Monthly Archives: August 2010

Why Solar Power

New England gets a bad rap when it comes to weather and is probably more synonymous with the word snowstorm rather than solar power.  Contrary to popular belief, the sun’s rays do shine upon this fine part of our nation, and in fact is a prime place for the growth of solar energy.

True, we are prone to wet, cloudy and snowy weather a good portion of the year; but we get plenty of sunshine as well.  Many people argue that this area just doesn’t play host well to solar power, but we’ve got some news for those naysayers.  Solar is an excellent option for New England and here’s why:

1.  State Incentives galore!
Massachusetts and Connecticut are among the 5 or 6 most “solar-friendly” states in terms of economic incentives in the form of rebates, tax credits and exemptions, Solar Renewable Energy Credits (SRECs) and net metering policies.  Other states with a higher percentage of sunny days can’t say the same!

2.  Germany has the largest solar capacity installed and New England has more sun hours than Germany in an average day, according to Brightstar Solar.  Even more, the available sun power in New England is about 80% of the sunniest parts of the Southwestern US and is much greater than anywhere in Germany.  Germany is actually about as sunny as Alaska!

3.  The colder temperatures are actually better for solar!
Believe it or not intense heat decreases the efficiency of photovoltaic (PV) modules.  So cooler temps mean higher efficiency.  The same can be said for some LED lights, especially parking lot lights.  Go figure!

4.  Cloudy days don’t mean powerless days.
The electricity production will not be as high as on a sunny day, but your system will still generate electricity because there will still be some irradiance.  Under a light overcast day, panels might produce about half as much as under full sun exposure.

5.  Snow typically melts quickly off of solar panels.
When it snows, the snow may cover the solar panels and affect the production of your system.  However, in most cases enough sunlight will still be able to penetrate through to the modules, warming them and melting the layer of snow that is on them.  Snow typically clears from your solar panels much sooner than other parts of the roof.  Thanks to Brightstar Solar for some of these tidbits of information… good to know!

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NFL’s Shining Stars

Image Courtesy: Nancy Lane

Since Green Power Management calls New Hampshire its birthplace and home, naturally we are New England Patriots fans.  With the kick off of the NFL season right around the corner, it’s only natural we have a football-themed blog!

Earlier this month the team celebrated the installation of its new 525-kilowatt PV solar system at Patriot Place.  The system is made up of 2,556 solar panels and will generate more than 625,000 kilowatt hours per year or roughly 30% of the energy consumed by Patriot Place.  For those of you not familiar with it, Patriot Place is a complex located next to Gillette Stadium and offers shopping, dining, and entertainment.

The system was provided by Marlborough, MA solar manufacturer, Evergreen Solar.  Photovoltaic (PV) panels on the roof will be visible from inside the stadium and from the upper retail plaza portion of Patriot Place.  “This is good business and the greening of our environment is important for our children and grandchildren,” says Bob Kraft, the CEO of The Kraft Group who own and manage the Patriot Place facilities.

Several other NFL teams are jumping on the green bandwagon.  Ford Field, home of the Detroit Lions achieved LEED status.  Among other things it was built using about 20 million pounds of recycled steel and includes many other energy saving features.

A few years ago the Philadelphia Eagles began printing tickets and receipts on recycled paper at Lincoln Financial Field.  Drinks are served in cups made up of a corn-based material which disintegrates in about 50 days.  Since starting their GO GREEN program back in 2003 the Eagles estimate they’ve recycled about 150 million tons of materials.

The San Diego Chargers have been recycling at their stadium for nearly two decades now.  The team also donates its sod to YMCAs and Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

The New York Giants and Jets new Meadowlands stadium opened last year with some lofty goals.  The plan is to reduce the stadium’s annual water use by 25%, making it 30% more energy efficient than Giants Stadium, increasing total recycling by 25% and replacing traditional concession plates and cups with compostable alternatives.

In 2014 the San Francisco 49s will be playing ball on a new field.  It is set to include solar panels on the roof, incorporate the use of recycled water and a program to have more than a quarter of fans arrive on public transportation.  Funding has been a problem for this project so we’ll have to wait and see how green this stadium turns out to be!

This football season cheer on your favorite team for sure, but also give it up to those organizations trying to make a difference in our world!  One last thought, GO PATS!

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Chew On This

Cities worldwide have a big problem… gum.  Every year thousands of man hours and literally millions of dollars are spent on cleaning up gum stuck to sidewalks, benches and anything else.

Image Courtesy: The Gumdrop Bin

Now there may be a solution.  It’s called the Gumdrop Bin and is the brainchild of Anna Bullus who was tired of seeing London littered with gum.  She spent months in a lab working on a way to repurpose gum.  Anna ultimately came up with the Gumdrop Bin, a small plastic receptacle made out of recycled gum!

So here’s how it works… instead of tossing chewing gum on the street, a person would place the litter inside one of the pink bins.  Once full, the bins and all of its contents are recycled and made into new bins!  They are then redistributed and the cycle begins all over again.

Currently you can find the bins all over London and even at Six Flags in New Jersey.

Anna Bullus hopes to turn gum into other plastic products, including even shoes!  Her motto is “Give gum a second life!”

Gum on a London Street

Just to give you an idea as to how large of a problem gum is, according to Gumdrop:

  • Over 3 1/2 billion pieces of gum are thrown out irresponsibly in the UK each year
  • Cleaning chewing gum off the streets costs three times the price of a piece of gum
  • Nine out of ten London paving stones have gum stuck to them

What a simple, yet novel idea.  Now the hard part, getting people to actually toss the gum inside the bins.  Let’s hope this catches on!

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Conservation: Do We Really Know What We’re Doing?

The short and long answer to that question is, not really.

A new study released last week conducted by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University, Ohio State University and Columbia University found that people are more likely to focus on switching off lights or unplugging electronics than on buying new light bulbs or more efficient appliances.

In other words, most Americans view saving energy the same way as saving money; the less they use, the more they save.  That of course isn’t always the case and our actions (although we intend good) sometimes work against us!

“Participants estimated that line-drying clothes saves more energy than changing the washer’s settings (the reverse is true) and estimated that a central air-conditioner uses only 1.3 times the energy of a room air-conditioner (in fact, it uses 3.5 times as much),” the researchers wrote.

“Relative to experts’ recommendations, participants were overly focused on curtailment rather than efficiency, possibly because efficiency improvements almost always involved research, effort and out-of-pocket costs (e.g. buying a new energy-efficient appliance), whereas curtailment may be easier to imagine and incorporate into one’s daily behaviors without any upfront costs,” the scientists added in the latest issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study questioned 505 people and of those 37 percent described themselves as environmentalists.  So here’s the funny part about that statistic… “participants who reported engaging in a greater number of pro-environmental energy-related behaviors had less accurate perceptions” about the value of energy-saving behaviors than the group as a whole did.

The practice cited by more than any of the participants (19.6%) as being the most common energy-saving practice was turning off lights in unoccupied rooms.  On the flip side only 3.6% said replacing light bulbs with more efficient ones were worth investing in.  Interestingly enough 2.8 percent of participants choice sleeping and/or relaxing more as a way to save energy.  Now compare that to the 2.1 percent who said insulating your home would do the same.

Of course every little bit helps, but perhaps the larger message of this study is that MORE could be done.

What do you think?

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Building a Sustainable Future

Butte College Solar panels

Image Courtesy: Butte College

Butte College in Northern California is poised to shoot straight to the head of its class this spring when it becomes the nation’s first grid positive college.  What exactly does that mean and why is it such a big deal?  For starters, it’s a huge step for the green movement with such a large institution making environmental strides of this magnitude.  The college will produce more than 100% of its power needs through solar arrays.

Already recognized as a leader in sustainability when it comes to higher education, Butte College is located on a 928 acre wildlife refuge.  The annual enrollment is about 21,000 full and part time students and currently recycles between 73 and 93 percent of its waste!

The goal of becoming the first grid positive campus has been years in the making and Phase III of the project, adding about 15,000 solar photovoltaic panels to it’s existing 10,000 solar panels, will be complete in May of next year.

This ultimately makes Butte the WORLD’S largest solar producing college with the capability of generating 4.55 MW of clean energy.  According to school officials they will make roughly 6.381 million KW hours per year, which if you can believe it, is enough electricity to power 9,200 average-sized homes.  They estimate that to be the equivalent of taking 6,000 vehicles off of American roadways!

“Once this solar project is completed, Butte College will provide enough clean renewable energy to cover all of our electricity needs and generate slightly more than we use–which will be a source of additional revenue for the college,” said Dr. Diana Van Der Ploeg, Butte College President. “Sustainability is at the heart of everything we do. Being the first grid positive community college in the country demonstrates our commitment to the sustainable practices we’re modeling for our students and our communities.”

The project totals roughly $17 million, with $12.65 million coming from special low-interest federal loans called Clean Renewable Energy Bonds (CREBS).  The remaining $4 million or so is being funded by the school itself.  Officials say the project will end up saving the college over $150 million in the next 30 years.

An added bonus to this project is the introduction of solar training and other renewable energy-related classes to students.  These will help teach the future green thinkers of our country!

Green Power Management is proud to announce it’s role in helping several New England school districts and communities to become more sustainable.  GPM is currently working with officials from one New Hampshire seacoast-area town to bring solar power and other green technologies to school buildings.  Another project on tap is the introduction of solar and CHP systems to an historic Massachusetts landmark that will reopen in the next year or so, doubling as a renewable energy education center for the community.

Tell us what your community is doing to help make your area a cleaner, greener place to call home!

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The Good Old Days

The VAWT Wind Turbine-Model A

Olde Home Day is a New Hampshire tradition in many communities.  And that happens to include the birthplace of Green Power Management, Newmarket.  Stop by the quaint little town on Saturday, August 14th to get a taste of the seacoast and check out what GPM has to offer!

We will be downtown (Main Street) showing off some of our green goodies, including a 1kw Vertical Axis Wind Turbine.  The one on display will be unlike any you’ve ever or probably will ever see since we’ve attached it to a Ford Model A!

We will also be showcasing some of our other energy and money saving technologies such as the KVAR® EC, Fitch Fuel Catalyst, Frigitek EC Motor and Wholesale Power.  Drop on by our display and enjoy the celebration that includes other local products, live music and great food!  It all kicks off bright and early at 7am, see you there!

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Is Plastic Killing off Lobsters?

A three-year long study conducted by the University of Connecticut has found a link between plastic pollution and the dwindling lobster population.  More specifically, the chemical bisphenol A (BPA) is believed to be interfering with growth hormones in young lobsters.

Researchers say BPA is slowing down molting patterns which is altering development and causing deformities, ultimately making the crustaceans more susceptible to disease.

“In the laboratory, Molecular Biologist Hans Laufer has shown that moderate levels of chemicals can double the amount of time it takes for a lobster to molt its shell and to create a hardened new shell. During this time, the lobsters’ thin skin is more vulnerable to pathogens, such as the bacteria that cause shell disease. By increasing the length of this vulnerable period, the ocean-borne chemicals effectively increase the chances that a lobster will get sick.”

Lobsters studied by Laufer and his colleagues came from Long Island Sound as well as southern Massachusetts, Cape Cod Bay and offshore Rhode Island. More than half of the more than 950 lobsters, eggs and larvae studied had high concentrations of one or more of alkylphenol chemicals, including BPA.

Harmful chemicals find their way into waterways via landfills and sewage plants.  The lobsters ingest them when they eat sediment-dwelling animals like clams and mussels.  Of the 1 million or so pounds of BPA produced annually, 60% makes it to the ocean.  Researchers say the only way to reduce this population decline in lobsters is for humans to reduce their use of plastics.

Laufer says he suspects all of the alkylphenols studied are also hazardous to humans and that given their widespread distribution in the environment, many people are also contaminated by the chemicals.  “This is as big a threat to human health as tobacco,” he said. “Many companies are saying they’re safe, but they’re not.”

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