Archive for September, 2010

Blimey! That’s a Massive Wind Farm!

Posted on September 29, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

In Kent, England this past Thursday, September 23rd 2010, the world’s largest off-shore wind farm began its first day of electricity generation. The $(US) 1.2 billion project puts the UK on the map as the largest producer of wind energy (as of 2008 this title had been held by the US) and on target to reduce the country’s dependence on fossil fuels 35% by 2020.

Thanet Wind-Farm has over 100 turbines, all of which are at least 12km (7.5 miles) from shore and therefore barely visible except on the clearest of days. Furthermore, the tourism industry is thrilled for the opportunities this site brings in attracting visitors. Boat tours can bring people up close to the large turbines and these curious travelers will now be drawn to this area even more than before. This can only mean positive things for the restaurant, hotel, and transportation businesses.

Skeptics continue to question the reliability of wind power, especially with the lack of an effective fuel cell for storing the produced energy. Many would like to see more diversification in England’s renewable energy sources. According to Chris Huhne, the UK’s Climate Change and Energy Secretary, this is an issue to which he and his team have already given serious consideration. Huhne says he would like to see the UK, “…harness our wind, wave and tidal resources to the maximum.” Before long, perhaps we will start to see even more off-shore renewable energy projects popping up around the British Isles.

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Clean Currents Wins Washington Business Journal’s Green Business of the Year Award

Posted on September 27, 2010. Filed under: News | Tags: , , |

Friday, September 24, 2010

Green Business Awards / Visionary

Winner: Clean Currents LLC

When you think of “selling wind” in Washington, you probably think of lobbyists and politicians. Yet for three area entrepreneurs, selling wind ­— the kind used for power — has created a new standard in an energy industry that has long resisted change.

Once upon a time, customers had to go through one energy company, and it dictated everything from the type of energy you could use, to the way it would be transmitted and delivered to homes.

When the energy industry deregulated, the giant companies no longer had a lock on the whole process. Customers now had more choices. But educating them about those choices, and getting them to actually make a change, would be another feat entirely.

Enter Clean Currents LLC, the brainchild of Charles Segerman, Gary Skulnik and Lee Keshishian. For each megawatt hour of energy its business and residential customers purchase from traditional coal-powered energy companies, the Rockville-based company pays a wind farm to generate a matching amount of energy to plug into its local grid. Clean Currents makes its money by entering long-term contracts with power providers with lower rates than local utilities, and reselling their power for a fee or commission.

In other words, for Clean Currents customers, their light switches work just as they always do. The only difference is that their bills are often lower, and they are now helping support the renewable energy business.

The business model does not always make for an easy explanation. “You have to explain it’s not an Internet hoax,” Segerman told the Washington Business Journal in May. “There’s so much disinformation out there.”

That power to explain and to convert customers is one of the reasons Clean Currents is a visionary in the renewable energy field. The company was one of the first to push the economic and environmental angles of the renewable energy credit business model. Even when the company’s leadership argued it could both make money and help the environment, energy company customers were resistant. They had to prove there was a market for it.

But the market eventually came around. Clean Currents now has more than 6,500 customers, which includes about 500 corporate clients. Much of that business has emerged through grassroots networking, where one neighbor tells another, who tells another, and so on.

The company has also built Clean Energy Buying Groups to allow clusters of businesses — including the U Street Business Association, the D.C. Cultural Tourism Group and the Rockville Chamber of Commerce — to band together to leverage their collective clout when purchasing green energy.

Thanks to Clean Currents, there really are winds of change.

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Bingaman and Brownback to Introduce Stand Alone RES Bill

Posted on September 21, 2010. Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

**Update 9/22** Bingaman, Brownback and supporters introduced the RES bill yesterday afternoon. View The Hill’s coverage here.

Senator Bingaman (D-NM), chair of the Senate Energy Committee, and Senator Brownback (R-KS) will introduce legislation for a 15% Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) with a group of non-partisan senators including Sue Collins (R-ME) and Byron Dorgan (D-ND).

According to Bingaman’s staffers, the bill is similar in structure to the one introduced by the Senator last year in that it requires states to generate 15% of their electricity from renewable sources such as wind, solar and hydrogen by 2021. Up to a quarter of this can be met through energy efficiency measures.

In July, Senate majority leader Harry Reid (D-NV) pulled renewable energy targets from his energy bill out of concern that it would not gain the 60 votes necessary to pass the senate. However, Bingaman has indicated that he is confident that this new legislation will be able to pass saying,

“I think that the votes are present in the Senate to pass a renewable electricity standard…I think that we need to get on with figuring out what we can pass and move forward.”

Yesterday, Senator Bingaman penned an op-ed for Politico in which he expressed the dire need for progress on clean technology and energy in the US. In this piece, Bingaman called for a Clean Energy Development Administration (CEDA) to provide sustainable financial support to developing renewable technologies. Part of this is a “patient capital” approach to funding, which would stimulate the development and scaling up of new technologies, allowing the US clean tech industry to compete on the global level with emerging powerhouses like China. Senator Bingaman sums up the urgency of moving forward despite the political difficulties:

“A broad comprehensive energy bill may not be possible in this Congress. But action on common-sense bipartisan proposals like CEDA should not be put off. If we want to realize the energy security, environmental security and economic benefits of the clean energy revolution, then the investments we need in clean energy technology deployment cannot wait…The investment choices we make now will dramatically shape the world in which our children and grandchildren live. The longer we wait to address our clean energy challenges, the higher the hill they will have to climb.”

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Green Roofs and Solar

Posted on September 17, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

I came across this video on CNN about Atlanta’s High Museum’s new green roof – one of the largest in the United States.

Green roofs have fascinated me for years. Commercial roof-tops across the country are most commonly finished and sealed with black tar. When direct summer sun hits these roofs, temps can often soar well past 150 degrees F. This leads to a greater need for building cooling, which in turn leads to an increase in the demand for power (of which coal is the most common source). These common roof-tops are also the largest contributor to the urban heat island effect.

Green roofs are surprisingly simple and their positive effects can be huge. They limit rainwater runoff, improve water quality, conserve energy, reduce the urban heat-island effect, extend the life of roofing materials underneath, and provide habitat for plants and animals.

But what’s even more interesting is the recent innovation in hybrid green / solar roofs. Just as it sounds, a hybrid roof combines roof-mounted solar power systems with a green roof. This combination is beneficial because the green roof can actually improve a solar system’s efficiency.

As the green roof cools ambient temperatures around the solar panels, the solar panels are able to stay cooler and function better. So not only can the green roof lead to improved efficiency of the panels, but a green roof also helps a building conserve energy (especially in cooling), thus reducing the workload for the solar system.

If you are interested in learning more about green roofs, check out:

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Downtown Frederick is Getting Green!

Posted on September 15, 2010. Filed under: News, Recommendations | Tags: , , |

Frederick, Maryland recently made news by announcing the construction of affordable, “net-zero” energy housing. Did you know about the wind power wave thats hitting downtown businesses? Check out some of these Powered by Clean Currents businesses below:

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Clean Currents Issue Brief: Marcellus Shale Drilling Debate

Posted on September 13, 2010. Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , , |

The time is running out for lawmakers in Harrisburg to pass a tax on natural gas drilling the Marcellus Shale. When they failed to reach an agreement about the issue when passing the budget in July, they promised to pass a tax by October 1st. Now this deadline is fast approaching and its questionable whether a decision will be made in time. Check out Clean Currents Issue and Policy Brief on the Marcellus Shale debate here.

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See You at Adam’s Morgan Day!

Posted on September 10, 2010. Filed under: Uncategorized |

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Sustainable Transportation Plans for MoCo from Elrich & Reimer

Posted on September 1, 2010. Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

The 10 + day traffic jam around Beijing that finally fanned out last week sheds light on the importance of planning a sustainable transportation infrastructure.

Two candidates for office from Montgomery County have put forth their ideas for how to improve transportation and ease traffic in the County. Here are ideas from Marc Elrich and Hans Reimer, both Democratic At-Large Candidates for the Montgomery County Council.

Marc Elrich’s plan centers around a re-envisioned Rockville Pike in the White Flint area featuring a rapid bus transit system, fewer single passenger vehicles, and more pedestrian/bike access. This new Pike will have more trees, wider sidewalks and more storefronts. Elrich is also advocating for smarter transportation options to be considered in planning the Gaithersburg West scientific corridor, which is currently heavily reliant on single passenger vehicles.

Hans Reimer’s plan focuses on getting 30% of all trips in Montgomery County to be via public transportation, walking or biking by 2030. Reimer sees a revitalized Metro as a keystone for meeting this goal, with dedicated funding from the state transportation budget. He also advocates for the construction of the purple line and the Corridor Cities Transitway to extend metro, light rail and/or rapid bus routes throughout Maryland. Like Elrich, he supports the development of more rapid bus routes and advocates for expanding the existing RideOn bus routes. Also like Elrich, Reimer emphasizes the importance of walkable and bikeable neighborhoods to make biking and walking safer and more feasible alternatives in Montgomery County.

How do you see the county becoming less reliant on single passenger vehicles?

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