Renewable Energy Developers Wanted to Spread the Green


Ken Silverstein for Forbes

Smaller enterprises want energy developers to spread the green, allowing them to get in on the renewable wave rolling through America. The dynamic has made it easier for larger corporations with more demand to buy wind and solar electricity but it has nudged out the less brawnier brands.

The guys at Google and Facebook, for example, are stimulating the need for wind and solar energy that they are using to feed their electricity-starved data centers. The developers of those energy projects, in return, are getting solid customers that are buying their output at a fixed price over a certain period of years.

But individual commercial and industrial customers aren’t generating the type of demand that can propel big energy projects into the market. Now, though, that may change. The same so-called power purchase agreements that are used to attract the likes of Microsoft, Intel and SAP can also be parceled out to smaller businesses, albeit in much smaller blocks of energy and for much shorter time frames.

“We connect the corporate community to power purchase agreements,” says Paul Schuster managing director for Altenex, a unit of Edison Energy, in an interview. “We have noticed those larger-to-mid-sized energy users need to achieve cost efficiencies, which can be done by buying smaller blocks of renewable electricity.”

A traditional power purchase agreement, for example, might require a company to buy 100 megawatts and it would last 20 years. But the contract now offered to the smaller players might be for 10 megawatts over 10 years.

So how does all this work? A wind developer can’t go forward until it knows that it can sell its output into the market at a fair price. Because there are tax breaks for both building the project and buying the output, developers have proved able to sell that product into wholesale markets.

Let’s say it is an insurance company or a bank that buys the bulk of the wholesale power before it would be resold into retail markets: They often line up the major corporate outlets or Internet giants and contract with them to sell the energy at fixed prices over a set number of years. What Altenex is doing is going to that insurer or banker — in this example — and offering to market smaller blocks of electricity to commercial and industrial businesses.

“The return on equity should be infinite,” says Schuster. “Customers, in fact, are not putting down any upfront capital. Hopefully, they are buying renewable energy at the same cost or lower cost than they are paying for fossil energy.”

Is the corporate green market on fertile ground? PriceWaterhouseCoopers says that it has grown over the last 24 months and that it will continue to expand. Seventy-two percent of the companies it surveyed said that they are pursuing renewables, noting that they want to be more sustainable and to use green energy to hedge against volatile energy prices.

Green electricity sales in the form of voluntary power purchase agreements grew by 4% in 2015, adds the National Energy Renewable Laboratory. Contracted green power sales from those deals grew by 13% in 2015, it notes, and now total 10.2 million megawatt hours.

The larger companies are the main drivers with the likes of General Motors, Hewlett Packard, Johnson & Johnson, Tata Motors and Walmart setting a goal to run their entire operations using green energy. That includes a number of different options — everything from investing directly into deals to buying their electricity through power purchase agreements.

Read more

January 22, 2017 |

Forget the Wicker Basket and Go for gopicnic Ready-to-eat Meals


Being a huge fan of ready-to-eat meals all my life, I am always on the look out for new products to try. Just the other day, I was perusing the isles during my usual grocery shopping trip and came across a new ready-to-eat lunch box. Seeing that it was on sale, I was drawn to taking a look. After checking out the products within the gopicnic lunchbox, I was sold – and bought three flavors. Being familiar with the usual high amounts of sodium, fat, and sugars in other ready-to-eat meals, I was surprised to find a different quality (and taste) in the nutrition of these gopicnic products. Quite a pleasant surprise!

GoPicnic logo

gopicnic brands

gopicnic ready-to-eat meals is an innovative company based out of Chicago, IL. First founded in 2006 to provide airlines in the United States with easier food for customers, gopicnic has thrived over the years and is now available in retail stores across the nation (gopicnic, 2012). Priding themselves in having “nutritionally balanced, shelf-stable, ready-to-eat boxed lunches… that require no refrigeration, heating, or preparation,” this company creates delicious meals for on-the-go. Another pride and joy for gopicnic brands is all their products contain “clean ingredients, no trans fat, no high fructose corn syrup, no added monosodium glutamate (MSG), and no artificial flavors or colors.” They are perfect lunches for those with special diets, such as gluten-free, vegan, and/or nut free diets; or simply for the busy consumer needing an affordable, quick, and healthy lunch source. (gopicnic, 2012)

There are many different flavors of these lunchboxes, and I have only to make my way through three of them – Sunbutter & Crackers, Turkey Slices & Cheddar, and Turkey Pepperoni & Cheese.

Sunbutter & Crackers

The sunflower seed paste was creamy and delicious, tasting exactly like sunflower seeds. It paired well with the salty crackers and multi seed and fruit mix. The seed and fruit mix had lots of sunflower seeds and raisins with some dried apple and other seeds. The fruit strip was quite enjoyable with a sweet and tropical flavor to it; and to finish it all off was some guiltless chocolate chip cookies. Four of the five pieces in this lunchbox were made in the USA, with the fruit strip from Canada. All five included foods are gluten-free and peanut allergy safe. My only disappointment is the chocolate chip cookies were a bit too dry for me (but that is just my opinion). Overall, this is my favorite of the flavors I have tried.

Turkey Slices & Cheddar

The turkey slices were not too strong in flavor (thank goodness), but were a bit salty for my liking (270mg of sodium per serving). The cheddar cheese is a dip, or spread if you prefer it, – gluten free and vegetarian, and tastes just like normal cheddar. Both paired well with the light and slightly sweet crackers, which had hints of honey. All three together tasted exactly like the typical lunchable you would buy in the store, but had healthier ingredient lists and nutrition facts. The side of applesauce was unsweetened (and yet still tasty), soft and smooth to the tongue, and even included a plastic spoon. I definitely enjoyed the fruit chews; which were gluten-free and sweet (they were even shaped like little jets). Overall, this was an enjoyable meal.

Turkey Pepperoni & Cheese

The turkey pepperoni slices tasted just like pepperoni slices (which is good), yet they were very slimy and high in sodium. They did pair very well with the asiago cheese dip/spread, which was not very overpowering in flavor. The crackers, whether enjoyed with the cheese and pepperoni or by themselves, were delicious. They had a good seed and sesame flavor and were very crunchy – not to mention, they were made in the USA and are gluten-free. Brownie points! The fruit and nut mix, also made in the USA, was sweet and slightly hot. It was a wonderful mix of flavor choices; and for the grand finale, a sea salt and caramel lollipop. Let me just say, “Wow.” Made in France this delectable pop is super sweet and salty. 53% of it is made from milk, and then sugar, leaving the ingredient list short and to the point. Surprisingly, no artificial flavors or colors for this sweet treat. Overall, this lunchbox had its good and bad parts, but certainly is on the top of my list for that salted caramel lolly.


In conclusion, gopicnic read-to-eat meals have been such an enjoyable alternative for my work lunches that I will certainly be going back for more! Everywhere I take these, people are curious. If you want my opinion, two thumbs up all the way! For more information on gopicnic brands and products, you can visit their online shop and website at:

I will leave you with a fun fact I found written in one of the adorable picnic-style, reclosable, gingham lunchboxes:

Did you know? … “Crackers were created in 1792 after a baker burned biscuits and heard the ‘cracking’ sound from the oven.” Enjoy!


gopicnic. (2012). About GoPicnic. Retrieved May 6, 2014, from gopicnic website





August 6, 2016 |

Solar Powered Airplane Lands in New York on Historic Flight Around the World


NEW YORK What started as a sky-is-the-limit dream for two Swiss explorer/entrepreneurs is now one giant, soaring, fuel-free, #futureisclean reality. Bertrand Piccard (@bertrandpiccard) André Borschberg (@andreborschberg) and their innovative solar plane, Solar Impulse 2, reached a milestone Saturday as it completed a trip across the United States. The solar-powered airplane on a globe-circling voyage that began in the United Arab Emirates more than a year ago.

The Swiss-made plane landed at John F. Kenney International Airport at 4 a.m. after a 4 hour 41 minute flight of about 165 miles from Lehigh Valley International Airport in Pennsylvania. Its trip across the U.S. mainland began April 24, when Solar Impulse landed in San Francisco from Hawaii.

The aviation industry told them  was an impossible project so they built their own team & found new solutions.

Read more from their logbook here.

Have you ever seen bicycles assist an airplane landing at JFK? Watch the video below. Landing is at 25:30.

June 11, 2016 |

TreeHouse Aims to Make Homes Thoughtful, Sustainable and Healthy


Austin-based TreeHouse, a home improvement retailer focused on eco-friendly construction materials, has selected Dallas as its first stop outside its hip hometown. Tuesday, it will announce plans to open a store in early 2017 in a new shopping center in North Dallas.

TreeHouse CEO and co-founder Jason Ballard believes he can sell the world on eco-friendly homes in the same way that Tesla is broadening the customer base for electric cars. As the first retailer that Tesla has authorized to sell the Powerwall, its battery for the house, TreeHouse is already a powerhouse of sustainable good. They are also one of the top-selling retailers of Nest smart-home products, Ballard said.

“We resist being a niche company,” Ballard said. “We’re not just for customers with dreadlocks and card-carrying members of environmental groups. We’re going to prove with the Dallas store that we’re not a store for special people, we’re a store for everyone.”

Single-store sales have increased 35 percent every year, he said, without disclosing annual sales. Inc. Magazine said last fall that the store was on track to do $10 million in 2015.

February 16, 2016 |

Ecocapsule- World’s Smallest Solar House


The Ecocapsule (or Eggo-capsule?) is a new form of mini Glamping.

It may not be the prime spot to host a party, but for the chic, pod-dwelling nomads among us, the Ecocapsule is strides beyond a basic shelter and nicer looking than most trailers or RVs. If you’ve ever felt like leaving it all behind, you can live off the grid for up to a year. It’s got a bed, kitchen, bathroom and work area, and a couple windows to let in the breeze. No need to plug into the grid — there’s a wind turbine and bank of solar cells built in to charge a battery for light and heat, and rainwater is filtered and collected into a tank under the floor.

Power Supply

A 750-watt wind turbine and 600-watt solar array collect energy. Assuming outside temperatures stay between -13° and 104°F, the capsule can consistently produce all its own power. A super-efficient climate-control system helps: On its way to the exhaust fan, heated air passes through channels alongside fresh air, warming it up.


Energy Storage

Should energy production dip, a 9,744-watt-hour battery holds five days of power. When the battery is charged, the system uses excess energy from the solar cells to heat up water stores, relieving strain on the water heater come shower time.

ecocap1d_GreenBusinessesRain Collection

Rainwater runs down the capsule and through a ceramic filter into a 145-gallon reservoir beneath the floorboards. When full, it can supply two people for three weeks. Electric pumps circulate water through a membrane filter to trap dirt and bacteria en route to the sink and shower; manual foot pumps stand in when energy is low.


Courtesy Nice Architects

Smart Interface

A central computer, controlled with a smartphone or tablet, monitors energy and water levels to project how long they’ll last. It’s also hooked up to sensors that record rainfall, humidity, and temperature outside the capsule. In periods with little sun or wind, the computer might suggest adjusting the internal temp or taking shorter showers to stretch the supply.

View more info on the Ecocapsule listing page.

January 7, 2016 |
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