Mercury and Lighting 1-2-3
Given widespread discussion of banning incandescent bulbs (California, Australia, Rhode Island, the European Union, etc.), this article presents three perspectives: reader reactions, comparative mercury impacts, and a promising technical solution.
Mercury is released through the combustion of coal. Can more efficient CFL technology reduce the need for coal burning plants?
1. Reader Reaction
"Last month's EcoMotion Network News brought up something that I was unaware of - the mercury content in fluorescent light bulbs. This caused me to rethink whether fluorescent tubes are a better alternative for our lighting. Obviously, other forms of lighting exist, and I've read many promising things about LEDs making headway and being available within a few years for home lighting.
It may make sense to move to fluorescent tubes if the lighting is of equal quality (brightness, wavelengths, cycles per second), if the costs are less, if the energy consumption is less, and if the environmental impact is less. But, suppose the environmental impact is worse (which it seems it may be because of the mercury) then we need to compare that impact to the other costs and benefits."
- George Reis, Santa Ana, California
"The ingredients of the newly touted compact fluorescent bulbs include mercury. How can this be an improvement even with "proper disposal" and complete mercury recycling?
Rhode Island seems quite advanced of other states with the number of types of allowable plastic and paper goods [that can be recycled]. By default, I think it's fair to assume if such disparity exists with paper/plastic recycling, it will only be amplified with respect to mercury bulb recycling and other complexly combined materials of our current convenience. There is possibility of consumer reticence to fully participate in recycling bulbs due to their fragile nature and unwillingness for breakage in proximity.
In an ideal world, the consumer would understand and fully participate- 100%- for "complete recovery"- unfortunately, an unattainable ideal based upon current observations."
- Foerd Ames, Bristol, Rhode Island
2. Comparing "Controlled" and Uncontrolled Emissions
There has been considerable focus on the mercury within a typical compact fluorescent bulb, but more mercury is released as uncontrolled emissions through the combustion of coal for electricity generation for inefficient lighting sources. Worse, these power plant mercury emissions are uncontrolled.
According to the EPA, coal-fired plants release 13.6 milligrams of mercury into the atmosphere to power an incandescent over its life. Given their efficiency, each CFL releases 3.3 milligrams during the same time frame, a 75% mercury reduction. Even when adding the embedded mercury, CFLs reduce mercury by 40%.
Light emitting diodes (LEDs) not only have the potential to operate for a million hours, but do not contain mercury. As the solid state technology is refined, LEDs are projected to deliver 150 lumens per watt, a far greater efficacy than the 16 lumens/watt for incandescents and 85 lumens/watt for fluorescents. Thus the uncontrolled emissions of mercury related to LEDs will be half that of fluorescent technology, or about 2 milligrams every five years.
3. Reducing Mercury in CFLs
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. announced an initiative this week that will provide a technical advance to the issue. Given its massive CFL sales goal, it has effectively pressured its suppliers to cut mercury in CFLs by 33% this year.
Wal-Mart is the biggest corporate member of a new coalition - www.18Seconds.org -- made up of companies and agencies to persuade more Americans to use CFLs to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Wal-Mart reports that the company has worked with General Electric, Philips, Osram Sylvania, and Lights of America to reduce the mercury levels. The reduction will reduce the "controlled" mercury for its 100 million CFL initiative by 360 pounds.
Eugene Uses German Solar Model
Eugene Water and Electric Board (EWEB) -- the municipal utility in Eugene, Oregon - has launched a solar power program called "GreenPower" that draws program design lessons from the predominant German solar production model. Instead of offering participants an up-front solar rebate, EWEB pays a premium price ("feed-in tariff") for locally generated power for 10 years.
Businesses in Eugene pay an average of 6 cents/kWh for power. Through GreenPower, they will receive 15 cents/kWh of solar that they generate. EWEB began testing the pay-for-production concept in 2002 with six volunteer businesses. Combined with existing federal and Oregon incentives, EWEB is working to "spark a solar boom" in Eugene.
GreenPower allows other EWEB customers the option of buying locally generated green power. Customers pay an extra penny per kWh, or about $10 a month for the average household. EWEB's parallel WindPower program - drawing on Wyoming wind resources -- is fully subscribed.
Wal-Mart's Solar Power Test
Wal-Mart will test photovoltaics in 22 Hawaiian and Californian locations, with each system designed to supply up to 30% of power for the store. Wal-Mart's vice president for energy notes that, "We are taking aggressive steps toward our goal of being supplied by 100% renewable energy."
SunEdison will provide the four systems in Hawaii and four in California; PowerLight and BP Solar will each supply seven systems in California. Through Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs) offered by Sun Edison and Power Light (solar companies maintain system ownership and sell energy produced to the host site), the stores expect immediate bill savings.
On May 8 at 3:00 pm, a 40-foot Swiss-made solar catamaran called Sun21 reached New York City. A six- man crew sailed 7,000 miles from Chipiona in Spain to the Canary Islands to the island of Martinique and then up the East Coast of United States.
Sun21's 10 kW photovoltaic arrays and battery storage system resulted in the first motorized solar transatlantic crossing. Sun21 traveled at a constant speed of 5 - 6 knots per hour throughout its voyage, which started in October 2006.
The 31-State Climate Registry
This year marks the expansion of the California Climate Action Registry to what is now called The Climate Registry. Thirty U.S. states, plus two Canadian provinces - British Columbia and Manitoba - - and the Campo Kumeyaay Nation, have joined California to start measuring and tracking greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The 31 states represent 70% of the U.S. population. The California Climate Action Registry was established in 2001 for companies that believed GHG reductions will become mandatory. While the United States did not sign the Kyoto Protocol, these companies want to earn credit for their actual and planned reductions. The Climate Registry provides measurement protocols and third-party verification Over $8 billion U.S. carbon credits have been traded on the EU exchange. For more information click here.
Clinton's Municipal Building Efficiency Partnership
The Clinton Foundation announced on Wednesday an arrangement among 16 cities, four international energy service companies, and five global banking institutions that will result in renovations to improve energy efficiency in municipal buildings, beginning with New York (which has 4,000 buildings), Chicago, Houston, Toronto, Mexico City, London, Berlin, Tokyo, and Rome.
Cities around the world that want to upgrade their buildings but never had the means to do so, will now receive financing and support to get that done. Citi, Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan Chase, UBS, and ABN Amro have each committed $1 billion to finance the upgrades. Former President Clinton announced the partnership at the second meeting of the C40 Large Cities Climate Summit.
Cities will get the green technology at no cost. The program assumes that cities already have money set aside for building operations and will pay back the bank loans, plus interest, through the energy savings that the projects achieve over several years. To ensure those savings, Honeywell, Johnson Controls Inc., Siemens and Trane will provide the retrofits and guarantee the energy savings.
Other cities taking part in the partnership are Mumbai, India; Karachi, Pakistan; Seoul, South Korea; Bangkok, Thailand; Melbourne, Australia; Sao Paolo, Brazil; and Johannesburg, South Africa.
EcoMotion Network News
This issue marks the first issue of EcoMotion Network News Volume 11. Ted Flanigan, Virginia Nicols, and the EcoMotion team have published 25 issues of Volume 10. Readers across the United States report that they like the newsletter's content and frequency. Your feedback is always appreciated.