Regulars and Shorts

Green Bits: October 2011

By Pax Rasmussen

Salt Lake to Sun: Keep it coming; solar innovation; new bike paths; “Netflix” for baby clothes; the heat is rising; Germany ups the solar ante.

Bikeways popping up

In Salt Lake City, people continue to embrace your favorite late 1800s mode of transportation—the bicycle. Salt Lake City and the Universi­ty of Utah are both beefing up their number of bikewaysand bicycle-specific paths or lanes on local roads. Last month, the city announced that 50 miles of new or renovated on-road bikeways will be activated by the end of the year. Parking-buffered bike lanes are in the works for 2012 and shared lanes, or “sharrows” are still a possibility for 2011.

Also, the University of Utah has added an off-road, on-campus bicycle-specific byway to supplement its HPER Highway redesign (a shared sidewalk cum bike path leading from the HPER building complex through to lower campus), geared toward promoting alternative transportation for a sustainable future. Plans are being discussed to integrate the U’s on-campus network with Salt Lake City’s in the future.

Also really cool: The DMV now offers a “Share the Road” license plate with which you can show your support of biking. Let’s just hope drivers with those plates look out for cyclists on those sharrows!  —JA

Leo to sun: Keep it coming

The Leonardo—Salt Lake’s new science, art and technology museum at Library Square—recently got 148 solar panels installed on its roof. These panels will provide 30 kilowatts of electricity for the newly redesigned building, offsetting much of its yearly energy costs. This was made possible by a $125,000 award from Rocky Mountain Power Co.’s Blue Sky renewable energy program, which promises that for each block of renewable energy a customer purchases, a similar amount of energy derived from renewable energy sources (wind farms, solar panels, etc) will be purchased by RPM to be added to the regional power grid. —JA

More solar: SLC, U of U and Weber State

The Leonardo is not the only new building that will have solar panels in Salt Lake. When the Salt Lake City Public Safety building opens (scheduled for 2012), rooftop solar panels will help power it. The building will be the first “net zero” (meaning it produces as much power as it consumes) public safety building in the U.S. By 2015, the city hopes to produce as much as 10 megawatts of renewable energy per year.

Weber State University and the University of Utah are also going solar. Weber State already has 84 panels and plans to install 150 more on the Student Union Building. The U has solar plans, too, but in a more artistic fashion—solar ivy. These solar panels will be printed on recycled plastic and will look like ivy growing on the side of Orson Spencer Hall. —JA,

Solar innovation

Sick of school? Here’s a way to get out of college: Invent a device that boosts solar panel output by 40%, and then sit back and rake in the grant money. Nineteen-year-old Eden Full, formerly a student at Princeton, came up with a device that, instead of using motors to turn solar panels to follow the sun, uses different metals that expand in the sun at different rates. It’s about 1/60th as expensive as traditional solar trackers and so simple kids in developing countries can use it. Rock on, Eden! —PR

Germany ups the ante on renewables

Last year, European leaders signed a binding European Union-wide target to source 20% of the region’s energy needs from renewable sources by 2020. Germany, though, recently passed the 20% mark and has gone even further: They’ve pledged a 100% conversion by 2050—and most of the nation’s leaders think it a very feasible goal. If heavily industrial Germany can hit 100% renewable with their northern European climate, what’s holding us back? —PR,

How much hotter has it gotten?

In Utah, just over half a degree (which is average for the country), according to a new report and map from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The report shows the shape of the future to come—with new normal temperatures across the country creeping up; in some states, more than full degree. —PR

“Netflix” for baby clothes

Every yard sale I’ve ever been to had one thing in common: baby clothes. The little monsters grow up fast, shedding outgrown clothes like snakes shed skin. Even the most yard sale-oriented parents end up buying a lot of those clothes new, though, since you’ve got to have the right-sized clothes at the right time.

Well, if you can get over the (pansy) ick-factor, startup company Plum has a good solution: a sort of “Netflix” for baby clothes. You sign up and get baby clothes in the mail (which show up laundered with environmentally friendly detergent), and send them back when the kid out grows ‘em. —PR

This article was originally published on September 30, 2011.