Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Meeting With Delegate Yancey

I don't often post in the blog, but every once in awhile I have something I think worthy of sharing.

I am not sure how it happened, but delegate David Yancey (my actual delegate in the Virginia legislature)  contacted me to get my opinion on what he was trying to do for solar. My guess is either they got around to finally reading the emails I sent him last year or more likely I had mentioned to someone when I was doing poll watching this last Tuesday that I had received no replies to my emails and person had said they knew him and Yancey had a new staff, so maybe that triggered it. In either case...

We met at Panera Bread on Warwick (across from CNU) and had a good discussion. The delegate and his aide were there for about 30 minutes. The delegate had some stuff come up mid-way through, but came back to finish up the 30 minutes before taking off for his next appointment.

Topics discussed included
1. He is working on a proposal to get private enterprises (such as Bay Electric and Dominion) to invest in solar for schools. He is hoping to arrange it to ultimately save the schools money so they can use it to better pay teachers and get the students more modern books and equipment. He didn't have a lot of details at this time, but the overall goal sounded like it was a good one. As a side note, since education is one of Yancey's things I suspect the effort is more towards the schools and less towards the solar, but I am good with it either way. So if you have some reasonable suggestions on how this might be set up, feel free to send to me or if one of his constituents send directly to him or his staff.

2. We discussed some of the issues with residential and small business arrays and especially my support for roof-top distributed solar PV. Also a couple minutes on mandatory RPS and SRECs. One thing of note, the delegate recently flew into Philadelphia and he commented on how many solar arrays he saw on roof-tops there, so it tied in nicely with my SREC discussion.

3. I mentioned my personal number one goal for the legislature, which is make it mandatory that power companies have to buy their renewable credits to qualify for the RPS bonus from Virginia. I also mentioned a 20 year limit, although only to the aide.

4. Also covered the Dominion rate tariff plan a little bit pointing out that it really is not a benefit to residential home owners and since I could pointing out I get the equivalent of 40-41 cents per kWh, while Dominion's plan would only net be 4 cents per kWh if I were to accept it.  BTW: You all might want to check out the latest on the PUE-2012-00064 proposal. at least I finally see something in writing that existing customers can keep net metering. Although the SCC bought into Dominions aggregate numbers for the offset of solar on the grid, which is false math.

 5. Finally a touch of unrelated discussion on toll roads (hate them, but am okay if they are new roads that add capacity and not on old ones); on privatizing Virginia Ports (my concern is that Virginia should not give up the revenue stream for a one time bonus) ; and on taxes for transportation (the lockbox concept)

That about covers all I can remember, but if you have some ideas sent them in

Thursday, September 6, 2012

IREC Solar Market Trends Report - 9/5/12

IREC U.S. Solar Market Trends Report 2011

Although the data covered in the original report is for 2011, it is updated on this page where you can watch a webinar about trends in 2012. Click Here.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Comments Sought On Solar Incentives

The Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) is seeking public comment on Dominion Virginia's solar-powered incentive program.

Here's a WAVY article about the request: 

Leave comments about 

PUE-2011-00117 - Application of Dominion Virginia Power for approval of a Community Solar Power Program and for certification of proposed distributed solar generation facilities, 


PUE-2012-00064 - Petition of Dominion Virginia Power for approval of a special tariff to facilitate customer-owned distributed solar generation

Click Here

Saturday, May 19, 2012

White Roof Reduces Cooling Load

Today, as we have for the last 3 years, we put into practice our "green building" commitment by coating our Organic Food Depot grocery store roof white in Virginia Beach.

It is a fairly well established fact that having a white roof reduces heat load by 30% - 40% http://www.gizmag.com/white-roof-heat-island/21758/, and
I know on our own house which has a white roof, it's what makes the difference between whether our undersized A/C system works or not.

For our grocery stores, the internal equipment heat load plus the external solar load can overwhelm an A/C unit, leading to premature failure, an expensive replacement I can tell you from experience.  Therefore, anything we can do to lessen the summer heat load in a cost effective manner, is something we look for, and coating our roof white certainly makes a huge difference.

However, we don't "paint" our roof white, both because runoff might affect nearby wetlands, and because we actually want the coating to wash off by Winter.

So we use Kool Ray Liquid Shade from Continental Products.

It's made for greenhouses, is non-toxic and is designed to wash off over time. http://www.continentalprod.com/greenhouse/kool/kool.htm

As you can see from this first photo, after a winter, most of the previous year's coating has been removed by rain.  This gives us radiant absorption during the winter. The roof, being back to black, acts like a solar collector.  We get the best of both worlds - cooling in the summer, heat in the winter.

It took 4 of us about half a day to roll on the new coating. The roof is a black, 8,000 sq. ft. EPDM rubber membrane.  We used three 5-gallon pails, mixed 1:1 with water, and a small amount of "extra stick" for longer adhesion. Cost was minimal, around $500.

The result is bright white and reflects sunlight well. The A/C units on the roof which had been running when we started, stopped during the installation, and only ran sporadically the rest of the day, so clearly the coating had an immediate effect.

We know it works, though we haven't tried to quantified it precisely.

If all the businesses and even homeowners in Tidewater were to adopt white roofs, the savings in cooling costs would be substantial, not to mention the fact that we would no longer need to build new power plants.

Getting homeowners to make their roof white is probably not going to happen. It has no aesthetic appeal.  Businesses, however, are another story, and the payback could be calculated.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Amory Lovins TED Talk, "Reinventing Fire"

In an talk filmed at TED's offices, Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mt. Institute talks about his new book, "Reinventing Fire" and gives a well reasoned proposal for switching the U.S. from oil, gas and nuclear to Renewable Energy by 2050 without it costing the U.S. anything - in fact, saving literally trillions that we're going to spend following the "business as usual" route.

It's well worth the 27 minutes running time.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

US wind energy rose 1.6GW in Q1 2012

U.S. Wind is now equal to about 48 Nuclear Power Plants

UNITED STATES: Wind energy rose in the US 1,695MW during the first quarter of 2012, taking the country's overall capacity to 48,611MW according to figures from AWEA.
The quarterly increase represented a rise of 52% compared to the same period in 2011, proving the looming expiry of the PTC is giving a late-minute boost to the industry. There is currently over 8GW under construction.
California saw the biggest increase in installations over Q1, with 370MW. It was followed by Oregon and Texas, which added 308MW and 254MW respectively.
According to the report, 788 turbines were installed over the three months with an average capacity of 2.15MW. The GE was the largest supplier with over 325MW, followed by Gamesa 252MW, Clipper Windpower with 240MW and Vestas with 223MW.
Chinese suppliers have also contributed over 121MW to the US wind power in Q1. The majority of this came from the completion of Goldwind's 109MW Shady Oaks project in Illinois. However, Guodian United Power also brought online the 9MW Harbor Wind project in Texas.

Story From Wind Power Monthly.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Benefits Of A Solar Tracker

I wanted to answer the question,  "How much does a solar PV tracker produce - theory vs. real world measurement as compared to a static mount system?"

I found lots of advertisements with numbers, such this one from Zomeworks:

     "Track Racks being 25% - 45% more efficient means either you get 25% - 45% more power or you can buy 25% less panels for your system and still receive the same amount of power had you chosen fixed racks. Either way you get more for the same amount of money."

   Zomeworks statement made sense, but I like to measure for myself. A few years back

I had my windows replaced. The advertised savings was 35%. Silly me, I did not measure and compare the new and old performance factors. However, they really needed to be replaced anyway, as the old aluminum frames were very cold in the winter.  There was a benefit, but since I didn't measure, I can't quantify it.

   The cost of a Zomeworks model Utrf - 120 (144" X 160" tracker, fits @ 8 panels) is about $2,400 from altE, an online store, and that did not include shipping. I like the Zomeworks tracker design. It has no motors, uses fluid transfer and balance. The drawbacks are size and this is hurricane country, so a solidly designed static mount has the survivability edge. 

  Back in Dec of 2011, I was l part of a Solar Coop.  We made a group buy of 66 solar panels and that gave us a little purchasing power. I purchased 8, 230 watt panels with Enpase micro inverters. The Enphase models logs solar production through a separate unit called an Envoy, so I could see my investment working on my computer. I was so impressed by the performance that I bought 8 more panels and microinverters, two of which were used in this Solar tracker experiment.

   My experimental  budget was $50.  I used scrap wood for both frames, bought 4 male/female MC-4 connectors from Solar Services and a few parts from Home depot. The grand total: $33.

  The Static frame was the easiest. I started there. 

   The Solar equinox was 20 March, so elevation was @ 36 degrees, azimuth: 180 degrees. Due solar South was checked at solar noon with a triangle, (11:03 on the 15 of Apr).  If the shadow didn't lie within itself, I was out of alignment. I adjusted the frame until it was aligned. If you want to find out about solar noon, NOAA has a geo-location solar calculator that is really easy to use http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/gmd/grad/solcalc/.

  The Enphase Envoy unit does the data logging, so that make measurement and tracking performance info accurate. 

  The Tracker rotated on a 68" x 1/2" conduit pipe. The bearings were three 3/4" PVC pipes strapped to a wooden frame that held the panel. It pivoted with ease and was adjusted once an hour by two 24" opposing  ratcheting bar clamps. On the day of the test it was a bit windy, so I rigged a damping system using a 5 gallon water bucket and bungee cord attached to one side.  

Because of the distance from the test rigs to the Enphase microinverters (which were on the roof), I used a 100 ft. extension cord and MC-4 connectors plugged into the correct connections.  

  The test results for the static mount showed the 1.0 KW produced a bell curve graph. 

The tracking mount produced a 1.3 KW mesa shaped graph, and a 30% gain over the static mount. 

The test was not perfect, it had location shading and connection losses, but the results were positive. 

My test results show that a tracking system will have a gain of approximately 30% more measured power, as  the advertised Zomeworks statement suggests, than a static mount system.

If you want to conduct your own experiment, contact me for further details.

Beau Gillis

Monday, April 23, 2012

New Jersey SREC Market Trades Below $100!

New Jersey SREC Market Trades Below $100!

     The New Jersey SREC market traded below $100 for energy year 2012 SRECs on Thursday, April 19, 2012. The settlement price on the Flett Exchange was $88.94. The New Jersey 2012 SREC market has been plummeting since a peak of $282.50 on December 29, 2011. Last year at this time, the 2011 SRECs were trading $655.

     The SREC prices in New Jersey have collapsed because investors installed too much solar compared to this years’ NJ State mandates. Month after month new solar arrays are being turned on adding more of a surplus. The New Jersey Office of Clean Energy announced this week that there were 41 Mw installed state-wide in March. This brings the installed capacity to 729Mw. There will be enough solar to produce at least 900,000 SRECs for energy year 2013. The current State law mandates the purchase of only 596,000 for energy year 2013. This year there will most likely be a surplus of 200,000 SRECs.

     The NJ SREC market will most likely be oversupplied for years to come UNLESS there is new legislation requiring the energy companies to purchase more SRECs. There is a high possibility that this may happen in the next few months. The reason is because current State law mandating solar is outdated based upon the significantly lower cost to install solar today. When the law was put into place in January of 2010 it assumed that the cost to install solar would drop by 2.5% per year. Install costs have dropped 30% to 40% in the last 2 years. There is now an opportunity to adjust the law to take advantage of these positive developments. The adjustments that can be made would soak up the oversupply created in the last year, reduce ratepayer exposure by lowering the fine or SACP level, and accelerate the rate of solar installations. The States’ Renewable Portfolio Standard goals would be achieved sooner and cheaper then previously anticipated.

     One reason why the market is continually adding capacity when it is so grossly oversupplied is because solar facilities that were given fixed long term contracts at higher prices under the EDC financing continue to be built. The owners of those projects have no SREC price risk. The ratepayer makes up any losses for those fixed rate contracts, which last 10 years. Once those projects finish, the monthly build rates are expected to drop. This should happen this summer. 
     Pennsylvania, about the only state open to Virginia sites, is now trading SRECs at about $20.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Organic Food Depot - Green Power 2011

Since Jan. 2009, when the program started, we've used
100% Renewable Power
to run our lights, freezers and refrigerators through the 
Dominion Green Power Program (Learn More Here)
Our Report Card Through Winter 2011/2012 is 
We supported 543,331 KWHrof Renewable Energy
Which is the same as NOT DRIVING a typical car
860,860 miles
Or the same as PLANTING9825 Trees

Winter 2011/2012 figures for the Dominion Green Power program are out and once again, Organic Food Depot helps lead the way (see above from the OFD website: https://www.organicfooddepot.com/

Dominion claims that "All renewable facilities supported by the Dominion Green Power program feed green electricity into the same power grid that powers the homes and offices of Virginians, helping to offset the need for traditional energy sources over time."

According to Dominion, there are now:

13,679 Residential participants
186 Commercial participants

for a total of 207,639,406 KWHr, which is the same as

Removing 27,532 cars off the road for a year or
planting 3,671,051 trees

And the top performing city in VA:  Arlington

Monday, April 16, 2012

Dominion's Renewable Facilities

In case you've ever wondered, here's where Dominion's renewable resources are (as of January, 2012) according to the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

See http://www.mwcog.org/uploads/committee-documents/mF1eXF5f20120125080602.pdf  for the whole report.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Dominion to Eliminate Net Metering

Okay maybe I am just overly concerned here and it is really nothing, but I came across the following SCC filing and request for comments today. The SCC post was from 29 Mar 2012 (so recent)

PUE-2011-00117 - Application of Dominion Virginia Power for approval of a Community Solar Power Program and for certification of proposed distributed solar generation facilities


To quote the specific text that worries me...

"In its application, Dominion Virginia Power proposed a
Program that consists of two separate components . First, the
Company anticipates that within the first six months of 2012, it
will file a tariff with the Commission for approval of the purchase
of up to 3 megawatts ("MW") of energy output from
customer-owned distributed solar generation installations as an
alternative to net energy metering. Before making this filing with
the Commission, the Company will evaluate several tariff options
and share those options with customers and stakeholders in

I would note that 3 MW is about how much residential solar is in existence in Virginia.

I am figuring Dominion will evaluate their tariff options and come up with less then $0.03 per kWh as the tariff amount or something equivalent. Given that Dominion keeps claiming that is how much electricity costs them when talking about Solar power. Ignoring of course that they can pay over $0.21 kWh during peak times, which is when solar produces the most power.

The rest of their SCC filing was about them buying roof top leases, so the Net Metering thing is buried in the text, where I am sure the SCC will miss it.

I am not sure how to fight this, but I just know we are going to get ******* by Dominion.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Ray and Suzanne Dezern - Photovoltaic System

The 40 panel ground mount photovoltaic solar system is located in a field 210 feet from their rural residence in Middlesex County, Virginia, about 12 miles from Gloucester Courthouse.  It consists of 40 (four, 10 panel circuits) Sharp NU-Q235F2 watt solar panels installed with Enphase M215 240V micro-inverters, connected to their electrical service panel via #4 wire and two 50 amp circuit breakers. Their installation was completed in December, 2011. The installation included an Enphase “Envoy” communications gateway (power production reporting & recording system). 

Their contractor was Royer Technical Services, Inc. located in Hampton, VA (“Royer”).  Royer designed and fabricated in-house an impressive, strong ground mount system consisting of 3” and 2” stainless steel pipe and bolts anchoring the array.  A seasonal shading issue was identified following installation, but Royer has agreed to rectify that situation and has proposed a couple of different solutions. They have been pleased with the contractor. Dominion Virginia Power installed an Itron bidirectional net meter on January 12, 2012. They were fortunate to receive a rebate from the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (“DMME”) funded pursuant to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 passed by Congress to stimulate the U.S. economy.

Following their installation, the DMME notified them that they qualified for additional rebate money. They were prepared to install either a solar hot water system or an additional 20 PV panels on a separately metered building, but they elected not to proceed because of the “Envoy”  reporting problems they were experiencing at the time. Their problems with the “Envoy” have been electronic, not electrical. They have been very satisfied with the performance of the PV panels and the micro-inverters. 

On most days they have had to resort to counting the pulse readout/display on Dominion’s Itron electrical service meter to ascertain their power production (i.e. 10 pulses/minute = 600 watts [120 pulses/minute or 12 x 600 watts = 7,200 watts]). Their peak power production on clear days has been in the7800 to 8700+ watt range. The “Envoy” has reported similar power levels, albeit sporadically.  The problem persists, notwithstanding the fact that almost all of the suggestions or protocols offered by Enphase customer service and materials on their website, have been tried.  They hope to have the problem resolved shortly.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Direct Current Technology Gets Another Look

In the old argument between Edison and Tesla, direct current technology is getting another look...DC grids used to carry wind power, and some data centers using DC to reduce waste heat.
Good article at http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/18/business/energy-environment/direct-current-technology-gets-another-look.html?_r=2

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Free Green Building Expo, Wed. 4/18/12

Green products and services for residential, industrial and commercial facility owners, design professionals and sustainable contractors.

Speakers: Alex Wilson, Founder of BuildingGreen.com
               and Executive Editor of Environmental
               Building News and Green Spec
               "Greener Insulation Options for
               Commercial Buildings"

               Jay Hall, Jay Hall and Associates
               Acting Director, LEED for Homes Program
               "What is the Market Value of a Green

  April 18, 2012
           9 am to 5 pm

Where: Virginia Beach Convention Center

This event is open to the public and free of charge for all attendees.

Click here for attendee registration.

Click here for exhibitor/sponsor registration.

Click here for details for exhibitors and attendees.

Contact Donna Wilgus at admin@hrgbc.org with  questions.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

MARCH to End Dominion's Power MADNESS

MARCH to End Dominion's Power MADNESS

When: Saturday, 24 March 2012, 12 pm to 3 pm
Where: Kanawha Plaza, Canal St & 8th St, Richmond VA

Why: The clock's running out on our shot at stopping climate change. Renewable energy could be a slam dunk for cleaning up Virginia's energy while creating much-needed jobs. But Dominion Virginia Power is doing everything it can to keep Virginia out of the game.

It's time for a full court press against Dominion's dirty power madness!

On March 24th, join us for a rally and march around Dominion's headquarters in Richmond. We'll tell the company's executives loud and clear that customers want them to stop blocking our shot at developing renewable energy in Virginia and we're willing to fight for it!

Dominion customers want to see the company develop in-state renewable energy projects. Erecting wind farms and installing solar panels across the commonwealth would curb emissions and create jobs in a new homegrown industry.

But power-crazed Dominion doesn't like that idea. While lawmakers in many states require their utilities to get a certain portion of their electricity from renewable sources, Dominion has used its influence to keep that from happening here. The company has such a stranglehold on Virginia politics that it convinced legislators to create voluntary renewable energy goals and hand out a rate bonus for meeting them. And to top it off, the goals are so weak that Dominion is getting its $76 million prize from ratepayers without actually developing any new renewable energy projects in Virginia.

Plus Dominion is actively blocking competitors from building solar power projects and stalling the process on offshore wind power.

Our message is simple: Dominion, stop blocking our shot at real renewables.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Civic Solar Advisor Free Weekly Newsletter

Our own Beau Gillis recommends this free weekly newsletter available from Civic Solar.

He says "Here is stuff on Solar panel load etc., looked like good stuff to pass on."

Another free newsletter about the international Solar Industry in general is from SolarBuzz.

Check these out and let others know what you find by adding comments below, or start a new post. A list of interesting Solar PV websites, blogs and News sources would be very helpful to everyone.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Feb. 2012 HRSG Meeting, Kaufman Hall, ODU

The February meeting of the Hampton Roads Solar Group will be Tuesday, February 21 at 7:30 PM at ODU (note location change).  We’ll be meeting at Kaufman Hall (the hydraulics lab), Rm 138 on the ODU campus.   John Whitelaw will meet us there to let everyone in.  You can locate it on a campus map by going to: http://www.odu.edu/oduhome/campusmap.shtml and selecting “Kaufman Hall” under the list of buildings below the large map.  I’ll get more details as well as parking recommendations from John.

We’ll have two speakers for this meeting:
Hannah Weigard of Chesapeake Climate Action Network (http://www.chesapeakeclimate.org/about/about-us/staff/hannah-wiegard-hampton-roads-organizer).  CCAN has been active in Virginia offshore wind power, an important renewable energy source;
Our own Jim Jacobs

Please pass on the word to others who may be interested; there’s no admission fee and lots of good discussion to be had.

March’s meeting will be March 20 (the Vernal equinox this year) in Hampton at the Ruppert-Sargent Building (our usual Peninsula location).

-          Ken

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Skelion: A solar energy design plugin for Google SketchUp

Skelion was designed to make working in SketchUp quite a bit easier for solar professionals. It features the ability to automatically insert solar panels on SketchUp surfaces. Because the developers are solar professionals themselves, I have a feeling others in the industry will find this plugin quite useful. I had a chance to ask one of Skelion’s developers some questions:
Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
Well, I am Sam Jankis, industrial engineer and co-developer of Skelion, although my partner is the real code developer of the plugin: Juan Pons is a Spanish engineer and programmer. Skelion was born in July 2011 after two years of development. It is a plugin for Google SketchUp that allows you to, among other things, insert solar panels on surfaces automatically.
Why did you build Skelion?
Skelion was developed to automate the design of solar systems using Google SketchUp. The goal was to do all the design work we were doing, but automatically. Now we can do with four clicks what we were doing in four hours. Skelion reduced considerably our average time expended on doing layouts and energy production reports of solar systems, and allowed us to multiply by four the preliminary studies we could do.

Dominion looks to build 2GW Wind Power off Virginia Coast

By James QuilterWindpower Monthly, 03 February 2012, 9:25am 

UNITED STATES: Virginia's largest utility Dominion Virginia Power has revealed it is interested in building 2GW of offshore wind off the state's coast.

Dominion, which moved into onshore wind in 2009, said it had the transmission infrastructure to handle the electricity generated by an offshore wind farm. It said it was looking to develop 500-2,000MW in phases starting at 100 turbines and eventually moving up to 400.
Click here to find out more!
Speaking to the Associated Press, Dominion senior vice president Mary Doswell said: "If everything aligns and it makes good sense and we have our regulators on board, yes, we would be moving forward on a wind farm."
However, Doswell also said costs would have to move closer to Dominion's $0.12/kWh rates. "Wind is a great resource but we've got to work on this cost equation."
Although the majority of its portfolio consists of nuclear and coal, the utility moved into onshore wind in 2008. It built the 264MW NedPower Mount Storm Wind Project in partnership with Shell and has a 50% interest in 650MW of BP Alternative Energy's two-phase, 750MW Fowler Ridge Wind Farm in Indiana.
Dominion has been looking at offshore wind since last year. In March 2011, it launched a study examining a transmission line that would connect any offshore projects.
Scot C Hathaway, vice president of transmission said: "An undersea transmission line project will be a key to getting wind generation from the Atlantic Ocean to our customers.
"Virginia has excellent resources for offshore wind energy. It makes sense for us to begin a preliminary scoping study of a transmission line and how it could make the offshore wind industry in Virginia viable, without regard to issues of rates, timing and integration into the PJM Interconnection regional transmission grid."
The first US offshore wind turbine is likely to be built in Virginia. Gamesa and shipbuilder Northrop Grumman have decided to base their G11X 5MW turbine development program. 
Read original article here.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Study updating Net Metering cost benefit analysis

I came across the following study today:

The short form, it appears to be saying Net Metering saves the electrical consumer/power company more then it costs the consumer/power company when you have a single tier rate (like Dominion's). However, it is in researcher speak and not sure I understood it correctly. 

If I am correct then this is some of the evidence we are looking for that "standby" fees are unjust to solar PV owners.

The study link was buried in an article on "grid use fee" which I suspect Dominion will try out after "stand-by" fee to attempt to kill residential solar. The "grid use fee" got killed, but only because California voters have slightly more political power then the power company's do; unlike Virginia, where Dominion owns the legislature from the looks of it.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Jacobs' Passive Solar House Insulated Roll Shutters

Here's an early morning shot of the new insulated roll shutters which A&A Awnings just installed. The slats are about 1/2" thick, foam filled, powder coated aluminum.  It's motorized and the control is wireless so it can operate it from anywhere within about 200 ft. Individual shutters can be up, down, or anywhere in between for shade control.  In this installation, there are 8 separate units which can be controlled independently, though a unit could have been designed to cover any number of windows since the system is custom designed and built.

When down, they seal tightly and have allowed the internal heater usage at night to be cut by 1/3. It's like something out of Star-Trek when they all go up or down at the same time. 

Serendipitously, they fit right into the passive solar house as if it were designed with them in mind, which, of course, it wasn't since the house was built in 1980.  

Because they're foam filled, they're not as structurally strong as hurricane shutters, but will give some protection up to category 1 storms, though that's not their primary function.  

Although expensive (the whole system was about $12,000 installed), Jim & Genny Jacobs can highly recommend them should someone want rolling, insulated shutters like these.  Warranty is 5 years on parts, 1 year on labor.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Surry/ODEC Zoning Hearing Date Set for Feb 27

Dear friends,

With the help and dedication of many people, we have been able to combine our collective efforts to push back the Old Dominion Cooperative's stated date of completion for their proposed coal-fired power plant from 2016 to 2021. I believe we are winning, but ODEC hasn't backed down and is still working to build what would be the largest coal plant in Virginia. We all know that this is a bad deal for both the economy and the health of Hampton Roads, and we can't let up on the pressure.

I want to make sure everyone knows that a critical opportunity to show our opposition to the coal plant is coming up on February 27th at 7:00 PM in Surry County (exact location TBD).

The Surry County Planning and Zoning Commission is being forced to reconsider zoning approval of the coal plant after a judge ruled that ODEC had rammed zoning approval through without proper notice in 2010. The planning and Zoning Commission will hold a hearing and a vote whether to recommend that the town of Dendron also approve local zoning for the coal plant. This is a great opportunity for you to speak up. Bring signs, bring your neighbors, bring friends. I've also created a Facebook event that you can access here and use to help spread the word. If you have access to a list serve or help run an advocacy organization please alert your membership. I'm happy to help anyone get the word out.

Many of you were there when in 2010 the Surry County Planning and Zoning Commission held a hearing and voted to recommend that the town of Dendron approve zoning for the plant. Many of you were there when Dendron held a Town Council Meeting for which no vote was advertised yet they voted anyway - even though three town council members abstained for a lack of advertisement. Those three town council members also abstained because the Mayor of Dendron wouldn't allow the coal plant proposal specifics to discussed, they abstained because ODEC refused to discuss whose properties the rail spur would cross, whose properties the massive pipeline to the James would cross. They abstained because ODEC claimed that trees could hide view of the 650 foot smokestacks and that the smokestacks only emitted water vapor. In the eyes of many ODEC's credibility was nonexistent. How could they let them build and operate a major source of pollution, that is known to cut years off of lives, cause asthma attacks, COPD, strokes, poison rivers, poison lakes, poison the Chesapeake Bay, and dump millions of tons of toxic ash all over town

It was repeatedly stated by council members at the Town Council Meeting that the vote wouldn't be legal, but ODEC's attorneys reassured the pro-coal plant town council members that it would be fine, that no one would sue. These are Virginia's premiere land use attorneys after all, surely they know how to write a public notice. Still, the remaining town council members and the mayor had the votes, and audacity, to grant local zoning approval that night in February of 2010. Shortly afterward, feeling the sting of injustice a local blueberry farmer and lawyer joined other locals to sue ODEC for not advertising the critical vote. It was a simple cut and dry case and ODEC could have admitted their mistake and just held the votes again. Instead they tried to have the case dismissed and they tried to scare the plaintiffs from Surry County by asking the court to make them liable for potentially millions in court costs. ODEC tried to damage the character of the lawyer saying that he was continually trying to delay the case when it was ODEC trying to get the case dismissed and flooding the court with tons of irrelevant documents.

In the end the judge ruled in favor of the Surry County residents and their farmer/attorney. The Planning and Zoning Commission and the town of Dendron must each hold their hearings and votes again, this time properly advertised. ODEC isn't wasting time. As I mentioned above, the first hearing and vote will be February 27th and the second has yet to be announced though it could possibly be in early March.

The increasingly small pro-coal plant group in Surry County has more than their share of power in the county and have worked to bolster pro-coal sentiments in the Planning Commission and the town of Dendron. Those three courageous Town Council members, for example, have been voted out and replaced with pro-coal members. So we don't expect either body to vote against local zoning.

I hope you will join me, and the dedicated people of Surry County, as we make a point to ODEC, the media, Surry and Dendron Politicians, and downwind communities who would suffer for decades to come, that this coal plant proposal is unacceptable.

Though we may lose the local zoning vote, let's treat this as our rally against the plant. Let us show our support for the citizens who haven't stopped fighting for a single day and took a great personal risk in filing the suit. Let's show ODEC that as long as they continue to try to push this dirty deal through the permitting process, we will be there to oppose it.

I hope you can make it.
(original email sent by Mike McCoy, Virginia Campaign Coordinator
Appalachian Voices)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Natural Gas Stations

Hampton Roads Green Building Council presents a
Learning Series Event

      Natural Gas Stations
Continuing Education: 1.5 GBCI CEUs for LEED GA and LEED AP+, Category I, Project Site Factors

The use of natural gas fuel not only reduces greenhouse gas emissions but also significantly reduces costs.

Presenter:  Greg Martin from Clean Energy Fuels

When:  February 21, 2102
          Noon to 1:30 pm
          Lunch will be provided

Where:  To be determined

Fees:  Fees for this event are $20 for members, $35 for non-members and $40 for walk-ins. 

Members will receive a separate e-mail with the member discount code to register at the reduced rate. 

Click here for more details and registration.

Contact Donna Wilgus at admin@hrgbc.org with any questions. 

Clean Energy Business Lobby Day Results

Eileen Levandoski from the Virginia Chapter of the Sierra Club coordinated the "Clean Energy Business Lobby Day" on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2012 in Richmond, VA.   Below is the email she sent telling about what happened:

Dear Clean Energy Business Friends:

Thank you for participating in yesterday's Clean Energy Business Lobby Day!  Let me quickly recount what happened yesterday and then jump to next steps.

  • Over 40 clean energy business reps participated.  Throughout the day, we had 29 meetings with legislators and 19 meetings with legislative aides.  Our legislative packet was hand-delivered to all 140 legislators by business reps.
  • While our press conference with excellent speakers (Aviv Goldsmith from Fishermen's Energy, Bill Greenleaf from Richmond Region Energy Alliance and Scott Sklar with The Stella Group) was picked up by the  AP, we were more-or-less news cycle-wise trumped by the Governor's Press Conference and his uranium mining announcement.  Bites, but what can you do...
  • In a statement from the floor of the State Senate, Senator Frank Wagner recognized the day as "Clean Energy Business Lobby Day".  Delegate Tom Rust did similarly in the House of Delegates.  Even the Richmond Times-Dispatch recognized the day
  • Many participants witnessed first hand Virginia's style of sausage-making by attending the House Commerce and Labor committee meeting in the afternoon where they voted unanimously to weaken the RPS and almost killed the one good bill on efficiency.
  • Finally at the end of a long day of lobbying for clean energy, we kicked back to enjoy remarks from Lt. Governor Bill Bolling and past and future? gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe while also hob-knobbing with 12 legislators and numerous legislative aides at our legislative reception.
Under separate cover, I will be sending out our feedback form from your appointments with legislators.  This is very important information to have as we continue our outreach to move our priority legislation along. 

I'll also be sharing photos and news clips.  Feel free to share anything you have from the day as well.

Moving on to next steps:

  • We've established an email chain for discussing legislation with many of our solar industry friends.  I am in the throes of moving this group over to a Google discussion group.  If you would like to be included in this discussion and sent an invitation to this Google group, please shoot me an email.  As we will be also greatly discussing RPS reforms, our friends in the other clean energy industries are more than welcome to join the discussion group. 
  • Unless I hear otherwise from you, I will keep your email on stand-by for Rapid Response and Action Alerts as we need calls and/or emails into the General Assembly.
After yesterday's activities, I think the General Assembly is now on notice that Virginia's Clean Energy businesses mean business.  Despite the fact that Virginia has miles to make up when it comes to renewable energy, we are presenting them an agenda that makes sense and is totally "accomplish-able", and presents at the minimum baby steps towards the ideal. 

On behalf of the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter, let me again extend our tremendous thanks and appreciation for the hard work you each put into yesterday and to the hard work you'll hopefully continue to give for Virginia's clean energy future. 


Eileen Levandoski
Virginia Conservation Program Manager
Virginia Chapter Sierra Club