It’s not easy being green, but if done properly, it can be quite lucrative.
Environmental concerns are becoming an increasingly important priority in the C-suite. More than half of companies in the S&P 500 currently provide board level oversight of environmental and/or social issues above and beyond that required by law, according to a new survey released by the Investor Responsibility Research Center Institute (IRRCi) this week.
“The sizable percentage of S&P 500 companies elevating environmental and social issues to the board level reflects the growing understanding among directors and executives of the financial risks and opportunities of sustainability and to the importance to long-term corporate planning,” said Jon Lukomnik, IRRCi executive director.
Green energy solutions are a big focus because of the powerful impact they can have on reducing costs as well as harmful environmental impacts. Here are five green energy ideas that save money — and the planet:
The Wind Powering Google’s (GOOG) Data Centers
Data centers devour power to run the servers and infrastructure needed to provide advanced services, as well as keeping all that hot-running equipment cool and reduce the cost of powering the facilities that house them.
Google’s (GOOG) data centers are designed to use less energy to begin with, and tech giant has embraced green energy — particularly wind power. GOOG announced this week that Berkshire Hathaway’s (BRK.B) majority owned MidAmerican Energy will provide up to 407 megawatts of wind-sourced power to its data center in Council Bluffs, Iowa. Since 2007, Google has contracted for more than 1 gigawatt of wind-powered energy, and between data center design and power costs has saved as much as $1 billion.
Airlines Can Go Greener — Before They Leave The Ground
The airline business is a tough place to make money — a few pennies in the price of fuel can swing a carrier from profit to loss. Honeywell (HON) and its partner Safran Group have found a way airlines can save the planet — and cash — before planes even leave the ground.
The Electric Green Taxiing System (EGTS) enables jets to push back from the gate and taxi without engaging the engines, or the APU batteries. Last week, Mexico’s InterJet became the first carrier in the Americas to ink a deal for EGTS system, which can save between $250,000 and $450,000 per aircraft per year. For airlines with hundreds of planes in their fleet, that can add up to millions of dollars per year in savings.
Wrightspeed Delivers “Cleaner Than EV” Trucks to FedEx
Leave it to Elon Musk’s former Tesla (TSLA) sidekick Ian Wright to seek out green energy solutions for large commercial vehicles — his startup Wrightspeed makes hybrid-electric drive systems for high-performance cars and mid-to-large size trucks.
Last month, Wrightspeed delivered the turbine-electric product to its first customer, FedEx (FDX). The “Route” is a “repower” powertrain kit, engineered for the delivery and service fleet markets, that replaces a truck’s diesel engine, transmission, and differential and provides impressive improvements in fuel economy and maintenance costs. The Route uses electric drive, can be plugged in, and has no range limitations (given refueling). The Route’s turbine generator charges batteries on the road, and FedEx is using both diesel and compressed natural gas (CNG) versions of Wrightspeed’s technology.
Restaurant Chain Embraces Green Energy With LED Lighting
Tim Hortons (THI), a 4,400-restaurant chain based in Ontario, is embracing green energy by replacing all the existing lighting fixtures in restaurants across the U.S. and Canada with energy-efficient light-emitting diode (LED) lighting from Philips (PHG).
The company plans to convert 485 restaurants to LED lighting this year alone, racking up some 6.4 million kilowatt hours (kWh) in energy savings. Philips is working with Tim Hortons to replace the existing fluorescent and halogen lights in all newly-built and renovated restaurants with energy-efficient Philips LED fixtures, which use up to 40% less energy than fluorescent bulbs.
Leveraging Solar into Next-Generation Power Plants
Even the utility industry, long blamed for foot-dragging in green energy arena, is seeing a business case for alternatives. Last month, First Solar (FSLR) and GE’s Power Conversion unit (GE) began leveraging their recent technology partnership to develop a utility-scale photovoltaic (PV) power-plant design. The more cost-effective design combines First Solar’s thin-film CdTe modules with GE’s new ProSolar 1500 Volt inverter/transformer system.
First Solar has integrated new technology into its modules and optimized them for 1500-volt, direct current applications. When combined with GE’s 4 megawatt ProSolar 1500-volt inverter/transformer stations, the solution can increase the size of the solar array served by each inverter. That means the plant would require fewer transformer stations to convert the power for use on the commercial electrical grid. This would save money, as well as installation and maintenance costs — while still delivering the level of power required.
As of this writing, Susan J. Aluise did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.