Archive for corporate facts

Two Big Solar Projects for 2011

As promised, here’s a rundown of a couple big solar projects announced this year.  The first has actually been in the works for several years now.  Arizona-based First Solar has teamed up with China to build what will be the world’s largest solar farm (2 Gigawatts!) in a remote area of Inner Mongolia. Though the deal was first announced in 2009, it wasn’t until earlier this month that the project got a crucial go-ahead from Chinese regulators (approval of a pre-feasibility study and negotiations over what payments the companies would receive for feeding the power to the grid), allowing work to commence.  The solar farm will cover 25 square miles and will be built in stages from 2011 through 2020, with the initial stage producing 30 Megawatts.  Guangdong Nuclear Solar Energy Development Co. will become the majority partner in the deal, giving First Solar the backing of a recognized name in Chinese energy markets (they own 2 nuclear power plants and are constructing 4 more).  The two companies will work jointly on the construction phases, however, the thin-film panels will be produced by First Solar’s Malaysia plant, avoiding the necessity of turning over company trade secrets.  This is good news for American alternative energy companies looking to get a foothold in the growing and ultra-competitive Chinese renewables market, one that’s traditionally been quite difficult to navigate in a way that satisfies both company interests and Chinese regulations.

Executive spokesmen announce the Solexant deal, showing example panel using their technology.

Next up, here on American soil, 2011 welcomes the construction of Solexant’s new manufacturing plant in Gresham, Oregon (already home to the states largest ground-mounted solar array in the Northwest), one that upon completion will be the world’s largest nanotechnology manufacturing facility.  As with the China deal above, Oregon and California-based Solexant announced the deal last year, but until this year’s construction is complete, Solexant will operate out of an existing plant, where they will manufacture their proprietary ultra thin film solar cells using a roll to roll printing process developed in conjunction with the DoE Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory.  This process uses deposition of nanocrystal inks on a flexible substrate, producing a cell which is both flexible and amazingly thin.  First phase development promises to produce enough panels to create 100MW of energy, enough to power about 10,000 homes, and once completed, Solexant plans to add more 100MW production lines.  The venture has received funding/loans and tax credits from the Oregon Department of Energy in return for bringing the state the potential of more than a thousand new jobs over time.

Solexant uses roll-to-roll printing technology to make their flexible cells.

If these two projects are any indication, 2011 promises to be a huge year for solar, here’s to hoping that the trend continues!

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Looking Under the Surface of “Green”

Ever heard of the game Energyville?  It’s an online game where you name a town, and then, Sims’ style, decide how you’re going to power it using the available technologies.  Each has their own pros and cons, and costs different amounts of money, environmental damage and national security.  Then the game takes you through the years, showing you how the choices you make affect the city.  On the surface, it sounds like a good concept.  But play it once or twice, and you might start to wonder just why it is that biofuels always “get more expensive due to lack of corn supplies” in every scenario presented, though petroleum, natural gas, and shale oil seem to get better with age.  Or how even if you have your town fully powered with alternative energy, the game won’t let you advance to the next level without adding some petrol to the mix.  I played the game several times, and Beautopia never lived up to its name, no matter how valiantly I erected wind towers and solar panel racks.  Well, it did LOOK pretty, but my score couldn’t compete with the oil guzzlers and nuclear supporters out there.

Still, even with a marked slant evident in the policital events presented, the game is an interesting look at how we do need to think about the future when making energy choices of today.  If someone would come back with a more REAL version of this game, instead of Chevron, which is the presenter of Energyville, there could be a lot to learn from it.  If you want to check out the game, it’s at:

www.willyoujoinus.com/energyville

In a greater sense, this game underlines what seems true in most of life.  Most things seem okay on the surface, pretty kind and helpful even, but a little digging (not much in this case) reveals that “free” offers contain strings, “impartial” observers are paid for their opinions, and even organizations set up to help others usually have their own agendas that can affect their actual aid.  Green living is a noble goal, and of course I encourage you to follow the natural path.  Just be aware of the greenwash, as they call it, because for every understanding and caring soul who enters the green “industry”, there also enters a conglomerate like Safeway or KMart, hoping to make a buck.  Learning to take only what you need from these giants is a lifelong game in and of itself.

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BOOK REVIEW: Skinny Bitch

Skinny Bitch

Even though it doesn’t sound like an off-grid living title , read this book! Let me repeat: Read this book! It won’t take you more than an afternoon or two, and if it’s straight talk you need to scare yourself healthy, well, these gals have plenty of that. Written by a former agent and a former model who met at Ford models, the book is officially geared toward the female health and diet crowd. But the diet talk is minimal, and the text is full of totally gross-you-out quality secrets that the government and food industries can’t afford for you to know. ‘Cause, trust me, once you know, you won’t look at their products the same ever again. I finished the book yesterday, and suddenly, my morning tea had scary ingredients today. Liquid carcinogens, artficially processed sweeteners. Oh, boy, it’s not even 8 am yet.

Besides an excellent (graphic) discussion of the meat industries and another on food additives, the highlight of the book to me was the focus on applied action. Rory and Kim implore you to make a decision today… right now!… to change at least one habit that isn’t doing your body or life any good. Then, once you’ve mastered that, take on another item. This is the strategy that has worked best for me when trying to change habits. For example, want to quit smoking? Don’t scare yourself thinking I’ll never be able to smoke again! Instead, train your focus on “Don’t buy another pack”. It’s a specific action that takes effort (and a financial transaction!) to complete anyway, so it’s easier to regulate than reaching for a single ciggy. Concentrate on that, and by the time you’re moving on to “don’t smoke” (ie. you’re getting tired of bumming smokes off your dragon-breathed buddies), you’re already in the habit of thinking about your action: you’re halfway there!

Anyway, back to the book. Authors Rory and Kim have recently expanded their line of Skinny Bitch offerings to include Skinny Bitch in the Kitch (a cookbook) and Skinny Bastard (for men). So no matter what information you’re jonesing for, there’s a book for you. If you think you know a lot about what’s in your food, these ladies likely know a whole lot more. But even though they’re straight talkers (to put it politely), they never talk down to you. It’s like having two big sisters who kick you in the ass, but you know it’s because they love you and for your own good. They are very careful to explain the difference between an awesome vegan Skinny Bitch and a skinny bitch, which no one wants to be. As for me, after waiting months to get this book from the library (which arrived with curious “shelve with fiction” stickers all over it… huh? I WISH it was fiction!), I’m once again on the waiting list, this time for the cookbook. Read Skinny Bitch today and start feeling better tomorrow!

If you want to preview the book, check it out here at Google Books.

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Take a Tour of Solarious

This week, you will be seeing a lot of action at the Solarious website, as I update and expand the back pages with new information for you.  Why don’t you stop through and take a tour?

First, check out the food additives page, “In My Food”, where you can find out more about the ingredients that make up you daily diet and how they may affect your health.  If you have any expertise or suggestions about ingrdients, please share them, and I’ll follow up by posting more on the topic.

Next, visit the “Success Stories” page to see how others in your position have overcome challenges and maintained inspiration and vision to complete alternative energy projects.  Again, please feel free to share any inspiring stories or learning lessons you know of so that others may learn too.

And finally, see the brand-spankin’ new section, “Box it Up”, for an ever-incomplete listing of companies that incorporate recycled packaging and goods into their product lines.  I say incomplete, because more companies recognize the need for such sustainable practices every day.  Here’s to wishing for that day when ALL companies use recycled goods in their products, reducing our virgin material needs close to zero.  Until then, support these companies’ decisions to ensure that they view sustainability as a wise business decision.

In regularly scheduled news, everything here is going great.  After a solid week of grey days and spitting rainy weather, the sun is out and blazing.  It’s time to get cooking!  Over the “down time” of cloudy weather, I walked around the city distributing a new magazine for whom I write.  Plenty of time to check out the neighborhood and look for a block to adopt.  And… I’ve found one!  It took a bit of looking, because in my neighborhood the “Clean Team” (ie. people who’ve gotten community service hours to complete) come around once a week and supposedly clean the streets, so I didn’t want to overlap their areas.  And because there is just so much mess to choose from!  I’ve chosen a two-block area near my house to start with, and will expand once I figure out how much maintenance that will entail.  When I go next week to begin picking up, I’ll post before and after photos.  I also found a community garden near where I travel regularly with available plots.  With any luck, I’ll be able to scrape up a little cash and get a plot there to feed my growing demand for veggies to steam in the sun!  If you’re in the LA area and have a neglected backyard that you want planted for a share of the organic produce, holler! We can help each other out… and isn’t that what life is all about?

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America’s First Wind Powered City

It’s official: at least one city in the United States has finally ponied up for a wind powered station that will meet the entire city’s needs.  Meet Rock Port, Missouri, poised to take that trophy home for America.  Fortunately situated near a bluff and with a windy enough climate to sustain a projected 16 gigawatt hours of electricity per year, Missourans are about to get a healthy does of green in their power mix.  Annual consumption has historically only been around 13 gigwatt hours, so that power company will also be able to sell power across the grid to other places, as well as to supply electrical power when winds are down.  With this year’s tornado season as evidence, I don’t think that will be happening too often! 

For more information, look up Loess Hill Wind Farm, the company pairing with the government to provide this service.

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Take the King Corn Challenge

About the Corn Challenge

Corn is in Everything!

It’s always nice to have someone to commiserate with when making even slightly painful lifestyle changes be they in the name of good. It’s great motivation. (For some reason, introducing the bad stuff always comes easily, especially with company!) Here’s an interesting look at two filmmakers and the challenge they put themselves up to after making a film about corn in the American diet, inviting others to join. And one author, Katherine Pryor, did just that. Read about her three corn-free days here.

As you can see, in today’s processed food markets, even dropping one ingredient can have far-reaching implications for your overall diet. It required from Ms. Pryor a reconsideration of her local food buying habits, and put a strain on the two filmmakers to figure out a way to eat while on the road without actually consuming any corn. If you could pick one ingredient to drop, what would it be? High fructose corn syrup? Caffeine? Processed grains? Added salt? There are so many options out there it’s hard to choose just one. But when you do make a commitment to one, even a little one you don’t encounter every day, you learn as much about the process of making choices as you may about your current diet.  I’m going to start a food database page on the blog (check the top bar for the link).  If you know of any ingredients that contain certain foods, chemicals, or byproducts, please, comment and add to the repository of information. You might never want to eat again after starting down this path to learning.  Until then, happy eating!

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Quickie – Food Politics

Here’s a link to a good article about what’s happening to our global food supplies, and why it’s translating to more at the register.

Read the full story here

The Presidential Candidates

As we deepen into our self-created oil and energy crisis, we can only expect more articles like this, and more future costs, not fewer. Consider planting a garden if you don’t have one already. It takes a bit of trial and error to discover how particular plants grow. If you have something you “can’t live without”, try growing it a few times. Soon, it may be the only way for you to get it!

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