clean energy technologies


by Betsy Reinstein DeweySolar City logo

I have a confession to make: I don’t have solar panels on my house.

I can make a million excuses (well at least 3 or 4), but the bottom line is that I just haven’t made it a priority. Do I feel guilty about this? Clearly. But that is about to change.

Recently I met some young people whose passion for accessing power from the sun brought them to Montgomery County to work for Solar City, the largest provider of rooftop solar systems in the country. They are on a mission to bring solar power to as many homes in our area as possible. Rather than selling the panels to customers, with their new program, Solar City will pay for the panels as well as all the costs of the installation, maintenance and support. So I can go solar at no cost to me. In fact my monthly utility bills will go down. Better yet, I don’t have to do any of the legwork. It’s hassle-free!

It took them about 2 minutes to show me my house on Google maps (their first step to see if you’re a good candidate) and then to tell me approximately how much I’ll save on my monthly electric bills. How it works is that the power that is generated goes into the grid and is “owned” by Solar City, since they will own the panels on my roof. I get to buy back the electricity I need at a set rate, which is actually lower than what I’m currently paying.

If you’re considering solar panels, take note: Solar City will donate $250 to Bethesda Green for every no-obligation site survey, whether or not you decide to proceed with installation — a green win-win-win.

So I set up a date for an engineer to come to my house to do a site survey. I have to admit I was a bit skeptical, because it all seemed too good to be true, but there really is no catch. Everything about the visit was pleasant, professional, quick and easy. He took measurements, photos and made assessments of my roof, and was able to give me an idea of how much solar my house would likely produce. Then he took this information back to the company so they can produce a custom design for my home. I’m looking forward to seeing the design they recommend. But here’s the best part. Whether or not I decide to contract with Solar City, they have agreed to make a donation of $250 to Bethesda Green for my site survey and for every site survey that comes through a Bethesda Green referral.

There’s no hard sell and no obligation. So if you decide to have your roof checked out, you’ll not only be doing something good for the planet, you’ll also be responsible for a donation of $250 to Bethesda Green. To me, this sounds like a green win-win-win.

If you’re interested in learning more or setting up an appointment, contact Danielle Kruse at dkruse@solarcity.com and be sure to mention Bethesda Green!

Betsy Reinstein Dewey is the Bethesda Green Development Officer.

BGnews_logoOcean rapidly warming

The length of the melt season for Arctic sea ice is growing by several days each decade, and an earlier start to the melt season is allowing the Arctic Ocean to absorb enough additional solar radiation in some places to melt as much as four feet of the Arctic ice cap’s thickness, according to a new study by National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) and NASA researchers.

Arctic sea ice has been in sharp decline during the last four decades. The sea ice cover is shrinking and thinning, making scientists think an ice-free Arctic Ocean during the summer might be reached this century. The seven lowest September sea ice extents in the satellite record have all occurred in the past seven years.

“The Arctic is warming and this is causing the melt season to last longer,” said Julienne Stroeve, a senior scientist at NSIDC, Boulder and lead author of the new study, which has been accepted for publication in Geophysical Research Letters. “The lengthening of the melt season is allowing for more of the sun’s energy to get stored in the ocean and increase ice melt during the summer, overall weakening the sea ice cover.”

See NASA News article for full story.

Eat your fruits and vegetables

Eating seven or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day reduces your risk of death at any point in time by 42% compared to eating less than one portion, reports a new University College London (UCL) study.

Researchers used the Health Survey for England to study the eating habits of 65,226 people representative of the English population between 2001 and 2013, and found that the more fruit and vegetables they ate, the less likely they were to die at any age. Eating seven or more portions reduces the specific risks of death by cancer and heart disease by 25% and 31% respectively. The research also showed that vegetables have significantly higher health benefits than fruit.

This is the first study to link fruit and vegetable consumption with all-cause, cancer and heart disease deaths in a nationally-representative population, the first to quantify health benefits per-portion, and the first to identify the types of fruit and vegetable with the most benefit.

See UCL News article for full story.

Events

  • Rock Creek Extreme Cleanup —  Saturday, April 5, 9 am – noon. Join Rock Creek Conservancy at one of more than 50 locations along the 33-mile length of Rock Creek for volunteer trash cleanups.
  • Master-Metered Condo Alliance Meeting — Monday, April 7, 4 – 5:30 pm at Bethesda Green. A representative from WSSC will discuss ways to reduce water consumption and get some control of water and sewer bills.
  • Demystifying Clean Green Energy — Thursday, April 10, 6:30 – 8:30 pm, Silver Spring Civic Center, One Veterans Place, Silver Spring, MD. GreenWheaton, Silver Spring Green, and Bethesda Green present an expert assessment on the current state of the clean energy industry.

 

MCEC logoEach year the Maryland Clean Energy Center recognizes a few individuals and organizations who have done outstanding work to advance clean energy and energy efficiency in Maryland for their leadership, partnership, advocacy, and overall championship of the sector. Nominations will be reviewed and winners will be chosen by an Awards Committee. Awardees will be announced at a luncheon during the Maryland Clean Energy Summit to be held October 16, 2013.

Click here for more information about the nomination process and award categories.

by Susanna Parker

On Friday April 26, I was excited to represent Bethesda Green at the Francis Scott Key Middle School’s 6th Annual Green Day. As the culmination of their Earth Month activities, the school invited representatives from environmental organizations around the Maryland & DC area, including the U.S. National Park Service, the Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation, Locust Grove Nature Center, the Department of Natural Resources, and more, to staff tables and discuss their environmental and sustainability efforts. Treva Coates, coordinator of the IB Middle Years Programme, explained that while Green Day is an annual event, the school’s environmental and sustainability efforts continue year round.

Francis Scott Key is an excellent example of a green school. Several years ago, the old building was torn down and a modern up-to-date building was constructed in its place. However, rather than generate tons of construction waste, Francis Scott Key was re-built using 95% of the materials from the old building. Additionally, the new building is equipped with solar panels, and the back field has geothermal tanks installed beneath to assist with the temperature management of their water. These accomplishments are some of the reasons that Francis Scott Key Middle School is a LEED Gold School and the first school in Montgomery County to be designated a U.S. Department of Education Green Ribbon School.

The staff at Francis Scott Key are passionate about getting the students involved in environmental stewardship. They have eliminated the use of Styrofoam trays in the cafeteria, and taught the students to separate trash, paper, and plastic after they’ve finished eating. As I walked through the building on Green Day, I noticed the presence of paper and plastic recycling bins in every hallway and room. To make sure that the student population works with the program, the school has formed a student-led School Energy and Recycling Team that monitors the proper use of the recycling and trash containers in each classroom. Besides the SERT team, there is also the School Beautification Group; students rotate into the group every four weeks learning about ways to be green and sustainable and participate in the monitoring of the recycling program. Finally, a staff member sponsored the Green Crafts club, in which she teaches students how to design and make crafts and jewelry from recyclable materials such as plastic bags.

Throughout the day, students were sent into the activities hall in groups and walked around to inspect the tables and learn about the various organizations. The Maryland Agricultural Education Foundation presented students with dwarf sunflower seeds and growing pods; the Locust Grove Nature Center showcased shells and exoskeletons of species native to Maryland; Montgomery County School Energy & Recycling Team discussed the waste cycle and demonstrated the differences between incandescent, compact fluorescent, and LED lightbulbs; A.I.R. Lawn Care displayed its solar-powered trailer and equipment and talked about the importance of green landscaping. Watching the kids’ reactions as they learned more about the green movement was a great experience. Some kids really seemed to be inspired by what they saw, and I’m sure that Francis Scott Key will see a spike in its SERT team and School Beautification Group. A school that’s already taken such great steps toward sustainability is sure to go further in that direction, and the newly inspired students will certainly help lead them down the path.

FSK Green Day

Images courtesy of Treva Coates.

Susanna Parker is a recent college graduate and volunteer with Bethesda Green. Her interest in sustainability leads her to look for green solutions in uncommon places.

by Susanna Parker

Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake Seeks Partners for the Maryland Stream Restoration ChallengeBGnews_logo

Are you a member of a Maryland based congregation? Do you want to plant more trees on your congregation’s property? The Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake is looking to partner with local congregations for the Maryland Stream Restoration Challenge – a challenge to establish 1,000 acres of stream-side forests by 2015. Not only will this challenge help beautify Maryland and local congregation’s properties, but forested streams have better water quality, suffer less from erosion, and help protect the Chesapeake Bay.

Selected congregations will receive teaching on the spiritual foundation of earth stewardship, a workshop on trees, planting, and maintenance, trees for planting, and follow-up maintenance for 1-3 years. If the Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake’s challenge application is accepted, tree plantings will occur in fall 2013 and spring/fall 2014. If you’re interested in learning more, you can contact the organization here.

DC Area Homes Submit for LEED Certification

The U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design Program is 13 years old, and bestows its LEED certification on 1.5 million square feet of building space every day. A building can be certified at the silver, gold, or platinum level; higher levels are achieved by earning more points in the program’s rating system that covers more than 100 environmentally significant parameters, including energy usage and water conservation. Last year, the District of Columbia led the nation in new LEED residential & commercial space per capita, with Virginia and Maryland being top contenders as well. However, LEED certification has been slower to catch on among individual homeowners. There are no grants or tax breaks for individual homeowners that achieve LEED certification, and the documentation required (as well as the price tag) can sway otherwise green homeowners away from the process.

Even without gaining the certification, the LEED checklist can come in handy for homeowners that want to green their homes. The checklist can serve more as a blueprint for renovators, pointing out what they should be considering as they begin their projects. Todd Ray of Studio Twenty Seven Architecture points out that LEED certification isn’t necessary; with the checklist, homeowners can “do green” without being tested.

Some homeowners in the DC area have gone all out, and gotten their homes LEED certified. The Washington Post article in Home & Design discusses LEED certification, and presents images and specs on the LEED-certified homes. For more information on LEED certification, you can visit the U.S. Green Building Council.

Live & Learn Bethesda Introduces Container Gardening Classes! 

Whether you have a big balcony or just a sunny windowsill, container gardening is a great way to make the most of the space you have. Live & Learn Bethesda, a new non-profit community center, has recently introduced a series of classes on container gardening. No back-breaking work, just fun classes to put smiles on people’s faces. The instructor is Mira Jovanovic, a plant consultant at American Plant in Bethesda. To register for classes, visit Live & Learn Bethesda.

Upcoming Bethesda Green Events 

  • Greening Your Home: Bethesda Green’s First Thursday Happy Hour, Thursday, May 2, 5 – 8 pm, Caddies on Cordell, 4922 Cordell Avenue

Join us for casual conversation and social networking at Caddies on Cordell. This month, the Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection will discuss ways to make your home more energy efficient, and you can learn more at our upcoming Solar & Green Home Expo on May 11. Caddies will be providing complimentary appetizers, and there will be a raffle for a Caddies’ Gift Card. $5 at the door. For more details and to RSVP, please visit the Bethesda Green Meetup.

  • Bethesda Green’s Fourth Annual Solar & Green Home Expo, Saturday May 11, 10 am – 3 pm, 4825 Cordell Avenue, Suite 200

Join us for our fourth annual Solar & Green Home Expo, an information-packed showcase event featuring many green home expert services and solar providers. The goal of this event is to provide homeowners and other interested parties an opportunity to get the latest information about area services and incentives to green their homes. Local area green home businesses will display their services throughout the Bethesda Green office space while individual workshops related to greening your home will be conducted throughout the day. To learn more about this free community event, visit the event page here.

Upcoming Partner Events 

  • GreenWheaton Paper Shredding at Westfield Wheaton Mall, Saturday May 4, 9 am – 12 noon, Target/Costco parking lot

Bring all of your unwanted paper and documents to be securely shredded at Westfield Wheaton Mall! This event, part of GreenWheaton’s efforts to continue its green programming and projects in Montgomery County, is sponsored by Signal Financial Credit Union; shredding services will be provided by Office Paper Systems. To learn more about the event, visit GreenWheaton.org.

  • Green Drinks Annapolis, Tuesday May 14, 5:30 pm – 7:30 pm, Brian Boru Restaurant & Pub, 489 Ritchie Highway, Severna Park.

Join Annapolis Green for drinks, networking, and an educational program on lighting & energy efficiency, sponsored by Maryland Clean Energy Center. For more details, visit the Annapolis Green Calendar.

Susanna Parker is a recent college graduate and volunteer with Bethesda Green. Her interest in sustainability leads her to look for green solutions in uncommon places.

by Susanna Parker

Maryland Senate Passes Offshore Wind BillBGnews_logo

The third time is the charm – after proposing offshore wind bills in 2011 and 2012, Governor Martin O’Malley’s Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2013 passed in the Maryland Senate on March 8. The vote, which had a large favorable margin in the Maryland House, passed in the Senate 30 to 15. The passage of this bill would allow Maryland to hire a private developer to build a series of turbines off the coast of Ocean City. The higher rate for offshore wind, and the cost of development, would require Maryland residential ratepayers to pay an additional $1.50 a month after the turbines are constructed. Maryland businesses would also pay a monthly surcharge of 1.5 percent. O’Malley has framed the monthly charge as a low but necessary cost in establishing an industry in Maryland that has both high potential for green energy but comes with multi-billion dollar start-up costs.

Maryland joins several other states including New Jersey in establishing “carve-outs” for green energy in their state energy budgets. These carve-outs have driven growth in other states, and wind energy advocates hope that the bill will kick-start the offshore wind industry throughout the mid-Atlantic region. Mike Tidwell, executive director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, is optimistic about the effect the bill will have on Maryland’s economy, stating that “it’s a driver of innovation that will create jobs, enhance our economy, improve public health, and protect the climate.” For more information on the bill, read the Washington Post article here.  Visit the Chesapeake Climate Action Network to find out how to thank your Senator for their vote.

New York Times Comes Out Against Keystone XL Pipeline

In an editorial published March 11, the New York Times urged President Obama to reject the pipeline that would funnel Canadian tar sand oil across the United States to the Gulf of Mexico. The Times editorial comes shortly after the State Department’s report stating that the pipeline would have little environmental impact because Canada would develop the tar sand oil with or without the pipeline, therefore building it or not would have no long-term effects. The Times, however, points out that rejecting the pipeline would require Canadians to “play a larger role in deciding whether a massive expansion of tar sands development is prudent.” The lack of a U.S. pipeline would force Canada to build one that spanned their own provinces, a project that has already been delayed due to concerns about the potential environmental impact.

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would traverse 875 miles of the United States and transport 830,000 barrels of crude oil daily to refineries on the Gulf Coast. The process of extracting, refining, and burning tar sands oil is a dirtier process than that for standard crude, yielding annual greenhouse gas emissions that are roughly 17 percent higher. Additionally, the tar sands and the boreal forest that holds them are major carbon sinks; by extracting the tar sands we both add carbon to the atmosphere and take away a method of removing it. The Times urges President Obama to reject the project, stating that “a president who has repeatedly identified climate change as one of humanity’s most pressing dangers cannot in good conscience approve a project that can only add to the problem.” Read the full editorial at the New York Times.

Upcoming Green Events

2_Bidder 70 E Flyer

  • Bidder 70, Friday, March 15, 7:30 pm, St. Columba’s Church, Washington DC

Environmental activist Tim DeChristopher was sent to jail at age 21 for bidding on, and winning, millions of dollars worth of land parcels under false pretenses at a Bureau of Land Management auction. His actions drew ire from gas and oil companies, and applause from environmentalists; Bidder 70 documents DeChristopher’s trial and conviction. Part of the DC Environmental Film Festival, Friday’s screening will be hosted by Ray Suarez and feature musical guests Magpie. Tickets are $7 at the door, seating is limited. For more information on the screening, please visit the event’s Facebook page.

  • Save a Birding Hot Spot! Sunday, March 17, 9 am – 11 am, 20500 Zion Road, Laytonsville, MD

Join the Montgomery County Sierra Club, the Montgomery Bird Club, and the Department of Environmental Protection to remove invasive plants from the Blue Mash Nature Trail. The area, a haven for birds and wildlife, has seen its bird diversity drop off due to non-native plants. Bring your clippers, saws, and loppers, and help restore a wildlife habitat. For more information and to RSVP, please visit here.

  • Recycling 101 – Make Recycling Your Business! Thursday, March 21, 9 am – 12 noon, Silver Spring Civic Building, One Veterans Place, Silver Spring, MD

Montgomery County Division of Solid Waste Services presents a workshop featuring information on implementing a successful recycling program in the workplace. Learn about Montgomery County’s recycling requirements, how to reduce waste, and where to buy products made from recyclable materials. The cost is $10 per person. For more information and to RSVP, please visit here.

Susanna Parker is a recent college graduate and volunteer with Bethesda Green. Her interest in sustainability leads her to look for green solutions in uncommon places.

BreezBee® Wind Panel

BreezBee® Wind Panels (Photo by Altenera Technology)

by Dan Kulpinski

Wind does more than make turbines spin: It also causes objects to vibrate. What if the energy in those vibrations could be tapped to generate electricity, using a method that is silent and has no moving parts?

Altenera Technology, a Bethesda Green incubator company, is developing a new device to do just that. Their modular BreezBee® Wind Panel prototype holds many “reeds” that vibrate in the wind. By utilizing a magnetic field, the device transforms the vibrational energy into an electric current.

The reeds can be assembled in panels of any shape and size, which can be connected together like Legos. The panels are light and have no moving parts — both big plusses in cities.

“It’s really the first, practical wind solution that’s good for residential locations because it doesn’t have rotating parts,” said Chase McCarthy, chief business development officer. “You can use sites that never would have been considered for wind before with this wind panel, because it’s small, light and silent.”

Because tall buildings create unusual wind patterns, there’s plenty of opportunity for small-scale wind power in urban areas. “You have very turbulent wind conditions in cities,” said McCarthy.

Altenera’s wind panels could go atop roofs, or form a kind of webbing in the framework of municipal sites such as bridges and water towers, or be used in mobile arrays for military or other purposes.

Chief Technology Officer Morris Kaplan proved the concept when he built a reed-like power source for sensors in remote, hard-to-access industrial equipment. Since beginning work on the technology, he’s filed two patents for Altenera and registered the BreezBee® trademark.

Solar house with BreezBee® Wind Panels

Solar house with BreezBee® Wind Panels. (Image by Altenera Technology)

“Although we’re competing with small turbines, our model is really closer to solar’s,” said Kaplan, who is an internationally recognized researcher in the modeling, design and fabrication of various mechanical and electro-optical components. “We use the same infrastructure and same electronics as solar. We think of the panel as a missing link between utility wind farms and the residential, solar panel market.”

In fact, the wind panels complement solar panels and could be easily installed by solar power companies at the same time they put solar on a roof.

As a start-up company, Altenera seeks to put some financial wind in its sails. “We’re building early-stage prototypes and looking for funding to take it to the final stage,” said McCarthy.

Dan Kulpinski is a freelance writer who covers environmental science and sustainability topics.

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