Senator Proposes $5 Billion Green Jobs Bill

Hoping to spur job growth in the U.S. green energy sector, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet submitted a piece of legislation earlier this month which would direct federal dollars toward initiatives that offer education and career opportunities to qualified Americans.

Hoping to spur job growth in the U.S. green energy sector, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet submitted a piece of legislation earlier this month which would direct federal dollars toward initiatives that offer education and career opportunities to qualified Americans. The bill, known as the Clean Energy Race To The Top Act, establishes a $5 billion grant program that would be used to extend incentives to private sector organizations, local governments and state agencies that take steps to the grow the green economy.

The proposed law, which Bennet said in a statement would be fully funded by existing government dollars, would reward communities that institute renewable energy benchmarks for towns and cities, construct power-saving buildings and participate in efforts to lower the amount of greenhouse gas emissions. Federal grants would also be extended to participants that develop so-called climate action plans, which establish protocols for dealing with global warming and a changing environment.

"The United States is primed to lead the way toward a clean energy economy that will create jobs right here at home," Bennet said in a statement. "This bill encourages leadership and innovation by relying on the creativity and ingenuity of our local energy businesses and state and local governments. It incentivizes states to take advantage of the clean energy technologies being developed in our backyards and to put together dynamic plans to create a clean and diverse energy portfolio in this country. Best of all, it will create jobs in the U.S. and help end our dependence on foreign oil." 

Bennet's proposed law, which was also submitted during the last Congressional session, is not guaranteed passage. However, this development highlights the fact that there remains serious interest in a large-scale investment in America's green economy. Stay with the LifeIsGreen.com blog for more details on this topic as they develop. 

Federal Renewable Energy Funding Threatened By Government Sequester

Clean power advocates and government officials are urging both Congress and the Obama administration to offset or delay cuts to the Department of Energy that they say will be costly for the nascent green tech industry in the United States.

Clean power advocates and government officials are urging both Congress and the Obama administration to offset or delay cuts to the Department of Energy that they say will be costly for the nascent green tech industry in the United States.

According to a letter sent by Energy Secretary Steven Chu to members of the Senate Appropriations Committee, the spending reductions will lead to serious delays in certain programs and outright cancelations in other important initiatives. In the letter, Chu rejected the notion that renewable energy does not play a pivotal role in the U.S. economy. He pointed to specific undertakings by the Department of Energy that will significantly impair the nation's infrastructure. 

"The effects of sequestration are particularly damaging because, by law, they apply equally to each program, project, and activity Within an account, thereby severely constraining our ability to prioritize and make tradeoffs among activities under reduced funding scenarios," Chu wrote in the letter dated February 1, 2013. 

The Energy secretary stated clearly that up to 25,000 research and development positions could be furloughed or cut as a result of the across-the-board spending reductions, many of which would take place at the U.S. government's various national laboratories. Similarly, the sequestration could create "schedule delays and increased costs" for projects already green-lit by federal officials, including improvements and expansions on existing facilities. 

Environmental rehabilitation efforts conducted by the Department of Energy, especially those related to nuclear clean-up programs in various states, will also feel the pinch from sequestration. Chu said that regions affected by Cold War-era nuclear testing and are still being treated would lose millions of dollars in necessary funds. 

At this time, it's tough to predict how the green economy will suffer as a result of government spending reductions. Stay with the LifeIsGreen.com blog for more updates on this controversial and still-developing issue. 

Is The U.S. On The Verge Of Enacting A Carbon Tax?

Several countries already have similar schemes, which place a levy on the amount of carbon dioxide produced by fossil fuel consumption.

During the State of the Union address earlier this week, President Barack Obama urged Congress to act on climate change before the effects begin to truly take hold and have an adverse effect on the nation. While some critics dismissed these statements as mere pandering to liberal interests, statements by U.S. Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Barbara Boxer of California on February 12 confirm that legislation is pending that would tackle these problems directly. While the details are being withheld until they are unveiled on February 14, some green advocates are suggesting that a carbon tax may be part of the deal.

“Under the legislation, a fee on carbon pollution emissions would fund historic investments in energy efficiency and sustainable energy technologies such as wind, solar, geothermal and biomass. The proposal also would provide rebates to consumers to offset any efforts by oil, coal or gas companies to raise prices,” read a statement from Senator Sanders’ office on Tuesday. 

Several countries already have similar schemes, which place a levy on the amount of carbon dioxide produced by fossil fuel consumption. For example, Australia is instituting an idea that would charge $23 per ton for emissions produced by polluters. This figure is set to change, according to the Australian government, when a trading exchange is established for companies to buy and sell “carbon credits” that allow them emit certain amounts of pollution without being taxed. A similar program was explored during the early days of the Obama administration in 2009, but resistance from Democrats in fossil fuel-rich states effectively scuttled the proposal.

When the details regarding the proposed legislation emerge, LifeIsGreen.com will cover the specifics. Given the divided political climate currently prevailing in Washington, D.C. only time will tell how this important battle will play out. 

Companies Creating Next-Generation Wind Turbines

While it may take some time for these technologies to become more widespread in the United States and abroad, these developments hint at the continued innovation and explorative design taking place in the global green community.

With investments still flowing toward wind energy projects – for now – researchers around the world are hunting for new technologies that will allow them to create turbines capable of high electricity output and power savings. According to Tree Hugger, a green living news source, a number of organizations and individuals are striving toward this unique and important goal.

General Electric (GE), one of America’s biggest tech firms, has been working on a new turbine design that will produce both short- and long-term developments. The MIT Technology Review recently showcased the GE 2.5-120, an up-and-coming prototype that is rated at a lower wattage output – 2.5 MW compared to the previous generation’s 2.85 MW. But, the source states, annual kilowatt hour generation on the new model will be up to 15 percent higher.

Another development involved the other side of the equation: software. GE, working in collaboration with Zorlu Enerji, a Turkey-based utility company, designed a software suite that allows for real-time control over turbines to maximize energy allocation and storage. This kind of technology, if used widely, would enable engineers to make more effective use of a turbine network.

“By upgrading GE 2.5-MW wind turbines with WindBOOST software, Zorlu Enerji gets the benefit of increased energy production without additional equipment,” a GE spokesperson said in a press statement. “The 31 wind turbines now operate at the same power curve as 2.75-MW units, which is maximizing Zorlu Enerji’s return on investment.”

While it may take some time for these technologies to become more widespread in the United States and abroad, these developments hint at the continued innovation and explorative design taking place in the global green community. Stay with the LifeIsGreen.com blog for more updates on these and other exciting and important topics. 

U.S. Army unveils its largest photovoltaic solar project in New Mexico

This installation, which will providesignificant yearly savings to this branch of the armed forces, is the largest of its kind currently in operation by the U.S. military.

In past articles, we’ve looked at ways in which the U.S. military is utilizing green technology and renewable energy resources to generate clean electricity. On January 16, the U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center announced that it had collaborated with contractor Siemens Government Technologies, Inc. to create the largest solar panel array at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

This installation, which will provide significant yearly savings to this branch of the armed forces, is the largest of its kind currently in operation by the U.S. military. Capable of producing 10 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year, the setup is expected to save the the base up to $930,000 in annual operating costs. Additionally, it will enable the U.S. Army to offset approximately 7,400 tons of carbon dioxide during the same period.

What makes the White Sands array so unique is that it employs a ground-mounted tracking system. This network of sensors automatically adjusts the position of the solar panels so that they continue to absorb sunlight efficiently throughout the day. According to a press release from the Army, this technology is estimated to boost productivity by 30 percent compared to traditional solar arrangements.

“This is an exciting project for the U.S. Army,” White Sands Garrison Commander Colonel Leo Pullar was quoted as saying in a statement. “A sunny location like New Mexico provides an ideal site for solar power. This project illustrates the U.S. Army’s commitment to going green, our focus on operating on net zero energy, and doing what we can to help protect the environment.”

With construction completed in December 2012, the $16.8 million solar array is already fully operational and providing clean energy to the military installation. Readers should stick with LifeIsGreen.com for more updates and news on the spread of green power sources in the United States.

NASA to seek answers to climate change questions in atmospheric search

Among the subjects tackled in the ATTREX initiative is the question of how water vapor and the level of ozone in the upper regions of the atmosphere are influencing climate change.

Hoping to establish some clarity on the phenomenon of climate change in the Earth’s atmosphere, the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is launching an unprecedented effort that will include aircraft gathering data from the upper reaches of our world.

According to the U.S. aeronautics agency, the Airborne Tropical Tropopause Experiment (ATTREX) is set to undertake 30-hour-long flights utilizing a Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle to fly up to 65,000 feet in the air. During these excursions, a number of scientific payloads and tests will be used to determine if and how our atmosphere is actually evolving.

“The ATTREX payload will provide unprecedented measurements of the tropical tropopause layer,” Eric Jensen, the principal investigator for the project, was quoted as saying in a press release. “This is our first opportunity to sample the tropopause region during winter in the Northern Hemisphere when the region is coldest and extremely dry air enters the stratosphere.”

Among the subjects tackled in the ATTREX initiative is the question of how water vapor and the level of ozone in the upper regions of the atmosphere are influencing climate change. Chemical composition experiments will be conducted, as the scientists predict that the ecological effect of these natural forces can have a huge influence on temperatures and weather conditions down here on the surface.

Additionally, cloud formation will be cataloged during the Global Hawk flights in the tropopause region, where ozone concentrations rise and the interaction between greenhouse gases and the atmosphere are particularly noteworthy, the release stated.

The aerial experiment will be taking place this Wednesday, January 16, with five more tests planned between that date and March 15. Stay with LifeIsGreen.com for further developments on this important ecological study.

Penn State researchers seek to make more energy efficient electric trains

According to a press release from the university, the group is focusing on the impact of industrial-sized batteries during day-to-day usage in large transit networks.

Hoping to one day enable train commuters to see significantly reduced fares – which are driven partially by rising energy costs – a team of researchers from Penn State is hoping to develop a computer algorithm that will help automated public transit systems to identify efficiencies and weed out wasteful power consumption. While still in the development and testing phase, this technology could change the way that metropolitan transportation authorities approach these complex issues.

According to a press release from the university, the group is focusing on the impact of industrial-sized batteries during day-to-day usage in large transit networks. They identified a key phenomenon, known as sulfation, which involves the decay of battery life caused by repeated depletion and recharging of the power source. This issue leads to routine replacements, which can cost railroad companies significant amounts of money as they maintain their locomotive fleets.

To combat the problem, the Penn State team began investigating methods for reducing the number of times that the batteries had to be rejuvenated. Additionally, the researchers started developing ways for transit supervisors to monitor batteries before sulfation rendered them unusable.

"We wanted to reverse the sulfation to rejuvenate the battery and bring it back to life," Christopher Rahn, a professor of mechanical engineering who is involved in the study, was quoted as saying. "We desulfated it, and we increased its capacity. We didn’t increase it all the way to brand new. We weren't able to do that, but we did get a big boost."

The study, which is partially funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, is still ongoing. However, it highlights the fact that scientists are actively seeking to bridge existing transportation methods with new clean technology innovations.

Billionaire financier Warren Buffett purchases largest U.S. solar power plant

Warren Buffett, the billionaire investment genius and an ardent supporter of Democratic President Barack Obama, announced this week that his company, Berkshire Hathaway, is buying the largest solar production plant in the United States through a subsidiary.

Warren Buffett, the billionaire investment genius and an ardent supporter of Democratic President Barack Obama, announced this week that his company, Berkshire Hathaway, is buying the largest solar production plant in the United States through a subsidiary.

The Mid-American Energy Holding Co. is paying out nearly $2.5 billion for the Antelope Valley Solar Projects facility, previously owned by SunPower Corp. The sale creates a partnership between the two organizations, though Buffett's company will reportedly be performing renovations and personnel changes in the coming months.

According to green news source Inhabitat the 3,230-acre Antelope Valley plant is capable of producing up to 579 megawatts of electricity. Southern California Edison, an energy provider in The Golden State, has been contracted to sell the produced power. This investment adds a considerable amount of technological muscle to Berkshire Hathaway, totaling a reported 1,830 megawatts of potential resources.

In a press statement, officials from both Mid-American and SunPower praised the deal as a good investment for California citizens. One of major benefits, cited by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is that the Antelope Valley facility is capable of offsetting nearly 800,000 tons of of carbon dioxide emissions per year once it's fully upgraded and functioning sometime in 2016.

"The Antelope Valley Solar Projects mark a historic milestone for the energy industry," Howard Wegner, an operations president for SunPower, was quoted as saying. "We are delivering highly reliable low-cost renewable energy at a very large scale. SunPower is proud to partner with MidAmerican Solar and SCE, recognized leaders in clean energy development, bringing critically needed jobs and economic opportunity to California and helping the state achieve its renewable portfolio requirement."

With big-name investors increasing their clean energy portfolios, the idea of having a comprehensive green power strategy in the United States is slowly becoming a reality.

U.S. Department of Energy to make big investments in offshore power

In a bid to diversify the nation’s energy production resources, the U.S. Department of Energy is investing in a series of offshore wind power initiatives.

In a bid to diversify the nation's energy production resources, the U.S. Department of Energy is investing in a series of offshore wind power initiatives. The federal program is structured as a public-private partnership, awarding subsidy contracts to companies that submit cost-effective and promising design proposals.

According to an official press release from the Obama administration, projects in Maine, New Jersey, Virginia, Ohio, Texas and Oregon received government start-up funds to help move them from the drawing board to the construction site. While some projects are more shovel-ready than others, the DoE expects these efforts to enter the commercial-scale production phase sometime in late 2016 or early 2017.

In its release, the government agency stressed that untapped coastal resources could bring billions of dollars in both power savings and economic benefits per year, thanks to the estimated 4,000 gigawatts of potential clean energy.

"The United States has tremendous untapped clean energy resources, and it is important for us to develop technologies that will allow us to utilize those resources in ways that are economically viable," Steven Chu, the U.S. Secretary of Energy, was quoted as saying. "Today's announcement of awards to the first offshore wind projects in the U.S. paves the way to a cleaner, more sustainable and more diverse domestic energy portfolio that develops every source of American energy."

There are some troubling signs for the Obama administration's green tech drive, including the upcoming expiration of the Production Tax Credit, which helps manufacturers of clean technology to cut costs and increase output. However, eco-friendly advocates are pushing for legislation that would renew these incentives and continue to drive investment in these emerging technologies.

In the coming years, keep an eye out on U.S. coastal areas. With continued investment and a little bit of luck, you might see a revolution in America's energy sector getting started.

Hurricane Sandy spurs calls for “smart grid” development

The idea for a next-generation electrical system, according to General Electric Digital Energy’s John McDonald, would have empowered utility workers to pinpoint and repair damage more quickly.

In the wake of this fall's Hurricane Sandy, which left devastation up and down the northern Atlantic coast, some professionals in green technology industries have called on the nation's leaders to take a more proactive stance on the concept of a "smart grid."

The idea for a next-generation electrical system, according to General Electric Digital Energy's John McDonald, would have empowered utility workers to pinpoint and repair damage more quickly.

McDonald argued in a recent article published by various green advocacy websites that this kind of initiative might have alleviated some of the ongoing distress taking place in affected regions, including New Jersey and New York City.

One element, smart metering, would have delivered crucial information to electricity providers in a real-time format, instead of relying on damage reports from customers or authorities. In his piece, McDonald blasted current networks that only enable such alerts if they occur in certain areas.

"Not all utilities have invested in those technologies," McDonald told AOL Energy in an interview. "They are not as up to date and effective as they could be. They are in the best position when the storm hits and comes through their service area."

Another component lacking in most electric grids, a geographical information system (GIS), could have created a digitized map of the service areas with up-to-date statuses on the different portions of the network. With this piece of technology, providers could spread resources more effectively by utilizing a comprehensive layout of the affected regions.

According to EarthTechling, a green news source, nearly 10 million people were impacted by Hurricane Sandy. This event, though tragic, will hopefully serve as a wake-up call that the American electrical grid needs more safeguarding against natural disasters.