Despite significant investments in renewable energy technologies in the US, manufacturing and deployment of renewable energy has lagged relative to the size of the US economy according to the recently released “Who’s Winning the Clean Energy Race 2012,” published by The Pew Charitable Trust. In an effort to spur investment, bipartisan legislation was recently re-introduced to allow investors in renewable energy projects to get the same treatment under the US tax code that allows investors in coal, oil and gas to utilize Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs) to attract capital. The Master Limited Partnerships Parity Act would amend the US tax code to allow entities producing electricity from certain renewable energy sources, alternative fuels and storage devices to monetize the tax benefits in the same manner as when investing in more traditional forms of energy. If this legislation passes, it will provide the opportunity for increased development in renewable energy in the US, which means improved economic development for our economy.
Tiedemann Globe is putting a new spin on the adage “from rags to riches” in its commitment to sustainability.
The company sells and exports used clothing and industrial wiping rags in the hopes of cashing in on some green – green energy, that is. Tiedemann Globe recycles about 30 million pounds of used goods and clothing annually, in addition to spreading sustainable energy practices worldwide.
“We can make a difference; that’s what I believe in,” says Tony Tiedemann, founder and president of Phoenix-based Tiedemann Globe. “We’re not going to wait for the government to tell us what we can or can’t do. I think we can make changes now.”
Tiedemann Globe’s vintage finds are sold worldwide through several venues. TheRagHouse, an ebay.com store, sells vintage clothing in bulk, at Tiedemann Family Thrift and Vintage store, at 755 W. Baseline Road in Tempe, Ariz., and in Nairobi, Kenya, shoppers can buy used clothing.
If clothes can’t be sold, they are torn up and turned into industrial wiping rags.
“We even take it a step further. Clothing that’s no good for the wiping rags gets mutilated by other companies for padding of trunks of cars or the inside of pet bedding,” says Tiedemann.
It’s rare to have an item of clothing enter Tiedemann Globe that cannot be turned into a useable product. The company has 8 percent to 10 percent waste, but is striving to become a zero waste facility within the next two years.
The commitment to sustainability doesn’t stop there. Tiedemann Globe is helping citizens of Third World countries adopt sustainable practices that will help advance their quality of life. The Clean Energy Foundation, part of Tiedemann Globe, is introducing green practices to citizens in Kenyan villages.
Tiedemann Globe has sold used clothing in Kenya for almost 18 years, which made it the ideal location to start green education because the company already had infrastructure in place and Kenya has a great need for green education.
“There’s a huge demand (in Kenya). These people don’t even have a place to put their human waste, which is crazy to think about. So that’s why we started there,” says Tiedemann.
The Clean Energy Foundation has set up solar panels, water filtration and biogas conversion centers in rural Kenya with the goal of raising Kenyans’ quality of life. Biogas filtration centers turn waste into energy, while solar panels power schools and other buildings.
“Our primary purpose of providing the power is for light and specifically for education. Statistics show if the women are educated in society, everything else gets elevated and that’s our goal,” he adds.
Tiedemann has plans for the rest of the world, too. The company recently started a solar project in Rocky Point, Mexico, but Tiedemann is looking to another form of energy to power the world in the future.
“Eventually I think hydrogen’s the way. I know that a lot of people will argue that. But eventually I believe that we will get there. It’s the most abundant element out there and we’ve got to use it,” Tiedemann says.
As for how he plans to stay green in Phoenix, Tiedemann drives a natural gas car and the company’s forklifts run on propane. Tiedemann says he wants to see the green sector of Tiedemann Globe grow to become the biggest part of the company in the near future.
Tiedemann’s advice for companies that want to become more eco-friendly is to get help and don’t think too big.
“There are tons of companies out there that can help set up an infrastructure (to go green),” he says. “The bottom line is just to start small. Start and keep progressing as much as you can.”
We’ve all heard that money doesn’t grow on trees. Does it grow on solar trees?
One of the latest solar inventions, the Solar Tree, is digging its roots into the business world and residential communities. The idea of the solar tree first sprouted on the streets of Vienna. The concept was a little different, but the overall theme and name are the same. In Europe, solar trees are used in place of streetlights. The artificial trees provide enough light throughout the night, even if the sun doesn’t shine for four days in a row. These solar lights even look like trees with branches that hold 10 solar lamps. Designed by Ross Lovegrove, the solar trees saved the city 524,000 KWh of electricity and $96,800 in 2005.
In the United States, San Diego-based Envision Solar is spearheading this energy-efficient invention with its own Solar Tree. Envision CEO and architect Robert Noble, who wanted to give parking lots more purpose than just a place to keep your car, created its aesthetically pleasing design. With its Solar Tree system, Envision Solar is on a mission to turn parking lots across the country into gardens of alternative energy by “planting” scores of the devices. Each “tree” is topped with a 1,000-square-foot canopy that is covered in solar cells built by Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Kyocera.
This system of “planting” several Solar Trees is called a Solar Grove. The Solar Groves work best on large parking lots, and they not only use the sun as a way to produce energy, they also shade cars, displace unwanted run-off, and even have a place to plug in electric vehicles. According to Envision Solar’s Web site “a Solar Grove can pay for itself in as little as five years, and create positive cash flows from the first day of operation by avoiding the cost of existing electricity bills.”
The prices of these “power plants” vary by size, installation, site conditions and a company’s energy usage. Envision Solar will work with a company to create a financial analysis and see what’s right for the business. Also, many states offer incentives for using solar energy. These can be found at www.dsireusa.org.
One of Envision Solar’s better-known Solar Grove projects can be found at one of the nations “greenest” college campuses, the University of California at San Diego. Each tree generates more than 17,000 hours of clean energy per year and eliminates 13.2 metric tons of carbon emissions.
Various other kinds of solar trees can be seen all across the U.S. and are not solely produced by Envision Solar. One of the more ambitious projects is at Google’s California headquarters. Energy Innovations, a company that also produces solar panels for parking lots, installed the 1.6-megawatt design.
Solar Trees were initially created by Envision Solar for large businesses, but have now been transformed to work on a smaller scale. Envision Solar recently started a new line of residential solar applications. An example of this is the LifeTree, a single post steel structure with a cantilevered canopy. It costs around $18,500 and provides about 1.4 kilowatts of clean energy.
Living in Arizona provides businesses and consumers with more than enough sunlight to take advantage of this cost-effective energy system. Solar Trees are a way to conserve space and energy. They can save a company and consumers money, and make an “eco-friendly” statement. Solar energy is the future and planting these solar “trees” has never had a bigger payoff.
We are all very aware of the plight our economy is facing, but there is one bright spot in the darkness of the recession — green jobs.
According to a study by the Pew Charitable Trusts, the number of green jobs in the United States grew 9.1 percent from 1998 to 2007. Traditional jobs, on the other hand grew by only 3.7 percent in this time frame. This trend was also reflected on a state level.
This is great news, not just for the world of “green” but also for the economic future of our country. It shows that even, or rather especially, in troubled times we are recognizing the importance of sustainability.
The study also stated that “America’s clean energy economy has grown despite a lack of sustained government support in the past decade. By 2007, more than 68,200 businesses across all 50 states and the District of Columbia accounted for about 770,000 jobs.”
And there’s more good news. While many who have been lucky enough to avoid layoffs still live in fear of possibly being let go, 73 percent of respondents in North America to the first ever Carbon Salary Survey reported that they feel safe in their jobs, thanks to ever-increasing attention being placed on the sustainability sector.
I find this information comforting and refreshing. Comforting because it’s nice to know that even in this bleak environment there are still job possibilities out there, and refreshing because well, quite simply it’s refreshing to hear at least some positive news.
Here’s to a greater, greener future.
Sustainability is an ongoing movement that requires commitment from all — from politicians to regular citizens and everyone in between. In my ongoing quest of educating myself about news and events going on in the world of “green” I came across this release from the U.S. Department of Energy.
During the 2008 presidential campaign President Obama spoke of an amibitious energy plan and the first steps have been made to make the plan a reality.
President Obama announced that “…over $467 million from the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act to expand and accelerate the development, deployment, and use of geothermal and solar energy throughout the United States.”
The fact that this much money has been set aside in the name of creating a sustainable future for the United States is a huge step forward. President Obama went on to say that “We have a choice. We can remain the world’s leading importer of oil, or we can become the world’s leading exporter of clean energy.”
Recognizing that the path we’ve been on must be altered is just the beginning. By investing money to discover alternative energy sources, technology, etc., we have made the first step on this long journey.
The funds are going toward several types of green technology: $350 million is being set aside for geothermal energy, a source of renewable energy that uses heat from the Earth for electricity generation and heating applications.
An additional $117.6 million will go toward solar energy technologies. The goal of the various partnerships and developments is to continue to lead our country to a greener future.
It’s encouraging to know that although we are all facing difficult economic times right now, the government recognizes that making this investment is for the greater good of not only the U.S. but the world.
U.S. Department of Energy