The Wall Street Journal has a story about my favorite clean energy strategy — see Cool roofs save money, save energy, cut pollution and directly reduce warming — woo-hoo!
NEW YORK “” Herb Van Gent points his infrared gun at a square of still unpainted gray shingle and clicks the trigger. He gets an immediate temperature reading: 143 degrees and rising. Then he aims it 5 feet away to a square of roof I have just painted: 98 degrees and decreasing.
“A 45-degree difference and we’re only on the first coat,” he says. That means it also will be cooler inside the building, he says, saving energy.
Its 11 a.m. and we are on the roof of a New York retirement home, rolling out a thick, shiny white paint. Van Gent is one of a volunteer group that has come up here to paint the roof as part of a city-sponsored “cool roof” program.
The idea of painting roofs white is catching on across the country; Energy Secretary Steven Chu has said it could contribute to the fight against global warming.
“Cool roofs are one of the quickest and lowest-cost ways we can reduce our global carbon emissions and begin the hard work of slowing climate change,” said Chu in July, while announcing that Department of Energy buildings would be painted white wherever possible.
While white roofs keep homes cool in summer by letting less heat in, they have little impact on winter heating bills, according to the Cool Roof Rating Council, a non-profit group created in 1998 to research and implement the technology. That’s generally because the sun is less intense in winter, the group said, and less important as a heat source. The roofs do not let any more heat escape than other roofs, it said.
In Arizona, cool roofs are mandatory for state and state-funded buildings, while Philadelphia has an ambitious green energy plan that put cool roofs at its center.
In New York, with Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s blessing, the Department of Buildings and other public and private groups have vowed to paint 1 million square feet of roof on city-sponsored community buildings. Organizers have advertised on Craigslist for volunteers, promising that the painting is rewarding and fun.
I decided to give it a try.
There were half a dozen volunteers on the roof that day from Wayne, N.J.-based GAF Materials, which supplied the reflective white paint. Among them was technical specialist Steve Hecht, who showed me how to spread the paint.
“This should bring the temperature down 50 or 60 degrees,” Hecht said as I rolled a coat onto one small part of the roof.
Proponents say the idea is as sound for private homes as it is for big, residential apartment buildings. The Cool Roof Council provides information on materials and resources at its website, Coolroofs.org.
Philadelphia recently held a “cool roofs for free” competition, and a block of row houses won.
“The biggest difference is definitely when we wake up in the morning,” said Terry Jack, who organized her block’s winning entry. “I noticed the difference the very next morning after they painted the roof. It was a good 15 degrees cooler inside; it was much more livable.”
Workers are painting the roofs on both sides of her street with reflective white paint, and also insulating the houses. City officials hope to show that a white roof will reduce the amount of air conditioning used, saving energy and reducing electricity bills.
According to former California energy commissioner Arthur Rosenfeld, an average, 1,000-square-foot roof painted white can save 10 tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent of emissions from one car for about 2‚½ years. On a national scale, turning roofs cool could eliminate 2 billion tons of carbon dioxide, roughly the same as taking 20 million cars off the road for 20 years, according to Rosenfeld, who carried out his experiments with Hashem Akbari at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, in California.
So far, many cities have been limited in their response. New York’s 1 million square feet of white roofs is a “very, very, very, conservative target,” said Akbari, who advised the city on its NYC Cool Roofs project.
“When you consider that a large box store or mall can have a roof of 200,000 square feet, the entire New York program is the equivalent of painting five of those stores,” he said.
But Akbari stressed it’s not just about white paint.
“Certainly, the white color helps, especially if it’s special reflective paint, but ultimately we want to see people using cool roof material when they have to change their roofs,” he said. “There are a whole range of materials that can reflect the heat.”
Sophisticated white roofing material can lie underneath a roof’s visible surface, he said, reflecting the sun’s heat while allowing a wider choice of colors on the surface.
“Definitely, aesthetics has held back the cool roof movement until now, but that is changing. You have a longer lasting roof without having to look bad,” said Akbari.
According to the Department of Energy, there are no federal tax credits for roof coatings, but there is a tax credit for using cool materials when replacing a roof.
The Cool Roof Rating Council: http://www.coolroofs.org.
The American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) released a report on September 14 that compiles data on renewable energy developments, resource potentials, and financial, market, and policy information on a state-by-state basis. The report is intended to be an executive summary of the renewable energy sector in each state. The state summaries show the wide range of renewable energy development in the United States, ranging from Louisiana, with only 200 kilowatts of grid-connected solar power and production capabilities for 1.5 million gallons of biofuels per year, to California, with 2.7 gigawatts of wind power, 2.6 gigawatts of geothermal power, 1.1 gigawatts of grid-connected solar power, 705 megawatts of biomass power, and production capabilities for nearly 200 million gallons of biofuels per year.
The report also notes the state policies that helped to accomplish that scale of deployment. In California, such policies include a renewable energy requirement; a mandate for utilities to provide grid connections and net metering for solar and wind energy systems; a program to invest $2.17 billion in grid-connected solar power over 10 years; a feed-in tariff for renewable energy systems; and a number of other rebates, tax incentives, and financing programs for renewable energy. ACORE will provide quarterly updates for the online, interactive report, titled “Renewable Energy in America,” which is available on the ACORE Web site. See also the ACORE press release.
The world of eReaders might just be getting a little more flexible.
At a recent dealer convention in Shinagawa, Tokyo, Sony unveiled a new type of electronic paper that could be used in future eReader devices. The electronic paper utilizes plastic substrate instead of glass, which allows it to be both flexible and more durable. It can be dropped or rolled up without causing any damage.
Sony didn’t reveal what products it plans to use the paper for, but the display booth showed off everything from a regular eReader for books to a calendar. If inexpensive enough, the flexible paper technology has the potential to replace a wide range of paper based products like newspapers and magazines.
Facing the worst outbreak of forest fires in three years, cattle ranchers and indigenous tribesmen in the southern Amazon have teamed up to extinguish nearly two dozen blazes over the past three months, offering hope that new alliances between long-time adversaries could help keep deforestation rates in the Brazilian Amazon on a downward trajectory.
The voluntary fire brigades, which have now spent more than 400 hours battling fires, are the product of partnership between Alian§a da Terra, a Brazilian nonprofit working to improve land stewardship by cattle ranchers in the heart of the Amazon; Kayap³ and Xavante Indians; local authorities; and the U.S. Forest Service. Over the past two years the Forest Service, with financial assistance from USAID, has led three intensive training sessions on tactics for fighting wild fires. The training came at an opportune time: the number of fires burning in the state of Mato Grosso surged from 5,000 last year to 18,800 this year, the highest since 2007. Exceptionally dry conditions have exacerbated fires set annually for land-clearing. An image released two weeks by NASA shows smoke obscuring a 2,500-kilometer corridor extending from Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil in the north to Argentina in the south. 148,946 fires were burning at the moment the photo was taken.
More than a dozen families in Susquehanna County, Pa., filed a lawsuit late Tuesday against the Southwestern Energy Production Company, asserting that a succession of “releases, spills and discharges of combustible gases, hazardous chemicals and industrial wastes” from the company’s nearby drilling sites had contaminated their drinking water and made them sick.
In simpler terms, it’s the latest salvo against hydraulic fracturing “” a long-used and highly contentious drilling technique that has come under more intense scrutiny as energy prospectors descend on newly accessible gas deposits under vast areas of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and New York.
It’s not the first such lawsuit, and it comes amid a flurry of other legal, regulatory and political maneuvering around the topic at the local, state and federal levels.
Most notable among these is a study currently being developed by the Environmental Protection Agency with the aim of determining whether hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, as it is sometimes known, is a threat to drinking water and human health. The process involves the high-pressure, deep-underground injection of water, sand and chemicals to break up rock formations and release natural gas.
Last week at the Nordic Exceptional Trendshop 2010, held in Denmark, one presentation took urban agriculture to the next level. A collaboration with NASA, you might even say it launched urban agriculture out of this world, and into the future.The idea is called Agropolis, a combination grocery store, restaurant, and farm all in one building, employing the most advanced technologies in hydroponic, aeroponic, and aquaponic farming. As it stands, Agropolis is still just a mere idea, with little more than some cool graphics to back it up. But regardless, Agropolis ushers forth a new wave of thinking about urban food systems.
The team behind the Agropolis concept proposes that this new generation of store would be an ecosystem unto itself, a finely tuned orchestra of parts in balance, that would not only be totally envrionmentally sustainably and friendly, but also just plain producing the freshest food around. But what would all these innovative, NASA-inspired state of the art hydroponics and other high-tech solutions look like in practice? According to the vision of Agropolis, a customer would walk into a store that is covered in green. Vegetables growing on the walls as far as the eye can see. And below the floors one would see tilapia swimming, working in tandem with vegetables in an aquaponic system. You would buy a tomato that was literally just picked, from a plant that you can see in front of you. The store would bring a whole new meaning to local, and one-up the notion of hyper local, since all the food available to eat or buy would have traveled zero miles from the farm to the store. At most, just a few steps.
Washington, DC – U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu today announced selections for more than $37 million in funding to accelerate the technological and commercial readiness of emerging marine and hydrokinetic (MHK) technologies, which seek to generate renewable electricity from the nation’s oceans and free-flowing rivers and streams. The 27 projects range from concept studies and component design research to prototype development and in-water device testing. This unprecedented level of funding will advance the ability of marine and hydrokinetic energy technologies to contribute to the nation’s electricity supply.
“This funding represents the largest single investment of federal funding to date in the development of marine and hydrokinetic energy technologies,” said Secretary Chu. “These innovative projects will help grow water power’s contribution to America’s clean energy economy.”
The nation’s ocean waves, tides, currents, thermal gradients, and free-flowing rivers represent a promising energy source located close to centers of electricity demand. The Department of Energy is working with industry, universities, national laboratories, and other groups to develop technologies capable of harnessing these resources to generate environmentally sustainable, cost-competitive power. The Department of Energy will leverage private sector investments in marine and hydrokinetic energy technologies by providing cost-shared funding to industry and industry-led partnerships.
Some of the projects selected today include:
- Ocean Power Technologies, Inc. (Pennington, New Jersey) will deploy a full-scale 150 kilowatt PowerBuoy system in the Oregon Territorial Sea and collect two years of detailed operating data. This project will obtain critical technical and cost performance data for one of the most advanced wave energy converters in the U.S. DOE Funding: $2,400,000. Total Project Value: $4,800,000.
- Ocean Renewable Power Company (Portland, Maine) will build, install, operate, and monitor a commercial-scale array of five grid-connected TidGen TM Project devices on the sea floor in Cobscook Bay off Eastport, Maine in two phases over three years. The project will advance ORPC’s cross-flow turbine tidal energy technology, producing a full-scale, grid-connected energy system and will gather critical technical and cost performance data for one of the most advanced tidal energy systems in the U.S. The completed project will comprise an array of interconnected TidGenT hydrokinetic energy conversion devices, associated power electronics, and interconnection equipment into a system fully capable of commercial operation in moderate to high velocity tidal currents in water depths of up to 150 feet. The project will significantly advance the technical, operational and environmental goals of the tidal energy industry at large. DOE Funding: $10,000,000. Total Project Value: $21,100,000.
- Public Utility District No.1 of Snohomish County (Everett, Washington) will deploy, operate, monitor, and evaluate two 10-meter diameter Open-Centre Turbines, developed and manufactured by OpenHydro Group Ltd, in Admiralty Inlet of Puget Sound. The project is expected to generate 1 megawatt (MW) of electrical energy during periods of peak tidal currents with an average energy output of approximately 100 kilowatts (kW). This full-scale, grid-connected tidal turbine system will gather critical technical and cost performance data for one of the most advanced tidal turbine projects in the U.S. DOE Funding: $10,000,000. Total Project Value: $20,100,000.
View the full list of projects (pdf – 129kb). Please visit the Department of Energy’s Wind and Water Power Program website for more information on how DOE is advancing marine and hydrokinetic energy technologies.