First Take: Don't Write Off Smart Meters or Plastic Wine Bottles Just Yet

First Take: Don't Write Off Smart Meters or Plastic Wine Bottles Just Yet

• NREL Goes Platinum. A showcase of high-performance sustainable design, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory's new research support facility in Golden, Colo., has won LEED-Platinum certification, the U.S. Green Building Council's top rating. The H-shaped, net-zero energy building (pictured, left) was completed in June and has been showered design honors. A third wing is scheduled for completion later this year.

• Smart Meters Strong in China. Don't tag smart meters as being down for the count yet: Despite Google's misfire in home energy management, the global market continues to be strong, according to a report today from Pike Research. More than 17 million units shipped during the first quarter of this year, with 70 percent of them in China. In the U.S., PG&E, the Northern California utility company, laid out a 20-year, $1.3-billion plan to bring smart grid technologies to its coverage areas in the state. The San Francisco Chronicle details the plan today.

• Fed Backing for First Solar. The U.S. Department of Energy is offering $4.5 billion in conditional loan guarantees to First Solar for three thin-film photovoltaic solar power plants in California. All told, the facilities would generate 1330 megawatts of installed solar power and create an estimated 1,400 jobs during peak construction, the DOE says.

• Scotland's Green Energy Target. At least 30 percent of all energy used in Scotland must come from renewable sources by 2020. The Renewables Routemap from Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing sets the new target and others in his Renewables Routemap, UPI reports today. Goals set earlier already call for 100 percent of Scotland's electricity to be sourced to green power by 2020.

• One Step Forward, Two Steps Back.
A big picture view of energy in Britain shows that its green energy sector grew 27 percent in the first quarter this year compared to the same period in 2010. But that environmental progress was tripped up by power companies' use of 7 percent more coal. A report from the UK's Department of Energy and Climate Change also says gas use dropped 20 percent during Q1, according to the Guardian.

• Bottom's Up?
Plastic bottles seem to be making inroads among wine producers, especially those tapping the consumers who drink their wine soon after buying it. Soon meaning within a few months, rather than years, Reuters notes in an article this week.

The Institute of Vine and Wine Sciences in France turned up its nose at plastic bottles and bag-in-box containers in a report last year. The venerable institute deemed the vessels good for the environment but bad for maintaining quality.

Marc Kaufman of PET bottle-maker EnVino told Reuters that plastic bottles aren't intended for wines that need to be laid down for years before being consumed. "Those wines make up less than three percent of the market," he said. "We're aiming for the other 97 percent."

Photo by Patrick Corkery for NREL