by Dan Rudt, www.MoCo-Sustain.com

County Residential Energy Rebate Funds Nearly Depleted

The Montgomery County Residential Energy Efficiency Rebate Program introduced in August 2011 is reaching the end of its $1.1 million in U.S. Department of Energy funding. To date, the program has provided incentives to 845 homeowners to make energy efficiency improvements to their single family homes, town homes and condominiums. Eligible improvements include the purchase of Energy Star kitchen appliances, duct sealing and attic insulation, to new furnaces and central air conditioning, among other things. Any given home may qualify for up to $3,000 in rebates.

A visit to the rebate program website indicates the fund has $0 left, but the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection (MCDEP) has told us there is a very small amount of funding still available from program reserves. In addition, small amounts are anticipated to become available from projects that are not completed or liquidated.

To manage applications from this point forward, MCDEP is implementing a wait list process. A homeowner who qualifies and wishes to apply should go to the website and log-on and register as if applying for a rebate. The wait list will only take basic information. If funding becomes available, the homeowner will be emailed with instructions to log-in and complete the remainder of the application. This will all be done on a first-come, first-served basis.

What If I Have Already Been Approved?

Homeowners who have already been approved have their funds reserved for them. As long as they complete the agreed upon improvements, meet the program requirements and submit invoices within 90 days of approval, they should receive their rebates. If they miss the 90 day deadline, MCDEP says they will be notified by email that their rebate is in jeopardy. Failure to respond to that email may result in the loss of the rebate.

What If I Applied and Was Denied?

The DEP says it has adequate funds for homeowners who applied by January 29 who were denied, but from whom additional information was requested. “Those individuals will be our first priority to get approved so they can proceed with their projects,” said Senior Energy Planner Eric R. Coffman. Those homeowners should promptly clear up questions about their eligibility, (e.g., whether the equipment they are purchasing qualifies for the rebate) to avoid having the funds for which they applied released to others on the wait list. Coffman indicated his department would move very quickly to clear up outstanding questions and allocate the last of the funds to qualifying applicants.

O’Malley Renews Efforts for Offshore Wind Energy

The Legislature is in session, and Governor O’Malley has released his 2012 agenda. This year, the governor hopes to pass the Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act that was put on hold in 2011 following debate in both chambers. This past autumn, the Maryland House Economic Matters Committee and the Senate Finance Committee convened study sessions to examine policies and to weigh the benefits of offshore wind for the state. Maryland is obligated to develop renewable sources of electricity by a state law passed in 2008 requiring electric utilities to purchase 20 percent of the electricity they sell from renewable sources by 2022.

The bill before the legislature is designed to encourage private investment in wind energy by establishing an offshore wind renewable energy credit (OREC) similar to that created by a bi-partisan New Jersey legislature to facilitate offshore wind construction in that state. O’Malley believes that the OREC model he has proposed would enable at least a 450 MW project to be built, creating an estimated 1,800 construction jobs and 360 ongoing maintenance jobs. Wind advocates say the 100 or so ocean-based wind turbines could produce electricity equivalent to 70 percent of Maryland Eastern Shore’s current demand.

The bill would limit the anticipated rate impact to $2 per month for the average residential customer. The $2 increase would not take effect until 2017. Last fall, Gonzales Research and Marketing Strategies conducted a poll for a coalition of environmental, business, labor and faith groups called Marylanders for Offshore Wind. The poll asked respondents whether they agreed or disagreed with the following statement: “I would be willing to pay $2 more per month on my electric bill if a greater percentage of my electricity came from clean, local offshore wind farms, instead of coming from coal, oil, and gas.” Sixty-two percent of respondents agreed with the statement.

Pepco Buys WaterShed

The University of Maryland announced on Monday (1/30) that it will sell WaterShed, the top prize winning home in the 2011 U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon, to Pepco for an undisclosed amount. The sale was announced at a campus celebration honoring the WaterShed team’s achievement. Under the agreement of sale, Pepco will cover WaterShed’s outstanding project costs and pay for its transport and reassembly at a PEPCO facility in Montgomery County. The precise location has not been chosen yet.

The University of Maryland entry was awarded the Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon architecture prize and declared the overall winner in a contest that included 19 other collegiate teams from Belgium, Canada, China, New Zealand and the United States. Decathlon competitors were challenged to design, build, and operate solar-powered houses that are cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive. Like the other competition entrants, WaterShed is a solar powered home. Unlike the others, it also conserves, collects, filters and reuses water. Its unique design elements, such as “manufactured wetlands” that help reduce storm water runoff and its patent-pending indoor waterfall that provides humidity control in an aesthetically pleasing manner, set WaterShed apart from the competing solar homes.

“The WaterShed team took on a double challenge when it built a house that would run on the sun and address a significant source of Chesapeake Bay pollution, so its first-place performance on the international stage was more than a major source of pride,” said Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. “We’re extremely pleased that Pepco has agreed to provide a permanent home for WaterShed, so that its educational impact and research can continue.”

Under the arrangement, Pepco and the University will partner on the prize-winning home’s operation, monitor its performance, conduct ongoing research and work closely on designing educational materials about WaterShed. The house will serve as a “living classroom” and a “living laboratory” to demonstrate smart, clean energy options, blending its original technological and design innovations with Pepco’s own advanced technology, such as its smart thermostats and home-based electric vehicle charging stations. Pepco plans to open WaterShed to the public for conferences, educational presentations and occasional public tours. It will also serve as an energy testing facility. University researchers will continue measuring performance of its various systems to assess its long-term operation. Student members of the team that designed and built WaterShed will serve as docents once the facility opens, explaining to visitors the house’s capabilities and design features. (Photo: Jim Tetro)

Hudson Trail Outfitters Switches To Wind Power

Clean Currents, a leading retail provider of wind power in Maryland and the District of Columbia, announced on January 24 that Hudson Trail Outfitters (HTO) will purchase renewable wind energy for its Maryland and DC locations.  HTO has committed to purchasing Green-e Energy certified wind power from Clean Currents for 100 percent of its Annapolis, Rockville and Tenleytown stores’ electricity.

HTO’s switch to wind energy will avoid one-and-a-half million pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions annually – or the equivalent of removing 133 passenger vehicles from the road for an entire year.

Hudson Trail Outfitters is a popular outdoor clothing and gear retailer that opened its doors in 1971. Today the company has stores in Fairfax and Pentagon Row in addition to Annapolis, Rockville and Tenleytown.

“Hudson Trail Outfitters exists only to be recognized as the leader in all things ‘Specialty Active Outdoors’ related – the company’s 40 year history has been rooted in health, in happiness, and in the preservation of the environment.  We believe that making the switch to wind power through Clean Currents supports the core initiatives of the company.  Today, HTO, Ltd remains focused on environmental awareness, community preservation, and on being an active participant in prolonging & maintaining the future growth of the environment around us,” said Sandy Cohan, General Manager of HTO, Ltd.

Clean Currents, which has supplied wind power through the grid to residences and businesses since its founding in 2005, now claims more than  9,000 residential and 500 commercial customers across Maryland, the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. Clean Currents is a registered Benefit LLC and B-Corporation.

“We’re very excited to be partnering with a locally based company that is similarly passionate about the environment as we are,” said Ron Rodriguez, Vice President of Business Development at Clean Currents.  “Providing clean wind power to Hudson Trail’s Maryland and DC locations represents a real synergy between companies that are dedicated to making our world a greener place,” added Rodriguez.

Upcoming Green Events

Bethesda Green First Thursday Happy Hour: Warm up for Valentine’s Day, Thursday, Feb 2, 5 – 8 pm, The Wine Bar, Doubletree Hotel lobby. Join Bethesda Green for casual conversation and social networking. Win a romantic dinner for two at The OZ restaurant.

■ Hear about Bethesda Green’s community outreach plans

■ Briefing about new website, mygreenmontgomery.org

■ Enjoy light appetizers

■ Happy-hour-priced beer, wine and specialty drinks

■ Raffle for gift card — dinner for two at The OZ, the Doubletree’s signature restaurant

RSVP through Meetup

Documentary film: “Bag It: Is your life too plastic?”  Saturday, Feb 4, 7:30 pm- 9:30 p.m.  Washington Ethical Society (library), 7750 16th Street, NW, Washington DC 20012 (0.7 miles from Silver Spring Metro Station; S4 Metrobus). “Bag it: Is your life too plastic?” is an eye-opening and funny documentary film that navigates the plastic world.  Are plastic bags necessary? What are plastic bags made from? What happens to plastic bags after they are discarded? The 65-minute award-winning documentary film will give answers to this questions.  65 min. movie followed by 30 min. discussion.  Snacks provided; $5 donation requested.  RSVPs helpful but drop-ins welcome. Sponsored by the WES Earth Ethics Committee. Email for movie information and RSVP: EarthEthics2@verizon.net or call Sue Jacobson, 301-309-6731.

Bethesda Green Education, Outreach and Marketing (EOM) Group Meeting, Wednesday, Feb 8, 4:00-5:30 pm at Bethesda Green, 4825 Cordell Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20814. We’re on the second floor above the Capital One Bank branch on the corner of Woodmont and Cordell. A team of volunteers, EOM supports all of Bethesda Green’s communication efforts. From recycling to energy efficiency, sustainability to green building/design, EOM expresses the organization’s various areas of expertise in a clear and concise manner via various media.  New members are welcome to join.

Specifically, EOM:

■ Designs and schedules educational programs

■ Collects and shares best practices

■ Engages in general marketing for Bethesda Green

■  Manages all aspects of the website

■ Creates content for the newsletter

■ Uses online tools for outreach purposes

For more information, contact Bethesda Green Communications Director Dave Heffernan, dvheffernan@bethesdagreen.org.

Green Matters: Urban Farming Pioneers, Friday, Feb 24, 8:30 am – 4:00 pm, Brookside Gardens. This year’s Green Matters will kindle your inner urban farmer and entice you to think about food production in wholly different ways. We’ll highlight innovative approaches to feeding the world’s population. For complete information about speakers and sessions, visit this page.

Bethesda Green’s Third Annual Fields of Green Internship Fair, Saturday, Feb 25, 10 am – 2 pm. 4825 Cordell Avenue, Second Floor above the Capital One Bank. The Internship Fair provides college-age young people an opportunity to meet representatives from a number of companies and non-profits offering job experience in the green business sector. More than 20 companies will be in attendance. Learn about academic and government programs, as well as a variety of internships, including those with our own Green Business Incubator companies.

Employers: Is your organization looking for some stellar interns this summer? Or, perhaps your organization has a need for interns year round?  If so, we have an excellent opportunity for you to participate in.  Right now we are in the process of inviting employers looking for highly qualified candidates to sign up to be a part of our internship fair.  Not only will you meet the candidates for the internships face-to-face on Feb. 25th but your internship posting will be widely shared among our diverse network as well as posted on our Fields of Green webpage leading up to the event.  In year’s past we have matched many amazing candidates with wonderful green job sector opportunities.

Help us develop the next generation of green leaders and promote local job creation by participating in the Fields of Green Internship Fair!  We accept both paid and unpaid positions at the fair.

Interested in Sponsoring the Fields of Green Internship Fair?  Get details HERE.

Have a job or internship to offer? Download and fill out the Job Description Form HERE.

Check out more details and internship opportunities here.

For more information, please contact Sharon D’Emidio at sharon@bethesdagreen.org.

Dan Rudt is the editor of Montgomery County Sustainability News, or MoCo-Sustain.com, a daily news Website serving the local area with environmental sustainability news, information and events.

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