Todd Woody

Todd Woody is an environmental and technology journalist based in California who writes for The New York Times, Quartz, and other publications.

The sun rises in the East

Solar: It’s not just a California thing anymore

Texas installed 22.6 megawatts of photovoltaics last year.Photo: Duke EnergyThe United States solar businesses boomed, as usual, in 2010, growing 67 percent to $6 billion, according to an annual report [PDF] released Thursday by an industry trade group. That’s been the story for the past several years, but what’s notable is that solar is no longer just a California thing. The industry is expanding to the East. Back in 2004-2005, California accounted for a whopping 80 percent of the U.S. market. In 2010, that share fell to 30 percent, with 258.9 megawatts of the 878.3 megawatts of photovoltaic power installed …

New Jersey, on the other hand...

Where do the greenest commuters live? Not Portland

New Yorkers on the evening commute.Photo: Mo RizaQuick: Who are the loneliest commuters in the nation? That would be the residents of Southgate, Mich., where 91.6 percent of workers drive alone. The city with the most pedestrian commuters? That’s Ithaca, N.Y., where 41.8 percent of commuters walk  to work (particularly impressive given upstate New York’s brutal winters). Meanwhile, no one in Sun City, Calif., apparently walks to work. (Not too surprising, as the Southern California suburb is a master-planned retirement community.) Those are some of the thousands of data points on Americans transportation habits mined by FindTheBest, which might described …

The clock is ticking

California utilities (just) miss renewable energy deadline

Time’s up.Photo: elfonThe California Legislature is moving to put into law a regulation requiring the state’s utilities to obtain a third of their electricity from renewable energy by 2020. But how did California’s three big investor-owned utilities do in meeting a previous mandate to secure 20 percent of their electricity supplies from carbon-free sources by the end of 2010? Close, but not quite. Overall, the three utilities — Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric — are getting 18 percent of their electricity from wind farms, solar power plants, geothermal, and biomass facilities, according …

Solar intervention

Portlandia to help wean Los Angeles from coal

Solar tech from Oregon is headed south to make California greener.Photo: SolarWorldPortlandia may not be the sunniest of places, but it’s exporting solar energy in the form of photovoltaic panels used to build carbon-free power plants. On Wednesday, SolarWorld — the German photovoltaic module maker that operates a big factory in Hillsboro, Ore. — announced it would supply panels and help develop an 11.6-megawatt solar farm in the Southern California desert for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. That’s a fairly small solar power plant. But it’s notable in that SolarWorld is jumping into the solar power plant …

Soft machine

If Watson can win Jeopardy, can IBM make cities smarter?

Photo: Rodrigo SennaIBM has generated a lot of buzz lately for Watson, its game-show-playing supercomputer that recently bested a couple of skin jobs on “Jeopardy.” Less high profile is the expansion of Big Blue’s computer and software systems designed to monitor and control municipal water, energy, and transportation systems. Developed under the umbrella of IBM’s Smarter Planet effort, such systems are designed to cut water and energy consumption and save cities money. On Monday, IBM announced a series of projects showing that in the future, public works may be just as much about sensors and cloud computing as pipes and …

The people want to topple the old energy regime

Schwarzenegger calls for Tunisian-style green revolution

Hasta la vista, air pollution.He’s back. Former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger on Tuesday all but called for a Tunisian-style revolution to overturn the United States’ old energy order. “It is breathtaking to see: people by the hundreds of thousands who want change … who want to throw off the old order and subvert the status quo. It is fascinating to me how rapidly the debate in the Middle East shifted from — could the people rise up to could the rulers hang on?” Scharzenegger said at the United States Department of Energy’s ARPA-E Energy Innovation Summit in National Harbor, Md., according …

Plugging in

Chicago to build electric car charging network

An electric car charging station next to a gas station in Lake Oswego, Ore.Photo: Todd MecklemFirst Chicago gets Rahm Emanuel, now electric cars. Well, at least an electric car infrastructure. In a move that indicates electric cars won’t just be a phenomenon of Greater Portlandia, utility Exelon and the city will roll out 280 charging stations across Chicagoland by year’s end. Two stations will even be solar-powered. It’s part of a smart grid demonstration project, partially funded by the federal government, to get a jump-start on the potential impact on the electric system if Chicagoans start buying battery-powered vehicles in …

Transphormational!

Google-backed startup claims energy efficiency breakthrough

Photo: Marcin WicharyOn Wednesday I joined a cadre of other reporters who had been summoned to the Googleplex in Silicon Valley for what was billed as the launch of a clean tech startup that has developed a revolutionary new technology. The big reveal came as we sat around a conference table at Google Ventures, the search giant’s investment arm: super-efficient power conversion modules. What? You were expecting orbiting solar power plants or something? But if the Southern California startup, called Transphorm, makes good on its claims, it could have a dramatic impact on efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from …

High-priced voltage

Report: Californians paying too high a price for renewable energy

Is solar costing Californians a wad more than it should?Photo: Andrew MagillAre Californians forking over too much green for green energy? A new report [PDF] from a ratepayers advocacy group found that the price of electricity in 59 percent of renewable energy contracts signed by the state’s three big utilities exceeded the market price referent, or MPR for all you utility junkies. Without getting into the nitty-gritty regulatory calculus, the market price referent is based on the price of electricity from a 500-megawatt natural gas-fired plant, the dominant power source in California. The MPR is a benchmark to gauge the …

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