Tag Archives: renewable energy

Cash In On Solar Stimulus Funds - AZ Business Magazine Sept/Oct 2010

Time Is Running Out To Cash In On Solar Stimulus Funds

Companies and investors across Arizona are deciding whether it’s time to “go solar.” As with any other financial undertaking, moving forward with solar must make economic sense. Despite dramatic strides in technology, solar energy projects are not yet viable without government incentives. Those hoping to maximize incentives for solar should note that a particularly useful one — Treasury grants in lieu of energy credits — will expire soon.

The American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009 (aka the stimulus bill) contained two key provisions for solar:
Solar now qualifies for a federal energy tax credit of 30 percent of cost. The credit applies when equipment is placed in service, allowing faster recovery than the renewable electricity production tax credit. Unfortunately, credit in excess of tax liability is carried forward to the next tax year, for up to 20 years.

But taxpayers may elect a Treasury grant in lieu of the energy credit. Grants are paid in as little as 60 days after equipment is placed in service or under construction. Treasury grants thus allow recovery of 30 percent of the cost of solar equipment, regardless of current income tax liability. More than $3 billion has been set aside for the grant in lieu of energy credit program.

However, the grant has an expiring provision; to qualify, construction must begin by Dec. 31, 2010. Physical work of a significant nature is required. Site selection, planning, design, site clearing, and even excavation to change the contours of the land do not count as beginning construction.
Although Dec. 31 is fast approaching, with proper guidance and execution, there is still time to act. Planning is crucial. Overlooking certain regulatory and permitting requirements early on, for example, could push your project groundbreaking into 2011.

Steps for developing a successful solar plan:

  • Whether choosing more common photovoltaic (PV) rooftop panels or a larger thermal system, visit other companies with solar power systems already in place. Most states have associations dedicated to renewable energy that can direct you to these companies.
  • If a solar system appears feasible, assemble a team of experts to handle environmental, regulatory, tax, real estate, energy procurement and financial matters.
  • Determine your regulatory requirements and financial incentives. A good resource is www.dsireusa.org.
  • Hire a contractor to conduct an energy audit to establish a baseline for the energy needs that must be met.
  • Companies usually partner with a “solar energy provider” that installs, owns and operates the system. The provider sells lower-cost electricity to the company under a long-term contract, while generating valuable renewable energy credits that can be sold to your electric utility, further reducing electricity costs. State associations can provide listings of providers.
  • From a list of pre-selected providers, request information regarding their abilities, such as technology, installation time frames, references and financial information. Choose the best finalists. Then issue an RFP specifying the amount of energy needed, the desired length and key terms of a power purchase agreement (PPA), project size, and the warranty you expect.
  • Once a provider is selected, the land or roof lease and PPA need to be negotiated. A 20-year fixed-rate PPA is common. Companies also should meet with their electric utility to determine the grid interconnection and meter requirements, and the amount of renewable energy credits to be received.

How To Solar Stimulus Steps:

  • Do your homework.
  • Assemble a team of experts.
  • Determine regulatory requirements and financial incentives.
  • Hire a contractor to conduct an energy audit.
  • Partner with a solar energy provider.
  • Issue an RFP.
  • Negotiate a power purchase
  • agreement (PPA).


Mark Vilaboy also contributed to this article.  He practices tax law in the Phoenix office of Quarles & Brady. For more information, visit www.quarles.com.

Arizona Business Magazine Sept/Oct 2010

Empty water bootles, tin cans and a recycle bin

Going Green For Dummies: One Company’s Evolving Journey Into Eco-Consciousness

A couple of months back I got on a call with members of the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter to discuss ways the company I work for, Jawa, could do its part to go green.  We are fortunate here at Jawa, getting meals catered daily and unlimited snacks (yes, I’ve gained weight since working here); but with that fully-stocked kitchen comes trash cans full of otherwise recyclable waste including plastic bottles, aluminum cans, candy wrappers and cardboard.  All this, in the trash.  Cringe worthy, I know.  Clearly an eco-intervention was in order, hence my call to the Sierra Club.

For those not familiar with Arizona’s Sierra Club, it is a grassroots environmental organization that strives to protect the environment, promote renewable energy and educate people about sustainability.  During our phone call it struck me how the simplest change in action by a company’s staff can have a tangible effect on the environment and, with a little effort on everyone’s part, how recyclable an office really is.

This brings me to Jawa’s first order of business: implementing a recycling program and encouraging employee participation.  The latter had me nervous.  Would employees feel forced?  Would they take the time to separate paper from plastic?  Would they make the effort to break down bulky items?  I had a few days to prepare my “the company is going to be recycling and it requires active participation from the staff” speech while we waited on paper and plastic bins, courtesy of Arizona Center for the Blind’s Recycling Program.

The bins arrived within a few days as did the rundown of what in our office could be recycled (which, according to the Center for the Blind’s recycling rep, was about 97% of our office).   From cardboard boxes to plastic cutlery; plastic food containers to Styrofoam cups; scrap paper to paper plates, just about everything could be recycled!

Once the bins were in place it was time to let the staff know.  I’ll spare you the details of my speech, but I think I received something close to a standing ovation (this could be due to the fact that most people were standing already, but who’s counting).

Within hours of the recycling announcement, most bins were full and I was bombarded with suggestions from employees on how else we could make a difference, like creating custom JAWA reusable water bottles to eliminate the need for bottled water, putting signs next to electronics reminding people to turn them off when not in use and starting a carpooling program.

In the weeks since the recycling started we’ve made headway with more green initiatives including providing employees with ceramic coffee mugs to replace the Styrofoam cups (it’s working too—I haven’t seen a Styrofoam cup in hand in days).  We’ve also started using biodegradable plates and silverware made out of natural fibers that breakdown easily in water or a landfill.  A few days ago the site of someone scraping food off their plate in order to recycle it properly brought tears to my eyes.  But I digress.

It’s amazing how the opportunities for a company to reduce its carbon footprint are endless and with resources like the Sierra Club, there will always be direction on how to do so.  For Jawa, it will be an ongoing process as we continue to implement eco-friendly changes around the office; making it easy as possible on employees.  Do I want to get rid of our plastic water bottles in favor of reusable ones?  Yes.  I am afraid of employee backlash when I tell people they have to part with their bottled Arrowhead?  Yes.  I’m confident we’ll get there though, one step at a time.

***

Each month Jawa chooses a local charity to donate to as part of our employee-driven philanthropy program “Jawa Gives”.  This July the Sierra Club, nominated by an employee who’s been active with the organization for 15 years and shares its passion for environmental sustainability, was chosen to receive a $5,000 donation.  The donation is Jawa’s way of saying thanks for the Sierra Club’s impressive efforts to keep Arizona’s environment healthy and also represents a commitment from Jawa to continue with green initiatives.

Last Wednesday the entire Jawa staff gathered as members from Arizona’s Sierra Club were presented with our check and then took a few moments to speak about upcoming hikes, service outings and workshops offered.   Shortly after their departure, my inbox was filled with suggestions on how else Jawa could help with the Sierra Club’s mission.  My favorite?  Starting a hiking club that picks up trash along the way, and then sorts through it to see what’s recyclable.

Green Innovation SRP Earthwise - AZ Business Magazine Jul/Aug 2010

BIG Green Awards: Green Innovation

Twelve categories, hundreds of nominations — but only one will take home the green. It’s the first annual Southwest Build-it-Green Awards, where BIG teamed up with the USGBC to bring you the leanest sustainable leaders and projects in Arizona.

Recipient: SRP EarthWise

SRP has a wide variety of sustainable solutions that allow customers to reduce their carbon footprint and do their part to help save the environment. The SRP EarthWise programs are the first step in this process.

One program, EarthWise Energy, produces electricity from renewable resources like the sun, wind and water. Once the electricity is produced, it is sent to the SRP electric system for all customers to use. By using renewable power, there is less need to use fossil fuels. This program is offered to customers for an extra $3 per month. So far, EarthWise Energy has about 5,300 people participating.

Another SRP EarthWise program, EarthWise Solar Energy, allows customers to install solar electric or solar water systems in their homes or businesses for a reduced price. Businesses also can offset electricity usage with natural sources by joining the EarthWise Renewable Energy Credits program. SRP customers also are given the option to support reforestation through Trees for Change.

SRP EarthWise has several other programs that help the community take an active part in the movement to save energy. These programs include: EarthWise Solar for Schools; EarthWise Renewable Energy Credits; EarthWise Trees for Change; EarthWise Mowing Down Pollution; and EarthWise Powering Our Future.

www.srpnet.com


Finalist: Burgis Envirolutions
www.burgisenviro.com

Burgis Envirolutions is redefining the traditional composting process, and allowing food operators to effectively manage food waste with innovative green technology.

The Organic Refuse Conversion Alternative is a technology that converts food into a water waste that can be discharged or treated and reused in irrigation. The ORCA uses natural microorganisms and biochips to process and break down food on site.

The ORCA allows businesses to save time and money, while reducing their carbon footprint. Businesses will not have to pay for hauling fees or labor costs that come from disposing their food waste at compost locations. By making less trips hauling food, carbon emissions will be lowered.

The ORCA is offered in six sizes. It requires very little power and uses only a small amount of water, from 40 to 200 gallons depending on the machine size.

Burgis Envirolutions was awarded the 2009 Valley Forward/SRP Crescordia Award in Green Technology.


Finalist: Phoenix Children’s Hospital
www.phoenixchildrens.com

Phoenix Children’s Hospital is changing the way hospitals approach their responsibilities to the environment and their patients.



The Hospital recently spent $588 million to build an additional 11-story tower for patients. During construction the hospital was conscious of the design, construction and operations practices it used, and as a result the new building will use 20 percent less energy.

Phoenix Children’s most recognizable sustainability effort is the Central Energy Plant (CEP) that powers the hospital’s 34 acres. The CEP uses an 800-ton water-to-water heat pump chiller that saves 5.6 million gallons of water each year, and over the next 15 years the CEP is expected to save the hospital $11 million in energy and operating costs.

The hospital maintains a paperless policy, and sends materials to subcontractors through online distribution. Recycling is heavily emphasized and throughout the construction process more than 70 percent of the construction waste was recycled.

Arizona Business Magazine Jul/Aug 2010

Energy Saving Air Conditioning

Green News Roundup – Green Renovation, Energy Saving Air Conditioning & More

Welcome to our weekly green news roundup. This week we’ve gathered stories about video conferencing, green renovation, energy saving air conditioning and local sustainability-related events taking place throughout the Valley.

Please feel free to send along any interesting stories you’d like to see featured in the roundup by e-mailing me at kasia@azbigmedia.com. Also visit AZ Green Scene for informative articles on sustainability endeavors in the Valley and state. Read the latest article here.

Energy Saving A/C Conquers All Climates
As Phoenix rolls into its hottest time of the year, residents are all dreading the energy bill. Keeping cool requires non-stop air conditioning, and that doesn’t come cheap! Or does it? The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory has invented a new air conditioning process that has the potential of using 50 to 90 (yes 90!) percent less energy than today’s best units. The process uses membranes, evaporative cooling and liquid desiccants in a way that has never been done before. But alas Phoenix, we’ll still have to wait for our cheaper A/C as the system is best for dry climates that don’t get too hot or humid for example Denver. It doesn’t work well for climates such as ours or very humid climates like Miami. Still, it’s encouraging to know that alternatives are in the works and hopefully ours will come out in the near future!

Sealing Deals in Virtual Space
Video conferencing is a term we’ve all heard before. However, as technology has progressed so has this innovative conferencing method. Cisco-AT&T Telepresence is one of the latest incarnations of this exciting new technology. The New York Times Green blog covered this topic, noting the significant benefits limiting airline travel for conferences can have on the environment. Not only does this help the environment, it also helps businesses save money. London-based Carbon Disclosure Project examined “how greater reliance on teleconferencing might affect business costs and emissions,” also encouraging companies to collect data about greenhouse gas emissions hoping they will take steps to reduce them.

Valley Partnership Presents “Green Renovation for Progress & Profit”
Learn how to apply the green renovation and operation strategies of Arizona landmark, El Chorro Lodge, to your business.  The tagline of this breakfast, which will be held on Friday, June 25, at 7 a.m., is “A case study on solar strategies fueled in part by sticky buns!”  Come educate yourself on how to efficiently use green power in your business while chowing down on El Chorro’s famous sticky buns.  To register for this event visit www.valleypartnership.org.

New Meritage Green Home Concept Gets Kid-Friendly
Turn your kids into junior sheriffs working for fictional Sheriff M. Green who takes wasted energy from Wally Wasteful and gives it back to the community.  On Saturday, June 26 at 10 a.m., Meritage Homes will literally unveil its green home concept in Meritage Home’s Lyon’s Gate in Gilbert.  The work on this green home concept has been kept under a secretive green drape and will finally be revealed.  Contact Mary Garrett at (602) 432-2010 or mary@mgpublicrelations.com for more information on how to take part in this green unveiling.

Clean Up After Your Pet the Green Way
Ever wanted to clean up after your dog in a more environmentally-friendly way?  Well PoopBags, Inc. is here to help.  PoopBags, a pet waste disposal product, is made with renewable resources like corn.  This American-made product is 100 percent biodegradable, shelf-stable and will decompose at the rate of an apple after usage.  PoopBags, Inc. is trying to make the world a better place for generations to come.  If you’d like to order PoopBags, visit www.poopbags.com.

EarthFest Night is Back!
Valley Forward’s Annual EarthFest Educators Night is back for the sixth time.  Arizona kindergarten through 12th grade teachers have the chance to win $5,000 to put toward environmental programs in their classroom, school or community.  Free resources on environmental education and how to create a greener school will also be available to attendees.  EarthFest Educators Night combines education and entertainment in innovative programming that uses Arizona’s unique desert character.  To learn more about this free event, held Thursday, Sept. 16 from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Phoenix Zoo, visit www.valleyforward.org.

California Leads the Way in Green Building

CALGREEN Leads The Way In Green Building

California has long been a leader in sustainability and now the state is taking it one step further. Officials from the the California Building Standards Commission recently adopted the country’s first mandatory statewide green building code. The regulations, called CALGREEN, will require every new building to reduce water usage by 20 percent and recycle 50 percent of its construction waste. Other stipulations include separate water meters for indoor and outdoor water use in commercial buildings and mandatory inspections of energy systems for nonresidential buildings over 10,000 square feet. These regulations take effect in January 1, 2011.

The objective of the code is to help the state achieve their goal of 33 percent renewable energy by 2020.

In Arizona, the Arizona Corporation Commission has goals for achieving 15 percent renewable energy by 2025. With the Renewable Energy Tax Incentive Program, along with many other initiatives we are making big steps toward making this a reality.

California is definitely ahead in their efforts to incorporate environmental standards on many levels. Other states, Arizona included, are sure to learn from the example that the Golden State sets.

For more information visit http://gov.ca.gov

Barbara Lockwood, APS

Valley Forward: Barbara Lockwood

Barbara Lockwood
Director of Renewable Energy
Arizona Public Service
www.aps.com

Barbara Lockwood is a chemical engineer who doesn’t consider herself an environmentalist at heart, yet there she is — director of renewable energy for Arizona Public Service.

“It’s not something that’s innate in me,” Lockwood says about the environment. “I got into it from a business perspective. What makes sense to me is that we as a global economy are all tied together on one planet. What truly makes the world go around is our businesses and our connections. Accordingly, to sustain that and be viable long term we must do everything we can to protect and sustain the Earth. I truly believe our businesses run our society.”

At APS since 1999, Lockwood is responsible for renewable energy programs, including generation planning, customer programs and policy. Lockwood began her career in the chemical industry at E.I. DuPont de Nemours in various engineering and management roles on the East Coast. Later she moved into consulting and managed diverse projects for national clients throughout the country.

Lockwood, who joined Valley Forward in 1970 and now is a member of the executive committee, holds a bachelor of science in chemical engineering from Clemson University and a master of science in environmental engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

“I’m a chemical engineer and I stepped into the environment right out of college,” Lockwood says. “It was a hazardous waste treatment operation.”

Although much has changed since Lockwood launched her professional journey, “renewable energy was a natural progression of my career.”

All sources of renewable energy, including solar, wind and biomass, should remain part of Arizona’s energy portfolio, she says. Lockwood mentions a biomass operation near Snowflake that generates electricity primarily by burning woody waste material from nearby national forests.

Lockwood calls Arizona “the best solar resource in the world,” and expects greater use of that renewable energy in the years ahead.

“We’re definitely working on that,” she says. “Solar is the resource of choice in the sunny Southwest.”

The main benefit of renewable energy is what you don’t see.

“It reduces polluting emissions because it is a clean source of fuel, and it offers a stable price,” Lockwood says. “What’s more, it can create jobs in Arizona.”

Lockwood touts APS’ Green Choice Programs as a way to improve the environment. Green Choice involves such things as converting to compact fluorescent light bulbs, renewable energy resources such as solar and wind, and high-efficiency air conditioning.

She also touts APS.

“The company is committed to renewable energy, and I came here because of that reputation,” Lockwood says.

Are Green Jobs Recession Proof

Are Green Jobs Recession-Proof?

The recession has been grim. Every time you read more depressing statistics relating to the world’s economic woes it’s almost impossible to see anything positive. However, there is some news that points to a brighter future. In a previous post I wrote about green jobs leading to a good future and it seems that may in fact be the case.

Newsweek put out a list of ten recession-proof jobs (as recession-proof as you can get these days I guess) and sustainability-related jobs took four spots!

One of them was solar energy, here’s what Newsweek wrote:
“With 80 percent of oil industry employees facing retirement in the next decade, now’s the time for America to invest in renewable energy… And, aside from replenishing the oil and gas industry with younger workers, green energy (including nuclear) will see strong growth and increased employment rates, especially under an administration focused on clean energy initiatives.”

Wind energy was next on the list. According to a 2006 study released by the Renewable Energy Policy Project cited in the Newsweek article, researchers found that 2,000 businesses in Michigan could use wind turbine technology as an employment alternative for ailing auto workers. It went on to state that “as that industry declines, nearly 34,000 new jobs could be created by simply reorienting workers from their current manufacturing jobs to those focused on creating renewable energy for the state.”

Overall green business was also on the list with a continuing demand for eco-oriented project managers, attorneys, engineers, etc.

Energy efficiency was also listed as a recession-proof job, citing the need to fill green jobs that technology has created. As developments of these new technologies continue to flourish, more and more employees will be needed to see these projects through.

I guess it’s safe to say that jobs in the sustainability field are ones that will help us in riding out this recession and moving forward. To me, it’s just another example of why ‘green’ is indeed the way to go.

www.newsweek.com

man sitting in chair in front of office window

CEO Series: Steve Cowman

Steve Cowman
Appointed CEO and Board Member, Stirling Energy Systems (SES)

How has the recession affected the alternative energy industry?
It’s had a major impact on the solar industry and the renewable energy industry on two fronts. First of all, there are a lot of solar companies that are not going to make it through the current credit crisis because they are going to run out of capital. … You need to have a pretty strong balance sheet at the moment and you need to have a pretty strong parental structure to support you through this. That’s not just solar — that’s a lot of the renewable companies.

The second issue is getting the funding for the projects themselves. That is a huge challenge because these projects are typically between half a billion and a billion dollars in terms of capital requirement. … What’s really impressed me about the Obama Administration and the DOE (Department of Energy) is that they recognize that there is a technical challenge here given where the credit markets are. They also recognize that renewable energy has the real potential to be competitive in price with fossil fuel after three to five years. But to do that (companies) need some help to actually get there. I think the stimulus package, as it’s been outlined, has tremendous potential to help the renewable (industry) in general and the solar (industry) in particular.

Why is Arizona behind other states in developing solar energy?
Arizona is a great state and Phoenix has clearly grown, but it’s grown on the back of a particular focus … real estate, the holiday center, the golf complexes. … It hasn’t really focused on the industrial side of it. I think if you look at what has actually happened to Phoenix over the past 10 to 15 years, there’s been a slow erosion of its industrial and technological base. And some of the very large companies like Motorola, ON Semiconductor, Intel … have significantly slimmed down or have actually outsourced. And they haven’t just outsourced overseas. …

They’ve moved to New Mexico, they’ve moved to Nevada, they’ve moved to California. I think, to be honest, Arizona fell asleep at the wheel. … (it) didn’t really provide the right type of incentives, and I think it has paid the price.

However, I would say that in the last year, there’s been a shock of reality. Obviously, Arizona has seen the biggest collapse in housing prices. It saw the biggest run-up and it saw the biggest collapse, as well. I think of GPEC (Greater Phoenix Economic Council) as being particularly proactive in terms of trying to bring that awareness, in terms of trying to attract (companies). … That (Arizona) Senate bill (1403) that just went through … is significant, but it won’t fix the problem. But, it does show a culture change in the Arizona Legislature in terms of wanting to be more proactive about attracting inward investment at this time.

What do governments have to do in order to get more companies to turn to alternative energy?
There are two things the state has started to do. The first thing they’ve done is they are mandating renewable targets. So, they are mandating to the utility companies that they must have a certain percentage of their power come from renewables. And if there’s not, there will be financial penalties. That’s the stick, if you like. And the carrot that they are actually providing is the stimulus package to help the renewable companies to get the projects in the ground. So they’ve got those two things running parallel.

What do you see in the future for the alternative energy industry?
The potential is tremendous. You have a fantastic manufacturing and engineering base here. …  You have a large number of really blue chip, Fortune 100 U.S. multinationals that have established a really strong technology base here. You have Arizona State University that has some fantastic programs, and you have a great environment for people to live in. So, it’s a really attractive place and I have to think that the future will be really good. … (However) there are companies who have worldwide headquarters here but do no manufacturing here — who shall remain anonymous. So, the real challenge for Arizona is how do you get those companies to increase their level of vertical integration and move beyond just having headquarter functions to having manufacturing and design (here)?

What kind of leadership team works best for a company like Stirling?
Ideally, you want someone who brings a well-honed skill set. You want someone who has experience in, hopefully, one or two different areas, someone who has good interpersonal skills. … So it’s your personality, it’s your attitude. … If you have a can-do, we can knock down any barrier to make it work (attitude), you will make it work. … So what’s the ideal executive? The answer is there is not an ideal executive. What you want is a good mix.

    Vital Stats



  • Appointed CEO of Stirling Energy Systems in June 2008
  • Held numerous senior management positions at Greenstar Ireland, General Electric, Harris Corporation, General Semiconductor, Vishay Intertechnology, Volex Europe.
  • Earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in engineering from the University College, Dublin and Sheffield University; master’s degree in management science from Trinity College Dublin
  • www.stirlingenergy.com
Sustainable America

How Does America Feel About Sustainability?

In a previous blog post I wrote about the amount of money being set aside for sustainability in the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act — $467 million to be exact.

With so much money being spent, are you wondering what the American people really think about sustainability-related matters? Me too. As luck would have it, a research team from the Yale Project on Climate Change and the George Mason University Center for Climate Change Communication conducted a nationally representative survey of 2,164 Americans to get some insight. Titled “Climate Change in the American Mind: Americans’ climate change beliefs, attitudes, policy preferences and actions” the survey included various matters relating to “issue priorities for the new administration and Congress, support and opposition regarding climate change and energy policies, levels of political and consumer activism, and beliefs about the reality and risks of global warming.” The survey was conducted in September and October of 2008.

Obviously, the biggest issue on the minds of most Americans right now is the economy. Hence, some of the survey results were to be expected (76 percent of Americans rated the economy as a “very high” priority). Yet, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that global warming was a “high” or “very high” national priority for a majority of Americans. Also, 72 percent said the issue of global warming is important to them personally.

When asked who should act to address global warming, 76 percent of respondents said corporations and businesses should do more, or much more. Another 67 percent said Congress should do more to address global warming. Yet, 72 percent believe that citizens themselves are responsible.

Who’s right?

I don’t think there’s a right answer to this one; collaboration is the only path to a truly more sustainable way of life. Still, these findings are definitely a positive sign in my opinion.

Some other notable positives the study found:

• 92 percent of Americans surveyed supported more funding for research on renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power.
• 85 percent supported tax rebates for people buying energy-efficient vehicles or solar panels.
• 79 percent supported a 45 mpg fuel efficiency standard for cars, trucks and SUVs.

Here’s the kicker: 79 percent of respondents supported this 45 mpg fuel efficiency standard EVEN if this meant a new car could cost up to $1,000 more. Now that’s dedication!

Unfortunately, though going green can sometimes be a bit more expensive upfront, hopefully with time these costs will be lowered and these kind of vehicles (and other green initiatives) will become the norm.

Overall, what I gathered from this study is that Americans do indeed care about the environment. Although our country is in a precarious time, sustainability hasn’t been entirely forgotten.

Solar Power in Arizona

State Incentives – Solar & Renewables

The Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency was established in 1995 and provides detailed analysis of federal and state incentives for solar and renewable energy throughout the country.

The website notes that the project is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), mainly through the Office of Planning, Budget and Analysis (PBA). The database is an ongoing project of the North Carolina Solar Center and the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC).

This site is a great tool for those beginning the journey of making their homes/businesses more sustainable. From green building incentives to the utility rebate programs this information is definitely worth checking out when researching various green options.

For more information on the database and how Arizona fares in comparison to other states check out their Web site at: www.dsireusa.org


www.ncsc.ncsu.edu
www.irecusa.org
www.eere.energy.gov
www.nrel.gov

solar_prop

$467 Million For Geothermal And Solar Energy Projects

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.

Source:
U.S. Department of Energy

The Ubiquitous Topic Of Green Is Popular For A Reason — It Works

The Ubiquitous Topic Of Green Is Popular For A Reason — It Works

Lake Superior State University may not be too well-known, but it does generate some publicity each year with the release of its annual List of Words to be Banished from the Queen’s English for Mis-use, Over-use and General Uselessness.

Those who tire of hearing or reading certain words and phrases go to the Michigan university’s Web site and nominate them for consideration. The big losers for 2009 are the word “green” and such related phrases as “going green.”

Good luck with getting those banished — especially in Arizona.

Many who have been beating the drum for energy efficiency, water conservation and sustainable business practices have found willing ears in executive suites across the state.

General Dynamics C4 Systems in Scottsdale is just one company that has proactively embraced standards set forth by the U.S. Green Building Council under its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, Green Building Rating System.

Genesis Worldwide Enterprises in Cottonwood took a bold step forward in 2005, when it installed an 84-kilowatt photovoltaic power system, which then became the second-largest private commercial solar power system ever installed in Arizona.

It’s impossible to log onto Web sites for such utility companies as Arizona Public Service, Salt River Project or Tucson Electric Power without being directed to information about their green programs and services.

And if none of that is convincing enough, consider this. Light rail has come to the Valley of the Sun with the debut of a 20-mile, $1.4 billion system in late December.

Granted, these are just some of the steps Arizona businesses and municipalities are taking along the road to sustainability. But they are important steps.

“We could get a lot better than we are, but we’re doing pretty darn good,” says Charles Popeck, president and CEO of Green Ideas Inc., an environmental building consulting firm in Phoenix, and one of the founders of the USGBC’s Arizona chapter.

And Popeck sees a general acceptance of sustainability principles throughout the Arizona business community, not just among specific industries such as high-tech firms.

“I’d have to say it’s across the board. Everyone seems to be catching onto it,” he says. “The reason is it’s just common sense. I mean, how can you argue with saving water and saving energy?”

Bonnie Richardson, the new chair of USGBC Arizona, believes the decision to go green usually starts at the top.

“I think it really comes from the corporate philosophy,” she says. “I do think that folks in high-tech businesses have been exposed to more of the new ideas and so they tend to be more willing to embrace and try things out. However, I think we’re now at that tipping point where it just makes good financial sense for businesses to do this, and that’s where it’s going to be a lot easier for people to adopt it.”

John Neville, a sustainable systems consultant and president of the Sedona-based networking organization Sustainable Arizona, emphasizes those financial considerations in terms of a willingness to go green.

“Sustainability means the ability to last,” he says. “And if you look at your business and make business decisions based on the idea that you’re going to last a long time, then you look at your expenses and your income in a different way. If all you’re concerned about is next quarter, then you make your business decisions differently and you’re not going to be sustainable.”

When LEED-accredited professionals like Popeck, Richardson and Neville talk about sustainability and business, they oftentimes are referring to companies and institutions that are seeking one of the various levels of LEED certification.

According to the USGBC, “LEED promotes a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance in five key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.”

In fact, the nationally recognized LEED certification system is not just restricted to new construction. There are ratings programs for existing buildings, schools, commercial interiors and retail spaces among several others. Each category has a specific checklist that earns points for applicants. The more points earned, the higher the rating level with basic certification at the low end and the LEED Platinum level at the top.

Those going for new-building certification can earn points, for example, by locating a building on a site that accommodates alternative transportation methods for its employees, maximizes open spaces, utilizes water-efficient landscaping, has on-site sources of renewable energy and implements a construction waste management program.

USGBC Arizona includes a statewide list of completed LEED-certified projects on its Web site.

Popeck argues that green buildings are no more expensive than any other type of new construction.

“I think the biggest misconception out there is that it has to cost more upfront. It certainly does not,” he says.

When costs go up, it’s usually because someone decided to go for LEED certification well after the design process got under way.

“That is a typical problem out there and then people say, ‘Well green building costs more.’ Well it doesn’t really cost more,” Popeck says. “It’s because you designed your building twice that it cost more.”

Companies can recoup some of the expenses involved in greening their buildings through government tax credits and utility company rebate programs. But there are also significant savings from taking a green approach. This can include lowering the price of energy and water, as well as trimming shipping costs by sourcing construction materials locally or rethinking product packaging.

So why isn’t everyone going green these days?

“Of course, the downturn economically has hurt us,” Richardson says. “But I don’t think it was particular to green building. I think it was just across the board because our construction industry here was really devastated and it’s going to take some time for all of that to come back.

“So we’re no different than any other part of the country where the downturn is slowing growth for some of our new businesses and also, perhaps, people aren’t confident to make big investments at this moment.”

Neville seconds that.

“Everyone kind of pulls in during an economic slowdown,” he says. “It’s difficult at times when you have cash-flow issues. It’s very difficult.”

Neville is certainly not opposed to companies jumping into the green movement with both feet, but in some situations he thinks it’s actually better for companies to take incremental steps.

When he works with a business or government entity, they start out by analyzing the organization’s mission.

Neville outlined the process: “You take a look at, ‘What am I trying to accomplish here? How does my business work?’ Whether it’s a business or running a city or running a school, you say: ‘How does this work? What are all my businesses processes? What are the things that really please the customer?’ And then, ‘How can I do those and get rid of the other things that I’m doing that are ridiculous?’

”He points to a printer who saved money while going green by switching from inks containing volatile organic compounds. This eliminated the need for filing a toxic release inventory report every year, which involved hiring an outside firm to conduct an audit.
“Going green is getting better at your job. It’s doing your business better,” Neville says. “Becoming more sustainable is becoming a higher-quality business, a more efficient and effective business. That’s really what it is.”

Richardson, who works as an architect and principal planner for Tempe’s transportation division, says it’s important for those promoting sustainability to make outreach and educational efforts during a downturn.

“As we recover, there will be people with a lot more ideas about what they want to do with their business and what direction they want to go,” she says. “What’s really interesting is that once you get people looking into it, they recognize that there’s significant savings for businesses that decide to grow their business green.”

Anthony Floyd, another LEED-accredited professional, manages Scottsdale’s green building program. His city does a lot more than just talk the talk when it comes to environmentally responsible building.

In 2005, Scottsdale passed a resolution mandating that the city adopt a LEED Gold policy for designing, building and constructing new municipal facilities. The Granite Reef Senior Center, which opened in 2006, became the city’s first such building to earn LEED Gold certification. There is a new fire station that was going through the certification process earlier this year.

The Scottsdale green building program is primarily a residential program, but it plays an important role in terms of influencing commercial entities.

“When we started the residential program, after a few years of that we realized that we needed to start practicing what we were preaching,” Floyd says.

They set the bar high, he says, because “we realized we need to lead by example.”

Floyd serves as a green-strategies resource for various Scottsdale departments, other Arizona communities and numerous organizations. In early 2008, he put together a report for the AZ Minority Green Business Conference titled “Greening the Building Process.”

The report contains pertinent strategies, facts and figures. But it also covers a practice known as “greenwashing.”

“It’s just like whitewashing,” Floyd says. “I mean, there are a lot of companies out there that are advertising themselves as being green. But you really have to look deeper.

“There are multiple attributes to green building and there are shades of green.”

Like manufacturers that freely trumpet the sometimes debatable health benefits of their products, there are others who “mislead consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.”

Floyd uses the example of a business that may have sourced some construction material locally and uses that as a reason to promote itself as being green.

“But that’s greenwashing,” he says. “Just one particular product is not going to make a building green. It’s about the strategy and the design, and the combination of materials and resources that determines the overall greenness of the project.

“You can’t just look at water and say you’re green. You can’t just look at energy and say you’re green. In a building, you have to look at everything.”

But water and energy are two important considerations in Arizona, where the first may be scarce before long and the second can be extremely costly during summertime.

“In most of the LEED buildings that are being done, there is real focus on both water and energy,” Richardson says. “And that’s a new tack for Arizona.”

There are various ways to trim the use of potable water, such as installing low-flow fixtures and waterless urinals, harvesting rainwater and landscaping with native plants as Tempe does at its new transportation center.

“As long as water is relatively inexpensive, it’s a little harder to make the case that that investment turns around quickly,” Richardson says. “But I think over the next five years, there’s going to be a lot more discussion about how valuable water is in the desert and how we really need to change attitudes about managing it in a better way.”

Water efficiency is a major issue for Popeck. “It’s my pet peeve, really,” he says. “Yet every time you go into one of these project team meetings, you know, no one seems to get it. Everyone thinks the water’s unlimited. And it’s just really not.”

The need for energy efficiency and renewable energy are not just arguments coming out of Washington, D.C., these days.
Neville likes to say that the least expensive energy around is energy you don’t use. Energy is among the highest expenses on business ledgers.

“Whenever possible,” he wrote in a Sustainable Arizona position paper, “developments should incorporate energy technologies that rely on available, renewable, clean energy sources, such as solar, wind, ground-source, geothermal and other beneficial resources.”

Floyd is similarly inclined.

“If you’re green and you’re in Arizona, you need to be doing renewable energy,” he says. “It’s not an option. If you’re green, you should be generating a portion of your electricity using solar.”

There’s another, equally important part to this strategy, Floyd argues: “You need to start by reducing your energy load by being energy efficient. And then once you do that, you get a bigger bang from your solar buck.”

Dependable Solar Products - One Arizona Small Business Going Green

Dependable Solar Products: One Arizona Small Business Going Green

The year was 1976. Before “going green” was the worldwide movement that it is today, Lane Garrett left his job to become an entrepreneur in energy management and conservation. By 1992, he had formed ETA Engineering, a distribution and engineering business specializing in various solar products. After distributors suggested that forming a separate company for installation would be a wise strategic marketing move, Garrett founded Dependable Solar Products in 2005.

Although ETA had been in business for more than a decade by the time Dependable Solar Products was founded, like any new business it ran into some difficulties.

“The challenges were capitalization to build the company, which was provided by stockholders,” Garrett says, adding that “getting the word out and getting some name recognition” was another issue.

Luckily, since ETA had been operating for several years, “we had all the technical expertise, engineering and experience, so that wasn’t a problem,” Garrett says.

Together, ETA Engineering and Dependable Solar Products have helped to put Arizona on the map for solar energy. ETA Engineering offers a full line of renewable energy products and services, and also designs systems such as photovoltaic power plants. They currently have projects in Arizona, New Mexico and Utah, with more on the way including three in South Africa. Dependable Solar primarily installs solar modules (panels), as well as conducting some wind work.

“We do installations for power companies, industrial applications, as well as homeowners,” Garrett says.

The sizes of the systems vary, ranging from smaller systems that are just over a kilowatt in size, all the way up to large megawatt-plus size.

“If we look at the range of systems depending on size of homes and how much energy people use, it would go from usually 3 kilowatts (as a small system) to 10 kilowatts or more for some of the local people located in the mountains. Typically three to four range in size,” Garrett says.

In addition to the solar services it provides, Dependable Solar Products offers a multitude of green products.

“We provide a range of conservation — green — and energy-generating products such as wind turbines, lighting of all types, swimming pool circulation pumps, remote systems (off the utility grid and running 100 percent on solar), photovoltaic modules, high efficiency air conditioning, insulation (and more),” Garrett says.

The company also installs high-efficiency appliances, solar-powered golf cars, and even self-composting toilets. Essentially, the company has the ability to work in any area where electricity is used.

Currently, Dependable Solar Products has two locations, one in Scottsdale and one in Mesa. However, Garrett hopes to expand significantly in the coming year.

“We are planning this year to set up locations in Tucson, Denver, Albuquerque (N.M.) and Northern Mexico,” he says. “We hope to continue to grow at a rapid rate.”

While Arizona has sunshine to spare, incentives in other states make them more appealing solar energy destinations. However, in recent years this has changed significantly. Tax credits and the return on investment for solar energy are increasing, giving consumers more reasons to switch to solar.

“With the corporation commission and a lot of push through the Legislature, that situation is changing and now Arizona is much more competitive with other states.

“GPEC (Greater Phoenix Economic Council) and other organizations in the state have been working to change (incentives). The Arizona Solar Energy Industries Association has been active in changing incentives. I think chances of additional improvements are looking much better,” Garrett says.

With the rising cost of energy, solar is becoming the leading alternative for many and Garrett is thrilled to see that his long-time passion is finally becoming a reality.

“It’s one of the best investments you can make,” Garrett says. “I’ve been wishing for the coming growth, and to see it now is my favorite aspect.”

Michael Bidwill Arizona Cardinals

Q&A: Michael Bidwill, President, Arizona Cardinals

During these difficult economic times, how vital is an organization such as the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC) to the local economy?
GPEC is vitally important because it is the only regional organization focused exclusively on bringing new business to Greater Phoenix. Because GPEC works closely with companies considering expansion to the region, they know what companies need to make business decisions and gain insight into what steps the state can take to better compete with our Mountain West competitor states.

What can the Valley do to better position itself to succeed once the recession is over?
Diversify our economy and work with public sector leaders to create sensible, new programs that bring high-wage industries to Arizona. During the last decade of the real estate explosion, Arizona was one of the leading job-producing states. Over the last two years, we have fallen to 49th in terms of new job creation. Business as usual will not work. Now is the time to change our metrics and compete for other industries to migrate to Arizona.

Arizona and Greater Phoenix routinely lose projects to less desirable locations because of aggressive relocation programs in other states. GPEC has developed modest, fiscally responsible programs, such as the Quality Jobs Through Renewable Industries program, for the Arizona Legislature to consider. GPEC has vetted these programs with decision-makers in the renewable energy industry. Senior executives within these industries have told us this program would put Arizona in a more competitive position to win projects. GPEC also had Elliott D. Pollack and Company conduct a third-party review of our program to confirm its fiscal impact.

We need to immediately work with the state to develop and implement new programs that make our region more competitive.

What are some of the initiatives and goals you have planned this year for GPEC, and how will you go about achieving those goals?
In addition to solar and renewable energy, GPEC has three other strategies that we feel are meaningful generators of new business. We continue to work aggressively on a foreign direct investment program, as the United States is still an attractive environment to invest in for international companies. Next, in working with many of our public sector leaders, we are actively seeking to locate companies to Greater Phoenix from neighboring states with higher operating costs of doing business. Lastly, health care in Arizona is an untapped resource. In fact, Arizonans routinely seek health care outside of the state valued at hundreds of millions of dollars. We need to work with the health care industry to determine the needs not currently being met in Arizona and look to those opportunities for economic growth.

How did you first become involved in GPEC and how have your own professional experiences prepared you for your current role?
The Arizona Cardinals have long been stakeholders of GPEC, as we believed in its important work. I had no personal involvement until Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs asked me to serve on the GPEC board three years ago. I was honored to join and realized quickly how critical this organization is to helping our local economy grow, especially during this downturn and with the state’s budget cuts to the Arizona Department of Commerce.

You’ve seen first hand how important professional sports are to the local and regional economy. How can the Valley capitalize more on that in the future?
Sports are important to Arizona and we need to support what we have now. But, again, we need to focus on diversifying our economy. Like a personal stock portfolio, we cannot become “over-weighted” in any single sector. We have all the teams we need, but it will be important to attract events with significant economic impacts and exposure like the Super Bowl in the future. Our regional success will depend largely on creating a diverse and vibrant economy around many new industries and we can’t look to real estate or sports to take us out of this downturn.