Friday, March 27, 2020

Solar 2020 and Sustainability: Looking for the Silver Lining

Kelly Pickerel, Editor in Chief of Solar Power World magazine was cautiously optimistic in January when discussing the impact of US Import tariffs on the Solar industry and still solar installations were up 14% during 2019. She hoped that an even year, 2020, would bode well for solar. She concluded her opening letter by the editor in the January 2020 Trends in Solar edition of SPW: “Superstitious or not, I’m crossing my fingers for a calm, prosperous year in solar. Knock on wood.”
Wow! Nobody could have envisioned the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on all industries including solar. But, the environment is taking a breather: Environment Wins with Reduced Human Activity.
During the Great Recession, Hall (2010) argued that a massive opportunity was lost by not by not focusing on sustainability related projects and human capital (education). He argued for spending more on specific infrastructure: especially energy efficiency and renewables. He liked projects that would pay back for decades while reducing our collective human footprint. Federal bailout funding should target, long-term, sustainable projects. The destructive innovation associated with recessions should allow industries (and companies) to fail if they are not sustainable.
Make no doubt about it, the COVID Recession will be unlike anything we have ever seen before. It’s like putting parts of the economy in a self-induced coma, while waiting out the passage of the virus. However, waking up exactly where we left off is probably not going to happen. So, what’s the best way to move forward, and why not try to leverage this sudden break in the world’s business-as-usual routine into more permanent action on becoming more sustainable.
Look for SustainZine blogs and articles on video meetings, teleschool, online university and telecommuting. We suddenly have reduced our carbon footprint worldwide by what, 20%. Not the way we would have liked to launch such a massive initiative, but let’s work with the deflection we are given.
People are now at home more than ever, let’s get them to start monitoring their carbon footprint. How much are they saving by working, schooling and entertaining at home. Imagine someone reducing their carbon footprint by 35% in one week? for several weeks? Wouldn’t it be nice measure that savings and celebrate the win!? Wouldn’t it be nice to keep measuring the reduction in carbon footprint and continue to make incremental moves?
The savings associated with remote work are huge. Once workers who can work remotely get the chance to do so, the genie will be out of the bottle. The savings are massive: employer, employee and environment. The reduction in carbon footprint immense. Measuring and monitoring the savings will justify the future workforce to frequently work remotely.
For the homeowner, first would be energy efficiency, like insulation. Start with an energy audit.
Then, with the reduced power usage, most homes should move to renewable energy (solar).
Once we see and visualize the gains, it could become habit forming. Let’s keep our collective fingers crossed.
See upcoming articles by Hall about the crazy profitable proposition for businesses to go solar, and for homeowners to feel good and save money by going solar.
Mother Earth is our one and only habitable planet. It’s time we started taking better care of her. Maybe the coronavirus pandemic will be a wake-up call about how serious we all need to be about the health of our planet?
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:

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Environment wins with reduced human activity

There's a silver lining, of sorts, in the reduced human activity related to the coronavirus shutdown. Nice visuals from space and discussion here:

Move from lots of pollution to a beautiful clean sky. Very ugly way to get there, but the earth is getting a breather from the humans torturing the land and sky.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Amazon? Lungs of the world? Sinking feeling?

I got into this debate, related to Global Warming, on the "Amazon is sometimes referred to as the Lungs of the world."
Here's a very readable discussion in Newsweek on how much oxygen comes from the Amazon:
Much like Global Freezing, I don't know that I have ever heard/seen an actual scientist say this, but the Lungs of the World is still a pretty well circulated myth. Some times it says 20% of the oxygen in the world is produced by the Amazon Rain Forest. Actually, this is probably true, however the rainforest consumes most of the oxygen it produces. Plants (decomposition) consume it, animals in the forest, not so much so. Oxygen in the atmosphere is about 21% (20.95%, actually). And that's not going to change much, even if the Amazon was burned to the ground... Carbon Dioxide (CO2) on the other hand, that's not so pretty.
There's massive amounts of carbon stored in the trees and peat. That would all get moved from a stored state into the active environment (air and ocean). Same as chopping down 500 year-old native trees and burning them without replanting the same. Same as digging up coal that took 500m years to form and burning it (except that there's no way to return the coal in coal back to the sync from whence it came).
So, when the amazon is converted to grassland and ranching, the original carbon store is released into the atmosphere and the ability to store carbon (sync) is broken. Yes, grass is green, but it does a horrible job related to carbon sequestering compared to trees. Plus cows have a habit of belching and farting that releases a wicked amount of methane (32 to 64 times as potent a greenhouse gas as CO2).
Of course, there horrific impact on the environment. You could easily call this a crime against humanity and against the environment when native populations are killed and displaced and the rainforest with all it inhabitants of plants and animals are killed and destroyed forever.
National Geographic talks about the same issue, but follows on to discuss biodiversity: Why the Amazon doesn’t really produce 20% of the world’s oxygen: Of the many important reasons to worry about the thousands of fires raging in the world’s largest rainforest, oxygen supply is not one of them.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

EV on SB2020

EVs, aka Electric Vehicles, were the big winners of the Super Bowl 2020. Everybody had an electric car for the occasion. Audi and even a new EV version of the gas-guzzling Hummer.
Imagine the king of EVs, Tesla, jumping $130 per share on Super Monday! TSLA popped 20% up to almost $800 per share, nearing a $150B market cap firmly – 3 times the value of GM. Then on Super Tuesday, Tesla jumps another $100 to reach over $900 (to $164B market cap). Arguably, there are a few extra factors making Tesla’s stock pop: an upgrade and short squeeze. Maybe a little overpriced?
Tesla has a market share of about 1.5%, so… it does have room to run. But only if you believe that we have reached an inflection point where a shift to most or all cars will be electric. Fortunately, the charging stations are now pretty will established.
But, the average age of cars on the road today are 11 years old. Even if we move to 50% EV in 10 years, it will take decades for half of the cars on the road to be electric. Longer, of course, for trucks because they are just now starting to ship.
Still, the trend toward EVs is definitive. Everyone has a few. Some auto manufactures are no longer introducing new gas or diesel models.
You would think that the drop of oil prices (down to $50 for WTI) this week on the corona virus scare might be a boost to gas models?
Related to market cap, remember that Tesla bought sister company Solar City so it does solar systems and battery banks (PowerWall). Tesla GigaFactories crank out batteries (with partner Panasonic). With the cost of batteries dropping, both EV and storage become more and more affordable. The big thing to look for in battery technology is the move to safer and/or more powerful technology. Big break throughs in battery tech – cheaper, better, lighter – will be game changing. Tesla stands to win in every case, old lithium or new whatever.
I could not bring myself to buy Tesla stock at $200 in June; over $900 is nose-bleed levels today. But, it does suggest a momentum shift to EVs in our future.