Starting a carbon neutral conversation

In carbon neutral, Manifold Recording, Uncategorized by Michael Tiemann

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!