It’s a perfect storm for expansion in the solar leasing business which has led the smallest of the big three solar lease providers to march eastward. Sungevity credits high energy costs, especially in some of the Northeastern states, with new found interest. We’re moving beyond ethical principles and onto economics. Sungevity is showing consumers that they can cool down on the cheap by pushing popsicles in a biodiesel solar powered ice pop truck, while at the same time reminding them that solar power is no longer out of their financial reach.
Aptly named the “Rooftop Revolution,” Sungevity’s solar powered popsicle truck will be hitting up farmers’ markets, festivals, and other public events in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Delaware, hoping to seize up business that’s moved far beyond their humble start in Oakland, Calif. Sungevity has made their mark by offering customers a low budget way into the solar market with zero money down solar leases. Sungevity also offers online quotes so that customers know immediately how much they can save through installation. In fact, their ice pop truck is equipped with iPads so that iQuotes can be done at no charge onsite.
Photo: Mat McDermott
“Sungevity’s ‘Rooftop Revolution’ is a true first in the solar industry and drives directly to what we believe – that going solar is a lifestyle choice that makes dollars and sense,” said Patrick Crane, Chief Marketing Officer at Sungevity.
Solar Poised for Expansion
According to Huffington Post, solar power lease agreements are growing in popularity because the solar company assumes much of the upfront costs of installation and ownership making it a more realistic endeavor for a host of customers that once found it too pricey. While some of their business does come from full solar installations, the boom is born out of their solar lease programs. USA Today reports that high electricity bills across the board are motivating those who have never before thought solar to jump right in.
“We’ve seen a dramatic decrease in the price of solar power over the past year,” said the Solar Energy Industries Association’s Tom Kimbis to USA Today. “That has helped residential and commercial use of solar.”
According to a Sungevity press release, a Harris Interactive poll found that 71 percent of U.S. adults are “overwhelmed” by rising energy costs and an “estimated 9.4 million expected to consider solar power in the next five years.”
State Solar Incentives
Incentives for solar are increasing as well. It’s no coincidence that Sungevity chose expansion where they did. According to Clean Technica, Maryland has started to increase solar rebates and so has New Jersey and Massachusetts. In fact, Massachusetts will offset $68 million for the cost of PV systems, especially in schools and government buildings.
Even in a struggling economy there’s a clear opening for a less expensive solar market and Sungevity isn’t the first to make the move. Big competitors SunRun and SolarCity have also begun eastward expansion. But Sungevity hopes to make a dent in the market with the help of its delicious strawberry, mango and hibiscus mint popsicles on a hot summer day. It’s cool treat with a host of incentives.
Like this? Follow my Twitter feed.
More on Solar Leasing
Lowe’s Buys Into Sungevity, Will Offer Solar Quotes in Stores
No Money Down Solar Lease Program Announced in Connecticut
Solar City Offering No Money Down, Residential Solar Panel Leases In California
Food prices are no doubt sky rocketing and the impact is being felt around the globe. And foods like coffee, more specifically Fair Trade certified, are feeling the pains as well, according to Food Navigator. Read on to see how Fairtrade International (FLO) is reacting to high food prices.
FLO has increased required price gaps for Fair Trade coffees as the cost of coffee commodities sees its highest prices since 1977. This reduces the sting of high food prices for Fair Trade certified farmers that have had trouble making ends meet as a result of poor harvests and farmers that had signed price contracts before food prices hit their record highs earlier this year.
According to Food Navigator:
FLO has decided to amend its coffee standards to bring greater stability to Fairtrade coffee supply chains, ensure greater fairness in market gains and protect farmers when prices fall. The changes come into effect for contracts signed on or after 1 April this year.
The cost of coffee has gone up in response to both poor harvests and the fear of poor harvests because a decrease in the amount of the commodity means an increase in the price on the market. Increasing the set price paid to farmers is crucial to ensuring that farmers continue to be willing to sign fair trade contracts which ensure better wages as well as stricter environmental standards.
Like this? Follow my Twitter feed.
Monbiot reports over at The Guardian on controversial plans for a biofuels-burning power plant in Bristol, England. While he still opposes biofuels for most applications in transportation, he does admit that this is a response to a problem with a limited set of options—namely finding a liquid fuel replacement for gasoline that can be used in moving vehicles.
Making electricity, however, has no such limitations, with renewables, nuclear, gas and even coal providing an environmentally preferable solution. Using edible oils for power is, says Monbiot, “eco-vandalism on a staggering scale.” Furthermore, he argues, this situation is being entirely brought about by perverse subsidies as the result of misdirected Government action:
“…you get twice as many certificates for producing a given amount of electricity from vegetable oil as you do by generating it from wind, even though it’s far less green, and far less renewable. This situation is entirely an artefact of government policy and it’s time the government brought it to an end.”
More on Biofuels and Environmental Damage
The Dangers of Biofuels
Palm Oil Giant Agrees to Set More Sustainable Standards in Indonesia
Biofuels Comparison Chart: The Good, the Bad, and the Really Ugly
The December 2008 Tennessee coal ash spill. Photo Credit: Lyndsay Moseley, Sierra Club
The words “hexavalent chromium” may not be ones you come across everyday, but they have made the news before. The deadly toxin first made headlines after Erin Brockovich sued Pacific Gas & Electric because of poisoned drinking water from hexavalent chromium. Now, new information from a joint report indicates that this chemical leaks readily from leaking coal ash dump sites maintained for coal-fired power plants.
The joint report (PDF) comes from public interest law firm Earthjustice, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Environmental Integrity Project and the Sierra Club.
Coal ash is the by-product of burning coal for power, and there are hundreds of coal ash wet and dry storage sites around the U.S. Hexavalent chromium is a highly toxic carcinogen when inhaled, and recent studies from the National Toxicology Program indicate that when leaked into drinking water, it can also cause cancer.
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Lisa Jackson even mentioned this report and the dangers of hexavalent chromium when testifying before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on Wednesday.
Beyond hexavalent chromium, coal ash contains arsenic, lead, cadmium, mercury, selenium and many other chemicals that can cause cancer and damage the nervous system and organs, especially in children.
But there are no federal safeguards to protect the public and the environment from toxic coal ash. As such, we are part of a coalition pushing for federally-enforceable safeguards from coal ash.
Among the findings from the new report:
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found that the type of chromium that leaches from coal ash sites is nearly always of the hexavalent variety, which is the most toxic form of chromium.
- The threat of hexavalent chromium contamination in drinking water is present at hundreds of unlined coal ash sites across the country.
- At least 28 coal ash sites in 17 states have already released chromium to groundwater at levels exceeding by thousands of times a proposed drinking water goal for hexavalent chromium.
- Power plants dump more than 10 million pounds of chromium and chromium compounds into mostly unlined or inadequately lined coal ash landfills, ponds and fill sites each year. The electric power industry is the largest single source of chromium and chromium compounds released to the environment.
- The U.S. Department of Energy and electric utility industry have known for years about the aggressive leaking of hexavalent chromium from coal ash.
- Hexavalent chromium contamination from coal ash is clearly a grave threat. Yet EPA, which is currently in the process of deciding whether or not to regulate coal ash as a hazardous waste, has completely ignored the cancer risk from chromium in groundwater.
It’s time for EPA to act. The Obama Administration should keep its promise to respect science and protect the public’s health, by putting strong federal standards in place to keep this contamination from spreading even further.
The past month saw several significant developments on the natural gas reform front. From Texas to New York, to Arkansas, new studies have revealed how damaging fracking really is, sparking some governments to take steps to protect their citizens from contaminated drinking water and other threats.
Texas: From Pennsylvania to Texas we are seeing drinking water threatened by gas operations.
And recently, showing just why we need better safeguards for natural gas drilling and hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”—which involves injecting water and chemicals into the ground at a high rate of pressure to fracture shale) the Environmental Protection Agency just indicated that fracking had contaminated water supplies in Parker County, Texas.
This example demonstrates how absolutely critical it is to have an environmental cop on the beat to protect communities from health and safety threats such as this.
“Parker County residents are heavily reliant on individual wells, so they are particularly vulnerable to contamination by natural gas production from drilling and disposal activities,” said John Rath, a Sierra Club activist in Ft. Worth.
“In the north Texas region there is increasing recognition by citizens of the dangers of natural gas drilling regarding air, water and land. Numerous citizen advocacy groups have formed to side with the Sierra Club in its opposition to unsafe drilling.”
Rath added that water quantity is also a concern—the water table in Parker County is threatened by the massive withdrawals required for hydraulic fracturing.
New York: Since July of 2008 there has been a de facto moratorium on horizontal hydraulic fracturing in New York while the state studies how it harms the environment and prepares new safeguards. Recently, advocates were successful in getting both houses of the legislature to pass a bill that would ensure that this moratorium would pass on to the next administration and cover vertical hydrofracked wells in addition to the horizontal wells.
But On December 11, Governor David Paterson vetoed a statewide Hydrofracking Moratorium bill.
In its place, said Roger Downs of the Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, Paterson issued Executive Order 41, which compels the New York Department of Environmental Conservation to complete its review of the more than 13,000 public comments and integrate those responses into a new draft environmental impact statement on fracking. The order extends his de facto moratorium until at least July of 2011.
Downs said that while the veto and executive order were not exactly what the community wanted, “At the end of the day the mandate of a second draft is a significant win for those wishing to expose hydrofracking’s dangers.”
Arkansas: One state where reform is happening is Arkansas, where the state Oil and Gas Commission recently proposed fracking disclosure rules, which would make public what chemicals drilling companies use in the fracking process. When the Sierra Club pointed out that the rules needed to be strengthened in several ways, including, notably, making sure that medical professionals immediately had access to all information in the event of a spill, the commission took the hint.
We continue to work with the commission on making the rules stronger overall, as our state chapter and local activists have long been pressing for fracking disclosure rules. This is a good first step, and we’re planning on continuing to improve the rule through work with the activist community and the agency and plan to keep meeting with all involved parties.
The Sierra Club is actively working for strong federal and state safeguards on natural gas exploration and development, including supporting the FRAC Act in Congress. We are holding the industry to a higher standard.
The natural gas industry currently enjoys unacceptable federal exemptions from landmark environmental and health laws, including key parts of the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, and many others.
If natural gas companies want to be beneficial members of the communities they work in, they should welcome additional scrutiny and embrace safeguards that will protect public health and the environment.
As we look ahead to 2011, we need to reach a clean-energy future, but only by protecting communities and habitats along the way.
Out of all the issues on which the Sierra Club Allegheny Group in Pennsylvania urges people to take action, few have gotten as huge a response as natural gas drilling.
While in Pittsburgh last month, I spoke with Claudia Kirkpatrick of the Sierra Club Allegheny Group about Pennsylvanians finding themselves at the center of a fight over natural gas drilling in the Marcellus Shale region. The Marcellus Shale is a massive underground formation stretching across several states that is believed to contain trillions of cubic feet of natural gas.
Many Pennsylvanians have a problem with just how the natural gas is extracted from the shale, using hydraulic fracturing (or “fracking”). Fracking involves injecting, under high pressure, huge amounts of water laced with sand and more than a hundred chemicals into rock formations deep under the ground. Fracking has contaminated some communities’ water supplies (see the Pennsylvania communities of Hickory and Dimock).
And so residents are speaking out. “People are finding it important and worrisome,” said Kirkpatrick.
Others are finding themselves becoming something they never thought they’d be: activists.
“A lot of opposition (to fracking) has come straight from grassroots groups of citizens who’ve never been involved in this sort of thing before,” said Peter Wray, conservation chair for the Sierra Club Allegheny Group. “So many have spouted up—there a good dozen or more of those kinds of groups around Pittsburgh alone.”
As such, the Sierra Club Allegheny Group and the Pennsylvania Sierra Club are working with a broad coalition in western Pennsylvania to call for rules that will protect residents both from predatory natural gas leasing and from the toxic chemicals that come with fracking. The groups are also planning a major protest at a Nov. 3 natural gas industry conference in Pittsburgh.
Many – including the Sierra Club—want the natural gas drilling process cleaned up and regulated to keep citizens from being harmed.
“It’s a gas rush now, like a gold rush, and the state is being forced to do things far too quickly,” said Wray. “We really should be very careful with this. Pennsylvania itself has seen the state devastated by lumbering in the early 19th century, we’re still seeing the impact of unregulated coal mining in state – and don’t want this to happen again.”
This is also a national concern—natural gas drilling must be done properly. The Sierra Club supports strong state and federal rules to prevent natural gas exploration, development and distribution from causing damage to the environment and communities. Tough regulations that identify where drilling is acceptable can protect surface and ground water, ensure air quality, and protect wildlife, natural areas, and local communities.
We also support ending the regulatory loophole that exempts the gas industry from the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act , as well as the full disclosure of all chemicals used in the drilling process.
If natural gas is to help replace coal and oil and accelerate America’s transition to wind, solar and geothermal energy, then natural gas companies have to be subject to additional scrutiny and strong national and state regulations that protect our air, water, and communities.
If you want to get involved with our efforts to clean up the natural gas industry, join our Fracking Team on our Activist Network.
What do Eva Mendes and Ed Begley, Jr., have in common? Both green celebs are calling on President Obama to move our country beyond oil—and they want your help.
Having partnered with the Sierra Club these celebrities are calling on President Obama to move Beyond Oil, and using a petition and video campaign to spread the word.
The battery pack of a Tesla Roadster electric car. Photo: Tesla Motors
Turning Batteries Into Batteries
In a gasoline car, the majority – on the order of 80-90% – of the environmental impact comes from usage (ie. burning fossil fuels). But with an electric car, most of the impact comes from manufacturing and disposal, especially if you charge it up with clean energy. The latest news from Tesla Motors is that they’re trying to do something about the eventual disposal of their vehicles in Europe by setting up a lithium-ion battery recycling program in partnership with Belgium’s Umicore. They will “use the expended pack material to produce an alloy that will be further refined into cobalt, nickel and other metals. After that, Umicore will transform the cobalt into high grade lithium cobalt oxide, which can be resold to battery manufacturers.” Via Tesla Motors, ABG. See also: Nissan’s Smyrna Lithium-Ion Battery Plant is on Schedule
Yes We Can… Do Better for Cyclists
Now that Rahm Emanuel is back on the ticket in Chicago, let’s look at what the potential next Mayor has revealed so far about his plan for cycling in the windy city. Chicago blogger Steven Vance has a good post about it. In general, Mr. Emanuel’s plan to improve biking seems pretty promising.
Train Conductor, in the Musical Meaning of the Word
Public transit is our favorite way of moving large number of commuters around (except for walking and biking, when that’s possible), but it’s also – surprisingly – the inspiration for a piece of interactive art. Alexander Chen has taken New York City’s MTA subway schedule and turned it into a kind of virtual string instrument: “the piece begins in realtime by spawning trains which departed in the last minute, then continues accelerating through a 24 hour loop. The visuals are based on Massimo Vignelli’s 1972 diagram.” Read on for a video that shows it in action.
Length determines pitch, with longer strings playing lower notes. When a string is in the middle of being drawn by a subway car, its pitch is continually shifting. You can ‘pluck’ the strings with your mouse cursor by holding the left-click button and dragging over the string.
The piece follows some rules. Every minute, it checks for new trains launched from their end stations. The train then moves towards the end of the line, with its speed set by the schedule’s estimated trip duration. Some decisions were made for musical, aesthetic, and technical reasons, such as fading out routes over time, the gradual time acceleration, and limiting the number of concurrent trains. Also, I used the weekday schedule. Some of these limitations result in subtle variations, as different trains are chosen during each 24-hour loop.
The system has changed since 1972, and some lines no longer exist. For example, the 8 train, or the Third Ave El, was shut down in 1973. The former K train was merged into other routes. I decided to run these ghost trains between 12am-2am. (source)
You can try it for yourself here (best to set your browser to full-screen mode): MTA.me
More on Green(er) Transportation
Carpooling Declined 50% Since 1980 in the U.S.A.
Seattle Metro Bus Cake for Bus-Obsessed 2-Year Old’s Birthday = Awesomeness
Chicago Bus Tracker: Transit goes 21st Century With User-Friendly Online GPS Tracking (Video)
L.A. Metro Retires Last Diesel Bus, Now Relies on Cleaner CNG Buses