terra, not terror

sharing ideas about a simpler way to live

We love bats June 11, 2008

Filed under: conserve, environment, wind — terra @ 7:00 am

After a side discussion in Comments about bats, I’ve been searching the Bat Conservation International site for more information about how great bats are, how they help us, and how we can help them. Essentially, bats are pretty harmless to humans, but they eat a lot of bugs that make us sick, eat our food, or kill us (think West Nile Virus). So, bats are great! They eat what we want them to eat, and otherwise leave us alone.

Bat Trivia

Baby bats are called pups. Females have one pup per year – that’s a pretty low reproductive rate.
Bats live over 30 years, making them the longest living mammal for their size.
Bats and birds are not related.

Bat houses

One way to help bats is to build or put up a bat house to provide them shelter during the day so they can eat bugs at night. The best place to put a bat house is on a building or a pole, not on a tree.

Bat Benefits

In the United States, little brown bats often eat mosquitos and can catch up to 1,200 tiny insects in an hour. An average-sized colony of big brown bats can eat enough cucumber beetles to protect farmers from tens of millions of the beetle’s rootworm larva each summer. Large colonies of Mexican free-tailed bats eat hundreds of tons of moth pests weekly.

Problems

The biggest problem is human fear.

Another big problem for bats involves some of the things we do to the places where bats live. We spray a lot of chemicals, which are dangerous. Bugs are sprayed by the chemicals, and then the bats eat the chemical-coated bugs.

And, windmills are posing a problem for bats. As we strive to find renewable energy, we must remember to not harm other species in the process. (remember though, pollution from our gas-cars harm uncountable numbers of animals) The Bats and Wind Energy Consortium has joined together with energy innovators to find solutions. The Oregon Wind Turbine (below) is safe for birds and bats.

Recently, scientists have discovered White Nose Syndrome among bats in the North East. They don’t know the cause, but the mortality rate is 95%.

We should do what we can to help animals like bats. Without knowing, we depend on others for our survival, so it’s in our interest to keep them safe.

 

Windy Future June 5, 2008

Filed under: alternative, energy, local, reduce, social consciousness, wind — terra @ 7:00 am

Wind power is getting really exciting! As new designs emerge that are more practical, less expensive, and safe for birds and bats, wind is becoming a more viable source of power. Check out these innovations:

Oregon Wind

windThe Oregon Wind turbine is compact and designed for urban and rural areas. It has less noise and vibration, and birds view it as a solid object, so they avoid it. These turbines can be linked, stacked, or mounted on a building in clumps to form a “wind forest.” They hope to have these available in 2008 for less than $1,000!

Cities could even use these to generate power at the top of LED streetlamps!

Community Wind Farms

National Wind is a company that helps put wind farms into community’s hands. They provide the supplies, and help the community come together to generate their own power – out of corporate hands. They’ve been successful with farming communities who have a cost advantage to create their own power. National Wind is active in 7 states. We all win when we work together as a community to help each other. -EcoGeek

Don’t forget about solar. The price of solar panels is expected to plummet! Nothing but good news today.

 

Video Friday: Rooftop Wind Turbines May 16, 2008

Filed under: alternative, energy, wind — terra @ 7:00 am

wind turbine

These are so awesome! Rooftop wind turbines would make clean energy affordable for homeowners. The production grant from the government wasn’t that much money. I can’t wait to see this get moving!

Click the picture to start the rooftop wind turbine video. Check out GreenEnergyTV for other great technology videos.

 

Conference call with Sherrod Brown April 30, 2008

Filed under: alternative, energy, environment, government, local, solar, wind — terra @ 1:00 am

Media Update: Sherrod Brown Press Release
Tiffin Advertiser-Tribune

I was fortunate enough to be included on a lunchtime conference call with Senator Sherrod Brown, who was announcing his new comprehensive energy bill. Senator Brown has participated in a series of “green” energy roundtables across Ohio. Anyone in Ohio knows that we have the potential to utilize our manufacturing base, and our educated workforce to create renewable energy. We can be the “Silicon Valley of Alternative Energy.” I’ve summarized his speech, and his answers to the press questions below.

Summary

Senator Brown introduced the Green Energy Production Act as a jobs bill, an energy bill, and an environment bill. Its purpose is to turn research into products, and put people to work in production of renewable energy technology. Our economic future depends on our ability to move to renewable alternative energy. If we take this step, we’ll attain the global leadership that America is accustomed to. This will would utilize the potential of this state, and other manufacturing states to expand businesses like solar & wind entrepreneurs.

Currently, Germans lead the world in solar technology because they made a decision to invest in it years ago. China is investing in wind production technology (building windturbines to sell to other countries)

While we’re debating whether to punch more holes in the ground, the rest of the world is passing us by.

This bill would encourage the commercialization of renewable products. There are too many great ideas left on drawing board or produced overseas because America hasn’t invested in renewable technology yet. Ohio would benefit from this because we have the potential. Our green energy manufacturing future should build on our manufacturing past.

The bill creates a Green Markets Program, and a Green Redevelopment Opportunity and Workforce program. It seeks to explore as many ideas and inventions as possible, and to encourage internships and apprecticeships to help our students learn the critical skills to meet the demand of the renewable energy future.

There is an efficiency grant program which would match energy companies dollar for dollar to develop renewable energy and to encourage energy savings. Currently, coal-based energy companies have an incentive to misinform the public about the benefits of solar and wind. This bill would help energy companies develop clean technology, so they don’t go bankrupt, but they can do the right thing for the environment.

Senator Brown said we need to build green energy here. It’s inevitable. Importing renewable energy technology like we do oil doesn’t need to be inevitable. It’s not in our country’s best interest.

Essentially, this bill will create good-paying jobs here at home.

Questions

Funding… over 5 years. This is a $36 billion bill, which incorporates a gradual increase ($1 billion the first year, $5 the next, and then $10 billion the following 3 years). It will make grants & proposals available. Some money comes from climate change legislation, which may include carbon credits.

We currently give oil companies $18 billion in subsidies per year. Perhaps some of that money could be used to fund the bill that creates jobs here in America and makes us energy independent. That idea would make it hard to gain the support of some Republicans, because they like to call the removal of oil subsidies a tax hike. Oil companies are the most profitable they’ve every been, and are more profitable than any other American company. We also spend billions of dollars in Iraq.

The bill creates an “investment corporation” to take it out of political process. There will be 7 members on the board, appointed by the president, confirmed by senate. Eligibility is based on criteria in the bill, which emphasizes business, labor, environment, and manufacturing.

Senator Brown doesn’t support the Lieberman-Warner climate change bill, and he doesn’t think it will pass. (I honestly don’t know much about the bill b/c I’m out of politics, much to my delight) Brown’s Green Energy Production Act is not an amendment to a climate change bill. This bill stands alone.

Is clean coal or nuclear included? No. This is about solar, wind, fuel cells and other new tech. “Clean coal” and nuclear power are not called “green” energy by most because of their harmful byproducts. They are not renewable sources.

Ethanol is not specifically mentioned in this legislation. As we look at food prices, Brown said, more technology will be developed to create energy from renewables other than food, such as restaurant waste.

What are the chances of it passing in this cycle? This bill is so different and innovative that it will take a long time to pass, so he is entering it into the public debate this week. It has potential. There are two other energy bills left to be debated this term.

This bill will get economic development off the ground by building solar panels, fuel cells, wind turbines, etc. Not necessarily producing the energy, but producing the technology. (The solar panels at Oberlin College came from Germany. They should come from Ohio.)

This bill gives me a little hope that, if we can get something like this started, we can swing ourselves out of the recession. We need green jobs, green manufacturing, and renewable energy that is inexpensive for the consumer. We can achieve this by producing the technology here at home. It’s the responsible thing to do.

 

UA Earth Day, pt. 3 April 23, 2008

Filed under: cars, education, energy, environment, local, recycle, solar, wind — terra @ 7:00 am

As I looked at my pictures, I realized I left some stuff out…

Congratulations to the Honors Complex for winning the aluminum can recycling contest. They were rewarded with a traveling trophy and an Earth flag. The three representatives took off to tour campus with their Earth Day pride!

Live Art

IMG_9617After DJ Zachariah, Rachel Roberts played acoustic guitar, while Ursula Rauh painted a picture along with the music. It was beautiful art by two wonderful artists, and certainly highlighted the solar stage for the afternoon.

The solar stage was powered by the sun! Dovetail Solar and Wind set up a solar trailer and propped up the panels to take full advantage of the sun’s plentiful energy. They also brought a wind turbine for display. Dovetail has several projects across Ohio. “Green” jobs are American jobs – you can’t outsource solar panel installation. This is yet another great reason for the U.S. to get moving towards renewable energy.

I rode a Segway!

The UA campus police ride Segways around campus. They’re quick, and run on electricity. The wildest part is that they read your mind! If you think “go forward,” it goes forward. If you think “stop,” it stops! A noted skeptic, I had to try it, and it was true! How does it do that? Well, when humans think “forward,” we lean a little bit forward. The Segway takes advantage of that natural occurrance and motors us forward. It seems more practical for campuses, airports, etc. Not so practical for the average consumer, in my opinion. It was really fascinating, but I can’t see myself ever owning one.

Bikes

UA is trying to become a more bike-friendly campus. Students can look forward to more bike racks, and a bikers map of campus. The city of Akron is helping by also installing bike racks. It’s a hilly campus, but bikes are a great way to get around. There is a serious parking problem on campus that would be helped if students who live a mile or two away would ride a bike instead of driving to campus and parking in a parking garage for the week.

Funding

This year’s Earth Day event was funded by Environmental Akron, a student club, and through the sale of salvaged metals. As the university is expanding and building, some buildings are being torn down. Fortunately, the Director of Materials Handling had the foresight to go into the buildings and salvage as many usable materials as he could. He and his team salvaged a lot of metal and other usable goods such as office furniture and equipment. The salvaged metal brought in enough money to pay for Earth Day, with much to spare. Good job Mike!

Ok, that’s all. Looking forward to next year…

 

UA Earth Day Wrap Up April 21, 2008

The University of Akron’s Earth Day “Do it now for the enviROOment” was last Wednesday. It was really a fantastic event, and generated a lot of student interest by showing practical renewable energy solutions. There was a wind turbine, 4 cars, a VegiTerranean food demo, bicycles, the Akron Metro RTA, a rain barrel, and so much more. The outside stage was powered by solar panels – Renewable energy in action!

Cars

IMG_9561It was so great to see the students checking out the electric cars. The Myers Motors NmG was featured, along with the Zenn electric car, and a self-converted Honda DelSol. Dr. Ross brought his biodiesel VW Beetle. It’s simply a diesel beetle which he runs on used vegetable oil from VegiTerranean.

I love the NmG from Myers Motors. It’s a one-person car, which is so practical. We all drive 5 person cars, but we only have 1 person in it for a majority of the time. Why not drive a 1 person car? And then have another car for family trips. Technology usually innovates to match our lifestyles, but continuing to make 5 person (or more) cars is one area where innovation has fallen away. It would make sense for each family to have a 1 person car, and a family car. Myers is currently working on new battery technology to make it run longer. They would also like to make a 2 person car.

I’ve never seen the Zenn electric car before. North Central Zenn brought their electric car. It was awesome! At $17,000, it’s the same price is a regular new car. The one displayed had a cloth roll-top. It seats 2 (very practical), and is designed for city driving. (The Zenn is pictured)

IMG_9619I loved the biodiesel VW Beetle. By using vegetable oil, he can operate his car cost-free. He simply separates particles from the oil and pours the pure oil into his car. Diesel engines were meant to run on vegetable oil, so this solution is so efficient. It’s a pure reuse. Instead of using ethanol, which comes from harvested plants, biodiesel reuses oil that normally would have to be processed.

Part 2 tomorrow…

 

Eco Math April 1, 2008

Filed under: alternative, education, energy, solar, wind — terra @ 7:00 am

We’re going to do a little math story problem. It’s pretty easy.

If you choose alternative energy for your home, your investment has a payback period of several years. You pay for the technology all at once, in the beginning when it’s installed. (Often, it’s paid for with grants and other incentives, but we’ll assume you pay for it out of pocket) The payback period explains how long it will take for you to have saved enough money on energy bills to cancel out the initial investment.

These are examples, and not exact. I used 10 years for everything to make the math really easy. These are exaggerated hypothetical numbers for our story problem, based on Akron, OH.

Solar = 10 years
Wind power = 10 years
Green roofs = 10 years
Geothermal = 10 years

Question: If you use all of these technologies on your home or building, how many years will it take for your investment to pay off?

Answer in the comments section. You can be anonymous if you want. I’ll give the answer at 5:00 today.

Answer: If each of your renewable sources takes 10 years to pay off, the total payoff time is 10 years. Not 40 years. Just 10. You’re paying for them all at the same time, and they all pay off at the same time. Think of it this way, you’re paying a utility company for gas and electric right now, forever. If you had renewable energy, you’d buy, pay for it for 10 years, and then never have to pay for it again. That sounds like a deal!

 

Wind Turbine at the Great Lakes Science Center October 29, 2007

Filed under: bioneers, environment, wind — terra @ 7:00 am

IMG_6990On Friday afternoon, at the Bioneers Conference, we visited the wind turbine at the Great Lakes Science Center. They also have solar panels and a green roof for their parking garage!

The wind turbine will generate power at 8 mph, and reach its peak power output at 31 mph, at which time it will provide 225 kwh of power. This isn’t a lot, because the turbine isn’t in the optimal position.
To generate the most power, it would need to be in the lake! But then, people wouldn’t see it, and it wouldn’t serve the dual purpose it serves now – generating power and educating people about renewable energy.

One concern with wind turbines is the effect on birds. The GLSC has been conducting a study, and haven’t found a large number of birds killed by the turbine. Many more are killed by flying into the windows of city buildings (thousands every year).

Cleveland Public Art partnered with the GLSC to make the turbine and surrounding area a piece of art for the city of Cleveland. They decided to clear the lawn surrounding the turbine. The goal of the GLSC was to have the turbine be accessible to the public, so Cleveland Public Art created a unique sidewalk, made by tracing the shadow of the turbine during the summer equinox. It’s a very graceful piece that connects the GLSC to the turbine, and further highlights the beauty of renewable energy.

 

The dangers of coal August 6, 2007

Filed under: energy, solar, wind — terra @ 5:20 pm

Here’s another great reason for the country to move away from its dependence on coal. A coal mine in Utah has collapsed after a 4.0 earthquake, leaving 6 men trapped inside. This mine is southeast of Salt Lake City, in the desert of Utah – a great place to generate solar power. Coal-powered electricity is not only dangerous to the planet, but also to humans, in so many ways.

I hope those men get out alive.

 

Dammed if you do July 28, 2007

Filed under: energy, environment, wind — terra @ 9:08 pm

damThis week, Portland General Electric began the largest dam removal in the Pacific Northwest in nearly 50 years.

Removing these two dams will allow water from the Columbia River to flow from Mt Hood once more, freeing fish and other wildlife to resume their natural habitat. Steelhead and salmon need fresh flowing water to survive, and “removal of Marmot Dam is a historic moment in salmon recovery taking place in the backyard of metropolitan Portland.”

Eight feet of the 47-foot-tall Marmot Dam was removed by Tuesday afternoon and over the next two months there will be five more blasts, along with jackhammers working daily, company spokesman Mark Fryburg said.

“Today, this partnership took a great step toward restoring a breathtaking river for fish, wildlife and people,” Portland General Electric CEO and President Peggy Fowler said in a statement.

Using dams to create electricity seems like a nice way to use a renewable resource (rushing water) to generate power, but the damage it does to the eco-system probably isn’t worth it. As Portland General Electric saw, the dams will one day have to be removed to restore critical fish and wildlife. Portland electric consumers are fortunate to be able to use wind power, at a considerable discount. Wind and solar power allow electric companies to reduce their impact on the environment.

Unfortunately, NE Ohio is considering building more dams to generate electric power. Our current dams are posing health risks because the water downstream is so polluted. While power companies in the west are taking steps to remove dams, this seems like a step backward. Why not invest in wind and solar? We do get plenty of sunny days here, and plenty of wind too. I hope more companies follow the example of Great Lakes Brewing Company, and the Cleveland Indians stadium, and invest in renewable energy. (posts on those forthcoming)

Tip of the day: Use a Brita or Pur water filter pitcher instead of bottled water. (saves money, power, landfill space, and plastic)