‘I don’t give a f— if we agree’

While most media thrives on conflict and polarizing discussions, US politicians often follow their “leadership”.  Climate change really isn’t a debate, but for those who think it is, the “Govenator” offer these words.  Arnold Schwarzenegger has long been a passionate advocate for alternative energy.

‘I don’t give a f— if we agree’

 Arnold Schwarzenegger just gave a climate change speech that will give you chills

Why does my battery suck? – CNET

Why will public charging of mobile devices be needed for years or decades to come?   Here’s the simple answer…

Phones, tablets and watches continue to improve. Their batteries? Not so much.

Source: Why does my battery suck? – CNET

Photo courtesy Jamie Scot Lytle

Behind San Diego Unified’s Solar Power Struggles

San Diego Unified School District was one of the first to deploy large scale solar and has learned some valuable lessons along the way.

Despite its struggles with solar power so far, the district is preparing to ramp up its solar footprint with a major investment of bond funds.

However, some districts like Poway and El Cajon have had near catastrophic issues with their public bonds.  While construction bonds are usually the cheapest form of capital, they have their drawbacks as well.

  1. Bonds take a long time to develop and get approved, at least 1 year and often several.  Meanwhile energy costs keep racking up.  For some districts, that accounts to hundreds of thousands of dollars a month.  Also, with the 30% solar tax credit likely sunsetting in 2016, that means any projects built after that will essentially pay 30% higher than they should.
  2. After all that time and expense developing a bond, voters may not even approve it.  With taxes creeping up every year, many voters are worn out from being saddled with new taxes.

Fortunately, 3fficient’s Project FreeCharge™ has the answer – and the best of both worlds.  With the next lowest cost of capital, FreeCharge™ can fund projects within 30 – 60 days.  That means a hasty end to unnecessary utility costs and fees.  Since the capital comes from private sector grants, foundations and investors, the 30% tax credits can be utilized to reduce capital costs.  Better yet, return expectations are low which means the cost savings (or solar revenues) for schools and other public agencies and qualified non-profits will be much higher than a traditional PPA (Power Purchase Agreement).  Better still, the funding can be allocated in smaller, bite sized increments to keep spending under control and manageable.  When allocated for energy or cost saving measures like efficiency and renewables, the funding won’t affect credit ratings.

We hope that other school districts will learn from other’s challenges and participate with 3fficient’s new capital funding while it lasts.  Will this be the tipping point to end the utility’s death grip on school budgets?  We hope so.

Source: Behind San Diego Unified’s Solar Power Struggles

Electric Car Drivers, “We’ll Never Go Back To Gasoline”

Fully nine out of 10 electric-car drivers say they won’t go back to cars with internal-combustion engines, according to a new Ford survey. More often than not, that specifically means a battery electric car, Stephanie Janczak–Ford’s Manager of Electric Vehicle Infrastructure and Technology–said in a recent interview with CleanTechnica. Janczak noted that most current all-electric drivers said they would stay with that type of car, while plug-in hybrid owners were more inclined to consider switching to an all-electric vehicle.

Workers rejoice.  3fficient’s PowerPost delivers free EV charging to commuters.  For pennies a day, employers can provide free workplace charging to lower their carbon footprint.   Contact us to get yours now.

Source: Electric Car Drivers Tell Ford: We’ll Never Go Back To Gasoline

Spur clean-tech for smart cities – vote here.

Coming soon to smart cities – Next generation clean technologies that will help make fossil fuels irrelevant.

By 2050, 90% of the population will be in cities, 75% of all energy use and 80% of CO2 emissions will start with the cities.  When US Mayors return from their annual conference this weekend, city staffs will be challenged to accelerate smart city clean tech.  That’s us!  We are helping incubate some of the most incredible startups and early stage companies to make sure the best clean tech solutions keep on coming and get better every year…  Supporting innovative small business is the only way to reach your goals.  Won’t you join us?  Do more with less.  Be 3fficient!

Make sure you follow us to see upcoming announcements on new urban infrastructure.  I can’t wait to show you the stuff in development!  But, don’t let that delay you from purchasing our innovative new products available now.

Sincerely,
3fficient incubator team

Vote for smart campus sustainability!

If you or your institution care about climate change, lowering energy bills or student safety, we ask you to vote for 3fficient to win a $100k grant, so we can bring you free solar power, improved student safety and education.

CLICK HERE TO VOTE

3fficient is helping incubate some incredible startups and early stage companies.  Our FreeCharge™ initiative is to further develop and deploy brilliant, solar-powered urban furniture to public and campus spaces.  Our designs cleanly integrate solar power, device charging, brilliant lighting, WiFi, emergency 911, environmental sensing, wayfinding and more into beautiful self-powered smart urban furniture.  Our initial products have already proven to be extremely useful, educational and valuable.

Our only ask is that you vote now and tell others, so we can qualify to compete with traditional and fossil-based businesses for a $100,000 grant.  No strings! Applications are closed and we must now exceed 250 votes to qualify by the 6/19/15 deadline.  This Friday!  Once we get over this first hurdle, we feel very confident in winning. We will use the funds to refine and improve our newest designs for commercialization and deployment.  We just need your Facebook vote now.

Please share this with all your sustainable-minded friends, students and their parents.  Deadline is this Friday.  Thank you!

Sincerely,

Doug Poffinbarger, President, 3fficient

PS.  Please remember to “like us” and “follow us” so we can keep you posted on our journey.  Do more with less.  Be 3fficient!

Man or Planet?

As we all “celebrate”  #EarthDay here are some questions to ponder:

  • Oil or sun?
  • Gas or electric?
  • Surf or turf?
  • Polarize or attract?
  • Man made or natural?

And now, the perspective…

Oil or Sun?  Will big oil and natural gas continue to be the fuel of choice?  Probably for awhile if only for the pure inertia over the last 100 years.  If we were to level the playing field by adding a national carbon, air pollution or asthma tax to fossil fuels, the free market would immediately choose renewables over fossil fuels.  In the interim, eliminating tax incentives for mature industries (e.g. oil, coal and gas) and leaving them in for renewables (e.g. solar and wind) would ease the unfair advantage of polluting fuels.

Gas or Electric?  Will gas vehicles or electric vehicles dominate transportation?  In most cities, mass transit and electric vehicles are already becoming the de facto winner for cost and convenience.  Since most people commute less than 35 miles a day and 90% commute under 80 miles a day, EVs are the clear winner already.  My wife and I each had our own car, then opted to change to a pool car mentality when we got our first EV.  Now, the second (gas car) is rarely used, we have virtually eliminated visits to the pump, the smog station and the mechanic.  We plug in every night and our electric bill has only gone up a few bucks a month while the gas and maintenance bills have been virtually eliminated.

Surf or Turf?  With prolonged #droughts and many communities literally running out of drinking water, will we ignore lakes, streams and agriculture or stick with turf as the battles over “water rights” heat up?  I live in a HOA, like many others, so there’s a lot of pressure to keep consistency and curb appeal.  But, we simply couldn’t ignore our responsibilities (and rising water bills) any longer.  Last year, my wife and I replaced our front lawn with beautiful flowering native plants.  Our water bill instantly dropped 40%.  In San Diego County, where we live, 66% of all water goes to single family dwellings like ours.  In California, we are tasked with cutting water use by 25%.  Cutting 40% from 66% of all water use yields 26.4% water savings immediately.  The county water authority, like many others in the US, is considering billions of dollars in infrastructure upgrades for water recycling plants.  So, before increasing taxes, wouldn’t it be more prudent to incentivize homeowners to replace their water hungry lawns with natives first?  This would instantly eliminate 40 – 70% of domestic water waste, create local jobs and create beautiful natural habitats.

Polarize or Attract?  Will big media and big government (e.g. U.S. Congress) continue to polarize all politics as either far left or far right, or will Americans realize we have far more in common than we do different?  Perhaps we can instead focus on the “greater good” and delay or set aside our self interests.  It’s easier to be wasteful, but far less expensive to conserve.  It’s easier to focus on our own needs, but far more rewarding to think about our brother’s needs.

Man Made or Natural?  Is #climate change “man made” or naturally occurring?  I think it’s an irrelevant question. Why?  Because if all these changes are not “man made”, we are “screwed” because then there’s nothing we can do about it.  Since we rely on this planet for – well – everything, perhaps we had better treat it a little better and stop laying waste to it so rapidly?  FWIW, with roughly 7 billion people now on the planet, driving internal combustion engines and using fossil power, wouldn’t it be impossible not to have a major impact?

Personally, I choose to be an optimist and keep doing my best to reduce my environmental impact.  I hope you will too!  Every Day.

My first year with an electric vehicle.

My first year with an electric vehicle has been very interesting.

Buying a vehicle is a major purchase.  So, like most married couples, my wife and I discuss and agree upon all major decisions before hand.  In this case, it was my idea, so I decided to “test the waters” first.  During casual conversations, I asked about her perceptions of electric vehicles.  For the most part it was neutral to positive.  Positive on the environment and probable cost savings.  By far, her biggest concern (and mine) was the range.  So, I quietly started logging daily miles and found both vehicles were under 40 miles each day.  Better than expected!  It dawned on me that since both cars spent most of their time in the garage, with the keys on hooks next to each other, they really didn’t need to be “his and her” vehicles – they could be pool cars.  One for short commutes, one for long range as needed.  If we both had a long trip, we would have to plan for it anyway and could rent a car if needed.   I was convinced.  Now I had to get her on board.

So, I asked her if she would try to plan her daily trips a little better to see if she could reduce the wear and tear on our aging SUV and reduce the huge gas costs.  She did and her daily mileage dropped about 25% which also saved her a lot of time.  So, I tried a little psychology and suggested we both switch to EVs.  After a few dinner discussions, she suggested we try one and see how it goes.  Bingo!

Next up, shopping.

Now that she was on board with the concept, we needed to decide on which one and how to pay for it.  We ultimately decided on the Nissan Leaf as the size, headroom and storage was optimal for our family.  I’m tall (6’5″), have two teenagers and we frequent the beach.  The Leaf was the most practical at the time.  So, when my wife took the kids to to take a look, they went to the dealer and walked right past the Leaf.  My daughter said, “I hope it’s not that ugly one over there”.  As it turns out, it was, which of course delayed the decision.  But, like any new design, you start noticing them around and it grows on you.  After a week or two, she recanted her perception and we had everyone on board.  (No, our kids don’t make our decisions for us, but we weren’t in a rush either).  After deciding on our personal preferences and financing, we drove off the lot in our shiny new EV.

While we were shopping, I diligently researched charging options and how we might handle trips beyond a single charge.  From prior experience, I already knew there were several companies developing competing charging networks.  Something akin to video tape wars of long ago that ended up being displaced by DVDs anyway.  Since most cars spend most of the time parked at home or at work, the charging “network” is irrelevant for a commuter car.  Since that was true for us, my focus was on just using the 110v outlets in the garage or adding a 220v (Level 2) outlet.   Luckily we have a gas dryer which frees up an outlet.  Even if I didn’t have that, the panel had enough capacity to run 220v to the garage – if needed.  Ultimately, I decided to try out the regular 110v outlet for awhile and see how it worked.

The experience.

A year later and we’re still using just the 110v outlet.  However, we may add the 220v outlet to speed up charging during utility “off peak” hours or during our own “peak solar hours” when we add solar to the house (another story).  Basically, we just plug it in every night (after peak utility rates) and it’s full or nearly full in the morning.  The manufacturer states that charging to 100% can degrade battery longevity, so just under full is quite alright.  On occasion we may forget to plug it in at night, but after the first time, we’ve gotten in the habit like checking the door locks before turning in.

I’ve only needed to “fill up” while driving a couple times over the last year.  Once or twice because we forgot to charge the night before and the other car was in use.  So, I ran low, but found plenty of options nearby via the PlugShare app on my phone.  Other times were on longer trips beyond the “single tank” range.  I have found that most EV dealers have a high speed (Level 3) charger on site for free “customer” use. Or, there are proprietary networks to choose from.  However, I can’t see why any vendor would limit access (sales) by requiring a membership vs convenient point of sale model like the gas stations have?  In all, we’ve only had “range anxiety” a couple times, but always found an option.  Sometimes the wait was longer than we’d like, but overall not a big deal.

The overall driving experience has been great.  Thanks mostly to the engine.  Not to diminish automotive engineering, the greatness of the EV is simply the propulsion choice.  Electric motors are far superior to a reciprocating engine in almost every facet.  They accelerate faster which means they are safer for driving.  They are quieter and smoother which means no loud noises annoying the neighbors or your family.  They don’t pollute so you don’t choke everyone behind you in traffic or the kids while waiting for pickup.  They don’t require gas so no more smog checks, constant tuneups or sending our kids to “fight foreign wars”.  Or as many generals have said, “die transporting or protecting oil interests”.  They have very few moving parts which means they are much more dependable, easier and a lot cheaper to maintain.  They are far more efficient.  An electric motor is 90% – 98% efficient while a gas engine is only 26% – 30% efficient.  With batteries mounted low in the vehicle, the center of gravity is lowered which means they inherently handle really well.  The only question I would have is, why weren’t they offered a long, long time ago?

While there are some features and improvements I would make for my car, the experience of owning an electric vehicle has been absolutely outstanding.  Since California has proven that EV’s work and are truly viable (in fact preferred), I hope that all other states follow suit and mandate zero emissions vehicles to spur mass adoption.  With high volume pricing and availability, demand will surely grow and gas engines will be relegated to backup sources like they are for buildings and manufacturing already.

Two years later and we still love our electric vehicle.  In fact, it’s had quite an impact on our family.  One of the fun perks for me has been at the starting line, er um traffic lights.  On occasion or three, a kid with a noisy “rice rocket” will end up at the light next to me and I have so much fun seeing the look on their faces (in the rear view mirror) when the family car leaves ’em in the dust.  As for my kids – absolute converts.  One of the statements heard while sitting in congested traffic, “Why would anyone choose to drive a noisy carcinogen-belching machine when a clean, quiet (and much quicker) digital device is available.  Even the stodgy car enthusiast at CNET is becoming a convert.  As for the gas burning SUV?  That’s now backup only and sits in the garage most of the time.  When my daughter heads off to college (BioSci/EnvSci major) in the fall, we’ll dump the SUV once and for all…

 

 

 

It’s time to cut loose!

Spring is here and along with it come all the amazing colors and festivities.  Enjoying the warm weather and the upcoming Earth Day celebrations reminds us of the fragile shrinking planet we all share.  Nobody is more keenly aware of that than our students.

Today’s students are highly social and engaged in environmental, social and fiscal sustainability.  In fact, most universities have student run sustainability councils and their own budgets for capital improvements.  Students today, demand that their schools, colleges and universities have environmental sustainability on top of their priority list.  As a result, some of the most progressive universities and colleges differentiate themselves by their assault on reducing carbon and waste.

This same enthusiasm has grown into the corporate world and city-scape.  Those same grads live an increasingly mobile lifestyle and are migrating to engaging, energized communities.  They know that climate change is not their children’s responsibility, it is theirs.  As city leaders and planners look for options to keep their cities relevant and digitally connected, they are seeking to energize there cities and metro centers.  Fortunately the word is getting out and universities and cities alike are integrating our growing portfolio of smart city and campus solutions into their plans.

The iconic Strawberry Trees are being designed into several new developments and park enhancements.  The cool Evodia tables are making their way into many campus budgets and dining areas.  Our newest product, the Arc locker-style charging station is already in several colleges and events.  The newest version starts coming off the production line next week.  All of these were designed and developed by college grads looking to make the world a better place.

Last year, we adopted Strawberry energy and SolGreen.  And this week, we announced adding WrightGrid as a partner.  We are rapidly developing an amazing portfolio of free solar-powered charging stations and beautiful urban furniture, available in one place – 3fficient.com.  We have more awesome stuff incubating and more great news coming as we shape an entirely new industry of resilient, smart charging for the masses that is truly zero carbon (not to be confused with net-zero energy). So, next time you’re outdoors on a campus, a park, a bike trail, an event or just about any venue, ask yourself, would this be a good place for a lot of people to charge their devices for free with zero carbon?

The sun is free.  Shouldn’t solar energy be free too?

Doug Poffinbarger, CEO 3fficient.

Scientists: Will humanity survive our bad habits?

At our current pace of pollution, the Earth may cease to be a “safe operating space” for humans in the coming decades.  Unfortunately, that is the conclusion of a new paper published in the journal of science by 18 researchers trying to gauge the breaking points in the natural world.  As a race, we have shown that we can respond to urgent environmental crises, but the window of opportunity is closing rapidly.

The paper contends that we have already crossed four “planetary boundaries.” They include the extinction rate; deforestation; the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; and the flow of nitrogen and phosphorous (used on land as fertilizer) into the ocean.

“What the science has shown is that human activities – economic growth, technology, consumption – are destabilizing the global environment,” said Will Steffen, who holds joint appointments at the Australian National University and the Stockholm Resilience Center, and is the lead author of the paper.

These are not future problems, but rather urgent matters, according to Steffen, who said that the economic boom since 1950 and the globalized economy have accelerated the transgression of the boundaries. No one knows exactly when push will come to shove, but he said the possible destabilization of the “Earth System” as a whole could occur in a time frame of “decades out to a century.”

The researchers focused on nine separate planetary boundaries first identified by scientists in a 2009 paper. These boundaries set theoretical limits on changes to the environment, and include ozone depletion, freshwater use, ocean acidification, atmospheric aerosol pollution and the introduction of exotic chemicals and modified organisms.

Beyond each planetary boundary is a “zone of uncertainty.” This zone is meant to acknowledge the inherent uncertainties in the calculations, and to offer decision-makers a bit of a buffer, so that they can potentially take action before it’s too late to make a difference. Beyond that zone of uncertainty is the unknown — planetary conditions unfamiliar to us.

“The boundary is not like the edge of the cliff,” said Ray Pierrehumbert, an expert on Earth systems at the University of Chicago. “They’re a little bit more like danger warnings, like high temperature gauges on your car.”

Pierrehumbert, who was not involved in the paper published in Science, added that a planetary boundary “is like an avalanche warning tape on a ski slope.”

The scientists say there is no certainty that catastrophe will follow the transgression of these boundaries. Rather, the scientists cite the precautionary principle: We know that human civilization has risen and flourished in the past 10,000 years — an epoch known as the Holocene — under relatively stable environmental conditions.

No one knows what will happen to civilization if planetary conditions continue to change. But the authors of the Science paper write that the planet “is likely to be much less hospitable to the development of human societies.”

The authors make clear that their goal is not to offer solutions, but simply to provide information. This is a kind of report card, exploiting new data from the past five years.

It’s not just a list of Fs. The ozone boundary is the best example of world leaders responding swiftly to a looming environmental disaster. After the discovery of an expanding ozone hole caused by man-made chemicals, chlorofluorocarbons, the nations of the world banned CFCs in the 1980s.

This young field of research draws from such disciplines as ecology, geology, chemistry, atmospheric science, marine biology and economics. It’s known generally as Earth Systems Science. The researchers acknowledge the uncertainties inherent in what they’re doing. Some planetary boundaries, such as “introduction of novel entities” — CFCs would be an example of such things — remain enigmatic and not easily quantified.

Better understood is the role of carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. The safe-operating-zone boundary for CO2 had previously been estimated at levels up to 350 parts per million. That’s the boundary — and we’re already past that, with the current levels close to 400 ppm, according to the paper. That puts the planet in the CO2 zone of uncertainty that the authors say extends from 350 to 450 ppm.

At the rate CO2 is rising — about 1 or 2 ppm per year — we will surpass 450 ppm in just a couple of decades, said Katherine Richardson, a professor of biological oceanography at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and a co-author of the new paper.

Humanity may have run into trouble with planetary boundaries even in prehistoric times, said Richard Alley, a Penn State geoscientist who was not part of this latest research. The invention of agriculture may have been a response to food scarcity as hunting and gathering cultures spread around, and filled up, the planet, he said.

“It’s pretty clear we were lowering the carrying capacity for hunter-gatherers 10,000 years ago,” Alley said.

There are today more than 7 billion people, using an increasing quantity of resources, turning forest into farmland, boosting the greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and driving other species to extinction. The relatively sudden efflorescence of humanity has led many researchers to declare that this is a new geological era, the human age, often referred to as the Anthropocene.

The Earth has faced shocks before, and the biosphere has always recovered. Hundreds of millions of years ago, the planet apparently froze over — becoming “Snowball Earth.” About 66 million years ago, it was jolted by a mountain-sized rock from space that killed half the species on the planet, including the non-avian dinosaurs. Life on Earth always bounced back from these shocks.

“The planet is going to take care of itself. It’s going to be here,” Richardson said.  However, the human race may not be around to witness it.

“There’s a lot of emotion involved in this. If you think about it, the American ethic is, ‘the sky’s the limit.’ And here you have people coming on and saying, no it isn’t, the Earth’s the limit,” she said.

Technology can potentially provide solutions to many of the environmental problems we face today. But technological innovations often come with unforeseen consequences. Pierrehumbert said we should be wary of becoming too dependent on technological fixes for global challenges.

“The trends are toward layering on more and more technology so that we are more and more dependent on our technological systems to live outside these boundaries,” he said. “It becomes more and more like living on a spaceship than living on a planet.”