May 4, 2007 – Volume 10, Issue 25


Our Solar Story Part III - Rooftop Engineering

"Engineering" - or more accurately a really nice clean- cut sailor from Huntington Beach - came two weeks later, right on schedule. I was psyched; our process was beginning. I had so many questions. How would the panels be configured? "Let's talk racking!" How would system efficiency be impacted by putting some of the panels on west faces? Would this require two inverters? How deep did the trench from the house to the main panel behind the garage need to be?

I'd had two cups of coffee by the time the technician arrived and I began to pelt him with questions. But no, this was his first day on the job, his first assignment as site assessor. He'd be happy to pass along my questions to "engineering." Then he clambered into our attic with flashlight, digital camera, tape measure, and note pad. I liked this guy, but I was let down. Shucks, I'd have to wait for "engineering" to call.

After the attic, our new friend spent a couple hours on the roof, drawing and measuring, re-drawing and re- measuring. He was certainly working hard to make a good impression with his new employers and me. I went up on the roof to gauge the task at hand. No doubt about it, our "double hip" roof sounds pretty cool, but makes solar installation a bit complex. We also have lots of roof protrusions, plumbing and furnace vents, and a chimney. OK, so where do 18 panels go?

By now, we were starting to develop more of a feel for our contractor and the blooming solar industry. Our contractor is a national firm with 500 staff located in five states, clearly on the go and grabbing young and able talent from a variety of backgrounds. So far, we'd been served by two brand new employees who made up for lack of experience with focused expertise and stellar communication skills. Good hires.

So the visit came and went, and I must say, I had little confidence in the site analysis. Then a week later, Andy called to see if he could come again. "Sure, come on over!" He apparently needed to re-check a few dimensions. In fact, he completely redid his work. I liked that.


Fresno Yosemite International Airport soon will be home to the largest solar power system of any airport in the country. In early April the Fresno City Council approved the installation of a 2 megawatt, $16 million solar system that will be completed by March 2008. Best of all, the solar system will not require a single dollar of out-of-pocket cost for Fresno. Instead, it will be owned and operated by the New Jersey-based World Water & Power Corporation.

Thanks to a "power purchase agreement" (PPA) supported by state incentives and federal tax credits, the solar system is projected to save the airport $13 million in electricity bills over the next 20 years. According to the aviation director, "It's the right thing to do. It continues the City's green policy, and, frankly, who wouldn't want to fix a portion of their utility bill for 25 years at rates that are comparable to today?"

The solar power system will consist of 25 acres of photovoltaic solar panels in two locations. An empty field within the airport's restricted "clear zone" (meaning no buildings can be erected there) is a perfect fit for solar panels. A five-acre rental car return lot will also have a set of solar panels doing double duty as sun shades for rental cars. (Fresno's California Air National Guard is also going solar for its armory.)

"Keep up the good work, I find your newsletter interesting and useful."
Bob Nicholas, Product Development Manager
Snohomish County Public Utility District, Washington

The Green Cup Challenge
- Allison Ehrenreich, Student, Millbrook School, New York

The Green Cup Challenge (GCC) is an interscholastic competition designed to conserve electrical energy and raise climate change awareness among Northeastern boarding schools. During the month of February, fifteen independent schools participated in the Green Cup with the goal of having the greatest percent reduction of electrical use. Together they prevented the release of 381,203 lbs of carbon dioxide through their month-long collaborative efforts.

This year Millbrook School, a small co-educational boarding school in Dutchess County, New York, pulled through to save the most energy. Millbrook School took home the Green Cup with 16.3% reduction. Jane Meigs, head of the Environmental Council at Millbrook, believes that although the school is small, a strong sense of community drove the winning results.

People around the campus were excited, they got really involved. The Environmental Council placed reminders around campus to "Hit the Switch" and "Keep Doors and Windows Closed." The school's maintenance staff was squarely on board, making a large effort with steps like changing campus lighting to fluorescent and LED bulbs. Meigs said that, "the main underlying mission of the GCC is that everyone matters on the path to climate change" and that "every small action can make the difference." The GCC was formed after Philips Exeter Academy's successful inter-dormitory conservation campaign in 2003. It challenged two other schools to follow suit. Now, the Green Cup features competition in other areas too. Hotchkiss School won the best video and Northfield Mount Herman won the best student initiative award. Monica Zhou of Lawrenceville School created the new GCC logo. There may be up to fifty participating schools next year; any boarding school in the continental United States may partake. Check out the www.ex for more information. The Green Cup Challenge trophy, created by New England sculptor Josh Simpson.

Generation X
- Jonathan Chu, UC Irvine Student and EcoMotion Intern

Global warming is a growing concern that has the strongest impact on younger generations. So what is being done to promote the importance of energy conservation among generation x? After a lazy afternoon in front of the tube, I came to the realization that pop culture and the media are starting an ecological awareness trend.

MTV's hit show, "Pimp My Ride," held a special Earth Day episode, promoting environmentally friendly automobiles. Special guest, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, assisted in the transformation of a 1965 Chevy Impala from gasoline to bio-diesel powered. Their goal was to prove that a car running bio-diesel fuel can still produce power. To demonstrate, they brought the newly altered Impala to a race track and put it up against a gasoline-powered Lamborghini. The result: the 800hp Impala beat the Lamborghini, showing that car enthusiasts can be ecologically friendly without giving up their horsepower. Watch it here.

Not only is TV promoting awareness, but so is the entertainment industry in general. A music video remix of Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" was recently released with a new twist. Swedish DJ Eric Prydz remade the song by combining the new sport of "urban freestyle jumping" with a plot where teenagers secretly go around town conserving energy by switching to CFL light bulbs, turning off appliances, and conserving water. Watch it here.

Other sites to check:
Global Warming Ad - Environmental Defense
Gov. Schwarzenegger on MTV
Al Gore and Live Earth
Live Earth Concert

The new trend of aiming environmentalism towards younger audiences is essential, because they will be the generation that makes or breaks our planet.

Austin's Green Choice

A year ago, EcoMotion Network News V10#2 encouraged readers to look into their utilities' green power programs. Does your utility offer green power? Are you signed up? Did you know that some green power programs no longer have price premiums? Is green power integral to your utility's generation mix thanks to aggressive Renewable Portfolio Standards?

For the fifth year in a row, the Austin (Texas) Energy GreenChoice® program was the #1 utility-sponsored green power program in America. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, GreenChoice sales topped 580 million kilowatt-hours in 2006. Austin was followed by Portland General Electric and Florida Power & Light, both of which serve many more customers. Excel took the top spot for most participants (63,028); Palo Alto continues to lead the nation in percentage of customers participating (16.9%).

NREL rankings of the nation's top 10 utility green power programs are determined using data from more than 600 utilities across the country. NREL ranks the programs in categories such as total sales of renewable energy to program participants and total number of customer participants. For more information, see the rankings.

The success of the Austin Energy program centers on a feature whereby GreenChoice subscribers receive a green power cost that stays fixed for up to 10 years. The utility then secures 10-year contracts for the output of wind-turbines (currently 212 MW of wind turbines), and passes that fixed cost to customers as a hedge against increasingly volatile fossil fuel prices. This price guarantee has been especially appealing to businesses, even though at the time of their subscriptions, green power was generally slightly higher than the normal power charge. Nevertheless, Austin is proud to report more 100% green-powered businesses (350) than any city in the country.

In 2006, and for the first time, because of rising natural gas and coal delivery costs, the traditional fuel charge was higher than the green power price, and green power subscriptions had to be issued using a lottery system as demand exceeded supply. Today, Austin's green power price "premium" is -0.13 cents/kWh.

Flex Cars!

Renewable energy is rising! The growth of solar and wind energy installations throughout the country is a major market transformation, and an Oregon community college is responding. Columbia Gorge Community College has launched a new training program for wind technicians to meet the growing demand for personnel to match the growing demand for the installation and maintenance of wind turbines in the region.

Bonneville Power Administration estimates that new wind power capacity in the Northwest is growing at the rate of 300 - 400 megawatts annually, with about 2,600 megawatts expected in Oregon and Washington by 2011. Current and proposed wind farms in Oregon and Washington are expected to require about 365 wind turbine technicians over the coming decade; the need for technicians rises at a rate of about eight jobs per 100 megawatts of installed wind capacity.

Clearly being a wind energy technician is not for everybody: You must be willing to climb to the top of 250-foot towers and spend up to 12 hours there. The closest training facility for wind technicians is in Minnesota. While the high-growth wind industry is the primary focus of the project, the college’s scope may be expanded to include other renewable energy workforce training needs, such as solar and biofuel/biomass.

EcoMotion in the Community

On Earth Day weekend, EcoMotion helped sponsor a local basketball game at Soka University of America, starring the Harlem Ambassadors who travel from show to show in their bio-diesel-powered bus.

Not shown: Virginia couldn't resist getting out on the court herself to make a few shots before the game started.