Wells Fargo’s Lofty Green Economy Goals: $30+ Billion for Renewable Energy, Community Environmental Initiatives

Photo courtesy Wells Fargo


Wells Fargo announced the setting of some lofty 2020 “green” goals last week, testament to financial industry players’ growing commitments to financing renewable energy, clean technology and environmental initiatives. The San Francisco banking and financial services group April 23 announced that, by 2020, it intends to make $30 billion in “green economy” loans and investments, $100 million in community grants for grassroots environmental initiatives and an increasing of the group’s own energy efficiency by 40%.

“Our commitment to the environment reflects our belief that Wells Fargo’s responsibility as a corporation goes beyond its mission of helping customers succeed financially. We also have a major role to play in promoting the long-term economic prosperity and quality of life of the communities we serve,” said Chairman, President and CEO John Stumpf. “By bringing our talents and resources to these efforts, we seek to work jointly with businesses and communities in protecting and preserving this planet and its precious resources for future generations.”

The results of its own consumer research played a big role in management formulating its green economy lending and investment and community-focused environmental initiatives. “Our research shows more than 80 percent of our consumers think environmental issues are important,” said Mary Wenzel, Wells Fargo’s director of Environmental Affairs.

“We share their values and concerns and are acting on them through a broad-based, financially powerful approach to the environmental opportunities and needs we see on the horizon. We hope to demonstrate that progress for Wells Fargo and for the communities we serve does not have to come at the expense of the planet we share.”

Wells Fargo’s “comprehensive commitment to investing in environmental solutions for stronger communities” is focused on these areas:

  • Accelerating the transition to a “greener” economy: $30 billion in loans and investments to promote a “greener economy,” including wind and solar energy, clean technologies, energy efficient buildings, environmental innovation, and environmentally responsible public financing
  • An approach to environmental and social risk management focused on responsible ways of doing business together with our business customers
  • Engage its 70 million customers through marketing and communications aimed at raising awareness about products and services that can help customers succeed financially as well as protect the environment – e.g. promotions of paperless banking services and financing for energy efficient home improvements
  • Encouraging stronger and more sustainable communities: $100 million in community grants and increased volunteerism for grassroots environmental initiatives, such as programs that bring people together to plant and care for city trees and open spaces. Grants also support “innovation” led by nonprofits and universities aimed at promoting clean technology and breaking down barriers to a “greener” economy
  • Target $1 billion for low- to moderate-income communities to prove the added value of community investments with environmental benefits
  • Reducing the environmental impact of Wells Fargo’s operations: Create a culture of sustainability by increasing team member environmental stewardship in our communities, at work and in our daily lives
  • Achieve measurable environmental performance goals by 2020: 40% increase in energy efficiency, 65% waste diversion rate, 35% reduction in absolute greenhouse gas emissions below 2008 levels, 35% of buildings will achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) certification,
  • Engage suppliers to enhance its environmental performance through increased accountability and transparency in its supply chain

More information is available on the Wells Fargo Environmental Forum.

Source: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/1am20)

97% of Americans Overestimate Cost of Installing Solar Panels

A new study commissioned by Sunrun finds that a whopping 97% of Americans overestimate the upfront cost of installing rooftop solar panels. Meanwhile, of course, 8 out of 10 of those without solar say they would install it if cost weren’t a factor.

The study was conducted online by Harris Interactive® in February 2012. 2,211 U.S. adults participated in the study, and 1,475 of them were identified as homeowners.

“While only 3% accurately understand that installing solar can cost less than $1,000 upfront, 4 out of 10 U.S. Adults (40%) think it requires $20,000 or more in upfront costs, grossly overestimating the true cost of installing home solar,” Sunrun, the country’s largest home solar company, writes. Here are more statistics from the poll:

While people are concerned about rising utility prices, most do not realize that solar can chip off a big chunk of those costs and that solar essential means more money for them in the long run (and, if they decide to go the solar leasing option Sunrun is focused on, perhaps even immediate savings).

“The vast majority of Americans are concerned about rising home energy costs from utility companies — 95% of U.S. adults who do pay and/or are aware of their utility costs cited their rising utility rates as a concern — yet homeowners remain paralyzed by misconceptions about what it costs to install solar.”

“When it comes to money matters, ignorance is rarely blissful. When it comes to solar money myths, misinformation actually prevents U.S. homeowners from making smarter financial decisions,” said Manisha Thakor, Harvard MBA and former portfolio manager turned bestselling author and financial literacy advocate. “Solar power service has become something any homeowner should now consider as part of a modern investment portfolio, if it’s available to them. Among other benefits, it offers homeowners the unprecedented ability to plan and predict one of their largest household expenses for years to come: energy. Consumers can direct any savings from solar to other top financial priorities like paying off debt or investing in retirement.”

It seems that for this reason, and probably largely because of good marketing as well, most people going solar in California (the #1 state for solar power) are going solar via a third-party service (i.e. a solar lease or a solar PPA).

No matter how you go solar, though, I think the point of the matter very simply is that there are a variety of options available these days, and they all offer good financial returns for a large number of people, probably most people. If you’re thinking of going solar, certainly don’t assume it’s too expensive and dolook into the options available to you.

Source: Business Wire

Is it a Hybrid or Electric Car? In Massachusetts, Check The Plate

massachusetts electric car plate

These days, unless you’re an ardent fan of hybrid or electric cars, it can be pretty hard to tell them apart from their gasoline equivalents.

For the average motorist it isn’t an issue, but for first responders attending the scene of an accident, it’s important to know what a crashed car is powered by.

Which is why the state of Massachusetts is becoming the second state in the U.S. (after Hawaii)  to fit electric and hybrid cars with special license plates designed to warn recuse crews that they’re dealing with an electric or hybrid car.

The new license plates were introduced after the National Fire Protection Association recommended them as an additional precautionary measure to protect emergency workers.

prius crash

 “You want to make sure that it’s completely disabled,” Mark Sylvia, commissioner of the state’s Department of Energy Resources told Boston.com. “You want to make sure any issues relative to electric shock are addressed.”In the past, various states have employed different measures to protect fire-crews and first responders from mishandling electric and hybrid car crashes, ranging from specific training courses to smartphone electric and hybrid car identification applications.

It is hoped that Massachusetts’ approach will be easier to implement in the field, since first responders will only have to look for one of two different license plate designs.

It’s likely that some advocates will argue that the new plates only further alienate the public from hybrid and electric cars.

After all, gasoline cars are far more likely to burst into flames in an accident than a hybrid or electric car, both of which have sophisticated interconnection systems designed to make the car’s high-voltage battery pack safe in a crash.

But with high-voltage cabling often hidden behind panels and under floors, safety workers need to ensure the car’s battery pack is safe before using cutting machinery to rescue occupants.

By offering a visual prompt, Massachusetts hopes both car victims and rescuers remain safe at all times.

Massachusetts has already produced 17,600 of the specialized plates, which are available at Registry of Motor Vehicles offices statewide.

For new car owners, the plates will cost the same as any other regular plate, although owners of existing electric or hybrid cars can swap their plates free of charge for the official electric/hybrid plate.

Clean Energy Crowdfunding — Crowdfunding Wind & Solar Projects in the UK

clean energy crowdfunding

Community-funded or crowdfunded wind and solar power is now being encouraged in the UK by renewable energy networking site EnergyShare, which is offering up £5,000 each for the first 5 renewable energy projects that also raise £5,000 on their own via the crowdfunding website. Another company,Abundance Energy, is also trying to get individuals and businesses to help fund and gain from clean energy projects, encouraging them to invest as little as £5 in wind turbines for an upcoming project. Is crowdfunding about to sweep into the clean energy sector?

This is similar to what Solar Mosaic is doing in the US and what the Solar Schools program is doing for schools across the UK, but it is still a rather quiet trend, and the question is, will it take off? I certainly think it will. There is something very uplifting and fun about crowdfunding. And renewable energy is one of the most-liked, most-supported things on the planet. Combine the two and you allow people to ‘go solar’ or ‘go wind’ in steps and in cooperation with others, for a common good (what renewable energy is all about). If you’re also offered nice returns on investment, as it seems Abundance Energy is offering, what’s not to love?

Real quickly, let’s run down what these two new options entail (since I’ve already covered Solar Mosaic and Solar Schools a bit).


As stated above, EnergyShare is offering matching funds to early crowdfunders of solar or wind power projects. This initiative was just launched on April 12.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for community energy projects to increase their funding support by unlocking the power of the local community on peoplefund.it,” said Nick Underhill, managing director of Keo Film’s digital division. ”We are looking forward to seeing communities really get behind some great projects.”

EnergyShare and peoplefund.it are owned by Keo films, and as far as I can tell, they seem to just really be behind crowdfunding and renewable energy (while making a living off it themselves, I imagine).

Abundance Energy

Abundance Energy’s first project is an effort to raise £1.3 million for a Resilient Energy wind turbine in the Forest of Dean. “Abundance will raise the money by offering debentures – a type of bond issued by an individual project. In return, the project commits to pay the member a share of the profits it makes generating green energy,” Business Green writes.

Again, it looks like an effort to find creative funding for clean energy projects while also providing more people with the chance to prosper from clean energy investment. Here are some more details.

The platform is aimed at individuals who are unable to install their own onsite wind turbines or solar panels but want to benefit from the returns of green energy projects.

It will also be open to businesses, pension schemes, charities and other organisations. The original investment is paid back over the lifetime of the debenture, or as a lump sum at maturity.

Resilient Energy’s project already has planning permission for a 500-800kW turbine it intends to install this year. Investments can range from £5 to £50,000 and Abundance has said it expects investors to get a rate of return of between 6.4 and 8.5 per cent during the lifetime of the project.

Debentures will be issued on a first come, first served basis, and the offer will close once the target amount is reached. Early bird discounts will also be offered to people from the Forest of Dean or nearby area.

The company aims to raise £250m of investment over the next five years and already has “several million pounds” of renewable energy projects planned for its first year.

This is exciting stuff, in my opinion — skeptics amongst you, am I missing something or is this 100% good news?

If I’m not off my rocker and this really is as cool as it looks, I certainly hope more folks will pioneer clean energy crowdfunding in the U.S. soon.

Image Source: Abundance Energy

Source: Clean Technica (http://s.tt/19PQI)

BAF Technologies Celebrates New HQ and Big Milestones

More than 5,000 CNG conversions expected in 2012

BAF, a wholly owned subsidiary of Clean Energy Fuels Corp., staged Open House ceremonies yesterday at its new Dallas production facility to mark the company’s 20th Anniversary and the completion of its 20,000th compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicle conversion. The new 91,000-square-foot BAF headquarters site houses the company’s R&D, vehicle conversion, and service operations.

Douglas R. Clark, President of the Omaha, NE Metropolitan Utilities District, officially took possession of BAF’s 20,000th CNG conversion, a dedicated Ford F-250 pickup truck for use in the District’s service fleet, at the event.

BAF President John Bacon told guests, “This is a landmark day in the history of BAF. We’re celebrating 20 years in the business. We have opened the doors of our new facility, and we are commemorating these events with the delivery of our 20,000th natural gas vehicle conversion. Our industry has grown from just an idea 20 years ago to today, when hundreds of natural gas-powered vehicle fleets are deployed across the nation every day.”

Bacon added, “Just this year, BAF expects to convert more than 5,000 vehicles to CNG power, and we are very excited about our prospects for continuing growth in the next 20 years.”

Special guests at the anniversary celebration included Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and Clean Energy Co-Founders T. Boone Pickens and Andrew Littlefair, who serves as Clean Energy’s CEO.

BAF is the first CNG converter recognized as a Ford Qualified Vehicle Modifier (QVM) for gaseous fuel. Further, the company uses Ford-accredited QCM (Quality Calibrations Modifier) calibrations and all vehicles converted by BAF are registered through Ford QFC (Quality Fleet Care) for all warranty and service work through Ford dealerships. BAF also takes the extra step of crash testing its light-duty vehicle products to achieve federal compliance. It has a network of 65 dealers across the country certified to install BAF’s CNG conversions.

Currently priced up to $1.50 or more per gallon lower than diesel or gasoline (depending upon local markets), the use of natural gas fuels reduces greenhouse gas emissions up to 30% in light-duty vehicles.

BAF’s alternative fuel vehicle up-fitting capabilities include aftermarket compressed natural gas (CNG) conversions of Ford-manufactured vans, cutaway shuttles, taxis, pick-ups and light-duty trucks.

Source = NGV Global

DOE Finds 12 GW of Untapped Hydro Potential on Ol’ Man River

The U.S. has 78 GW of hydropower – that supplied about 63 percent of all the power from renewable sources last year. But there are also 80,000 navigation locks, dams and high river flows that could be utilized to generate electricity.

The Ohio River and the Mississippi River are especially rich in this untapped renewable resource.

In a new report, An Assessment of Energy Potential at Non-Powered Dams in the United States, the Department of Energy estimates that if some of these were to be equipped now with hydroelectric power generation, they could generate an estimated 12 GW, increasing hydropower capacity by roughly 15 percent.

They looked at the most promising 54,391 of the 80,000 NPDs (Non-Powered Dams), and found that nearly all of the untapped hydroelectric potential is concentrated in just 100 sites.

According to the report, “Eighty-one of the 100 top NPDs are U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) facilities, many of which, including all of the top 10, are navigation locks on the Ohio River, Mississippi River, Alabama River, and Arkansas River, as well as their major tributaries.”

These ones alone could contribute approximately 8 GW of the 12 GW potential.

“Importantly, many of the monetary costs and environmental impacts of dam construction have already been incurred at NPDs, so adding power to the existing dam structure can often be achieved at lower cost, with less risk, and in a shorter timeframe than development requiring new dam construction,”

The greatest amount of hydropower potential is found in Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Louisiana, mainly due to a series of locks and high river flows on the Ohio River.

The study was funded by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and produced by Oak Ridge National Laboratory in partnership with Idaho National Laboratory.

The study is one of a number of nationwide resource assessments being conducted by the Energy Department to assess how U.S. hydropower capacity can be expanded.

An exhaustive three year investigation by the Bureau of Reclamation of the potential in municipal waterways and canals has uncovered much less encouraging untapped potential of just 260 MW nationwide, or only the size of one power plant.

But, with the 12 GW (12,000 MW) of NPD potential capacity, together with the untapped potential of wave, tidal and river energy just emerging, the DOE estimates that all forms of hydropower could generate 15 percent of the nation’s electricity by 2030.

“The abundance, cost, and environmental favorability of NPDs, combined with the reliability and predictability of hydropower, make these dams a highly attractive source for expanding the nation’s renewable energy supply.”

Hydropower is one of the oldest renewable energy technologies, with the first hydroelectric project built at Niagara Falls in 1879, well before we understood environmental protection. That has given hydropower a bad name. We could do it right this time, with what we know now, as part of developing our marine energy potential.

Source: Clean Technica

Balfour Beatty Construction Delivers Two LEED® Platinum Buildings at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton

(3BL Media) San Diego – April 10, 2012 – Balfour Beatty Construction announced today that the Wounded Warrior Headquarters and Hope and Care Center at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., received a LEED® Platinum Certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI).

Construction on the two-building project began in April 2010 and completed in October 2011.  The facility serves as the West Coast headquarters for the Marine’s Wounded Warrior program.

The Hope and Care Center is 30,995 square feet and includes a resource and recovery center, weight training center, outdoor amphitheater, therapeutic gardens, indoor therapy pool, outdoor lap pool, climbing wall and an 1/8 mile covered track. It also includes space for counseling, employment support, financial management, community orientation, training, and outreach programs.

The headquarters administration and multi-purpose facility includes 9,354 square feet of space for administration and operations as well as multi-purpose space for a visitor waiting area and conference rooms. In addition, the offices are comprised of flexible components, easily modifiable for future office needs

Both facilities are 100% ADA-compliant and are designed to complement the community atmosphere created by the nearby Wounded Warrior Barracks, also completed by Balfour Beatty Construction in 2010.  That facility received the first-ever LEED Platinum certification for a U.S. Navy and/or U.S. Marine Corps project worldwide.

“Our primary focus was to create a holistic, integrated design process which provided the highest level of sustainable quality and a healing environment to the wounded warriors,” said Sean Hulen, Balfour Beatty Construction vice president and project executive. “Combined with a design-build delivery method, the use of Building Information Modeling, or BIM, enhanced the LEED process by allowing the project team to quantify materials, minimize contingencies, and reduce waste generated on site.”

“Both facilities far exceeded the minimum amount of points to achieve LEED Platinum,” said Eric Stenman, Regional CEO for Balfour Beatty Construction. “I’m proud of our team’s commitment to deliver high performance buildings at the highest level of sustainability possible for the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base,” Stenman added.

The project’s sustainable design solutions are expected to reduce water usage by more than 84,000 gallons per year, and provide over $52,000 in annual energy savings, combined for both buildings.

The Wounded Warrior facilities were designed by architect Cass, Sowatsky, Chapman & Associates of San Diego. Balfour Beatty Construction staff working on the project included Sean Hulen, vice president; Dave Christensen, general superintendent; Sean Phillips, superintendent; Charles McArthur, senior project manager; Matt Wathen, project engineer; Joseph Mansour, quality control manager and Don Sutton, site safety health officer.


About Balfour Beatty Construction
A leader in the U.S. commercial construction industry, Balfour Beatty Construction provides general contracting, at-risk construction management, and design-build services through more than 2,400 professionals nationwide. The company has been cited as a Top 10 Green Builder by Engineering-News Record for the past two years, and as one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For® by FORTUNE magazine for three years in a row. The company is part of London-based Balfour Beatty plc, a global leader in professional services, construction services, support services, and infrastructure investment, with more than $18 billion in annual revenues. To learn more about the company and its subsidiary—Howard S. Wright—visit balfourbeattyus.com.

About Wounded Warrior Battalion West
Wounded Warrior Battalion West provides assistance to wounded, injured, and ill Marines and Sailors and their family members throughout the phases of recovery. More information is available at www.bnwest.woundedwarriorregiment.org.

 Source= 3bl Media