Blogs > Matt Power > January 2010

New Mexico Makes a Solar End Run

Why is everyone so excited a Spanish company building a billion dollar solar plant in New Mexico?
Go ahead, call me an isolationist. But when I read the headline this morning about a Spanish company building an enormous PV factory in New Mexico, I choked on my (Columbian) coffee. I immediately recalled some of the more backward ideas in Barack Obama's State of the Union address--his assertion that we need nuclear power and clean coal to solve our energy woes.

Apparently, Spain doesn't agree. So what's going on? Why New Mexico? Why now?

I did some sleuthing around. Apparently, the New Mexico utilities company, PNM, is building five solar power plants. And they're going to need lots and lots and lots of solar panels.

So where do they turn? To a mature company with the wherewithal (and financial backing) to create the factory infrastructure they need. You see Europe is decades ahead of us in the manufacture of clean energy such as PV. Like the Bush-Cheney oil men who preceded him, Obama apparently doesn't put much stock in the promise of renewables. But then, his bets so far haven't paid off too well.

The Spanish probably like the fact that Obama isn't paying much attention to their area of expertise. They won't have to compete with any big federal subsidies for manufacture of renewable energy the way they might in Europe, but at the same time they can take advantage of New Mexico's state subsidies, and get treated with red carpet perks.

The company, it should be noted, will create about 300 jobs. Maybe New Mexico's democratic governor, Bill Richardson, is just doing the smart thing. Instead of waiting around for our federal government to stop chasing its own energy tail and pissing away our taxes on dead end wars in the Middle East, he's cutting deals with whoever can help his state achieve energy independence. Maybe New Mexico's success will embarass the White House into doing the right thing. We all have the audacity to hope, right?


Posted: 1/29/2010 8:56:37 AM by Matt Power | with 0 comments

Renewing Cities With Agriculture

In cities that were once belching hubs of industry, such as detroit, an amazing transformation is taking place. Urban streets and empty lots are being reclaimed by nature. With no auto industry, will urban farming become the economic drivers of these strange new worlds?

This morning a friend sent me this fascinating story about what's happening to abandoned city blocks in Detroit. Just the aerial view of the city is enough to make you think you're watching a science fiction movie. But this is not a dystopian future, according to many futurists. It's an opportunity. We welcome your thoughts.

Article on turning Detroit into an agricultural hub HERE.


Posted: 1/29/2010 7:29:10 AM by Matt Power | with 0 comments

Social Media is Not Your Friend

In my experience, social media is a waste of time, an inefficient (and often harmful) means of communication, and a dream come true for large corporations that wan't to increase my consumerism at a time when I should be buying less.
I just finished reading an article titled "Social Media Traffic Explodes, Up 82%," Monday, January 25, 2010

"Consumers spent over five and a half hours on social networks in December, up 82% from the same time last year. A year ago, most users were spending a little over three hours a day on social sites, a group that includes networks like Facebook, blogs, and the Twitter micro-blog service. Social media is now the most popular activity online. Gaming and instant messaging are the next most popular categories."
I'm a recovering social media user. I tried Facebook for about a year, collected 150 "friends," tried all the features and then DELETED my listing. What's my gripe with 24-hour instant access to gossip? Where do I begin? At a time when most of us spend way too much time in front of television and computer screens, handing us an addictive device that creates the illusion of connectivity is a brilliant way to bring the focus back around to our selves--to our most petty and shallow personas.

By personas, I'm referring to the person you represent on a social media site. That person is not YOU. It's a constructed avatar of yourself--you as you wish to be seen. But you soon learn that this too is an illusion.Once you're part of the social media matrix, your personal life is everybody's business. Before long you find that someone has posted a picture of you from a party five years ago, when you were half in the bag and leering like an idiot. An old friend from college finds you and begins sending you minute-by-minute updates of her cat's surgery. Another friend you haven't seen in years signs on and you see he's having an art opening that you SHOULD attend, but you don't want to. Let the guilt begin. Guilt for not being a better friend. Guilt for not attending someone's anniversary party. Guilt for not responding to an email for weeks.

It doesn't take long for people find out you're an editor, or a builder, or an insurance agent, and begin asking your advice (AKA unpaid consulting). You feel like instead of talking to you, you're at a perpetual trade show, where second and third tier friends (people you barely know) are walking up to you and reading your name tag, not looking into your eyes.

And all this time, as the creeping malaise of social media works its way into your day, life is ticking away. At a time when we should be reconnecting with our natural environment, instead we're sucked into a world of faux relationships, faux conversations and pseudo reality. That's a hard thing to explain to my teenager. But I'm hoping that even if social media is here to stay, it will eventually peak and then begin to diminish in importance--as people discover the true alienating properties of sharing life with carefully constructed ones and zeros.

PS: I just read a great little essay titled Twittering Fools by Edward Docx. It's even harder on the social media idiocy than I was. Check it out.

Posted: 1/26/2010 8:02:34 AM by Matt Power | with 0 comments

How Much "Earth" is Left?

China has surpassed the U.S. in the amount of square footage that is now under man made structure. Ever wonder roughly how much of our world is covered in buildings? I found this interesting graph buried in a document about concrete recycling. Isn't it interesting that China, with a population FOUR TIMES larger than the U.S., had a building footprint only 30 percent larger than than ours. Imagine if the Chinese try to adopt Western lifestyle patterns. The resource consumption will literally go off the chart.--M. Powerdevelopedspace.jpg

Posted: 1/24/2010 10:50:57 AM by Matt Power | with 0 comments

Truth is Better Than Friction

Some companies, rather than redesign their way of business, want to make what they’re already doing seem cool.
Nokia, the cellphone manufacturer, has a secret weapon in its marketing portfolio. His name is Jan Chipchase, and he’s a living action figure. He might be  the new face of global corporatism: handsome, slightly unshaven, with a vaguely European accent. Most of all, he likes to be brutally honest about what he does.

“When we travel, we are often hiring people for the very short term, so we have to carry enormous amounts of cash with us.” FLASH SLIDE showing bundles of hundred dollar bills wrapped in CitiBank stationary. “On the last day, typically, I spread the money in piles all over a bed in a back room. If people were to come in there at that moment, they’d think there was something very shady going on, and in a way, there is.”

It’s a clever corporate tactic. Be honest about your excesses, and the public will forgive, then forget, then applaud. But what exactly does Jan Chipchase do? Why is he keynoting a “Better World” design conference?

“What is this work all about?” he asks, as if reading my thoughts. The question hangs in the dark room as a hundred or so 20-something engineers await the secret formula. nokia.jpg

The word “ETHICS” flashes onto the screen. I interrupt his flow, to ask what the word ethics has to do with spying on remote villagers, and reporting what he finds back to Nokia.

Chipchase squints at me through the spotlights, asks me to repeat the question. He mutters something unintelligible, then an apology about not giving a very satisfactory answer. His presentation, like a dorm room YouTube video, ends abruptly.

Outside, I corner two students, one male, one female. “Was I too hard on him?” I ask. “Did his work seem unethical to you?”

“It bothered me a little,” says the woman, “It seemed like he was just doing what ever he wanted in those countries, and I’m not sure what the point was.”

“Still,” interrupts the young man. “I’d kill to have that job.”—M. Power


Posted: 1/24/2010 10:38:50 AM by Matt Power | with 0 comments

Displaying results 1-5 (of 7)
 |<  < 1 - 2  >  >| 

About Me

As a veteran reporter, Matt Power has covered virtually every aspect of design and construction. His award-winning articles often tackle tough environmental challenges in a way that makes them relevant to both professionals and end users. An expert on both building science and green building, he has a long history of asking hard questions--and adding depth and context as he unfolds complex issues.




Social Media