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Illinois Gives Good Wind – Fourth in the Nation for Wind Power Generation!

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I had a chance to drive through some of the great wind fields of Illinois over the last month — Laura and I have ostensibly been vagabonding here in the US since there’s no work.

I put together a quick video on Illinois wind power — check it out, wouldja?  Share it with your friends!  Illinois, a state that sent 4 of its last 7 sitting governors to prison for corruption, is the fourth largest wind producer in the United States!  I guess you go, Illinois still works?

Illinois gives good wind!

…and on Vimeo, in case you like it there better (I have to admit I love their interface…)

Illinois Gives Good Wind! from Jim Hutchison on Vimeo.

Saturday Sustainability News

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It’s Saturday again, which means that there are lots of people waking up on either A) the hung-over side of the bed, B) someone else’s side of the bed, or C) the well-rested side of the bed, which is where I woke up this morning!

This morning brings some sustainability news stories, covering solar, wind, geothermal, and tidal power wherever possible.  There’s only one reason why we can’t take ahold of sustainable and renewable energy sources right at the time when we need to develop them the most, and that’s because not enough people are stepping up.  I can’t be the only person who believes that we could all live on a planet that is consuming less power than we can generate, and where there’s enough of everything for everybody…

…or can I?

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Sustainability News

  1. The Ivanpah Solar project is over 90% complete, nearing a total of 173,500 heliostats!

  2. First Solar has 400 million in cash from their most recent stock offering…  How will they spend it?

  3. University of Florida added some solar panels to University apartment carports.  Brilliant move, UF!

  4. German community-owned solar arrays!

  5. Flattening peak and base energy prices – Analysis

  6. Conergy says Australian solar markets will grow 20% a year until 2015

  7. Goldman Sachs plans to invest in an offshore wind farm in Japan

  8. US solar market grew 76% in 2012…!!!

  9. The US leads Clean Energy mergers and acquisitions (M&A’s), Solar stays in the lead

  10. Italy reaches clean energy budget cap, stops offering tariffs on new clean energy installs

  11. Geothermal energy starts the list of US Army’s nearly ready power purchasing agreement binge

  12. Renewable energy investments focus on developing nations

  13. Solar tracking systems gain some public footing

  14. Are solar panels as inexpensive as paint nowadays?

  15. California needs 3 BILLION to finish its Energy Storage Plan

  16. New ideas for a power plant — that lives at the bottom of the ocean

  17. Ladies and Gentlemen, the first artificial photosynthesis nanosystem

  18. Solar in California breaks the 2 Gigawatt output mark!

  19. Making cheaper and more flexible silicon crystalline wafers for Solar

  20. The coming US distributed solar boom

  21. Big Coal in India takes a nibble of Solar investment

  22. Solar plane makers shows what it takes to build a solar airplane

  23. MECASOLAR from Spain leads a huge EU research and development project into Solar

  24. A strategic agreement has been met to create deployable solar panels

  25. Comcast’s “Connected Home” has smart light bulbs, web-programmable thermostats

Have an awesome sunny Saturday, everyone!

Acting Green vs. Buying Green [Infographic]

I saw this great infographic over at Inhabitat, from a cool website called eLocal — the idea behind it is the idea of the difference between buying green and acting green.  It’s pretty clever, check it out!

After all of this time, I still kinda cringe that we call it “green.”  I feel like the reality of the situation should be enough to force people to think with a little bit more earthen responsibility, as “green” really refers to sustainability.  perhaps I’m a wee bit pessimistic about the whole thing, but the real idea behind branding the idea of sustainability as being “green” is to save the Earth.  She needs saving, folks.

Dude, Seriously – Earth Hour is in Like, TEN MINUTES!

Seriously!  Shut that stuff off and go play in the dark for an hour!  Earth Hour starts at 8pm your time – meaning your time zone.  at 8pm, shut off anything drawing power in your house or apartment and just give the grid a break for an hour.

Last year my wife and I made some light art with a keychain LED.  I plan do do something similar to last year’s event in a few minutes here.

Here is a short list of things that you can do in the dark – definitely not an exhaustive list:

  • sit in the dark
  • light a candle and stare at it for a little while
  • blow out the candle and play marco polo
  • get bored with marco polo and decide to microwave some popcorn
  • remember that it’s Earth Hour, and you unplugged the microwave
  • re-convince yourself that you can wait an hour for popcorn
  • jump back on the couch defeated
  • play with your iPhone for a half hour

Seeing Green

It’s time for a rant, isn’t it?

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What Does “Green” Mean?

It’s not easy being “green.”  It’s something that is constantly beat into our heads day after day.  It is, however, very important that the world become “green” and buildings get “green” and lighting gets “green” and so on.

What is “green?”  What does it mean when a structure gets “greened” or something is “green compliant?”   What do “green consultants” do, and how do we flip our surroundings to live the “green life?”   We are lighting whole cities with LED sources, and we are adding solar powered lighting to streets, parks, highways, warehouses, malls, classrooms, emergency rooms, operating rooms, rooms at the Pentagon, in theatrical production, in signs and advertising, and in more places than is possible to list to bring them closer to being “green.”

Everything is “Green” Now, That’s What They Saaay

Calling everything “green” is very odd to me.  It is partially odd because by nature I kind of expect every person I meet to do all things with a modicum of respect and intelligence; it is also partially odd because I am always surprised that “green” everything isn’t the status quo, if you know what I mean.   I won’t go into a tirade about how “green” is a truly talented marketing ploy or anything like that – but I would think that, let’s say for example, if I was building a new house in a sunbelt area, that I would make a very high fraction of the whole if not all of that house’s power be some kind of sustainable energy.  The opposite of doing that is just building a house and relying on a failing system of power distribution because that’s what’s cheapest.  That’s pretty lame.

Does “green” mean making smart choices that benefit civilization and have no impact on the Earth?  Shouldn’t it?

I say call it what it is – that’s my issue with “green.”  The truth is the best idea, always – we can get over how much the truth might suck, but once we found out we got lied to, more trust is lost first.  I had a conversation with Vik Duggal and James Bedell at Konstructr back in the winter (which I still haven’t had time to edit, sorry guys), and Vik said something that I thought made perfect sense (pardon the paraphrasing, Vik): “We should be building structures that last for a thousand years – not that get repurposed after eight years and torn down after ten. Does this not make perfect sense?  Whether we can or can’t, why aren’t we trying?  Is it capitalism?  I guess my thoughts are more along the lines of Jacques Fresco with the resourced based economy idea and less with capitalism.  Maybe someday we’ll figure it out.  I am still amazed at how fast a CVS or Walgreens store can be constructed – in Denver over where our house was, they tore down a Walgreens store and are constructing a new one about 50 feet away from rubble of the first.

Glimpses of Progress

Seeing solar panels for sale and all of the required metering at Fry’s earlier today really positively shocked me, mostly because I build and maintain our home’s computers, and try to be very DIY.  They were still in the $160-$200 range for 80w (about $2.50 a watt), but everything seems to get cheaper as people realize they can get it anywhere.   My area of knowledge and skill happens to be light and lighting, and when I think of “green” something or other, it’s usually within that realm.  LED light is getting better all the time, fluorescent technology is constantly evolving, and light sources using plasma are getting into concert production, architecture, and art.  Even incandescent lamps are improving.  Granted it was because some politicians said they had to do it – but I’ll take that over nothing.

“Green lighting” and sustainability are concepts that should be linked to standard practices – we certainly want everything bigger, stronger, faster all the time – but this is the time to buckle down and make this happen.  Major technological bumps in the line graph of civilization are usually made at the precipice of a large problem that needs solved.  This is our time, and this is our problem.  From my angle, all people who deal with light should at least consider this problem every once in a while.  I feel like we need a strong motivator – fixing problems because they’re so profitable but leaving more important problems to become bigger problems because there’s no money to be made needs to stop.

If you think about how important it is to, you know, still continue to grow as a civilization and all – and then you compare it to how much politics and the Wall Street BS makes me want to puke in my mouth, I can only come up with one question: what are the billionaires and the oil money people going to do when we’re out of oil and we didn’t solve the problem first?  I bet it sucks counting your money in the dark.