will birds get confused by so much light?

MGM Resorts raises stakes with giant Vegas solar system

By BusinessGreen Staff Published July 10, 2013

In Las Vegas, everything is on a grander scale, so it should come as no surprise the gambling capital of the world soon will be home to one of the world’s largest rooftop solar systems.

NRG Energy last week announced plans to install a 6.2 megawatt (MW) installation on top of the Mandalay Bay Resort Convention Center. At peak production, the array should produce enough electricity to meet around a fifth of the building’s energy demand, while reducing pressure on the grid at the hottest time of the day.

“The new 20,000-panel solar rooftop array at Mandalay Bay will effectively enable the resort to lock in a substantial component of its energy costs at a very competitive rate,” Tom Doyle, president and chief executive of NRG Solar, said in a statement.

“Our expectation is that other corporations will follow thought leaders like MGM Resorts to protect our planet.”

Once the project is completed, Mandalay Bay will buy the electricity generated through a power purchase agreement.

The system is the latest in a series of environmental measures taken by parent company MGM Resorts under its Green Advantage sustainability initiative.

Over the past five years, the company has reduced its energy intensity by more than 12 percent and has saved more than 2.5 billion gallons of water.

The news comes as U.S. developer SolarCity announced it has started fitting 3.4 MW of solar rooftop systems at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico.

The project will see solar systems installed on more than 600 military homes as part of the company’s SolarStrong program to power 120,000 military residences.

Similar schemes are underway at bases in Texas, Hawaii, Los Angeles and Colorado, contributing to the Department of Defense’s target to meet a quarter of its energy requirements from renewable sources by 2025.

In other solar industry news, the investment arm of insurance giant Aviva has acquired a 12.3 MW portfolio of residential solar systems built on 4,000 U.K. homes from Ecovision Renewable Energy Ltd.

Aviva Investors will collect revenue generated through the feed-in tariff subsidy scheme, while residents continue to save money on their electricity bills.

“This acquisition continues the expansion of our activities in the U.K. renewable sector and is in line with our strategy of investing in high quality infrastructure assets with attractive yields,” Ian Berry, fund manager of infrastructure and renewable energy at Aviva Investors, said in a statement.

“As institutions continue to look towards assets that offer secure and long-dated income streams in order to meet their liabilities, we believe infrastructure opportunities such as this offer the potential to meet these needs.”

Image courtesy of MGM Resorts International.


12 Ways to Go Green at Work

Below are 12 helpful tips to go green at work.

1) Spend Smart on Green

The purchase and use of environmentally-friendly products can have a big impact, and not just on the environment. Buying green affects everything from worker safety to the bottom line.

– Products that are reusable, refillable, more durable or repairable create less waste and are more cost-effective in the long run than disposable or single-use products.
– Manufacturing recycled products uses less energy than goods made from virgin materials. Buying recycled products keeps recycling programs going and saves natural resources.
– Using energy-efficient and water-conserving products saves money and resources. When making purchasing decisions, it pays to do a little homework. Consider the following:
– Is the product less hazardous?
– Is it reusable or more durable?
– Is it made from recycled materials? Do we really need to buy a virgin product when the recycled version is just as good?
– What happens to the product at the end of its life? Can it be recycled? Will the manufacturer take the product back? Will it need special disposal?
– Does it conserve energy or water?
– Is it made from renewable plant-based raw materials?

2) Leave a Big Mark-Not a Big Footprint

Living and working green means knowing your carbon footprint and taking steps to balance its impact. Offsetting your company’s carbon footprint is the fastest and most economical way to help protect critical forests worldwide, which is one of the most effective solutions to climate change. One way to offset your carbon footprint is to support renewable energy (energy generated from renewable sources such as wind, solar and geothermal) by buying renewable energy credits (RECs). Additionally, utility companies may work with industrial and commercial consumers to implement on-site energy-efficiency measures which can decrease usage or shift a portion of it to off-peak hours and rates.

3) Be a Star-Buy Energy Star

The next time your office is in the market for computer equipment, printers, fax machines, kitchen appliances or even light bulbs, look for the Energy Star certification. Energy Star products are among the top energy performers on the market. One example of why is that some Energy Star products power down automatically when not in use-conserving up to 75% of electricity compared to standard models. They reduce pollution, lower energy bills, generate less heat and have a longer life span than other equipment. See http://www.energystar.gov for more information.

4) Get Energized

Of the $250 billion spent per year on powering computers worldwide, only about 15% of that power is spent computing-the rest is wasted idling. 40% of the energy used for electronics is used while these devices are turned off. Obviously, just because a device is turned off or not in use, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t eating up electricity. In fact, even when a computer is switched off, the surge protector can still draw energy-up to 75%!

– Programming your computer to sleep after 30 minutes of non-use can cut power demand by up to 90%.
– Stepping away for longer than 30 minutes? Turn the computer off and unplug the surge protector. (Booting up again uses the equivalent of only two seconds of run time and won’t hurt the hard drive).
– Monitors are especially big energy drains. Be sure to turn them off after 20 minutes of non-use.
– Printers, scanners and peripherals that are only used occasionally should be unplugged until needed.

5) Get the Green Light

Making green choices when it comes to lighting not only provides energy efficiency and savings, it also adds to the comfort, productivity and ambience of your workplace.

– Replace regular incandescent bulbs and fixtures with Energy Star-qualified compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). CFLs cast a warmer, soft white glow. Although initially more expensive than regular bulbs, they use between 60% and 80% less energy and last much longer (between 6,000 and 15,000 hours compared with about 1,000 hours with incandescents).
– Use task lighting.
– Install dimmers and timers to extend bulb life.
– Don’t underestimate the power of natural daylight, it’s free, it’s pleasant and has been proven to improve worker productivity and customer satisfaction. Also, be sure that walls are painted in a light color to enhance the advantage of that natural light.
– Lighting accounts for up to 50% of a building’s energy consumption. By simply turning off unnecessary lights, you can reduce the amount of energy used for lighting by up to 45%.

6) Use and Re-use

Reusing products delays or avoids altogether their entry into the waste stream, so think refillable, rechargeable, not disposable, whenever possible.

– Challenge your associates to think of ways to give new life to used items, for instance, shredded waste paper makes great packing material.
– Set up an area to store and exchange reusable office supplies such as binders.

If you can’t reuse a product, there are usually others who can. Go to http://www.kab.org (Keep America Beautiful) for suggestions on exchange programs and other reuse strategies.

7) Clean Conscience Cleaning

Five billion pounds of chemicals are used annually for institutional cleaning. The good news is that the risk of injury from chemicals and environmental damage can be dramatically reduced by replacing the most dangerous cleaning products with safer ones.

– Opt for solutions that are non-toxic, non-VOC (volatile organic compound), water-based, biodegradable, phosphate-, chlorine- and ammonia-free and those with ingredients derived from renewable resources, not petroleum.
– Buy in concentrate and bulk so that shipping and packaging waste is reduced.

8) Breathe Easy

Here’s what the air in any office setting can potentially contain: ozone generated by photocopiers, dust, allergens, outdoor fumes brought in by the central air conditioning; gaseous chemicals known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from furniture, paint and carpeting. And then there’s the stuff dragged in on our shoes: oil, antifreeze, particulate pollution, pollen, etc. All combine to create unsafe air quality and contribute to Sick Building Syndrome. What can you do to clean up the air in your workplace?

– Look for low VOC alternatives in carpets, adhesives, paints, even furniture.
– Help keep what’s on the sidewalk out with quality doormats or entryway track-off systems.

Remember, less dirt also means less sweeping, mopping and vacuuming, which means less work, water, energy and fewer chemicals.

9) Sitting Pretty

Making environmentally savvy choices in office furniture is getting easier and easier. Whether a piece of furniture is made from wood, cloth, metal or plastic, there are earth-friendly options.

– Opt for modular office suites. These component-based systems let you reconfigure workspaces and mix and match as your needs change, helping to eliminate the need to buy new.
– Use flexible interior features, such as movable walls to help reduce waste associated with renovations.

Don’t overlook the fact that, even if it’s initially more expensive, buying quality furniture that’s durable and can be readily repaired could easily save money in the long run, plus, lessen the chance that it’ll end up in the landfill.

10) Paper 101

How do you choose paper that is good for the environment and meets your needs? Some things to keep in mind: First things first, when looking to make an environmentally responsible paper purchase, you’re looking for more than the recycled symbol. Post-Consumer Waste Content (PCW): The single most important factor to consider is the percentage of post-consumer waste content. Paper with post-consumer content contains recycled fiber from paper which has already been used by the consumer and then collected for recycling. The higher the level of post-consumer content the better. Today, more and more products are available with post-consumer recycled content including: file pocket portfolios, hanging file folders, report covers, various storage boxes, file holders, file covers and three-ring binders. By using recycled post-consumer content paper, we save trees, water and prevent the air and water pollution, soil erosion and destruction of wildlife habitats associated with harvesting.

11) Digitize to Maximize

Did you know that one 2GB flash drive can store up to 20 yards of books? Storing data digitally frees up space, time and money. It minimizes clutter and helps eliminate unnecessary paper waste. Plus, transferring data digitally or transporting digital storage devices is infinitely easier and less costly than transporting files, cabinets and furniture, should your office be moving to a new locale.

12) Recycle. Recycle. Recycle.

You already know this, so it’s just a reminder that everything from empty ink and toner cartridges (a single cartridge thrown into landfill can take up to 450 years to decompose) to office paper (115 billion sheets of paper are used annually for personal computers) to plastic bottles (Americans use 3.3 million plastic bottles every hour, but recycle only one in five) is RECYCLABLE. 79 million tons: that’s the amount of waste material diverted away from disposal through recycling and composting in one year.

Recycling Rare …

Recycling Rare Earth Metals: What Does China Know That We Don’t?

Posted by June Stoyer

What Are They & Why Do They Matter?

Rare earth metals are actually not rare in and of themselves but tend to be present with other compounds in very small quantities. Rare earth metals are used for a myriad of reasons including electronics, fuel cells, fiber optics, magnets, CRT’s and LCD’s, as well as their extensive use in green technology.

Most new plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles will use lithium-ion batteries (above) rather than the nickel-metal hydride batteries used in most hybrid electric vehicles.
(photo credit: /www.afdc.energy.gov)

Here is a more detailed list. (source: http://energy.gov)

  • Rechargeable batteries (in camcorders), cell phones, PDAs, laptop
  • Computers and other portable devices.
  • Wind turbines, drinking water filters, petrochemical catalysts,
  • Polishing powders, hydrogen storage, fluorescent lighting, flat panels,
  • Color televisions, glass, ceramics and automotive catalysts.
  • Fiberoptics, dental and surgical lasers, MRI systems, as medical
  • Contrast agents, in medical isotopes and in positron emission
  • Tomography scintillation detectors.
  • Magnetic refrigeration
  • Rechargeable batteries used in hybrid vehicles
  • Permanent magnets
  • Military application

China Raises Rare-Earth Export Quota

According to an article in the Wall St. Journal, by James T. Areddy and Chuin-Wei Yap

“China’s government eased its restrictions on rare-earth exports for the first time since 2005 in an apparent nod to a trade fight over Beijing’s tight global grip on production of the strategically important minerals.

But industry executives said the move will do little to shake China’s dominance of a market crucial to industries as diverse as oil refining, electric vehicles and ballistic missiles.

China’s Ministry of Commerce said Wednesday that it will permit 2.7% more volume of rare earth—30,996 metric tons—to leave the country this year than it did in 2011. The increase follows a number of tighter limits imposed …”

One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure

Americans continue to toss out materials that utilize rare earth metals. China profits from our waste by recycling them. They are refurbishes, repurposed and sold right back to the American market at a huge profit. At what point will Americans recognize the potential in this waste?

One Man’s Trash Is Another Man’s Treasure

According to a research by Dr. Peter Dent from Electron Energy Corp., The total world market size for rare-earth magnetic materials was:

  • $9.1 billion in 2007 and is projected to grow to
  • $12 billion in 2011 and to
  • $21 billion by 2020

Role Compostable Packaging Plays in Food Waste Systems

When Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport included a groundbreaking provision in their new concessionaire contract requiring food vendors to use compostable packaging, the catalyst was set in motion for a major shift in foodservice packaging. The ZWA Blog post, Atlanta Airport Makes Bold Statement, gives an overview of the contract provision at the world’s largest airport.  The foodservice industry is at the cusp of a new era in packaging where compostable and|or recyclable products are the norm.

To ensure integrity within the new packaging era, the BPI Compostible Packaging Certification program and Seattle-based composter Cedar Grove set strict standards to ensure compostable packaging  breaks down within the ASTM D6400 Standard in traditional windrow or covered-aerated-static pile systems. Yet many municipalities and companies are exploring other technologies for handling food waste.These systems range from in-vessel composting to on-site digesters to anaerobic digesters. Industry experts are addressing how compostable products work in these food waste systems.

With strong European success, anaerobic digestion for commercial and residential food waste is gaining momentum in the U.S.The technology has solid  U.S. traction at municipal water treatment facilities and on-farm, yet is a frontier for food waste.

Predominately enclosed in a facility, anaerobic digestion systems tend to make the permitting process easier where citizens are concerned about smells generated at traditional composting operations. A challenge is if the state regulations do not contain anaerobic digestion provisions, leaving regulators perplexed as to the permitting process.

anaerobic digestion facility
picture from CleanTech solutions site

In layman’s terms, anaerobic digesters decompose organic material in a closed anaerobic (without air) environment where the methane gas produced is captured for energy use.  Each system has its own “recipe,” including food waste, yard trimmings, FOG (fats, oils & grease from kitchen operations) and other organic material.  After the energy is extracted from the organic material, digestate remains as the system by-product.  With further “curing” the digestate is often used as a soil amendment.

Traditional windrow composting uses an aerobic (with air) system where the piles are turned, thus not producing methane gas.  The energy component inherent within food waste remains within the compost, providing nutrients for the soil’s microbial community.
With the pending shift in foodservice disposable items to compostable products coupled with zero waste programs, the food waste feedstock may soon include a significant portion of man-made products.  What is the impact of these compostable products on the sensitive anaerobic digester recipes?  Will the products contribute to the energy produced in the system?  Are the products a contaminant?  Will the products hinder the system’s energy production? Are the products benign, flowing through the system without impact?  If so, is there reduced energy produced due to the recipe change?

At the October 15 -17 Biopolymers Symposium in San Antonio, TX, the half-day Anaerobic Digestion Forum on Monday, October 15 will answer the above questions along with providing a wealth of information on the role bioplymers (compostable plastics) play in the process.

With stellar speakers from the public, private and consulting sectors, the forum is staged for informative presentations and lively dialogue.  According to the Forum Co-Chair Debra Darby of Darby Marketing,  “There is an increasing interest in anaerobic digestion as a growing part of urban or municipal integrated waste management. The key is to involve commercial stakeholders and educate the public about organics diversion programs as both a sustainability effort and an economic driver,”

As a Biopolymers Symposium speaker, Elemental Impact founder and Sustainable Food Courts Initiative director Holly Elmore is excited to attend the forum.  A supporter of the Atlanta Airport’s compostable packaging provision and proponent of zero waste programs, Ei will explore the implications of compostable packaging on the various food waste technologies.

The Anaerobic Digestion Forum is an excellent venue to meet the industry experts, learn from powerful presentations and ask pertinent questions to those with answers.

No Renewables? No Problem. Data Centers Can Clean Up Emissions Today

this guest post was written by Rob McKernan, a senior vice president, Americas region, of Schneider Electric‘s IT business.

Todd Woody Forbes Staff

In 2012, the volume of digital content will reach 2.7 zettabytes – a staggering amount of information, which could fill up 86 billion 32GB Apple iPads. Stacked, these iPads would build a mountain 35 times higher than Mount Fuji.

Tech giants Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Amazon are in an intense battle for market share. But perhaps they should focus on the real issue determining competitive advantage: With no reliable, cheap renewable energy source in sight, how will they sustainably power massive data centers (using 2% of U.S. electricity) needed for this growing mountain of data, in the face of increased scrutiny on the “dirty” cloud?

Solar win for Los Angeles, CA

This was a huge week for solar energy in LA. After over two years of research and outreach on the part of the Los Angeles Business Council and our partners, the Los Angeles City Council cleared the way for the launch of an innovative rooftop solar-energy program Tuesday morning, unanimously approving a measure to allow the Department of Water and Power (DWP) to move forward with the groundbreaking CLEAN LA Solar program!

LA City Council votes unanimously to pass the CLEAN LA Solar Program after DWP  General Manager Ron Nichols (center right) answers questions from Councilmembers.

The CLEAN LA Solar program will allow local property owners to sell solar power generated from rooftops and parking lots back to the DWP, using a mechanism called a feed-in tariff, or FiT. Los Angeles will be the largest city in the nation to adopt such a program, which will supply renewable energy at a reasonable cost while spurring private investment, creating high-quality jobs, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and helping the state and city meet renewable power requirements.

Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa helped set the CLEAN LA Solar plan in motion in 2008, when he ambitiously called for a 150-megawatt FiT program to be created in Los Angeles. The LABC has been the leading advocate for the CLEAN LA Solar plan since then. Research conducted by the LABC and the LABC Institute has demonstrated that enacting the 150 MW CLEAN LA Solar program will create 4,500 jobs and $500 million in economic activity by 2016. Recognizing this tremendous potential, a broad coalition of businesses, environmental groups, labor organizations and other groups have joined the LABC to support the plan.

The ordinance approved this week authorizes Ron Nichols, DWP’s General Manager, to move forward with a solar FiT of up to 150 megawatts without returning to the City Council to approve various contracts or agreements. The measure also provides a streamlined FiT application process and lowers the program’s administrative costs.

DWP will immediately move forward on a 10-megawatt demonstration project. The first 75 megawatts of the program are expected to come on line this year as well, with an additional 75 megawatts expected by 2016 (to take advantage of the federal tax credits set expire). A full 150-megawatt FiT program would power the equivalent of 34,000 LA homes.

We’re looking forward to co-hosting workshops with DWP on the solar program on the week of April 16.  Please contact Michelle Garakian at mgarakian@labusinesscouncil.org if you are interested in participating.

LABC also has advocated to double the LADWP’s Energy Efficiency (EE) and we have hosted workshops in partnership with the DWP providing information on what a successful energy efficiency program would look like. We are happy to report that the proposed EE budget has been increased from $50 to $88 million per year!

Most importantly, we would like to thank all of our partners who have helped make the CLEAN LA Solar program a reality today!

This happened because a group of participants who often have disparate interests, unified in an unusual coalition and determined that the CLEAN LA Solar program was important for this city. Without the leadership of our Mayor, City Council, DWP GM Ron Nichols and his staff, researchers at UCLA and USC, the business community and our coalition, this program wouldn’t exist. Of course, to make sure this program is implemented correctly and to the level we desire, it will take continued diligence.


Mary Leslie, LABC President

Jacob Lipa, LABC Chairman

Brad Cox, LABC Institute Chairman

Winter Blues? 9 Secrets to Staying Healthy and Energized at Work


As daylight hours decrease, many people experience sadness and fatigue. At work it may be difficult to concentrate, you may feel irritable, and your to-do list might feel more daunting than usual.  Winter blues, or seasonal affective disorder, affects up to 20 percent of us and there’s more to it than just feeling unmotivated. The winter blues can lower your resistance and leave you vulnerable to colds and flu.

So how can you stay healthy and energized at work when all you want to do is hibernate til spring? Here are some easy ways to beat the blues.

Move it. Just ten minutes of activity can do the trick. Take a stroll around the parking lot; walk up a few flights of stairs, even gently stretching your arms, neck and legs can revitalize your body.

Play outside. Physical activity releases endorphins that can boost mood and health. Since most of us spend the majority of your lives indoors inhaling stale air, it’s a good idea to take every opportunity to get outside despite the cold weather. It’s even better if the sun’s shining and you can soak up some mood-boosting Vitamin D.

Breathe. Sit in a chair and slowly count to four while inhaling through your nose. Visualize peace, energy and light filling your body. Hold it for a second then slowly count to four exhaling through your mouth while imagining tension and tiredness floating away. Repeat three to five times during the day.

Help out. Helping others less fortunate keeps your own life in perspective. Organize a group of co-workers to volunteer at a homeless shelter, for Meals on Wheels, or Habitat for Humanity. You’ll break up the monotony and see your co-workers in a new light while helping out your community.

Have some fun. What’s more fun than food? Plan a regular department potluck to liven things up. Consider adding a theme ? say Hawaiian ? and ask for tropical food and dress. Doing something different even for a few hours can boost your spirits and immune system.

Eat smart. Since most of us get sleepy in the afternoon, eat a healthy lunch that includes protein, non-starchy vegetables and fat for long-lasting energy. Good examples of balanced combinations include cooked chicken breast and carrot sticks, canned tuna and a lettuce salad, or fish with vegetables. Same principle applies for mid-afternoon snacks. Don’t expect to stay energized if you’re not eating right.

Set some goals. If you’re feeling like every day is the same, shake things up by setting goals for yourself.  Tackle your list of must-read books, finish a long-neglected project, brush up on your skills, attend a seminar or take a class outside your comfort zone.

Go fruity. Bananas, apples and grapes can give a much-needed lift because they contain natural sugars, vitamins and fiber. Bananas are one of the few fruits containing both simple carbohydrates, for instant energy, and complex carbohydrates, for endurance. Need something to keep at your desk? Try dates. They also include both simple and complex carbs and are loaded with essential nutrients and vitamins.

Keep it clean. A recent report states that the average desk has 400 times more germs on it than a toilet seat! And under the right condition, these germs can double every 15 minutes on shared equipment like copy machines, light switches, and coffee pots.  Think about all the items you touch on your desk alone – keyboard, mouse, phone, pens. They carry a surprising amount of bacteria. Always wash your hands after using the restroom, use hand sanitizer after touching shared equipment, and regularly wipe down your office area with antibacterial wipes. You also might consider upgrading your mousepad, keyboard, and other items to the new antimicrobial products that inhibit the spread of germs.

Don’t let Mother Nature wreak havoc on your mental and physical well being. Check with your local Office Supply Dealer for even more ways to keep you happy, healthy and energized all winter long.