Starting a carbon neutral conversation

Yesterday I was thrilled to discover that Manifold Recording was the #1 Google result for the search term “carbon neutral recording studio“. I know that such a goal (achieving carbon neutrality, not the Google ranking) is a challenging one, and thus it makes sense to test the assumptions, even this early in its construction.

This morning I heard Alice Lloyd, Executive Director of North Carolina Interfaith Power & Light speak out against Duke Power’s plan to expand the Cliffside power plant with an additional 800MW of coal-fired capacity. As reported by the News and Observer (and contradictory to statements made in their “clean coal” coalition statements), the only way to bring this plant on line is to bend already broken rules related to mercury pollution, and to continue to ignore the enormous impact of adding more CO2 to the atmosphere, further exacerbating global warming. The statistics are alarming:

  • Home Depot has funded the planting of 300,000 trees to help absorb CO2 emissions of their operations; a 500MW coal-fired power plant will negate this offset in 10 days of operations.
  • Wal*Mart is investing $500M to reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions by 20% over the next seven years. If every Wal*Mart SuperCenter met this target, the annual CO2 emission reduction would be negated by a 500MW coal-fired power plant operating just one month in the year.
  • If every household in America replaced a 60W incandescent light bulb with a CF bulb, the CO2 emissions from just two 500MW coal-fired plants would negate the entire result.

How will Manifold Recording offset its CO2 footprint?

First, we are looking at using high-efficiency and/or low-power alternatives where possible. One big question we’re facing right now is which console to use in the control room. A DigiDesign ICON uses less than half the power of the most efficient equivalent analog board. Does that compute?

Second, we anticipate putting a large solar farm onto the Grid, thereby joining the NC Green Power initiative. By supplying renewable energy to the grid and buying renewable energy from the grid, we will put less CO2 and much less mercury into the atmosphere.

Finally, there are the trees on the land. We have about 10 acres of trees, which counts for about 11 tons of CO2 emissions per year. It appears that the worst of the coal-fired plants emit approximately 1 ton of CO2 per megawatt hour and thus we have 11MW of carbon offset potential based on our trees. The power generation industry argues that the average is not as bad as the worst, but only half-bad. Thus we may have as much as 22MWh of carbon-offset power per year. If we assume the studio is used 60 hours a week for 50 weeks (the extra time covers HVAC and CPU usage that may run even when the studio is empty), that gives us 3,000 operating hours per year. Or an operational load average of of between 3.7kW and 7.3kW. I don’t yet know our operating loads, so I don’t know whether that’s more or less than enough for anything, but it does give us a starting point for the discussion.

Is that good enough? Are there flaws in the numbers? This blog supports comments…let me know!

Author: Michael Tiemann

Open source pioneer. Red Hat Executive. UNCSA Trustee. Ninja.

4 thoughts on “Starting a carbon neutral conversation”

  1. I just thought of another dimension of carbon neutrality: offsetting vehicular visits to the site. According to a US EPA website, one gallon of gas generates 20 lbs of carbon dioxide. I drive a Toyota Prius which gets over 45 mpg, but the aspirational average for many cars is 35 mpg. If we use the trees to offset vehicular visits instead of electricity (meaning we’ll use more solar to offset *that* electricity), then 10 acres can sequester 11 tons of CO2 per year.

    11 tons = 22000 lbs = 1100 gallons = 38,500 miles per year.

    38,500 miles per year = 770 miles per week

    Because of the B&B, we can easily accomodate longer-term usage of the facility. Thus a party visiting from 385 miles away (and returning at the end of the week) could be fully offset by our forest (Raleigh-North Atlanta, Raleigh-South Philly). But if we have three different parties visiting during a week, we could only support an average of a 128 miles round-trip (Raleigh-Charlotte or Raleigh-Wilmington). Here’s a table of distances between Raliegh and some major cities. All in all, I think our trees are a great resource for this type of offset!

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