Jason Barton

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Archive for the ‘Colorado’ Category

Colorado: A Leader in Cleantech

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Good stuff. Thanks Eric.

Renewable Energy World

 

 

 

Move Over Silicon Valley: Cleantech Companies Are Finding Their Home on the Range

Eric Drummond, Partner, Husch Blackwell LLP

February 11, 2014

Most people in the cleantech community recognize that Santa Clara Valley is a unique and beautiful place with world-class universities, piles of venture capital and an entrepreneurial history second to none, but recent trends indicate that cleantech companies are beginning to consider a new home base on Colorado’s Front Range.

[…]

So, what makes Colorado’s Front Range so unique and attractive? Many say that it’s a combination of a highly skilled workforce, and nationally competitive federal research centers and research universities, like the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Lab. Located 20 minutes west of Denver, NREL is the only federal research lab specifically dedicated to renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development. In addition, it employs more than 1600 full-time employees and works with nearly 750 visiting researchers, interns and contractors from across the globe.

[…]

Another Colorado asset is the Rocky Mountain Innosphere, a 501c3 non-profit corporation formed to accelerate the success of high-impact scientific and technology start-up companies. Most agree that it is essential for cutting-edge technology companies to have the right kind of business support to commercialize their technology and take that technology to scale, and that’s where the Innosphere comes in. The Innosphere is a unique institution that provides entrepreneurial start-up companies with resources such as specialized test and demonstration facilities at NREL, the Colorado State University Powerhouse and in a 30,000-square-foot LEED Platinum certified building with state-of-the-art wet lab  facilities, assistance with raising capital, access and connections with academic and leading government institutions, a network of experienced advisors, and professional and business development networking opportunities.

Read the entire article here.

Amory Lovins’ Three Energy Trends to Watch

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Energy efficiency tops Lovins’ list of energy trends to watch, particularly automobile efficiency, which is excellent news. Efficiency is sometimes overlooked because it’s not as sexy as new energy technologies, but in my mind it’s the most important aspect of our energy future. Saving energy means saving money, which should make it an easy sell, as well as resources. Even if we increase renewable energy, those technologies still require resources in one form or another, so decreasing energy use is a more effective way to ensure the availability of essential resources for future generations.

His claim that the steepest increases in efficiency will be in automobiles is especially encouraging due to the resulting decrease in imported petroleum. There is often an odd connection made between renewables such as wind and solar, or even domestic natural gas, and decreased petroleum imports, but this is a fallacy. We use petroleum for less than 1% of our electricity generation (Yergin, 2012). The only ways to decrease petroleum imports are to decrease vehicle miles driven, increase vehicle efficiency, or power automobiles with something other than petroleum, a trend that is increasing, but so far still negligible.

His third point, on increasing distributed energy, is also important, and one I’ve written about before on this site. Moving away from large, centralized power plants to smaller units in neighborhoods, at large office parks, and other locations, provides two big benefits, among others. First, it can greatly increase efficiency as electricity travels far shorter distances, spending less time in transmission lines, meaning more of it arrives where it’s used, as opposed to dissipating in those lines. Smaller plants can also adapt much more quickly to changing energy technologies. Centralized plants that are 50 years old are difficult to modify, and too expensive to scrap to accommodate more renewables or different electricity feedstocks.

Amory-4

 

Though Lovins’ hardline conservationist stance is sometimes controversial, from his “Soft Energy Paths” in 1976, through his work with Rocky Mountain Institute, right up to today and this recent article, he’s been an important voice in the energy conversation.

 

Amory’s Angle: Three Major Energy Trends to Watch

By Amory B. Lovins

Popular media and political chatter are abuzz with a cacophony of energy news and opinion. Amid the chaos, some orderly strands can be discerned. Here are three themes that merit attention:

EFFICIENCY IS ACCELERATING

Government forecasts predict U.S. energy intensity (primary energy used per dollar of real GDP) will continue to decline roughly two percent annually through 2040, but that the drop will be steepest in automobiles.

Read the entire article here.

Agricultural Policy Matters to Eaters and Energy Users as much as to Farmers

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Food and energy are increasingly intertwined. As energy is fundamental to food production, processing, and distribution, and because agricultural crops are used for biofuels feedstocks, the interconnections and impacts can become dizzyingly complex. Localizing both food and energy production can, in many instances, increase the efficiency, the quality, and the ecological cleanliness of these two essential production systems.

This is not to say I will give up the coffee that comes from Latin America, and it is often more efficient to eat tomatoes trucked from Mexico than to grow them in greenhouses further north, but there is much we can do to decrease energy inputs to the food system, and we can do it without making significant sacrifices.

By MICHAEL POLLAN
Published October 10, 2012

One of the more interesting things we will learn on Nov. 6 is whether or not there is a “food movement” in America worthy of the name — that is, an organized force in our politics capable of demanding change in the food system. People like me throw the term around loosely, partly because we sense the gathering of such a force, and partly (to be honest) to help wish it into being by sheer dint of repetition. Clearly there is growing sentiment in favor of reforming American agriculture and interest in questions about where our food comes from and how it was produced. And certainly we can see an alternative food economy rising around us: local and organic agriculture is growing far faster than the food market as a whole. But a market and a sentiment are not quite the same thing as a political movement — something capable of frightening politicians and propelling its concerns onto the national agenda.

Continue reading this article here.

Written by Jason

October 11th, 2012 at 5:42 am

Fracking in Colorado

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Ugh, this is such a tough issue.

On one hand, there are substantial benefits from the oil and gas brought out by this process, as well as the jobs and revenues that come with them. On the other, we need the long term vision that will protect human and environmental health and the discipline to ensure both of them.

Particularly in places like Weld County, which is Colorado’s biggest agricultural producer and home to many proposed and existing fracking sites, we see the tangible positives and negatives of fracking, and are hearing from citizens who fall on both the pro- and anti-fracking sides of the debate. In agricultural communities the health of soil and water is important not just for the immediate implications to human health, but also for the long term implications for the health and safety of the food we grow, and the livelihoods of the people who depend on selling that food.

I’ve said on this site before that it is the job of government to internalize the externalities, to create a regulatory framework that ensures industry activities do not have negative impacts on the communities where they operate. This framework must include proactive measures motivating companies to guard against problems, as well as reactive measures that force organizations to pay those external costs of clean up and damages if there are  problems.

The important issue raised in the article below is that companies have worked to avoid making the payments even when they are found to be at fault, causing local citizens to question the statewide framework and seek to implement policies on local levels.

The upsides are that Colorado citizens are learning the details of these issues, making our voices heard from different perspectives, and forcing government and corporations to listen and take action. Keep at it, y’all.

By Bruce Finley
The Denver Post

Denver metro cities digging in before oil and gas drills do

COMMERCE CITY — Even in this bastion of industry that hosts a refinery, residents are imploring their elected leaders to protect them from oil and gas drilling planned within city limits.

“This is where we live, where we made our investments of our lives. It’s not about money,” Kristi Douglas said Thursday during a working-group forum, the latest of dozens of city and county meetings in Front Range communities.

[…]

Colorado’s State Land Board hit the brakes on a controversial metro-Denver drilling project after learning that ConocoPhillips is embroiled in a lawsuit for failing to pay the state $152 million for cleanup of leaky underground gas tanks.

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“The state has the experience and the infrastructure to effectively and responsibly regulate oil and gas development,” Colorado Department of Natural Resources spokesman Todd Hartman said. “A healthy industry is important to our state’s economy, and a mosaic of regulatory approaches across cities and counties is not conducive to clear and predictable rules that mark efficient and effective government.”

[…]

But the board delayed a decision after it learned another state agency is suing Conoco in a dispute over past cleanups of contamination at 354 sites of leaking underground gas tanks.
[…]
“We need to get the state General Assembly involved. We need to get some things, like setbacks, addressed,” Benson said. “Yes, we welcome industry here. But you’ve got to protect the health and safety of your people.”
Read the complete article here.

Colorado Senate Attempts to Strike Delicate Energy Balance

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Yikes. Once again I’m conflicted between an awareness that we need to move towards domestic, renewable energy, and an understanding that this move is expensive.

I am more than willing, and fortunate to be able, to pay 20% more in my power bill to support these efforts, but there are plenty of people who are not so inclined, and even if they were, cannot afford to do so.

One solution is energy efficiency. Homes and businesses that are properly insulated, have efficient appliances and machinery, and that use energy wisely can reduce their energy costs, thus enabling slightly higher bills per unit of energy used.

Hopefully our state legislature can succeed in striking this delicate balance.

The Associated Press February 10, 2011, 8:32AM ET

Colo. renewable energy rules survive GOP offensive

DENVER

Colorado Democrats slammed the door Wednesday on Republican plans to undo clean-energy policies adopted in recent years.

A Democrat-controlled Senate committee narrowly rejected three Republican proposals to lower consumer utility bills.

Democrats said they sympathized with residents paying steeper power bills but insisted the proposed changes would be short-sighted.

Read the entire article here.

Colorado’s Green Energy Future

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Having done a bit of work with both of these groups, Fort Zed and Boulder’s Energy Future, I have seen the positive strides that each has already made, and have also seen a bit about the setbacks that have occasionally befallen them.

These set backs can be frustrating, and Mr. Greenlee is right to point out that we need to be skeptical of claims from activists, any activists, but especially those proffering programs that seem to be too good to be true.

In discussions on teaching “Intelligent Design” in the science classroom, a good friend and very intelligent educator made some comments about the differences between science and religion that I adapt here to distinguish between science and activism: In science we start with a question and examine objectively all available evidence to develop our conclusions; activism starts with conclusions and works the other direction.

Activists can often be committed to their projects without having first evaluated the evidence. That idealism and faith can play a big part in pushing past obstacles to reach solutions. But these need to be balanced with practical evaluation of what is possible, beneficial, and as this article points out, profitable, rather than pursued blindly.

All this said, let’s not discount Colorado’s energy efforts just because some aspects have at times been led off track.

Both towns, and especially Boulder, have greater financial resources and political will to pursue these renewable energy goals. As is the case with highly successful companies such as Google, let’s support them as they pave the way for more corporations and municipalities to produce and use more affordable clean, domestic, renewable energy.

Boulder Daily Camera

Posted: 01/16/2011 01:00:00 AM MST

Greenlee: New energy future?

By Bob Greenlee
Posted: 01/16/2011 01:00:00 AM MST

There`s a disconnect between Boulder`s concept of energy and environmental idealism that continues to frustrate activists. As the community attempts to resolve achieving its carbonless and sustainable energy goals reality has a nasty habit of revealing a number of inconvenient truths.

A collection of well-meaning citizens make up a group called Boulder`s Energy Future. They`re involved in trying to sort out what comes next as concerns the expired franchise agreement with Xcel Energy and whether or not attempting to “municipalize” the existing electric utility grid makes any sense. Boulder oftentimes suffers from having far too many armchair experts when it comes to making decisions on complex issues whether it involves expanding access to open space lands or carving out our “new energy future.”

Read the entire article here.

Rural Economic Development and Environmental Health: Growing Hand in Hand

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Ahh…, the sweet sounds of economic development and environmental health, each growing hand in hand, as it should be.

Technology and other forms of innovation are making the conjunction of these essential benefits easier and easier to achieve.

This development is not shutting out the most common energy resources, “While renewable energy industries are generating lots of buzz, the traditional sectors of oil and gas are especially booming in Weld,” but is still working on the kinds of renewable energy that will be, hopefully, much more common in coming decades.

As the article below points out, not only is renewable energy creating jobs, it is creating high-paying jobs that will increase prosperity today and encourage greater education for tomorrow, all while improving the US balance of trade and making it easier for us to meet our current energy demands without compromising, but improving the prospects for future generations of Americans to do the same.

Thank you, Weld County, Colorado, for providing the example.

Greeley Tribune

Weld’s economy gets energized

Expanding renewable energy industries join the entrenched oil and gas, which is experiencing a boom of its own

By Chris Casey

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Wind turbines from the Cedar Creek Wind Farm near Grover in north Weld County and an oil/gas pump are some of the vast energy sources that are produced locally. Weld County has become one of Colorado’s leaders in energy production.

From the growing exurbs of Frederick and Dacono to the wind-swept prairie along the Wyoming border, Weld County has established itself as an energy hotbed.
The oil and gas industry has been a big player here for decades, accounting for 40 percent or more of Weld’s assessed valuation for at least 17 years, said Barbara Kirkmeyer, a Weld County commissioner. The industry accounts for about 4,000 jobs in Weld and supplies the county just shy of $50 million in property tax revenue annually.
But just as wells go through layer after layer of earth to reach the sweet spot, other energy industries are now stacking up in northeast Colorado: the renewable sectors of solar, wind and biomass.

Wind turbines from the Cedar Creek Wind Farm near Grover in north Weld County and an oil/gas pump are some of the vast energy sources that are produced locally. Weld County has become one of Colorado’s leaders in energy production.

Read the entire article here.

Gov. Ritter Continues with Energy Efforts, Serving Colorado

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It’s great to see Gov. Ritter continuing to work at the service of the people of Colorado, and future generations in general, by working with students at CSU on the kinds of energy issues that have made him such a great governor for the last four years.

Of course it also makes the libertarian in me happy that this is being funded by private dollars:

“It was very important to me and to the president that it was privately funded because of the difficulties we’ve had in securing public dollars for higher-ed during this awful recession,” Ritter said.

As long as Ritter and this program continue to strive for substantive and practical solutions to the energy needs of tomorrow, how could we lose?

Ritter to take new energy job at Colorado State

By IVAN MORENO – Jan 6, 2011 6:11 AM MT

DENVER (AP) — Outgoing Gov. Bill Ritter held up his old college ID card and smiled, announcing Wednesday that his next career move will be a return to his alma mater as the director of the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University.

“So I don’t even have to have a new ID card, I can use the one, I think this is from somewhere around ’75 or ’76,” Ritter said as he displayed his identification card to reporters. Ritter, who leaves office Tuesday, will earn $300,000 a year at his new post, a “healthier salary than the governor’s salary,” he said.

The job is being paid for with donations funding the new center. Ritter makes $90,000 a year as governor. The governor graduated in 1978 from CSU with an undergraduate degree in political science.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

January 7th, 2011 at 6:20 pm

Clean Colorado Energy Gives Us an Economic Edge

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It’s certainly a challenge to balance long term economic health with the need to pay the heating bill this month.We know fossil fuel resources are finite, even if they appear abundant in Colorado today. We also know that they pollute our air in ways much more immediate and tangible than climate change. But if working towards cleaner, renewable, domestically produced energy were going to increase our utility bills drastically in the near term, it’s a tough sell.

Colorado’s economy is doing pretty well compared to the rest of the country during this economic downturn and present (we hope) recovery. I am just one of thousands of examples of people who have good jobs working in Colorado’s clean energy sector.

I’m excited by the prospects for Colorado’s economy in the next several decades, due in large part to the competitive edge Colorado has gained in working towards a more renewable, energy-independent economy.

Gov. Ritter provides only vague overviews in the article below, but he’s done plenty to place a solid foundation.

We’ve successfully shown how to utilize of our domestic resources while simultaneously addressing environmental concerns.

By Anna Clark 

Mon Dec 6, 2010 1:00am EST

Anna Clark: During your four years in office, you have signed 57 pieces of energy-related legislation. Did making Colorado a model state for the “new energy economy” come at a price?

Bill Ritter: I would not say it’s come at a price. I’m not anti-business; quite the opposite. Cultivating a competitive edge in energy and sustainable development is what we should be doing. Creativity, innovation, and commercialization — these should be in 21st century America’s wheelhouse. That’s who we’ve always been as a country. This vision is among the things I am proudest of accomplishing during these past four years.

Read the entire article here.

Moving Clean Energy Beyond Climate Change

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Clearly these elections did not come down to such simplistic terms as those in the headline to the article below. Our energy future may be my #1 concern, and it’s definitely on the minds of many other voters, but there’s a lot more at stake here as well.

I’ve been pretty torn in this year’s elections. On one hand, I’m very much in favor of a more progressive approach to energy issues, believing that while fossil fuels will remain an important part of our energy matrix for decades and hopefully centuries to come, but I also understand that continuing business as usual will doom us to some frightening dead ends. On the other hand, government intervention, as it has been implemented for corn ethanol, is inefficient and creates market distortions that limit innovation.

If our state’s government can create market based incentives that encourage the most cost effective clean technologies, rather than simply supporting their own pet projects, then these investments will be much more able to pay themselves back in the mid and long term.

As for climate change denial versus clean energy, we need to transcend these contentious barriers and see that there are many more advantages to clean, renewable, domestic energy than simply avoiding climate change. If we continue to hammer away at that one point, we will continue fighting, rather than building on the already-abundant common ground that exists where we can see that these clean energy efforts are good for our economy, good for our environment, and good for America.

Gene Karpinski

Gene Karpinski

President, League of Conservation Voters

Clean Energy Defeats Climate Denial in Colorado

As I’ve said before, we lost many friends on Election Day — friends who stood up to the Big Oil companies and championed clean energy policies. And while corporate polluters and their lobbyists may claim this was a referendum on clean energy reform that was clearly not the case. Our election eve poll showed that voters who supported the Republican candidate in 83 battleground districts did not do so because of the Democrat’s vote for clean energy and climate legislation. In fact, in an open ended question, only 1 percent of voters who supported the Republican candidate cited cap and trade as their reason for opposing the Democratic candidate.

Read the entire article here.

Written by Jason

November 13th, 2010 at 9:34 pm