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Chevron: Solar, geothermal investments are key focus

Posting in Energy

In its eighth corporate responsibility report, the energy company outlines emerging technology investments, including huge carbon dioxide reuse project off Australia.

Seems to me there must be a higher level of scrutiny borne by any company in the energy or automotive sector when it comes to producing corporate sustainability reports. So, here I am, poring over Chevron's eighth annual report on such topics, "The Value of Partnership."

Given what is going on with the oil spill in the Gulf Goast, I'm always curious to see how energy companies that make their living in oil and natural gas are investing in renewable energy technologies, so I skipped right ahead to that part of the report. Turns out the company is pretty active in the following:

  • Geothermal Energy: Chevron bills itself as the largest producer of geothermal energy in the world, with 1,273 megawatts of installed capacity in Indonesia and the Philippines, where is could serve up to 16 million people.
  • Solar: Plenty to say here. For starters, the company's Chevron Energy Solutions division built out an 100-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system last year at the Department of Revenue building in Colorado; it put in another 10-kilowatt system at the State Capitol building. The same group also completed what it describes as the "nation's largest energy efficiency and solar electric system," which includes an installation of 6,720 solar panels at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transit Authority. The capacity there is 1.2 megawatts. Coming this year, Chevron Technology Ventures is working a concentrating solar photovoltaic demonstration plant at the Questa Mine in New Mexico. The hope is that this technology will be twice as efficient as existing panels. Chevron also has its hand in a demonstration solar thermal plant in Coalinga, Calif.
  • Biofuels: Stay tuned, but Chevron made some equity investments in this area during 2009.

Clearly, Chevron isn't going to ditch more than 130 years of experience in fossil fuels very quickly. Another project that might be of interest is a $37 billion natural gas project in Gorgon, off northwest Australia -- which the company's describes as the largest energy project in its history. What's interesting about the project is that Chevron has committed to carbon dioxide capture and reinjection methods at the site.

From a corporate standpoint, the company reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 2.2 million metric tones. Its total emissions for the year were 57.4 million metric tons, better than its goal of 60.5 million metric tons.

The cynical among SmartPlanet readers will rails against the idea of an energy company taking action on the environment. You have to start somewhere, and it seems to me Chevron is acting sincerely and (more) sustainably.

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure