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Showing posts from November, 2011

Energy for the 99%

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Tomorrow is 20 November.  A community group called Solar Mosaic declared 20 November as Occupy Rooftops day.  Meaning, find the rooftop of a building in your community where you would like to see rooftop solar, take a picture and send it to Solar Mosaic.  The organization has already used "crowdfunding" to install solar on the rooftop of a community building in Oakland, and is now raising community investment to install solar on other buildings in Oakland and Flagstaff. (I sponsored a solar tile at an Oakland-based food justice organization).

Solar Mosaic is a small slice of the rooftop solar pie, but one that is emblematic of how distributed generation -- also known as local clean energy -- can cut greenhouse gasses without asking giant utility companies to devastate desert habitat or mountaintops for big solar and wind projects that are hundreds of miles away from our cities.

There is room for utility-scale solar on already-disturbed lands (minimizing ecological destruction…

Environmentalism for the 1%

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The departure of the Sierra Club's chairman -- Carl Pope -- comes during a dark moment for environmentalism.  The vanguards of the green movement have compromised their core conservation ethic, forging alliances with corporations and ignoring the grassroots in order to make way for an unchecked renewable energy industry that is more intent on destroying public lands than saving them.

A recent Los Angeles Times article highlights how Pope may be a casualty of this attempt to gain influence in Washington and Wall Street, but his approach has been practiced by other national environmental groups,  including the Wilderness Society, NRDC, Center for Biological Diversity, and Defenders of Wildlife.  These groups have desperately sought acceptance among business and political elites, painting themselves as job creators by selling out America's landscapes to big wind and solar firms, and then bragging about the jobs they have supported.  What have they gained? Loss of respect among th…

Policy for Rooftop Solar, Not Desert Destruction

An excellent op-ed published in the Sacramento Bee explains what California should do to encourage rooftop solar and other forms of local clean energy.  At the heart of the debate is the San Diego Gas & Electric company's proposal to charge rooftop solar owners a superfluous "transmission" charge.  You can think of this as equivalent to Bank of America's ridiculous plan to charge its customers $5 a month to use their debit cards. 

Solar technology makes utility companies seem as outdated as record companies and paperback book publishers in an age of MP3s and Amazon Kindles.  Even Bloomberg agrees. Solar gives everyone the opportunity to generate their own energy.  No need to bulldoze deserts for solar facilities.  No need to install wind turbines on beautiful mountains.  No need to blast open mountains in West Virginia for coal.  It's time that the California Public Utilities Commission appreciate the true value of rooftop solar.

According to the Sacramento Be…

Western Mojave Offers Warning on Wind Energy Impacts

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Several wind energy projects are in the early phases of planning and development throughout the Mojave Desert, including Granite Wind in the Victor Valley and Black Lava Butte near Joshua Tree National Park.  Citizens and conservationists that care for their way of life and land may want to pay attention to what is happening to the desert habitat near Tehachapi and the town of Mojave, California.  Terra-Gen Power LLC is installing over 300 wind turbines -- each nearly 30 stories in height -- across ecologically intact desert lands. The project is known as the Alta Wind Energy Center

Friends of Mojave, a group of concerned citizens, formed to raise awareness about the impacts of the projects on the once quiet rural lifestyle and beautiful desert landscapes.  They have documented the destruction with the photos below:
Wind turbines pose a serious threat to birds and bats once in operation, and wind farms in West Virginia and Pennsylvania have killed thousands of birds and bats.  The nearb…

Vermont Wind Facility A Perfect Example of Greenwashing

Wind turbines are not green, and the video below shows the ugly side to this utility-scale energy behemoth that is altering thousands of square miles across the country.  Not only do they require massive amounts of steel to produce, they are transported by diesel guzzling trucks for hundreds of miles, tons of concrete is needed to pour their foundations, and wide access roads are bulldozed into the land and mountain ridges where they are installed.  Once the blades are spinning, they become a huge threat to rare wildlife, such as golden eagles, hawks, owls, bats, sandhill cranes, etc.  Research indicates that at least 440,000 birds are killed each year by wind turbines, and that number is expected to climb to 1,000,000 per year by 2030 as more wind facilities are constructed.

The video below shows scenes of destruction in Vermont as a mountain ridgeline is blasted away to make way for wind turbines.

This is Green Energy? from Catamount on Vimeo.

But most big environmental organizations …

Signing off on Desert Destruction

Before BrightSource Energy could begin bulldozing 5.6 square miles of ecologically intact desert habitat, Secretary of Interior had to sign a record of decision approving the project's use of public land and resources.  Department of Interior ignored its responsibility to act as a responsible steward of public lands, and instead catered to BrightSource Energy's desire to build the project on some of the most important habitat for the threatened desert tortoise, despite calls for the government agency and solar company to consider alternative locations.  Your government knew this was the case, but approved the energy facility anyways.

According to a July 2010 analysis by the Department of Interior preceding Salazar's decision obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request:
"Although the proposed project would achieve all project objectives, and generate the maximum amount of beneficial socioeconomic, greenhouse gas, and air pollutant impacts, it would also result…

Occupy Rooftops!

Thousands of protesters plan to encircle the White House this weekend to speak up against the destructive Keystone pipeline, which would pump hundreds of thousands of barrels of tar sands oil into the US from Canada. Opposition to the Keystone pipeline echoes themes in the Occupy Wall Street movement, which opposes the government's catering to the needs of Corporations at the expense of the public's well-being.  The truest form of energy independence -- loosening the grip of massive utility companies and Wall Street backed energy firms -- comes in the form of distributed generation, such as rooftop solar.  And Solar Mosaic, an innovative marketplace that brings community donations to local solar installations, is sponsoring Community Solar Day on 20 November, asking communities to identity rooftops they want to occupy with solar panels.

From the southwestern desert perspective, Community Solar Day is representative of a clean energy future that does not involve sacrificing publ…