Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Forty years after first Earth Day, first Solar and Wind Expo ready to give renewable energy a boost

  • Last week, we marked the 40th anniversary of the first Earth Day, which helped create a groundswell of concern about our environment and initiate nearly countless efforts to take better care it, for current and future generations. Now, 40 years later, we’re looking at a new era in which renewable energy and energy efficiency can not only significantly better our environment and reduce our carbon footprint, but also save homeowners, businesses and governments billions in energy costs and make us more energy-independent.

    The first Solar and Wind Expo will help advance renewable energy in Maryland and the mid-Atlantic by connecting homeowners, businesses and government agencies with solar, wind and geothermal energy providers, all in one location. In addition, attendees will be able to learn about – and experience – renewable energy in many other ways at the Expo. Here’s a rundown of some of the many exciting things visitors to this innovative, three-day event will be able to do:
  • See, touch and learn about solar, wind and geothermal energy devices directly from top manufacturers, and suppliers.
  • Attend informative seminars all weekend long on solar, wind and geothermal energy, green building design, renewable energy financing and much more.
  • Tour the “Living Zero Home,” an educational modular home that toured the U.S. last year, for great ideas on how to save energy and money.
  • Hear keynote speaker Bob Dixson, the inspirational mayor of Greensburg, Kansas, tell how his town is rebuilding “all-green” after being devastated by a tornado just three short years ago, in May 2007.
  • Let your children participate in the fun and educational “Solar and Wind Expo Renewable Energy Scavenger Hunt.”
  • See electric vehicles, including the all-electric Tesla sports car and the Extreme Bug-E, a three-wheeled, solar/electric motorcycle, which is being unveiled at the Expo before crossing the U.S.
  • Take home one of a number of great door prizes, including a nifty, all-electric Motorino scooter.
  • Buy a ticket for a chance to win a $1.9 million solar home, a 2010 Honda Insight hybrid or a number of other wonderful prizes in Maryland Public Television’s “Green Home Raffle.”
  • Catch a ride in an all-electric E-Cruiser from the parking lot to the Expo.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Maryland Energy Administration “Project Sunburst” grant “makes solar a reality” for Frederick County

(from Frederick County Government) –Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley notified the Frederick County Office of Environmental Sustainability on April 16 that the county has been selected to receive $500,000 to install solar photovoltaic systems on Oakdale and Linganore High Schools. The award was made from the Maryland Energy Administration’s Project Sunburst Initiative.

President Jan Gardner of the Frederick Board of County Commissioners noted, “We are delighted to receive this special award as part of our environmental sustainability program. Project Sunburst makes solar a reality for Frederick County. This is a huge step forward for our schools and our county, and moves us toward a promising future of reliable, affordable, clean energy for our citizens.”

In 2007, the County Commissioners set a strategic plan goal to reduce the county’s use of non-renewable energy in its office buildings, vehicle fleet and facilities by 50% over a 15-year period. Seeing Project Sunburst as an opportunity to meet that goal, the board directed the Office of Environmental Sustainability to assemble the Frederick County Sunburst Partners Team in January 2010. The team was comprised of partners from Frederick County Government, Frederick Community College (FCC), Frederick County Public Schools and the Frederick County Sustainability Commission.

In total, eight buildings were forwarded to the Maryland Energy Administration for consideration: Oakdale High School, Linganore High School, FCC’s Advanced Workforce Training Center, the Division of Utilities and Solid Waste Management Transfer Station, the Reich’s Ford Road Leachate Waste Water Treatment Plant, the New Design Road Water Treatment Plant, the Ballenger Creek Waste Water Treatment Plant and the Potomac River Pump Station.

Project Sunburst builds on Frederick County Public Schools’ ongoing energy conservation efforts. Recent projects include replacement of inefficient lighting systems and poorly insulated windows and roofs in many buildings, installation of a geothermal heat-pump system at the new Earth Space Science Lab and installation of solar panels to operate a portable classroom at Oakdale Elementary School.

The Lincoln Elementary School remodeling and expansion project, currently in the design phase, will be the first U.S. Green Building Council LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver certified elementary school in western Maryland.
"We are pleased to partner with Frederick County Government in realizing energy savings in two of our high schools,” said Frederick County Public Schools Superintendent Linda Burgee. “The project will result in unique energy savings plus afford us an excellent opportunity to educate students and the public about alternative energy options and conservation."

The high schools were selected due to their large, new roof structures and high demand for electricity. Both schools use approximately 3,750,000 kilowatt hours per year.

The school system will enter into a long-term Solar Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with a private solar developer where it will commit to purchasing clean, solar energy produced on-site. The solar developer will be responsible for materials, installation and maintenance of the project over the term of the agreement. The Sunburst grant provides the school system with upfront funding to be used in negotiating a rate for solar energy competitive with current electricity rates.

Project Sunburst utilizes American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding to promote clean energy on public buildings in Maryland. The initiative makes installation of renewable energy systems a reality for local governments across the state.

For more information on the Maryland Energy Administration and the Sunburst initiative, visit
Ross Tyler, the MEA’s director of clean energy, will be one of many experts and officials giving free, informative presentations on renewable energy throughout The Solar and Wind Expo, taking place at the Timonium Fairgrounds May 7-9. Visit for details and discounted tickets.

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Monday, April 19, 2010

Paul Scott test drives the GM Volt and loves it!

Monday, GM's Tony Posawatz, vehicle line director for the Volt, and Dave Barthmus, GM's communications director, invited a dozen Plug In America members to Dodger Stadium for what turned out to be an exciting test drive of the Chevy Volt. Coming hard on the heels of our Nissan trip, it's clear the leading car makers bringing back plug-in cars are serious about soliciting input from the people who have the most experience driving EVs. That's a good sign.

We started off with a thorough explanation of the car including the charge port and 120Volt cord set with the standard three pronged plug. Given that the battery pack holds 16 kWh, but only 8 kWh will be usable (this is to protect the longevity of the pack), Level one charging on a 120V should suffice for most folks. According to Dave Barthmus, Level two charging (240V) will be available, but it's not been decided whether this will come standard, or be an option.

To read the rest of this story go to Paul's Blog @

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Friday, April 16, 2010

Department of Energy will provide up to $10 million to local governments to encourage solar energy use

(Washington, D.C.) The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) today announced up to $10 million over five years for two organizations to help accelerate the adoption of solar energy among local governments. The selected organizations, the International City-County Management Association (ICMA), and International Council for Local Environmental Initiatives-Local Governments for Sustainability (ICLEI) will conduct outreach to thousands of local governments across the nation, sharing best practices for increasing solar energy use in their communities.

ICMA and ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability will receive approximately $5 million each and will help provide responsive and proactive outreach to local governments to accelerate the implementation of solar technology deployment. They will reach local governments nationwide by providing a mix of educational workshops, peer-to-peer sharing opportunities, and national Web-based resources. Additionally, these two organizations will help local governments overcome technical barriers to solar energy adoption by sharing resources that have been developed through other DOE-sponsored activities, such as the Solar America Cities program.

Through the Solar America Cities program, a partnership effort with 25 U.S. cities, the Department of Energy has developed solar energy outreach materials including case studies with lessons learned, a compilation of best practices titled "Solar Powering Your Community: A Guide for Local Governments," and other resources that cities across the nation can utilize. A key tenet of the Solar America Cities program is the ability to replicate successes by sharing best practices among cities.

This effort highlights DOE's commitment to help local governments accelerate widespread adoption of solar energy, which will reduce global climate change, strengthen America's energy independence, and support the transition to a clean energy economy. Through collaborative outreach strategies, DOE aims to empower cities across the nation to broadly integrate solar energy into their communities.

About the Awardees:

International City-County Management Association, Washington, D.C.
ICMA provides publications, data, information, technical assistance, and training to thousands of city, town, and county experts. ICMA will partner with the American Planning Association (APA) and the National Association of Regional Councils (NARC) under this award to deliver information on solar technologies to their thousands of local government members as well as local communities across the country.

ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability, Boston, Massachusetts
ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability is an international association of local governments as well as national and regional local government organizations that have made a commitment to sustainable development. ICLEI will partner with the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC), North Carolina State University, the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA), Meister Consultants Group, and The Solar Foundation under this award to provide tailored technical assistance and one-on-one workshops for local governments across the country.

Please visit the Solar America Cities Web site for more information.

The Department of Energy will exhibit at The Solar and Wind Expo – taking place at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium May 7-9 – along with many renewable energy providers.

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Monday, April 12, 2010

Nissan turns over a new Leaf - by Paul Scott

After running for several years in stealth mode, Nissan reached out to Plug In America two years ago revealing their plans to build an EV for the average consumer, something that would serve the daily driving needs of the vast majority of the world's drivers.

Fast forward to March 29th when, in a breakfast meeting, Nissan disclosed the price of the Leaf, $32,780 - news that crystallized the reality of affordable EVs for the masses.

Topping it off, this past week Nissan invited eight members of Plug In America's board to visit their Tennessee headquarters, meet with the key members of the Leaf program and finish with a tour of their giant Smyrna, TN plant.

To read more ....

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Monday, April 5, 2010

Some solar plants leave for Asia – but still good conditions for solar buyers, sellers and installers in Maryland, U.S., Baltimore Sun writer says

The recent closing of BP Solar’s Maryland plant in Frederick– for years a prominent sight for travelers along Interstate 70 – may seem like a bad sign for the future of solar energy in Maryland and elsewhere, but there are “two silver linings” to the plant’s shutting, said Baltimore Sun columnist Jay Hancock in his March 31 piece.

First, the availability of cheaper solar equipment manufactured overseas combined with federal, state and local tax incentives is making it more feasible for homes and businesses to install solar and save substantial sums in the long run with clean energy. Second, the availability of cheaper solar products means there is “a thriving economy of selling and installing solar power in Maryland and across the country,” Hancock says.

And, he adds, Maryland’s “solar-friendly” policies, put in place with BP Solar’s support, will benefit the state even with the plant no longer here – and even with the federal government slow to enact carbon-capping legislation that might have saved the factory. “The solar economy… is here to stay, no matter what happens in Frederick or Washington,” Hancock declares.

Many of these solar sellers and installers that are blooming like so many sunflowers will be exhibiting at The Solar and Wind Expo at the Timonium Fairgrounds May 7-9. You can come out to see all the hardware and learn about solar – as well as wind and geothermal power and electric vehicles – from the experts at the Expo.

To see Hancock’s column, go to

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Thursday, April 1, 2010

Maryland boosts funding for mid-sized solar systems; grants of up to $50,000 available

(From the Maryland Energy Administration) The Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) on March 26 announced the update of a new incentive program for mid-sized solar energy systems – from 20 to 100 kilowatts – made possible through funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. This two year program will provide a total of up to $1.45 million to lower the cost of rooftop solar energy systems for commercial buildings, allowing more Maryland businesses to receive the benefits of clean renewable energy from the sun.

“Maryland’s mid-sized solar grant program is a true ‘win’ for local businesses and workers. By taking advantage of this new resource, not only will businesses see a reduction in energy usage and operational costs in the long term, but they will also become a part of a Maryland that is Smart, Green and Growing, by taking this step to reduce their carbon footprint,” commented Governor Martin O’Malley. “I encourage local businesses to take advantage of this opportunity.”

The incentive program covers both solar photovoltaic energy and solar water heating. Both of these technologies have reached a level of technology maturity and reliability that makes them great long-term investments for commercial buildings. Through the Maryland Energy Administration’s grant program, Marylanders now can qualify for a rebate of $500 per kilowatt of photovoltaic capacity installed for systems between 20 and 100 KW, up to $50,000 per grant, and 15% of the system cost for a solar hot water system up to $25,000 per grant at this time.

“The challenge for many businesses is that the costs for solar energy systems are all up-front, while the benefits accrue over many years of use,” noted MEA Director Malcolm Woolf. “The mid-sized incentive program, combined with the federal investment tax credit of 30%, is designed to help lower the upfront cost of these renewable energy systems so that businesses can continue to invest in clean renewable energy despite the difficult economy. We are thrilled to be able to serve the business community with this much-needed clean energy program.”

For more information on the mid-sized renewable grant program and application instructions, please go to
Ross Tyler, director of clean energy at the Maryland Energy Administration, will tell Solar and Wind Expo attendees all about Maryland’s renewable energy programs on Friday, May 7, at noon. The Solar and Wind Expo takes place at the Timonium Fairgrounds May 7-9.

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