Saturday, May 31, 2008

Clean Coal: More Expensive, Less Desirable

A 'clean coal' technology has been proposed that will provide power to generate electricity without emitting global warming pollution. The idea is that modified coal power plants would capture the polluting gas, carbon dioxide, pump it into open spaces underground, and store it there permanently. The technology has been promoted by coal mining and power companies, and has been supported by President Bush and the three presidential candidates. However, carbon dioxide capture, storage, and safety remain unproven, and the cost of building clean coal power plants is proving to be prohibitive.

The cost of the FutureGen clean coal project in Illinois rose from $1 Billion to $1.8 Billion, including $1 Billion in government subsidies. Fearing that the already high cost would further increase, the U.S. Energy Department canceled the FutureGen project. Another clean coal plant proposed in Edwardsport, Indiana would cost an estimated $2.35 Billion, a $365 Million increase from earlier estimates.

Here in the Buffalo area, an ailing economy and the need for new jobs are driving demands to build a clean-coal power plant in Tonawanda, NRG's proposed Huntley plant. The cost last year was estimated at $1.5 Billion. The current cost and status of the Huntley plant are not clear, and NY State is moving away from coal power to decrease pollution. Recently, in nearby Rochester, NY, a coal-fired power plant was shut down and converted to use natural gas, which generates less carbon dioxide than coal, and doesn't emit mercury pollution.

Coal's future looks bleak on Wall Street. Citigroup and Merrill Lynch have downgraded coal company stocks across the board. Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase and Bank of America said lending for coal-fired power plants will be contingent on utilities demonstrating they would be economically viable under future federal rules on emissions. A federal tax on carbon dioxide emissions is inevitable. Together with the high cost of cleaning coal, the tax will make coal a more expensive and less desirable source of energy.

Fortunately, clean energy sources, like wind, solar, hydro, and geothermal, provide alternatives to burning coal. Clean energy sources do not emit carbon dioxide pollution, and are environmentally safe and renewable. Low-cost, reliable hydropower from Niagara Falls is attractive to manufacturing companies and is creating new jobs in Western NY. Wind turbine towers are sprouting up across the region. A national shift to clean energy sources will create millions of new jobs in construction, engineering, manufacturing and other areas, and will reduce global warming pollution. It will be a win-win situation for Americans and the planet.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

500 New Jobs: Silicon for Solar Electricity

The idle Globe Metallurgical Plant in Niagara Falls will reopen under the parent company, Globe Specialty Metals, Inc., and produce high-purity silicon, a rare commodity essential to make solar-electric panels. Globe will create 500 new jobs, as well as additional jobs needed for construction of a new 100,000-square foot facility. The new facility will produce 4000 tons of solar-grade silicon per year by 2011, and overall the plant will produce 30,000 tons of metallurgical grade silicon annually.

"In about seven months from now, approximately 150 people will be working there, not including contractors who will complete the construction," said Alan Kestenbaum, President and CEO of the New York City based company. In 1.5 to 2 years, an additional 350 people will be added to the staff. The average salary will be approximately $52,000, as reported in Business First of Buffalo.

Kestenbaum said that “This project will be a cornerstone for New York State to become a major center for production and research for renewable energy, and in particular solar energy products", as reported in a Buffalo News story. Globe will invest $60 million to retool the existing metallurgical-grade silicon plant and to construct and outfit a new facility to produce the premium-grade silicon product.

An economic development package supplying low-cost electricity from the Niagara Power Project was key in attracting Globe Specialty Metals to western NY. Empire State Development Corp. (ESDC) and the NY Power Authority partnered to develop the incentive package that provides Globe with 40MW low-cost hydropower over 5 years, and up to $25 Million in Empire Zone Benefits for up to 10 years. In the agreement, 25% of Globe's solar-grade silicon will be used to attract new solar panel manufacturers, positioning NY as a potential solar energy hub. The timing of this news couldn't be better as the National Solar Conference organized by the American Solar Energy Society will be held in Buffalo in 2009!

The ESDC sees the incentive package as necessary to develop the green economy in western NY. Others question the amount of subsidies and the need to waive payment of taxes, as detailed in the Buffalo News report by James Heaney, and covered in his News blog. Still, with so many incentives from the Federal government directed towards the fossil fuel economy that is linked to global warming pollution as well as environmental, health and security concerns, isn't about time that we take a giant step necessary to establish a green economy in western NY based on producing a commodity essential for a clean, renewable energy source? I'm for it. Perhaps some of the issues will be addressed in the June 19th session of Business Gets Green, where a representative from Globe Specialty Metals is slated to speak.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Business Gets Green meets on June 19th

The second session of Business Gets Green is set for Thursday, June 19th from 5:30 to 7:30 PM at the Buffalo Museum of Science.

According to meeting organizer, Bill Nowak, 15 businesses have already signed up for the 20 one-minute introduction slots at the beginning of the meeting. E-mail him at to preregister to give a 1 minute introduction of your business.

Featured speakers for the session will include:

Reports on the first session of Business Gets Green, Videos of the featured presentations, and Contact Information for participating businesses are available here.

Business Gets Green is sponsored by Buffalo's Green Gold Development Corporation.

Offshore Wind Turbines: a Powerful Plan

A report from the University at Buffalo urges New York State to develop a comprehensive plan for production of clean, renewable offshore wind power from wind turbines located in Lakes Erie and Ontario. Doing so would create a demand for wind-power energy, as well as large-scale manufacturing of wind turbines and components, that could bring new jobs to Western New York. The report is the product of UB law professor Robert Berger, director of its Environment and Development Clinic, and Dwight Kanyuck. The full report can be viewed here.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Happy about Wind Power in Bliss, NY

The region’s newest wind farm of 67 turbines just opened in Bliss, NY. Noble Environmental Power built the $260 million Noble Bliss Windpark in Wyoming County. Another 84 towers will be added by the end of 2008 in Eagle and the adjacent town of Wethersfield. And that's not all. Projects in Chautauqua County, Cattaraugus County and Allegany County are being developed. Also an 18-tower expansion of the big 2.5MW turbines at the Steel Winds project in Lackawanna and Hamburg is in the works. For the Buffalo News story by John F. Bonfatti, click here.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

'Green' is growing on Business People

The first session of Business Gets Green sponsored by the Green Gold Development Corporation was a huge success, with twenty-two businesses introducing what they do, and four keynote speakers presenting environmentally-friendly talks to an audience of around eighty at the Buffalo Science Museum. Bill Nowak, meeting organizer and Executive Director of Green Gold Development Corp., said:

"I'm very happy with the way the first Business Gets Green session came out and grateful to everyone who helped make it a success - especially the 22 businesses who gave concise, well focused presentations. I look forward to other businesses stepping forward to introduce themselves at future sessions, and urge them to contact me at I'm excited to think that we will be broadcasting video from these sessions on LCTV and other venues. It's a good opportunity for businesses to get exposure. I was especially happy to see the networking that went on - some businesses were looking to contract with each other for services already!"

Videos of the presentations:
- Buffalo ReUse, Michael Gainer
- Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, Julie Barrett O'Neill
- Buffalo's Chief Economic Development Officer, Brian Reilly
- Ecology and Environment Inc., Laurie Shortt Kutina
Video presentations are courtesy of LCTV and videographer Jon Allen.

A list of participating Businesses with contact information is here.

Today's Buffalo News has a brief report by James Heaney on the May 15th meeting: Speakers offer insights into benefits of 'going green'. The next session of Business Gets Green will be held on Thursday, June 19 at 5:30pm in the Science Museum.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Green Cities: lessons from Curitiba Brazil

Innovations in transportation, recycling, affordable housing and other areas have made Curitiba one of the most livable cities in the world. Innovations and ingenuity are themes of a documentary film: A Convenient Truth: Urban Solutions from Curitiba, Brazil

The Western NY Climate Action Coalition is sponsoring a viewing of this informative and inspiring film (runtime: 52 minutes). Open discussion will follow. Admission and refreshments are free.

WHEN: Wednesday, May 21 at 7:00pm (refreshments at 6:30pm)
WHERE: Unitarian Universalist Church, Elmwood & West Ferry, Buffalo

For a poster to view and share with others, click here.
A film trailer is shown in the video below.

Friday, May 16, 2008

ReSOURCE: Reception & Grand Opening

Buffalo ReUse is a not-for-profit organization established to develop deconstruction as a competitive alternative to the demolition of abandoned housing. Today Buffalo ReUse will open a retail store, ReSOURCE, as an outlet for materials it has salvaged from vacant houses.
A reception will be held at the ReSOURCE Store on Friday, May 16, 6-8pm, and a Grand Opening will be held there on Saturday, May 17, throughout the day. For details, click here.

The ReSOURCE store is located at 298 Northampton in Buffalo, a few blocks east of DeltaSonic car wash on Main Street at Northampton. For a Map to the store, click here, and to visit the Web site, click here.

Michael Gainer, founder of Buffalo ReUse, was a speaker at the inaugural session of Business Gets Green and was also featured in the NY Times Magazine.
For more information about ReSOURCE and Buffalo ReUse, read the recent Buffalo News report by Tom Buckham, Buffalo ReUse opens a new door to transforming city neighborhoods. See also the News blog, Making a difference, one house at a time.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

NEW SERIES: Business Gets Green

Business Gets Green is a new monthly series, sponsored by Buffalo's Green Gold Development Corporation, where businesses get to talk with each other, showcasing and discovering green products, services and initiatives. Come hear what the leading businesses and thinkers in our region are doing!

Business Gets Green will be held on the 3rd Thursday of each month at the Buffalo Museum of Science. Sessions will include an opening half hour where the first 20 businesses to register each get a quick minute to introduce themselves and what they do, followed by lively 15 minute presentations by 2 businesses, a local environmental organization, and a public official. The sessions will last no more than 2 hours and will close with the presenters fielding questions. If you want to become part of this emerging sector of our economy, want to network with other businesspeople who are 'getting green', or are curious about how you might fit in, Business Gets Green is the place for you.

If you would like a chance to introduce your business at the beginning of the session, please be sure to pre-register by contacting Bill Nowak, Green Gold Executive Director, at . The introduction slots will be on a first come, first served basis, and will be cut off at 20.

Admission to this session will be free! Please arrive before 5:30 so we can start on time.
Guest post by Bill Nowak

The first session of Business Gets Green is set for Thursday, May 15th from 5:30 to 7:30 PM at the Buffalo Museum of Science with the following lineup:
For a printable flyer, click here.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Buffalo: Big Potential to go Green

The Partnership for the Public Good, led by UB Law Professor Sam Magavern, has documented thoughtful recommendations for Greening the City of Buffalo. The Partnership acknowledges that Buffalo has big problems, but it foresees an even bigger potential for positive change. Recommendations cover wide-ranging topics including sustainability, economic development, transportation, water, green spaces, buildings, energy, food, recycling, tax incentives, and education. Documents prepared by the group are available on the Web and include an Executive Summary and Recommendations, and the full document, Greening Buffalo: What Local Governments Can Do. Additional documents are available at the group's Wiki Space, Partnership for the Public Good.

The Partnership recommends forming a coalition of interested groups with a unified annual platform for change and a set of sustainability targets and measures to hold the public sector accountable. For further information, e-mail Sam Magavern at the University at Buffalo Law School.

Meeting: Great Lakes Wind Collaborative

1st Annual Meeting
of the
Great Lakes Wind Collaborative
May 6-7, 2008
Hyatt Regency Hotel, Buffalo NY

To go the GLWC Web site, click here.