Archive for the 'solar energy' Category

Happy Earth Day! Take a stand with your money

Late last week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued a news release listing the 50 organizations that use the most electricity from green sources.

On Earth Day 2013, it’s appropriate to know who these companies are, and to ask: Why aren’t any Kentucky-based companies and universities on the list?

According to the EPA, here are the 10 companies that use the most annual kilowatt hours of green energy to power their operations:

1. Intel Corp.
2. Microsoft Corp.
3. Kohl’s Department Stores
4. Whole Foods Market
5. Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
6. U.S. Department of Energy
7. Staples
8. Starbucks company-owned stores
9. Lockheed Martin Corp.
10. Apple Inc.

“We applaud the leadership demonstrated by organizations that are helping reduce carbon pollution and spur the growth of clean, American-made energy sources by increasing their use of renewable energy,” EPA Acting Administrator Bob Perciasepe said in the news release. “As President Obama has made clear, clean energy is critical to our health, our economy, our security, and our ability to effectively address climate change.”

FYI: EPA defines green power as electricity produced from solar, wind, geothermal, biogas, eligible biomass, and low-impact small hydroelectric sources.

Granted, the top 10 are all major corporations, or government agencies, with significant resources. Intel uses green power to cover 100 percent of its electricity load, according to the news release.  Apple, which is new to the top 50, now has 85 percent of its electricity used in the U.S. coming from green power.

But universities are scattered throughout the top 50. The University of Pennsylvania ranks 25th, and the University of Oklahoma is 34th.

On the list of top 20 universities, in addition to these two schools, fellow SEC member Tennessee ranks 10th.

To see all of the companies, universities and other rankings, go to

And then, use your buying power to tell companies, organizations and schools that green power matters to  you.

— Linda J.


Now is the time to act in NY and NJ

OK, now that the election is over, can we please have an adult conversation about climate change?

Pretty please?

Climate change is real, it is not a hoax. The world is changing dramatically. Just ask folks in NY and NJ who never expected to have water in their homes, businesses and subways to the extent it happened. The water surged at the level it did because of rising sea levels.

Some are trying to get around the issue of how to deal with it by saying basically let’s not talk about why it happened, let’s just do something. But I don’t think that works.

As I tell my daughter, actions have consequences. They can be good consequences, or bad or somewhere in between. But every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Remember that from Sir Isaac Newton’s Third Law of motion in middle school science? How can you solve problems if you don’t know why something happened?

To President Barack Obama: congratulations on winning a second term. I was very pleased to hear you mention the climate in your speech (very) early this morning. It’s a start.

Now, it is time for you to take the lead on climate change,  something you failed to discuss during the campaign. I get it; you were being pilloried by the right for everything else, why give the climate deniers and Obama-haters one more sound bite?

But you have an opportunity, here, Mr. President. Hurricane Sandy’s overwhelming destruction should be used as an opening to re-make New York and New Jersey better, stronger and green. Use your powerful voice and speaking ability to rally the nation and use federal money to make it happen. If countries in Europe can put up gates to keep the water out, so can we.

And, please sir, don’t wait years like it’s taken in New Orleans. published a story today about a Katrina-ravaged neighborhood that has been re-built into the largest solar project in Louisiana. That’s great, but Katrina hit in 2005.

Let’s not wait seven years to launch a new way forward in New York and New Jersey. Now is the time to act.




Group rates KY 37th in annual energy efficiency report

The non-profit American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy has released its annual report on states’ energy efficiencies.

While some states, including Nebraska, Alabama and Tennessee have made significant gains, “from transportation to industry to buildings, helping Americans save money and creating new business and employment opportunities across the U.S.”,  KY remains in the lower half, at 37th.

Here’s a link to the ACEEE’s map, showing how states rank, and also a link to, which compared that map to the 2008 presidential election map.

Interesting comparison.

— Linda J.

Kentucky military bases taking the lead on saving energy and money

In many things, the U.S. military takes the lead and soon thereafter, the rest of the country follows.

From technology breakthroughs of all kinds to ending racial, gender and sexual orientation discrimination in the last 50 years, the military truly leads the way. Now, it’s leading in a new area: saving the environment, oh and saving huge sums of money along the way.

And two of Kentucky’s army bases are doing their part, according to a release Monday from the Pew Charitable Trusts’ environment group.

In the release, Pew states that the Department of Defense is “accelerating clean energy innovations in an effort to reduce risks to America’s military, enhance energy security and save money.”

Titled From Barracks to the Battlefield: Clean Energy Innovation and America’s Armed Forces, the report says DoD clean energy investments increased 300 percent between 2006 and 2009 and are projected to “eclipse $10 billion annually by 2030.”

The Pew report lists three main areas where  DoD is working to develop and use clean energy technologies:  vehicle efficiency, advanced biofuels and energy efficiency and renewable energy at bases.

In Kentucky, Army bases Fort Campbell and Fort Knox are setting standards. Here’s what the report said about each:

  • Fort Campbell- Ft. Campbell was the first in the Army to have Zero Energy HousingThese houses are designed to be 54 percent more efficient than any other house out there.  This is accomplished by an improved building envelope structure that includes better windows, and installing more efficient appliances and heating/cooling systems. The houses will also be able to sustain the power needs of the Family inside with an on-site renewable energy source in the form of solar panels mounted on the back exterior of the roof. Ft. Campbell also recently completed a roof top solar domestic hot water project for a dining hall on post. They also boast geothermal field wells on site (50) for their barracks.
  • Fort Knox Ft. Knox uses geothermal energy to heat and cool buildings. In addition to its geothermal systems, Fort Knox has instituted cost savings with changes in insulation, lighting, windows, roofs, and domestic hot water. Biogenetic methane gas provides additional energy to cover the spike in costs of air conditioning during summer months. Ft. Knox is the first in the country and the first in the Army to use biogenetic methane gas. They have installed solar arrays and the tank and picnic area are illuminated by a photovoltaic system which cost $13,000 to implement, compared to the $70,000 that traditional electrical lighting would have cost. Another array of solar panels – or PV systems – were installed at Richardson Hall. That array has the capability to produce 100 kilowatts per hour. Ft. Knox has an experimental wind turbine as well.

— Linda J.

Going green, top 10 — my findings vs.’s findings

I recently accepted a challenge from who saw an earlier blog I did on finding companies that do no harm. They emailed me their “Going Green Top Ten questions” and their answers and suggested I try to find answers, too. So here are my findings and’s.

1. Why should I recycle?
More importantly, as my 6-year-old daughter asked the other day, “why don’t people recycle?” The National Recycling Council has its own Top 10 reasons to recycle. Read them here. Recycling turns materials that would otherwise become waste into valuable resources.

2. How do hybrid cars work?
A hybrid car attempts to merge the best of gasoline- and electric-powered vehicles for reduced energy waste, while overcoming the environmental problems of gas and short use span of batteries. A hybrid car has elements of both gasoline powered engines, and electric powered engines, which are combined in such a way that gas mileage is increased and pollution is decreased.

3. What was the recycled material used to make the 2010 Olympic medals?
“Each medal was made with a tiny bit of the more than 140,000 tons of e-waste that otherwise would have been sent to Canadian landfills,” according to Olympic medals have been made of gilded silver since the 1912 Games.

4. What is energy conservation?
Reducing the amount of everything we use because everything takes energy to make, create or build. It takes energy to pull the bauxite out of the ground to make foil, even though foil can be recycled. It’s turning off lights, unplugging things when you aren’t using them, and switching to energy-saving equipment and electronics, if not outright doing without them. And don’t forget the CFL bulbs, washing and cleaning full loads (clothes or dishes) and the like. It takes every piece of that and more to reduce the the energy we use to allow save energy and the environment. Energy conservation is simply using less energy.

5. Where can I recycle batteries?
In Kentucky, go to: for a list of places that take recycled batteries and electronics. Go to to find battery recycling centers in your area.

6. What is the cheapest way to go green?
Check out the queen of saving money’s suggestions for going green at: Suze Ormans Guide to Making Low Cost eco-upgrades. She makes a lot of sense. The best way to go green is also the best way to save money — use less!

7. What percent of people recycle?
According to a 2009 article on, “While 87 percent of people surveyed say they recycle, the U.S. EPA reports only 33 percent of our waste is diverted from landfills.” Makes me question how much that 87 percent is actually recycling or if they really do recycle. Our garbage has dropped more than 75% between recycling everything we can, composting even more and using fewer things like plastic bottles. Packaging matters. It is estimated that only 70% of the U.S. population recycles.

8. Which city recycles the most?
Ok, I wasn’t expecting this: Lexington, Ky. was the only city, of those with more than 100,000 people, to score 5 out of 5 in the recycling/green perspective category of a survey by in 2008. “Lexingtonians recycle everything from surplus electronics to scrap metal, and they listed the environment as their third most important concern (behind only employment and public safety) & the highest ranking in our survey.” San Francisco ranks the highest on many survey-based studies on recycling and sustainability.

9. How does wind power work?
“Breaking it down to it’s simplest components, a wind turbine operates as follows: the wind turns the blades; the blades spin a shaft; the shaft connects to a generator; the generator produces electricity.” Source: The wind turns the blades of a turbine, which in turn spin a shaft that is connected to a generator. This produces kinetic energy, which the generator uses to produce electricity.

10. How will future generations be affected if we don’t recycle?
Read number 1 again and then ponder this: If we don’t recycle, we lose jobs, waste energy, create more pollution, greenhouse gases and more. Higher fuel prices, increased consumer debt, dirty air, and decreasing wildlife population.

How did we do?

— Linda J.

UK’s Richard Levine and Ernie Yanarella get awards

Two of the University of Kentucky’s best-known professors and environmentalists are getting awards.

On Thursday, Ernest Yanarells will get the Martin School of Public Policy and Administration’s 2010 William E. Lyons Award.
Here’s what the invitation to the presentation ceremony says:

Dr. Yanarella is a professor of Political Science at the University of Kentucky. In addition to his scholarly contributions and teaching at the University, both of which have been recognized with University awards, he has been active in service to the University, Lexington, and the Commonwealth. His service to the University includes terms as Chair of the Senate Council, Presiding Office of the University Senate, and faculty representative to the Board of Trustees. Professor Yanarella is founding co-chair of the Central Kentucky Council for Peace and Justice, Founder of the Citizens for Informed Voting in the Commonwealth initiative and has served on the boards of numerous organizations including Kentucky Youth Advocates and the Kentucky Civil Liberties Union.

Levine, meanwhile, has received an international award for his “Continuing Contributions” to the field of solar energy.

Here’s the release on that:

Richard S. Levine, a long-standing innovator in solar architecture and sustainability, has been honored for his achievements with the Passive Solar Pioneer Award from the American Solar Energy Society. The award recognizes those who have contributed significant innovations to the environmentally responsive use of direct solar energy for lighting, ventilation, heating, and cooling. Levine’s “Foresight, innovative thinking, and creativity opened the doors for others,” according to Bradley Collins, Executive Director of the American Solar Energy Society. Levine’s career has spanned over 40 years, as a professor of architecture, innovative building designer, and sustainability expert. His continuing contributions in passive theory and practice have significantly enlarged the way we think about the context of solar architecture and sustainability at both the building as well as the community scale.

The American Solar Energy Society (ASES) established the Passive Solar Pioneer award in 1979 to honor “Distinguished members of the solar field who are true pioneers.” Past winners have included: Bruce Anderson- A founder of Earth Day (1990), Ralph Lewis Knowles- who documented the dynamic, interactive effects of ecological forces and was the first recipient of the prestigious gold medal for research of the AIA (American Institute of Architects) (2003); Edward Mazria –who wrote the Passive Solar Handbook and leads the 2030 challenge which promises to provide the level of building performance to reach sustainability standards (1994); Ken Haggard and Polly Cooper who conduct a pioneering practice in architecture and sustainability (1996); as well as Native Americans (1991)- whose resourceful patterns of living with nature form an enduring inspiration.

Levine is an architect and professor with over 200 publications on solar energy and urban sustainability. He is widely recognized for his achievements in environmental and passive solar architecture, solar energy, and sustainability. A holder of US patents on structural systems and solar energy applications, he is the architect of a number of award-winning solar buildings. He is the co-director of the Center for Sustainable Cities at the University of Kentucky, and the principal architect at the CSC Design Studio ( His Raven Run Solar House, built in 1975, continues to be published internationally in both professional and popular publications. The house was the first to integrate active and passive systems with an attached greenhouse and super-insulation. Its groundbreaking contribution was to show how complex synergies can emerge from the strategic use of a number of mutually supportive technologies. His work on the award-winning Hooker Chemical Building in 1978 was a true trend-setter in commercial architecture. Using only 12% of the energy of a conventional office building, its pioneering innovations were widely emulated in Europe and continue to influence energy conserving large buildings around the world. ASES cited Hooker as “The bridge between the creation of the passive solar movement in the United States and its elaboration in Europe.” Even today, when solar photovoltaic panels are often thought of as add-ons to conventional buildings, Levine’s pioneering integrative design strategies have continued relevance as cutting edge contributions to economical high performance sustainability driven building design.

Levine’s work has continued to demonstrate an artful synthesis of performance, architecture, and aesthetic contributions through integrative design for energy and architectural performance. As Levine has recently written: “Energy saving Components are much more efficient when designed and integrated into a building conceived as a whole, integrated system. Ultimately all our work in solar energy will be of greatest value when it facilitates the transition to a sustainable way of life in our towns and cities. This can only happen when major aspects of life in cities, from lifestyles to resource use, food production, and mobility are studied systemically through an Alternative Scenario Building process. The 21st century city will be a place where the urban metabolism can be balanced to work within the limits of the natural environment through democratic, participatory, scenario-building processes. ”

Writing that Levine’s multiple contributions are long overdue for recognition in the United States, the nominating committee cited Levine as an “Outstanding contributor both in character and work contribution to the entire movement.” Citing a “Unique combination of building research, design, and built projects” they went on to state: “Unprecedented energy use and worldwide urbanization has now made the continuing work of Professor Levine critically important.”

Levine’s own home, the Raven Run Solar House is Kentucky’s pioneer solar building. A recent upgrade of the attached architectural studio for his CSCDS firm with 30, 175 watt photovoltaic solar panels has rendered the entire property energy neutral. The CSC Design Studio specializes in designing livable and affordable zero-net energy homes and sustainable communities.
The Raven Run House and CSC Design Studio are sited on 30 picturesque wooded acres in Southern Fayette County. Levine and his associates host quarterly tours through Bluegrass Greenworks, and the Kentucky Solar Energy Society. When asked about his experience working at a pioneering local and national landmark, CSCDS associate Casey Mather remarked: “We knew we had hit zero-net energy when the meter reader from Blugrass Energy kept coming out to check if our electric meter was functioning correctly.”

Environmentalists line up behind bill calling for eggs in different baskets

Here’s the release:

New Alliance Promotes Clean, Affordable Energy Solutions

Applauds legislation to increase energy efficiency and renewable energy in Kentucky

A new alliance of clean energy businesses and non-profit organizations praised legislation filed yesterday in the Kentucky legislature by Representative Harry Moberly. The legislation sets energy efficiency and renewable energy goals for Kentucky in order to grow high quality local jobs, help stabilize long term energy prices, and promote good health.

The Kentucky Sustainable Energy Alliance (KySEA) says House Bill 408 requires Kentucky’s utilities to generate 12.5% of their retail sales from renewable sources by the year 2020, up from only 2% in 2007. The bill also asks utilities to develop energy efficiency programs to help customers reduce their electricity use by 10.25% over the next decade. Those targets are similar to goals already adopted in several nearby states, including Ohio and North Carolina. The bill builds on momentum created by the federal stimulus program by providing long-term support for comprehensive weatherization programs that help lower income households save money and energy. A provision called a feed-in tariff also expands incentives for renewable energy production without additional cost to the state budget.

“I’m excited about any policy that helps families save money and energy by becoming more energy efficient,” said Mary Love, a member of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth. “This bill provides incentives that can help everyday Kentuckians improve the energy efficiency of our homes. We’ll save money on our power bills, and help create good jobs in all areas of the state. Lowering our energy use also diminishes the need for expensive new power plants, and leads to cleaner air and water and more healthy living conditions for us all.”

“Our organization focuses on providing affordable housing solutions to build better communities and help reduce foreclosures and homelessness,” noted Sherrie Davison of Frontier Housing, based in Morehead. “Home energy costs in Kentucky currently consume more than 20% of annual income for families living at the poverty line, contributing to economic instability and homelessness. The era of cheap electricity is ending, and all Kentucky families need resources, tools and good public policy to make our homes, apartments and manufactured housing more efficient.

“Contracts and jobs continue go to Ohio, Indiana and Tennessee because the Commonwealth lacks up-to-date public policies,” said Matt Partymiller, an owner of Solar Energy Solutions, a company that employs three people in Lexington. “We need things like a renewable portfolio standard and a feed-in tariff just to be competitive with our neighbors and the incentives they offer for renewable energy development.”

“Feed-in tariffs are guaranteed payments made to people who generate renewable electricity onto the power grid,” explained Andy McDonald, director of Kentucky Solar Partnership. “By guaranteeing payments for renewable power under long term contracts, feed-in tariffs create a stable environment that attracts investment and can produce very rapid development of the renewable energy sector, leading to substantial economic development and job creation. Feed-in tariffs enabled Germany to become the world leader in solar energy, and Germany’s renewable energy sector now employs hundreds of thousands of workers.”

“We are thrilled that meaningful clean energy solutions are now on the table,” stated Wallace McMullen, who chairs the Energy Committee of the Sierra Club’s Cumberland Chapter. “This is a golden opportunity for Kentucky. We should make the most of it and move forward to a cleaner, more prosperous, and healthier future for our children and the Commonwealth.”

* * * * * *

KySEA formed in August 2009 with the goal of promoting clean, sustainable and affordable energy solutions for Kentucky. The Alliance currently has 25 members including renewable energy businesses, service organizations, faith and social justice groups, agricultural, environmental and health-based organizations. KySEA seeks to build public support for energy policies that:

§ Make improving energy efficiency Kentucky’s top energy priority.
§ Promote the development of clean, renewable energy and increase the share of our overall energy mix that comes from these sources.
§ Create new jobs and opportunities for Kentuckians, including a just transition for coal communities and workers.
§ Enable all Kentucky residents and businesses to take advantage of energy efficiency and renewable energy solutions.
Additional information about the Kentucky Sustainable Energy Alliance and the potential for energy efficiency and renewable energy in Kentucky can be found at:

New Web site focuses on changing Appalachia

The Mountain Association for Community Economic Development and Kentuckians For The Commonwealth have come together for a project called The Appalachian Transition Initiative. MACED’s Justin Maxson says the goal is “to promote an active, action-oriented, public conversation about the necessary transition to a new economy in Central Appalachia.”

A new Web site to go along with the project is

More from Maxson:

Our two organizations – a community development corporation and a grassroots social justice organization – exemplify the broad, diverse, and growing body of groups, individuals, and community leaders who agree it is time to transition. We are operating from a widely shared desire for and vision of a more just, healthy, and sustainable economy.

We believe the old extraction-based economy has produced poor results and offers a very limited future. We recognize global economic trends that may be threats to the old economy, but offer opportunities for transitioning to a new economy. And we see new initiatives with the potential to create new jobs and new strategies.

We know that transitioning to a new economy in Central Appalachia will not be easy or quick. In fact it will be hard as old habits, false assumptions, and powerful interests work to protect the status quo. And we don’t pretend to have all the answers. But we believe with a clear vision and a steady approach, together we can move to a new economy that sustains the people and the land of Central Appalachia.

The new website is a full and growing repository of information about our region, strategies for moving forward, organizations and individuals working on these issues, essays and more. The site features a blog that will have regular posts about relevant news and events. We expect to add information and perspective to the site regularly. We hope you’ll use the site and we’d be happy to hear suggestions as we continue to build the site.

The Web site was quietly launched last week Maxson says it will have much more content in the coming months.

State regulators to weigh need for Kentucky coal plant

The environmental groups that have been dogging East Kentucky Power Cooperative’s proposed new plant in Clark County have gained some traction with the state Public Service Commission. Here is Ryan Alessi’s story:

Coal is bad, wind and solar inadequate. Whatever will we do?

Faces of Coal, an industry group, is always looking for ways to boost coal. Sometimes, that means pointing out that the alternative energy sources touted by environmentalists have problems.
This week, the group sent out a release about “a new report” commissioned by state government that says wind and solar energy are not viable in Kentucky. Turns out that “new” means June.
Here’s the report: Look under the 2009 Site Bank Report.

Meanwhile, from the other side, there’s a new book called Coal Country (Sierra Club Books, $25.95 paper, $40 cloth). It’s edited by Shirley Steward Burns, Mari-Lynn Evans and Silas House, with contributions from Wendell Berry and a host of the usual suspects.
It follows the documentary Coal Country, and Coal Country, the music CD. Coming next, Coal Country, the ash tray.