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Getting ahead on renewable energy

Shawn Dell Joyce, Times Herald Record
NET METERING is an incentive designed to encourage homeowners to invest in solar panels. Customers who net-meter produce more energy than they use, and send the excess energy into the utility wires. “When this happens,” said John Maserjian, spokesperson for Central Hudson, “residents are credited for both the supply and delivery of the electricity they are generating — and the delivery credit represents a subsidy to the homeowner that helps for their initial investment.”

In September 2006, Central Hudson became the only utility in the state to meet its limit in the amount of solar energy it would allow to be net-metered into the grid. It voluntarily increased its net-metering capacity from .8 to 1.2 percent (of its 1996 peak demand). However, this new cap was reached in March, so Central Hudson announced an end to its net-metering program.

THIS SENT A CHILL through the solar industry. Immediately, Sustainable Hudson Valley and New York Solar Energy Industries Association filed a petition with the New York State Public Service Commission, which oversees utilities. ..
(5 Aug 2007)

Energy Search Goes Underground

Eliane Engeler and Alexander Higgins, Associated Press
When tremors started cracking walls and bathroom tiles in this Swiss city on the Rhine, the engineers knew they had a problem.

“The glass vases on the shelf rattled, and there was a loud bang,” Catherine Wueest, a teashop owner, recalls. “I thought a truck had crashed into the building.”

But the 3.4 magnitude tremor on the evening of Dec. 8 was no ordinary act of nature: It had been accidentally triggered by engineers drilling deep into the Earth’s crust to tap its inner heat and thus break new ground – literally – in the world’s search for new sources of energy.

Basel was wrecked by an earthquake in 1365, and no tremor, man-made or other, is to be taken lightly. After more, slightly smaller tremors followed, Basel authorities told Geopower Basel to put its project on hold.

But the power company hasn’t given up. It’s in a race with a firm in Australia to be the first to generate power commercially by boiling water on the rocks three miles underground.

On paper, the Basel project looks fairly straightforward: Drill down, shoot cold water into the shaft and bring it up again superheated and capable of generating enough power through a steam turbine to meet the electricity needs of 10,000 households, and heat 2,700 homes. ..
(5 Aug 2007)

Making data centers greener

Frank Davies, San Jose Mercury News (California)
Study says fast-growing computer server facilities will double their energy consumption in five years

WASHINGTON – While the high-tech industry pursues solutions to global warming, it’s also contributing to the problem.

Ever-multiplying computer server facilities will double their consumption of energy in the next five years, according to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study sent to Congress on Friday. EPA officials and some industry leaders hope the findings will spur policies to make large computer facilities, and the cooling systems they require, more efficient.

Server facilities – ranging from single units tucked away in closets for small office use to huge regional data centers – accounted for 1.5 percent of total U.S. electricity consumption in 2006 at a cost of $4.5 billion, the 133-page report found. That’s equivalent to the annual energy consumption of 5.8 million households, and about the same amount of energy used by the entire U.S. transportation manufacturing industry – the factories that make vehicles, aircraft and ships.

In Northern and central California, data centers used 400 to 500 megawatts, enough energy to power at least 300,000 homes, according to an estimate last year by Pacific Gas & Electric.

The need for more servers and data storage is booming, with the growth of electronic commerce, record-keeping and Internet communication and entertainment. And the U.S. government is the biggest single user, accounting for about 10 percent of the nation’s computer energy demand, according to the report.
(4 August 2007)

A New Front for Campus Activism: Energy Efficiency

Fiona Smith, GreenBiz
The lights in Michael Siminovitch’s office at the U.C. Davis California Lighting Technology Center dim in response to daylight entering through the windows. These special lights are just one way that Siminovitch, the center’s director, believes the university can slash much of its energy demand.

Staff, faculty and students from California universities and colleges recently gathered to learn about hot lighting technology and other new ideas at the UC-CSU-CCC Sustainability in Higher Education Conference. Held at U.C. Santa Barbara this summer, it was the nation’s largest conference of its kind.

As climate change looms ever larger and with California still reeling from its 2001 energy crisis, the conference is just one sign that the state’s behemoth higher education systems are overcoming bureaucratic inertia and clamoring for greener changes.
(no date, probably August 2007)