Google has been a carbon neutral company for seven years, and every year around this time they calculate and publish their carbon footprint so they can make sure to offset it completely. Today Google updated the Google Green website with their 2013 carbon footprint so we can see it for ourselves. They also made another announcement relevant to green businesses, communities and our environment. In ironic contradiction to the old song, “They paved paradise and put up a parking lot,” the search giant announced that it will put a 82MW solar power plant on top of an old oil and gas field in Kern County, Calif.
“There’s something a little poetic about creating a renewable resource on land that once creaked with oil wells,” said Google. “Over the years, this particular site in California has gone from 30 oil wells to five as it was exhausted of profitable fossil fuel reserves. The land sat for some time and today we’re ready to spiff things up.”
The new deal with SunEdison will generate enough energy to power 10,000 homes. It may not be a paradise, but does mark the 5th major green investment in the Golden State. This raises the number of renewable energy investments made by Google to 17 since 2010. Total Google Green Business bucks amount to more than $1.5 billion. “We’re continually looking for newer, bigger and better projects that help us create a clean energy future,” the company said. “The more than $1.5bn we’ve brought to these projects to date not only helps provide renewable energy to the grid and to the public, but as they perform, they allow us to invest in more renewable energy projects. This cycle makes financial sense for Google and our partners while supporting construction jobs in local communities and clean energy for the planet we share.”
“Talking about sustainability is a popular marketing tool, but Google has made renewable energy and environmental protection part of both its corporate identity and its operations in a way that is unique in corporate America.“ – Associated Press
I enjoy learning about how I can help the environment and staying up to date on which green businesses are playing a role in this revolution. My understanding of why everyone needs to contribute to this solution continues to branch out in many new directions as well. From reducing to reusing to recycling, this century’s eco-friendly innovators have helped pave the way for a growing awareness about environmental concerns that is sweeping the globe. Here are some examples of how green businesses are helping create a cleaner and safer environment.
Advinylize repurposes vinyl from billboards.
The most basic way people can start helping clean up the environment is bringing their own bags to the grocery store. Instead of choosing between paper and plastic bags, both of which create a strain on the environment, bringing your own cloth bag is reusable, reducing the need to cut down trees and drill for oil, which is where plastic products come from. Several U.S. cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland and Honolulu now ban plastic bags. Here are some companies that offer reusable grocery bags:
PG&E confirms on its website that green certification can boost a company’s economic value. The utility company reports there has been a gr owing trend in recent years among businesses–particularly retail outlets and hotels–to gain LEED certification through the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). These green businesses are accomplishing several goals at once, by lowering energy costs due to consuming less energy, consuming less water, reducing the amount of maintenance and lowering greenhouse gas emissions compared with conventional commercial buildings. A recent Harris poll found that 64 percent of adults prefer to patronize establishments with green certification.
I’ve been fascinated with solar energy for decades, but it has only really been in the past decade that solar has entered mainstream consciousness. One of the companies paving the way is Apple, which is building solar farms for its data centers. Google has also invested millions of dollars in helping develop solar plants. Germany announced in June, 2014 that 51 percent of its energy now comes from solar power, setting a global milestone. The world’s top producer of silicon solar panels is Suntech from China, according to ExploringGreenTechnology.com. The solar manufacturer now has a presence in 80 countries and even launched a U.S. factory in Arizona in 2010. Other leading solar manufacturers that are paving the way toward harnessing energy from the sun are:
Yingli Green Energy
At one time in the late 1990s it appeared that the electric car was dead. It was criticized for its slow speed and inability to travel long distances without recharging. Tesla, however, has changed all that. In fact, the electric car maker’s Model S can travel over 200 miles before recharging and can go just as fast as conventional cars, without polluting the environment. In 2013 the Model S achieved the highest ratings of any automobile in history from Consumer Reports Magazine (scoring 99 out of 100). While it is a high priced luxury electric car for early adopters, more affordable electric cars that also run on lithium batteries include the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt.
Tesla is a company started by Elon Musk, who also founded the home solar installer SolarCity, which additionally builds charging stations for electric cars. This company has developed an innovative business model that integrates electric cars with solar homes as charging stations. Swiss bank UBS recently predicted that utilities will eventually become backup power sources to solar energy.
- Kroon Hall at Yale University is made from 80% certified timber, 16% recycled content. Also, 34% of the purchased materials came from regional sources. As a result, there is an 81% reduction in annual potable water use, which saves an average 500k gallons of city water a year. They are also seeing a 61% reduction in energy use compared to a similar building and program. It features rooftop photovoltaic panel providing 25% of the building’s electricity. Half of the red oak paneling came from a forest in northern Connecticut that’s managed by the school itself.
-This building features extensive day-lighting and a green roof with heat exchange system and rainwater collection. In addition to “green roofs” and sustainable materials, space for common areas has been maximized to encourage collaboration and innovation.
- The Salzburg University of Applied Sciences’ Kuchl Campus puts the school’s focus on “timber, design and sustainability” into practice. Timber construction is combined with a high-performance envelope and natural day-lighting to bring the building’s energy use down to less than 15 kWh/m² per year (a fraction of the average use).
- During construction, 1050 tons of waste were diverted from disposal to recycling. The building is 91% of the wood used is certified sustainably harvested and 60% of the furniture has been salvaged and refinished. There are many different plants involved with the building. Showers and bike-racks are available to encourage riding bicycles to class. They even offer preferred parking for low-emitting vehicles and electronic vehicle charging stations. Not to mention, Cornell’s building uses daylight harvesting architecture, which boosts productivity and mental health.
- Some green highlights of this center include exploring energy-efficient geothermal technology to heat and cool the building, high efficiency lighting, architectural shading of south glass by metal sunshades, using renewable source woods, water harvesting, using low-water trees to shade the courtyards, and much more.
- This health and medical research facility incorporates air quality monitoring and a vegetative green roof. 75% of construction waste was recycled, and ground water from under the parking garage irrigates a nearby baseball field.
-The design team for this center specified high-performance glazing for the buildings to control UV rays. They primarily used cedar, which is what they have in central Oregon, and concrete – local and natural materials.
- This building was built atop the existing Ashe Auditorium Lecture Hall. Green features include more than 95% recycled construction and demolition waste, low-VOC paints and carpets, and low-flow plumbing fixtures.
In the United States, a @TeslaMotors will run you $70,000 or so. But Norway is an ideal market for Tesla because of the country’s embrace of electric vehicles, the fact that it’s a wealthy country and because the government heavily taxes gasoline-burning luxury cars. Because the Model S is electric, Tesla can take advantage of a Norwegian tax regime that makes the Model S the least expensive luxury sedan in the market. At half the total price of comparable luxury cars like the Porsche Panamera S or the Audi S6, a Model S bought in Norway is a bargain.
No tax for EVs
World traveler Rick Steves explains in this video from Norway this week.
As a percentage of total market share, electric cars are more popular in Norway than anywhere else in the world. So it’s no wonder Tesla Motors Inc. (NASDAQ:TSLA) made the country the focus of its global expansion plans early on.
It’s been 12 months since the company began delivering its Model S sedans to Norwegian customers, and it looks like Tesla did well to focus on Norway.
According to OFV, Norway’s automotive industry association, the California electric car manufacturer has sold an average of 436 Tesla Model S sedans a month for the past year, up from about 357 units a month last November. Since the car went on sale in the third quarter of 2012 the company has sold about 1,630 units a month in the United States.
Actions speak louder than words. At long last, solar panels are returning to the White House–a symbolic endorsement of renewable energy if nothing else. At the same time, a National Deep Energy Retrofits program (NDER) is poised for implementation in federal buildings around the country. Congressional bickering aside, our revenue strapped government can’t deny that efficiency goes a long way when money is tight…something they’ve been telling the rest of us for years.
NDER is a collaboration of the General Services Administration (GSA), the nation’s largest public real estate organization, and the Federal Energy Management Program (FEMP). It aims to speed up deep energy retrofits on federal properties, putting the U.S. in a better position to meet its energy-use-reduction targets (yeah, we have those!).
The GSA manages more than 7,000 properties that provide workspace for some 1.2 million federal employees. The magnitude represents massive challenges as well as big opportunities. Unsurprisingly, federal buildings are allowed almost zero budget for energy efficient upgrades. But there has been progress. In the past few years, “the energy savings on GSA retrofit projects have more than doubled, from 18 percent to 39 percent, with a few projects surpassing 60 percent,” writes Cara Carmichael for GreenBiz.com.
Moving forward, the organization is working to implement a greater number of energy savings performance contracts (ESPCs). In simple terms, an ESPC is a partnership between a Federal agency and an energy service company. The company performs an energy audit on the federal building in question, identifying improvements that will have the biggest impact on consumption. The company then designs the project, arranges funding, and guarantees that the improvements will generate energy cost savings sufficient to pay for the project over the term of the contract, which can be up to 25 years. After the contract ends, all additional cost savings accrue to the agency. In essence, an ESPC allows a property with no budget to finance improvement in advance using the eventual savings from said improvements.
But ESPCs alone won’t turn take our government from energy hog to energy saver. “Approximately 1/3 of energy use is driven by occupant behavior, which is a big opportunity for ESCOs and GSA alike,” explains Carmichael. “While ESCOs can install the submetering equipment and train operators and occupants, it is uncommon for the ESCOs to remain deeply involved with the operation of the building. Occupant energy-reduction programs require ongoing engagement to overcome staff turnover, maintain momentum, and align the incentives.”