First Takes: The Solyndra Saga Continues, Stopping Glass Buildings from Killing Birds & More

First Takes: The Solyndra Saga Continues, Stopping Glass Buildings from Killing Birds & More

• Scrutiny of Solyndra Grows: The story of once high-flying solar company Solyndra took center stage in Washington, D.C., this week as the head of the U.S. Department of Energy's loan program testified before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Expect that scrutiny to intensify as the CEO and CFO undergo questioning next week. The Chronicle's Carolyn Lochhead has the latest on the hearing.

Also see sharp news analyses from Brad Plumer of the Washington Post, who calls Solyndra the "newest political chew toy" and writes about the "Five Myths About the Solyndra Collapse," and Andrew Revkin in the New York Times, who sifts facts and issues from the mythology. The Daily Mail offers a look at how the saga is playing across the pond. And Good Business Editor Tim Fernholz sums up the likely impact in "Solyndra's Failure Shouldn't Tar Green investments, But It Will."

• The Rise of Smart Lighting: Expect the market for intelligent lighting control systems to double in the next five years from $1.3 billion today to $2.6 billion in 2016, according to a new report from Pike Research. The growth will be driven by business offices and education facilities as the managers of those properties catch on to the cost and energy savings that comes when lighting automatically responds to changes in its environment: availability of outside light, occupancy, heat and the like. Green building expert Rob Watson talked about the importance of a holistic approach to lighting in a webcast with Philips on GreenBiz last year.

Clean Energy Patents Find Big Drop After Huge Growth: The quarterly results of the number of clean energy patents has been released by Heslin Rothenberg Farley & Mesiti P.C, and the bad news is that the number of patents has dropped sharply in the 2nd quarter of 2011, particularly in fuel cells and solar. The good news? Overall growth of clean energy patents is 25 percent higher than last year. The clean energy patent research from HRF&M are one of the data sets for our annual State of Green Business report, so at least that aspect of sustainable business is looking up.

The State of UK Green Business? Lots of Room for Improvement: Speaking of taking the pulse of a nation's companies, Forum for the Future and ENDS today are releasing what is essentially a UK version of the State of Green Business report. ENDS' Sustainable Business 2011 report tracks 16 indicators for how companies are faring, and finds plenty of room for improvement. We'll have more on the SB2011 report this week.

• Nestle Waters HQ Scores LEED-Gold: The North American headquarters for the beverage company earned green building certification at the U.S. Green Building Council's second-highest level. The facility in Stamford, Conn., is the 10th LEED-certified property for Nestle Waters, the company said today. The building has a white roof, a low energy-high efficiency lighting systems, workspace that is designed to promote collaboration and other elements that reduce energy and water use and greenhouse gas emissions.

• Getting Up on a Green Soap Box: EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson and Small Business Administrator Karen Mills visit the Method headquarters in San Francisco today, where the maker of environmentally friendly personal care and home products is expected to introduce a sustainable innovation. It'll be a quadfecta for the firm: EPA Regional Administrator Jared Blumenfeld and San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee will be on hand, too. I'll have more about the visit and Method's news later.

Green Jobs in 2011 are Like IT Jobs in 1992: With the Solyndra debacle being the fodder for much political gamesmanship, there's no shortage of pundits proclaiming that green jobs will never help the economy and shouldn't be invested in. Over at Brookings, Mark Muro and Jonathan Rothwell make the case that green industries now are in the position that the IT industry was in at the beginning of the 1990s: Poised for a massive, world-changing boom.

• Look, Up in the Sky, It's a Bird ... It Was a Bird: Glass buildings can be attractive architecturally and provide the natural light that saves energy while boosting the productivity and health of building occupants. But care needs to be taken so those striking buildings don't end up killing birds. Expanses of glass apparently make it difficult for them to distinguish the difference between reflected images of open air space and the real thing.

The New York Times takes a look at the problem and measures being considered to address it. That includes bird-safety standards for buildings that the San Francisco Board of Supervisors are expected to vote on this month (the city's planning commission approved the measures this summer) and a rules change in  LEED standards being contemplated by members of the USGBC. San Francisco says "annual bird fatalities in North America from window collisions may be as high as 1 billion birds per year or 1-5 percent of all birds."

• The New (Expensive) Easy-Bake Oven: We wrote about the redesign of that perennial childhood favorite, the Easy-Bake Oven, spurred by the phaseout of non-energy efficient incandescent lightbulbs. Hasbro's solution, the 11th redesign of the toy, is a $49.99 model that doesn't use a standard bulb. Here is the story from the Associated Press. Since the Easy-Bake is recommended for kids who are at least 8, it might be smarter to teach them how to carefully use a real oven or a microwave. Yes, yes, of course with adult supervision. Just a thought.

GreenBiz Managing Editor Matt Wheeland contributed to this report.

Image CC licensed by Flickr user kevindooley.