energy efficiency, sustainability, green buildings, solar, hybrid cars and alternate fuels.

"A society built on green design, sustainable energy and closed loop systems, a civilization afloat on a cloud of efficient, non-toxic, recyclable technology." ~~Alex Nikolai Steffan

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4.21.2016

Florida Power and Light, the Governor and Cabinet are told 'You Gotta Follow the Rules"


AP Photo/Lynne Sladky
A District Court of Appeal told FPL that it really does has to comply with environmental regulations meant to protect the Everglades and endangered birds.  

This ruling does not mean the project is dead, but that it must be reworked to comply with rules that require new power lines to be buried and service roads would need ways to allow water flow. This project was approved in May 2014 as part of an approval for two proposed new nuclear reactors at the Turkey Point site.

In its ruling, the Third District Court of Appeal found the governor and the Cabinet — acting as the state siting board, which oversees power plants — failed to consider the city of Miami’s development rules when it signed off on allowing the utility to string 88 miles of line atop towers standing 80 to 150 feet high.

It also failed to take into account the damage done to wildlife and Everglades marshes by buildings roads and concrete pads in a corridor that would cross fragile wetlands.

According to the Miami Herald, the "ruling effectively puts an end to a wetlands corridor for the transmission lines. In reviewing the Everglades corridor, the judges said the siting board failed to consider Miami-Dade County’s environmental rules. And even if they had, the court found FPL “presented no competent, substantial evidence,” to justify over-riding them."
“The court agreed with the county that the record in this case did not show that FPL’s transmission line corridor could satisfy the rigorous environmental requirements."

In a Follow the Money Moment, the Herald also pointed out that Florida Power and Light "has spent $17 million in campaign contributions to influence politicians and the political process in the last six years. Of that, $3.9 million went to political committees for Associated Industries and Florida Chamber of Commerce, which then transferred FPL money to the political committees of Scott and Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, Attorney General Pam Bondi and Agriculture Secretary Adam Putnam.

FPL has also given $805,000 directly to Scott's Let's Get to Work Political Committee and $50,000 to Bondi's Justice for All political committee.

2.08.2016

WE CAN NO LONGER RETROFIT FAILED ENERGY SYSTEMS

Alex Steffen says the time to reimagine sustainability is overdue: The idea that sustainability is an add-on—something we do to make already functional systems more responsible—is one of these relics of the past.

We can no longer retrofit failed systems.

Sustainability now demands wholesale systems change and demands huge disruptions to the status quo. We need massive, rapid transitions in how we power our societies, build our cities, meet our basic needs and work with natural systems to grow our food, provide our water and maintain planetary stability.
Energy, the basic foundation of our prosperous lifestyles, is moving away from centralized power plants and closer to the customer. 


Since consumers choose winners and losers in radically different ways than do utilities or the other incumbents of the energy industry, how new energy systems emerge can potentially demonstrate a shift from a centralized to a more distributed energy system architecture as a part of the worldwide drive toward lower-carbon energy.  The potential for developing countries to "leap-frog conventional power grids to consumer energy is becoming a reality.  

The Tesla Powerwall, a stationary battery for homeowners that features essentially the same battery technology as Tesla’s cars, or something like it can make energy storage a reality, at least for the first world.  

Innovations like distributed solar power make sense.  We can either choose to keep trying to 'retrofit' the old systems, with large utilities continuing to impose increasing fees on individual solar power generation, while trying to figure out how to continue their power monopoly or we can move forward to micro-grid systems, solar panel leasing, distributed solar, and efficient battery storage.  We can embrace wind and wave power and continually seek emerging efficient ways to rapidly convert systems from carbon dependency.  

It is time to reimagine sustainability. Power monopolies can go the way of the dinosaurs who created all this fossil fuel to begin with.    






1.18.2016

BIG UTILITIES FUEL SHORT-SIGHTED STRATEGIES AGAINST SOLAR ENERGY

Decisions made today around how distributed energy resources are integrated into the grid will have long-term impacts on the decisions that customers make and the shape of our electricity system in the future.  The current actions of big utilities don't bode well for smooth transitions toward the inevitable renewable energy future.

In October 2015, Hawaii Public Utilities Commission ended its net metering program for all new solar customers in the state. Now, new customers will have a choice to make between two new tariffs: a "grid-supply" option and a "self-supply" option. The Rocky Mountain Institute reported that: 


The utility serving most of Hawaii, Hawaiian Electric Co. (HECO), has repeatedly raised alarms due to a host of technical issues (some real, many perceived) related to high PV adoption. This led to onerous new interconnection policies in 2013 that dramatically reduced the rate of new installations, generated widespread customer outcry, and prompted some customers to defect from the grid entirely instead of waiting for their systems to be interconnected. 
Now, Nevada, previously a leader in solar has essentially 'pulled the plug' on solar in its State. 
On December 22, regulators approved a new solar tariff structure that dealt a powerful blow to the state’s residential rooftop market: a) a substantial increase to the fixed charges solar customers, coupled with b) a substantial decrease to the compensation they’d receive for net exported generation. The net effect is it sinks the economics for grid-connected rooftop solar in the state.

The new rates which took effect January 1st. will retroactively apply to all solar customers, rather than grandfather in those under the old tariff. 

The Nevada Public Utilities Commission rejected appeals by solar customers and industry advocates to enter a stay on the implementation of the new rate plan pending a reassessment of its impacts. When Nevada announced its new tariffs, SolarCity, Sunrun, and Vivint, immediately ceased operations in the state and laid off hundreds of workers, promising legal action. In all, roughly 6,000 solar jobs in the state are now at risk.
You can read the entire article here.

This follows Arizona which also changed its utility's rules for new PV customers.  

With the solar amendment benefiting the big utilities moving forward in Florida, and discussions about charging fees to those who generate solar power, can Florida be far behind?

This is a short-sighted approach of utilities to discourage and impede solar growth rather than working to assess a fair fee for usage of the existing utility lines.  These approaches continue to monopolize energy production and distribution.  These early accomplishments first penalize those who can least afford the initial capital outlays for solar and who benefit from leasing programs, such as those operated by Solar City, and who cannot afford to purchase large banks of batteries to go completely off-grid.  

In the longer term, battery storage will reach improved capacity and lower costs.  More customers will exercise their option to go 'off-grid' completely--a practice which, if enforced by a local government is a violation of the International Property Maintenance Code used in communities throughout the United States and Canada. The code states that properties are unsafe to live in if they do not have electricity and running water.  This code was used in a court case in the City of Cape Coral, Florida, in 2014, to rule a property owner must be connected to the water and electric grid. As more customers leave the grid, the cost of electricity increases for everyone else. 



9.13.2015

DISTRIBUTED SOLAR MODEL FOR TALLAHASSEE?

Photo by IGT Solar Tallahassee
Why distributed solar matters and a model for City of Tallahassee utilities.

Tallahassee will soon be getting its first solar power plant generating around 10 megawatts of power. The solar project details are the subject of Sustainable Tallahassee's Green Drinks on September 28th.

The next step could be distributed solar. (The heart of the two solar amendments proposed in Florida and discussed previously here.).

When people consider solar for their rooftops, there are two typical barriers:
  • structural—the roof has to point the right way, able to support the panels, not be in the shade and,
  • the upfront costs.
Leasing programs like the ones offer by Solar City can be one solution (except it's not allowed in Florida where big utilities provide electricity).

In a different twist San Antonio, Texas, CPS Energy (formerly City Public Services) said it would offer residents cash—in the form of monthly credits on their electricity bills—if they would just agree to let a third party put solar panels on their roofs.

Like City of Tallahassee, CPS is a municipally owned utility. CPS Is the largest municipal utility in the U.S.   Like Tallahassee, they are not owned by investors and they offer net metering to customers who have installed solar on their homes, allowing them to send power back to the grid and receive a credit on their utility bill.

CPS Energy will contract with local solar companies that would buy panels and place them on roofs in San Antonio. These solar companies would maintain and insure the panels, and collect any associated tax credits. CPS would commit to buy the output of the panels, which would be funneled into the grid, at a price that is competitive with what it pays for electricity from other sources.

In exchange for offering up their roofs for a 20-year period, homeowners would get a credit on their monthly electricity bills of 3 cents per kilowatt-hour of electricity produced. A typical customer could get a credit of about $30 per month simply by hosting the panels. City of Tallahassee charges residential customers around 11 cents per kilowatt  ($0.10721 per kWh).

CPS announced that it wanted to place up to 10 megawatts of rooftop solar in its service area through this model—enough to cover about 2,000 rooftops. In the first three days after the announcement, more than 2,000 people applied—as many people as had installed rooftop solar in the past seven years in San Antonio.

Do you think this is a model for Tallahasse?

Read Daniel Gross article in full here.

8.31.2015

THE CHEAPEST KILOWATT IS THE ONE YOU DON'T USE

Remember when your Mom or Dad used to call out:  Close the front door, we can't heat (cool) the whole outdoors!

Over the years, many studies have shown that energy efficiency is the least expensive way to reduce energy costs and reduce carbon emissions.  The adage is "the cheapest kilowatt is the one you don't use."

Energy efficiency as a practice is nothing new; it's not as exciting as new technological advancements in solar or wind energy.  But, it is the easiest way to save money whether in your home or in a large commercial space.

The point of energy efficiency is not just to use less.  "Efficiency” by definition is about working smarter, not harder. To do this, it’s important to understand how much energy we consume and how to reduce consumption.  

We can readily see the energy consumption in our homes by opening our utility bill. But, before we jump out to invest in solar panels, we can first identify what is costing us the most amount of money in our home.  Identifying  the biggest energy hogs and focusing on them is a cost effective approach to driving down overall energy consumption.  Spend your time and money on the biggest culprits. 

Use data to change behavior and to prioritize improvements made in your home. The best way to obtain data is through an energy audit.  

A free energy audit from the City of Tallahassee or Talquin Electric Cooperative will identify energy problems as well as opportunities save energy, water and money. It can help you prioritize and focus your efforts. 

An energy auditor will examine the structure as well as energy and water systems of your home. The auditor will check recent and past energy and water consumption records and inspect everything that affects your home energy and water usage: insulation, appliances, heating, cooling, filters, ductwork, doorways, water heaters, thermostat settings, windows, electronics, pumps, showerheads and more. The auditors will review their findings with you, diagnoses problems that may cause high operating costs and make recommendations for energy and water saving improvements. This is a free service.
NOTE:  For some of the City's programs, such as ceiling insulation, solar loans, and solar rebates, an audit is a required first step.
Now, armed with this information, you can make adjustments to how you use appliances and set your thermostat to maximize cost savings.  In addition, you can prioritize repair or replacement costs based on which change will net the biggest cost savings.  

City of Tallahassee:  Call 850.891.4968 to schedule a free energy audit for your home
Talquin Electric Cooperative: Call 850.627.7651  (Talquin cautions that there could be a one or two month waiting list) 

8.05.2015

FLORIDA AND THE CLEAN POWER PLAN

Florida is one of the ten biggest greenhouse gas emitters in the US.  We are one of ten states that accounted for nearly half (48.76%) of all U.S. emissions in 2012!

According to the President's new Clean Power Plan, states can come up with their own plans to meet the new Clean Power goals, or if they don't, there’s a federal model that will be imposed.  Compliance begins in 2022. 

The goal is that by 2030, the US will achieve a 32 percent reduction in carbon emissions from levels measured in 2005.

Wouldn't it have been helpful for Florida to already have in place a plan to reduce carbon emissions?  But, we do not.  

The National Governors Association launched an initiative in March to help states study ways to comply with the carbon regulations.  Four states––Utah, Pennsylvania, Missouri and Michigan––were selected to participate in a "policy academy."

To date, only one state so far has publicly refused to submit a plan: Oklahoma. Gov. Mary Fallin issued an executive order in April directing state agencies not to come up with a plan to cut carbon pollution.  If Oklahoma ultimately refuses to submit a plan, the state will be required to comply with a federal plan. 

Twelve states (so far) are suing the Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) over the Plan. Other states have created legislation making it more difficult to enact reductions.  
Florida filed a bill in the House and in the Senate that would have required the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to submit a state plan for legislative approval before its submission to the EPA.  Each of the bills failed.
Florida also failed to adopt a Resolution that would have urged the "US Congress to direct the EPA to revise its proposed regulations on carbon dioxide emissions from existing fossil fueled-fired electric generating units by extending the deadline for state plan submission to the EPA" and prohibiting the retirement of polluting units before the end of their engineering lifetime.
The EPA rule sets emissions targets for states’ power sectors, designed differently for each state on how much electricity it generates from coal, oil, natural gas and renewables likes wind, solar and hydropower.

Will all of this be too little, too late?


7.22.2015

New Proposed Amendment Aims to Dilute Solar Choice Momentum

Just when you thought is was safe to go back into the sunshine, there's a shady new amendment proposed. It's crafted to confuse voters and to dilute the momentum on the original Solar Choice ballot initiative. 

See this post for more on the Floridians for Solar Choice amendment




In a strategically clever move, a group calling itself "Consumers for Smart Solar"  unveiled a petition drive to place an amendment dealing with solar energy on the 2016 ballot. Incorporated in July 2015, there are no names of Board of Directors in current Florida corporate records.

This effort is clearly meant to distract and disrupt an existing amendment drive by a group called Floridians for Solar Choice. 

A number of Florida newspapers have reported that Florida Power & Light (FPL) admits to working with a number of organizations and individuals to put forward a competing amendment to undermine the Floridians for Solar Choice ballot effort and limit homeowners and businesses from choosing to buy solar from anyone other than monopoly utilities. Supporters, meaning utility companies, are calling the proposed amendment a "consumer friendly alternative."  
Here's the proposed ballot language on the petition:
Rights of electricity consumers regarding solar energy choiceThis amendment establishes a right under Florida’s constitution for consumers to own or lease solar equipment installed on their property to generate electricity for their own use. State and local governments shall retain the ability to protect consumer rights and public health and safety, and to ensure that consumers who do not choose to install solar are not required to subsidize the costs of backup power and electric grid access to those who do.

Its goal: to prevent the state from regulating small, private solar companies that provide up to 2 megawatts of solar energy to properties that border them.
Utilities say they like solar power, but evidently only on their terms.

The language of fear has already started, despite the fact this concept for solar has worked in other states. Expect to hear much advertising about how your electric bill will soar if Floridians for Solar Choice goes through. 

7.12.2015

SOLAR CHOICE IS A SIMPLE CHOICE, EXCEPT WHEN IT'S NOT

Supporting community solar is an easy choice.  Most advocates of renewables believe that the current models of power distribution in the US will not serve our population in the future.  The large grid systems with the ineffieciencies of huge transmission lines, the dependence on coal and gas, the monopolies of mega investor owned utilities are but a few reasons. 

Florida is one of only four states that prohibits distributed solar power as an option for consumers. In Florida, a citizen petition drive to change this is being lead by the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and backed by dozens of interest groups, including the Florida Retail Federation, the Christian Coalition and the League of Women Voters. The amendment would allow homeowners and businesses to sell up to two megawatts of solar power and prohibit the state from erecting any barriers to a rooftop solar market in Florida. They propose an amendment to the Florida constitution that:
Limits or prevents government and electric utility imposed barriers to supplying local solar electricity. Local solar electricity supply is the non-utility supply of solar generated electricity from a facility rated up to 2 megawatts to customers at the same or contiguous property as the facility.Barriers include government regulation of local solar electricity suppliers’ rates, service and territory, and unfavorable electric utility rates, charges, or terms of service imposed on local solar electricity customers. 

The full text of the petition is here:  http://dos.elections.myflorida.com/initiatives/fulltext/pdf/64491-1.pdf

The amendment is being challenged and the Florida Supreme Court will hear arguments in September to decide if the citizens’ initiative will go before voters.

It is unsurprising that large private and municipally-owned utility companies, which pay franchise fees in order to be the exclusive source of electric power in cities across the state would object to the proposed amendment. They argue that if third parties are allowed to sell solar power, many of their franchise agreements would be void.

In June, however, the League of Cities joined with the Florida Municipal Electric Association in urging the court to reject the proposal, saying the loss of local revenue and the impact on city government violated the constitutional provision requiring proposed amendments to involve only a single subject.

Then, it got even more complicated when 17 elected officials from 13 cities — including Pinecrest, Hallandale Beach, South Miami, St. Petersburg, Largo and Apopka — filed a protest, accusing the League of Cities of being led by powerful for-profit utilities and demanding that it withdraw the brief. Basically these cities said the League didn't have a consensus of its membership before it joined the lawsuit.  

Then, John Thomas, League of Cities Director, said that the League was acting in the best interest of its member cities. This is explained in detail in the Miami Herald's article:  

http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/state-politics/article26819602.html

Now, a small Miami area city, Coral Gables has filed its own brief in objection to the amendment, while at the same time disagreeing with the League's actions.  Coral Gables says that the amendment could “potentially restrict or prohibit the ability of the City of Coral Gables to promote solar power usage” by preventing its zoning laws from protecting its signature look with local aesthetic standards through its architectural review board process.

Any of you who have visited the City of Coral Gables understand what "local aesthetics and signature look" they are talking about.  It is a community of tasteful, VERY tasteful signage for businesses of all sorts.  No tangle of glaring neon signs and ever taller billboards.  No, in Coral Gables each business has the same small sign announcing the name of their business at its entrance and nothing more.   

The City of Coral Gables did, however, did recently became the first city in the State to start a pilot program in October to offer a standardized permitting process that will expedite projects to install solar photovoltaic cells.  It is very likely that the City will require very, VERY tasteful solar collectors within its jurisdiction.

6.30.2015

THE UNCLUTTERED SUMMER or THE EASIEST WAY TO GET RID OF CLUTTER IS TO GIVE UP HOPE

It's almost July, so you have eight weeks more or less until Labor Day!  We can do this!

  • Spend 30 minutes or less each day working on a specific area in your home

AND

  • find ten items to get rid of each day
Read:  what may the best headline on clutter can get you started:  The easiest way to get rid of clutter is to give up hope.  

Watch:  As a family, watch or rewatch The Story of Stuff

Download: 8 Weeks to a Less Cluttered Home:

Know what to do with stuff you no longer want or use


Give it away


Art and craft or school supplies, ribbons, embroidery thread, you know, things you or the kids were 'saving' to make something out of one day:
The Sharing Tree 
          218 East 3rd Avenue, in the heart of Midtown #Tallahassee

Sturdy fabric:
          The Sharing Tree for the reusable bag project 

Miscellaneous stuff in good condition

          Freecycle - Membership is free, and everything posted must be FREE, legal and           
          appropriate for all ages. 

         Tallahassee Free Share
         Tallahassee Freecycle

         Other counties have freecycle, you can find the group nearest you at:          
          https://trashnothing.com/

        Or on Facebook:
        Tallahassee Free Stuff - No Selling
        Tallahassee Freecycle
        Tallahassee Free Classifieds

One neighborhood posts free stuff on their Facebook page, deposits the item(s) on the curb and someone who can make use of it takes it away!

        Craigs List Free Stuff  https://tallahassee.craigslist.org/search/zip

Tallahassee Food Swaps happen occasionally, share your extra garden bounty.

Magazines and other periodicals:
          Do you even open the cover?  Unsubscribe.  Did you know you can donate your         
          Tallahassee Democrat home or business subscription to the to a local nursing home?                 E-mail: tallahasseedemocrat@gannett.com 
          Jury Duty? leave them in the waiting area, their selections are ancient 
          Magazines with great art, travel photos etc:  The Sharing Tree 

Games, books, some toys and magazines (adult and children) 
Ronald McDonald House
712 East 7th Ave, #Tallahassee (850) 222-0056


Egg Cartons:
          You only need one (or may two) egg carton(s).  Take the empty carton with you to the      
          grower's market, or to New Leaf Co-Op and refill it.  No need to get another carton.       
          Better yet, befriend your neighbor with chickens.  Many times they have more eggs                       than their family can eat! 

Cookbooks:
          Especially vegetarian and vegan recipes:
          Bread and Roses Food Cooperative 
          915 Railroad Ave, #Tallahassee

Furniture:
          Echo (Emergency Care Help Organization)
          702 W Madison St, #Tallahassee
          Call for hours: (850) 224-3246

Business outfits and appropriate interview clothing:
Dress for Success
or Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/DFSTally

Thrift Stores abound in the Tallahassee area

Bicycles and bicycle parts:
          Bicycle House 
          1317 Jackson Bluff Rd, #Tallahassee
          Call for hours:  (850) 350-8000

         Krank it Up!
         1002 Stone Valley Way, #Tallahassee
         Contact them via Facebook for days and hours:
         https://www.facebook.com/krankitupbikes

Power tools, some computer parts, radial saws-- basically tools and equipment you use             to make stuff. Contact them first to see if it is something they can use. 
          Making Awesome:
          On Facebook: 
          https://www.facebook.com/groups/makingawesome/

biofuel collection sites:
          http://www.talgov.com/fleet/fleet-biofuel-collection.aspx

Reuse it

Mend it Fix it

Tool Sharing
           
          also Making Awesome and The Sharing Tree 


Sell it

have a virtual or real yard sale

There are a number of Facebook groups under the names online yard sales or kids online yard sales

Tallahassee Online Yard Sale 
The largest is a group page:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/T.O.Y.2012/

Recycle it

What to Recycle and Where

Dispose of it safely

Leon County holds Hazardous Waste and Electronics Collection Events are held on the first Saturday of the month between September and May at the Public Works Operations Center, 2280 Miccosukee Road, #Tallahassee.  
You can leave large items, Stryofoam hazardous materials, used paint, pesticides, gasoline, fluorescent tubes and CFL bulbs, electronics, etc.  See the County website for a complete of list of items they collect and how to safely package them.  

The City of Tallahassee holds Cash-For-Trash events on the third Saturdays of April and October at the City of Tallahassee Solid Waste Services Facility, 2727 Municipal Way.

Trash it

You've exhausted all these options and found something you think is going in the trash container?  Wait!  There's Marpan Recycling a material recovery facility - not a landfill - recycling material from construction and demolition waste (C&D) or Class III as well as yard waste.  It may be that the item you have can be taken apart and its components recycled. Check with Marpan first.  As a last resort, there's your trash container.  Bet it's feeling a little lonely by now. . .


6.23.2015

PNEUMATIC TUBES - OR JUST CREATE LESS WASTE

When I was a child, I was fascinated with pneumatic tubes that were in department stores, drugstore and other places. Frankly, I'm still a little thrilled for the rare times I bank at the drive-through and send my slip of paper zooming up the clear tube. 

Remember when Elon Musk announced that he wanted to build the Hyperloop? A large pneumatic tube system, it would could catapult humans through pods from, for example, Los Angeles to San Francisco in half an hour. Described as a "a cross between a Concord, a rail gun and an air hockey table," Musk announced iIn January of this year, that he planned to build a test track in Texas, I think using student teams to test it out. 

Now, in a new large complex being developed in Manhattan, there will be no garbage trucks, only pneumatic tubes to carry trash. 
The system should decrease the amount of garbage that ends up in landfills: residents will be able to drop recyclables and compost into designated chutes right outside their doors. By replacing trucks, the tubes will also cut down on noise and pollution—and, hopefully, on rats.
New York City has had pneumatic tubes that carry the trash from the tiny Roosevelt Island since the 1970's. And it used a system of tubes to transport mail in the first half of the 20th century. So, there's some precedent for New York City.  

So, are pneumatic tubes the answer?  Or should we all be generating less trash in the first place? 

Read the Atlantic article How To Stop Humans From Filling the World with Trash: 



6.18.2015

PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION SAYS WE CAN PAY FPL FOR FRACKING

Energy independence cannot come soon enough.  

The regulatory body, Florida's Public Service Commission (PSC) agrees with investor owned utility, Florida Power and Light:  ratepayers should pay for the company's fracking explorations. Of course, the PSC, at the recommendation of one commissioner, did reduce the request down from $750 million a year to only $500 million: 
Millions of homes and businesses who are customers of Florida Power & Light will be financing as much as $500 million a year in unregulated natural gas fracking projects conducted by the state’s largest utility, state regulators decided Thursday.
The Florida Public Service Commission sided with FPL and against consumer advocates and unanimously approved guidelines that give the company carte blanche approval to charge its customers for natural gas fracking and “wildcatting” activities without oversight from regulators for the next five years.

Read the Miami Herald's take on this: 
http://miamiherald.typepad.com/nakedpolitics/2015/06/psc-rejects-staff-sides-with-fpl-to-have-ratepayers-finance-fracking-projects-1.html

2.27.2015

SOLAR CITY LEASING DOESN'T WORK IN TALLAHASSEE--RIGHT NOW

A solar option like the one from Solar City isn't available in Tallahassee today. 

Google just announced a $300 million investment in SolarCity’s residential solar power model. This model provides an option to homeowners to install distributed rooftop solar without a large upfront investment. This option is available in different parts of the US. Google’s initial investment would pay for the system outright through a lease or power purchase agreement.

This Think Progress article explains the basics:  
A homeowner works with SolarCity to design a customized system for their roof.  Past electric bills and the rate charged by the utility are reviewed and Solar City guarantees a lower rate that locks in a lower monthly payment.

The homeowner does not have to pay for the design or placement of the panels, but enters into lease agreement with SolarCity who installs and maintains the panels throughout the life of the lease.

For instance, if your normal monthly bill is $200, it could drop to $60 after the installation, plus $100 in the monthly solar lease, yielding a new average monthly bill of $160.

The Renewable Energy Committee of Sustainable Tallahassee recently sent a letter to the Mayor of Tallahassee specifically requesting that the City Utilities look into the concept called 'community solar' which would allow distributed solar. You can read the letter here.  Sustainable Tallahassee and the League of Women Voters of Tallahassee have been working jointly on this issue and the League also sent a letter to the Mayor on this issue.   

Currently in Tallahassee, we have 1.7 megawatts of solar electric production capacity. That’s less than ¼ of one percent of our total electricity production, including both city and customer owned solar arrays. However, this week the City Commission voted to move forward with a Request for Proposal (RFP) that would develop a ten megawatt system of solar power production by the end of 2016. 

Developing solar capacity is a much needed first step away from our current total dependence on non-renewable energy (natural gas). Details of how the City plans to develop the solar production will be outlined in the RFP.  Will this system include the opportunity for distributed solar as in the solar garden or community solar concept? We'll have to stay tuned to see what develops.  

*for background on Tallahassee's solar efforts, read February's Greening Our Communities Blog here.  The "Greening Our Community” articles are produced brought by the Capital Area Sustainability Council (CASC), a forum organized by Sustainable Tallahassee. 

2.25.2015

HOW A TEETOTALER LEARNED TO LOVE GREEN DRINKS

Teetotalism is the practice or promotion of complete personal abstinence from alcoholic beverages. A person who practices (and possibly advocates) teetotalism is called a teetotaler or is simply said to be teetotal.  When at drinking establishments, teetotalers may often consume non-alcoholic beverages such as soft drinks, tea, coffee and mocktails.from Wikipedia
and yes, I had to look up the spelling.
My friend Gareth (obviously not his real name) wanted to go to Green Drinks.  In Tallahassee, like many places that host Green Drink events, this is an opportunity to network and meet people with like interests related to the environment, climate change,sustainability, going solar, biking, growing good food, land-use planning, protecting clean water, loving wildflowers and a host of other things.  
"But, I don't drink (alcohol), won't I feel out of place?" he asked.
I said, "No, Midtown Pass is a restaurant, also and in addition to some making some great guacamole and chips, they serve all types of sodas, iced tea etc".

So, he came and listened to the speaker,  He liked what he heard and came back to Green Drinks the next month. 
Sponsored by Sustainable Tallahassee, Green Drinks meets on the last Wednesday of every month at the Midtown Pass, 1019 N Monroe, Tallahassee, next to what sadly WAS the Paperback Rack and in the same strip as the restaurant, Masa.  


9.29.2014

PEOPLE'S CLIMATE MARCH IS OVER, NOW WHAT?

Last evening there was a showing in Tallahassee of the video, Disruption, about the recent climate change march and groups organizing a significant people presence to bring about real political action on climate change.  

Discussions follow the showings of films organized by Transition Tallahassee and other groups at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Tallahassee.  Last night's conversation included the Citizen's Climate Lobby and their mission to have legislation passed to create a tax on carbon.  If you haven't been following this issue, it's beginning to gain traction.  

You can read up on the revenue neutral carbon tax that is being proposed here:
http://citizensclimatelobby.org/carbon-tax/  Also, you can read a short summary of the book on Climate Policy written by FSU professor Shi-Ling Hsu here:  HSU_carbon_tax_precisFinal  (downloads as PDF)

If you want to get up to speed locally on the proposed tax on carbon, Tallahassee's chapter of the International Citizen Climate Lobby meets monthly and also has telephone calls with national leaders updating folks on issues.  You may want to join their Facebook page at: 
https://www.facebook.com/tallahassee.ccl

The next meeting of the Citizen's Climate Lobby local chapter is: 
Thursday, October 2nd. at 6:00 PM
First Presbyterian Church Education Building
110 North Adams Street, #Tallahassee.

This article from Resilience highlights Oil Companies Quietly Prepare For a Future of Carbon Pricing:
The toll of fossil fuel emissions — from the ballooning costs of crop insurance tied to climate-related weather extremes, to the ravages of sea level rise in coastal areas, to stresses on health services as tropical diseases migrate northward — is part of the discussions at the UN climate summit in New York this week. And the new carbon mathematics is putting a spotlight on the oil industry: Earlier this year, all four of the major oil companies were listed in the journal Climatic Change as being among the 90 global businesses responsible for two-thirds of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. 
If you missed the showing of Disruption, you can watch it online here:
http://watchdisruption.com/  it's an hour long.

Films related to the environment are shown as part of Transition Tallahassee's on-going video series shown at 4:00 PM on the fourth Sunday of the month at the UU Church, 2810 North Meridian Road, Tallahassee.  They are free and open to the public--with snacks! 

9.25.2014

Using Solar Energy to Generate Wealth in Lower Income Communities.




Yes, this actually was the topic of the September 23rd, GW Solar Institute's 6th Annual Solar Symposium at George Washington University.

This was the first national conference to bring together stakeholders and decision-makers from all over the country to share and develop the emerging solutions needed to achieve solar affordability and accessibility for all Americans. 

Panels and presentations focused on the best ways to broaden the solar market through creative incentive and financing solutions, elimination of legal and regulatory barriers, and integration of solar investments with existing federal low-income programs.

Details of speakers and conference sponsors here:

Key points from a recent white paper for Washington D.C. on this topic include: 
+ While solar energy has become increasingly affordable and residential solar installations are booming, most panel installations occur in higher income neighborhoods.
+ Multiple market barriers inude renting, living in a multi-family building, lower credit scores, or having utility bills covered through government support programs.
+ The District’s enactment of the Community Renewables Energy Act 2013, creates new opportunities for solar developers and community leaders to improve energy affordability and accessibility.
+ Innovative solar programs spurred by similar reforms in other states, like California’s Single-family Affordable Solar Homes (SASH) program, have enabled families to reduce their monthly electricity bills by an average of around 80%, savings that will continue for the life of these solar systems (at least 25 years or more).

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