San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant In California To Be Shut Down

One of the most distinct features of the California coastline, the San Onofre Nuclear Generating Station, will be shut down permanently. The owner of the nuclear power plant, Edison International, announced on June 7 that regulatory costs and safety concerns would make it unprofitable and dangerous to continue producing electricity from the plant's two nuclear reactors, which were suspended in January 2012. The decision to shut down the 2,150 megawatt (MW) power station will be seen as a victory by environmentalists and nuclear activists.

San Onofre became the target of much criticism and heightened scrutiny after the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi reactor meltdown in Japan. It was later discovered that the plant had major design flaws that exposed the California coastline to radioactive water and meltdown hazards.

Nuclear power is a divisive issue. Some say it produces clean energy, but in fact spent radioactive fuel can pose a serious public health and environmental hazard for thousands of years, making the cost of mitigation efforts almost incalculable.

"I am greatly relieved that the San Onofre nuclear plant will be closed permanently," said U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) in a statement. "This nuclear plant had a defective redesign and could no longer operate as intended."

This creates an excellent opportunity for the state to migrate to renewable sources to pick up some of the slack left by the decommissioning of plant. Renewable energy, which currently makes up about 12 percent of California's electricity sources, provides the same power with none of the environmental costs of fossil fuels and nuclear.

LifeIsGreen.com will continue to provide updates on energy consumption news in the United States.

Report: U.S. Could Save $1 Trillion Over 15 Years Through Energy Efficiency

This blog has addressed the issue of energy efficiency in the past, either through presenting do-it-yourself guides or exploring various reports released on the subject. Now, according to a brand-new study from the U.S. American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE), a nonprofit advocacy group, the amount of money that could be saved through sensible power practices is far higher than previously estimated.

ACEEE's analysis showed that, were American households, businesses and government associations to undertake a comprehensive energy efficiency overhaul, total power consumption could fall between 17 and 20 percent by 2020, and up to 31 percent by the end of 2030. All considered, this would amount to approximately $1.4 trillion in savings.

The organization outlined a number of useful proposals, including mandating a national "smart grid" project which, as we have described previously, could help make maintenance and expansion cheaper and easier for engineers. Likewise, diversifying energy sources to include more wind, solar and geothermal heat would reap additional benefits as well.

The Climate Group, another eco-friendly nonprofit, voiced its support of the report through a press release, saying that the findings were a good start to begin a national conversation about energy efficiency. This idea was previously hinted at during President Barack Obama's most recent State of the Union address, when he called for an across-the-board reduction in electricity use to help save the country money.

"Improving energy efficiency in homes, businesses and industries is one of the biggest opportunities to reduce U.S. emissions in the near term. And as this report shows, it can be done with cost-effective government policies that encourage economic growth," Evan Juska, the organization's chief for U.S.-based policy, said in a statement.

While it may be some time before these kinds of energy consumption reductions take place, it is encouraging to see researchers developing the actual numerical benefits of this kind of green living policy.  

Google Creates Remote-Controlled Irrigation Networks

An irrigation network is like the circulatory system for a farm – it provides the necessary nutrients that allow plants to grow and prosper. Running this kind of set-up requires a lot of time and energy, but a team of engineers at Google has reportedly been working on a way to dramatically increase the efficiencies in such a system. 

Known as Irrduino, this innovative system can be operated from a simple mobile app. J.J. Barrons and Joe Fernandez, two current employees at the tech giant, began working on the initiative as a way for homeowners to automate their residential gardens more effectively. However, the idea is quickly expanding into one that could change the way that farmers operate their vast crop fields. 

"I call this project Irrduino," Fernandez wrote in a recent blog post, "Because at the core of it is an Arduino microcontroller that lets me remotely control the irrigation zones at my house. Irrduino communicates via Ethernet and standard html requests and responses (specifically a REST interface with JSON responses, for you web geeks out there) which means I can control my sprinklers from anywhere on the planet with a web browser and an internet connection, or any smartphone with the same."

Interestingly, the pair has decided to release the source code for Irrduino, so they aren't trying to commercialize or market the project. Rather, they're most likely hoping that everyday folks adopt this software as a way to improve their green living standards through the use of technology. If you're interested, you can find the necessary information here

This development is yet another great idea to come out of the American technology giant. For more exciting innovations that aim to promote sustainable lifestyles, stay with the LifeIsGreen.com blog. 

What Are The Benefits Of A Home Energy Audit?

When it comes to improving the energy efficiency of your home, it takes a keen eye to figure out precisely what needs to be changed to make your domicile more cost-effective in terms of utility use. We have covered this topic previously on our blog, reviewing the different ways that you can boost overall efficiency by making minor changes. However, to really do it right, most industry experts suggest getting a professional energy audit. 

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) suggests that this type of investigation can yield improved efficiency rates of up to 30 percent, meaning that after you make the recommended changes, you ought to see a noticeable change in your monthly utility bill. 

However, the federal agency cautioned consumers about signing up with just any energy auditor. Rather, the DOE urged on its website that people do the right level of research and information-seeking before they hire someone to perform the inspection. In addition to checking with the Better Business Bureau, it helps to review customer feedback and even reach out to folks they know to see if the auditor is worth employing.

Once you arrange the audit, you'll be amazed at how quickly they will discover ways for you to boost energy efficiency. Whether it's by simply turning off more lights during the evening or replacing older, more power-consuming appliances, this kind of investigation is invaluable as you try to live a greener and more cost-effective lifestyle. 

One of the most helpful tips the DOE offered was that homeowners should ask a lot of questions during the audit. That way, they can learn more about home energy efficiency and avoid these kinds of mistakes in the future.

For more green living tips and topics, stay with the LifeIsGreen.com blog. 

Last-Minute Tax Credit Extension Saves Thousands Of Green Jobs

As Congressional Republicans and the Obama administration battled at the end of 2012 over the so-called “fiscal cliff,” green technology advocates quietly waited to see how the government’s renewable energy tax credits – considered by many to be necessary to foster the country’s nascent industry – would come into play. While some feared that these important investments would be scuttled, progressive members of Congress succeeded during the 11th hour to ensure that they would be extended for the duration of 2013.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), roughly 37,000 professionals in the green industry were spared a pink slip. Additionally, companies that had already mothballed their renewable energy projects, including German tech giant Siemens, are already beginning to call workers back in to resume operations.

The organization pointed to Vestas, a wind turbine manufacturing company, as an example of how this tax credit is spurring both employment opportunities and career growth. The business has hired 100 workers so far in 2013 to produce smaller, private devices that can be installed nationwide. Tony Knopp told the NRDC that the Production Tax Credit (PTC) was “a key factor” in its ability to continue expanding and hiring more personnel. 

The American Wind Energy Association, a U.S. trade group, announced on January 30 that 2012 saw over 13,124 megawatts of wind-derived electricity generation added to the national power grid. Thanks to the extended PTC, officials from the organization say that 2013 should be on par or even better than the previous year.

2013 could be a pivotal year for the U.S. green energy community, with the PTC providing necessary financing to organizations and companies that promote this sustainable form of power. Keep your eye out for new turbines thanks to the government’s decision to keep funds available for these worthwhile ventures. 

 

2013 Consumer Electronics Show brings green tech into the limelight

The Consumer Electronics Show is an annual event designed to showcase must-have innovations for the upcoming year. The 2013 festivities were no exception, but this year participants noted a big increase in the number of sustainable living and renewable energy products available for view. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s EnergySaver blog, there were a wide variety of gizmos and gadgets on display that are sure to make the next twelve months an exciting shopping time for everyday Americans.

In a January 18 post, the government-sponsored source looked at a number of fascinating developments and ideas that could shape the way Americans use energy both at home and in the workforce. For example, the GreenZero Wall Charger from consumer tech maker Brackerton can be used to recharge the battery on your smart phone until it’s full- after that, the plug-in device restricts the flow of electricity. Another product, the Wireless Solar Keyboard, utilizes tiny photovoltaic (PV) conductors to build up energy right through your office window.

“Innovation abounded at the 2013 CES, and executives from every major industry that touches technology were here this week,” Gary Shapiro, head of the Consumer Electronics Association, which hosts the yearly tech gathering, said in a press release. “From amazing new products, to CEA’s new book Ninja Innovation, to our new publication – It Is Innovation (i3), innovation prevailed across 37 football fields of technology at the 2013 International CES. Our event is the biggest mobile show to kickoff the year and showcase our new mobile future.”

You should keep an eye out over the coming year for these and other unique designs and inventions. With luck, your local retail store will feature these and many other products that can help you support a healthier, more sustainable lifestyle.

Green home cleaning tips to adopt in 2013

In years past, you may have vowed to be more environmentally friendly with your choices as a consumer, going green by purchasing LED bulbs or solar energy products. In 2013, however, you can benefit by adapting the same habits when choosing the items you use to clean your home.

While usually inexpensive, many popular cleaning products, such as those for floors, windows and bathrooms actually harbor toxins and chemicals that can not only be potentially harmful to those around you if used improperly, but bad for the environment in certain cases as well.

This year, you can further your commitment to the environment by purchasing green products that clean the following areas of your home:

Kitchens – Nothing improves the sight of kitchen countertops and cabinets like a quick polish. However, you may want to be conscious of what you're using to clean these areas. Using paper towels or newspapers, which often end up in landfills, may not be the best for the environment. Instead, green experts suggest microfiber cloths, as they are inexpensive and reusable.

Tubs and sinks – For homeowners, there may be nothing worse than a tub or sink that is caked with unsightly residue. For a green way to clean these areas, many experts suggest using all-natural products such as baking soda or Kosher salt on tiles, sinks and tubs. Similarly, mold or mildew in these areas can be removed with lemon juice or white vinegar.

Windows – Just like tubs and sinks, windows often take a beating on the interior and exterior of homes. Looking for a green alternative? Mother Nature Network offers some handy cleaning tools you can make for use in spray bottles or buckets.

California breaks solar power production record this winter

In yet another sign of solar power's increasing importance in American communities, a top green energy company in California announced that The Golden State produced more eco-friendly electricity than ever before this winter.

Back in August, California achieved the one gigawatt (GW) milestone, thanks to widespread investment by town and individual homeowners in photovoltaic (PV) solar panels systems. Roughly four months later, the West Coast state did it again by achieving a level of 1.235 GW as of January 2. The California Independent System Operator, which provides clean energy solutions, sent out a celebratory tweet that day that heralded the achievement.

"In addition to a record number of photovoltaic installations, the peak can be attributed to a clear blue sky across most of California, with cloud cover only in the mountains and extreme northeast corner of the state," wrote Chris Clarke of KCET, a California clean energy news source. "The coasts and interior valleys, which host the majority of the state's solar installations, have no clouds to impede the sunshine."

EarthTechling, a green tech media site that also covered the development, reported that the number released by CISO did not include commercial operations and off-the-grid systems that provide electricity in private communities. The source speculated that, if these figures were factored in, the actual total production capacity would be nearly double the released rate.

If you're a California resident, you should press community leaders to incorporate PV solar operations into your town or city's energy infrastructure. Not only do these set-ups encourage low-carbon lifestyles that are good for the environment, but they also help improve local finances that can be used for other purposes as well.

Cincinnati approves new green construction tax credit initiative

Hoping to spur the development of green infrastructure in its community, local leaders of Cincinnati, Ohio, have put in motion a series of initiatives aimed at lowering tax burdens on individuals and companies that develop eco-friendly buildings within the city limits. According to Cincinnati News, the City Council approved the tax measures during a meeting on December 26, just one day after Christmas.

At the heart of the program is a 15-year "tax abatement" policy that will allow those who qualify a long grace period, during which time they will be free from a variety of local levies. Cincinnati, the source stated, has used this type of inventive in the past to spur local growth.

However, one local leader told the News that a LEED certification, which is issued by the U.S. Green Building Council, is not as hard to come by as it once was. The point of the abatement plan, Councilwoman Laure Quinlivan stated, is to push organizations that participate to build state-of-the-art buildings that go above the standards.

"It's getting so easy to achieve LEED there’s nothing to incentivize people to do the best they can," Quinlivan, who reportedly spearheaded the new idea, was quoted as saying.

Whether these improvements will have an impact on Cincinnati's construction sector remains to be seen. One developer, who spoke with Cincinnati News, stated that he believes it is a good idea but remains skeptical about the number of homes that will be built under the new framework. Regardless of the outcome, however, it's an encouraging sign that communities are taking a more active role in deciding how renewable energy is utilized in their daily lives.

Check out these green home efficiency tax credits expiring soon

Financially savvy Americans hoping to take advantage of eco-friendly home benefits might want to act before the year is out, as several federally subsidized tax credits will be expiring at the end of 2012. According to the Alliance to Save Energy (ASE), a nonprofit green advocacy group, there are a plethora of options available to U.S. homeowners.

These tax advantages include:

Electric vehicle benefits – If you're the proud owner of a recently purchased electric vehicle, you stand to benefit significantly thanks to bonuses provided by the government. Cars that utilize at least 5 kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy can earn their drivers an initial $2,500, with this number going all the way up to $7,500 for each additional kWh.

Geothermal heat pump reimbursements – This utility bill-reducing technology utilizes the natural heat from the earth to generate energy. Government subsidies provide up to 30 percent of the purchase price back to homeowners if they qualify.

Residential fuel cell credits – Homes that have been equipped with special fuel cell-based HVAC systems – which utilize a novel chemical process that creates electricity through the combination of hydrogen and oxygen – can reap significant financial rewards. With no expense limits set by the government, consumers may qualify for up to 30 percent of the original installation costs.

In its report, the ASE noted that there are a number of other state and regional-based tax credits that homeowners could further benefit from. By contacting your local energy officials, you can determine whether or not you are taking full advantage of these economic advantages. That way, you can enjoy a green lifestyle without breaking the bank.