It was recently brought to my attention that the electricity used to run and host our two websites (anywheresolartech.com and pnsenergy.com) is offset 200% by wind energy! That means that Fat Cow, our website host, compensates for twice the electricity it takes to run their business and our websites.
They don’t personally produce that much power with wind mills outside their office but for any electricity they use, they purchase RECs (Renewable Energy Credits) as a “Green Power Partner” of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. By doing so, they prevent the release of 999 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year.
Fat Cow is committed to supporting clean energy and they also stress responsible environmental behavior in and out of the office and we are proud to be associated with this forward thinking company.
For those who were disappointed we weren’t talking about real cows.
Our Top 5 Solar Installations:
(Disclaimer – Not all of these installs are recent but they’re new discoveries for us)
- One of the largest privately owned solar systems belongs to one of my favorite private companies – The Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. Sierra Nevada produces around 40% of their own energy with this solar installation. All in all, their solar systems include over 10,000 individual panels! Source: Government Technology
In 2008 Sierra Nevada Brewing Co. completed construction on one of the largest private solar arrays in the United States. Courtesy of Sierra Nevada
- The work has started on the world’s largest photovoltaic array (it will also claim the title of world’s largest solar bridge). The Blackfriars Bridge, in the heart of London, will be the home of 4,400 solar panels with the ability to create 900 MWh of electricity per year. (Source: Clean Technica)
The world’s largest solar bridge Is halfway complete. 900MWh per year!
- The New York Jets adopt solar with a massive solar array atop their practice facility. 3000 panels from Yingli Solar have been installed and will provide 750,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity per year. (Source: CNet)
The N.Y. Jets go green with this massive solar installation at their practice facility.
- A solar waterfall could be powering the next Olympics in Rio De Janeiro. Ok, this project is still in the design phase but if completed it would be an amazing structure. (Source: RAFAA Architecture and Design)
This ambitious project would produce electricity with solar panels during the day and water turbines at night.
- And finally, what’s not to love about this solar install? (Source: Dwell)
Students from Appalachian State designed this solar array to double as an outdoor living area. They entered this solar array in the U.S. Department of Energy 2011 Solar Decathlon.
For your viewing pleasure I will combine two things I greatly enjoy: Beer and the Environment. When breweries make it a priority to reduce their impact on the environment and try to give back, only great things can happen. Here are a select few that are doing just that; enjoy, and feel free to suggest other breweries that are making a difference (I know there are many more out there).
- 1000 square feet of solar thermal collectors. The collectors produce around 2500 therms per year and Central Waters will save between $1.4 and $1.5 million over the life of the system.
Solar Thermal Collectors at Central Waters Brewery
- The brewery also uses a radiant floor heating system and more energy efficient lighting systems
- They also work with local farmers in order to recycle the grain used in the brewing process. The spent grain is taken by the farmers and used as feed for livestock, and also as a compost.
- In February 2012, Brewery Vivant was honored with the first Silver LEED certification awarded to a microbrewery in the U.S. and also published their first sustainability report. (triplepundit.com)
- The brewery offsets 100 percent of its energy usage through purchasing renewable energy credits (RECs)
- They choose to deliver their beer in aluminum cans. Cans protect the beer from light, oxygen, and other factors that could negatively affect the taste. Cans are also easier to transport and are more easily recycled (54% of aluminum cans are recycled in the US, vs 36% of glass bottles being recycled).
- Very aggressive economic, social, and environmental goals that put them on the fast track to being a leader in the microbrewery industry. Some of those goals include:
- Zero waste to landfill
- 50% of food inputs from within 250 miles and 25% of beer inputs from 250 miles
- 10% onsite renewable energy generation
- Employee profit sharing program
- They completed what is now one of the largest privately owned solar installations in the country in December of 2008. They currently have a carport array that has a potential output of 503 kW DC and they also have a rooftop array that produces an additional 1.42 Megawatts DC. They also have an array on the daycare facility that has a potential capacity of 5.18 kW DC and another array on the rail facility that can produce 14 kW DC. All-in-all, the solar systems at Sierra Nevada are capable of producing 1.94 Megawatts DC. (Sierra Nevada Environmental Stewardship)
- Sierra Nevada also produced another first when they installed hydrogen fuel cells in 2005, the first brewing operation in the United States to do so. This system consists of four 300 kW fuel cell energy units that can produce 1.2 Megawatts DC when combined. You can check out their real time power production here.
Fuel Cells at the Sierra Nevada Brewery
- Sierra Nevada implements many other energy efficiency and sustainable practices including:
- Ultra efficient lighting system and the use of daylighting
- The recycling of waste heat
- They divert 99.6% of solid waste from the landfill with a goal to reach 100%
- HotRot Composting System – providing compost for their hop field, restaurant garden, and employee garden area.
- Use homegrown ingredients in beer and restaurant.
- Transportation – They utilize a hybrid electric local route truck, constructed a rail car unloading facility near their plant to reduce the negative impact of transportation, and also utilize the spent vegetable oil from their taproom and restaurant to power their biodiesel transportation fleet.
Do you like solar? Ever wanted to install solar, produce your own power, or invest in renewable energy? If, like me, you answered yes to any of these questions then you should check out Solar Mosaic. This revolutionary company hosts a platform where people from around the world can invest in local clean energy programs.
Solar Mosaic works like this: The company picks a solar project that deserves funding (the most recent project receiving funding is a a nonprofit that provides free meals, job training, and other services to the needy in Oakland, Calif). Money is then collected “from investors who want to see the project succeed. Once the panels are up, St. Vincent de Paul will pay a monthly fee to lease the panels on its roof, providing Solar Mosaic with the cash to pay back its investors — and all the while saving money on its utility bill.” (Grist.com)
This program is most attractive to people who rent and don’t own a suitable place to install solar. It also requires a substantially smaller investment than purchasing an entire solar system so for people like myself who find themselves in both categories, we can still contribute to the clean energy movement by helping solar projects get off the ground. The best part is that your investment will be paid back from the energy savings accumulated over the life of the project.
Check out the Solar Mosaic website for details on projects that have been funded or need funding. As of today, the initial five projects have been completely funded. Over 400 investors and a few organizations have collaborated to invest a total of $350,000! I look forward to being a part of Solar Mosaic as they fund more and more deserving solar projects.
The Asian Resource Center in Oakland, CA funded by 134 community members through Solar Mosaic.
We had the recent opportunity to learn about a new urban tree initiative (San Diego County Tree Map) that aims to visually display the eco-impact of existing trees growing in urban areas. We all know that plants and trees do more than just take up space and look nice, they have a positive impact on our environment, and our economic and social well-being. I will highlight some of those benefits below to show the role trees play in our daily lives:
- Carbon Removal – with climate change taking a forefront in our environmental and political lives we now understand the importance of being aware of how are actions affect the atmosphere. As trees grow, they use carbon dioxide, thus removing it from the air.
- Soil Conservation – Trees play an important role in soil conservation, they reduce rainwater runoff and soil erosion due to the roots holding soil in place. These roots also absorb and reduce the amount of contaminants in the soil.
- Energy Conservation – Existing trees and strategically planted trees around a home provide shading and serve as a natural cooling device, thus reducing the need to rely on air-conditioning and reducing energy consumption. They can also block winter winds, allowing the homeowner to use less energy in heating.
- Look beautiful
- Produce oxygen
- Create privacy
- Provide wildlife habitats
- Provide noise reduction
- Increase property values
A recent report from the American Society of Landscape Architects – San Diego Chapter states that trees “enhance community economic stability by attracting businesses and tourists with a corresponding increase in property values. Trees contribute to the success of business districts, apartment complexes, residential properties and offices.”
Most of these benefits are more or less common knowledge. But some recent number crunching and a tree mapping project aims to show us the huge monetary benefits trees have. This very cool and interesting online map (San Diego Tree Map) actually shows the money ($$$$) saved from a variety of the tree benefits already listed. For example, in one year, this Moreton Bay Fig in the heart of Balboa Park, San Diego (pictured below) has…
- conserved 183.30 kWh of energy for a value of $29.84
- intercepted 2045.80 gallons of stormwater for a value of $3.74
- removed 1.03 lbs. of air pollutants for a value of $66.43
- and stored 5,903.65 lbs. of carbon dioxide to date for a value of $118.07
This tree has saved $102.73 in one year alone, and that is just one tree out of the hundreds of thousands in the San Diego area. The monetary benefits truly add up.
Moreton Bay Fig, Balboa Park
So next time you are out enjoying nature, look at the trees around you and not only marvel at their beauty and environmental benefits, think about the amount of $ this tree is providing to your community. And if you have the opportunity and space, plant a tree of your own and see the benefits grow before your own eyes.
Thanks to these sources:
“Benefit of Trees.” California Center for Sustainable Energy –. Web. 03 Mar. 2012. <http://energycenter.org/index.php/benefits-of-trees/benefit-of-trees>.
“Benefits of Planting and Growing Trees.” Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Web. 03 Mar. 2012. <http://ohiodnr.com/Home/education/BenefitsofPlantingandGrowingTrees/tabid/5104/Default.aspx>.
“San Diego TreeMap.” San Diego Tree Map. Web. 03 Mar. 2012. <http://sandiegotreemap.org/map/>.