an ad hoc solar solution for every home and business), meeting demand and making these devices to price might take several decades. Since transmission lines are indeed a huge hurdle to implement in a democracy where people hold their property values dear, I believe we’re going to have to lay down as few of these as possible, leading out of towns to massive storage facilities.

That means only truly transformative and highly efficient utility-scale storage facilities are going to do the trick of eclipsing coal, not only because it is the right thing to do, but because it becomes easier and relatively inexpensive, as well. We then stand a chance of enthusiastic consumer participation, once doing so is no longer a burden, but feels more like a good choice.

Indeed, today’s best clean tech startups are focusing their energy right there.

Source: Gigaom.

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