August 26, 2011

Business Lessons from a Radical Industrialist

I've been reading Ray Anderson's book Business Lessons from a Radical Industrialist. Great book. 

Ray Anderson was CEO and Chairman of Interface, a commercial carpet company that used to be totally dependent on fossil fuels. He recently passed away at age 77. 

In 1994 he set a goal for his company that they would take nothing from the earth that could not be replaced by the earth. Internally he called this goal "Climbing Mt. Sustainability". 

The book covers the first 15 years of his quest to eliminate waste and fossil fuels and transition to renewable energy and materials. 

In those 15 years his company, Interface: 

Cut greenhouse emissions by 94%
Cut fossil fuel consumption by 60%
Cut water use by 80%
Cut waste water by 72% per yard of carpet
Increased sales by 66%, doubled earnings and increased profit margins
Invented many new machines, materials and manufacturing processes
Developed a devoted customer base and energized the company's workers. 

If they can do it in an industry that had been totally dependent on fossil fuels - any company can do it. 

They set measurable targets in 7 areas

Moving towards zero waste
Moving towards benign emissions - throughout the supply chain
Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy
Closed loop recycling
Resource efficient transportation
Culture change
Redesigning commerce around accurate costs and real prices including externalities

They have employed the science of biomimicry to achieve many of their goals and  follow these natural design rules:

Nature runs on sunlight
Nature uses only the energy it needs
Nature fits form to function
Nature recycles everything
Nature rewards cooperation
Nature banks on diversity
Nature demands local expertise
Nature curbs excesses from within
Nature taps the power of limits

One example of this - They sent their designers into a forest to see how nature would design a carpet. The designers came back with the understanding that no two square yards of forest floor were the same, but they all blended into a harmonious whole. 

So they set a goal of designing carpet the same way. They designed carpet so that each carpet tile was slightly different in pattern and color. They found many advantages to this. You could lay the carpet randomly instead of in a monolithic fashion. It was easy to make repairs, because the tile didn't and couldn't exactly match its neighbors. Customers liked it better! 

On top of that, off quality tiles practically vanished because inspectors could not find defects among the deliberate different patterns and colors. Now all tiles could find a place in a symphony of color and pattern, harmonious and pleasing. Dye lots now merged with each other, eliminating the need for customers to buy extra tiles of the original dye lot. You could rotate the tiles, like tires on your car, to extend their useful life. 

This product quickly became the biggest selling product in the company's history. 

Another example, they studied how geckos can cling to a wall or a ceiling to eliminate glue (and its volatile organic compounds) from the back of the carpet. 

Lots of great ideas. 

Hertz is renting Nissan Leafs

Hertz is expanding its rental fleet in San Francisco to include electric vehicles (EVs) from Nissan. The rental agency has introduced an electric car sharing service that can take some of the hassle out of renting a car.
Rich Broome, Hertz's Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications, said the Leafs will be available for around $40 per day or for $8-10 per hour through the On Demand car sharing program. This is a reasonable price for consumers to test out an electric vehicle and, as we predicted, many folks will get their first taste of driving electric behind the wheel of someone else's vehicle.
The convenience of not needing to recharge the vehicles is worth any extra cost for many travelers. As anyone who rents vehicles knows, taking time out to refuel the car is inconvenient or can add an expensive surcharge if you're running late. Starting and finishing each day with a fully charged vehicle is a benefit that is sure to lure some folks to hotels that offer the service. It also makes workers more productive by eliminating a time sink and the associated stress of wondering where the gas station is in an unfamiliar location.
Broome said demand for plug-in vehicles is so great that Hertz would lease up to 5,000 of the vehicles, but there aren't that many available. Hertz also plans on adding Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrids soon.
Hertz, which also offers EV rentals in Washington D.C., New York, and London, is far from alone in offering EV rentals, with Enterprise and Avis also bulking up their fleets with emissions free vehicles. 

Share a Car, Save the Planet

A recent study has found that increased vehicle access in urban areas might actually reduce fuel consumption — as long as those cars are shared, not individually owned.
It may seem counterintuitive that putting more drivers behind the wheel could actually have an environmental benefit, but Elliot Martin and Susan Shaheen at the University of California Transportation Center say that car sharing services such as Zipcar, Car2Go and Relay Rides are actually most often used by those looking to get rid of a car.
Therefore, car sharing reduces overall vehicle ownership, takes older cars off the road and helps individuals move away from car-dependent lifestyles — all trends that reduce tailpipe emissions.
In their study of 6,281 car sharing households, the study authors found that 80 percent of those surveyed moved from owning a single car to owning zero cars after joining a car sharing service. The cars that folks got rid of tended to be more than a decade old and averaged 23 mpg. Compare that to the vehicles in a car sharing fleet, which average 33 mpg and tend to be low-tailpipe-emissions hybrids or gas-sipping compact cars.
Aside from those study participants who ditched car ownership altogether, Martin and Shaheen also found that access to a shared car often allowed households to avoid purchasing a vehicle, or a sell a rarely-used second car that took up a parking spot and cost money to keep on the road. While it's difficult to measure cars not purchased, they estimated that each car in a shared fleet represented between nine and thirteen individually-owned cars not on the road.
"Carshare households exhibited a dramatic shift towards a carless lifestyle," the study authors wrote. "The vehicles shed are often older, and the carsharing fleet is an average of 10 mpg more efficient than the vehicles shed."
The authors hope that as car-sharing services increase, even those outside of high-density urban environments may be able to shed a vehicle or two.
"While this study shows that carsharing has already had a significant and measurable impact in many metropolitan regions, industry growth into new markets may produce much greater environmental benefits in the future," they wrote.

August 24, 2011

iPads in the cockpit

iPad in the cockpit saves 326,000 gallons of jet fuel a year.
That will eliminate 6,877,000 lbs. of CO2 emissions each year! 

United Airlines and Apple announced today that the airline will deploy 11,000 iPads for its United and Continental pilots. This is the first major airline to replace paper flight manuals with electronic flight bags, or EFBs.

"The paperless flight deck represents the next generation of flying," said Captain Fred Abbott, United's senior vice president of flight operations, in a press release. "The introduction of iPads ensures our pilots have essential and real-time information at their fingertips at all times throughout the flight."

The switch to tablets on board aircraft isn't just good for Apple. United's plan will save 16 million sheets of paper and 326,000 gallons of jet fuel a year, because each 1.5-pound iPad will take the place of about 38-pounds of operating manuals, flight charts and checklists, logbooks, and informational papers pilots normally reference. Paper-based flight bags normally house over 12,000 sheets of paper… per pilot.

Earthquakes, Nuclear and Wind power

The two North Anna nuclear reactors located in Mineral, VA very near the VA earthquake epicenter were designed to survive a 5.9 to 6.1 quake.  We got a 5.8.  Makes one pause and reflect. 

The two North Anna nuclear reactors scrammed and switched to running off of power from 3 diesel generators. One of the generators on site lost coolant and had to be shut down. 

The current reactors generate 1.8 GW of power. 

Dominion filed an application to build another nuclear plant on the same site in 2007.

The quake also caused a shut down of Dominion's newest natural gas power station, Bear Garden, which was just completed this summer. So far, there have been no reports of wind turbine or solar panel shutdowns

Meanwhile Brazil just wrapped up an auction for contracts with wind, biomass, hydro and natural gas developers. And for the first time ever, the price per megawatt-hour from the wind plants came in below the price for for electric power from natural gas plants.

The auctions covered 44 new wind projects worth 2 GW of capacity. The owners of those wind farms signed contracts to sell electricity for 99.58 reais ($61.93) a megawatt-hour — about 6.2 cents per kilowatt-hour. The prices for natural gas projects came in at 103 reais per MWh ($64.48). The price difference isn't staggering, but it marks a major downward pricing trend for wind, which was priced 19% higher on average in auctions last year.

Here in the US the 2008 financial crisis pushed international prices for turbines downward more than 20%. Larger blades, bigger turbines, and lighter materials are also helping push down the cost of developing projects.

The complexities of operating nuclear power plants (both technical and political) were highlighted yesterday by this story about our plans to send spent fuel to Mongolia

NSTAR buys more wind power

BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts regulators have approved deals by the state's second-largest utility to buy power from three land wind farms scattered around New England, the firm announced Friday.
NStar said the Department of Public Utilities approved contracts between the utility and Hoosac Wind in Massachusetts, Groton Wind in New Hampshire and Blue Sky East in Maine.

The NStar deals represent about 1.6 percent of its demand. NSTAR is required to provide 6% of its power from renewable energy sources by the end of this year. 
NStar has kept pricing on the three deals confidential, but analysts have estimated the power costs at about 9.4 cents per kilowatt hour. The three deals are fixed price contracts, meaning the price per kilowatt hour doesn't increase over time. NStar selected its contracts after a competitive bidding process that emphasized lowest price and drew about 74 qualified bids.
The Hoosac project in Monroe, Mass., and Florida, Mass., is roughly 29 megawatts and is set to be running by July 2012. The 32-megawatt Blue Sky East wind farm in Eastbrook, Maine, is scheduled to be operating by May 2012. The 48-megawatt Groton project in Groton, N.H., is scheduled to be operating by December 2012.
The Blue Sky deal is for 15 years, while the other two are for 10.
The Hoosac and Groton projects are owned by the Spanish power utility Iberdrola SA. Blue Sky is owned by Boston-based First Wind.

August 22, 2011

Video from Keystone XL front lines

Bernie Sanders weighs in. 

Radioactive steam leaking from Fukushima following aftershocks

"Workers at Japan's Fukushima plant say the ground underneath the facility is cracking and radioactive steam is escaping through the cracks" 

"It's a very serious and alarming development because this started to happen specifically after two large earthquakes in the last few weeks, there was a 6.4 on the 31st of July and a 6.0 on August 12″

"It's an indication that radioactive material is moving under the ground"

German railroads to run on sun by 2050

Deutsche Bahn says it wants to raise the percentage of wind, hydro and solar energy used in powering its trains from 20 percent now to 28 percent in 2014 and to become carbon-free by 2050 — targets that exceed the German government's already ambitious national goals.
"Consumers in Germany have made it clear they want us all to get away from nuclear energy and to more renewable energy," said Hans-J├╝rgen Witschke, chief executive of Deutsche Bahn Energie, which supplies electricity for trains in Germany.
"It's what customers want, and we're making it happen," Mr. Witschke said in an interview. "The demand for green electricity keeps rising each year, and that'll continue."
Prevailing attitudes in Germany were already decidedly green before the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex in Japan set off by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
After the nuclear crisis in Japan, the Berlin government abruptly reversed course on nuclear power, shutting eight nuclear plants and vowing to close the other nine by 2022.
That caught Deutsche Bahn — and German industry — off guard. The state-owned railroad had relied heavily on nuclear energy. But now the public and industry are increasingly attuned to sustainability and to what companies are doing, Mr. Witschke said.
"Environmental protection has become an important issue in the marketplace and especially in the transport sector," he said. "Even though more renewables will cost a bit more, that can be contained with an intelligent energy mix and reasonable time frame. We're confident that cutting CO2 emissions will give us a competitive advantage."

Tracking species as they flee

Species are escaping to higher elevations at an average rate of 36 feet per decade and moving away from the equator at a rate of 10.1 miles per decade. This is 2 to 3 times faster than they were fleeing in 2003 - the last time a similar analysis was conducted. 

In the early nineties, a young PhD student at the University of Texas in Austin spent four and a half years following a small black butterfly with red and yellow spots up and down the west coast, from southern California in March to Canada in August. In 1996 she published the results of her laborious fieldwork in a paper titled "Climate and Species Range" in the journal Nature.

The PhD student's name was Camille Parmesan, and her paper offered one of the first documented examples of a species' having shifted its range in response to climate change. Dr. Parmesan's work (she is now an associate professor at the university) showed that over the previous 100 years, the entire range of the butterfly, the Edith's Checkerspot, had moved northward and to higher elevations. In fact, 80 percent of the populations in Mexico and Southern California had disappeared.

Dr. Parmesan's pioneering work helped to unleash a flood of similar research documenting the geographical adaptations of plants and animals to a warming world.

The resulting body of research also provided the data for a new meta-analysisled by Chris D. Thomas of York University in Britain, whose findings were just published in the journal Science.

The paper compiled 23 studies involving latitudinal measures and 31 studies on elevation range shifts for plants, birds, mammals, fish, arthropods, amphibians, reptiles and mollusks from around the world.

The findings indicate that among the plants and animals tracked in the studies, species over all were escaping to higher elevations at an average rate of 36.1 feet per decade and moving away from the equator at a rate of 10.1 miles per decade. That's a steady march poleward of eight inches per hour. Those two rates are respectively two and three greater than those found in the last similar meta-analysis in 2003.

The data also clearly indicates that the species changing their distribution the most rapidly are those in regions where the most warming has occurred.

While the study pulled together literature from around the world, the vast majority of available research comes from Europe and North America, leaving big holes in global understanding how species in one of the most biologically rich areas, the tropics, are responding to climate change.

These unanswered questions are further complicated by the primary role of precipitation, as opposed to temperature, in distributing most species in the tropics. The precise effects of climate change on precipitation are still a source of debate and uncertainty.

What is more, a large minority of species were observed to move in the opposite direction from what was predicted — for instance, to lower elevations and closer to the equators.

"It's an important reminder that there are a whole host of other pressures beyond climate change which determine species distribution," Dr. Thomas said. "Land use change, habitat loss — there's a long list of pressures which must all be balanced. Climate change is a huge pressure, but it's just one pressure facing species around the world."

Believing in God and Science

In the last two months, I have found myself shaking my head in disgust: Washington leaders' inability to come together in debt ceiling negotiations; the state of the economy that has left so many families unemployed or underemployed; two ongoing wars that has sent one of my husband's cousins, a marine, for his seventh deployment and so many others like him; and the terrible crisis in the horn of Africa due to drought.

I never thought I would live to see the day, in which science itself would be controversial in this country. This may have been the case during Galileo's time, but now? I am a Christian and I don't see any incompatibility between heading the warning of scientists and believing in God. It's like I tell my children when we drive to mass every Sunday, one, we need to give thanks to God for everything that we have like our lives, and two, it is God who gives the knowledge to the scientists to help us here on earth. I'll stop shaking my head when our leaders and the media stop acting foolishly when it comes to climate change.

There is a major drought in our own country. And clearly it affects us in so many ways from public health risks – I don't need to tell you how serious starvation is – and the burden it places on countries' public health and immigration systems.

From the New York Times:
Last month, the United States Department of Agriculture designated all 254 counties in Texas natural disaster areas, qualifying them for varying levels of federal relief. More than 30 percent of the state's wheat fields might be lost, adding pressure to a crop in short supply globally.
Even if weather patterns shift and relief-giving rain comes, losses will surely head past $3 billion in Texas alone, state agricultural officials said.
Most troubling is that the drought, which could go down as one of the nation's worst, has come on extra hot and extra early. It has its roots in 2010 and continued through the winter. The five months from this February to June, for example, were so dry that they shattered a Texas record set in 1917, said Don Conlee, the acting state climatologist.
Wow. It will be a good day in this country when the environment is not treated like some concoction by scientists, or this frivolous thing to worry about. $3 billion is real money. If you are as concerned as I am about the world our children are inheriting, please join me at the Moms Clean Air Force. We aren't raising money–we are raising our voices to tell Washington that we are concerned about toxic air pollution and its severe effects on our children.

This is getting exciting

from Bill McKibben

The climate movement's biggest civil disobedience action ever is about to take Washington by storm.

This is starting to get exciting. 

Five or six of us are hunched around a table in a small Washington office, shouting into phones and pecking away at keyboards as we count down toward the Saturday beginning of what looks like it will be the largest civil disobedience protest in the history of the American environmental movement.
We've got 2,000 people signed up to come to Washington and get arrested outside the White House between August 20 and September 3, all in an effort to persuade President Obama not to grant a permit for a new pipeline from the tar sands of Canada.
As momentum builds, we're hearing from the famous and powerful: the wonderful Bernie Sanders just offered up a blogpost pointing out how many more jobs we'd create if we concentrated on clean energy; and the dynamic actor Mark Ruffalo chipped in a heartfelt video imploring people to head to Washington for the protest.
But it's just as exciting to see the stream of inspiring commitments coming in from four Montana grandmothers (one of whom just happens to be Margot Kidder, otherwise known as Lois Lane), or a New York City college student who felt the hope of Obama's 2008 victory, and also a little of the frustration many of us have shared since, pointing out the many times the president has "backed down from what could have been transformative confrontations with the defenders of the status quo."  Which is exactly why so many of us will be wearing our Obama '08 buttons when we get arrested: we want desperately to conjure up the surge of joy that came with that campaign.
For me, though, the big thrill of the day was seeing a blog post from my junior high school biology teacher, Fran Ludwig. She's emerged in recent years as a great Massachusetts leader of the climate movement, and she managed to capture perfectly the message we're trying to spread.
She says, "I'm going to Washington and risking arrest because, in spite of the efforts of concerned individuals and communities to live in a more sustainable way, government policy is the only way to achieve the large-scale change we need to avert the worst outcome of rampant climate change. The approval of the Keystone XL is exclusively up to President Obama. I hope to add my presence to thousands of others in Washington (and hundreds of thousands in the U.S. and across the planet) to say: Enough! We need to take a stand against fossil fuel now!!"
By Saturday morning, if all goes according to plan, I'll be in jail, along with the first wave of a hundred or so protesters. But by no means the last—we'll keep this protest alive till Labor Day Weekend, and then hand it off to the Canadians, who plan mass civil disobedience of their own in September.
And did I tell you we just heard from friends in Turkey? They're planning to deliver their protest to the Canadian consulate this weekend—and they've spurred many others around the world in the same direction.
As I said, it's starting to get interesting. If you want in on the fun, go to
Bill McKibben wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas and practical actions. Bill is a YES! Magazine contributing editor.

5 Reasons we need the EPA

by Gina Carroll

In the clean air fight, opponents of the Mercury Standards and Toxics Rules have begun to step up their game with fresh attacks on the EPA. There is an apparent collective Congressional brain fog about the history and origins of the EPA, the agency established as a bipartisan effort under Republican president, Richard Nixon. Given the aggressive attacks on the Environmental Protection Agency, I think a little reminder of what the EPA has done and is doing might be a timely discussion.
1. Companies won't clean up on their messes. They will not manage their emissions without regulations and  oversight. If there is one thing history's shown us, it's that corporate polluters will continue to pollute until they are made to stop. In fact, they will fight vehemently for their right to dirty our air, water and land. Central New York's Lake Onondagais one of many (many) examples of this. In words of Norbrook, a New York blogger, Lake Onondaga was very important to the development of the city, and various industries. Today, the entire lake is a Superfund site. For over 125 years industrial and chemical operations disposed a variety of pollutants to the lake. At one time, industry discharged approximately 20 pounds of mercury to the lake each day. It's the most polluted lake in the country! No one has been allowed to swim in it since 1940, or eat most fish from it since 1970. See what else NorBrook's blog says about how the industry in NY polluted freely pre-EPA and the price taxpayers are still paying to for the toxic aftermath.
2. EPA regulations save lives. The Environmental Defense Fund created a map that shows among the eastern states, just how many lives will be saved by the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule. The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that the Clean Air Act saved 160,000 lives in 2010 alone. Check out their ticker here. It shows how much money the Act has saved to date. The EPA estimates that Mercury Standards and Toxic Rules will prevent up to 17,000 premature deaths, 11,000 heart attacks, and over 12,000 hospital and emergency room visits.
3. EPA regulations create jobs. If you don't believe the EPA estimates for job creation, take it directly from the electric industry leaders themselves. Eight power plant operators, in a joint statement in the Wall Street Journal said this:
Contrary to the claims that the EPA's agenda will have negative economic consequences, our companies' experience complying with air quality regulations demonstrates that regulations can yield important economic benefits, including job creation, while maintaining reliability.
4. EPA protects the most vulnerable segments of society. The EPA protects those most impacted by pollution – children, elderly and the poor. The American Public Health Association said this about protecting the clean air act:
Climate change and rising temperatures expose more Americans to conditions that result in illness and death due to respiratory illness, heat-related stress and insect-born diseases. These maladies fall most heavily on our most vulnerable communities, including children, older adults, those with serious health conditions and poor people.
5. EPA is especially concerned about children. The Mercury Standards and Toxics Rules will improve the lives of everyone. But they will positively impact children by preventing 120,000 cases of childhood asthma symptoms and about 11,000 fewer cases of acute bronchitis among children each year.
It's difficult to even fathom that I am compelled to extol the virtues of the EPA after all of these years. The EPA has a 40 year record that boasts major environmental improvements that have been good for the economy and everyone's quality of life. If the opponents of the EPA choose to ignore history, many of them their very own political history,  we cannot let them encourage us to forget ours. African-American families have too much on our plates to have to do battle for victories already won. But, if we must stand up and say that our community is tired of paying the heaviest price for corporate polluters, then we will.

World's Largest Solar Plant switching from CSP to PV

The two companies responsible for the development of the world's largest solar plant – the 1,000 MW Blythe Project in Southern California – said they would be using photovoltaics in place of concentrating solar power for the first 500 MW phase.

Solar Millennium and Solar Trust of America received a $2.1 billion loan guarantee for the first phase of the project earlier this year. It was originally going to utilize parabolic troughs, but will now be all PV.

GTM Research Senior Analyst Brett Prior estimates that the installed cost of 500 MW of parabolic troughs at the Blythe site is about $5.79 a watt. Today, with PV prices so low, the project could pencil out to $3.40 a watt with crystalline-silicon PV.

"My sense is that with the CSP version, even with subsidized debt, Solar Trust of America couldn't get direct/sponsor equity investors to sign on, as the expected returns must have been too low," explains Prior.

This brings the total capacity of CSP-to-PV conversions to 2,999 in the U.S., according to GTM Research:

Alpine SunTower 92 MW (NRG/eSolar)
New Mexico SunTower 92 MW (NRG/eSolar)
Calico 850 MW (Tessera/SES)
Imperial Valley 709 MW (Tessera/SES)
Beacon 250 MW (NextEra)
Ridgecrest 242 MW (STA)
Agua Caliente 280 MW (NextLight)
Blythe phase I 500 MW (Solar Millenium/Solar Trust of America)

Total: 2,999 MW

Solar Millenium and Solar Trust of America say they're still committed to CSP. But like so many other companies, the market conditions are strongly favoring PV – a technology that can be deployed much faster and cheaper.

Expect the trend to continue as a chronic oversupply of PV modules keeps prices depressed and hardware/power electronics companies also continue dropping costs and increasing reliability.

Solar Powered Vehicles

Whether you're considering installing a solar panel system or purchasing an electric car – or both – a recent announcement by Ford and solar provider SunPower is good news. When Ford rolls out its 2012 electric hybrid vehicles, buyers will have the option to install a residential solar system at their homes at a greatly reduced price.

The idea is to entice eco-conscious buyers who want to drive cars with green technology, but don't want to use electricity generated by fossil-fueled utilities to power their vehicles. The "Drive Green for Life" campaign will no doubt appeal to those already considering solar arrays, too.

SunPower, an established solar provider in business for more than 25 years, will use Best Buy's Geek Squad to install the solar arrays – the Geek Squad already installs home chargers for electric vehicles under a contract with Ford. In exchange for the exposure that the marketing campaign will bring to SunPower, they are providing the solar systems at deep discounts.

Installations are expected to cost about $10,000 after the federal tax incentive, but Ford spokesperson Daniel Pierce explains that for most people, the price will be even lower. Incentive and solar rebate programs vary by area, and often include substantial discounts from local utility companies. "We found that with state and local rebates, the complete cost of the system can be as low as $5,500," Pierce said.

The SunPower 2.5-kilowatt solar system will consist of solar panels covering 144 square feet of roof space, and will generate about 3,000 kilowatt hours each year. Each system will come with a home monitoring system as well. The system won't be specifically designed to power electric car home chargers, but will effectively offset the power consumed by the batteries, providing enough energy for 1,000 miles of driving each month.

"In effect, you are driving a solar-powered car," said Tom Werner, SunPower's Chief Executive Officer.

The "Drive Green for Life" campaign is being advertised primarily for Ford's new fully-electric Focus, but will also apply to other Ford vehicles as well, including the five electric cars Ford is rolling out in 2012 and Ford's crossover utility vehicle, the hybrid C-Max.
"We expect the partnership will be very popular," Daniel Pierce said.

SunPower, an innovator in solar technology for over a quarter of a century, is hoping the partnership will lead to further technological development in the solar field. Vehicle batteries could eventually be used as energy storage for the electrical grid. SunPower sees the combination of purchasing electric vehicles in conjunction with practical solar power systems as an important step in that direction.

"This is a great way to help people green their lives," Pierce said.