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Apr 182014

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Senate Bill 1456, approved by the House this week, and headed for expected signature by Gov. Mary Fallin on Monday, will place a surcharge on small wind and solar producers who contribute to distributed generation.

This means that people who go to the time, trouble and expense to equip their homes with solar panels or to set up their own wind energy to power their farm will have to pay a monthly surcharge for the privilege of feeding their excess power back to the grid.

Solar Panels on a house in Tulsa - Sun-City

Solar panels on a house in Tulsa. (Photo: SunCity)

This plan flies in the face of what utilities should be doing, which is welcoming the supplemental, green power than can help stabilize the grid at times of peak demand.

Instead, the big utilities that proposed this bill and got it passed by the compliant Oklahoma legislature want to penalize these small power providers with a fee that could be high or low — it will be set at a later time by state energy regulators.

Ostensibly this fee will pay for the utilities to connect the small producers to the grid.

But on its face, it’s clear that in the Sooner state, big utilities would just as soon have all the power under their control, minus any participation by the little guys.

“It’s really meant to discourage people from producing some of their own energy. This is what monopolists do,” said Bryan Miller, president of the Alliance for Solar Choice. Miller explained that two giant electricity companies — Public Service Company of Oklahoma and Oklahoma Gas & Electric — were the main instigators of the surcharge.

“This is a tax on solar homeowners and on family farms and we call on Governor Fallin to veto this tax,” said Miller, whose group has been fighting similar incursions against small energy producers in other states.

The Oklahoma bill curtails energy choices by making it a little less financially attractive to switch to on-site wind or solar power. Oklahoma does have net metering, which allows small solar and wind owners to sell excess power back to the grid; but the new surcharge will cut into that incentive.

Meanwhile, the wind whipping down the plains in Oklahoma, which ranks as the 9th state in the US in terms of natural wind capacity, is a growing business, at the commercial level. Big Wind won’t be subject to the surcharge.

wind farm and cattle photo argonne national laboratory“It’s disappointing to see Senate Bill 1456 moving forward in Oklahoma. This legislation does nothing but jeopardize renewable energy growth in the state. Distributed forms of energy generation like small and community wind and solar power help to keep the lights on and Oklahomans at work. The state legislature should be examining legislation that will support this growing industry, and utilities should be encouraging distributed generation instead of trying to penalize it,” said Distributed Wind Energy Association Executive Director Jennifer Jenkins.

Turner said he was especially concerned about the independent farmers who’re using wind to provide their own power, a move that can save them money over the long haul.

DWEA’s president, Mike Bergey, president & CEO of Bergey Windpower in Norman, OK, expressed a similar worry.

“It is unfortunate that some utilities that enthusiastically support wind power for their own use are promoting a regressive policy that will make it harder for their customers to use wind power on their own,” Bergey said.

“Oklahoma offers tax credits for large wind turbines which are built elsewhere, but wants to penalize small wind which we manufacture here in the state? That makes no sense to me.”

Bergey also said that the measure could cost more to put into place than it will save.

“The truly ironic thing is that net metering, a standard policy in 42 states, saves utility administration costs and, because so little small wind and solar capacity is installed in Oklahoma, implementing SB 1456 through the Corporation Commission would cost ratepayers and taxpayers $5 for every $1 that it could theoretically save the utility.”

Fallin has until Monday to sign the bill. Her office could not be reached.

Fallin, who this week celebrated a new law forbidding cities to set their own minimum wage, was getting blasted on the solar power bill by a few constituents on her Facebook page.

“…Here we have government at all levels encouraging clean energy, and Oklahoma shows its usual BACKWARDNESS by punishing those who try to use renewable energy sources. YOU are partly to blame for this, and we will not forget. We will NOT forget,” said Carol Henry Madding.

Barbara J. Cobuzzi asked: “Why are you taxing people who are Tur[n]ing to clean energy? You are allowing your masters [to] control you so that they can increase their fortune in dirty energy and continue polluting the earth and destroying our clean water because a worth of $100 billion is not enough…”

Copyright © 2014 Green Right Now | Distributed by Noofangle Media

Sep 192012

From Green Right Now Reports

San Francisco residents may soon be able to buy a 100 percent green power plan, for about $9 a month more on average, under a public power program approved by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

The CleanPowerSF plan would provide $19.5 million to Shell Energy North America for a 5-year contract to provide, develop and invest in efficiency and renewable power generation for city residents.

If it receives final approval, it would set the city on a path toward owning its own renewable power generation, breaking the monopoly of PG&E power, which currently supplies San Francisco with electricity.

“The long-term goal is to really do our own generation,” outgoing general manager Ed Harrington told the San Francisco Chronicle.

Harrington and other city officials have been working on the plan for up to 15 years to try to free the city of polluting power sources and control its own power, according to the Chronicle and other news reports.

San Francisco is able to make such a move because of a community choice program set up eight years ago, which allows municipalities to choose alternative electricity providers.

Read more at the San Francisco Chronicle.

Nov 192010

(This post by Andrew Winston, green business strategist and author of ‘Green Recovery‘,  first ran on his blog on Nov. 8.)

Andrew Winston

A cover story in the NY Times today declares, “Cost of Green Power Makes Projects Tougher Sell.” Apparently wind turbines are not flying off the shelves as fast as a couple of years ago (when oil hit $145/barrel in mid-2008, it was a pretty good boost to the renewables industry).

While China and other countries ceaselessly invest in renewables, we continually see these kinds of ebbs and flows in our commitment depending on the politics of the moment. In the inexorable march toward a clean energy grid and economy, these slow-downs do take the wind out of your sails (pun intended).

But this is why the now-dead climate bill was so vital. A price on carbon would accelerate the transition and smooth out these ups and downs, providing some predictability to investors in these new markets.

I’m 100% convinced we will see a 100% renewable-based grid at some point. The problem is that it won’t happen fast enough to stave off some very bad effects of climate change. It might take 40 to 50 years on current economics, but we need to do it in more like 20.

So the political reality of a carbon tax being impossible with Republicans ascending is bad enough. But what’s really sad about this story was that this supposed cost barrier is negligible. From the Times…

The ratepayers of Virginia must be protected from costs for renewable energy that are unreasonably high,” the regulators said. Wind power would have increased the monthly bill of a typical residential customer by 0.2 percent.

In Kentucky, the article says, the number is 0.7 percent. To put those figures in perspective, if you paid $300/month on electricity, your bill would be higher by 60 cents each month in Virginia and $2.10 in Kentucky. And that’s if fossil fuel prices don’t go up much (don’t bet on it). I firmly believe that traditional energy prices are fundamentally rising over time as demand around the world continues to grow. So why wouldn’t we want energy sources with zero variable cost?

As the wind company CEO featured in the article put it, “They have to look for the ratepayers’ long-term interest,” he said, “not just the bills this year.”

Especially if those bills go up just 60 cents.

Sep 102010

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

A group of environmentalists who wanted solar panels installed on the White House were able to meet with administration staffers today, but they did not get a commitment for a solar array at the first family’s residence.

The team representing the “Put Solar On It” initiative, included students from Unity College in Maine which has been using a solar array installed on the White House during the Carter Administration. The panels Jimmy Carter had installed were dismantled by the Reagan Administration, and ultimately relocated to Unity College. The Put Solar On It group carried a remnant of that array to the White House to help make their point that President Obama could again light the way.

The team’s leader, noted environmentalist and author Bill McKibben, explained the mission in a Washington Post editorial:

“… we’re carrying the panel back to the White House and asking President Obama to put it back on the roof, alongside a full array of new photovoltaic and hot-water panels. Obama has drawn much of the blame for the failure of the climate legislation, which he didn’t push aggressively; this is a chance to make at least symbolic amends,” McKibben wrote in the op-ed piece.

“Clearly, a solar panel on the White House roof won’t solve climate change — and we’d rather have strong presidential leadership on energy transformation. But given the political scene, this may be as good as we’ll get for the moment.

“The Bush administration, in fact, created an opening — it brought solar energy back to the White House, with some photovoltaic panels on a maintenance shed and a small water heating system for the “presidential spa and cabana.” But the Bush officials purposely did it without fanfare, and fanfare is exactly what we need. Those panels belong on the roof, where every visitor can see them,” McKibben wrote.

After the hour long meeting with White House officials — the President did not attend — the group issued a statement expressing their disappointment, and quoted McKibben:

“The White House said they wouldn’t take the panel and that they would continue with their deliberative process in deciding to put solar back on the roof. We passed along the wish of the tens of thousands of people that the Administration would speed up their deliberative process; in any event, we’re actually done deliberating and our supporters are ready to get to work on their own homes, schools and churches on 10/10/10.”

McKibben was referring to the tens of thousands who sent letters via the Put Solar On It campaign asking Obama, and other world leaders, to put up solar panels. The 10/10/10 event, is a worldwide “work party” initiated by the climate action group 350.org, when people and groups will take their own steps toward a greener future, including putting up solar panels on homes and buildings. More than 1,800 community events are registered with 35o.org.

Jean Altomere, a senior at Unity College, said she was disappointed that the White House was not prepared to more quickly decide upon and install a solar roof.

“No tears fell in the room, but things were definitely tense. The meeting was a disappointment, but I’m proud that a few students from rural Maine could make these Administration officials feel so uncomfortable. They need to know we’re not going to let them off the hook when our future is on the line,” she said.

Sungevity Solar and 350.org collaborated on drive to get solar panels on the White House.

Copyright © 2010 Green Right Now | Distributed by GRN Network

Apr 192010

By Melissa Segrest
Green Right Now

coal plant Braden Gunem Dreamstime

Coal-fired power plant (Photo: Braen Gunem/Dreamstime.)

Sitting in a heap atop the list of climate change offenders is coal. Coal-burning power plants account for 20 percent of all carbon emissions worldwide. Their smokestacks spew sulfur and nitrogen dioxide as well, contributing to the stew of greenhouse gases that are heating the Earth’s atmosphere.

Despite the growth of renewable energy sources, coal remains the single largest provider of power for America, at 45 percent. And its toxic footprint doesn’t end with air pollution. The industry’s waste, leftover ash, is laced with metal oxides.

Thousands of coal-fired power plants are chugging away around the world, poisoning the air –  all day, every day.

Around coal mines, runoff carries pollutants and heavy metals that befoul waterways and contaminate fish. The environmental nightmare caused by blasting away mountaintops to reach coal (known as Mountain Top Removal or MTR) has compromised dozens of mountains in Appalachia, deforested the land, smothered streams and valleys, stripped the soil and left tons of waste in its wake. Of course, there are the well-known health and safety threats to those who work inside mines.

Coal is cheap for energy companies, and it has been historically plentiful, but the Earth pays a steep price for it. A National Academy of Sciences report places a $62 billion price tag on coal’s environmental toll annually.

What’s your part in this? You can find out how much of your power comes from coal at the Environmental Protection Agency’s Power Profiler.

This problem is so large, surely one person can’t make a difference. Wrong – everything starts with someone, and today that someone could be you.

Here are 6 ways that you can conserve energy and decrease the use of coal.

Aerial view of a mountain top removal operation (Photo: Appalachian Voices)

Aerial view of a mountain top removal operation (Photo: Appalachian Voices; flight courtesy Southwings)

1. Buy Green Power. You may be able to buy green power and don’t even know it. The U.S. Department of Energy provides a map and links to various power providers who can offer more environmentally clean sources of electricity. If you can’t get green power directly, you can buy Renewable Energy Certificates that will go toward defraying the cost of more-expensive green energy. RECs help support clean energy being used elsewhere on the grid, when none is locally available.

2. Get Conservative at Home. The smart folk at Lawrence Berkeley National Labs have a Home Energy Saver tool that lets you bore deeply into potential energy savings at your home.

The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy also has a consumer checklist to help people make immediate changes to save energy — and use less coal — such as turning down the setting on your water heater to warm, caulking leaky windows, switching out incandescent light bulbs to CFLs (or LEDs) and changing dirty HVAC filters so the system runs efficiently.

3. Buy Energy Star. Starting with refrigerators, which can take the biggest energy gulp of all household appliances, to computers and TVs and assorted electronic gadgets, almost everything that plugs in (and a few things that don’t, like windows) is now assessed by Energy Star, the joint project of the EPA and DOE to help tamp down power use. The energy savings adds up.

4. UnPlug. Your house (and everyone else’s) may be the single worst energy glutton going, but did you know that more than 5 percent of your home’s energy can be sapped daily by computers and TVs and video-game players and all your other electronic gear – when they’re not being used. Just pushing the off button doesn’t stop the energy drain. Unplug them when you can. Use a power strip on entertainment centers to turn the whole set-up off when it’s not in use. Cell phones charged? Unplug them.

5. Hang It Out. Still in the mood to save money? Try a clothes line. Or put a line or rack in the garage if you think the neighbors might scowl. Your clothes dryer uses a lot of electricity (making things hot uses more power than making things cold). Reduce your dryer use, and remember to wash your clothes in cold water or get a front-loading washing machine and you will save several hundred dollars a year.

6. Cover It Up. The biggest home-energy wasters? Pool and spa pumps and heaters. Just getting a pool cover to preserve the water’s warmth will immediately shave off hundreds of dollars from the cost of heating. Downsize to a smaller, more efficient pump and you’ll save even more.  Install a timer to minimize how long the pump operates saves more.

Keep the pool a few degrees lower and there’s more money. When its time to replace the pool heater, go with a solar pool heater and get a pleasant sticker shock at the sight of your energy bill. All of this and more is on the government’s Energy Savers site.

Bonus points: Buy a home energy monitor. You can find some for around $130 and you can keep constant, real time tabs on your electricity use. This story provides more details about home energy management.

Copyright © 2010 Green Right Now | Distributed by GRN Network

More Earth Day coverage:

Sep 292009

By Ashley Phillips
Green Right Now


Evander Holyfield

Four-time heavy weight boxing champion Evander Holyfield is ready for another fight. Except this time, he is fighting for the planet. Known as the Real Deal in the sports world, Holyfield will also be going by a new nickname, Lean Green Fighting Machine. Holyfield has announced that in partnership with Global-NES-Georgia, Inc., he plans to build a 40-acre solar energy farm on his estate in Georgia.

“I am proud to be a partner in the green movement to heal the earth,” said Holyfield in a press release. “I am also dedicated to an approach which minimizes disruption to the local community and ecosystem.”

“Global NES-Georgia, Inc is proud to build this project,” said Ed Ukanonu, CEO of Global NES. “Global NES-Georgia, Inc. is committed to providing today’s most comprehensive, yet affordable, renewable energy efficiency programs, systems & technologies.”

In addition to the solar farm, another acre of land will be dedicated to an organic garden that will be maintained by the Evander Holyfield Foundation. The garden will be used as a teaching tool for neighborhood youth to understand the importance of going green.

Copyright © 2009 Green Right Now | Distributed by Noofangle Media

Sep 172009

From Green Right Now Reports

Four major corporations were named “Green Power Partners of the Year” this past week by the US EPA:

Deutsche Bank AG — In 2009, the company made an annual purchase of 160 million kilowatt-hours of wind-derived renewable energy certificates (RECs), which represents 100 percent of the electricity needs for its U.S. operations. Worldwide, Deutsche Bank bought 515 million-kilowatt hours of green power.

The international bank has set a goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2012.

Intel Corporation – For the past two years, Intel has been among the nation’s largest corporate buyers of green power, purchasing more than 1.3 billion kilowatt-hours from renewable energy sources, an amount roughly equal to half of its US electric use.

It has installed two large solar systems, in Oregon and in New Mexico, to demonstrate how solar power can be used to operate data centers. It plans to install on-site solar photovoltaic systems at several other facilities. It’s “Green Intel” forum helps employees around the world share energy-saving ideas and learn about Intel’s initiatives.

Kohl’s Department Stores – The Wisconsin-based retailer has made green power purchasing a priority across its 1,022-store network as it aims to reduce its environmental impact and become a retail sector environmental leader.
Kohl’s current purchases, of 600 million kilowatt-hours supplies 50 percent of its electricity.

The company has become one of the world’s largest retail promotes of solar energy, with 69 systems up and running in California, New Jersey, Wisconsin and Connecticut. Additional systems are planned. The solar arrays provide 20 to 40 percent of the power for each store where they’re employed, according to the EPA. Kohl’s also communicates it’s green power goals to employees through a website, and promotes sustainable practices at kohlsgreenscene.

Mohawk Fine Papers, Inc. – New York-based Mohawk, one of the largest manufacturers of fine text and cover papers in the US, has been supporting its operations with wind power since 2003. It now purchases 110 million kilowatt hours annually, representing enough power to run its manufacturing and distributing operations in New York and Ohio.

Like the other corporate award-winners, Mohawk spreads the news about its environmental progress through a website, PR efforts and customer outreach. To reduce its carbon impact further, Mohawk has set emissions reduction goals through the EPA’s Climate Leaders program and uses recycled fiber in its products.

Several other companies were commended at the EPA’s Green Power Awards in Atlanta for buying renewable power directly or for buying renewable energy credits (RECs).

Most of these companies also engage in other green practices. Beaulieu Commercial, a Georgia carpet manufacturer, uses post-consumer recycled materials for carpet tile backing. EarthColor, a printer in New Jersey recaptures material for recycling. Media conglomerate Bloomberg LP., has promised to install on-site solar systems to power its US facilities.

The EPAs full list of “Green Power Purchasers”

EPA Green Power Purchaser Awards

Green Power Partner of the Year

Deutsche Bank AG
Intel Corporation
Kohl’s Department Stores
Mohawk Fine Papers, Inc.

Green Power Purchasing

Beaulieu Commercial
Bloomberg LP
EarthColor, Inc.
Foulger-Pratt Management, Inc.
Motorola, Inc.
Neenah Paper, Inc.
Shaklee Corporation
Steelcase USA
The Joinery
Western Pennsylvania Energy Consortium

On-site Generation

Applied Materials, Inc.
Butte College
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. / California and Texas Facilities

Jul 022009

By Ashley Phillips
Green Right Now

Restaurants looking to green their operations by generating some of their own electrical power are finding it easier as vendor companies try to fill in the gaps.

Owl Power Company, for instance, has developed a way for restaurants to more conveniently use vegetable oil as fuel. Owl’s Vegawatt is a combined heating and power system that runs on vegetable oil and can be connected to existing heating and power systems to be used as supplemental green energy.

Founded by James Peret, President and CEO of Owl Power Company, Vegawatt was first introduced last December at Finz Seafood & Grill in Dedham, Massachusetts.

Here’s how it works: A restaurant deposits vegetable oil waste into the unit and Vegawatt goes to work using a four-step cleaning process to turn used vegetable oil into biofuel. The unit is located outside the restaurant; just like a central air conditioning unit is placed. It contains one electrical hookup, a water feed, and a return feed. This reduces the power required for the water heater, because the water is partially heated through the Vegawatt. Better yet, the Vegawatt requires no maintenance, according to Owl.

While Vegawatt cannot power an entire restaurant, it can produce 10-25% of the energy required, which could translate to hundreds of dollars per month on saved utility costs. Right now, some restaurants pay companies 10-25 cents per gallon to dispose of their used vegetable oil, though others use their oil in vehicles.

With Vegawatt, a restaurant can saves an disposal costs and turn their oil recycling into a cash-positive operation.

Vegawatt, says Owl, provides many environmental benefits. It is:

  • Non-toxic
  • Non-flammable
  • Produces no liquid byproducts
  • Reduces carbon emissions
  • Decreases waste going into landfills

The $32,000 Vegawatt co-generation systems (their cost after the federal tax credit of 30 percent is $22,000) can be leased or purchased. The company says a restaurant can save about $1,000 a month — offsetting the purchase price in two years — if it produces 80 gallons of waste vegetable oil per week.
(Obviously, a lease makes the equipment payback virtually immediate, as long as the lease amount is less than the money saved on energy cots.)

As with many of green products, there are multiple government incentives when purchasing Vegawatt. Along with the federal tax credit of 30 percent of the cost, the equipment also could qualify for state refunds.

The company is selling primarily in the Northeast, but hoping to expand to the Mid-Atlantic states. “There is a lot of interest in California, Hawaii, the Caribbean, and other places internationally as well,” Peret said.

Copyright © 2009 Green Right Now | Distributed by Noofangle Media

Dec 222008

By John DeFore

The Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory, a sixty-plus-year-old lab complex near Chicago, needs an enormous amount of juice to run all its number-crunching computers. But its ratio of computing power to electrical usage just made a leap, thanks to the Blue Gene/P, a supercomputer designed for the Department by IBM.

An announcement last week by Argonne’s Leadership Computing Facility (ALCF) trumpeted some impressive stats on the new machine — not least of which, dropped in among talk of teraflops and megawatts, was the news that the lab’s energy-efficient design is saving taxpayers over $1 million a year. Continue reading »