October 22 Green Energy News

Headline News:

  • “Trump’s moves to ease regulations, revive coal industry bring little relief” • As the Trump administration dismantles programs dealing with climate change, it invokes the suffering of those whose livelihoods depend on coal. But with the end to what has been called the “war on coal,” Homer City, Pennsylvania, is not any less under siege. [Tribune-Review]
Playing football for an aerobic workout under the stacks

Playing football for an aerobic workout under the stacks

  • Researchers from Stanford University have developed a cheap alternative to lithium-ion batteries. They created a sodium-based battery that can store the same amount of energy as a lithium-based battery at less than 80% of the cost. There have been sodium-based batteries in the past, but this new approach may be more cost-effective. [Futurism]
  • With the government of Rwanda seeking to increase access to electricity to 100% by 2024, sector players say that subsidization of off-grid power will go a long way in reaching energy targets. A system with three lights, a 100-watt panel, and 55-amp hour battery goes for Rwf400,000 ($474) or Rwf12,000 ($14.22) monthly. [The New Times]
  • The Rockefeller Foundation, which committed $50 million for mini-grids in India, is looking for public private partnerships to facilitate setting up projects, according to a senior official. The foundation has already facilitated setting up mini power grids in 106 villages and aims to have 1,000 such projects within three years. [ETEnergyworld.com]
  • Evolution and climate change are returning to New Mexico’s education standards. The Public Education Department announced they would use uncensored Next Generation Science Standards for science, technology, engineering, and math. Their earlier proposed censored version created an uproar from the scientific community. [DeathRattleSports.com]

For more news, please visit geoharvey – Daily News about Energy and Climate Change.

from Green Energy Times http://www.greenenergytimes.org/2017/10/22/october-22-green-energy-news-3/


Upper Valley Aquatic Center is Swimming in Solar

Happy sheep lunching under the solar panels. Photos courtesy of Norwich Solar Technologies.

Happy sheep lunching under the solar panels. Photos courtesy of Norwich Solar Technologies.

By George Harvey

The Upper Valley Aquatic Center (UVAC), in White River Junction, Vermont, has to deal with energy loads many people might never think about. For example, the center’s pools put a lot of water vapor into the air, especially as people are splashing about in them, and that vapor has to be removed to eliminate the discomfort and other problems associated with high humidity. The traditional approach to this is to operate equipment that requires a lot of electric power.

Richard Synnott, UVAC’s Executive Director, addressed the cost of dealing with humidity with the help of a very impressive, high-efficiency ventilation system that reduces electricity usage. But that is just one big load. He has known for years that the center could save money each year by having its own solar array. So he looked for a solar installer, and because non-profit organizations cannot take advantage of incentives, he also had to find a way to finance the system.

In time, Synnott settled on Norwich Solar Technologies (NST) to provide a turnkey solution for the array. He did this partly because it was very nearby, but also because of recommendations he had received. NST located and purchased nearby land for the solar system and did all the design, permitting, engineering, and construction work. They worked with New Energy Equity of Annapolis, Maryland, for financing.

Troy McBride, the Chief Technology Officer of NST, explained to us that the UVAC solar array was special for a number of reasons. First of all, UVAC is an important community asset in White River Junction, Vermont. For many local people, McBride told us, UVAC is “a sort of cultural icon.”

“We were delighted to work with UVAC,” McBride said. “It is a win-win-win. The first win was that there was no upfront cost because of the way it was financed, so they save substantial money right from the start. The second win is for the environment, because they use a lot of electric power. And the third win is for more local energy generation and local energy employment.”

The Upper Valley Aquatic Center’s solar array in Hartford, Vermont.

The Upper Valley Aquatic Center’s solar array in Hartford, Vermont.

The UVAC array was built in Hartford, Vermont. As a 500-kilowatt (AC) system, it is expected to produce about a million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year. It has 2,184 solar panels, REC 335 Twinpeak 72-Series, and fourteen CPS inverters.

Because of the financing of the project, UVAC did not have to spend any up-front money at all. Over the time that New Energy Equity owns the system, it will save the aquatic center about $25,000 per year. At select dates during the contract period, and the end, UVAC has an option to buy the system at a much reduced price. The system is net-metered with Green Mountain Power, and the estimated savings over the first twenty years of operation come to about $800,000.

The vegetation that grows under solar panels needs to be kept down so the panels are not shaded by plants. Among the things that will grow under solar panels are grasses of types historically used for grazing sheep. The UVAC solar array is across the street from Sunrise Farm. As a matter of synergy, the UVAC solar system is being mowed by the farm’s sheep, which are sent over from time to time to perform this vital function. “It is super fun to do this,” said Chuck Wooster of Sunrise Farm. He called combining solar and agriculture on the same land “an environmental two-fer.”

The idea of having agriculture with solar power on the same land is not unique. It is fairly common in the United Kingdom to graze sheep under solar panels, though it is not quite so much done here. Troy McBride told us that there are some other arrays in New England where this is done, and Barrington Power has been known to buy its own sheep specifically to keep grass down. Speaking for Norwich Solar Technologies, McBride said, “We are looking for more places to find synergy between solar power and agriculture.”

from Green Energy Times http://www.greenenergytimes.org/2017/10/18/upper-valley-aquatic-center-is-swimming-in-solar/

Vermont Climate Action Commission Collects Ideas

By Rick Wackernagel

Responding to federal inaction and a request from Vermont environmental organizations, Vermont Governor Phil Scott established a Climate Action Commission last July to accelerate progress toward Vermonts greenhouse-gas emissions and renewable-energy goals. The Commission is finishing its first action collecting its first round of ideas. Assessing its prospects, Commission Chair, Peter Walke, says, This Commission comes together during a unique opportunity that our predecessors did not benefit from. Low-carbon alternatives are now economically competitive. As the Vermont Council on Rural Developments national summit on the climate economy showed, Vermont now has a chance to meet its aggressive goals in a way that drives prosperity for all Vermonters.

Governor Scotts first two charges to the Commission were:

  1. Drafting a plan for reaching Vermonts renewable-energy and greenhouse-gas emissions goals, while supporting economic growth; increasing affordability; and ensuring access to low-carbon alternatives for all Vermonters.
  2. Holding public scoping sessions to collect ideas from Vermonters.

The Commission has 21 members, drawn from the public, private and nonprofit sectors, and representing economic sectors engaged in collecting, distributing, conserving and using energy. They were selected to provide a broad spectrum of viewpoints that would produce robust consensus on near-term actions to take.

This group meets once a month. Meetings are open to the public. Date, time and location are available on the Commissions web page, at http://bit.ly/vt-climate-action. The four scoping sessions have been completed. Total attendance was about 275. Public testimony from the first three sessions was available on the Commission webpage when this article was written.

Ideas submitted will be read, categorized and evaluated by the commissioners. The evaluation will include the ideasabilities to help meet the five goals in the Governors first charge and other criteria developed by the commissioners. Commissioners will identify three, or perhaps a few more, high-priority, specific, concrete actions to recommend to the Governor and the Vermont legislature in January for immediate consideration. Full results for all ideas received will be included in a report in the summer of 2018. That report will include descriptions of the ideas and assessments of their expected impacts.

A wide variety of ideas, from simple to complex, were suggested. Listing all 273 here is impossible. A smattering follows:

  • New-construction ideas included, among other things, renewable-energy production from all the usual suspects at both community and commercial scale, electric- and hydrogen-vehicle charging stations, bio-digesters, park-and-ride lots, and Western-corridor rail.
  • Information and education about low-carbon alternatives will help consumers understand their choices and choose wisely.
  • Ideas for reducing use of fossil fuels in transportation included promoting computerized or cooperative car sharing and carpooling, establishing markets in which local producers and consumers could buy and sell goods and services, expanding broadband and mass transit, subsidizing electric-vehicle purchases, and raising parking fees.
  • Pricing carbon will create an incentive to reduce fossil-fuel use. The revenue could be returned to residents and/or businesses, and/or used to finance energy-efficiency and/or renewable-energy investments, and/or to reduce taxes.
  • Job-training can open new opportunities in renewable energy and energy efficiency.
  • Carbon can be sequestered through appropriate farming practices and other emerging technologies.
  • We can improve our planning processes by creating a cabinet position on climate change, by developing a process to integrate regional and town energy plans with utilitiesIntegrated Resource Plans, and by building on existing plans and analyses.
  • Technology-development ideas ranged widely, including developing more stringent energy-efficiency standards for appliances; developing hardware to use surplus renewable electricity to split water into hydrogen (to fuel trucks and heavy equipment) and oxygen; and organizing a technology-development council to identify, prioritize and develop opportunities to reduce weatherization costs.

Recognizing that not all good ideas will have been presented by January, the Commission continues to accept and assess new ideas. Making recommendations is not the final step. The Commission will also identify leaders to shepherd recommended ideas through development into implementation, then monitor and evaluate results. This first round is focused on mitigation, i.e., preventing greenhouse-gas emissions. A second round will focus on adaptation, improving Vermonts ability to bounce back after extreme weather events and to cope with other impacts of global warming. Taking on the role of coordinating development and implementation, and regularly repeating the process of identifying and assessing opportunities could ensure that we are progressing in a cost-effective manner.

Its a case of the more the merrier. If you have ideas you would like to suggest, send them to anr.vcac@vermont.gov.

Rick Wackernagel lives in Burlington, Vermont and is a member of the Energy Committee of the Sierra Club Vermont Chapter.

Vermont Climate Action Commission members:


Organization or business

Peter Walke, Chair

Agency of Natural Resources

Paul Costello, Co-Chair

Vermont Council on Rural Development

Adam Knudsen


Bethany Fleishman

Vital Communities

Bill Laberge

Grassroots Solar

Bob Stevens

Stevens and Associates

Harrison Bushnell

U-32 High School

Joe Fusco


Johanna Miller

Vermont Natural Resources Council

June Tierney

Department of Public Service

Kristin Carlson

Green Mountain Power

Linda McGinnis

Energy Action Network

Liz Gamache

St. Albans City

Marie Audet

Audet’s Blue Spruce Farm

Mary Sprayregen

Vermont Energy Investment Corporation

Michael Schirling

Agency of Commerce and Community Development

Michele Boomhower

Agency of Transportation

Peter Bourne

Bourne Energy

Robert Turner

R. J. Turner Company

Stuart Hart

UVM Grossman School of Business

Tom Donahue

BROC Community Action

from Green Energy Times http://www.greenenergytimes.org/2017/10/18/vermont-climate-action-commission-collects-ideas/

Burlington Awarded $480,000 for Electric Buses

A BYD electric bus. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

A BYD electric bus. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

By Green Energy Times Staff

In September, Vermont’s congressional delegation announced that the United States Department of Transportation had awarded a grant of $480,000 to the Vermont Agency of Transportation to help buy two electric buses to be used by Green Mountain Transit in Burlington. Senator Patrick Leahy, Senator Bernie Sanders, and Representative Peter Welch had jointly sent a letter in support of the grant to Transportation Secretary, Elaine Chao.

The effects of air pollution from transportation are especially important in Vermont. The state’s rural population and visitors use quite a lot of fuel, and the effects are costly for the health of the residents. When the American Lung Association in California studied transportation-related health effects in ten states, including California and New York, the cost per capita was highest in Vermont, at $480 per person per year.

This should not be surprising to anyone who understands the use of energy in the state. Vermont has 47% of its carbon emissions from the transportation sector, where the national average is 28%. Getting Vermont’s carbon emissions under control and reducing problems with pollution both demand more attention to transportation than to anything else.

We might well consider the carbon emissions of the people living in Burlington. If they heat with heat pumps, cook with electricity, and ride electric buses, the greatest source of their carbon emissions might just be the food they eat.

The City of Burlington, Green Mountain Transit, Burlington Electric Department, and the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation have all been studying electric buses for the city for some time. Green Energy Times had an article on the subject, “Electric Bus Trials in Vermont and New Hampshire”, in the February, 2017 issue. More recently, in the June, 2017 issue, we had the article, “Electric Buses Trials in Vermont and New Hampshire.”

A joint statement from the congressional delegation said, “Public transit is already an excellent way to reduce carbon emissions, by giving people the option to get out of their cars and into buses. By using electric buses instead of fossil fuel burning buses, we reduce those emissions even further. Since these electric buses will be charged by Burlington Electric Department, which gets 100 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources, they are just about the cleanest way imaginable to transport area residents.”

The importance of carbon emissions was also highlighted by a statement in the joint statement. It said, “At a time when global climate change is causing devastation all around the world, from more frequent and stronger hurricanes, wildfires, drought, and flooding, this is exactly the kind of investment we should be making.”

from Green Energy Times http://www.greenenergytimes.org/2017/10/18/burlington-awarded-480000-for-electric-buses/

New Hampshire Starts Drive Electric Coalition

Drive Electric NH Founders: Cathy Corkery of the NH Sierra Club, Randy Bryan of ConVerdant, Brianna Brand and Kate Epsen of NHSEA. Courtesy photo.

Drive Electric NH Founders: Cathy Corkery of the NH Sierra Club, Randy Bryan of ConVerdant, Brianna Brand and Kate Epsen of NHSEA. Courtesy photo.

By Randy Bryan

There is a new clean transportation coalition in New Hampshire created by New Hampshire Sustainable Energy Association [NHSEA], New Hampshire Clean Tech Council [NHCTC], New Hampshire Sierra Club [NHSC], and ConVerdant Vehicles to support and encourage sales of electric vehicles. The approach will consist of assembling and coordinating the diverse electric vehicle [EV] interests around New Hampshire to more effectively educate and motivate the public to try electric vehicles.

The idea for this coalition began last summer as Randy Bryan* was surveying around New Hampshire about electric cars. “I was struck by the poor level of understanding of electric cars. Clearly, New Hampshire EV boosters had been talking to the choir for too long and much more effort was needed to reach out. There were pockets of EV knowledge and interest, but a state-wide coordinating voice was needed,” said Bryan.

Kate Epsen, Director of NHSEA, has accepted leadership to build the coalition and oversee its activities, along with the help of Brianna Brand. Brand is NHSEA’s Project Coordinator, Cathy Corkery – New Hampshire Sierra Club, Michael Behrmann – NH Clean Tech Council, and Randy Bryan – ConVerdant Vehicles. A steering committee is being gathered from various interested parties around the state; including utilities, car dealerships, hospitality, fleets, New Hampshire government, non-government associations, and regional organizers. The committee will adopt goals and coordinate materials as we welcome new members and plan activities around the state. Any organizations interested in participating should contact Randy Bryan, randy@converdant.biz, 603-496-3501 or Brianna Brand, brianna.nhsea@gmail.com, 603-226-4732.

Green Energy Times will be hosting a series of educational and informational articles about the EV developments throughout the state on New Hampshire, following the publication of this edition of G.E.T. Be sure to contact Randy or Brianna with your questions, thoughts and concerns.

Randy Bryan has been an advocate for electric cars for over eight years. His company, ConVerdant Vehicles, has converted vehicles to plug-in hybrids, including his own Prius in 2008 and developed and sold inverters that turn a Prius into an emergency generator. He is one of the co-founders of Drive Electric NH.

from Green Energy Times http://www.greenenergytimes.org/2017/10/18/new-hampshire-starts-drive-electric-coalition/

New Vermont Electric Vehicle Incentives

Based on a press release from Burlington Electric Department

On October 3, Vermont utility representatives from Burlington Electric Department (BED), Green Mountain Power (GMP), Stowe Electric Department, Vermont Electric Cooperative, Washington Electric Cooperative, and Drive Electric Vermont, along with Governor Phil Scott and Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger, announced that new electric vehicle (EV) incentives designed to provide opportunities for all Vermonters to transition from fossil fuel burning vehicles to EVs. The incentives included:

  • Additional rebates from BED and GMP for EV purchases by low- and moderate-income Vermonters;

  • General Motors employee pricing on Bolt EVs and Volt plug-in hybrids from Shearer Chevrolet Buick GMC Cadillac through October; and

  • An extension of the $10,000 rebate on the purchase of 2017 Leaf EVs from Freedom Nissan as long as the dealer is able to find inventory.

Mayor Miro Weinberger addressed the gathering, saying, “For Burlington to become a net zero energy city, we must tackle the transportation sector’s significant and growing greenhouse gas emissions.” He added, “Electric cars powered by renewable energy and driven by Burlingtonians of all backgrounds will be a big part of our city’s future. Today’s announcement is a step towards this inspiring, achievable vision.”

Neale Lunderville, General Manager of BED who hosted the announcement at BED’s Pine Street headquarters, said, “Sweetening the deals for electric vehicles has literally opened up the doors for all Vermonters to go electric. Our collective, groundbreaking incentives have led to unprecedented growth in EV sales.”

Each of the utilities offers its own incentives to its customers, as does each car company, so the combinations of incentives depend on what car the customer wants and what company is providing that customer with electricity.

Vermont’s utilities are offering these impressive incentives as part of their efforts to meet requirements of Vermont’s Renewable Energy Standard (RES), which was passed by the Vermont Legislature in 2015 and requires electric distribution utilities to get increasing percentages of their electric sales from renewable energy. The RES also includes an “energy transformation” requirement that electric utilities look for ways to reduce fossil fuel emissions, even where doing so may increase electric consumption. One way utilities plan to meet this requirement is through various EV incentive programs. EVs reduce fossil fuel use and emissions, and they save customers money on fuel and maintenance costs compared to conventional gasoline-powered vehicles.

When charged during non-peak times, EVs can contribute to a more efficient use of the electric grid and help keep rates stable for all customers. In fact, when charged off-peak, EVs can help put downward pressure on rates by using kilowatt hours during times when the grid has extra capacity. By adding energy use without requiring additional infrastructure costs for more power plants or poles and wires, EVs can help make the per unit cost of providing a kilowatt hour less expensive overall.

It is especially noteworthy that the incentives are very impressive. For example, with a manufacturer’s suggested retail price starting at approximately $30,000, BED customers have been able to purchase a new 2017 Nissan Leaf from Freedom Nissan for as low as $11,300. And Shearer Chevrolet Buick GMC Cadillac is offering employee discounts to customers, which also combine with utility incentives to produce very low costs, below dealer invoice by thousands of dollars.

But potential customers should note that though the incentives were originally intended to last to dates in September or October, they have been extended and may still be available. As noted above, for example, Freedom Nissan is offering rebates as long as it can find inventory.

from Green Energy Times http://www.greenenergytimes.org/2017/10/18/new-vermont-electric-vehicle-incentives/

Top EV Questions Answered

By David Roberts

Did you join a National Drive Electric Week event in September? If so, you were in good company with over 270 electric car demonstrations across all 50 states demonstrating the benefits of plug-in electric vehicles (EVs) for thousands of visitors. A sampling of responses to some of the most popular questions heard at these events is below.

  1. What’s the best EV?

There are many great EV models. The perfect one for you will depend on individual needs and budget:

  • Teslas are at the upper end of the budget scale, but offer unique qualities other automakers are not able to match (at least not yet). Some models offer over 300 miles of range and a dedicated, nationwide network of fast charging enables long distance travel. They also have an “autopilot” system with increasingly sophisticated automated driving capabilities. Deliveries of their more affordable Model 3 are starting, but if you do not already have a reservation, you will likely have to wait a year or more for delivery.
  • The Chevrolet Bolt (238 miles of range) and all-new 2018 Nissan LEAF (150 miles of range, coming in early 2018) are also excellent all-electric options that should have plenty of range for regular driving, even in frigid New England winter conditions. The VW eGolf, BMW i3, Kia Soul EV and other options have over 100 mile range and can work nicely for many households, particularly if there is a good lease or purchase deal on them.
  • Plug-in hybrids offer the ability to run on electric battery or gasoline and are the most popular models of electric cars today. These are good if you want the flexibility of running on electric or gasoline for longer trips. The Chevrolet Volt, Toyota Prius Prime, Chrysler Pacifica Hybrid, Hyundai Sonata plug-in hybrid, Ford CMax Energi, Ford Fusion Energi and upcoming Honda Clarity plug-in hybrid all offer at least 20 miles of electric range before switching to gasoline-powered operation.
  • The best EV deals are typically found in the used vehicle market, where there is growing availability of several models like the Nissan LEAF and Chevrolet Volt, with some selling for under $10,000. Just be sure to get the battery and other vehicle components checked out before purchasing used to make sure everything is ship shape.
2018 Nissan LEAF – 150 miles of all-electric range. Image: Nissan USA

2018 Nissan LEAF – 150 miles of all-electric range. Image: Nissan USA

  1. How does EV charging work?

Most EV owners plug-in at home using a standard 120V outlet, also known as Level 1 charging. This will give about five miles of range per hour of charging. Faster charging is available by stepping up to 240V Level 2 charging (like an electric clothes dryer circuit), which provides 10-20 miles of range per hour of charging. More public charging is coming, although typically it is more expensive than charging at home overnight. Fees are assessed through memberships in charging networks that work like E-Z Pass and charge users by the hour, kWh, or session depending on the host. Many stations charge fees of $1 per hour. DC Fast Charging is available for most all-electric models and provides an 80% charge in about 30 minutes, but at a higher cost due to the additional expense of the equipment and operation.

  1. What incentives are available?

There is a federal tax credit up to $7,500 and several states offer incentives (see pages 16-17). Some electric utilities are offering EV incentives or discounts on charging as well.

  1. What about the environmental impacts of power generation and battery manufacturing?

Reducing driving by carpooling, public transit, bicycling or other means are the best ways to reduce your transportation footprint. For those who continue to drive alone, an analysis by the Union of Concerned Scientists found an EV would reduce lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions after six to eighteen months of ownership taking the manufacturing footprint and power generation into consideration. This time period will decrease as cleaner energy sources are increasingly used to power our grid. The map below shows the equivalent miles per gallon emissions for EVs in different parts of the USA, depending on the emissions associated with electric power generation. Automakers continue to search out lower impact and longer life options for batteries and are developing second life applications and recycling options for batteries when they reach the end of their useful life in the vehicle.

Electric Vehicle Global Warming Pollution Ratings and Gasoline Vehicle Emissions Equivalents by Electricity Grid Region. Image: Union of Concerned Scientists, 2015.

Electric Vehicle Global Warming Pollution Ratings and Gasoline Vehicle Emissions Equivalents by Electricity Grid Region. Image: Union of Concerned Scientists, 2015.

  1. How much does it cost to maintain an EV?

EVs cost less to maintain than the most regular internal combustion engines. Regenerative braking puts energy back in the battery and saves wear and tear on brakes. All-electric models have vastly fewer drivetrain components and no engine requiring oil changes. The batteries are typically warranted for eight years or 100,000 miles (whichever comes first), although do expect to see some capacity loss over that time period. There are Teslas and Volts with hundreds of thousands of miles on them and near-new electric range.

Mark your calendars for next year’s National Drive Electric Week festivities September 8-16, 2018. More in-depth electric car information is available at the Drive Electric Vermont website: www.DriveElectricVT.com

David Roberts is the Drive Electric Vermont coordinator. He has driven an all-electric Nissan LEAF for the past five years and says if you have to drive, drive electric.

from Green Energy Times http://www.greenenergytimes.org/2017/10/18/top-ev-questions-answered/