October 3, 2011
Volume 2, Issue 35
Extension Clean Energy Outreach
by Leigh Fortson
Extension Regional Communications Coordinator and REA (Renewable Energy Advocate)
Northern Colorado Builds Its Own Cleantech Future
In Boulder, Colorado the mood is impatient when it comes to the future of energy in the United States. The pace at the national level is not quick enough to deliver the clean-energy future that many Coloradans view as crucial to the future viability of our economy and environment. As a result, the city has taken matters into its own hands, attempting to create a locally owned municipal utility. The future of this effort is still unclear-two questions on the issue will be on the November ballot, and utility Xcel is mounting a well-funded campaign against them-but this sort of frontier spirit epitomizes Colorado's progressive approach to shifting away from fossil fuel dependency. The state sits atop a wealth of cleantech resources, which appear to be just as vital as the natural resources the state possesses as well.
There will be no single ground-breaking technology that will change the energy sector or provide a panacea for the economy. Colorado is nurturing a diverse cleantech sector that covers everything from biofuels to smart grid, and includes young companies like Power Tagging and Eetrex along with more seasoned veterans like Vestas. In the mix is a supportive body of lobbyists, industry associations, and legislators who believe in an integrated energy future in which cleantech works along-side conventional technologies.
The Ft. Collins-Boulder-Denver corridor along the Front Range is home to renowned centers of innovation, test-beds for commercialization, and well-established technology and service providers for the power industry, not to mention the University of Colorado and its Leeds School of Business, which runs several programs around sustainable business and technology. The traditional oil and gas industry remains strong, but growth in cleantech areas is even more remarkable. Ft. Collins has developed a Colorado Clean Energy Cluster that is pooling local expertise across the cleantech sector to recruit more research and businesses to the area.
To read entire story, to go: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/09/15/idUS170812154120110915
Colorado Weatherization Program Highlights Successes
Source: GEO newsletter
Colorado's Weatherization Assistance Program continues to achieve success having surpassed its American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) goal of weatherizing 10,478 homes throughout Colorado over the last 26 months. The Governor's Energy Office (GEO), which administers this program utilizing funding from the Department of Energy and Utility partner funding, achieved its ARRA goal ahead of the mandated expiration of ARRA on March 31, 2012 deadline and did so with funds remaining to be spent.
Since being awarded the 3 year ARRA grant of $79.5 million in April, 2009, the Colorado weatherization program has weatherized over 11,338 households in the State. Colorado has approximately $31 million in remaining ARRA funds and will continue to weatherize an estimated 5,100 additional homes through March 31, 2012, the current mandated end of the ARRA funded program.
"The Colorado Weatherization Program has achieved much success in utilizing the ARRA funding in an effective and efficient manner having served over 11,000 low-income Colorado families, enabling them to reduce their energy bills by as much as 25% by upgrading their homes to be more energy efficient and additionally making them safer and more comfortable. The Colorado program has also been recognized nationally for providing some of the highest quality weatherization services such as attic and wall insulation, air sealing, and repairs or replacement of home heating systems. I am proud of the work that our staff and the 11 local agencies have and continue to do in providing these services which has allowed job creation, energy savings and community investment to be achieved here in Colorado through this important program" said Director of the GEO, TJ Deora.
SRA Leads Colorado Small Hydropower through Streamlined FERC Review
SRA International, Inc., a leading provider of technology and strategic consulting services and solutions to government organizations, announced that its renewable energy team has successfully led a 23- kilowatt small hydropower project in rural Meeker, Colorado though a streamlined review process to receive a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) exemption permit. Until now, this complex maze of regulatory reviews typically needed several years for completion.
This project was made possible by a grant from the Colorado Governor's Energy Office. It is the first project in the nation to use a new streamlined FERC pilot review process for small hydropower projects. The improved process reorganizes multi-agency reviews to occur in parallel rather than sequentially, and was accomplished in less than two months instead of years. Its success is being followed closely by other states.
"Typically, small hydropower projects are treated the same as large projects like the Hoover Dam, making the regulatory review process lengthy, and causing it to be financially burdensome for small developers like a rural rancher," said SRA Vice President Phil Rizzi. "This first project using the new streamlined FERC process is an excellent example of a process improvement that reduces the time required for federal regulatory review while maintaining environmental protections - and SRA is privileged to work on this activity in support of the Colorado Governor's Energy Office renewable energy mission."
This project and 20 similar small hydropower projects are being shepherded through the FERC process by the SRA renewable energy team, which provides technical assistance to renewable energy project developers. The program is expected to cut the time and money necessary to receive a federal permit by 50 percent, which can result in savings of up to $100,000 per project.
SRA also provides technical assistance for biomass, solar, distributed generation wind and geothermal projects that do not have the financial capabilities to move forward to a developer or investor stage without assistance. Currently, 15 Colorado projects are taking advantage of this opportunity. More information and technical assistance applications are available on the GEO website: www.colorado.gov/energy.
(Note: In an article printed on the ColoradoIndependent.com on September 23, 2011, the following response to the FERC changes was included in a larger story.)
Matt Rice, conservation director at American Rivers Colorado, said that H.R. 2842 would provide blanket authorization for installation of small hydropower on all U.S. Bureau of Reclamation canals and conduits. It also would require the Bureau of Reclamation to offer preference to water user organizations for the development of such projects under a federal lease of power privilege. Further, the bill would exempt small canal and conduit projects of less than 1.5 megawatts from the environmental assessment requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act.
Waiving the powers of NEPA for small-scale hydro, in Rice’s view, “actually creates an incentive for developers to deliberately build underpowered projects in order to avoid the environmental review.”
To read the entire story: http://coloradoindependent.com/100412/tipton-says-jobs-will-flow-frombill-streamlining-small-hydro
Proposed $35 Million Energy Plant Could Create 50 Jobs
A Colorado-based company wants to build a $35 million alternative energy plant in Mason City that officials say would create more than 50 jobs.
Joe Yavorski, president of Creative Energy Systems (CES), home-based in Larkspur, Colo., said Mason City is an ideal place for a plant that converts waste to energy.
“We really want to do this in Mason City,” he told the Globe Gazette Friday.
CES is proposing to take waste materials headed for the landfill, sort them and put applicable materials into gasification chambers where they would be made into synthetic gas. The synthetic gas would then be transformed into 10 megawatts of power delivered to Alliant Energy.
The plant would be on a 14½-acre site on 43rd Street east of the Golden Grain Energy plant.
Yavorski said the key element in the location is it is next to an Alliant substation.
He said the project will be 100 percent privately financed.
He said 55 to 58 people would be employed with salaries ranging from the mid-$20,000s to $60,000 and above.
CES will go before the Mason City Council on Oct. 4 with a proposal to pay $150,000 to the city to have a sewer line extended and create the new jobs in return for a 10-year tax abatement.
Brent Willett, executive director of the North Iowa Corridor Economic Development Corp., said CES representatives have made four visits to Mason City, starting in early June, and are excited about locating here.
“A lot of this is in place,” he said. “This project is ours to lose.”
Yavorski said 24 states consider waste-to-energy products as renewable energy, making them eligible for tax credits for those who use them — in this case, Alliant Energy.
“We needed a small town or city we could work with,” he said, “It had to have a landfill and an energy company willing to take our product.
“Alliant Energy has been incredible to work with. They don’t really need it but they want to be a good citizen,” he said.
Colorado Drilling Spills Rise; Fines are Rare
Colorado's wave of gas and oil drilling is resulting in spills at the rate of seven every five days — releasing more than 2 million gallons this year of diesel, oil, drilling wastewater and chemicals that contaminated land and water.
At least some environmental damage from the oil-and-gas boom is inevitable, industry leaders and state regulators say, with a record-high 45,793 wells and companies drilling about eight more a day.
But a Denver Post analysis finds state regulators rarely penalize companies responsible for spills.
This year, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has imposed fines for five spills that happened three or more years ago. The total penalties: $531,350.
State rules obligate regulators to take a collaborative approach, negotiating remedies when possible rather than cracking down. In fact, the COGCC recently declared four companies responsible for the largest number of spills to be &qupt;Outstanding Operators" and lauded them for environmental excellence.
Oil and gas companies have reported 343 new spills this year, bringing the total since August 2009 to more than 1,000 spills, state data show.
To read the entire story, go to: http://www.denverpost.com/news/ci_18881512?source=email
BP Oil Spill: New Evidence Cites More Mistakes
A BP scientist identified a previously unreported deposit of flammable gas that could have played a role in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, but the oil giant failed to divulge the finding to government investigators for as long as a year, according to interviews and documents obtained by The Associated Press.
While engineering experts differ on the extent to which the two-foot-wide swath of gas-bearing sands helped cause the disaster, the finding raises the specter of further legal and financial troubles for BP. It also could raise the stakes in the multibillion-dollar court battle between the companies involved.
A key federal report into what caused the worst offshore oil spill in U.S. history is [in the making].
"This is a critical factor, where the hydrocarbons are found," said Rice University engineering professor Satish Nagarajaiah. "I think further studies are needed to determine where this exactly was and what response was initiated by BP if they knew this fact."
At issue: BP petrophysicist Galina Skripnikova in a closed-door deposition two months ago told attorneys involved in the oil spill litigation that there appeared to be a zone of gas more than 300 feet above where BP told its contractors and regulators with the then-Minerals Management Service the shallowest zone was located.
The depth of the oil and gas is a critical parameter in drilling because it determines how much cement a company needs to pump to adequately seal a well. Federal regulations require the top of the cement to be 500 feet above the shallowest zone holding hydrocarbons, meaning BP's cement job was potentially well below where it should have been.
To read entire story, go to: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/13/bp-oil-spill-newevidence_n_961138.html?utm_source=DailyBrief&utm_campaign=
Sunflowers Fail Nuclear Decontamination; Japanese Rejecting Nuclear Energy
An experiment to test the power of sunflowers to absorb toxic radiation has failed to prove effective near the site of the nuclear disaster at Fukushima, Japan. The Asahi Shimbun reports that the sunflowers removed only .05 percent of the radioactive cesium in the ground, while the removal of just over an inch (3 centimeters) of topsoil along with grass removed up to 97 percent of the radioactive cesium. It was hoped that sunflowers would concentrate radioactive waste and could then be removed more easily than the wholesale “scraping” of soil and compost that it seems will be required.
In the meantime scientists are studying ways to decontaminate the forests near the nuclear accident site. According to the Japan Times, the prefecture (county) where the plant is located is 70% forested, and efforts to date have focused on decontaminating urban areas. Removing the contaminated soil and other material from the forest requires such extreme removal methods that the forest’s ecosystem will be seriously damaged.
Whether the radiation is removed by scraping soil or removing plant matter, the radioactive waste still needs to be safely stored. The government has not yet selected a permanent storage site for the tons of soil and debris that needs to be sequestered.
The Japanese public’s trust in nuclear power is clearly ebbing, as tens of thousands of citizens took to the streets of Tokyo in September to protest nuclear power. Police estimated the crowd at 20,000 (while organizers claimed more) as protesters carried signs saying “Sayonara Nuclear Power” to urge the government to eliminate nuclear power from the nation’s energy grid. Nuclear accounted for 30 percent of Japan’s energy use prior to the Fukushima incident. There have been energy shortages as 30 of the country’s 54 reactors have been taken off line to enable nspections. Large businesses have been asked to take measures to conserve energy, such as adjusting thermostats, varying schedules around peak demand, and cutting back on overtime. It has been six months since three of the Fukushima nuclear plant’s six reactors experienced meltdowns following a catastrophic earthquake and tsunami. Surrounding air, soil and water was contaminated and 100,000 residents were forced to evacuate. Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/sunflowers-fail-in-nuclear-decontamination-japanesepublic- rejecting-nuclear-energy.html#ixzz1YVHZeMk5
US Ill-Equipped to Deal with Japan-like NuclearMeltdown
Source: New Jersey Real Time News
There’s plenty of disagreement over whether U.S. nuclear power plants are ready to face disasters and run responsibly. The industry says they are, while critics maintain some plants are just like the ones in Japan that melted down and they are poorly monitored to boot.
But whatever the situation of any single U.S. reactor, the disaster in Fukushima has laid bare one truth on which experts and officials from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission agree: A disaster here would result in losses requiring the government to make payouts of epic proportions.
That’s because Fukushima will cost anywhere from $74 billion to $260 billion, according to Japanese experts, while the U.S. nuclear insurance fund, established by a 1957 law called the Price- Anderson Act, only has around $12.6 billion in reserve.
"If you have an accident or something like Fukushima, then Price-Anderson can’t handle those kinds of losses," said Wharton School professor Howard Kunreuther, who specializes in public policy.
Kunreuther co-wrote a paper on potential catastrophic nuclear plant costs to the U.S. government for a National Bureau of Economic Research conference in 2007.
"The Japan power plant failure is far worse than almost anything we’ve ever had," Kunreuther said last month. "Maybe Chernobyl, from the point of view of people affected, but certainly not in the case of economic damage."
To read it all go to: http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2011/09/us_illequipped_to_deal_with_j.html
Top 10 Electric Cars Most Likely to Succeed
The crystal ball is still cloudy on electric and plug-in hybrid cars. They’re still being made in limited numbers, and delivered to very specific test markets. And half the really exciting ones aren’t even here yet. Still, it’s time to make some predictions about what will succeed and what will fail in the marketplace. Here are the top 10 leading candidates:
- Chevy Volt: GM’s $41,000 plug-in hybrid, soon to have a sister car in the more upscale Cadillac ELR (first seen on the auto show circuit as the Converj in 2009). GM has sold 3,200 so far, but the number doesn’t have much to do with demand — production’s been shut down as the company gears up for a capacity of 60,000 a year by 2012.
- Toyota Prius plug-in hybrid: With an all-electric range of nine to 13 miles, after which it’s a regular Prius, this car should find a lot of fans.
- Nissan Leaf: Some 4,000 have been sold so far in the U.S., and East Coast customers are still waiting patiently. The price is going up for 2012 — to $38,000 for the SL trim that most customers will want.
- Tesla Model S: Due next year, this $49,990 electric sedan is half the price of the exotic Roadster, but it has far more utility. On the same platform, Tesla will also offer a Model X crossover that should sell really well.
Nationwide Utility Rates Now Available Online
Source: Bill Scanlon NREL
Utility rates from cities all across the United States are now available in one place — the U.S. Department of Energy's Open Energy Information platform, or OpenEI.org.
Developed by the DOE's National Renewable Energy Laboratory, OpenEI is where energy officials and consumers alike can go to boost their energy IQs and make better decisions.
The free site blends elements of social media and Wiki-based technology with robust and previously unavailable information on energy sources and prices. The result: a powerful, collaborative platform that is helping government and industry leaders around the world define policy options, make informed investment decisions, and create new businesses.
"Remember the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, when the Ark was hidden away in a warehouse?" said Debbie Brodt-Giles, NREL's supervisor of the site. "Many web sites are like that — taking something with the power to transform the way we see the world and locking it away. OpenEI is about more than collecting data. We're about sharing data in ways that transform understanding."
Transforming the way we see the energy world is the point behind OpenEI, which NREL launched late in 2009 in response to the White House's effort to promote the openness, transparency, and accessibility of the federal government.
The site uses the power of crowd-sourcing to make energy information ever more robust and more accessible. In addition, maps and other visualization tools transform raw data into displays that are easily understood.
"The more people, the more experts, we have contributing data and using the site, the better the site is going to be, the richer the experience is going to be," Brodt-Giles said. "To have a platform to openly share information that is typically hard to access is a big plus."
"OpenEI's unique quality is that it is so open, collaborative, and transparent," NREL's Graham Hill said. "The new Utility Rate Database is a great example. We've taken information that is typically disparate and difficult to find and we've made it easy for anyone to access and understand."
The new information allows anyone with Internet access to compare kilowatt-hour rates in dozens of cities and zero in on such variables as time-of-use rates, demand charges, and tiered rate structures.
For household consumers, that could mean getting wiser about whether to install rooftop solar panels or finding other ways to lower their energy bills. A farmer in rural Iowa can assess potential profitability of leasing land for wind development.
OpenEI also is international. Click on http://en.openei.org/wiki/India for example, and you'll find among many other nuggets that India is not only the world's most populous democracy, but ranks eighth in the orld in solar potential, just 120th in wind potential and has more than 66 million short tons of coal reserves.
OpenEI.org has a collaboration with the Centro De Energias Renovables in Santiago, Chile. NREL and the Chilean renewable energy lab are hoping to extend a network across South America, using OpenEI as the platform to link national labs.
A new Google translator feature makes OpenEI available in 20 languages, so its helpfulness matches its global reach.
The ultimate benefit of OpenEI.org is the acceleration of energy technology research and the transformation to a clean, secure energy future.
When Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced OpenEI.org, he said: "The true potential of this tool will grow with the public's participation — as they add new data and share their expertise — to ensure that all communities have access to the information they need to broadly deploy the clean energy resources of the future."
Learn more about NREL's energy analysis work.
CSU Energy Update
Colorado Energy Masters
Thirty participants from Larimer, Logan, La Plata, and Pueblo counties attended the first class of the new Colorado Energy Master program offered by CSU Extension. Both volunteer and non-volunteer participants learned about the program, how to achieve continuing education credits, and the plethora of volunteer activities supported by the program. Future classes will include information on energy utilities in Colorado, energy and climate change, green building, energy efficiency, and renewable energy. The program as a whole is designed to provide a comprehensive, unbiased overview of energy in Colorado and to provide volunteers with the tools they need to be effective energy educators in their communities. Classes are taught by professionals from various backgrounds, including CSU professors, utility partners, and Extension staff. Initial reaction was positive and we’re excited to welcome our inaugural class! For more information about the program, please visit www.ext.colostate.edu/energymaster
Over 60 teachers in eight regions across Colorado were trained on a new clean energy curriculum for Colorado middle and high schools developed by Colorado State University Extension this past summer. Funding from the Governor’s Energy Office supported the curriculum development along with materials kits worth over $325 that were provided to each attending teacher. The curriculum includes 10 lesson plans on energy efficiency, energy audits, solar, wind, and biofuels and is supplemented by a series of videos available on the CSU Extension website. In addition, 10 Extension agents and specialists were trained on the curriculum so that they can train additional teachers, loan out kits to teachers in their communities, and teach students directly in the schools. Teacher feedback was excellent! The curriculum, lesson plans, videos, and more are all available for viewing and downloading at: http://www.ext.colostate.edu/energy/k12.html
Solar Power International Conference
They have an all-star line-up of trainings and presenters for both our one- and two-day trainings. Check out the wide range of classes offered by Solar Energy International. Too many to list here, but if you have any interest in learning about installing or getting hands-on experience with solar, they’re the ones to go to www.solarenergy.org
Behavior, Energy and Climate Change
November 29 – Dec.2
A conference on understanding the behavior and decision making of individuals and organizations and on using that knowledge to accelerate a transition into an energy efficient and low-carbon future.
Learn About Your Killowatt Use
Twenty three Colorado State University Extension offices across the state are now offering Kill-a-WattTM electricity monitors through a free loan program. The devices measure appliance electricity use and offer opportunities for Colorado residents to save energy and money.
The meters are plugged in to an outlet and appliances are plugged into the meter. The meter then measures the appliance’s electricity use and can project energy cost and use data over an hour, day, week, month, or year. Once meter users learn about how much a second refrigerator or “phantom load” costs, for instance, they may decide to take action to improve their bottom line. http://www.ext.colostate.edu/energy/killawatt/index.html.
Renewable Energy Development Team Program Accepting Applications
The GEO's Renewable Energy Development Team (REDT) program assists distributed generation project developers in moving their projects closer to construction. This initiative supports the GEO's efforts in charting Colorado's future as a leader in clean, renewable energy. The program is designed to identify distributed generation renewable energy projects with the highest likelihood of successful development and to move eligible projects closer to completion. Eligible projects receive Technical and Business Development assistance to identify the renewable resource available and to draft a business plan. The program goal is to have a portfolio of the best projects in Colorado to be presented to potential investors. The application is open; to receive more information and download the application, please visit: Recharge Colorado
Smart Energy Tips,
a great online e-zine, can help you learn more about keeping your cooling and heating bills down, and your carbon footprint at a minimum. Go to: http://www.smartenergyliving.org
CSU Energy Website
To learn more about wind, solar, geothermal, and biofuels, visit our energy website at: www.ext.colostate.edu/energy.
Go to hes.lbl.gov/hes/db/zip.shtml and you can do an online calculation of your own energy use and carbon footprint. It’s easy to use. Tell your communities about it.
Send me anything that’s newsworthy that you’re doing in the world of clean energy and renewables. We need to keep our colleagues up to date on what’s going on in Extension and the value of our role!
Extension Regional Communications Coordinator and REA (Renewable Energy Advocate)
Colorado State University Extension
2764 Compasss Drive, Suite 232
Grand Junction, CO 81506-8746
(970) 241-3346, FAX (970) 241-3643
Updated Tuesday, July 22, 2014