The sun is relentless in the high desert town of Lancaster, California. This city, with a population of just over 150,000 people, is located about an hour north of Los Angeles in the Antelope Valley region. It is the home of Edwards Air Force Base, where space shuttles have often landed long after the speed of sound was first broken by Chuck Yeager.
The city’s mayor, Rex Parris, wants to capitalize on the abundance of solar energy, and has launched a campaign to be the first city to produce more electricity from solar energy than the town consumes on a daily basis. With 39 megawatts already installed and 50 MW under construction, this will “only” require an additional 126 MW of solar capacity to meet that goal. Continue reading
Posted in Energy
Tagged Going Green
The St. Louis Science Center is widely renowned for its family-friendly exhibits. The massive marble roll in the main lobby catches everyone’s attention, and the life-size Tyrannosaurus rex intrigues kids both big and small. The latest addition to the Science Center is the Experience Energy gallery. This is a great place to explore and learn about the value and importance of energy in our world.
This highly-interactive gallery, made possible by a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy in partnership with the Missouri University of Science and Technology, offers attendees the chance to learn all about energy. One of the first exhibits in the gallery shows how energy is used in a roller coaster, including a video from Six Flags St. Louis showing the energy in motion. Visitors also have a chance to build their own roller coaster to experience first hand how potential energy is transformed into kinetic energy. Continue reading
Posted in Energy
Tagged Going Green
I got my first chance to drive a Chevy Volt a couple years ago when I worked a few hours in a booth at the St. Louis Auto Show. Now, this was far from the experience you might expect; I drove it inside America’s Center and was asked not to exceed 5 mph. The person who rode with me didn’t exactly hold me at gunpoint, but I felt compelled to honor their request (with I think one very short and modest exception!)
At the time, the Volt was not yet available in our area, so even if I felt like the $40K asking price was not an obstacle, I wouldn’t have been able to go out and get one. But in the last year or so, I’ve been seeing more of them on the road, and I have to say that I really like the car. So when Microgrid Solar installed a ChargePoint EV charging station in front of Brauer Hall at Washington University, I attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate yet another charging station in St. Louis. Continue reading
I am pleased to head up a “Green Team” at our office. The company I work for, Microgrid Solar, recently moved into a new and much larger office space, so I now have a private office that rivals the home office I’ve been so comfortable in the last few years. Working everyday with a great team is fun, and I’m honored at the chance to provide some leadership on our sustainability initiatives.
One of our policies is to divert at least 90% of our waste in the office and at job sites, so in the office kitchen, we often have to decide where the trash goes – recycling or landfill? Given the variety of standards, food packaging is one of the more challenging items to determine whether it goes in the recycling bin or the trash. We are fortunate to have access to a variety of restaurants in Clayton, and we often run out to pick up food and bring it back to eat at the office. I’m pleased to see more restaurants using recycled and recyclable materials in their packaging, including paper, plastic and foil. We have single-stream recycling (which means you can throw all recyclables into a single container), but it’s still far from simple when it comes to proper disposal. Since different waste haulers have different standards, it’s important to check with yours to find out what they’ll accept in the recycling bin. Continue reading
Several months ago I discovered a book called Just Green It on a friend’s coffee table. Thumbing through it, I could quickly tell that this was a great resource covering all aspects of our busy lives. The final hook that begged me to borrow the book was likely the inclusion of one of my favorite quotes from Gandhi – “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Authors Ron and Lisa Beres, founders of GreenNet.com, provide a vast set of “dos and don’ts” to help us navigate an increasingly complex set of consumer choices. The bulk of the book is in a concise format that shows opposing options. For each of 100+ product categories, they offer one page, called Green It! that highlights “The Good,” “The Green,” and “The Convenient Truth.” These pages are filled with facts and recommendations on how to live a more sustainable lifestyle by choosing a greener alternative. The book promotes a variety of real name-brand products as a service to help consumers identify pre-vetted products. As busy as we all are, this seems like a great resource to minimize the research necessary to find truly green products. Continue reading
In October, I scheduled a long overdue quiet retreat. Years ago I took a similar getaway to do some soul-searching when I was at a crossroads in my career, and found the Vision of Peace Hermitages in Pevely, Missouri, which is about a 30 minute drive south from St. Louis. On my first trip there in 2003, I spent three days in the quiet surroundings, and so I chose to do another mid-week stint this year.
Of course, it was a prime time of the year for the changing colors of the trees. Nestled on the bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River, the hermitages are surrounded by privately owned forests of trees. Most of the hermitages are built into the hill, with the ceiling, floor and three of four walls touching the surrounding earth. A single exterior face of each hermitage is exposed to the elements, so they are very energy-efficient, requiring little to heat and cool the space. Continue reading
I guess we should consider ourselves blessed that, in the ten years that we’ve had our golden retriever Shannon, we’ve never had a flea problem. But this summer, we discovered what a frustrating and challenging problem a flea infestation can be. We’re not sure who to blame (the groomer? Another dog? Life?), but we’ve cursed and sworn that once we get past this, we’ll monitor things much more diligently so we never have such an outbreak.
Our veterinarian, who is a fairly “green” kind of guy, suggested that the most common remedy is to deploy a flea bomb. Given my predisposition for clean, healthy air, I was certainly reluctant to take this advice, and sought out to find a healthier, non-toxic alternative to solve the problem. As it turns out, there are a number of more eco-friendly options, although not as convenient as setting off a device that spews a dense cloud of insecticide to cover the entire interior of our home. Of course the manufacturers of these products will claim that they are safe to use, assuming you follow all of their instructions and leave the house for a few hours while the “dust” settles. In fact, this poison settles on virtually everything in your home, resulting in what I’d consider a hazardous waste site. In addition, continued use of these pesticides ultimately leads to higher resistance from pests, which creates a need for even more toxic enhancements. It’s much healthier to use a holistic approach to the problem. Continue reading
Most people would love the possibility of having a clean, renewable energy system that produces all of their electricity. As utility rates continue to climb, our summer electric bills have gotten our attention and seem to scream for an alternative solution. Many people are discovering that solar electric systems are well suited to accomplish this feat.
Unfortunately, this is a tough challenge in Missouri, because you can’t bank any excess energy produced beyond the monthly billing cycle. While other more progressive states like Illinois, New Jersey and California have an annual true-up cycle that enables them to over-produce in some months to cover a deficit in other months, a monthly true-up will only let you bank energy on the grid during a single month. If you are a net-generator at the end of the month (you produce more than you use), the utility will pay you their avoided cost, which is about 2-1/2 cents per kWh. Compare this to what you pay, which may range from 7 cents in the winter to 11 cents or more in the summer, and you can see that’s no money-maker. Continue reading
Now in my twelfth year of riding the in what is now called Bike MS, I have ridden with a number of teams over the years. Two of my mates from Team CSL were unable to ride this year, so my long-time biking partner Harold Anderson and I decided to ride with Team Christner this year. In years past, we’ve camped near their team and they seemed like a good group of people. And since Christner is a “green” architectural firm, this aligned well with our values. The team of 49 people is well behind the giant Team Kaldi, but is capable of making a respectable team contribution (over $30K so far) to the 2012 fundraising campaign. Continue reading
I’m sure most people can’t relate to this, but I actually look forward to getting our utility bills. We’ve made a number of investments in energy efficiency and renewable energy, along with some behavioral changes to be more conservative in our energy use.
We got our electric bill today for the period 7/30-8/28. During this time:
- We only pulled 500 kWh of electricity off the grid.
- Our solar PV system produced a total of 500 kWh.
- We exported 287 kWh of excess energy to the grid from our solar PV system.
- Our net consumption from the grid was only 213 kWh for the month.
- At $0.1059/kWh, that cost $22.56 + the $8 monthly service charge and taxes for a total of $32.97 for the month.
- Our total consumption, including solar and grid power, was 713 kWh. This compares to 1,110 kWh for the same period last year. So the efficiency & conservation measures are significant. Continue reading