Solar on the Rise

According to Environment Colorado Research & Policy Center, the state of Colorado now ranks 8th in the nation for per capita solar installations. Last year, solar capacity in Colorado grew to 270 Megawatts, an increase of 14.8%. Solar photovoltaic capacity in the United States has tripled since 2010 and capacity has increased tenfold since 2007. Correspondingly, the average price of solar panels fell by 26% in 2012. Read more...

Laser Technology Helps Keep Natural Gas in Pipelines

One of the presiding complaints in realm of natural gas is the inability to accurately measure how much gas is leaked into the atmosphere. Methane, the main component of natural gas, is 25 times more detrimental to global climate change over a 100 year period than carbon dioxide. Now, laser technology is being refined to measure levels of methane gas, and can also determine if the gas is being released from natural sources, such as swamps and marshes, or human activity, from leaking gas wells and pipelines. The ability to distinguish between the two sources will undoubtedly increase environmental accountability. Picarro, a scientific instruments manufacturer, developed a detector that could be mounted atop a car and driven around collecting data. It has already roamed the streets of Boston pinpointing 3,356 methane leaks, some with methane concentrations 15 times more than normal atmospheric levels. One of the greatest advantages of the new technology is ability to arrive on a site and know right away if the high levels of gas are coming from a distant source or a leaky utility pipeline. The EPA has hinted at the possibility of methane regulation, and this laser technology would make regulation even more feasible. Mitigating natural gas leaks will make natural gas even greener and minimize waste of a valuable fuel. Read more...

Innovation- Smart Phones Getting Smarter

The latest development in smart technology is a phone that acts as a personal assistant, delivering information before you request it. A variety of companies (including Google) are working on a predictive search that anticipates what you might need before you search. For example, your phone will alert you traffic requires you to leave half an hour early to arrive at a meeting on time. The application scans your emails, calendar, messages, locations etc. to keep you advised. An app called Google Now, which has been available to Androids for a year and iPhones since April, delivers information it considers helpful throughout the day.

Andrea M. Matwyshyn, assistant professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, who studies technological legal implication, says, “To the question of creepiness, the answer is it depends who you ask….What works for a group of 30-something engineers in Silicon Valley may not be representative of the way that 60-year-old executives in New York tend to use their phones.” Like much emerging technology, there is a privacy-convenience tradeoff. The New York Times recently released a story that illustrates how useful the app can be. “ReQall’s service…can block calls from interrupting you during meetings. But one day, the young son of reQall’s co-founder, Sunil Vemuri, was sick at home with Mr. Vemuri’s father, who was urgently trying to reach him with a medication question. Because he called more than once, and reQall knew the two had the same last name and spoke often, the app interrupted the meeting.” The application can make situational assessments as an assistant would. Experts predict that the new tool will become increasingly main-stream and most likely include advertisements. Keep an eye out for these avant-garde apps if you like the idea of an electronic assistant


Colorado?s Geothermal Capitol

Colorado’s State Capitol building in Denver is the country’s first LEED-certified capitol building. Colorado received a $4.7 million grant from the US Department of Energy to help pay for a geothermal system that will heat and cool the building. The open loop geothermal system uses two wells to pump water from 850 feet underground. The water from the Arapahoe Aquifer is a consistent 65 degrees, and will be circulated to cool the building during the summer and heat the building during the winter. The state of Colorado paid the remaining $1.3 million to complete the project as an investment in ongoing utilities savings. The project is expected to save $100,000 in the first year, increasing by 3% every following year due to rising utility costs. Governor Hickenlooper supported the renovation saying, "…One, it (the Capitol) needs it, and there is a high return on the investment and resources. Two, it is symbolic. Third, in terms of branding, the next time we are going out for Ardent Mills or another company to move here, it becomes part of that attraction to get people to move here." The geothermal system has already been brought online and is functioning properly. 


Wall Street Gets Involved in the Keystone XL Debate

The Keystone XL pipeline deliberation seems never-ending. TransCanada proposed the construction of a  pipeline that would carry tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada to the Gulf Coast in Texas, passing partially through an existing pipeline. Two phases of the Keystone pipeline already exist but the two phase expansion under review would drastically increase the volume of oil being mined and brought into the U.S.. Because the pipeline crosses a border, a Presidential Permit issued by the Department of State is required. Environmental concerns include: oil sands are heavier and harder to extract, and therefore more greenhouse gas intensive than other fuels, and there is potential for leaks along the pipeline. Potential leaks could contaminate vital aquifers and air quality.  President Obama has indicated multiple times that he will only approve the project if it will not significantly contribute to climate change. The State Department asserts that the tar oil sands will be mined regardless, and, as long as it’s leaving Canada, it might as well be through the U.S..


Now, there is another opinion, Wall Street. Several analysts at investment banks and financial firms are arguing that if the Keystone XL project is not approved, extraction of Canada’s oil sands may dwindle. A Goldman Sachs report from June projects that if Keystone XL faces continued delays, the oil "may remain trapped in the province of Alberta." RBC Capital Markets analysts also agree that if the plan is rejected, oil sands producers will have to reconsider their strategy. If these analysts are correct, the decision to build or not to build the Keystone XL pipeline will definitely influence the amount of global greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. On the contrary, some experts hold that other countries will buy and transport the oil via train to the east or west coast of Canada and ship it from there. However, transporting oil by train is much more expensive than through a pipeline. Major players in the oil and gas industry are fighting for construction of the pipeline to continue production growth and targets. TransCanada, the company to build the Keystone XL pipeline, concedes the sands oil are more carbon intensive than regular crude oil (~ 17%), but argue that the oil is not dirtier than other forms of heavy oil the U.S. consumes from Venezuela. A decision from Obama is expected before the end of the year. He is faced with risking a potential economic opportunity or an environmental disaster.


?I?ll Take Mine Medium-Cultured?

After two years and $325,000, the first laboratory-grown hamburger was served and eaten in London. The animal tissue was produced using stem cells from a cow shoulder muscle in a slaughterhouse. Stem cells are basic cells that can grow tissue-specific. The cells were reproduced in a nutrient solution and cultivated in small petri dishes, where they grew into tiny strips of muscle fiber. About 20,000 muscle fiber strips were used to make the five-ounce burger. The burger contained no fat, making it somewhat dry and flavorless and included bread crumbs and natural coloring. An English chef fried the meat in butter and served it to three tasters with a bun, lettuce and tomato. One taster, Chicago-based author Josh Schonwald, said “the bite feels like a conventional hamburger,” but the meat tasted “like an animal-protein cake.” Dr. Post, a Dutch researcher at the University of Maastricht, called the trial “a very good start” and said they succeeded at proving it could be done. Research shows that producing cultured meat in factories, rather than killing the animals, could drastically reduce water, land and energy use, as well as greenhouse gas emissions. In response to vegetarianism, Dr. Post said, “Vegetarians should remain vegetarian. That’s even better for the environment… let beef eaters eat beef in an environmentally friendly and ethical way.”  It would be possible to obtain stem cells without killing an animal. However, much more development needs to occur. The commercial viability of cultured meat is at least ten years down the road. Dr. Post estimates that if the production scale could be increased, a pound of cultured meat produced like the prototype would cost more than $30 per pound. Apparently, we can have our cow and eat it too. Read more...

City Green Bag Lunch-n-Learn Thursday, August 15th

“Owning a Small, Sustainable Business”

Presentation by Greg Howard, McCabe’s Tavern

The City will host its next Green Bag Lunch-n-Learn on Thursday, August 15 over the noon lunch hour, 12:11 to 12:49 p.m., at the City Administration Building (30 S. Nevada), Suite 102.  The lunch-n-learn will discuss sustainability from the small business standpoint of Greg Howard, the owner of McCabe's Tavern, a locally owned and operated family restaurant. As a small business owner, costs are a constant concern.  Making a commitment to the environment and the community can certainly be costly.  This has been the biggest hurdle for small business in the move to be more sustainable.

How can we be more sustainable?  What is sustainability?  Can small business be sustainable?  With some minor reorganization, Greg and his wife made small steps towards environmental sustainability without affecting their bottom line in a negative way.  Come learn about their plan and how they implemented sustainable practices by:

  • Realizing the need,
  • Accepting the challenge,
  • Dedicating the time,
  • Changing the mindset,
  • Reorganizing,
  • Training and convincing,
  • Developing habits,
  • Utilizing advancement, and
  • Looking ahead.

Attendees are encouraged to bring and enjoy their lunches during the presentation. Those who come have the opportunity to win a door prize tote bag made from reused City banners. 

Each month, the City sponsors a lunch-n-learn topic on an environmental issue. Questions? Contact Ellery Miller at 719-385-5286 or efmiller@springsgov.com.

Going Greener

Wednesdays thru October 9th

Farmers Market

Time and Location: 3:00pm- 7:00pm, Ivywild School, 1604 S. Cascade Ave., Free.

August 12th - 16th

Summer Community Art & Mural Program paints Duane Dosch Memorial Art Bench with Trails and Open Space Coalition, Free.

Time and Location: 9am-noon, Midland Trail & 17th St., RSVP 719-426-0731

August 17th & 18th

The Bicycle Xperience Summer Sale and Charity Event- Giveaways, Food, Music, and Deals.  Proceeds go to Black Forest Fire Victims, event is free.

Time and Location: 10:00am, The Bicycle Xperience 1601 S. Tejon St., 719-473-1015

August 30th

2nd Annual Blue Moon Trail Run- 5K, 10K, and Kids, proceeds benefit Colorado Springs Community Centers.

Time and Location: 6:00pm, Ute Valley Park, registration $30 

September 7th

What IF…Festival of Innovation and Imagination- downtown celebration of creativity and innovation.

Time and Location:10:00am- 4:00pm, Downtown COS, 1 N. Tejon St., Free.