alternative energy

Can "Eco-Industrial Districts" help make Seattle sustainable?

A potentially far-reaching step toward making Seattle and its economy truly sustainable went unrecognized by news media this week: King County declaring its intention to partner with the city to create "Eco-Industrial Districts." A likely first candidate: The Duwamish River corridor in south Seattle, home of a Superfund site but also some grand visions by environmentalists, community activists and others.

The King County Council, prodded by councilman Larry Phillips, passed a resolution Sept. 13 that was welcomed by Seattle City Council President Richard Conlin:

"Seattle’s industrial core is a unique and extremely valuable resource and critical to the long term economic health of the region. The City Council’s interest in (eco-industrial districts) has a dual purpose, both to strengthen our industrial core and to improve the environmental quality of the Duwamish river corridor."

It's been a few years since the city council passed an ordinance intended to help preserve easily gentrified industrial areas. It's a threat we explored in our 2007 series on the Duwamish. But the city hasn't done a whole lot since then to proactively encourage high-wage industry to stay in town.

The whole idea of these eco-industrial districts is that new and cleaner industry can dovetail with efforts to green up -- literally and figuratively -- some of the city's grittier and yet economically important areas. Here's how the county's press release conceputalizes them:

Rita Hibbard's picture

Green energy stimulus funding collides with endangered species protections

rita_hibbardwebIn California, green energy enthusiasts are finding themselves pitted against endangered species advocates as environmental hurdles get in the way of the state’s renewable energy goals. It's happened elswhere in the West as well, and expect more of the same, as pressure builds to produce to produce more alternative energy.

The Los Angeles Times reports that as companies race to finalize permits and break ground by the end of next year on solar energy projects, the presence of sensitive habitat, rare plants and endangered creatures threatens to  slow or stop  some of the projects closest to securing permits.

"The development of solar-power facilities in the desert has been a top priority of the Obama administration as it seeks to ease the nation's dependence on fossil fuels and curb global warming. In addition, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has urged that the state meet one-third of its electricity needs from renewable sources by 2020.

Companies are racing to finalize their permits and break ground by the end of next year, which would qualify them to obtain some of the $15 billion in federal stimulus funds designated for renewable energy projects.

Wind energy could supply most of our needs

[caption id="attachment_2055" align="alignleft" width="225" caption="Courtesy scruss via Flickr under Creative Commons license ("]Courtesy scruss via Flickr under Creative Commons license (<a href=" width="225" height="300" />[/caption]

It's always dangerous to evaluate how many news reporters wrote about any given scientific study, particularly if you're relying on Google News, but I can't find anything about a recent study that seems pretty significant:

Xi Lu of Harvard and colleagues report in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that the overall potential for production of wind energy could supply our current electricity more than 40 times over.


Now, clearly, there are some caveats in order. Lu's calculations represent the output of a network of 2.5-megawatt wind turbines smothering  everything on Earth that's not water, forest, covered in ice or inhabited by humans. Given wind turbines'  environmental downsides and eyesore issues, that's obviously not something we'd want to do.

Still, the study gives pause when you consider just how big wind could be. The 40-times-over estimate contemplates replacing electricity alone. If one were to look at how Lu's envisaged network could do when those units are translated into replacing all our energy use, the numbers say it could produce more than five times our *total* energy use.

Rita Hibbard's picture

Fast-tracking Solar Plants

The federal government is fast-tracking public land in Colorado and five other Western states for development as commercial solar power plants, Mark Jaffe of the Denver Post reports today. The goal is to have 13 solar power plants under construction by next year. A total of 670,000 acres in six Western states are being divided into 24 “Solar Energy Study Areas," including 21,000 acres in Colorado. The Colorado sites could generate up to 4,100 megawatts of electricity, about the same as 10 coal-fired power plants, the Post reports. ttp://

Rita Hibbard's picture

Windpower for 60,000 Homes

An Idaho firm is beginning construction of 14 wind parks across southern Idaho that will produce 228 megawatts of electricity and put Idaho in the top 20 states for wind power, the Idaho Statesman reports today. The Exergy Development Group will produce enough electricity to power about 60,000 homes.