Inside Scoop on This Congress and The Climate

Posted on March 15, 2011. Filed under: Events, News, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Today, Clean Currents hosted another free, educational webinar. Check out the PowerPoint presentation and feel free to comment:  Inside Scoop on This Congress and Climate Change.

Three fabulous speakers joined us to lend their insights on what to expect from the 112th congress on legislation and policy related to climate issues.

Nancy Gonzalez of the Alliance to Save Energy outlined the political climate in the House and the Senate including the new members of committees with the power to influence energy legislation. Despite the bleak outlook for progress on energy issues with the current congressional makeup, Nancy noted the effectiveness of momentum on the grassroots level and encouraged expansion of local initiatives. 

Jason Kowalski of 1Sky provided a number of powerful images demonstrating how the US’s politics and the coal industry are intimately intertwined. Jason reinforced the concept of effective grassroots activism by discussing a few strong examples, while also mentioning their limitations in competing with well-financed attack campaigns.  

Ted Glick from The Chesapeake Climate Action Network (CCAN) gave us an update on both regional and federal environmental legislation. In Maryland, the focus is on passing the Offshore Wind bill. In fact, you are invited to attend the rally in Annapolis on March 21st to support the bill: Despite a short legislative session, Virginia could be making headway on both solar and offshore wind. In DC, CCAN is working to get the Cap & Dividend approach passed on the federal level. 

At first glance, one may not expect much in the way of climate legislation from the current Congress, but these groups highlighted that groups and individuals can still make a difference in pushing through environmentally friendly policies – especially on the local level. To learn more about these organizations and how to get involved in their grassroots initiatives, visit:

Clean Currents is also supporting grassroots initiatives via our Green Neighborhood Challenge. Contact Kristin Schulz at to learn how to get your group involved!

 To sign up for Clean Currents’ wind powered electricity option and to learn more about our Green Neighborhood Challenge, visit:

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MD General Assembly Bill Creates Sustainable Source of Funding for Renewable Energy and Efficiency

Posted on February 4, 2011. Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Anyone with experience in renewable energy/efficiency industries in Maryland knows that financial incentives are a key component to helping consumers adopt new technologies and that these incentives often lack a steady stream of funding. A bill introduced in the Maryland General Assembly Session this past week, SB 304, can help create a steady stream of funding.

SB 304, cosponsored by Senators Manno and Garagiola, creates a Renewable Energy Public Benefit Fund.

The fund is collected through a 1.3 cent/kwh charge on residential ratepayers for electricity usage over 1000kwh/month. Since the average ratepayer in Maryland uses around 1000 kWh, the charge is only assessed on ratepayers using more than average. In fact, more than 50% of ratepayers in Pepco and BGE territory (as well on on the Eastern Shore) would not be impacted at all, because they use less than the 1000 kWh hour threshold.

The proceeds from this charge go into a fund to support popular renewable energy grant programs administered by the Maryland Energy Administration as well as renewable energy and energy efficiency programs through the Maryland Clean Energy Center . Further, customers can get a rebate if they elect to purchase wind power through their electricity supplier. Public Benefit Funds are common and effective, with dozens of states utilizing them to support clean energy initiatives. And the wind power component is similar to a program the city of Boulder, CO (a super green city!) has been running for several years now.

If this sounds good to you and you are a Maryland resident, contact your Senator and tell them you support SB 304. Better yet, submit testimony or come out to the hearing in Annpolis on Wednesday February 15th at 1:00 PM.

Want to spread the word about SB 304? Here’s a fact sheet to get you started:

Renewable Energy Benefit Fund (REBF) Fact Sheet:

  • A Public Benefit Fund like the REBF is a smart and proven policy choice to provide stable funding for clean energy and energy efficiency programs.
  • 30 states and the District of Columbia have a Public Benefit Fund.
  • The REBF will reduce pressure on funds from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
  • The REBF would support popular grant programs administered by the Maryland Energy Administration as well as the Maryland Clean Energy Center.
  • Since 2008, the Maryland Clean Energy Center has encouraged the transformation of the energy economy with programs that catalyze the growth of business, increase related “green collar” jobs, and make clean energy technologies, products and services affordable, accessible, and easy to implement for Maryland residents.
  • Sustainable funding for MEA and MCEC programs will support clean energy and energy efficiency and will help grow these industries and create more green jobs in Maryland.
  • Since electricity prices are falling across Maryland, now is a great time to introduce the REBF. If it is structured appropriately, ratepayers will still see a rate decrease.
  • A charge of $.013/kWh assessed only on ratepayers using above 1000 kWh per month translates into over $12 million per year into the REBF
  • The 1000kWh threshold will encourage energy efficiency and onsite renewable options, like solar.
  • By encouraging clean energy and energy efficiency, the REBF can reduce electricity demand, which help further decrease electricity rates.
  • The REBF is budget neutral.
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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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Barrels of Oil vs. Kilowatt-Hours: Comparing Offshore Wind and Oil

Posted on June 7, 2010. Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , , , , |

For the amount of money BP was going to spend over 25 years on the Deepwater Horizon, 7 million electric cars could be powered with offshore wind turbines. Well not quite, but the author brings up an interesting point. He produces some questionable calculations, and despite overlooking some obvious shortfalls inherent with offshore wind power at this time, his point still stands: for the roughly $12 billion BP was going to spend (now possibly over triple that amount after counting cleanup costs and everything else), billions of kilowatt-hours of power could be produced by offshore wind.

A recently completed German offshore wind project, Alpha Ventus, is a 12-turbine, 60 megawatt (1mW=1000kW) site, that cost $282 million. The author assumed maximum capacity/energy yield, and mislabeled calculations, so to avoid confusion: maximum yearly output of the plant is 525.6 million kilowatt-hours.

Using this as a comparison, and assuming prices stabilize around $200 million (that’s what the project was estimated to cost), 60 of these wind farms could be had for BP’s $12 billion investment. That’s about 31.5 billion kilowatt-hours, which is a lot of power!

Of course nowhere near that figure would make it to the end consumer, but the idea is certainly worth considering. Check out the full article over on

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China’s New Solar City

Posted on May 24, 2010. Filed under: News, Recommendations, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

Many solar panel companies have developed in both Europe and United States, and now more developing countries wanted to want to lower their carbon footprint as well, using solar panels. China has invested 34 billion dollars on both solar panels and wind turbines, double the amount of money as the United States.

In Dezhou, a city located in northern China, was acknowledged for raising poultry, and however now is known as ‘China’s Solar City.’  Huang Ming (president of Himin Solar Energy) has created the Himin Solar Energy Group, which is now currently ‘the biggest solar energy production base in the whole world.’ Some of the company’s products include solar lights, PV lighting products, solar panels, solar water heaters, and solar collectors. Huang Ming also created a low carbon five star hotel and now working on eco friendly apartment complexes. He mentions, in an interview at his corporate head quarters, “renewable energy doesn’t mean people have to be uncomfortable.”

At first, Huang Ming was an oil industry engineer, working at a petroleum research institute; however, he did not feel right about the impact oil had on the environment.  Thus, he created this company as a kind of ‘experiment’ to see if it would be successful in China. His heating devices and solar panels became quite popular in the city of Dezhou. Many villagers, especially farmers can now use hot water for showers regularly, rather than using communal bathrooms a couple times a month.

Some argue, that solar panels will help the economy minimally and decrease China’s carbon footprint to a certain extent. They believe that China will still rely heavily on fossil fuels for a lot of their energy. Huang Ming admits this argument, but later says “solar energy a drop in the ocean,” but has big plans for the future!

See article here

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2010 MD General Assembly Wrapup

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

The 427th MD General Assembly has wrapped for the year.  Several important renewable energy bills were heard (and voted on) this year.

Clean Currents would like to thank those elected officials who remained committed to green issues.  We would also like to offer a “spanks” to those officials who continued to deny the urgency of pressing for greater renewable goals.


Thanks and Spanks for the 2010 Maryland General Assembly Session

The Maryland General Assembly has wrapped up for the year and now the politicians are about to enter full campaign mode. Who was good for clean energy, and deserves a “thanks” from us and who was bad and deserves a “spanks” from us? The number one priority of Clean Currents and the environmental plus solar business community was Governor Martin O’Malley’s solar RPS improvement. Thanks to the hard work of Governor O’Malley and his people at the Maryland Energy Administration, plus our staff here at Clean Currents and hundreds of likeminded supporters, the bill passed. This is a huge accomplishment in an election year session. Big Thanks to Governor O’Malley! The bill increases the value of Solar Renewable Energy Credits and requires more solar installations in the state. This means more money for homeowners and businesses that want to go green with solar panels.

In all, Clean Currents supported nine bills and opposed one as our top priorities for the session. Our record on these bills was pretty good. Of the nine we supported, four passed and will be signed into law, one passed the House but died in the Senate on Sine Die, and four were killed. The one bill we opposed was killed.

The bills that passed include the above-mentioned solar RPS bill (SB 277), as well as a bill to force the utilities to pay consumers for excess green power they generate via net metering (SB 355) and a bill to make it easier to install solar on master metered properties (SB 538).

BIG THANKS These are our big champions for the 2010 session:
Governor O’Malley, Senator Rob Garagiola (Potomac), Delegate Sue Hecht (Frederick)

THANKS These folks were consistent supporters of Clean Currents legislation, rock solid on solar and green energy.
Del. McHale came up with the amendment that saved the Governor’s solar RPS bill in House Economic Matters. Sen. Catherine Pugh (Baltimore) Sen. Kathy Klausemeier (Baltimore) Del. Herman Taylor (Silver Spring) Del. Roger Manno (Silver Spring) Del. Brian McHale (Baltimore)

BIG SPANKS There’s really one “superstar” of the anti-solar, anti-green energy side of the equation: Sen. EJ Pipkin (Eastern Shore)

SPANKS These folks voted against the Solar RPS bill and/or were not supportive of green electricity bills:
Sen. Delores Kelley (Baltimore) Sen. Alan Kittleman (Howard) Sen. Norman Stone (Baltimore County)Sen. Roy Dyson (Southern Md)Del. D Stifler

Finally, I want to give a big thanks to all who wrote letters, emailed, or called about the vital pieces of legislation we supported for a cleaner, greener future.

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Just in case . . .

Posted on January 28, 2010. Filed under: Events, News | Tags: , , , |

If you missed President Obama’s State of the Union last night there were several points during his 70 minute speech where he focused on America’s energy future. 

Hopefully, partisan bickering will not get in the way of the President’s call for clean energy and climate protection.

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845 MW Wind Project Deal Signed in Oregon

Posted on December 14, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , |

Green Inc. reported last week on a $1.4billion wind deal signed last week.  The Oregon project will feature 338 GE turbines that have the capacity to produce 845 MW of power, making it the largest wind turbine committment of the year, according to GE.  The announcement paid close attention to the issue of green job creation after the drama over a West Texas project that featured Chinese turbines. The GE turbines will be assembled in Florida and more than half of the parts will be made in the United States. Addionally, 400 temporary jobs will be created during the construction of the project, set to take place in 2011-12.

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Solar Cells that Work Underground?

Posted on December 1, 2009. Filed under: News | Tags: , , , |

Treehugger reports on 3-D solar cell technology developed at Georgia Insitute of Technology.

Here’s Treehugger’s explanation of the technology:

“Using optical fibers common to the telecommunications industry, researchers seeded them with zinc oxide nanostructures–much like the white stuff found on a lifeguard nose. Those nanostructures were then coated with a dye-sensitized material that converts light into electricity. The electricity is then captured using a liquid electrolyte surrounding the nanostructures.”

One of the cool things about this development is that the fibers can be placed underground, and still generate electricity as long as the tip is exposed to sunlight. This provides much more flexibility in where to install these cells, because the fiber is only about the width of a human hair and can be integrated into building design. Because the light bounces back once it reaches the end of the fiber, the chances of absorbption are actually doubled. A 10 centimeter fiber produces about .5 volts of electricity and the fibers can be cut into various lengths.

So far the efficiency of these new cells is only about 3% and the goal is to increase this to 8% in the near future. This target is still less then the 12% efficiency of silicon PV cells which are common in rooftop installations. Still, the advantage of these cells, along with other dye-sentisized versions, is that they are much cheaper to produce and require much less heat. As ABC Science puts it,

“Efficiency can take a backseat to ease of production. Conventional solar cells with the highest efficiencies are generally expensive to produce, require temperatures of several hundred degrees, and can be damaged relatively easily by rocks or hail.”

Other added benefits of the 3-D cells include their dynamic design potential and the fact that they are more 6-times more efficient than other dye-sensitized cells because of the ability of the light to bounce back for added absorption.

Any way we can figure out how to harness the tremendous power of the sun as directly as possibly is certainly a step forward and this new technology may help integrate solar power to meet more of of energy needs.

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What is Osmotic Power?

Posted on November 24, 2009. Filed under: Events | Tags: , , |

Green Inc. reported today on today’s debut of an osmotic power pilot project in Norway. That’s cool, but what is osmotic power? Here is how Statkraft, the company that developed the Norwegian project explains it:

“Freshwater and saltwater are channeled into separate chambers, separated by an artificial membrane. The salt molecules in the seawater draw the freshwater through the membrane, causing the pressure on the seawater side to increase. This pressure is equivalent to a water column of 120 meters or, in other words, quite a significant waterfall. This pressure can be used in a turbine to make electricity.”

According to the company, this type of power generation has the potential to provide half of Europe’s power supply as a baseload (continuously available) power source. The development of osmotic power generation has been slow since the 1970s, but now with improvements in membrane technology, experts think it has the potential to take off. Osmotic power plants can be installed wherever salt water and freshwater are in the same vicinity- for example where a river meets the ocean or next to an existing desalination plant.

Was this coffee made by power from the osmotic power plant?

The Norwegian pilot, though a significant accomplishment for those involved, only contributes 4 kw of power to the grid. As the Green Inc. article points out, that’s enough to run a coffee grinder. Still, Eric Stilihagen, the VP of osmotic power at Statkraft is insistent in the potential of this technology:

“We really need to increase the speed to bring this technology into the market…We should do this much faster than we did with solar power and wind power.”


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