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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9.04.2016

After the Storm: Why You Probably Didn't Have Power, Even if You Have Residential Solar

What started as a tropical depression, turned into a category one hurricane named Hermine by the time it made landfall southeast of Tallahassee this week.  Power was out for three days for the majority of customers.  Some are without power on the fourth day.  

Would having photovoltaic panels  have kept the lights on at your home?  In most cases, the answer is 'no.'

The vast majority of all solar systems, regardless of size, are designed to shut down during a utility power outage. Keeping solar power running is dangerous for utility staff working to restore grid power and solar-powered facilities are reconnected to the grid after an outage. Backup batteries or generators help solar-powered homes keep the lights on when grid power goes down, but these are expensive options for homeowners.  This issue can affect relatively larger commercial and municipal solar installations as well as homes with photovoltaic panels. 

Islanding is an option that refers to the ability for a PV system and the loads connected to it to be separated from the utility grid during outages so that no electricity could be fed into the grid and injure utility workers who are trying to repair down lines. If Tallahassee had full “islanding” capability with PV systems, many homes with solar could have remained with power.  If a cluster of solar existed, where residents were able to generate electricity and share it amongst themselves, then a small community could have remained powered up despite the storm [without consideration to potential damage to solar arrays from hurricane force winds or flying debris].

The concept of fully "islandable" PV systems do require specialized inverters along with battery banks that allow them to function off-grid. The battery bank not only provides for functionality at night, but it also establishes proper distribution during the daytime when the grid is down so that AC power can be delivered to a house (or houses). Called “Secure Power Supply,” these inverters can communicate with and draw electricity from the battery bank during a power outage.  Without a battery back-up, there are other inverters which provide small amounts of electricity that would be enough to handle small loads such as charging phones and laptops during the daytime, but not sufficient for air conditioning units or refrigerators.  

For more technical information about varying inverters, see: 
http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/blogs/dept/energy-solutions/getting-power-solar-equipment-when-grid-down#ixzz4JHxIDK5n

Diagram courtesy of North American Solar Stores
Groups such as the Sustainable Tallahassee Renewable Energy Advocacy Committee have been researching the concept of micorgrids as one way to allow solar panels to keep generating power during a blackout. A microgrid is a localized power grid that can be operated independently of the utility grid. This is an option where ample local power generation resources exist, and where smart inverter devices support switching between locally generated power and the grid.

Right now, in Tallahassee most neighborhoods don’t have enough solar panels or other sources of non-grid electricity to meet basic needs, and thus can’t yet support a microgrid. 

However, given our recent massive utility power grid disruptions caused by Hurricane Hermine, Tallahassee/Leon County may be motivated to install more local generation capacity. Eventually, this might be enough to harness into local microgrids that could keep the lights on when severe weather, wildfires, or other calamities temporarily knock the grid offline.

Realistically, community microgrids probably could combine several power sources in addition to solar photovoltaics with battery backup — especially fuel cells, wind turbines, or conventional generators fueled by natural gas or propane. 

When more solar exists right in a neighborhood, neighbors have more options — not simply to cut utility bills and greenhouse gas emissions, but to keep the lights on! 

Together with the decreases in costs of solar panels, recent changes in home mortgage financing policies through Fannie Mae may incentivize homebuyers to include solar installations, where feasible, at the time of home purchase. [http://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/blogs/dept/guest-blogs/fannie-mae-s-financing-solar-game-changer] Also, advocates across the US have suggested that community crowdfunding might substantially expand residential solar into rental and low-income housing.

With more homes and businesses with electric generating capacity through solar, the concept of community solar can come into play.  Under this concept, energy can be generated and shared (or sold) to others nearby.  Using the microgrid concept, pockets of neighborhoods that would ordinarily have experienced power outages because they are all tied to the same large grid would not be negatively affected.  

It's important to note that current regulations in Florida prohibit community solar in most locales and in every community serviced by investor owned utilities such as Florida Power & Light, Gulf Power or Duke Energy.  As Tallahassee has its own municipal utility, they are not governed by the same regulation and could amend their policies to allow for community solar in their service area.  It is conceivable that the micro-grid concept could be successfully adopted in Tallahassee and that it would help protect more of its citizens from large scale power outages in the next storm, which is certain to happen.  

7.26.2016

Tallahassee Transit System - What's Old is New Again

 City of Tallahassee StarMetro staff held a series of public workshops to answer questions about the upcoming changes to routes and schedules. Kudos to StarMetro staff at the open house who patiently answered many questions. They were very knowledgeable. 

The new transit system to be rolled out August 13, 2016, promises 'greater connectivity and shorter commute times due to more efficient transfers' with 14 routes and one weekend Rhythm bus.

Evident in the conversation last night at Jake Gaither Community Center is that the 'proposed' changes to bus schedules and routes have already been solidified with drivers being scheduled for the changed routes beginning August 13th. 



'woefully out of date'

Tallahassee changed from the 'hub' system in 2011. At that time, the goal was to replace the City's existing hub-and-spoke bus route system--in which every one of the City's bus routes led to a downtown transfer station--with a grid-like system that more accurately reflected the population and employment clusters. Transit planners called the hub system 'woefully out of date, essentially using the same routes that had been in place for more than 60 years.' 

Under the 'old system,' each of the City's 26 bus routes led to a downtown station, where all the routes convened at the bottom of the hour so that passengers could transfer simultaneously. At that time the system of simultaneous transfers was determined to be inefficient because it meant buses had to spend a lot of time waiting; essentially, no bus could leave the downtown station until the last one arrived in order for passengers to make their connections. Thus, if one bus was behind schedule, by default all buses fell behind schedule. 

Also in 2011, the number of routes was reduced from 26 to 12. The design allowed for more frequent service, with buses operating nearly every 30 minutes instead of hourly. The transit agency also eliminated the distinction between peak and off-peak hours. StarMetro realized that the two periods didn't have a difference in their level of demand, as its customers tend to be retail and service workers, as well as students, who don't necessarily work on 9-to-5 schedules. 

The city distributed thousands of ride guides at the downtown transfer before the switch and mailed out brochures to the city's utility customers detailing the plans. Dozens of public meetings were held in the months leading up to the switch, and the transit agency put alerts about the change on its website, on the radio and on billboards. 

An estimated 140 volunteer recruited by StarMetro rode the buses to help passengers with information, about where to get off and transfer. StarMetro made bus fare free during the first week of the new routes, so drivers -- who would face lots questions from riders -- wouldn't be further slowed down by passengers fumbling for cash. The final tweaks to the route map were officially implemented in January 2012.

Less than a year after the switch, surveys showed that 47 percent of customers liked the change; 16 percent had no opinion; and 37 percent weren't happy with it. Despite an initial and expected small drop in the early months of the transition, by January 2012, ridership numbers were up about 15 percent compared to the same month the previous year. [Governing MagazineMarch 2013]


New System Adopted

With a few exceptions, the new system has returned StarMetro to the hub-and-spoke system where routes terminate at the CK Steele Plaza. Survey data from 2009 revealed just seven percent of StarMetro riders actually had downtown destinations. [A request has been made to StarMetro for more current data.] 


  • The simultaneous transfer system will be readopted.  All buses will be converging at CK Steele Plaza at nearly the same time. 
  • The system of peak and off-peak hours has also been resurrected.  
  • Wait time for non-peak times have been increased to 60 minutes on most routes. 
Two routes have been split.  For example, the Tall Timbers route previously traveling between TCC and the Village Commons Center at Capital Circle NE has now been divided into two routes.  Travelers on the Tall Timbers route must now change buses at the Koger Center to continue their travels from the Steele Plaza north to the Village Commons Center.  

Current or historical ridership numbers are not available on-line, so one could not compare increases or decreases over time.  The StarMetro Director, Terry Lowe, did indicate that anyone who wanted to see the data could come by the offices and view them.  

The StarMetro Director also hinted these route changes will result in increased 'efficiencies' and that additional changes are planned, but he was unwilling to share any insights into what might occur. 

Staff did say that all new buses, including Dial-a-Ride vans, will operate on compressed natural gas (CNG). When asked if additional electric vehicles would be added, staff indicated that no additional electrics would be added to the fleet and referenced high maintenance concerns as the reason.  

No new bus shelters are planned for this year, since bus shelters cannot be installed anywhere where ADA compliance cannot be met. Most often this means there must be sidewalks. Without sidewalks, no bus shelters, without bus shelters, less convenience for people who ride the bus.  Additional benches, however, are planned.   

A trolley system might be reinstated to travel throughout downtown during mid-day in an attempt to alleviate car trips by downtown workers.

The free Rhythm bus will be reduced to one bus operating every 40 minutes instead of 20. 


With future Blueprint and other funding, an additional central transit transfer point may come to the southside of Tallahassee on Orange Avenue near S. Meridian.

Terry Lowe, who headed the City's fleet operations, now also leads StarMetro. 
terry.lowe@talgov.com
Ivan Maldonado, the previous director of StarMetro, was reassigned within the department and is in charge of Dial-A-Ride services.

You can still provide comments to StarMetro via this Survey Monkey link: 
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/routechanges


5.24.2016

SOME PROMOTE NATIONAL GRID FOR RENEWABLES, OTHER THINK MICRO IS BETTER




The June edition of The Atlantic includes an article on the nation's energy grid and quotes from City of #Tallahassee's David Byrne, manager of integrated planning for the city’s electric system. 

In the article, David Byrne, talks about the steps the City took toward investments in renewable energy and the much anticipated solar installation to be built on property at Tallahassee's airport. Byrne also says he 
"expects that it could be tough to find land cheap enough to meaningfully increase (renewable energy production) using sunshine alone. 
So Byrne is looking for wind, too. The problem is that in Florida, there just isn’t much of it. Some time ago, Tallahassee signed a memorandum of understanding with Clean Line to transmit wind power from rural Oklahoma. That line just received important support from the Department of Energy, but it still has to overcome some hurdles before Clean Line can break ground." While this article focuses on a national grid system, (which would use direct current transmission rather than alternating) it doesn't address the fact that long-distance transmission of energy is generally the most costly and difficult way to deliver reliable electricity from largely or wholly renewable supplies, wind and photovoltaics."

What some in Tallahassee are considering is a micro-grid system and community solar whereby small producers of excess electricity through solar could sell their power to a user nearby, rather than feeding it back to the grid, as is the current net metering model. Smaller solar arrays installed across the County (or counties) could address both efficiency and land costs.

For more on a Tallahassee model for distributed energy, see this post.

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. . .


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