Edible Gardens Arrive at the Ballpark

AT&T Park in San Francisco brought up the bar for ballpark food years ago when they introduced treats like made-to-order strawberry short cake carts, fresh Dungeness crab sandwiches, Peet’s Coffee and California wine.

Ballparks throughout the country followed suit, touting locavore fare. And now, AT&T Park is helping lead the way on a new trend: edible gardens at baseball games.

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Texas Utility to Be Coal-Free By 2016

Texas_PVWith a robust solar energy and natural gas portfolio, El Paso Electric expects to wean itself from coal in 2 years, providing cleaner power to its 395,000 residential and commercial customers in Texas. By the end of the year, solar energy will represent 6 percent of EPE’s generation sources, compared to 0.23 percent nationally.

EPE signed a 20-year power purchase agreement (PPA) with the Macho Springs solar plant in New Mexico, on 500-acres of State Trust Land in Luna County. The 50 megawatt project supplies enough power for 18,000 homes and will displace more than 40,000 metric tons of CO2. Macho Springs was touted as a super cost-effective solar energy development, at a mere 5.79 cents per kilowatt-hour, and will be the largest in New Mexico. This is significant because the project is selling solar energy for about half of what is typical for such a project and for nearly the price of coal power — but with a 20-year purchase agreement.

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Acheving 100-percent renewable electricity

spreadoftownsIllinois has 91 communities that have achieved 100-percent renewable energy, according to “Leading from the Middle: How Illinois Communities Unleashed Renewable Energy,” a report released Friday by the Environmental Law & Policy Center, Sierra Club, World Wildlife Fund, LEAN Energy US, the Illinois Solar Energy Association and George Washington University Solar Institute. Each of the communities used group buying power to purchase electricity with renewable energy credits.

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2014 Indoor Agriculture Conference this week in Las Vegas

Indoor_AgricultureThe 2nd Annual Indoor Agriculture Conference unites farmers, entrepreneurs, suppliers, technology geeks, investors, researchers and policy makers for a two-day discussion on the status and future of hydroponic, aeroponic and aquaponic produce farming.

The event takes place on this Wendesday and Thursday, May 14-15, at Springs Preserve, a 180 acre wildlife preserve in Las Vegas, NV. Over 38 speakers will be there, including FarmedHere, FreightFarms, MIT CityFarm, and Village Farms. Tickets are going fast!

Because of the growing interest in aquaponics, Indoor Ag is offering those with the Aquaponics Association a 20% discount off the $549 full price registration fee, bringing the cost down to $439, a savings of over $100. To take advantage of this savings, register through Eventbrite using the code AQUAPONICS.

For more information, visit www.indoor.ag.

The Elements of Truly Sustainable Transportation

Emirates_Cable_CarTransport is responsible for around a seventh of greenhouse gas emissions globally. Of these emissions almost two thirds are the result of passenger travel while the rest is due to freight.

So passenger travel is a big deal for climate.

As you can imagine there are a number of elements that help to determine how sustainable any form of transportation really is. Below are five elements to consider.

1) Fuel Economy

Better fuel economy leads to lower emissions. Large cars (15 MPG) have emissions almost three times that of the hybrid car (45 MPG).

By improving fuel economy we can get the same mileage while generating fewer emissions. Something that is achieved by making engines more efficient, vehicles lighter and bodies more aerodynamic. But even then combustion engines remain relatively inefficient and produce emissions at the tailpipe, so improving them is really just a stop-gap en-route to sustainable transport.

2) Occupancy

The cheapest and simplest way to lower the carbon intensity of a passenger mile is to stick more people in the vehicle.

If you look at buses, the importance of occupancy becomes even more stark. The local bus has emissions seven times higher than the school bus. While their routes may vary a little they are both diesel buses. The main difference is that the school bus has very high occupancy.

With notable exception of flying, public transport tends to have quite low carbon emissions, due largely to having relatively high occupancy.

3) Electrification

In the absence of breakthroughs in second generation biofuels, electrification is the most important pathway to low carbon transport.

Electric cars using low carbon power have footprints less than half that of the best hybrid, even after you account for their larger manufacturing footprint. The high-speed EuroStar rail which uses low carbon French electricity. The lowest carbon transport on earth is probably electrified public transport in a place like Norway where electricity generation is almost carbon free.

While there is a natural tendency to obsess about the electrification of cars, there are lots of interesting innovations occurring in the electrification of rail, motorbikes, scooters and bikes.

4) Pedal power

When it comes to carbon emissions, bicycles are pretty cutting edge. Even when you account for the foodprint of excess energy used when cycling, the humble bike is incredibly low carbon.

Bikes have obvious limitations around speed and distance, but for short trips in places with good infrastructure they are hard to beat in terms of carbon. They also have a great synergy with public transport systems like intercity rail.

5) Urbanization

Each of the first four elements we have described above refers to improving the carbon intensity of transport. But emissions are a function of both how we travel and how far we travel. One thing that tackles both of these issues is the trend towards urbanization.

People who live in cities have lower transport emissions. Fuel economy may be lower in city traffic but that is more than made up for by the fact that city dwellers drive far less. Electrification of public transport is more economic and practical in cities. Occupancy on public transport systems is much higher. And access to infrastructure for both cycling and walking is often better.

In 1950 less than 30% of the world’s population lived in cites, by 2010 that figure was over 50%, and by 2030 it is expected to surpass 60%. This natural trend to urbanization is a huge opportunity to for lowering both distance travelled per person and the carbon intensity of that travel.

Source: Shrink That Footprint.

The Revolution is Happening and This is What it Looks Like

This is what real revolution looks like. This is the future. Ron Finley in South Central LA was tired of living in a food desert and he decided to do something about it. He took back control over his food supply and health, while also setting his community on a path towards resilience and independence.

This is the way forward.

Decentralization of everything is the key to building a thriving local economy – an economy in which your prosperity and well-being are not left to the whims of central bankers or politicians.

You don’t need paper dollars to survive. You need food. So being able to provide healthy and locally grown food for yourself and your family is a good starting point in building a more resilient and free life.

“Growing your own food is like printing your own money.”

Ron Finley


Micro-Farming Can Be Profitable

This 35-minute poscast was recorded on March 29, 2014 on PeakProsperty.com.
Screen shot 2014-03-30 at 2.55.44 PMSmall-scale farming usually quickly surfaces as a pursuit that could help address a future defined by declining net energy, concerns about food security, adequate nutrition, community resilience, and reliable income commonly arise.

Yet most dismiss the idea of becoming farmers themselves; mainly because of lack of prior experience, coupled with lack of capital. It simply feels too risky. Jean-Martin Fortier and his wife, Maude-Hélène are a thirtysomething couple who have been farming successfully for the past decade on just an acre and half of land.
Their initial start up costs were in the $40,000 range. Not peanuts; but fairly low by most new business standards.

A quick summary of the numbers from their 1.5 acre operation:

2013 revenue: $140,000
Customer sales breakdown:
CSA operations: 140 members 60%
Farmer’s markets (2): 30%
Restaurants/grocery stores: 10%
Staff: 2 paid employees + the Fortiers
2013 Expenses: $75,000
2013 Profit: $65,000 (~45% profit margin)

U.S. Solar PV Market Increases 41% in 2013

2013 was another record year for the U.S. solar industry. According to data  from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) Research Report, “U.S. Solar Market Insight: 2013 Year in Review,” 4,751 MW of new photovoltaic (PV) capacity was installed in 2013, representing a 41 percent increase in installation levels over deployment in 2012. Solar accounted for 29 percent of all new electricity generation capacity added in 2013, up from 10 percent in 2012.

Solar is the second largest source of new electricity generating capacity behind natural gas. The record year was driven in part by historical growth in the fourth quarter of 2013, as 2,106 MW came online in Q4 alone.

Installations Continue to Boom

  • There is now enough solar PV to power more than 2.2 million average American homes with over 13,000 MW of cumulative solar electric capacity operating in the U.S.
  • During 2013, there were 140,000 new solar installations in the U.S., bringing the total to over 445,000 PV systems operating today.
  • The utility market continues to lead with new systems of 2,847 MW of PV and 410 MW of Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) installed in 2013.