The Ultimate in Green Graffiti

Nelson:  Not my usual take on what is green and what is not, but I have to admit it’s a clever idea.

Stories from Space, Moss Graffiti, moss, garden moss, gardening, green design, sustainable design, green graffiti, eco-design, vertical garden, outdoors, plants, botanical

We lurve green graffiti, so when we spotted this DIY moss graffiti recipe over on Green Prophet we just had to share it with you. Stories from Space is experimenting with the perfect formula that allows you to green your walls with moss and choose the shape in which it finally matures. All you need to get started is a can of beer, a tiny bit of sugar, …
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Green Job in Tampa

Nelson: Now if it doesn’t get eaten up by corrupt corporations…

The promise of hundreds of new jobs, a major increase in the number of construction companies dedicated to green building and a multimillion dollar economic boost to a community would grab anyone’s attention. For those with environmental priorities, the big reduction of carbon into the atmosphere has significant appeal.

That’s the lure of government-assisted Property Assessed Clean Energy programs, approved in 27 states, including Florida. Ten days ago, the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council, which includes Manatee County, heard a presentation on PACE, and the reaction was predictably positive.

But PACE has run into a roadblock, one that Congress hopes to remove with new legislation.

PACE allows localities to generate capital, primarily through bonds, to finance loans to home and business owners to pay for energy-efficient upgrades to their properties and reduce power bills. Think solar panels, tankless water heaters and highly efficient air conditioners.

The loans would add an assessment on property taxes to ensure repayment over a period of 15 to 20 years. Property owners benefit from little or no upfront costs and energy savings. If the property is sold, the new owner takes over PACE payments.

The program bypasses a tight-fisted private financial market in order to boost economic development and job creation, which explains the widespread appeal among states.

The PACE setback

But last summer, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which own or guarantee about half the nation’s single-family home loans, blocked PACE as too risky for home loans. The mortgage giants’ regulator, the Federal Housing Finance Agency, decreed that since PACE placed a lien on a home that had priority over the mortgage in the event of a default, that violated underwriting standards.

The FHFA ordered Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac not to underwrite mortgages with PACE liens. That directive stifled state programs.

But with rampant enthusiasm for PACE across the country, push-back came quickly — albeit not effectively, yet. A California congressman filed legislation late last year, too late to rise above last-minute rush to vote on bills.

But this year’s PACE Protection Act of 2011 enjoys wide, bipartisan support. And for very good reason. The program has a proven track record of success, as the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council heard. Sonoma County’s retired chief financial officer recounted how PACE created more than 500 “green energy” jobs, a quadrupling of the number of green construction companies and a $45 million jolt of the area’s economy. Plus, all those energy-saving projects spared the atmosphere of 1,400 tons of carbon.

What’s not to like?

Manatee County Commission Chair Carol Whitmore and Bradenton sustainability manager Benjamin Bird expressed enthusiasm for PACE. We wholeheartedly agree.

Support for clean energy

While the Obama administration stumbled badly by investing $535 million in government loan guarantees to Solyndra, the California solar-panel manufacturer went bankrupt only because China flooded the market with cheaper panels after the price of silicon plunged.

Solyndra’s panels, built of lightweight, curved film, were not made of silicon and had been less expensive to produce — until the silicon price drop. Plus, China’s solar-panel industry enjoys massive government subsidies, and thus a major competitive advantage — to Solyndra’s demise.

This should not deter American support for clean energy and government help in promoting the industry. A reduction in the country’s dependence on foreign oil and pollution as well as job creation and economic development should be our focus.

This year America’s solar industry employs some 100,000 workers, double the number from 2009. Projections show that figure improving five-fold in five years.

The PACE program will help spur that employment by expanding the market to more Americans, a more worthwhile government-assisted effort than risky investments in companies themselves.

Congress should move swiftly on removing barriers to PACE. And Manatee County should be poised to implement a PACE program after passage of that legislation.


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Solar Decathlon Builds Green Jobs and Green Homes

Nelson: Been following the various entries, and I’ve really enjoyed the creative spirit and ingenuity in many of them. After a rough day of bad news around the world, a nice bright spot is really appreciated.

A 22- year-old engineering student with horn-rimmed glasses welcomed me into his home. Sean’s sports jersey indicated that he was a decathlete- but perhaps not in the traditional ‘sport athlete’ sense of the word. And the house looked very different from the homes in Sean’s neighborhood, back in South Florida.

Sean is a solar decathlete and his house is exclusively powered by 22 solar panels. The 40 students on Team Florida (from the University of South Florida, University of Florida, University of Central Florida, and Florida State University) have spent the last two years designing and building this prefabricated house and are now in Washington, D.C., to compete in the Department of Energy’s 2011 Solar Decathlon.

Through a series of 10 contests, the decathlon challenges college teams from across the country to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive.


Team Florida’s FLeX House (Credit: Stefano Paltera/U.S. Department of Energy)

I met Sean at the National Mall’s West Potomac Park in D.C., where the 19 solar homes are situated and open to the public. It was a humid afternoon and the large crowds and the irregularly shaped buildings made me feel like I was at a summer carnival. I hesitantly joined a line of people to enter the Team Florida FLeX House, not sure what to expect or if it was worth the wait. But the line moved quickly and I soon found myself inside a spacious, modern studio apartment, furnished with IKEA-like furniture. The thoughtful details of the space caught my eye- sliding glass, floor to ceiling windows to allow cross ventilation, a liquid desiccant duct system to decrease humidity, and a kitchen table that could be raised or lowered into a bar countertop or freestanding island. Cypress louvers on the exterior provide shade and you almost forget that solar panels are on the roof. I could live here.

Each house is uniquely designed and visibly reflects its native ecosystem and surrounding environment. Team New York’s Solar Roofpod is designed for city mid-rise building rooftops and includes a green roof garden to retain storm water. Team China’s Y Container is made from six recycled shipping containers and its “Y” shape creates a multifunctional, flowing space. The homes are about 900 square feet and cost between $250,000 and $600,000.


Team New York’s Solar Roofpod (Credit: Stefano Paltera/U.S. Department of Energy)

If you’re in DC this week (September 23 through October 2, 2011), I highly recommend touring the solar homes or vote online for your favorite! Solar Decathlon homes from the 2009 competition are located all across the country, so check to see if one is located in your neighborhood.

During my visit with Sean and other decathletes, I was amazed to learn that 15,000 students have participated in the Solar Decathlon since the first competition in 2002. That’s 15,000 more architects, building contractors, chemists, electricians, engineers, geologists, metallurgists, physicists, and material scientists now in the U.S. workforce. These are Green Jobs.

By 2015, the green building market is projected to reach $135 billion, according to McGraw Hill Construction, which reports that “green building is the bright spot in an otherwise tough economy.”

As Congress continues to probe Solyndra’s bankruptcy and attack Obama’s programs to promote energy efficiency and renewable power jobs, college kids are discovering solar energy solutions and validating this industry’s importance. We need more of this innovative youth spirit to move our county forward.

Rachel Carson once wrote that “the real wealth of the nation lies in the resources of the Earth — soil, water, forests, minerals, wildlife… Their administration is not properly, and cannot be, a matter of politics.” The sun is Earth’s greatest resource; without it, we could not exist. Realizing the potential of solar energy is something more than a matter of politics.


Team China’s Y Container (Credit: Stefano Paltera/U.S. Department of Energy)


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Getting the facts straight on green jobs

Nelson: There is a lot of astro-turfing and downright lies flying around, all for political party agendas rather than the best interest of the country and the planet.

The past few weeks have seen a perfect storm ofmisinformation on green jobs: What they are, how many there are, how much they contribute to the economy. Many of those throwing numbers around have relied on one source, a recent reportfrom the Brookings Institution, which worked with Battelle’s Technology Partnership Practice to attempt to define, evaluate, and count green jobs as a part of the economy from 2003-2010.

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Sierra Club Sees Reality and Promise of Green Jobs in Jefferson

I think we are all hoping the same thing.


Yesterday, 30 Sierra Club members toured the ABB factory in Jefferson City, MO, where the company makes transformers that are used in wind generators and solar collectors.

The goal of the tour was to see firsthand how renewable energy creates good, family-wage jobs locally and around Missouri. ABB employs about 650 workers at its facilities in Jefferson City, MO.

The Sierra Club organized the tour in response to Missouri General Assembly actions to curtail development of renewable energy in the state. This spring, the General Assembly overturned a Public Service Commission rule that would have required utilities like Ameren to meet its 15 percent renewable energy standard (mandated under Proposition C, passed in November 2008) by counting electricity that was either generated or consumed here in Missouri. By nullifying this rule, the General Assembly is allowing utilities to buy renewable energy credits from anywhere in the world in order to meet its renewable energy targets. When the wind generators are located in China instead of here, Missourians do not enjoy the benefits of clean energy – including both local jobs as well as cleaner air.

This ABB plant manufactured the transformers that were installed in the Lost Creek Wind Farm, located near King City, Missouri. Lost Creek is the largest wind farm in Missouri, and utilizes one hundred transformers that were made by ABB.

“Today, we were able to see, with our own eyes, the potential for renewable energy to create good jobs right here in Missouri,” said John Hickey, Missouri Chapter Director for the Sierra Club. “Now, Sierra Club members will roll up our sleeves and redouble our efforts to expand the development of wind and solar energy in Missouri.”

The Missouri Chapter of the Sierra Club includes more than 8,000 members.



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GameFly to launch ‘Unlimited PC Play’ download service, offer less incentive to leave the house

Well there goes any chance of getting my partner away from the gaming console this summer.

GameFly hasn’t wasted any time jumping into the digital download waters after acquiring IGN’s Direct2Drive platform a little over two months ago. Set to launch September 8th in beta form, its new “Unlimited PC Play” service will offer subscribers access to 100-plus downloadable PC and Mac titles, with hundreds more expected in time for the official end of year launch. Fans of the video game rentaloutfit’s snail mail subscription service don’t have to worry about a shift to digital only, as the company has no plans to abandon its “unique combination of console and digital PC game offerings.” Interested in getting an early peek at the new platform? If you live in the Los Angeles area, you can look forward to a planned beta launch party next month, where access codes for the new, invite-only service will be distributed. The rest of you PC gaming warriors will just have to settle for a sign-up page at the source.

sourceGameFly, Joystiq

ACSF Lobbies to Replace Generating Station With $450M Landmark

Now this is something I can get excited about. Love following the LEED (yes, I know that sounds odd).

Unveiling a $450 million plan for waterfront land, the American Clean Skies Foundation is lobbying to shelve the 60-year-old Potomac River generating station and redevelop its 25 acres into a LEED-certified mixed-use community. The Washington, DC-based
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