Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Sustainability in EDU Over last 20 years

The SustainZine has been blogging (although rather sporadically) for 11 years. Wow!. One of the first blogs was related to an article (and a SAM presentation) by Hall, Tayler, Zapalski and Hall (2009). It focused on sustainability in Higher ED, specifically on how the facilities of universities were doing sustainability initiatives but there were few actual classes on Sustainability. The classroom, i.e., the future of sustainability was far behind.

Later in 2010 Hall (2010) published an article on Lessons of recessions: Sustainability education and jobs may be the answer. (SustainZine Blog post here.) This article discusses the Great Recession of 2007-2008. Make no doubt about the pandemic of 2020, it too was a recession so destructive innovation has been (and will continue to be) the result.

People needed to go back to school during the Great Recession to up their skills and to avoid the big blank spot on their resume that comes from prolonged unemployment. But, universities continued with the same EDU programs as if nothing had changed. Universities were taking on Law students, for example, even though we were swimming with a glut of lawyers. Hall argued that programs of the future, like sustainability, might be a much better training program; it might be a differentiator when compared to a glut of the regular degree program graduates.

Over the last 10 years there have been numerous Sustainability programs created and many “sustainability” classes created within almost every discipline of many universities and Tech Schools.

Green jobs have outpaced almost all other job categories. See the Green Job forecasts from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Solar and Wind technicians are in high demand, but so are all the environmental cleanup specializations. 

Here’s the SustainZine blog on Sustainability in Education post from Jan 19, 2010.

Sustainability in Education?

Even though campuses are getting greener, the classes are not.

A big study of campuses, the Campus Report Card, by the NWF (with others) showed how much various schools are doing in terms of sustainability. They are doing a lot on campus but not much teaching of the concepts in the classroom. (Also see some recent research on Generation E.)

The Campus Report Card is actually two similar studies, on in 2001 and one in 2008. They show that the course offerings of environmental and sustainability programs essentially reduced by half. That is, the average student in 2001 had an 8% chance of having an sustainability/environment class, but that dropped in half to 4% chance by 2008.

In fact the worst educational department was teachers education. "Teacher education, that program that trains K-12 teachers, has about a 15% chance of being able to take a course on sustainability within their major" (Hall et al., 2009, p. 17).

The best guess as to why this drop happened is because of two forces. First, and probably foremost, the prices of oil were really low until after this 2008 study was completed (and then they shot up to ~$150 per barrel). Second, the Bush/Chaney administration was friendly to oil interests and not so friendly to environmental interests (no links to environmental sites comments on this since this is a family-friendly site).

Can we move forward with Sustainability in the US without educating on the subject?
Tell us what you think?

Hall, E., Taylor, S., Zapalski, C., & Hall, T. (2009). Sustainability in education: Green in the facilities, but not in the classrooms. Proceedings of the Society for Advancement of Management, USA.

Hall, E. (2010). Lessons of recessions: Sustainability education and jobs may be the answer. Journal of Sustainability and Green Management. Jacksonville, FL: Academic and Business Research Institute. Retrieved from: http://www.aabri.com/OC2010Manuscripts/OC10079.pdf  

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Renewable Investment Tax Credit (ITC) is Extended Two Years


Good news, as of January 2021 the ITC has been extended at 26% for 2021 and 2022. See Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA) discussion on the investment tax credit (ITC) here: Solar ITC Rate Per Year

This means that the calculator we developed for residential and for business solar investments will still be accurate for the next two years. (See our Solar Profit Calculator page.)

Woo Hoo! Happy Days!:-)

During that time Biden administration should start to remove the fossil fuel subsidies, meaning that renewables should continue to take share from coal, oil and gas. There's two other things that Biden will likely do: extend renewable incentives; and, institute a cost structure for carbon. Only the renewed incentives was likely before the US Senate went 50+1 for the Democrats. Something like a gas tax increase or a cap-and-trade program was highly unlikely just a month ago.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Sustainability and the Future of Self-Driving Cars and EVs

IntellZine just wrote an article on how to Invest in the Future of Self-Driving Cars and EVs (https://www.intellzine.com/2020/12/invest-in-future-of-self-driving-cars.html).

What’s not really covered is the Sustainability of EVs, self-driving cars etc. Internal combustion engines predominantly use fossil fuels but they can use renewable ethanol or biodiesel. Electric cars have the most promise because it is much easier to produce electricity from renewable sources like hydro, wind and solar. Plus, wind and solar have become the best and cheapest source of stationary electricity, even considering the impact of batteries.

But one mobile power method that is not considered as much is hydrogen. In terms of stationary electricity, fuel cells can be used for emergency backup power (nearly instant on) and/or for continuous power. Although there are lots of ways to make hydrogen, all you really need is energy and water. (How to get hydrogen from Energy.Gov.) Currently, the most common method, by far is from NatGas or Ammonia.

Fuel cell has interesting solutions to the battery problems, especially for range extension. Plus, hydrogen filling stations are being added along major routes, but nothing like electric charging and NatGas (see chart here). As the IntellZine article discussed, some of the fuel cell companies have gone up wildly over the last 6 months, especially Plug. Plug (PLUG) built its business on fuel cell forklifts; a super clean and very efficient approach. Investors might be looking at the future markets for fuel cell and pricing for it. Or, they might simply be wrong.

Monday, October 26, 2020

On the VERGE of Sustainability

 VERGE 20 is on this week (starting October 26 2020). GreenBiz sponsor and coordinate this massive event. Anybody and any company that's got anything to do with sustainability is here. Well, not exactly here since it is virtual this year... But you get the idea.

Opening session was a wonderful start of the week. Even the singing was impressive. Really!  I said, "Oh, NO!", when Shana Rappaport started in with a variation of Girl on Fire (Alycia Keyes). Hard song. Not exactly what you are used to at formal conferences. Turned out to be very, very cool. It also kind of elevated the urgency that many of us feel about dragging our feet in the (oil) sands on climate action: This World is on Fire! It also seemed apropos giving the historic fire year (in California, Colorado, etc.)

VERGE is the ultimate sustainability forum each year with all the leading thought leaders and all the leading companies. Energy, food, transportation, circular economy and more. Great ideas for companies to save money and reduce carbon at the same time (like efficiencies, telework, and more). Many sponsor companies are enabling other organizations to move quickly toward (more) sustainability.

We are looking for companies that aiming for negative carbon footprints (like Microsoft's plan to remove all carbon-equivalent of the company's lifetime of business). This would be moving to carbon neutral (renewable energy and such) and then offering to offset all the emissions from my family, my parents and my grandparents.

One of the silver linings of the COVID pandemic was the clean air and restored nature in a few weeks human hibernation from industry. Even with the economy slowed down to, maybe 75% capacity (more like 50% in the US), the estimated carbon reduction was only about 8%. So, the argument is that the equivalent of the worst pain of the pandemic (hopefully without the pandemic and without most of the pain) is what we need to accomplish essentially every year for years.

Just to be clear about the 8% reduction per year that we're talking about: that's a reduction in the increase. That's not reducing the CO2 levels in the atmosphere, it is simply slowing down the massive rate that we are adding to it.

Keynote sessions are free, so the price is right. Plus, you save on the hotel and flight!


Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Solar Prices Dropped off a Cliff and Into the Ocean

Here's a great article in Clean Technica by   on the falling prices of solar (PV). The cost per watt is the key measure to follow. Basically a rule of thumb is that $3 per Watt installed should be profitable, before any tax credit considerations. In 2006 the cost was $3.50 per watt for the panels. Now prices have dropped below $0.50 and would be lower if there wasn't a trade tiff going on with China.  Even with $1 to $2 per watt installed, the prices are getting to be crazy low. The Investment Tax Credit dropped to 26% percent in 2020 and will drop to 22% in 2021, but the installed costs after tax benefits should be less than $2 per watt. That's a crazy profitable investment, especially for businesses. (See our discussion and  Solar Calculator on the residential and business PV investments.)

We've been wrong several times in the last couple years. We've said that the real breakthrough in the home solar system will be the battery technology. Well, that is true. But we have underestimated the cost curve drop with PV. True, it is not breakthrough technologies, it is learning curve of production and economies of scale.

When we talk about the drop of costs in PV we still think that the amount of power that can be squeezed out of a square inch of solar exposed roof is probably not going to significantly improve for several years. Don't delay your solar investment decision for a breakthrough.

At this point our assessment of batteries is that the technology and the prices are converging to make batteries a better investment. Depending on your need to be always powered, batteries are probably worth waiting. Probably 3 to 5 years. Maybe design the system with batteries in mind. Maybe design the system for expansion. Expect that you will charge your electric vehicles, for example. If you have extra roof space, expect that you will power your neighbors house.

Just a reminder, not all photovoltaic (PV) is created equal. Check the warranties and the depletion rates of your panels. 

#Solar #RE #RenewableEnergy #RE100 #SolarInvestCalc

SolarInvest2020 Profit Calc

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Mysteries of Methane Leak in Florida and Not-So-Clean Fossil Fuels

There’s a BIG NatGas leak (Methane) in Florida. The source of which is not being owned up to. There’s no oil/gas drilling in the area. And, until about a year ago, most such leaks might go totally unnoticed. Read the Bloomberg article No One is Owning Up to Releasing Cloud of Methane in Florida.
Oil Flaring at Night in North America (Bakken)

First Methane. The largest component of natural gas (NatGas) is methane (EIA). Various oil formations of fossil fuels are oil, mostly gas, or a combination. Even in coal formations there is methane, which has made coal mining especially dangerous for explosions and fires.
When you see the flame stacks burning above oil wells and refineries, this is natural gas being flared off. Flaring is far preferred then just releasing it, venting, because methane is a wicked greenhouse gas (GHG) at 82 times the global warming capacity as CO2 in the first 20 years (about 30 times as potent over 100 years).
Estimates by industry experts are that as much methane is flared (and vented) as used in the USA. If the US consumes about 22% of the world’s natural gas (0.8 trillion cubic meters per year of 3.9Tm3 worldwide) then it flares/vents the same amount again. The US accounts for twice as much NatGas consumption as the entire EU (or Russia). Texas and North Dakota (Permian & Bakken) account for 10 to 20 times as much flaring as any other state (Se EIA 2019 report on flaring).
NatGas is Cleaner than... Because of an abundance of NatGas in the US, and it burns massively cleaner than coal in terms of pollutants (air and ash), the US has made a major shift to NatGas for power generation. NatGas has taken the place of coal in many power plants to represent 38.4% of the the US electrical power generation while the other categories are almost on parity with coal (23.5%), nuclear (19.7%) and renewables (17.9%).  NatGas was believed to have only half the greenhouse gas impact as coal as well. But, when all things are considered, this big advantage of NatGas has evaporated into thin air (vented and flared)!. And methane has soared to all time highs, even during the pandemic slowdown. More people, and more people eating higher on the food chain (cows) is a massive methane producer as well. Now the arctic heat wave(s) are starting to thaw permafrost where huge amounts of methane are sequestered. Ouch! 
Here's a great visualization from NASA related to sources of methane and other greenhouse gasses. 
Value of NatGas? You ask the wise questions, “Isn’t NatGas valuable? Why would any sane person or company, flare it into thin air?” First answer is, No. NatGas is not valuable unless you can transport it easily to where it could be processes (remove impurities) and consumed. For NatGas, a gas pipeline is pretty much the only option. Once NatGas reaches a refinery it can be processed into a liquid form (LNG) and even into gasoline or diesel.  Oil is easier to transport via oil tankers (truck or train or barge) or via pipelines. So, in the cases of wet gas, the oil (and other particulates) can be pumped and profitably sold if the gas can be flared away. In this case, NatGas is a byproduct of oil production. In many cases it cost more to try to distribute and process the NatGas then the market value once it reaches a distribution center and can be sold.
The government, Federal and/or State,  could and should regulate flaring. In Texas, the railroad authority regulates flaring, and they have never refused a flaring request, even when a pipeline is readily available. In Russia and Nigeria, 95% of all NatGas has to be recovered, not flared. But the influence (and corruption) in the extractive industries results in a free pass for friends and family, and only selective enforcement.
From space, you can now get beautiful nighttime pictures of flaring around the world. Check out Geology.com. Wow! But couldn’t a company can simply vent the methane and, although far worse in every way, it might go undetected? Actually, not so much any more. Newer satellite imagery can detect the methane in the atmosphere and methane plumes from natural (swamps) and unnatural sources. This brings us back to Florida.
Bluefield Technologies Inc. analyzes data from the European Space Agency’s Sentinel-5P satellite. See image showing more than 300 metric tons of methane released near Gainesville and spreading through Jacksonville area. 
There are only a couple possibly leak sources of such a massive amount of methane (or NatGas). No one has owned up to it. No one seems to be busy trying to find the source. This might be a common practice for pipelines or power plants? Even if there are no fines, it would be good to know. Don’t ya know?
#CleanEnergy #NatGas #Flaring #Fracking #Methane

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Solar Investment is Crazy Profitable for Businesses and Good for Homeowners

SBP has done several detailed financial calculators for analyzing both residential and commercials solar projects. SustainZine has a main web page on Solar Profitability where we discuss examples from our Solar Profitability Calculators: https://www.sustainzine.com/p/solarinvest.html ... Here are articles – and YouTube videos – discussing both:
  1. Quick Take on  Residential SolarSolar Invest 2020: Do Good and Save Money Too … See the video related to Residential here: Solar Residential: Good Investment & Doing Good
  2. Full Financial AnalysisSolarInvest2020: Residential Solar is Good, but Commercial Solar can be Crazy Profitable! … See the video related to Commercial/Business here: Solar for a Business can be Crazy Profitable: Do Good by Doing Well

More about the two videos, Residential and Commercial, here:

YouTube Video on Residential: Solar Residential: Good Investment & Doing Good https://youtu.be/p0pqg4ZeTjY

Dr Elmer Hall talks about the doing good and making money at residential Solar. He discusses that subtilties of the financial analysis for a homeowner, and why it typically is a far better decision than a typical profit analysis would suggest. #SustainZine #Solar #RenewableEnergy #SBPLan

YouTube Video on Commercial Business: Solar for a Business can be Crazy Profitable: Do Good by Doing Well https://youtu.be/ulryBkhsKWg

Dr Elmer Hall talks about the doing good and making money by a business installing Solar. He discusses the financial analysis for a business and why it probably is such a great investment. The investment for businesses has huge tax savings. Plus, the money to pay for power to operate the business is already committed if the building is used. This is Part 2: See part 1 related to Residential as well. #SustainZine #Solar #RenewableEnergy #SBPLan #Profitability #CrazyProfitable 

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Solar-Fit Radio Show: Gallagher and Hall Talk Home is Castle and Solar Fitness

Elmer Hall on Solar-Fit Radio
Solar-Fit Renewable Energy Radio Show. June 20, 2020, Live at 10am ET.
Bill Gallagher, President/CEO of Solar-Fit (and world renown talk-show host) is interviewing Dr Elmer Hall (Strategic Business Planning Company). We're talking about Perpetual Innovation(tm), Hall and Hinkelman's book series on intellectual property (Patents) Commercialization. Then talking about about the COVID abnormal (and new-abnormal). And lastly move on to talk about renewable energy as people spend more time in their Castle (living, working, safe-distancing). What does this movement to update and improve the castle mean for Solar???...

Listen to the archive of this show on Flagler Broadcasting: Dr Elmer Hall on Solar-Fit Rewanable Energy Show June 20 2020.

Note that SustainZine has pages devoted to the Financial Analysis of Solar System Purchases (both Residential and Commercial). Residential is a good investment; Commercial can be crazy profitable!

Here is a long SustainZine article from a May 2018 radio show related to Energy Efficiency and Telework.

(Remember that the Renewable Investment Tax Credit was 30%, then dropped down to 26% in 2020 and will continue with a very rapid phase out over the next couple years.)

#Solar-Fit #SustainZine #Solar #RenewableEnergy #EnergyEfficiency
Here is the Solar-Fit radio show station:Solar-Fit Renewable Energy Radio Show
(We'll let you know as soon as this show is archived for your redo, review, renew!)