Business & Technology

Portland, Maine, to save 50,000 gallons of oil a year with geothermal heating and cooling

Portland, Maine's new airport expansion is to be the first in the country to use a dead-simple but often overlooked technology to significantly reduce its heating and cooling bills. They're calling it a geothermal system, but it's not like the kind that produce power in Iceland; it's more properly called a "ground-source heat pump." The system will use the ground beneath an employee parking lot as a giant heat sink. To transport energy to and from the sink, the system will run fluid through pipes snaking through 120 wells dug 500 feet into the ground. Below a meter or two, …

Green Living Tips

Care about the forest? Here’s what you can do

Who cares about the forest? That’s the question author/artist Franke James explores in this creative personal story commissioned by the Forest Stewardship Council of Canada. Check out the visual essay below, or watch it as an animated video.

Meet the world’s most high-tech bike

It's pretty impressive that we're still chugging along on human-powered vehicles only a step more high-tech than a velocipede — olde-tyme bikes look basically like the ones we've got today. Why improve on perfection, right? Well, maybe just for the sheer badassery of it. At least, that seems to be the theory behind the Alpha, a high-tech bike designed by UPenn students that is basically a jetpack on wheels. The Alpha is an engineer's wet dream. Among its features: Lightweight carbon-fiber frame (lighter than a steel frame, even with all the added gadgetry) Onboard computer and handlebar display with real-time …

Solar Power

On Coachella’s solar stage

It was a sunny year at the 2011 Coachella Music Festival, and the stage is set for the town’s new concentrating photovoltaic farm.Photo: Paige K. ParsonsAn interesting solar development got buried by Thursday’s big news that French fossil fuel conglomerate Total had agreed to acquire a majority stake in SunPower, the Silicon Valley photovoltaic panel maker and power plant development. That $1.37 billion Total is spending on SunPower naturally overshadowed the Southern California desert community of Coachella’s announcement that it had flipped the switch on a 420-kilowatt concentrating photovoltaic farm at its water reclamation plant. Don’t yawn. Here’s why the …

Climate Change

Want to save the planet? Al Gore has an app for that

An Inconvenient Truth started out as a book and became an Oscar-winning movie. Al Gore’s follow-up book, Our Choice, has now gone multimedia too, but in a whole new way, as a first-of-its-kind app complete with documentary footage and even a trailer set to swelling, melodramatic music. Watch it here: After Our Choice was published in 2009, Gore — a Mac geek who sits on Apple’s board —  wondered how he could take advantage of the fledgling app craze. He teamed up with two former Apple employees, Mike Matas and Kimon Tsinteris, to adapt the book for iPhone and iPad, …

Green Cars

Chamber of Commerce and auto dealer group lose last-gasp lawsuit to stop clean cars

Cross-posted from the Natural Resources Defense Council. The federal court of appeals in Washington today rejected the last legal attack on California’s landmark greenhouse-gas standards for new cars built in model years 2012-16.  The National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce sought to overturn EPA’s waiver giving California the green light to set its greenhouse-gas standards. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson granted California the waiver in June 2009, reversing her predecessor’s unprecedented attempt to block California’s program.    The appeals court ruled that neither NADA nor the chamber had demonstrated injury necessary to support their standing. NADA had …

Is the future of solar centralized or distributed?

Solar power produces only a tiny fraction of America's energy, but that hasn't stopped greens — who are always up for expending at least as much energy fighting each other as fighting fossil fuels — from commencing a debate that we'll probably be having for decades, if not centuries to come: Is it better to build gigantic, centralized solar power plants that function like the fossil fuel-powered plants they're designed to replace, or should we do something more radical and create a distributed power generation system, in which solar photovoltaic panels are sited as close as possible to the users …

Holy crap: giant oil company buys giant solar company

What's Exxon going to do with this years' record-breaking profits? If you said "buy a 60 percent stake in America's largest solar panel manufacturing company," you have wildly underestimated the degree to which its CEO would find that profoundly emasculating. Cheese-eating surrender-monkeys have no such qualms, however, which is why French oil giant Total just dropped $1.38 billion on SunPower, a "stalwart U.S. solar manufacturer in Silicon Valley." This isn't the first time a foreign company captured a large swath of the assets of a U.S. renewable energy firm. As Todd Woody reports, it happens all the time: European energy …

Cities

Home tweet home: Twitter chooses the city over sprawl

I spent the last couple of days at a conference about climate, cities, and behavior. One topic that kept coming up among the municipal officials there — from places like New York, Denver, Vancouver, Richmond, and San Francisco — was the importance of walkable downtowns to attracting business and investment. Amenities like good transit, bike infrastructure, and dynamic public spaces are increasingly being seen not as frivolities, but as essential tools in building a city’s economy. In that context, some of us talked about Twitter’s announcement last week that it will be moving to new headquarters in San Francisco’s Central …