Archive for September 2011
It is no secret that the sun can be harnessed to provide a source of energy for homes and businesses.
The sun is a powerful star. It supplies us with energy, through a process called nuclear fusion, and sustains life on our planet Earth. Solar energy, or energy from the sun, has existed since prehistoric times when men would magnify the sun’s energy in efforts to start fires.
The sun is a valuable resource that radiates enough energy on the United States in one day to meet the nation’s needs for one and a half years. Since it is a free, clean and renewable source of energy, it is an energy source that will play a vital role in our future.
Using the sun’s energy for our energy source seems like an easy solution to having an energy supply forever. Harnessing the suns energy is where the problem lies. The sun’s rays shine all over the world and not in just one spot. Although it takes only 8 minutes for sunlight to travel to the earth, trying to catch the rays over such a wide area can prove to be tricky. Also, the energy in any one given place will vary due to factors, such as, clouds and weather conditions.
The history of using solar energy began in 1890′s when solar water heaters were used in the United States. Solar water heating requires a storage collector and a storage tank. Flat plate solar collectors are mounted on rooftops. Pipes carrying water are pumped through these collectors. The tubes are painted black so they will get hot quicker. As the heat is collected the fluid in the tubes get heated. A storage tank holds the hot liquid. This helps with central heating and cutting fuel costs. Solar heaters became popular when natural gas was expensive and burning wood and coals were burdensome. It’s popularity diminished with the discovery of an abundance of natural gas and oil deposits. Now they are making a comeback to replace the depleting fossil fuels that had taken its place.
Solar energy can be in the form of heat energy or light energy. The technology of photovoltaic, or PV as it is commonly called, converts the suns energy into electric currents through the use of solar cells. These electric currents can be used instantaneously or stored for later use. The PV cells consist of pieces of silicon under a thin piece of glass. They have both a positive and negative charge. Simple examples of this are the solar powered calculators that are common today. More complex examples are solar panels placed on roofs. This consists of using thin film solar cells as rooftop shingles, roof tiles, and even glazing for skylights. Unfortunately, the cells generate only about one sixth of the sun’s energy into electricity. This means bigger arrays are needed and along with this come larger costs.
Solar thermal power plants use the sun to heat fluid, which in turn, is transferred into steam similar to fossil fuel burning plants. The steam is transformed into mechanical energy in a turbine and electrical energy from a generator. The downfall is solar plants cannot produce energy on cloudy days.
It is expected the next few years will see millions of households using solar energy. As research continues and processes improve, using our sun as a renewable energy source will produce efficiency and cost savings. So, let the sun shine in and take full advantage of this warm energy source where you live.
“Green Building” is a broad term used to describe the design and construction of sustainable and environmentally conscious buildings.
The driving force behind this is to lower our negative impact on the environment and, at the same time, make the buildings we live and work in safer and healthier for us.
According to the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) statistics,`buildings are responsible for all of the following:
39% of US carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions
70% of US electricity consumption
15 trillion gallons of water consumption
Even though there is still some controversy over the effect of greenhouse gases on the environment, the last two statistics are very important for those of us living in urban areas experiencing continuous growth, especially the American Southwest. With our population expansion, aging water and electrical infrastructure, and shrinking landfills, designing and constructing green and sustainable buildings makes practical sense from a utilitarian perspective.
In fact, USGBC data shows that green buildings use 36% less energy, require fewer raw materials, and divert less waste to our landfills. Furthermore, the “increased” cost of green building is only one or two percent more expensive than a conventional building. This minute difference exemplifies the tangible and long-term benefits of sustainable design, primarily due to the fact that green buildings conserve water and electricity. Thus, while they are more expensive to build, green structures will save money by conserving more energy over time.
Another push towards the green build movement is by local governments. More and more municipalities
are adopting the USGBC LEED® (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) guidelines for new
and renovated buildings. In 2006, at the USGBC Greenbuild expo, the Mayor of Denver challenged other major cities to see who can have the most LEED® certified green buildings. They are accomplishing this by offering tax breaks to private corporations and mandating sustainable construction for city-financed projects.
This has led to a dramatic increase in the number of sustainable projects built by LEED® Certified general contractors. However, this growth has not come without challenges. Currently, the following issues are restricting the number of green projects being built:
Increased demand for green products has lead to long lead times
New and unspecified materials are labeled “green” products which are not necessarily certified
Building officials are struggling with a steep learning curve on how to evaluate these new products and sustainable building techniques
Despite these difficulties, the USGBC, sustainability advocates, and green building construction management firms are meeting to overcome these challenges.
The LEED® process is constantly under review and continues to adopt the latest codes and products. This includes Standard 189, a new minimum standard for green building. The USGBC is currently developing LEED® 3.0 and working with national code writers to include new products and techniques.
The American Institute of Architects (AIA) has even rolled out a new initiative called “Sustainability 2030,” which at its roots, is looking to design all buildings by the year 2030 as carbon neutral. The USGBC has even initiated the Green Advantage Builders Certification for contractors to certify their knowledge in green building
So what does green building mean at the end of the day? It’s simple yet profound: Do the right thing for you, the environment, and the next generation. While most companies are concerned with their bottom line, they ought to embrace the idea that energy and water conservation, green building, and the use of “green materials” in construction stands to increase their savings over time while positioning them as a leader in environmental stewardship.
According to the USGBC, we spend 90% of our time indoors. Due to this fact, scientists have identified an increase in allergies, asthma, absenteeism from school, and even work. There have been numerous studies done on post occupancy productivity levels, which have increased within “green” built facilities. Not only does
green adaptation result in less sick days taken, but also shows an increase in productivity, job
satisfaction, and in the case of schools, better grades.
So, as we positively affect the environment around us with sustainable green construction, we eventually create better health for ourselves.
One in five drivers is suffering from Green Guilt according to research by Prudential.
There appears to be a trend that those who live and/or work in the city are more sympathetic to the problem of pollution. Whereas, in direct contrast, those who live rurally are said to be less likely to worry. Do we take our environment for granted; the answer to this question seems to be, unfortunately, yes.
3.5 million drivers confess to owning 3 or more cars, this would send the average carbon footprint rocketing skywards. There are some benefits to be had by decreasing your carbon footprint, cheaper motor insurance is just one of them.
So what can you do to make your carbon footprint smaller; Why not consider switching your fuel to join those who already benefit from cheaper tax and insurance in the diesel owning portion of the population. Diesel engines are typically much more fuel efficient than their petrol counterparts.
Ask yourself the questions; Could I manage with a smaller engine, could I car share, can I take the bus? And you will find the answer to these questions is more than likely to be yes.
There’s also the option of converting your car to run on Liquid Petroleum gas.
This is a BI product of off-shore oil production and can be commonly sourced at most large petrol stations. It is seen as a good stop-gap between high emission petrol engines and a future environmentally friendly fuel source. On average it will cost you half the price of petrol (although returning only half the fuel economy); the advantage to the environment outweighs the negative aspects due to much lower emissions.
So when you decide to next swap your car, consider changing to a more environmentally friendly engine. Who knows, you may even save money on your tax and car insurance.
The conclusion it seems, has to be, what can you do to help the environment?
Greenhouse Gas (GHG) tracking and reporting will soon become mandatory in the United States, with the first reports due in early 2011 for the emissions data collected for the 2010 calendar year. The proposed federal law affects businesses and governments with heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems or refrigeration and air-conditioning systems, as well as those who produce industrial chemicals, fossil fuels, cars and engines, and any organization consuming electricity. It is the responsibility of companies to review and comply with the new EPA GHG regulations or face substantial fines down the road.
Greenhouse Gas tracking is outlined in The Climate Registry Protocol, which details the requirements for mandatory monitoring and tracking. The premise around greenhouse gas tracking are included in the U.S. Clean Air Act, aimed at improving air quality and lowering greenhouse gas emissions.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposes mandatory reporting of the gases contributing to global climate change from about 13,000 facilities nationwide. These facilities account for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions within the United States and present a logical starting point for emissions reductions in the US. The regulation would cover companies that either release large amounts of greenhouse gases (GHG) directly or produce or import fuels and chemicals that when burned emit large amounts of carbon (CO2) gases.
One of the major focuses of the Greenhouse Gas tracking protocol is refrigerant gases used in refrigeration and cooling systems by numerous facilities, including manufacturers, food processors, retailers, grocery stores, office buildings, municipalities and hospitals, just to name a few. Because of their chemical makeup, refrigerant gases contain significant levels of carbon in the form of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs) and perfluorocarbons (PFCs). Emission and/or venting of these chemicals were regulated under the U.S. Clean Air Act for several years.
Greenhouse gases (GHGs) as the name implies lead to an increase in heat trapping atmosphere and an ultimate increase in global average tempatures. The intent and overall goal of GHG tracking relates to better collection and management of the emissions data now so informed decisions can be made about future carbon trading schemes. The tracking protocols also help government entities to more accurately inventory the amounts of emissions reaching the atmosphere. The new GHG legislation puts in motion the data collection, organization, and first stage reporting mechanisms to allow the US to accurately calculate and maintain a GHG emissions baseline across the entire economy. This will allow for better understanding today as well as to determine progress for future Cap and Trade programs. With this accurate information, it can be determined if the guidelines are effective in lowering the harmful effects of these substances to the ozone layer.
Greenhouse Gas tracking involves measuring direct and indirect emissions and keeping extensive records on its usage, maintenance, leak containment and disposal. Heating and cooling systems, as well as other energy consumption, are defined as direct emissions.
Better and more effective GHG management is an objective of the current US government. No longer will the US sit by and watch the world attack the issue of climate change. The US is now taking action to lower carbon emissions to the betterment of future generations. By taking no action, the earth’s makeup would significantly change, with humans and animals adversely affected and marine and plant life severely damaged.
Greenhouse Gas (GHG) management and reporting is now falling under the EPA regulations contained within The U.S. Clean Air Act because the causes of global climate change is now well know. Human activities and the use of global warming substances, like refrigerant gases, are all leading to increased global warming. The substances are carbon dioxide, chlorine, bromine, nitrous oxide, chloroflurocarbons, hydrofluorocarbons, methane, methyl bromide, methyl chloroform, sulfur hexafluoride, hydroxyl, perfluorocarbobs, halons, carbon tetrachloride, fluorine, and the fluorinated gases hydrofluorinated ethers and nitrogen trifluoride. The mandatory law is aimed at reducing the use of these substances to lower the effects of global warming.
Beginning in 2010, GHG management, tracking, and reporting will be environmental law for the highest emitting facilities. Part of the management will revolve around better tracking and reporting of refrigerant gases. Entities must submit usage reports and service records for all refrigerants having high GWP. Special calculations are applied to refrigerants when any leads occur. The GHG emission reporting rules and related protocols allow for progressive companies to take advantage of software already created to help with carbon emissions reporting. Some web applications allow organizations to track GHGs to the asset level across global, distributed facilities.
Fines and cost from the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) deadline will hit sooner than expected according to leading accountants
Henry Le Fleming, carbon reporting specialist at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) warned businesses yesterday (15 August) they have only four weeks to sign up and avoid extra costs.
So far only about 1200 firms of the estimated 4000 businesses in the UK have signed up with the Environment Agency for the scheme which has a deadline of September 30.
However, Mr Le Fleming believes the September 30 deadline is misleading and firms need to register well before then to avoid fines and other costs, he said: “Registration is a more pressing issue than many businesses think.
“Companies need to allow between two and four weeks for the Environment Agency to run checks, including anti-money laundering for company’s senior officers referred to in the process.
“In reality the deadline is September 2 for most companies. Companies cannot afford to leave registration until the last minute.
“They need to start moving on the process, and fast, otherwise they face significant fines.
“Missing the deadline will cost £5000 and incur an additional charge of £500 per day, up to a maximum of £45,000. There’s also potential reputational damage from a company being listed as non-compliant.”
Analysis by PwC at the launch of the scheme found that companies could be underestimating the impact of CRC regulations, illustrating that the scheme could add more than 4% to 6% to energy costs in 2011 depending on the size of a company’s energy bills.
A long term scenario demonstrated that poor performers with an energy bill of £1m could face an additional £500,000 costs on top of their energy bill over the next five years. By 2015, this could equate to around an additional 20% on the energy bill each year.
But companies who plan ahead and perform well could turn an early loss into a gain, seeing their energy costs reduced by over 8% in 2015.
The dictionary defines an ecosystem as: A community of organisms together with their environment, viewed as a system of interacting and interdependent relationships. Not a bad definition, but it doesn’t provide much insight into how ecosystems actually work, especially sustainable ecosystems. Ecosystems work largely because relationships form around the methods nature employs to manage waste.
There’s obviously no trash collection in nature but, still, waste is not allowed to accumulate. All creatures give off waste, it is the residue of what they consume that was unusable to them. In modern human society the given off part, the waste, is considered useless. In the natural world, all waste must serve as a resource to other living things.
Sustainable ecosystems form amongst creatures that can use all of each others waste as nutrient. If there is too much, or too little, of a given waste the member groups try to adjust their populations or activities to accommodate the differences. As this adjustment continues, it can be a time of considerable instability, until the members are able to equalize input and output or, if they cannot, the attempt at establishing the ecosystem fails and everyone moves on to try again elsewhere. When just the right membership candidates have been brought together, the instability gradually subsides until equilibrium is achieved. The system is now sustainable, a status that flows from achieving equilibrium, which will continue indefinitely until something changes, perhaps an invasive species or a natural event, at which point instability returns and the struggle to adjust begins anew.
Impact of this factoid on Climate Change: The atmosphere is an ecosystem. Prior to the arrival of modern humans this ecosystem, over millions of years had achieved a state of equilibrium. Now, CO2 (a greenhouse gas) contained in that stabilized system has increased unexpectedly by 40%. As described above, the invasion of something new (in this case, an increase of something already there), destabilized the atmosphere and as in all systems subjected to the stress associated with destabilization, it reacts by increasing the extremes of its behavior.
Weather is one way the atmosphere manifests itself. The instability resulting from increased heat due to excessive CO2 has the effect of increasing the extremes of weather. Heat is to wind as gasoline is to fire. Yes, climate change is about the temperature increasing but, it is more about wind and precipitation patterns increasing their intensity. Those increases can be either positive or negative. Rainfall events will involve more severe downpours but on the flip side, droughts will become more long-lasting and involve larger areas of land mass. As temperatures increase, more water on the planet’s surface evaporates, rising into the atmosphere to later return as heavier precipitation, very often somewhere unaccustomed to that much rainfall. Hurricanes and tornadoes can increase to extreme levels but unusual decreases in the number of these events is also extreme behavior.
Firms in the West Midlands are increasingly looking at green industry to grow their businesses, a survey has revealed.
Some 70% of professional services firms see the low carbon and environmental technologies sector as a key growth area, according to the survey commissioned by business support hub West Midlands (WM) Knowledge.
Jo Miners, of WM Knowledge, said of the findings: “As a region with a strong focus on low carbon industries, the West Midlands has a leading reputation in advanced manufacturing, electric vehicle engineering, low carbon building and environmental technologies.
“But what we are starting to see is the knock-on growth in business advisory services that can provide the necessary support to these green economy companies.”
Almost half (41%) of the more than 200 professional services firms surveyed reported they are already offering or developing specialised services in the green industry.
Birmingham based law firm Martineau is cited as an example. It launched its specialist energy practice in 1994 and says it has since seen it become one of its principal practice areas.
Catherine Burke, partner in the energy practice, said: “Our energy practice has seen tremendous growth in the past few years.
“Now we not only advise big players in the energy market but a vast range of clients looking to take advantage of the opportunities that the low carbon and renewables agendas have presented.
“Their involvement ranges from energy efficiency advice to large scale wind farm and biomass development.”
The survey was carried out to analyse the region’s strengths in the professional services community and identify new growth markets.
The study also surveyed more than 100 national privately held businesses, mainly in the manufacturing and engineering, construction and property and IT services sectors.
It found two thirds (67%) reported a growing or strong demand for low carbon industry focused services.
Lawers are doing it, IT companies are doing it, why aren’t you doing it?
How much extra business could you handle, assuming you want more business?
The time for reading about Green issues is long gone, it’s now time for action!
Calculating your organization’s carbon baseline is one important first step in your goals for sustainability. With many organizations having had the burden of financial pressures due to recession, the goal of achieving optimum return of investment is high, notwithstanding the environmental costs.
You must now look beyond this static calculation of where your organization was and move to determining the priorities that are specific to your organization moving forward. The question is on how to get started in becoming cost effective. How can these efforts start small and be part of an integrated approach to an environmental management or sustainability program. Every organization must become sustainable, so that it uses fewer precious resources, be it human, capital, or natural, manages it’s water consumption and waste production effectively and is as energy efficient as possible.
These are not just examples of environmental stewardship; these actions represent associated savings that go right to an organization’s bottom line. While legislators show increasing desire to introduce carbon regulations, few today truly force organizations to report, trade, or buy the right to emit. Forward thinking organizations can create a better, strategic position for themselves by taking early action; by preparing for the not to distant future. Every single organizations needs to find its investments positively returning revenues in every aspect, notwithstanding the environmental considerations of its operations. Having projects produce cost savings or improved operations, as well as improve an organization’s sustainability initiatives, is win-win.
Those who take early action and understand the need to embrace sustainability holistically will be able to leverage their efforts in step-by-step fashion. Through the establishment of an automated carbon and energy management system, an organization will be able to locate areas of risk and identify opportunities, enabling management to be proactive rather than reactive.
In an increasingly competitive environment, an organization should strive for collaboration & visibility with real-time decision making, learn how it compares to its peers, and how it could reposition itself for better operational results.
Power comes from information, actionable data and accurate data management. When in possession of on-demand, accurate and timely information, the organization’s management will be able to plan for operational and strategic efficiency.
The typical carbon calculator would enable organizations to be record carbon emissions manually from common sources, to establish point in time carbon baseline. This represents a good start.
This would need to establish a on-one-one comparison of figures running across industries. All of this is to prepare strategic scenarios and plan successfully for the future of a low carbon economy.
The next step involves the more timely calculation and input of emissions related to ALL electricity, natural gas, refrigerant use, and vehicle operation across your entire organization. A variety of reporting points may be used.
Carbon emissions calculations may subsequently be utilized from historical data comparison going back many years if the utility bill data is available. This is the basis for the establishment, more accurate observation, and tracking of site level footprints. Automatic data capture is the next and one of the most important steps, allowing your organization to calculate and call upon dynamic reports, based on potentially large amounts of disparate information. Timely and accurate delivery of such sets of information will be the key to realizing savings from resources across largely distributed enterprises.
Real and effective environmental management is only achievable if the organization’s leadership team has access to correct, timely and comprehensive information. There is definitely a need to step up beyond carbon baseline.
It is not as easy to measure a a carbon footprint, whether it be a persons or even a product’s footprint as some may think.
As an example, let’s take a pack of bacon:
There are several stages in the life-cycle of a food product: raw materials are produced and transported, the food is processed and packaged and then it is distributed to retailers where it is stored. But it doesn’t end there: once bought it must be transported home, stored again and consumed, all of which use energy. Lastly there is disposal – the packaging is collected and usually taken to landfill; a small amount is recycled or reused.
In each of these stages there are hundreds of complex processes, all of which will emit greenhouse gases, which can vary by each individual product. Taking the pack of bacon: At the start of the cycle we have a young pig. Its food is produced and transported to the farm where it lives. Immediately we must ask: How is it transported? By lorry, plane, rail? How is its food supply manufactured? How many tractors plough the corn field where its food is grown, and what are the emissions of each tractor? This can go on, and we are only on the first phase of the cycle. The pig farm machinery must also be taken into consideration – and each farm will be different. What of the emissions from each pig’s bodily functions?
This question may seem insignificant when compared to the many other factors, but it leads to another very important point: The carbon footprint of a product is a measure of its impact on the environment i.e. how much is it going to increase the greenhouse effect? The use of the word ‘carbon’ can be confusing here; there are other gases which when released into the atmosphere have a far greater global warming potential, relative to carbon dioxide.
And so this brings us to methane. Obviously pig’s break wind, It is emitted at other stages of the cycle too, such as landfill where waste decomposes and releases methane.
In carbon footprints, these other gases are accounted for and included. The trouble is that many of the carbon footprints quoted today can be somewhat misleading, because they are based on the global warming potential relative to CO2 over a 100 year period. If we had 100 years to address climate change, this would make sense. But it appears we have years, not decades, so it would be more meaningful to consider the effect over the next 20 years. One can see that methane is 3 times more potent over 20 years than it is over 100 years. The footprints of products would almost certainly be different if calculated on a 20 year basis.
Riverford, the largest supplier of organic food boxes in England, came across a good example of the complexity in measuring the carbon footprints of food and drink. Riverford carried out a study comparing the carbon footprint of its tomatoes grown locally to those grown in Spain. It would be reasonable to expect that the tomatoes grown abroad would have a higher footprint – they have further to travel and they must be conserved (refrigerated) on route. However the study showed that while they do indeed emit more CO2 in the transport stage, overall they are less carbon-intensive i.e. fewer greenhouse gases are released in the life-cycle of each Spanish tomato sold in the UK, than in a UK tomato sold in the UK! This is because in Spain, the tomatoes can be grown in the natural climate, but in the UK greenhouses are needed, heating is needed and the growing of the tomatoes requires energy – taken from the national grid. When this is weighed against the emissions from transport, the UK tomatoes have a higher carbon-intensity.
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