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People power: Crowdfunding fires up local solar projects

Nikki Henderson, executive director of People's Grocery, with the community solar project that is expected to save her organization more than $30,000 over the 20-year lease.

Here’s a not-terribly-novel idea: Get a bunch of people together, pool your money, and invest it in a project or a business that will make enough money to pay you back -- hopefully with interest. Banks do it, right? And it seems like a decent way to fund promising green technology like solar power.

Or you’d think so, anyway.

Banks will fund huge commercial solar projects, but when it comes to community-level solar installation, they won’t touch it, says Billy Parish, president of Solar Mosaic, a Berkeley, Calif.-based company that seeds local solar projects. “When we were first getting started, we went looking for funding from banks,” he says. “Wells Fargo told us, ‘Come back to us when you have a book of $50 to $100 million worth of projects.’”

That just wasn’t gonna happen. And that’s why Solar Mosaic’s seemingly mundane business model is so interesting.

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Shocker: Conservative governor believes there’s a problem with the climate

Cross-posted from Climate Progress.

Speaking to a group of Republican political donors last week, Ohio’s conservative governor, John Kasich (R), called for action on climate change, saying he was “all for” developing clean energy.

At a time when climate change denial has become a de facto national platform for the Republican party, Kasich’s comments are a notable break from GOP rhetoric. The Columbus Dispatch reported on his statement to fellow Republicans:

“This isn’t popular to always say, but I believe there is a problem with climates, climate change in the atmosphere,” Kasich told a Ross County Republican function on Thursday. “I believe it. I don’t know how much there is, but I also know the good Lord wants us to be good stewards of his creation. And so, at the end of the day, if we can find these breakthroughs to help us have a cleaner environment, I’m all for it.”

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Pew poll: Clean energy still popular among everyone except old conservatives

Photo by Takver.

Cross-posted from Climate Progress.

Energy has turned into a contentious campaign issue in 2012, pitting “drill, baby, drill” against “clean energy now.” But multiple polls now make clear that the clean energy issue is a winning one for progressives.

The way the media and cable TV frame the national debate may make it seem like there’s an even split between supporters of fossil fuels and supporters of renewable alternatives. However, a new poll from the Pew Research Center finds that clean energy has far more support than fossil fuels support across the political spectrum -- except among conservative Republican males.

The poll illustrates how clean energy has become a wedge issue among Republicans moving into the presidential election. This is precisely what has happened on climate.

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Introducing Ethical Electric: A new utility that lets people choose clean power

Photo by Truthout.org.

Cross-posted from ThinkProgress Green.

Ethical Electric, a new venture by progressive activist Tom Matzzie, aims to transform how Americans get power. It's an electricity delivery company that will provide 100 percent renewable electricity to its members, while also mobilizing them on progressive energy and climate action.

In an interview with Sarah Laskow for GOOD, Matzzie describes how he began working on Ethical Electric when his father, who had spent his life downwind of a coal-fired power plant, died of cancer in 2010:

I’d been a supporter of addressing climate change and clean energy as a progressive, but it became much more personal. I didn’t want to spend any more of my money on dirty energy. I wanted to only support 100 percent clean energy.

Read more: Renewable Energy

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Power source of the future: Snails

Sometimes I think researchers design experiments specifically to win an Ig Nobel prize. How else do you explain a paper titled "Implanted Biofuel Cell Operating in a Living Snail"? But regardless of the intention, that's what a team of Israeli and American scientists has managed to do, according to a paper published comfortably in advance of April Fools' Day in the Journal of the American Chemical Society.

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Everything that is good for the environment is a job

Van Jones. (Photo by Zach Gross.)

In his newest book, Rebuild the Dream, green economy pioneer Van Jones reflects on his journey from grassroots outsider to White House insider, shares intimate details of his time in government, and provides a blueprint for reinventing the American Dream. Along the way, he contrasts the structure and rhetoric of the 2008 Obama campaign, the Tea Party movement, and Occupy Wall Street. The following excerpt from the book focuses on a new green economy.

Many politicians want us to lower our expectations about the economy. I say it is time to raise them. We should go beyond the shriveled thinking imposed upon us by today’s mania for austerity. The time has come to propose solutions at the scale of the problems we face. We can and we must revive the economy -- in a way that respects people and the planet.

For too long, we have acted as if we had to choose between strong economic performance and strong environmental performance. We have been torn between our children’s need for a robust economy today and our grandchildren’s need for a healthy planet tomorrow. We have been trapped in the “jobs versus the environment” dilemma.

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How butterflies are teaching scientists about better renewable fuels

What do the latest hydrogen fuel production technology and your tramp stamp have in common? They both take inspiration from butterfly wings.

Read more: Renewable Energy

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If fossil fuel subsidies were distributed to every person, we’d each get $58/year

Globally, every year fossil fuels get six times as much money in subsidies than renewable energy. Given a world population of around 7 billion, that means every man woman and child on the planet is spending an average of $58 a year to prop this industry up, but only around $9 to support renewables.

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Mesmerizing wind map is the coolest-looking weather map ever

Data visualization wizards Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg have devised a real-time map of wind speeds in the U.S., and it beats the pants off spiky cold fronts, happy suns, and whatever else they're putting on weather maps these days. It's simple, elegant, and crazy hypnotic -- watch it together with the lava lamp ocean currents, and you might just go into a turbulence-inspired trance and start making noises like Osborne Reynolds. (Look it up, jerks.)

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The best pro-solar billboard you’ve ever seen

This is going around Facebook today -- it's actually from 2010, made in response to a specific piece of legislation, but the message here is (pardon the pun) evergreen.