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California Solar Incentives, Rebates, and Credits

In 2007 the state of California enacted the California Solar Initiative (CSI; to create 3,000 megawatts of new solar power in the state by the end of 2017. Four years into the program information on the web is still pretty confusing. The General Market Program is the program that most people will apply for unless you are a low-income homeowner or solarizing a multifamily home. Here is what to know:... read more

How to Choose a Solar Installer

So you've decided to take the plunge and install solar panels on your home or business – congratulations!! The next step is choosing a professional installer to do the work.... read more

  1. Go with a professional electrician: It's not necessary to hire a contractor who is a licensed electrician, but often you will be required to hire someone who is licensed to do the final hook up. Save yourself the extra step by doing the whole project with the same person.
  2. Look for someone who has a North American Board of Certified Electrical Professionals (NABCEP) solar installation certificate. This means they have standardized special training in solar PV installation.
  3. Inquire as to how the professional was trained in solar installation. Many electricians are self-taught in solar because the field is so new. Others may have received formal training from the company that manufactures the solar panels they use. A handful will have formal education from a technical college or university.

Jack Johnson's Green Recording Studio

Jack Johnson secured a spot in our Five "Green" Bands and Musicians list earlier this fall.   Now, let's take a look at his green recording studio.

  • The studio is solar-powered.
  • The insulation is made out of recycled denim instead of fiberglass
  • The appliances are energy-efficient and the light bulbs are CFL
  • The furniture is secondhand
  • The toilets are dual flushing, meaning you can select either #1 or #2 for...well, going #1 or #2.  (The latter uses more water for the flush)
  • The wood throughout the studio was reused
  • The roof has recycled shingles and a duro-last green roof

 ... read more

Global Green's Sustainable Design Awards

Global Green USA held its 11th annual Sustainable Design Awards on Monday, December 6th, 2010.  Global Green USA is an national environmental organization working to stop climate change.  Their Sustainable Design Awards exist to recognize the effective leadership of people and companies who help find solutions for climate change.  

This year the winners were:... read more

Hybrid Myths and Facts

"As far as I can tell, the 'hybrids ain't so great' rumors are patently untrue," says Umbra at Grist.  With Cher making headlines by proclaiming that hybrids are BS, I wanted to share some information that I found before buying my hybrid, as well as some newer research and information.  It's time to debunk the hybrid myths.

Myth #1:  Hybrids are overall worse for the environment than Hummers.

This bit of "bad science" was circulating around and some anti-environmentalists are still clinging to it.  In 2007, the Pacific Institute issued a paper debunking this myth.  Read the PDF here.

Myth #2:  The manufacturing process for hybrids is so environmentally unfriendly that it cancels out the gas you're saving.

Research from the Argonne National Laboratory and the Rocky Mountain Institute has proven that the fuel savings you get in a hybrid MORE than make up for the eco-unfriendliness of the manufacturing process.  

Myth #3:  You have to be wealthy to buy a hybrid.  

A brand new Toyota Prius starts at $22,800, just about $3,000 more than a non-hybrid Camry.   The Honda Civic hybrid is similarly priced.  These aren't expensive cars.   The wealthy can get a BMW ActiveHybrid for over $100,000.  (Yikes!)... read more

Sunny Trash

Moving from Burlington, Vermont to Boston, Massachusetts meant a lot of change for me, the most immediately noticeable being more crowds, more tall buildings, and more startled close calls when trying to cross the busy streets. One small thing, though, was an abundance of these wherever I went:

Big Belly trash compactor They're Big Belly solar trash compactors, although being a simple country boy I didn't know this right away. Basically, they're public trash bins that compact the trash that the receive. They have a hatch on the front, a solar panel on top, and a few blinking lights to indicate readiness to receive trash.

The compactor collects all of its own energy for compaction, and it does so either rarely or silently; I've never heard one make any noise. The device was interesting, but at first I didn't understand what good it did-- after all, compacting the trash doesn't make any of it disappear.... read more

Hand Dryers vs. Paper Towels

At the library today, I noticed a sign next to the XLerator brand hand dryer.  It said something to the effect of:  "We know that the hand dryer is loud, but we believe it is the most hygienic and eco-friendly way to dry your hands."  This lead me to immediately do some research.  I've seen signs next to public restroom hand dryers before claiming that it is the greener and cleaner way to go, but now it got me wondering if it's true.  Sure it saves paper, but it uses energy.  So, what's the scoop on this?... read more

California, Massachusetts, Oregon, & New York Lead in U.S. Energy Efficiency

ACEEE revealed its yearly State Energy Efficiency Report Card.  It ranks all states as well as Washington DC.  

The top 10 are as follows:... read more

  1. California
  2. Massachusetts
  3. Oregon
  4. New York
  5. Vermont
  6. Washington
  7. Rhode Island
  8. Connecticut
  9. Minnesota
  10. Maine

Sustainable intelligent solutions at IBM

Smarter Buildings: Courtesy of IBMSmarter Buildings: Courtesy of IBM

Many leaders from various industries and geographies indicate that the emerging sustainable economy will be the biggest economic game changer in the next two decades. At West Coast Green conference in San Francisco last week, IBM Corporation announced new Smart Energy-Management and Sustainability Solutions for the enterprise.

The new technological offerings address energy efficiency and sustainable buildings in commercial settings and are part of IBM’s expanding collection of solutions that are designed for creating smarter urban infrastructures.... read more

College students get around thanks to... french fries?

If you really take a second to think about how many college communities there are across the country, chances are, your estimate will probably be lower than actuality. FYI- there are just under 5,000 higher education institutions around the US. Now, consider all of the students on each campus, whether they are commuting or living at school. A "small" school may hold somewhere around 4,000 students, and larger schools can hold students more than 15 times that amount. Think about all of the energy that is wasted through transportation at these schools, whether large or small. A majority of college students have cars, in addition, many colleges provide shuttle-like transportation to get around with less hassle.... read more

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