Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Real Reason For Real Optimism

I'm stricken with a bad case of blog-writer's block.  It's not the first time, so I know how to get by until the spirit grabs me once more: recommend a book or two or, as is the case today, send readers to an article I find interesting.

Soaking Up the Sun to Squeeze Bills to Zero, appearing in today's NY Times, made me feel happy, optimistic and vindicated for my long-held belief that it is absolutely achievable to transition to a Sustainable Economy regime powered largely by renewable energy.

The article describes how the new 222,000 sq. ft. Research Support Facility of the National Renewable Energy Lab (Dept. of Energy) in Golden, Colorado uses a net zero amount of energy via widely available and cost-effective technologies.

But did it cost the taxpayer an arm and a leg to construct this super-efficient office building?  From the article we learn that: "Ultimately, construction costs were brought in at only $259 a square foot, nearly $77 below the average cost of a new super-efficient commercial office building, according to figures from Haselden Construction, the builder."

I'll say it once again... It CAN BE DONE.  Please read the article.

The RSF in Golden, Colorado

Designed to Provide Maximum Day-Lighting Throughout the Building


  1. The one thing that you overlook is that this is a government building, built without regard to cost.
    No one in private industry would ever overpay the amount this building cost, just to save a few thousand dollars a year in utilities.

  2. "Ultimately, construction costs were brought in at only $259 a square foot, nearly $77 below the average cost of a new super-efficient commercial office building, according to figures from Haselden Construction, the builder."

  3. Thanks for posting this story Hellasious. There is real optimism with technology that is being done now (doable).

    A $77 savings is a 30% discount compared to traditional building. A Ford Escape hybrid uses 49% less fuel in city driving than its gas-only powered sibling. The world is full of these types of savings.

    The gun-nuts, food-hoarders, and gold-bugs may be right. The end of civilization may be nigh. Let's say they are right. When they emerge from their compounds what do you think they'll find more attractive, a vehicle that gets 50% better gas mileage and a building that is nearly 100% self sustainable energy-wise, or their alternatives?

    There is a reason to educate people about the alternatives to developing efficient methods besides preserving a comfortable life.

    In the final analysis, a good question might be, what did you do to preserve and maintain the only thing we know for sure gives us life and sustains us, and I'm not talking about Yahweh, Allah, Jesus, or your mama.

  4. What I am always curious about in the entire renewable energy sector is the entire thermodynamic structre of the entire system.

    What we have with oil/nuclear is essentially concentrated stored starlight that is really easy for us to use (notwithstanding the pollution issue).

    What concerns me with the entire renenwable energy issue (notwithstanding the political issue) is the thermodynamics of the entire system.

    How much energy is needed to create the windmills and the zero net energy use buildings?

    And what is the energy storage capaticy of the entire (ideal) renewable system?

    You could always blog about that. A soup to nuts thermodynamic analysis from a process/system standpoint. That's chemical engineery.

  5. Apart from a really "total - total" cycle analysis, which results in the Second Law of Thermo impasse, the proper way to evaluate an energy regime is by performing an EROEI ratio analysis (energy return over energy invested).

    There are literally dozens of such studies, you can easily Google for them.

    The crucial point is that new hydrocarbon discoveries are "costing" us ten times more than early ones, since the low-hanging fruits have already been plucked off (the desert sands...).

  6. I think the "desert sands" location is a more important feature than the "low-hanging fruits". Do we want to continue our dependence on energy coming from unstable regimes that have little alliance with us in terms of cultural values?

    Why no Manhattan Project type policy toward more efficient and alternative energy sources makes no sense to me other than corruption in the form of payoffs from a few well-heeled interests.

  7. Hi,
    Having gone through your entire blog (again, simply superb you should edit and self publish as a book, if you haven't published already under another nom de plume) over the past few weeks can I be so bold as to throw out a few things I've been working on? You may enjoy the background.

    -Payments for ecosystems services

    Massively popular in political circles (in Europe / UN (is it me or is the UN almost taboo these days in mainstream media) as a fundamental economic basis for CAP2 and local economies generally. It's a/the major economic battle ground globally- if we financialise 'nature' in situ to the extents we can describe (i.e. remove the great externalities on balance sheets) how do we divide that new, much larger pie.

    Teaser link

  8. Reduce, then Produce as applied to energy is a good motto.
    That is our goal with whole house fans.