San Francisco To Ride the Wave of Wave Energy

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom announced the city has applied for a federak permit to develop wave power off the City by the Bay’s coastline.

When fully operational, it’s anticipated this alternative energy project would generate anywhere from 10 to 30 megawatts of energy, with a potential to go up to 100 megawatts.

San Francisco will join the ranks of successful wave-power projects like that off the northern coast of Spain.( see post ” Wave Energy – The Future is Here” Oct. 25 & 27, 2008)

Even inland waterways are vying to take advantage of this effective power generation system (see post “Renewable Energy on the Mississippi”, Dec. 17, 2008). 

Newsom says when complete, this project would employ “upwards of 100 jobs” in the San Francisco area.

For additional details and background, see

L.A. to Implement Biggest Green Light Retrofit to Date

Following up on a recent news release, the city of Los Angeles plans to replace 140,000 streetlights with energy-efficient LED’s over the next 5 years.

With help from the Clinton Climate Initiativethis upgraded system is expected to save the city $48 million in energy and maintenance costs. It will also cut carbon emissions 197,000 tons over a seven year period.

Thr project was announced last week by former President Bill Cllinton in L.A.

Though the actual final cost wasn’t disclosed, the savings accrued from this project will go to pay for a loan that will fund it.

The city anticipates saving $10 million annually in costs (once the loan is repaid).  This includes 40 percent reduction in electric consumption for lighting, reducing carbon emissions around 40,500 per year.

The city will install monitoring units in each new streelight to ensure fast response for any system failures.

All this translates to substantial savings to the city and cleaner air for it’s residents. It’s another encouraging sign of environmental progress in a geographic area overfull with air quality concerns.

Dreams of Space Can Come True


This replica of the Space Shuttle stands proudly at the Marshall Space Flight Center

This replica of the Space Shuttle stands proudly at the Marshall Space Flight Center

I promised you some tales of my time at Space Camp. Here’s the first installment of that amazing experience.

Marshall Space Flight Center – the site where Space Camp took place on February 6th and 7th, 2009– is located on the Redstone Arsenal, an Army installation in Huntsville, Alabama.

One of three main sites where NASA manages the U.S. space program, it’s complete with it’s own Mission Control (more on that in a future post) and training center filled with a variety of simulators, astronauts have trained here to prepare for missions into the unknown.

Marshall’s just one tenant housed on the Army base. Others include the Army Material Command, contractor companies and Aviation Challenge, a sister camp to Space Camp for kids and parents who want to experience what flight and survival training for Army pilots is like.

Arriving late the evening before the start of Space Camp, I was treated to a drive by the campus. Amazingly, I saw actual space-related missiles and rockets from NASA’s space program of the 70’s, along with a fantastic replica of the Space Shuttle!

Standing out sharply against the dark night sky, these majestic visions brought back childhood memories – being surrounded by family, excitedly glued to the television set with collectively held breaths watching heroic men like John Glen or Alan Shepherd blast off into the fiery unknown.

How could I have imagined then that years later I’d participate in a program that would give me a real flavor of what that might actually be like. With my own personal blue flight suit and a group of around 18 media-related folks, I was embarking on one of the most exhilarating journey – a breathtaking childhood dream come true.

There are many stories yet to tell. Be sure to come back for more!

Grassroots Community Solar Scores Discounts for Homeowners

Following the same principle that buying in bulk is cheaper, a community-based solar power buying group is helping homeowners purchase solar installations for discounted rates.

1 Block Off the Grid (a for-profit organization) brings groups together to meet with installers and garner group rates that make installing solar more affordable.

General Manger David Llorens co-founded 1BOG in 2008 in San Francisco with 2 partners.  Since then, 45 homeowners have installed photovoltaic systems, saving participants an 18 percent average on installation costs and accounting for 20 percent of all solar installations in the 4th quarter of 2008 in San Francisco.

Llorens is now expanding 1 Block off the Grid into Southern California. With plans to hold their first homeowner meeting within the next few weeks, the group is busy selecting an installer and assembling participants.

A little creativity, a vision and some legwork may bring the cost of going green within the grasp of a larger percentage of homeowners, all of which makes a big difference for the environment.

Green Plug Moves Towards Universal Standardization

Industy giants like Ricoh, Innergie, Westinghouse Digital Electric and Pacific Gas and Electric, along with the Natural Resources Defense Council and a representative of the Chinese government have all endorsed Green Plug.

Embracing 2-way digital communication to create a universal power source , Green Plug’s “Power Hub” is the first charger to simultaneously power multiple devices with differing voltage and power requirements. 

A momentum is building towards the creation of an open green standard for universal power.

This week, GSM Association, at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain, announced an agreement to standardize chargers by the year 2012 for most mobile phones. These would be interchangable between manufacturers and would work with all future handsets.

“It seems intuitively obvious that all these unique external power supplies serve no one’s interest,” said Jeff Omelchuck, Green Electronics Council, Portland, Oregon.

“This is more convenient for the consumer, makes smarter power supplies cost effective, prevents the manufacture of more inefficient and dumb external power supplies, and keeps them out of our waste streams and landfills,” he said.

“The current power supply model could not fulfill future usage… It is time for development [of] a new power supply model for flexible application and environmental benefits,” said Mr. He, Guili, Director of ChinaTTL, China Academy of Telecommunication Research of the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.

Green Plug’s embeddable technology will enable consumer electronics, power tools, residential and commercial builders and power supply manufacturers to provide universal and safe connections, environmentally-friendly “reuse”, and make more affordable products.

It’s a win-win for consumers and manufacturers, and a real commonsense solution.

Just how Eco-friendly is your Laundry Detergent?

A lawsuit is being filed  to force cleaning conglomerates Tide, Colgate-Palmolive and others to reveal the exact chemical ingredients of their laundry detergents to consumers.

Environmentalists and health activists are filing a lawsuit in New York today, using a little-known New York statute meant to combat phosphates in detergent as the basis for the suit.

Filed on behalf of six state and national environmental and health groups, including the the Sierra Club and the American Lung Association.

The Soap and Detergent Association has accused the groups of using the “arcane regulation” to “disparage” cleaning companies “whose products are used by milions of people safely and effectively every day.”

The cleaning product industry says it plans to make more information available to the public next year. The Association represents 110 cleaning product manufacturers that produce over 90 percent of U.S. cleaning products.

According to the L.A. Times, the Consumer Product Safety Commission is the agency that oversees home cleaning products. Since they don’t require cleaning manufacturers to provide complete ingredient lists, most don’t.

With consumer awareness of environmental issues growing, consumers are beginning to demand full disclosure. And that trend will only continue to grow.

Seems it would be prudent for manufacturers to get onboard a bit more quickly. Those that do could see increased sales as a direct reward for their efforts.

Energy Hog Desktops? Not any More

Desktop computers, every company’s

Thin Client delivers energy savings and increased document secutiry

Thin Client delivers energy savings and increased document secutiry

mainstay, use large amounts of electricity – from 300 to 600 watts each. Multiply that by the number of employees a company has and you get high utility bills.

Maintaining multiple workstations requires dedicated IT staff to troubleshoot, handle maintenance issues and install upgrades. All this translates to high operational costs. With businesses furiously looking to trim expenses, there’s a simple solution that enables small to medium sized companies to reduce these costs.

The ENTC-1000 Encore Thin Client by Encore Electronics – a manufacturer known for their wireless and ethernet networking solutions for small business and home office use -is a “display only” desktop device that connects directly to a server, allowing multiple employees to work without the need for multiple workstations.

About the size of a pocket book, this slim six-ounce device utilizes only 10 watts of electricity, easily replacing standard workstations while cutting costs and carbon emissions.

Introduced at 2008’s Consumer Electronics Show, the Thin Client has advantages for small businesses and home offices. Up to 50 computers can be replaced with Thin Clients and networked into a single server. Satellite offices can easily access corporate servers via the Thin Client, much as colleges allow students access to work on school servers.

There are many ways companies can realize cost savings with this small device. With no hard disk, no CD burner and a less powerful CPU, Thin Client uses significantly less power than regular computers.

“It’s a simple device,” says Daniel Huang, Research and Development Manager at Encore Electronics. “All the data crunching is sent to the server.”

With 16MB of Flash ROM and 64MB of memory, this is a “plug and go”. Since you can’t install software on it, only the server needs upgrading, eliminating hours for maintenance and troubleshooting by IT.

For companies concerned about employees stealing sensitive information, Thin Client doesn’t recognize anything but the keyboard and mouse – not even flash drives. Data is securely stored on the server and is inaccessible to employees.

Thin Client costs less than a standard desktop or laptop. Retailing between $100 and $140, a small business with ten workstations can save thousands of dollars in initial set up and installation costs alone.

As to compatibility, Thin Client can support Windows 2000 and 2003. Support for Windows 2008 is due shortly, said Huang. It also works well with both Unix and Linux systems.

What about maintenance? There’s hardly any. With its low cost and little power usage, if a Thin Client breaks down (a rare occurrence), simply toss it and get another one.
“Our cost is low enough that when you replace (a Thin Client),” says Kai Huang, Encore Electronics’ Marketing Manager, “you’ve essentially fixed it.”
Thin Client has a variety of applications:

  • internet cafes
  • retail
  • libraries
  • factories and warehouses
  • hotels
  • schools
  • financial institutions

Each person works on their own Thin Client, all networked into a central server. Easy, cost effective, minimal energy used.

“Computing does not have to be complicated,” said Daniel Huang. “This is our way of showing that computing can be simple,” he said.

Thin Client is available through retailers listed on

Data Centers – Go Green or Go Dark? (part 2)

Fascinatingly, the reasons for increased awareness by IT executives of the need to green data centers stems from environmental news reports, consumer demand for green products and rising costs of inefficient data centers.If awareness is growing, action is definitely lagging. The report reveals a lack of industry leadership and uncertainty as to reliable industry advisors for green practices. Respondents said they relied on environmental organizations, the internet and magazine articles for best practices and information.

Startling statistics show only 18 percent of eCommerce companies currently do energy audits.

43% of those surveyed don’t have or don’t’ know if they have a corporate sustainability agenda. 39 percent said their companies don’t have anyone in charge of sustainability.

A larger percentage of respondents said only 0-5% of total funds were allocated towards sustainability.

“There’s no one “silver bullet” that’s going to solve this,” says Jason Coari, Senior Marketing Manager of Rackable Systems, “no one organization gong to move the industry to where it needs to be, from an environmental sustainability standpoint.”

Social awareness is a big incentive for companies to “green” their operations, along with political correctness and consumer demand.

“Consumers need to think about what’s behind a transaction they’re conducting over the internet,” said Derek Kober, Program Director for the BPM Forum.

It’s a whole eco-system, says Coari. “As more companies (become carbon neutral,” he said, “companies will promote themselves in a way consumers will resonate with.”

In these tough economic times, focusing on sustainability is challenging for businesses and consumers. Yet “keeping sustainable (with) little access to money and energy is now an imperative, not just a nice thing to do,” says Karen Larkowski, General Manager, Analyst and President, Market Research of the Standish Group International.

Doing the right thing rarely is simple or easy. But it’s growing more urgent that data centers adopt greener practices. Consequences of not doing so could spell disaster on an unprecedented level.


Data Centers – Go Green or Go Dark? (part 1)

What would happen if you went online to buy or search something  and nothing happened?

The EPA predicted that grim possibility in 2007 in their “Report to Congress on Server and Data Center Energy Efficiency’, saying within 5 years, power failures and limited availability would stop operations at more than 90 percent of U.S. data centers.   

As early as 2006, Gartner Consulting warned that nearly 50 percent of data centers worldwide would have trouble finding electricity to power and cool their computing equipment.

Fact is, the amount of electricity used by data centers in the U.S. is expected to nearly double by 2011, growing from 180-billion kilowatt hours of electricity used in 2007 on power and cooling, costing more than $29 billion.

On February 9th, The BPM Forum released their “Think Eco-Logical – IT Sustainability Imperatives in Internet and eCommerce Business” in conjunction with Rackable Systems and Intel, outlining results from a comprehensive survey of over 275 IT professionals conducted in December 2008 –January 2009.
Participants included search providers, online retailers, SaaS companies, other Internet service providers. The report lays bear shocking insights and statistics concerning one of the most consumer relied-upon of industries – data centers – encompassing corporate giants like Google, Amazon, Microsoft and others. It’s a study in contrasts – overall agreement by IT professionals of the need to “green” IT practices, alongside the larger picture that little’s being done to get there.

81 percent of respondents gave eCommerce and IT a failing grade (from C to F) on embracing environmental business practices known as “Think EcoLogical” – an initiative to educate companies on corporate responsibility for increased sustainability combined with the need to manage expenses and increase performance.

With increasing demand for internet services via online shopping, video downloads, social networks and massive search queries, there’s an equally straining demand for energy.
Data centers use about 2% of the power used in the United States,” said Derek Kober, Program Director for the BPM Forum. “The same amount of power as all the U.S. combined.”
According to a Tech News article, “Power consumption is a big ticket item the IT department is most able to address.: The challenge? IT must” maintain or even increase the level of service provided to organizations while reducing its carbon footprint.”
The report indicates IT executives are becoming more aware of the need to shift green. Benefits they see include reducing energy costs, positive PR, better use of facilities and attracting more eco-minded customers.

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