I read somewhere that in explaining motives for action, it’s useful to have a villian. Well! How about a supervillain?
Friday was the third of five times the Kilowatt Kid (and some surprise evildoer) is scheduled to visit Strife’s class. The pilot program, which is being tried in eight classrooms across the Boulder Valley School District, is being supported by part of the $25 million in stimulus funds that Boulder County received earlier this year to expand local energy-efficiency efforts.
President Barack Obama has recently announced a federal loan guarantee to Abound Solar, a Loveland-based company that has a manufacturing facility in Longmont.
The company, which employs 360 people in Colorado and manufactures thin film solar panels, will nearly double its employee base in the state, Abound Solar spokesman Mark Chen said.
He said it’s not yet clear exactly how the new jobs will break down between Abound Solar’s Longmont production facility, its headquarters in Loveland and its research lab in Fort Collins.
But he said Longmont would most likely be the biggest beneficiary since the bulk of production is done in the city. The company will be able to add two production lines to the one it already has in Longmont as a result of the loan guarantee, Chen said.
The White House said the project marks the first time this new manufacturing technology for Cadmium-Telluride panels will be deployed commercially anywhere in the world.
It will produce photovoltaic panels using an innovative process in which thin films of Cadmium-Telluride are deposited onto the glass panels, according to the White House. The technology reduces overall product costs.
Abound Solar is a member of PV Cycle, an organization dedicated to creating “truly sustainable energy solutions that take into consideration the environmental impacts of all stages of the product life cycle, from raw material sourcing through end-of-life collection and recycling.”
Learn more about the Abound Solar expansion in Longmont and the federal loan guarantee at the Camera.
Boulder is getting tough on rentals.
In its bid to actually meet the carbon-cutting goals laid out by the Kyoto Protocol (to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2012) the city has realized that it has to find some way to make landlords step up to the energy-efficiency plate.
The problem is the “split incentive.” Why pay to upgrade a rental unit when you’re not footing the monthly energy bill?
And in a university town like Boulder, where rentals make up more than 50 percent of the housing stock, getting landlords on board is key.
This week, the city unveiled a proposed set of point-based rules for a program it calls “SmartRegs.”
Under the program, landlords would be required to make improvements that could include installing energy-efficient appliances, sealing ducts or better insulating.
The city’s overall goal is to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions coming from homes by 94,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide by 2012. The SmartRegs program, it’s estimated, could make up about 45,000 tons of that goal.
If approved, rental properties would be required to achieve 100 “points” — including two points of mandatory water conservation — based on a lengthy list of possible improvements.
Last Saturday, the Wall Street Journal published a story about Boulder on its front page: “Boulder Struggles with Green Dream: Even Boulder Finds It Isn’t Easy Going Green.”
This spring, city contractors will fan out across this well-to-do college town to unscrew light bulbs in thousands of homes and replace them with more energy-efficient models, at taxpayer expense.
City officials never dreamed they’d have to play nanny when they set out in 2006 to make Boulder a role model in the fight against global warming. The cause seemed like a natural fit in a place where residents tend to be politically liberal and passionate about the great outdoors.
Instead, as Congress considers how to encourage Americans to conserve more energy, Boulder stands as a cautionary tale about the limits of good intentions.
The article, in general, focused on the fact that since individuals wouldn’t motivate to make energy-efficient upgrades to their own, the city of Boulder (like a cross, eye-rolling nanny) planned to do it for them. By Monday, Boulder’s supposed fall from green grace had made its way around the Internet echo chamber, showing up on a handful of high-profile blogs. Take, for example, this joke that introduced a post on the Time magazine Web site:
How many residents of Boulder, Colorado, does it take to screw in a light bulb? 100,000: Taxpayers foot the bill for teams of techies to go door-to-door and caulk windows, swap old light bulbs for compact fluorescent ones, and install programmable thermostats, all in the name of energy efficiency. Should saving energy—and money—be this difficult to achieve?
Even in an exceptionally progressive, environmentally sensitive town like Boulder, it seems nearly impossible to get residents to lift a finger, spend a buck, or change their habits to save the planet.
So is this true? And if not, what’s the real story? Is Boulder green or isn’t it? Read more
Last year, Jeff and Rachel Hohensee’s winter energy bill was $500.
This year, they don’t even have an energy bill. Jeff, a consultant on sustainable-living topics at Natural Capitalism Solutions, was feeling guilty about his energy-wasting home, so he and his wife set out on a two-year project that transformed it into a net-zero home–meaning it generates more energy than it uses.
They started with easy fixes like switching to CFL bulbs and low-flow showerheads, and getting an energy audit to see where air was leaking from their home. They used caulk and insulation foam to fill the leaky areas.
Eventually, they hired insulators to add materials to the home’s walls. Jeff says they took the process to a higher level by hiring someone from Standard Renewable Energy to follow the insulators with an infrared gun. The infrared photos would show areas where the initial insulation was too sparse, and more was added. Read more
Realizing that that it would be nearly impossible for Boulder to meet its greenhouse gas reduction goals without forcing landlords to make energy-efficiency upgrades to rental properties, the city is considering the best way to create such a mandate.
And Boulder is looking to other cities and towns for useful examples. Some are the usual suspects (Berkeley and Burlington), but others are not so often on the same wavelength as Boulder, including Houston and Palm Desert.
The ultimate goal is to force the upgrades — but to simultaneously create a program that would make it easy and cheap for landlords to comply.
Boulder is seeking a unique way of mending the debate between landlords and tenants on energy-efficiency — a single program for homeowners to meet proposed new standards.
The new energy-efficiency recommendations for rental housing have caused an uproar in Boulder, but there’s a second, private-sector arm to the city’s greenhouse gas reduction effort in residential spaces that has received less attention, and will ultimately help property owners meet whatever new standards come to pass. Read more
Open space and energy efficiency in homes.
If it weren’t for the fact that most folks are in a financial vise right now, you might expect that issues like those would be shoo-ins for funding in Boulder County. And you’d be right — the track record is pretty strong. According to Erica Meltzer of the Camera, the Boulder County Ballot Issue 1A result is a bit of a change in course:
For the first time in 20 years, Boulder County voters have rejected a ballot issue to fund open space.
With 89 percent of the projected vote counted, Boulder County Ballot Issue 1A had received just 47 percent of the vote.
The measure would have extended by 15 years a 0.25-percent sales tax set to expire in 2019 that supports open space management and acquisition. County officials said they needed approval this year for an extension to fund long-term debt that would have allowed them to purchase open space now, while prices are lower and there is less competition.
Students at the University of Colorado — enraged by their ridiculous utility bills — are telling landlords that it’s time to suck it up and green up.
A University of Colorado student group is calling for Boulder landlords to work with student renters to increase the energy efficiency of rental properties so, as one group member said, students don’t get “cheated out of their money” when it comes time to pay their monthly energy bill.
“Oh my gosh, that totally happened to me,” said CU junior Nora Keane, who rents a two-bedroom house in the University Hill neighborhood. The 20-year-old had never lived on her own when she went looking for an apartment during the spring semester of her freshman year.
After looking at several run-down places, she came across what she thought was a perfect deal: a neat house near the corner of 19th Street and Aurora Avenue. She said she spent five minutes inside before agreeing to take it. She didn’t notice that there was no dishwasher. She overlooked the mold in the bathroom. And she didn’t ask how much she could expect to pay for utilities.”When my mom asked if I did, I got mad,” Keane said. “I was like, ‘No, it’s perfect.’”
Now, Keane said, she wishes she had. On top of $700 in rent, she and her roommate shell out about $60 a month for energy, an expense Keane said is made worse by the house’s drafty doors.
Read the fully story at DailyCamera.com.