Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Year in Solar: Sunny Side Up

My reporting on the solar industry continues with this ditty for the East Bay Express' Year in Review package. Unlike most of my other solar stories, this focuses on rooftop solar installation (as opposed to utility-scale solar in remote areas, and the environmental impacts thereof). It's relatively short (900 words), but you'll get a good idea what 2011 was like from the subhed: "Solyndra went under, but more East Bay homes went solar in 2011 than ever before." In other words, although it was the year that the US solar industry came under fire (and China asserted its dominance in manufacturing) like never before, it was also a year that other elements of the industry -- particularly solar leasing for rooftop residential installations -- truly caught fire. Read on ...

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Save the Bay Turns 50, and What That Means

I like the headline the Examiner used for my feature on the 50th anniversary of Save the Bay, so I'll repeat it: "At 50, Save the Bay looks back at history, forward to Cargill project." The idea is that while the organization's accomplishments over the past five decades have been incredible, the work will never end. And one of its biggest battles lies on the horizon: a fight to keep Cargill from developing unused salt flats outside Redwood City rather than restoring them to wetlands. Multiple reports in the last month alone have pointed to the importance of wetlands in insulating the San Francisco Bay Area's people, plants, and animals from the effects of sea-level rise caused by global warming, and wetlands like the one Save the Bay wants to restore on Cargill's property will only become more critical.

Meeting Save the Bay founder Sylvia McLaughlin, now 95 and still living in the Berkeley hills, as well as learning more about the bay's ecology, were incredible benefits of this assignment. But the take-away message must be: As improved as it is in 2011 versus 1960, when it reeked of raw sewage and was being filled at the rate of two square miles per years, the San Francisco Bay is still threatened. Given the sheer number of people ringing its shore, that will always be the case. And everything from casual litter to state policy today impacts what it'll look like in another fifty years. By no accident will it continue to improve, or revert to its formerly spoiled state.

Read more at the San Francisco Examiner: http://www.sfexaminer.com/local/2011/12/50-save-bay-looks-back-history-forward-cargill-project#ixzz1fo1vBAcb.

A Front-Row Seat at Oakland's Middle Harbor

A wooden bench, not 20 feet from the water passing with the tides behind Jack London Square. My seat faces the narrow channel and, on the other side, warehouses on Alameda's industrial north end, the legacy of the Navy's 60-year presence. To my right, hulking container ships bound overseas are loaded and unloaded by a pair of Oakland's iconic cranes. They dwarf the passenger ferry that loads and unloads here, too, from a short pier a few hundred feet away.

They also block the view of San Francisco and Marin to the north, but no matter; what counts here is right in front of me: Calm, composed waters of the Middle Harbor, the corridor of water running south from Oakland's main port in that critical gap between Oakland and Alameda. From this vantage point, where I visit almost daily after a short walk from my office a half-mile away, it's but a sliver in time along the water's path. Sailboats move in toward the harbor a short way down or out toward the wide open bay, as do tugboats, flat-bed barges, small personal fishing boats, the occasional kayak. Watching them passes my time.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Exploring the East Bay Bike Party

Back in September I posted about attending that month's East Bay Bike Party ride and filing a story for Oakland magazine. As you can tell from the tone of both, I was charmed by the whole experience and have been pining for a sequel. My schedule hasn't allowed me to quite yet, but mark my words -- I'll be back. (As if you care -- just read the damn story.)