Archive for the ‘corporate sustainability’ Category

header_cngAT&T said Wednesday that over the next decade it will replace 15,000 vehicles, or about 20% of its fleet, with cars and trucks powered by compressed natural gas, electricity and other alternative fuels.

“AT&T is making the largest-ever commitment by any U.S. company to purchase alternative fuel vehicles,” AT&T chief executive Randall Stephenson said Wednesday morning in a speech in Washington.

He said the $565 million initiative will cut AT&T(T)’s gasoline bill by an estimated 49 million gallons and reduce carbon emissions by 211 million metric tons over ten years as its alt fuel fleet grows from about 100 vehicles now on the road. “That’s good for the environment and it will reduce our reliance on foreign oil – my new neighbor Boone Pickens and I have talked a lot about that,” Stephenson said.

Pickens, the Texas oil wildcatter-turned-wind magnate, advocates using natural gas as fuel for cars and trucks rather than to make electricity, which would be supplied by massive wind farms.

“Smart American companies can be green and profitable and they don’t have to trade one for the other,” Pickens said in a statement Wednesday.

The communications giant will spend $350 million to buy 8,000 compressed natural gas, or CNG, vehicles and $215 million on electric hybrid cars made in the United States. That could be a small boost for battered automakers General Motors (GM) and Ford (F). (Of course, it could also be good news for those other leading “domestic” alt fuel manufacturers, Honda (HMC) and Toyota (TM).)

A U.S. car maker will build the chassis for the CNG vehicles and AT&T will have them converted to run on compressed natural gas. The company will also build a network CNG fueling stations. All told, AT&T said 5,000 jobs will be created or saved through the program in the first five years. About 7,100 AT&T passenger cars wi
ll be retired in favor of electric hybrids and other alt fuel vehicles.

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tendril-iphone-appHere’s an iPhone app that really could help save the planet while saving stressed consumers’ money: Boulder, Colo.-based startup Tendril this week unveiled a mobile software program that lets people monitor and control their home’s energy use while on the go.

Say you’re sitting in the unemployment office listening to some bureaucrat drone on, so you pull out your iPhone to update your Facebook status and then check on whether that next unemployment check will cover the utility bill. When Tendril tells you that your electricity consumption is spiking and so will your estimated monthly bill, you remember you left the air conditioner set on Arctic. Flick your finger and shut that energy hog down.

That scenario won’t become common for awhile it as relies on a widespread rollout of smart utility meters that will bring the interactive smart grid and real-time electricity pricing into the home. That is happening, albeit very slowly (though the pace is expected to accelerate with billions in the stimulus package being poured into smart grid-related projects. The ability to remote-control your appliance, however, is some years away).

For instance, Tendril, is rolling out a home energy management system for Texas utility Reliant Energy (RRI) that allows customers to monitor and control their electricity use through a video display that sits in the living room. When Green Wombat visited Reliant’s smart house project in Houston last September, the utility’s tech guys showed me their own home-brewed iPhone app.

As anyone with an iPhone knows, Apple’s (AAPL) app store makes it ridiculously easy to turn the gadget into Dr. Who’s sonic screwdriver – a gizmo that does everything but put out the trash and feed your pet bunny. But earth2tech’s Katie Fehrenbacher questions how widespread Tendril’s app would be used given the difficulty in putting any third-party software program on a BlackBerry or other smartphone. But that’s changing by dint of Apple’s growing share of the smartphone market and the advent of the app-friendly Google (GOOG) phone.

Green Wombat is most intrigued by the potential of such apps as the Tendril Mobile Vantage to tap into people’s inherent competitiveness, keeping-up-with-Jones mentality and, in the Facebook era, compulsion to share, share, share. The data generated by smart meters and home energy management systems like Tendril’s will let consumers compare their energy use – and thus contribution to global warming – with their neighbors and friends.

In fact, Tendril is planning to add a carbon footprint feature to its mobile app. Funnel that data into a Facebook newsfeed and let the peer-to-peer pressure go to work to see who can claim Twittering rights to a low-impact lifestyle.

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clintonbill1Another reason Green Wombat will be spending Earth Day in Southern California this year: Former President Bill Clinton will deliver the keynote speech at Fortune Magazine’s Brainstorm Green conference on April 22.

Clinton will be joining a gathering of business and environmental leaders, including Ford (F) executive chairman Bill Ford, PG&E (PCG) chief executive Peter Darbee, SunPower (SPWRA) CEO Tom Werner and executives from Fortune 500 companies like IBM (IBM),  Wal-Mart (WMT) and General Electric (GE). On the green side of the aisle, execs from the Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense Fund and Greenpeace will be attending the confab in Laguna Niguel.  Former California State Treasurer Phil Angelides, now chairman of the Apollo Alliance, and green jobs guru Van Jones will also be present.

We now end the shameless self-promotion and return to our regular Green Wombat programming.

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photo: CEMEX

The cement industry’s contribution to global warming is pretty concrete – it’s responsible for 5% of greenhouse gas emissions, fueled by demand from the rapidly industrializing economies of China and India.

Now CEMEX, the Mexican building materials giant, has taken steps to green up its operation. Not by changing the way it makes cement but how it powers the process. Late last week, Mexican President Felipe Calderón inaugurated the first phase of what will be a $550 million, 250-megawatt Oaxaca wind farm – Latin America’s largest – that will generate the equivalent of a quarter of the electricity CEMEX consumes in Mexico.

The EURUS wind farm is a joint development between CEMEX (CX) and Acciona, the Spanish renewable energy powerhouse. The first 25 turbines will go online by March and the final phase will be completed by the end of 2009. A CEMEX spokesman said Acciona will retain ownership of the wind farm and sell the electricity to CEMEX under a 20-year contract.  The electricity from EURUS will go into the power grid and CEMEX will receive “electricity credits” for the power produced.

Mexico has become the next frontier for the wind industry. The same day Calderón presided over the opening of EURUS he also dedicated a nearby 80-megawatt wind farm built by Spanish company Iberdrola Renewables.

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Solar cells may generate clean green electricity but manufacturing them involves a witches brew of toxic chemicals that could harm the environment if millions of solar panels end up in landfills, according to a report issued Wednesday by the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition.

The California environmental group is calling for solar manufacturers to take back and recycle their panels at the end of their 20-to-25 year lifespan. “We feel it’s a very important time for the solar industry because it is getting ready to take off and before that happens it’s time to look at important issues around designing out some of the toxics,” Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition executive director Sheila Davis told Green Wombat. “The big issue is whether there is a transparent supply chain and whether solar companies monitor their supply chains.”

The solar industry’s trade group says it embraces the report’s recommendations. “We completely support take-back and recycling,” says Monique Hanis, a spokeswoman for the Solar Energy Industries Association in Washington. “We’re in a fortunate position in that we’re still an emerging industry and have an opportunity now to establish standards and proactively set up processes before we end up with solar panels on every rooftop.”

Julie Blunden, vice president of public policy at San Jose solar cell maker SunPower, points out that an industry-backed group called PV Cycle in Europe is developing worldwide standards for the take-back and recycling of solar panels. “It’s not uncharted territory for the solar industry – we have actually been working on it for a while,” she says. “The idea is for industry to design something that makes sense for a global value chain and a global market.”

The toxics coalition was born in the early 1980s after chip plants were found to be contaminating groundwater with carcinogenic chemicals, setting off years of litigation and turning Silicon Valley into a Superfund hot spot. In more recent years, the toxics coalition has pressed computer manufacturers to take back and recycle PCs and reduce the use of toxic materials that often ended up discarded in Third World countries.

Silicon is the key material used in both semiconductors and conventional solar cells and its production and refinement involve various toxic chemicals.

“Although the solar PV boom is still in its early stages, disturbing global trends are beginning to emerge,” the report states. “For example, much of the polysilicon feedstock material (the highly refined silicon used as the basic material for crystalline silicon PV cells) is produced in countries like China, where manufacturing costs and environmental regulatory enforcement are low.”

But unlike computer makers in the 1980s and ’90s, solar companies like SunPower (SPWRA), Suntech (STP) and Sharp are not about to resist efforts to green up their business. “The people working for these companies are completely committed to preserving the environment and it drives the reason for being in solar,” notes Hanis.

And recycling solar panels can be good for business. When Green Wombat visited SolarWorld’s new solar cell factory in Oregon in October,  COO Boris Klebensberger touted the German company’s recycling program as a competitive advantage, both with customers and as a way to reduce manufacturing costs by recovering expensive polysilicon.

For instance, thin-film solar manufacturer First Solar (FSLR), whose cells are made from cadmium telluride, pre-funds the cost of its take-back program through an insurance program so customers are assured that the panels they buy will be properly disposed of at the end of their lifespan. That addresses a particular challenge the solar industry faces: Will the company that makes a particular solar panel be around a quarter century later to take back and recycle its products? And if not, who takes responsibility for doing so?

Davis says the toxics coalition has approached some solar companies but declined to identify them. “We haven’t talked to a lot of them but the ones we have talked to have been responsive,” she says. “I think that’s because most people in these companies do have an interest in being green. They’re much more receptive to looking at models that would promote their environmental performance.”

Beyond corporate self-interest, government policy considerations are likely to drive the solar industry to devise alternative manufacturing processes and implement recycling programs. For instance, European Union restrictions on various toxic materials in electronic products have encouraged computer makers to green their machines lest they be shut out of a major market. And these days, Dell (DELL) and even Apple (AAPL) see a marketing advantage to touting environmentally friendly computing.

The solar industry has time on its side when it comes to developing toxic reduction and recycling programs. While an iPod may end up on the trash heap in 18 months, the typical solar panel won’t come off the roof for decades.

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Illustration: Genomatica

Outside of ExxonMobil (XOM), petrochemical companies would seem to be the least likely to join the sustainability movement sweeping corporations worldwide. After all, how do you green an industry predicated on petroleum as a key ingredient?

The answer, according to San Diego startup Genomatica, is to replace hydrocarbons with carbohydrates. The company is announcing Tuesday that it has bioengineered a microorganism that ingests sugar and water to produce a chemical called 1,4‐butanediol. Commonly known as BDO, the chemical is a raw material found in everything from golf balls to skateboard wheels to spandex. Although Genomatica is planning a pipeline of bioengineered chemicals, BDO alone is a $4 billion business.

“By using carbohydrates versus hydrocarbons, we can produce BDO with less energy and that translates into a smaller carbon footprint,” Genomatica CEO Christopher Gann told Green Wombat.

So far, Genomatica – founded in 2000 and backed by marquee Silicon Valley venture capital firms Mohr Davidow Ventures and Draper Fisher Jurvetson – has only produced batches of BDO in the laboratory. But Gann,  a veteran of Dow Chemical (DOW), and company president Christophe Schilling claim that by the middle of 2009 they will be able to make bioengineered BDO cheaper than the petroleum-based chemical.

“This is a disruptive technology,” Gann says.

If Genomatica lives up to its claims of success in the lab, the technology indeed could potentially turn the petrochemical industry on its head.

First, anything that removes petroleum from a manufacturing process is going to get noticed. (While transportation accounts 70% of the 20.7 million barrels of oil consumed in the United States daily, a significant portion is used for chemicals  – up to 25% in the gulf states home to the nation’s petrochemical industry, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.)

Second, Genomatica’s microorganism leaves behind none of the nasty byproducts of petrochemical production, avoiding the health risks and costs of containing, storing and cleaning up toxic waste.

Lastly, Gann and Schilling say Genomatica’s technology frees BDO production from vast and accident-prone petrochemical complexes. “Since the raw materials are sugar and water, we can locate next to where there’s sugar and water or locate next to where the product can be consumed,” says Gann.

The startup was spun out of the University of California at San Diego, where Schilling and his mentor, Professor Bernhard Palsson, developed a technology platform to design virtual microorganisms. Schilling compares the process to the way airliners are designed entirely on computers.

“It allows us to model and simulate how microorganisms would survive and grow,” he says. “We can now go ahead and figure out the best way to engineer the organism to perform a particular task. We use off-the-shelf technologies and some proprietary ones to produce the organisms.”

Genomatica, which has raised $20 million from the Silicon Valley VCs as well as some Icelandic angel investors, will make money by licensing its technology to chemical companies. Gann and Schilling declined to identify other chemicals in their product pipeline but said they were related to the class of petrochemicals known as “cracker-plus-one.”

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“Years ago we came to the conclusion that global warming was a problem, it was an urgent problem and the need for action is now. The problem appears to be worse and more imminent today, and the need to take action sooner and take more significant action is greater than ever before” — PG&E Chairman and CEO Peter Darbee

The head of one of the nation’s largest utilities seemed to be channeling Al Gore on Tuesday when he met with a half-dozen environmental business writers, including Green Wombat, in the PG&E (PCG) boardroom in downtown San Francisco. While a lot of top executives talk green these days, for Darbee green has become the business model, one that represents the future of the utility industry in a carbon-constrained age.

As Katherine Ellison wrote in a feature story on PG&E that appeared in the final issue of Business 2.0 magazine last September, California’s large utilities — including Southern California Edison (EIX) and San Diego Gas & Electric (SRE) — are uniquely positioned to make the transition to renewable energy and profit from green power.

First of all, they have no choice. State regulators have mandated that California’s investor-owned utilities obtain 20 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2010 with a 33 percent target by 2020. Regulators have also prohibited the utilities from signing long-term contracts for dirty power – i.e. with the out-of-state coal-fired plants that currently supply 20 percent of California’s electricity. Second, PG&E and other California utilities profit when they sells less energy and thus emit fewer greenhouse gases. That’s because California regulators “decouple” utility profits from sales, setting their rate of return based on things like how well they encourage energy efficiency or promote green power.

Still, few utility CEOs have made green a corporate crusade like Darbee has since taking the top job in 2005. And the idea of a staid regulated monopoly embracing technological change and collaborating with the likes of Google (GOOG) and electric car company Tesla Motors on green tech initiatives still seems strange, if not slightly suspicious, to some Northern Californians, especially in left-leaning San Francisco where PG&E-bashing is local sport.

In a wide-ranging conversation, Darbee, 54, sketched sketched a future where being a successful utility is less about building big centralized power plants that sit idle until demand spikes and more about data management – tapping diverse sources of energy — from solar, wind and waves to electric cars — and balancing supply and demand through a smart grid that monitors everything from your home appliances to where you plugged in your car. “I love change, I love innovation,” says Darbee, who came to PG&E after a career in telecommunications and investment banking.

Renewable energy

“On renewable energy what we’ve seen is the market is thin,” says Darbee. “Demand just from ourselves is greater than supply in terms of reliable, well-funded companies that can provide the service.”

PG&E so far has signed power purchase agreements with three solar startups — Ausra, BrightSource Energy and Solel — for up to 1.6 gigawatts of electricity to be produced by massive solar power plants. Each company is deploying a different solar thermal technology and uncertainty over whether the billion-dollar solar power stations will ultimately be built has prompted PG&E to consider jumping into the Big Solar game itself.

“We’re looking hard at the question of whether we can get into the business ourselves in order to do solar and other forms of renewables on a larger scale,” Darbee says. “Let’s take some of the work that’s been done around solar thermal and see if we can partner with one of the vendors and own larger solar installations on a farm rather than on a rooftop.”

“I like the idea of bringing the balance sheet of a utility, $35 billion in assets, to bear on this problem,” he adds.

It’s an approach taken by the renewable energy arm of Florida-based utility FPL (FPL), which has applied to build a 250-megawatt solar power plant on the edge of the Mojave Desert in California.

For now, PG&E is placing its biggest green bets on solar and wind. The utility has also signed a 2-megawatt deal with Finavera Renewables for a pilot wave energy project off the Northern California coast. Given the power unleashed by the ocean 24/7, wave energy holds great promise, Darbee noted, but the technology is in its infancy. “How does this technology hold up against the tremendous power of the of the Pacific Ocean?”

Electric cars

Darbee is an auto enthusiast and is especially enthusiastic about electric vehicles and their potential to change the business models of both the utility and car industries. (At Fortune’s recent Brainstorm Green conference, Darbee took Think Global’s all-electric Think City coupe for a spin and participated in panels on solar energy and the electric car.)

California utilities look at electric cars and plug-in hybrids as mobile generators whose batteries can be tapped to supply electricity during peak demand to avoid firing up expensive and carbon-spewing power plants. If thousands of electric cars are charged at night they also offer a possible solution to the conundrum of wind power in California, where the breeze blows most strongly in the late evenings when electricity demand falls, leaving electrons twisting in the wind as it were.

“If these cars are plugged in we would be able to shift the load from wind at night to using wind energy during the day through batteries in the car,” Darbee says.

The car owner, in other words, uses wind power to “fill up” at night and then plugs back into the grid during the day at work so PG&E can tap the battery when temperatures rise and everyone cranks up their air conditioners.

Darbee envisions an electricity auction market emerging when demand spikes. “You might plug your car in and say, ‘I’m available and I’m watching the market and you bid me on the spot-market and I’ll punch in I’m ready to sell at 17 cents a kilowatt-hour,” he says. “PG&E would take all the information into its computers and then as temperatures come up there would be a type of Dutch auction and we start to draw upon the power that is most economical.”

That presents a tremendous data management challenge, of course, as every car would need a unique ID so it can be tracked and the driver appropriately charged or credited wherever the vehicle is plugged in. Which is one reason PG&E is working with Google on vehicle-to-grid technology.

“One of the beneficiaries of really having substantial numbers of plug-in hybrid cars is that the cost for electric utility users could go down,” says Darbee. “We have a lot of plants out there standing by for much of the year, sort of like the Maytag repairman, waiting to be called on for those super peak days. And so it’s a large investment of fixed capital not being utilized.” In other words, more electric and plug-in cars on the road mean fewer fossil-fuel peaking power plants would need to be built. (And to answer a question that always comes up, studies show that California currently has electric generating capacity to charge millions of electric cars.)

Nuclear power

Nuclear power is one of the hotter hot-button issues in the global warming debate. Left for dead following the Three Mile Island and Chernobyl disasters, the nuclear power industry got a new lease on life as proponents pushed its ability to produce huge amounts of carbon-free electricity.

“The most pressing problem that we have in the United States and across the globe is global warming and I think for the United States as a whole, nuclear needs to be on the table to be evaluated,” says Darbee.

That’s unlikely to happen, however in California. The state in the late 1970s banned new nuclear power plant construction until a solution to the disposal of radioactive waste is found. PG&E operates the Diablo Canyon nuclear plant, a project that was mired in controversy for years in the ’70s as the anti-nuke movement protested its location near several earthquake faults.

“It’s a treasure for the state of California – It’s producing electricity at about 4 cents a kilowatt hour,” Darbee says of Diablo Canyon. “I have concerns about the lack of consensus in California around nuclear and therefore even if the California Energy Commission said, `Okay, we feel nuclear should play a role,’ I’m not sure we ought to move ahead. I’d rather push on energy efficiency and renewables in California.”

The utility industry

No surprise that Darbee’s peers among coal-dependent utilities haven’t quite embraced the green way. “I spent Saturday in Chicago meeting with utility executives from around the country and we’re trying to see if we can come to consensus on this very issue,” he says diplomatically. “There’s a genuine concern on the part of the industry about this issue but there are undoubtedly different views about how to proceed and what time frames to proceed on.”

For Darbee one of the keys to reducing utility carbon emissions is not so much green technology as green policy that replicates the California approach of decoupling utility profits from sales. “If you’re a utility CEO you’ve got to deliver earnings per share and you’ve got to grow them,” he says. “But if selling less energy is contradictory to that you’re not going to get a lot of performance on energy efficiency out of utilities.”

“This is a war,” Darbee adds, “In fact, some people describe [global warming] as the greatest challenge mankind has ever faced — therefore what we ought to do is look at what are the most cost-effective solutions.”

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virgin-galactic-spaceshiptwo-feather-1.jpgIt is an article of faith these days that any company worth its public relations budget must proclaim loudly and frequently its good green intentions. So it was rather refreshing to hear one of Richard Branson’s top lieutenants – Will Whitehorn, chief of Virgin Galactic – cast his company’s enviro-friendly initiatives as strictly business.

“We’re not doing this to be environmentally kosher,” declares Whitehorn, referring to Virgin’s efforts to develop greenhouse-gas free biofuels for its jets and forthcoming spaceship, “we’re doing this to ensure our company’s survival.”

The occasion for Whitehorn’s remarks was one of those “green salons” that have become popular in San Francisco of late. You know, gather a group of so-called thought-leaders – executives, environmentalists, venture capitalists, journalists – in a chi-chi restaurant and let the ideas and sauvignon blanc flow. Easy enough to skewer, particularly when the well-compensated are dining on ahi tuna skewers, but you never know where the conversation will go, and in this case it strayed interestingly off-topic. The subject du jour was a white paper on corporate greenwashing from Bite Communications, the public relations firm that organized the recent lunch. Among those on hand were Whitehorn and execs from Chinese solar panel maker Suntech (STP), fuel-cell maker Bloom Energy, utility PG&E (PCG), and VantagePoint Venture Partners, investor in electric car startup Tesla Motors and solar power plant builder BrightSource Energy.

Whitehorn held center court, tracing Virgin’s trip down the green path a decade ago when the company forecast a dramatic rise in oil prices and tried to gauge the impact on its airline and new railway business. As a result, he says, Virgin spent big bucks on energy-efficient locomotives to hedge against future fuel cost spikes.

“This is not really a question of being green,” says Whitehorn, who expresses annoyance that Branson’s pledge last year to invest $3 billion in biofuels research and development was portrayed in the media as a charitable deed. “We’re doing this to make money and we’re creating a more sustainable economy in the process.”

“We’ve got to get away from this idea of doing these things as good works,” he adds. “We’re doing what we’re doing to create a profitable business for the future.”

It’s a meme increasingly being advanced by some environmentalists, most notably by the black sheep of the movement, Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, whose 2004 essay, “The Death of Environmentalism” riled the green elite. The Berkeley duo’s new book, Break Through: From the Death of Environmentalism to the Politics of Possibility, calls for reframing global warming from a doom-and-gloom scenario to an opportunity for unbridled economic prosperity by investing in green technologies. Their central argument: only when people and societies achieve a certain level of material wellbeing do they have the luxury of supporting environmental preservation. In other words, greed is green.

Whitehorn also took aim at companies that proclaim themselves carbon neutral, scorning the notion that corporate greenhouse gas emissions can be offset by merely buying carbon credits. “We’re not going to be carbon neutral – it’s impossible,” he says of Virgin. “You need to get out and do something other than buy someone else’s carbon problem.”

Still, Kristina Skierka, director of Bite’s clean-tech practice, wanted to know just how green Virgin Galactic can be, given its business model of ferrying the rich into outer space for a couple of hundred grand a pop. “If we use biofuels we will get the emissions down to near zero,” Whitehorn claims. “This is about a new type of launch system; the carbon impacts will be negligible.

He says space tourism is just the launching pad, as it were, for a host of space-based ventures. “If you look at space as an industrial place to conduct human activities, it has huge advantages.”

Virgin’s next frontier is the deep blue sea. According to Whitehorn, the company recently created a skunk works to develop a “radical” new submarine technology for a startup to be called, what else, Virgin Oceanic.

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Overshadowed by Google’s jump
into the renewable energy business on Tuesday was Hewlett-Packard’s
more modest move to go green by installing a 1-megawatt solar array at
its San Diego facility, buying wind power for its Ireland operations
and subsidizing employees’ home solar systems.

In Silicon Valley these days putting a whopping solar array up on
your roof is akin to having the coolest corporate jet or your CEO
back-ordered for a Tesla Roadster. Google (GOOG), of course, has the
biggest, a 1.6-megawatt monster that covers buildings and carports at
the Googleplex in Mountain View. Not to be outdone, Applied Materials
(AMAT) is planning an even larger solar system for its headquarters in
neighboring Santa Clara.

But there’s more at stake here than green bragging rights. Companies
like HP (HPQ) are realizing that tapping renewable energy can also be
good for the bottom line. Take HP’s solar array in San Diego, for
instance. The 5,000-panel system carries no capital costs for HP as the
array will be financed and operated by a third-party affiliated with
solar cell maker SunPower (SPWR). The Silicon Valley company will
install the array and perform maintenance for 15 years while HP
purchases the electricity produced by the solar system at a guaranteed
below-market rate. That gives the company a hedge against rising energy
costs. (HP thinks it’ll save $750,000 over 15 years.) HP also retains
ownership of any potentially marketable renewable energy credits
associated with the array while the financier can take advantage of
Californias solar subsidies.

SunPower wasn’t disclosing the identity of that financier when Green
Wombat inquired on Tuesday, but this morning the company announced a
$200 million deal with Morgan Stanley (MS) to provide financing for
solar installations and power purchase agreements like the one HP
signed. SunPower and Morgan Stanley have formed a jointly owned holding
company to finance SunPower’s solar systems for customers, with the
Wall Street firm kicking in up to $190 million and SunPower putting up
as much as $10 million.

In Ireland, HP will buy a years worth of clean electricity
generated by Airtricitys European wind farms, saving the company an
estimated $40,000 in 2008. Electricity generated by Airtricitys wind
farms is fed into Irelands national power grid rather than directly to
HP facilities. But the additional power generated by the wind farms, as
well as the solar electricity eventually produced by the San Diego
array, will eliminate tons of greenhouse gas emissions from the

Last, SunPower will give HP employees a $2,000 rebate if they
install the companys residential solar systems, with HP providing
another $2,000. Thats on top of state rebates under the California
Solar Initiative program.

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Back in August, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission ordered public companies to make most proxy materials available online and notify investors they could access those documents at corporate websites. For Sun Microsystems, the rule has been a boon for the environment and the bottom line. More than 90 percent of Sun’s (JAVA) investors preferred to view the docs online, according to the Silicon Valley computer and software company. That meant Sun was able to slash the number of printed copies of proxy materials for its 2007 annual shareholders meeting from 800,000 to 75,000.  Printing nearly 100 million fewer  pages translates to saving 11,964 carbon-absorbing trees, according to the Environmental Defense Paper Calculator.

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