solar energy


BGnews_logoMontgomery Council creates two new offices to tackle environmental issues in county

Montgomery County Council created two new offices Tuesday to oversee efforts to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions and promote the use of sustainable energy sources in the county.

The county has a broad portfolio of environmental regulations and goals, many of them established by a 2008 working group created by County Executive Isiah Leggett. They include an 80 percent reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050.

But council members said progress toward the goals needed to be accelerated and the county held more accountable. It voted unanimously to create an Office of Sustainability within the Department of Environmental Protection and an Office of Energy and Sustainability within the county’s Department of General Services.

The estimated annual cost of the new offices is $900,000, mostly for additional staff. The council approved funding as part of the fiscal 2015 budget it passed last month.

See full article published in The Washington Post

Poolesville Goes Solar

Poolesville recently celebrated the opening of its new solar array, expected to save $30,000 in energy costs in the first year of operation. Since the array came online in February, it has created enough energy to power 40 homes for a year and has saved nearly 600,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere.

Poolesville partnered with Standard Solar to build the 4,480-panel array to offset electricity for the wastewater treatment plant.

See full article published in the Gazette.

Solar Mowing Business Grows in Bethesda

In 2009, Lyn DeWitt decided that she had had enough of the fumes and noise associated with gasoline-powered lawn mowers and launched Solar Mowing, a company using battery-powered mowers charged by photovoltaic solar panels affixed to a truck.

She initially invested about $30,000 on the truck, solar panels, mowers and other equipment. Since then, the company has grown to six mowers, eight trimmers, three trucks with solar panels and a dozen employees. A year ago, it was certified by the Montgomery County Green Business Certification Program, signifying its effective environmental stewardship.

See full article published in the Gazette.

Green Events

  • Good Green Fun Happy Hour — Wednesday, June 18, 5-8 pm, Silver Spring Green networking event at La Malinche Spanish Tapas Restaurant, 8622 Colesville Road, Silver Spring, MD.
  • Bethesda EcoDistrict Workshop — Wednesday, June 18, 7-9 pm, Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center, 4805 Edgemoor Lane, Bethesda, MD.
  • Rock Creek Community Meeting — Saturday, June 21, 9:30 am – 12:30 pm, Mount Pleasant Library, 3160 16th Street NW, DC , hosted by Rock Creek Conservancy.
  • GreenWheaton Gala — Wednesday, June 25, 6-9 pm, Ballroom at Wheaton Glen, 2400 Arcola Ave., Wheaton, MD.
  • Fishbowl Investor Pitch — Thursday, June 26, 1-5 pm, plus reception at Bethesda Green, 4825 Cordell Ave., Bethesda, MD, a “shark tank” like-program hosted in partnership with the William James Foundation.

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_logoPoolesville Builds Solar Array

The Town of Poolesville recently completed construction of a 1.1 megawatt solar array station, according to an article published in The Monocacy Monocle, which will cover electricity costs for the Town Hall, the water treatment plant, and five pump stations.  Joyce Breiner, executive director of Poolesville Green, said, “This achievement places Poolesville as a true action leader within the county and state, and sets an example for others to follow.”

State of Green Business 2014

The State of Green Business 2014, the seventh annual assessment of corporate sustainability trends and metrics released Feb. 21 by GreenBiz.com, paints a mixed picture.  The good news is the continuing evolution of corporate sustainability practices.  The bad news is that despite documented advancements, U.S. green house gas emissions for the five-year period between 2008 and 2012 were essentially unchanged.

Click here for more information and to get a free copy of the report.

A Bright Energy Future

Washington Post columnist David Ignatius weighed in on the state of U.S. energy production and anticipated future trends.  Without taking a political position on hot-button issues related to mining shale oil or extracting natural gas via fracking, he does point out that increased production in those areas has led to significant reductions in the use of coal and related carbon dioxide emissions.

The Ignatius column also touts the rapid increase in solar and wind energy production as part of the positive overall energy portfolio for the country.

See America’s Energy Boom column.

Events

  • Green Drinks Happy Hour in Wheaton — Thursday, January 23, 5 – 8 pm, Limerick Pub, 11301 Elkin St., Wheaton, MD 20902.
  • Climate Reality: Now the Truth is more than just Inconvenient — Friday, January 24, 7 – 8:30 pm, a discussion with University of Maryland Professor Sara Via at the Brightwell Crossing Model Home in Poolesville.
  • Maryland Showcase of Sustainability — Monday, January 27, 8 – 11 am, Weston Annapolis. This interactive and engaging event brings together change agents from across the state — including Bethesda Green Executive Director Dave Feldman and the team from Doo Consulting — who have created exciting and innovative programs in their communities, businesses or industries. Their work will be an inspiration to some, a beacon to others, and a call to action to the rest.  Click here for more info.

BGnews_logoWhat is the future for Solar Energy?

GreenBiz.com recently published a solar industry forecast with a bright future — at least in the short term.  Solar energy has been growing and becoming more popular throughout the last five years but what does the future look like for it? The solar energy industry is moving extremely fast and, according to the GTM Research’s annual solar industry conference, the United States is expecting to install more solar capacity this year than Germany.

Solar energy is becoming popular because it is able to be sold to consumers through numerous channels, including traditional installers, car companies, environmental groups, home improvement stores, and home automation companies.  Solar energy is also becoming a favorite of institutional investors, which allows new companies such as SolarCity and Sungevity to innovate around financing.

Solar energy is the second largest source of new power generation and if it continues to grow, it is estimated that it could contribute nearly 10 percent of electricity generation in 15 years.

The challenge is that solar energy’s continued fast growth is not guaranteed. Future cuts in federal tax credits could slow down sales.

To read all of the details, check out this article.

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle — but first Avoid

This article published by Shareable asks: What would a zero waste world look like? One dimension is efficient recycling. But to truly get to zero waste, you’d need to go beyond recycling into reduce and reuse. In South Australia, they’re experimenting with how to take this one step further by adding “avoid” to the top of the waste management hierarchy.

Insects help our food system

Eating bugs certainly is not an accepted part of our cultural appetite.  But that all may be changing.  According to an article published by Worldwatch, insects are an important part of the future for our food. The prices of grains and meats that depend on these grain supplies to feed livestock will definitely rise. Insects, however, offer a great alternative because they are easy to raise, healthy, and much more efficient in processing. The only problem is that bugs are usually not a friendly or attractive topic.

Most people relate disgust to insects so the biggest hurdle would be introducing insects as an appetizing and healthy food. The easiest way to integrate insects in our diet is through processed food, where the texture and taste of the bugs are lost but the healthy and sustainable source of protein is preserved.

Who knows?  It may not be too long before raising bugs is a normal part of the U.S. food consumption economy.

Learn more at this article.

Opportunities in water technology innovations

According to 77 percent of the respondents to the 2013 CDP Global 500 Water Report, business opportunities exist in addressing water-related risks. Many companies identified new products and services as one of the opportunities. The commercialization of innovative water technologies can be challenging though. These reasons include a disconnect between the price and the value of water and a lack of funding for water infrastructure and technologies in the public sector. Despite the challenges, water technology innovation continues.

To find out more, check out this article.

Events

By Alison Wentzell

BGnews_logoSolar Panels Make a Comeback at the White House

Fulfilling a promise made in 2010, the Obama Administration is installing solar panels at the White House as a sign of its commitment to renewable energy.  According to an article in the Washington Post, quoting a White House official, the installation is “a part of an energy retrofit that will improve the overall energy efficiency of the building.”   It’s nice to know that the President is catching the energy efficiency wave.

Solar panels were originally installed at the White House over 30 years ago by Jimmy Carter.  Ronald Reagan had them removed in 1986; George W. Bush had a solar photovoltaic system installed in 2003 to heat the White House swimming pool.

See the Washington Post article here about solar energy at the White House.

Virginia Mountain Lion Sighting: Real or Not Real

A mountain lion was allegedly spotted at Prince William Forest Park outside the dining hall by a young woman.  The woman frantically called the police and park rangers to report the sighting, but by the time officials arrived the animal was gone.

Based on the woman’s description of the animal, wildlife biologists and state officials believe that the animal was more likely to be a bobcat or a fox.  Many of the people who come to the park are not used to the outdoors, which, in return, can lead to over exaggerations or the mistaken identities of animals.  In 2006, Paul Peterson conducted a survey of all carnivorous animals in Prince William Forest Park and found evidence of black bears, bobcats, foxes, and coyotes; but no mountain lions.  In addition, the Eastern Puma—the type of mountain lion native to Virginia—has been declared extinct since 2011.

However, I wouldn’t be so quick to entirely rule out the possibility of a mountain lion at the park.  Peterson’s study was conducted over 5 years ago, and since then times have changed.  The changing of global temperatures and strain for natural resource leaves animals with two options: die off and become extinct, or adapt to the situation.  It is entirely possible that mountain lion species are relocating in search for the resources necessary for their survival.

In fact, a mountain lion was hit by a car in Connecticut in 2011.  It was the first one to be seen in the state in 100 years.  After scientists conducted DNA tests, they found that the animal had belonged to the mountain lions in the Black Hills of South Dakota and presumably walked all the way to Connecticut.

Check out Inside Nova’s article here.

Weekly Fun Rides Gaining Popularity in DC

In recent years, legislation in the DC metro area has made it easier for cyclists to get from point A to point B.  Even more recently, we are noticing a spike in the number of cyclists, and an overall increase in popularity.  We can thank programs such as Capital Bikeshare and many new bike shops for this surge in popularity.  But now, bike shops are taking it to the next level by organizing social bike rides.

Shops, such as BicycleSpace, have started sponsoring a plethora of weekly bike rides including “Seventh Street Social”, “Cupcake Rambles”, “City Explorers”, and moonlight rides on the full moon.  Although BicycleSpace isn’t the first shop to sponsor bike rides, they are one of the first to make the rides more casual and open to less hardcore cyclists.

Bike rides are a growing trend both in DC and big cities across America.  With any hope, biking will become such a popular trend that it will move out of the fad stage and become the social norm.  Also, the more demand we have for biking, the more likely we are to have safer bike lanes and fewer cars on the road.  This would significantly improve our nation’s health, since people would be more active and the amount of hazardous chemicals produced by cars would be greatly reduced.

For more information on these casual bike rides, read the Washington Post article here.

Events

  •  Caleva Dirty Dinners: A Farm to Table Series, August 24, 6-9 PM, Calleva Farm, 19120 Martinsburg Road, Dickerson MD.

Come out to Calleva Farms and enjoy a delicious meal that has been grown and prepared on site.  Meals include wine, festive music, and non-alcoholic “mocktails.”  Make your reservation and find out more info at http://www.DirtyDinners.org.

  • BG 101, August 28, 4-5:30 PM, Bethesda Green, 4825 Cordell Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20814

Join Bethesda Green for our regular session of BG 101, where we will provide an orientation about our organization, history and upcoming events and volunteer opportunities.

Alison Wentzell is a senior at American University and an intern with Bethesda Green.  Her interests in sustainability focus on the community, environmental politics, and cultural aspects of the environmental movement.

by Alison Wentzell

Montgomery County Interest in School Gardens GrowsBGnews_logo

Montgomery County fosters 202 different schools, 35 of which have gardens where students can observe, ask questions, and take control of their health as part of a local food and advocacy project, according to an article in the Washington Post.  But, interest in gardens is growing throughout the entire school district.

The Montgomery County school district mandates that students pass three different sciences in order to graduate.  Historically, horticulture has been an easy class to pass and draws in students that don’t have much interest in other science fields.  Elizabeth Levien, who teaches at Blair High School in Silver Spring, is excited to see that the students taking horticulture are now excited by the gardens and their class.

Students’ interest in horticulture classes is also growing in Clarksburg, Damascus, and Springbrook high schools.  Teachers from these schools are working together to make gardens a part of the horticulture curriculum throughout the district.  They have already structured a three-year program allowing students to become certified horticulturists.  But students enrolled in the program aren’t the only ones showing interest in the gardens.  Teacher Jill Couts from Sherwood High School has approximately 30 students who go to the green house each week that aren’t even in the program.

Montgomery Victory Gardens’ project director Gordon Clark is ecstatic about the impact gardens are having on schools.  He’s now working with other PTAs and schools in the district to give them the knowledge and resources to help them get started on their own gardens.

For more information, read the Washington Post article here.

North Dakota Flare Ups, Crude Oil Transportation, and the Rise of Solar Energy

Between an 18,000 square mile flare up, the increase in shipping crude oil by rail, and a third growing phase for solar energy; saying there’s a lot going on in the energy sector is a bit of an understatement.  One third of the natural gas produced in the Bakken shale in North Dakota is being burned off in the air.  The effects of the burning are so big they can be seen from space and produces the carbon equivalent of an extra 1 million cars.  Even though oil drillers are burning $1 billion worth every year, low prices, the remote location, and cost of developing pipelines prevent the gas from being utilized.

In fact, leaders in the oil industry are becoming wary of pipeline projects all together, and more shipments are being made by railroad.  However, the Obama administration’s efforts to boost safety standards are making it a bit more difficult to ship crude oil.  To fight this, the oil industry and U.S. railroads are fighting these efforts by pointing out the technical challenges and economic costs.

While the United States is still focusing on natural gas and crude oil, other countries are investing more in solar energy.  In a recent study the Deutsche Bank found that solar energy is entering a third growing phase.  Even oil producing countries are increasing their investment in solar energy, finally allowing it to become a competitive source of energy rather than just an alternative.  The solar energy industry can now start the process of weaning itself off of subsidies and become a self-sustaining industry.

For more information, read the Wall Street Journal article here.

Alison Wentzell is a senior at American University and an intern with Bethesda Green.  Her interests in sustainability focus on the community, environmental politics, and cultural aspects of the environmental movement.

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.

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