Can the Little People (ie, US) Beat Xcel Energy in Boulder? These People Say YES


Xcel Energy, the people who started up the Colorado solar-to-home movement only to withdraw from it quicker than John Wayne Bobbitt lost his wang, are back at the douchebaggery again.  This time, a group of very smart and very environmentally conscious people called New Era Colorado is putting the kibosh on their plans for coal-fired world domination.  Check this out:

From the video page:

This is a grassroots David and Goliath campaign to create a landmark model for how communities can take control of their energy future: can support this effort on Indiegogo:

This is pretty great.  These folks are simply trying to stop the mass amounts of money from flowing into the pockets of the “we don’t give a shit” power brokers and back into the hands of the community, and to save the Earth one city at a time.  Can you imagine what would happen if this works?  I for one would love to see solar panels and wind turbines out en masse instead of coal fired plants spewing black death into the atmosphere.  But, that’s just me.  I’m sure the Xcel Energy executives need their Mercedes and homes in the Hamptons, too.  Right?

Check out the Campaign for Local Power’s IndieGogo campaign.  Feeling frisky?  Donate ten bucks, you’ll literally change the world.

From the IndieGogo campaign website:

Back in 2011, our community did something no other community had ever done before: we voted to explore taking control of our power supply for the sole purpose of lowering our impact on the planet. Xcel Energy spent nearly $1 million dollars on that election, but lost–because a committed group of community advocates and a small nonprofit that engages young people in politics won the day. Outspent 10-to-1, the grassroots coalition registered voters, knocked on doors, and made thousands of phone calls.

With voter approval, the city launched an extensive analysis and found that it could get cleaner, cheaper power that was just as reliable all on its own.

But now, Xcel is back, with a misleading initiative they’ve helped place on Boulder’s fall ballot that would stop the city’s formation of a local electric utility dead in its tracks. Their ballot measure is masquerading as a way to reduce government debt, but it’s really just a dirty trick–the measure includes impossible, even illegal, requirements that would stall out the very process voters already approved.

They’re back to undermine our local process, because the city’s findings made it clear that they stand to lose more than the $35 million dollars in profits they make annually from Boulder. They know that Boulder is on the verge of setting a precedent of national significance that would threaten not just Xcel, but the very core of the coal energy’s business model–not to mention that industry’s billions of dollars in profits.

We out-organized them in 2011, and we know we can again in 2013 if we have the resources to achieve the reach we need. Boulder has already voted to move forward–this fight is about keeping the coal industry from holding us back.

Can you help these smart people defeat the coal giant in the region?  Like New Era Colorado on Facebook, I’m sure they’d appreciate it.  Xcel Energy will not.

From the WTF File: Xcel Energy Drops Out of Colorado’s Solar Market

In a move that is less than popular, energy company Xcel Energy has pulled its support out of the Colorado solar energy market.  You might remember Xcel Energy from a story I wrote back in 2009 about how Xcel Energy was charging solar customers who were using their solar panels to make electricity but not drawing power from the power grid.  I thought that was kind of a pretty rude move.

This one is yet another unpopular decision by Xcel Energy.  I find it kind of hilarious that their catch phrase is “Responsible by Nature.”

So back in 2004, Colorado voters passed Amendment 37 – the amendment says that by 2015, Colorado’s energy market will have 10% of the total contribution be from renewable energy sources.  At the time in 2004, 95% of the energy coming to the grid was from fossil fuels (coal and gas), and only 2% was from renewable energy sources.  From an article at Inhabitat:

Ammendment 37 was passed by Colorado voters in 2004 and required that public utility companies set aside money for a renewable energy portfolio. A small percentage of that power needed to be installed on consumer roofs where demand was great. Many companies opened shop or grew as the price of solar was cut nearly in half. As prices for solar equipment fell, and Xcel Energy met Ammedments 37′s requirements, they have gradually been able to lower the rebate amount to balance the total cost, while still maintaining a predictable pricing scheme for customers. The rebate money comes from a 2% charge on rate payer bills.

Hmm.  So what exactly does the pulling out of Xcel Energy have to do with Colorado and its future?  Well, tons, actually.  Job losses are expected to be about half of the total renewable energy jobs in Colorado, which is about on par with the entire number of fossil fuel gigs in the state.  Again, from Inhabitat:

While the solar industry was relying on a stepped approach for reducing the rebates, their sudden elimination has put nearly every planned residential and commercial project on hold. Being a capital heavy industry many solar company’s cash flow will be severely restricted, limiting opportunities for distributed generation.

One such project that was finalized the day of the announcement puts solar panels on the Denver Rescue Mission by the nonprofit Atmosphere Conservancy in order to help them reduce energy costs. Executive Director Alex Blackmer said that three solar projects the Atmosphere Conservancy finalized would have to be renegotiated and may not go forward after the announcement. Hundreds of  halted projects  will result in real job losses for a workforce that today totals more than 5,300 people and growing. Early estimates reveal that half of these jobs will be gone — more than the total number of jobs in the coal industry in the state.

Energy companies across the world: if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.  One of these days soon, the population of the world is going to get its collective head together and bring you to task for this kind of bullsh*t.  It’s time for one of these corporations to stand up and man up in order to change our future.  Profits are just profits – you all already have more money than you can possibly spend in your lifetimes – how about helping the rest of us by changing the future of the planet Earth?

Where exactly is the disconnect here, Big Oil and Coal companies?  Don’t you realize that if you switched to renewable energy sources to push on the market that you would make unbelievable amounts of money that won’t run out?  Even my neighbor’s five year old daughter realizes this fact.

Perhaps we need to let companies like Xcel Energy know how displeased we are with their decisions.  After all, a corporation by definition has rights and privvies like US citizens do.  If we made poor decisions publicly, people would call us on them, or we go to jail.  If you are affected by this decision or if you want to let Xcel Energy know how it’s doing, you should send the company an email at

Jax’s Link-O-Rama: Solar Edition

It’s a cold, foggy day in San Francisco, so I’m going to throw a bunch of sunshine on the grill (and by grill, I mean internet, naturally).

Photo from Amanda Lynne Ballard: sunset

Photo is from JimOnLight fab photog Amanda Lynne Ballard.

  • New favorite holiday: Solar Day! (CleanTechnica)
  • The US Air Force is one of the biggest purchasers of wind power in the country, and now the military is digging into solar power, too.  Cool. (CleanTechnica)
  • New import product from the Sahara! (Inhabitat)
  • Transmission-connected solar farm, finally! (CleanTechnica)
  • Not solar powered, but sunburnt: did you go to Coachella?  Did you wonder how they pulled off powering that whole thing?  Here’s how. (TPI Magazine)
  • Not quite there yet: solar-powered air conditioning. (EcoGeek)
  • Upping the competition in the solar market: super-skinny solar film. (Earth2Tech)
  • How to decide whether you should go solar. (CleanTechnica)
  • Want a solar power, but it’s too pricey?  PG&E has an idea. (Earth2Tech)
  • Google’s handing out solar-powered gizmos to doctors with IMC. (CleanTechnica)

Toyota Advertisement on Concentrated Solar Power (CSP)

Have you seen the most recent ad for Toyota and concentrated solar power?  I just ran across it a few days ago, thanks to the Green Technology Blog – the ad has some beautiful images in it – me being a lighting designer that loves (loves loves loves) haze and atmospherics in my design work, the images of the beams reflecting off of the solar reflectors and up onto the collector really caught my eye.

Check it out:

Concentrated Solar Power – 25% of the World’s Power Needs?


I think that the little solar reflectors look like machines praying to some big solar deity.  How cute!

But seriously, apparently using CSP (or concentrated solar power – the little praying sun mirrors) in deserts around the world will provide a whole bunch of power – about 25% of the projected need – by 2050.  It feels a little premature to predict that far ahead, but I’m not a scientist or predictor-of-solar-power-needs-person.

From the article at Consumer Energy Report:

“Concentrating solar power could meet up to 7 percent of the world’s projected power needs in 2030 and a full quarter by 2050,” accroding to the joint report conducted by the European Solar Thermal Electricity Association (ESTELA), environmental group Greenpeace, and the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) SolarPACES group.

According to those estimations, massive investments will be needed in order to improve upon existing technologies. The 28-page report says that 174 billion euros ($243 billion) per year would need to be invested by 2050. Under that scenario, solar power plants would have installed capacity of 1,500 GW.

At the end of 2008 CSP capacity was around 430MW, and worldwide investment in the technology will reach 2 billion euros ($2.7 billion).  CSP uses arrays of hundreds of mirrors to concentrate the sun’s rays to temperatures between 400 and 1,000 Celsius (750-1,800 Fahrenheit) to provide energy to run a power plant.

Recently, a research expert noted that the Sahara Desert has the capacity to supply all of Europe’s electricity needs by installing an array of solar panels, due to the strong sun in the region.

Well, what do you know?  I’m feeling a bit negative today, but I really, really hope that all of our gung-ho-ness about solar power doesn’t peter out any time soon.  It just feels like we should be dumping metric crap-tons of money into this technology.

RPI Creates the Darkest Material On Earth

I came across an article recently written by the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute that discusses a discovery made by RPI – a material made from a loosely populated coating of carbon nanotubes that has a reflectance of 0.045. This is ground breaking – the current standard is 1.4%. Researchers have developed this material coating to facilitate better solar energy absorption, and this is a great thing considering that we need to develop some new technologies to overcome our addiction to oil. From the article:

“It is a fascinating technology, and this discovery will allow us to increase the absorption efficiency of light as well as the overall radiation-to-electricity efficiency of solar energy conservation,” said Shawn-Yu Lin, professor of physics at Rensselaer and a member of the university’s Future Chips Constellation, who led the research project. “The key to this discovery was finding how to create a long, extremely porous vertically aligned carbon nanotube array with certain surface randomness, therefore minimizing reflection and maximizing absorption simultaneously.”

This is an excellent discovery on many levels. Outside of the uses for Solar Power Generation and increasing the amount of sunlight we can harness and utilize, a designer like myself has to consider the usage of such a material in the entertainment lighting arena as well – a material that reflects nearly no light almost makes lighting designers’ jokes about a “light sponge” for those spots on the stage or production where you don’t want light a reality. Imagine whole soft goods made of a coating of this material. Imagine scenic paint composed of this material. The possibilities are endless.

Check out the rest of RPI’s article here.