Exelon-Constellation Merger Clears Major Hurdle

Governor Martin O’Malley announced on December 14 that the State of Maryland and the Maryland Energy Administration have reached a settlement with Exelon Corporation and Constellation Energy. The terms must be approved by the Maryland Public Service Commission by January 5 for the merger of Exelon and Constellation, the parent company of Baltimore Gas and Electric, to occur.

The Governor played hardball for months with Chicago-based Exelon, and came away with over $1 billion in promised investment into the Maryland economy. Exelon has agreed to provide Maryland with:

  • 120 MW of new natural gas generation
  • 125 MW of land-based wind generation
  • 30 MW of solar generation
  • $30 million investment in the state’s offshore wind development fund
  • $2 million to Maryland public universities to fund wind energy research
  • $90 million towards development of the State’s planned 10 MW of animal-waste fueled generation
  • PSC retains jurisdiction to spin off BGE in certain instances in the future, including Exelon bankruptcy, nuclear accident, or repeated violation of PSC Orders.
  • $50 million for approximately 12,500 weatherization improvements for low- to moderate-income families
  • $10 million to provide assistance to 22,000 families in paying their electricity bills
  • Creation of over 6,000 jobs in Maryland

Mike Tidwell, director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network said, “Governor O’Malley has achieved fairness for ratepayers and a big leap forward for the environment with this agreement. Future Marylanders will look back on this date as a real turning point for clean air and the fight against global warming.”

Solar Energy Sets New Records in Third Quarter 2011

It was a very productive summer for solar panel installers. The third quarter of 2011 was by far (and so far) the busiest quarter of a busy year. More U.S. solar electric capacity came online in Q3 2011 than all of 2009 combined, and Q4 2011 is predicted to be even larger, according to a report released December 14 by GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). Here are some of the numbers from that report:

  • Through Q3, the U.S. solar industry has installed more than 1,000 megawatts (MW) of solar capacity in 2011, already surpassing the 2010 annual total of 887 MW
  • Grid-connected PV installations in Q3 2011 grew 39 percent over Q2 2011 and 140 percent over Q3 2010
  • The utility PV market installed over 200 MW in Q3 2011, a greater than 400 percent increase in installations over Q2 2011
  • The residential PV market grew 21 percent over Q2 2011 to reach nearly 75 MW

The next year or two may not be as rosy as 2011. The SEIA reports a concern in the solar industry about the scheduled expiration at the end of this month of the “1603” U.S. Treasury Department Program that provides funding assistance for commercial energy installations. The program is part of the Recovery Act and will expire without renewal by Congress. As Shayle Kann, Managing Director of the solar practice at GTM Research put it, “U.S. solar is entering 2012 with a sense of cautious optimism.”

Nick’s Farm Get’s Another Season; Issue Not Settled 

Organic farmer Nick Maravelli agreed on Wednesday, 12/14, to drop his lawsuit against the Montgomery County Board of Education. In return, the county government gave him an extension on his lease through August 15, 2012. The lease had been scheduled to expire on December 31, 2011. That does not mean his fight is over, however. According to the Gazette, the county still plans to use the land for soccer fields. The newspaper reports Montgomery County Director of Public Information Patrick Lacefield as saying, “Since we are not going to be breaking ground before August 15, and since he dropped the lawsuit, we gave him an extension. From our standpoint, this does not change our schedule…or our intent.” Still, the Potomac Patch suggests Maravell welcomed the temporary agreement. “It gives me hope that we can continue to advance our desire to use the fields for education services,” he said.

Maravell has leased from the board of education and farmed the land on Brickyard Road in Potomac since 1980. The board voted in March, 2011 to lease the land to the county for use as soccer fields. Maravell and others who want to save his organic farm have proposed that it be used as an outdoor agricultural education center for Montgomery County students. The Delmarva Farmer writes, “The Chesapeake Sustainability Institute, a tax-deductible 501c3, is already working to develop the educational center in the event,” that the county allows the Brickyard Road farm to remain in business.

Upcoming Green Events

First Thursday Happy Hour @ BlackFinn, Thursday, Jan. 5, 5-8 pm, 4901 Fairmont Avenue, Bethesda. Ring in the New Year w/Bethesda Green. Join us for casual conversation and social networking.

What’s your New Year’s Green Resolution?

Jot it down with your name and email address. Bring your Green Resolution to the Happy Hour for a chance to win a BlackFinn gift card. We’ll share ideas and publish highlights on our website.

* Hear about upcoming Bethesda Green events
* Meet members of our Green Business Incubator
* Learn what you can do to make a difference in your community

RSVP through Meetup

Bethesda Green Education, Outreach and Marketing (EOM) Group Meeting – Newcomers Welcome! Wednesday, January 11, 4:00 – 5:30 pm., 4825 Cordell Ave., corner of Woodmont Ave., Suite 200, above the Capital One Bank, Bethesda. 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. Contact Bethesda Green Communications Director Dave Heffernan, dvheffernan@bethesdagreen.org.

Future Harvest – Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, 13th Annual Conference, “Farm to Institution: Making Local Food Economies a Reality” January 13-14, National Conference Center, Lansdowne, VA. Two keynote addresses on local food economies, six learning tracks, pre-conference workshops, farmer panel on advocacy and much more! Information and registration here.

MLK Day of Service 2012, Monday, January 16, 1:00 – 3:00 pm. Montgomery County will be celebrating Martin Luther King, Jr. Day of Service at North Bethesda Marriott Hotel and Conference Center and at two satellite site locations (Universities at Shady Grove in Gaithersburg and the Silver Spring Civic Building). That is followed by a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr. at Strathmore Hall at 4:00pm. Volunteers can sign up to participate in this exciting event and learn about the great work that local organizations are doing, find out ways to get involved, and make a difference. More information and registration here.

Help the Hungry Food Drive:  Support those in need by bringing non-perishable food items to the Bethesda North Marriott.  Food collection will be located near the Montgomery County Volunteer Center table.  Donations will go to Manna Food Center.

2012 “Keep Winter Cold” Polar Bear Plunge sponsored by CCAN, Saturday, January 21, 2012 at 11:00 am, The Beach at National Harbor, Maryland. For seven years, groups of people who care have plunged into cold bodies of water in our region to fight climate change, bring back the Arctic sea ice, and save polar bears. The Polar Bear Plunge is the Chesapeake Climate Action Network’s biggest annual fundraising event. The money we raise during the plunge goes to support our programs to combat global warming at the state level in our area. Information here.

by Dan Rudt                                                                                                              

It’s Pick Your Own Apples Time

Local apples were plentiful at the farmer’s markets the last couple of weekends. That should be the case for at least a couple more to come. If you love apples and like to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty, some orchards in Montgomery County welcome you to pick your own. The wet weather has closed some of the fields to visitors on some days, so be sure to call ahead. You can also find out what varieties are available on any given day. Pick-your-own orchards include Homestead Farm in Poolesville, Lewis Orchards in Dickerson, Rock Hill Orchard in Mt. Airy, and Butler’s Orchard in Germantown. If you know of others, feel free to leave a comment at the end of this news and events post.

University of Maryland “WaterShed” Home on Display at Solar Decathlon

The 2011 Solar Decathlon kicked off this weekend near the Roosevelt Memorial, at the National Mall. Once again, as in 2002, 2005 and 2007, UMCP was one of 20 universities whose students competed successfully for the right to build and display their solar home design on the mall. Their entry, called WaterShed, is a solar powered home that also conserves, filters and reuses water.

If you plan to visit the free exhibits, workshops and events, you can preview WaterShed and read about the students and mentors who made it happen at the UMCP solar team’s Website. For information about all the solar homes and daily workshops, visit the Department of Energy’s Solar Decathlon Website. The event runs through Sunday, October  2nd.

Image: Leah Davies

University of Maryland Opens New Energy Research Center

The University of Maryland Energy Research Center (UMERC) that opened Monday, September 26 in College Park will be focused on alternative energy generation and storage. The center’s mission will be to develop energy efficient and environmentally sustainable technologies and practices and also educate the public about energy issues. The mission also includes improving the nation’s energy security by developing local and sustainable energy resources and policies that have a positive environmental impact. The center is part of the university’s A. James Clark School of Engineering and includes faculty from the engineering school and other colleges.

Leggett and Supporters of Nick’s Farm Disagree

Katie Griffith wrote in the Potomac Patch on 9/22 that, “A battalion of community members decked out in green showed up at Wednesday night’s [9/21] town hall meeting with Montgomery County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) to support Nick’s Organic Farm at the Brickyard Road site.” The article says the farm issue took center stage for at least 20 minutes of the one-hour meeting. Nick’s supporters apparently were unsuccessful in swaying Leggett, who maintained his support for the deal made between Montgomery County Public Schools and the county government to turn the farm into soccer fields.

Upcoming Green Events

U.S. Dep’t. of Energy Solar Decathlon,  Friday, September 23 – Sunday, October 2, West Potomac Park, National Mall, Washington, D.C.  Competing collegiate teams (including University of Maryland) exhibit cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive solar-powered houses designed, built and operated by the students.  This free event includes tours of the solar homes, consumer workshops and award ceremonies for the winning teams.

BG101, Thursday, September 29, 4:00 – 5:30 pm, at Bethesda Green. Join us for an orientation about Bethesda Green, our history, upcoming events and volunteer opportunities.

Taste of Bethesda, Saturday, October 1, 11:00 am – 4:00 pm, at Bethesda’s Woodmont Triangle. More than 55 restaurants and four stages of entertainment and a kid’s corner for face painting and arts & crafts. Information here.

Tour of Solar Homes, Saturday and Sunday, October 1 – 2, 11:00 am – 5:00 pm.  The 21st annual tour includes more than 50 homes in the greater DC area and highlights a variety of design, technology and sustainable living concepts. Tour Guides are available for $5 at My Organic Market (Mom’s) or online.

2011 Bethesda Green Gala, Wednesday, October 5, 6:00 – 10:00 pm, Round House Theatre. Come meet local folks from the businesses, non-profits, community organizations and individuals whose innovations, practices and lifestyles promote environmental sustainability — winners and runner-ups of the 2011 Bethesda Magazine Green Awards, who will be announced and recognized for their inspiring work in the environmental community. This promises to be an evening of sharing and connecting as a community where we celebrate our greener future. More information.

Montgomery County Community Service Week, October 16 – 22. The Montgomery County Volunteer Center invites you and your group to participate. More information.

Green Home Expo, Saturday October 22, 10:00 am – 4:00 pm at Bethesda Green. Learn easy ways to green your home and save money.  Presentations will cover conservation, efficiency and renewable energy.  In addition to industry vendors, meet representatives from nonprofits and Montgomery County government. More information coming soon.

Community Forklift Fundraising Extravaganza, Saturday, October 22, 7:00 – 10:30 pm, 4671 Tanglewood Drive, Edmonston, MD. Entertainment by the DC Lady Arm Wrestlers, Silent auction, Wonky Dog food truck, DJ One HeART Muszik, and adult beverages! Must be 21 or over. Community Forklift is a low-cost building materials warehouse open to the general public and a project of Sustainable Community Initiatives, a 501c3 nonprofit. More information on tickets, sponsorships, or to donate a silent auction item.

Food Day, Monday, October 24, 2011, 7:00 pm, at the Church in Bethesda, 5033 Wilson Lane, Bethesda.  You are invited to a local screening of the documentary film “Ingredients” co-sponsored by Church in Bethesda, Bethesda Presbyterian and Graceful Growing Together. The evening will also include short presentations by community members about healthy food, sustainable farms and related topics. Please RSVP if you plan on attending!

by Dan Rudt

MoCo Residential Energy Efficiency Rebate Program Accepting Applications

Interested in upgrading your home to improve comfort, reduce energy costs and even boost long-term home value? Montgomery County, using a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy, is offering a one-time program to help you pay for the costs of these improvements. The Montgomery County Residential Energy Efficiency Rebate Program offers incentives to homeowners for energy efficiency improvements such as insulation, heating and cooling systems, and appliances. Owners of single family properties and condominiums can apply for up to $3,000 of funding per applicant. The minimum rebate size is $500 (typically a $2,000 to $3,000 project). In order to be eligible, each applicant must have an energy audit from an auditor participating in the Maryland Home Performance with ENERGY STAR or a utility (e.g., Pepco, BG&E, Potomac Edison) audit program. Homeowners are encouraged to use these funds in concert with other incentives available from utilities, the Maryland Energy Administration and others. Detailed information on the program, audit requirements, application, as well as links to other sources of funding is located on the website www.mcenergyfunding.com.

U.S. Homes Using Less Power

The Associated Press reported on September 7 that American households are consuming energy at a slower rate now than in the recent past, and the rate is expected to continue falling. The AP attributes the slowdown in consumption to several factors. Among them is the widespread use of energy efficient light bulbs, government programs (e.g., the Montgomery County energy efficiency rebate program in the article directly above), energy efficient new homes and energy conservation brought on by the poor economy. Energy experts, according to the AP article, expect household energy use to continue falling for years to come.

State Board of Education to Hear Appeals to Save Nick’s Organic Farm

The Maryland Board of Education decided on August 30 that 32 Potomac residents who filed complaints against the Montgomery County Board of Education have a right to be heard. The local board, which owns the land that Nick Maravell has farmed organically since 1980, agreed earlier this year to lease the Brickyard Road property to the County, which said it will work with a private recreation provider to turn the organic farm into soccer fields. The state board may take up the matter at their next meeting on October 25.

Maryland Clean Energy Summit Moves to Baltimore

Sorry about that, Bethesda. The 2011 Summit, originally scheduled for the Marriott North Bethesda Conference Center in late August, has been moved to the Hilton Inner Harbor in Baltimore. The new dates are Thursday, October 27 through Saturday, October 29. The program includes a free consumer trade show on Saturday 8/29 from 9:30 am – 2:30 pm. The Summit was postponed and moved because the Bethesda North Conference Center sustained damage caused by the August 23 earthquake.

Upcoming Green Events

Sustainability: Definitions and Implementation, Montgomery County Civic Federation meeting, Monday, September 12, 7:45 pm. County Council Building – 1st Floor Auditorium, 100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville. Speakers: Jennifer Bitting, Environmental Engineer, Dept. of Homeland Security; Doug Weisburger, Sustainability Programs, Montgomery County Dept. of Environmental Protection, Eric Coffman, Senior Energy Planner, Montgomery County Dept. of Environmental Protection, Councilmember Roger Berliner, Chair, County Council Committee on Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment. More information.

Trans-Atlantic Symposium on Cleantech Innovation and Federal Contracting, Thursday, September 15, 8:00 am – 2:00 pm. Johns Hopkins U., Montgomery County Campus. Networking and information event for renewable energy, energy efficiency and sustainable transportation firms in the U.S. and Switzerland. The day includes a live video conference with PlanetSolar, the world’s largest boat powered exclusively by high-efficiency solar cells, which is on its first round-the-world voyage.

Bethesda Green Education, Outreach and Marketing (EOM) Group MeetingNewcomers Welcome! Thursday, September 15, 4:00 – 5:30 pm. This team of volunteers meets once every month to discuss Bethesda Green’s marketing and communications needs.

Savor Local Flavor: Four Course Dinner and Discussion with Chef Tony, Monday, September 19, 7:00 – 10:00 pm. Chef Tony’s, 4926 St. Elmo Avenue, Bethesda, MD 20814.  This is the third in the series On the Farm; Around the Table, connecting farmers, food and community in three meals. More information here.

Sustainable Office Seminar, Tuesday, September 20, 8:00-11:00 am, at Bethesda Green. Five sustainable office specialists offer concepts and practical tips to help people thrive in their office and make their company a “Best Place to Work.” Register here. For more information contact: sustainable.office.alliance@gmail.com.

U.S. Dep’t. of Energy Solar Decathlon,  Friday, September 23 – Sunday, October 2, West Potomac Park, National Mall, Washington, D.C.  Competing collegiate teams (including University of Maryland) exhibit cost-effective, energy-efficient, and attractive solar-powered houses designed, built and operated by the students.  This free event includes tours of the solar homes, consumer workshops and award ceremonies for the winning teams.

2011 Bethesda Green Gala, Wednesday, October 5, 6:00 – 10:00 pm, Round House Theatre. The gala recognizes Bethesda Magazine’s Green Award winners for their inspiring work in the environmental community. This promises to be an evening of sharing and connecting as a community where we celebrate our greener future. More information.