Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Green D.C. Headlines: Amtrak's East Coast HSR Plan

Amtrak Releases Plan for East Coast Upgrade
Summary: At a news conference in Philadelphia this morning, VP Joe Biden announced Amtrak's new vision for high-speed travel between Washington, D.C. and New York City.

James Hansen Arrested With 100 Others At Mountaintop Removal Mining Protest In DC
Summary: Around 100 people have been arrested outside the White House while protesting against mountaintop removal mining, including NASA scientist James Hansen.

Never Mind Oil, Group Says: Think Atlantic Wind
Summary: The Atlantic coast has more energy to give via wind than it does from oil or gas, according to a study sponsored by Oceana, an environmental group.

Fairfax looks at bike plan
Summary: Fairfax County hopes to redevelop Tysons Corner into a walkable, transit-oriented city. But what about a cycling-friendly city? The county's transportation department has scheduled a public meeting for Thursday to discuss recommendations on how bike-friendly design should become part of road and transit projects and private developments in Tysons.

Maryland Green Party Senate candidate killed by SUV while cycling
Summary: Natasha Pettigrew, a Maryland Green Party candidate for U.S. Senate, died late Monday, two days after a Cadillac Escalade hit her while she was bicycling. The 30-year-old was training for a triathlon about an hour before sunrise, the Washington Post reports.

BoltBus, RedCoach, other bus lines go for business travelers
Summary: On your next business trip, stretch your legs, plug in your laptop and prepare for a leisurely ride — on the bus?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Green D.C. News Roundup: The Greening of Chicago

Chicago takes the LEED in eco building
Summary: Chicago has the highest number of LEED-certified buildings in the United States, the highest square footage of green rooftops, and a longstanding commitment to green building.

EPA puts bay states on notice
Summary: Federal officials began a sweeping crackdown on pollution in the Chesapeake Bay on Friday - threatening to punish five mid-Atlantic states with rules that could raise sewer bills and put new conditions on construction.

Potomac River Cleaner but Wastewater Upgrades Still Required
Summary: To help improve water quality in the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay, the U.S. EPA has reissued an operating permit for the Blue Plains Advanced Wastewater Treatment Facility that requires a steep cut in nitrogen discharges.

GEORGE bus service ends
Summary: The GEORGE bus,once operated by the City of Falls Church, made its last run on Friday.

Hagerstown, MD, USA: Staples and SunEdison Unveils 1.5 MW PV System
Summary: Staples and SunEdison today unveiled a 1.5 megawatt solar power installation at the Staples distribution center in Hagerstown, Md. Combined with the recent solar installation at the Staples fulfillment center in Hanover, Md., Staples is now hosting more than 2.5MW of solar capacity in the state of Maryland alone.

Metro showcases new vehicles, bus body and paint shop funded by federal Recovery Act dollars
Summary: Metro officially unveiled new Metrobuses and MetroAccess vehicles today, September 13, and offered a sneak preview of early construction on a new bus body and paint shop funded by federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) dollars.

Federal Agencies Outline Plans to Cut GHG Emissions
Summary: The White House released federal agencies’ sustainability plans, providing the first detailed glimpse of how the government plans to decrease its greenhouse gas emissions over the next 10 years, the New York Times reports.

Transportation officials mull massive new toll system
Summary: Area transportation officials are developing a plan to combat the Washington region's mounting traffic congestion and funding shortfalls with a mammoth new system of toll roads spreading across almost every major local roadway.

D.C., Arlington team up to launch Capital Bikeshare
Summary: The District Department of Transportation and Arlington County have teamed up to launch a new bike-sharing system, the largest in the country.

Get Ready: Capital Bikeshare will change everything
Summary: DC and Arlington deserve a lot of credit for having the vision to bring modern bike-sharing to DC, and as a result, things will never be the same again.

Judge Dismisses Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's Misguided Investigation of Michael Mann
Summary: he Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) called today’s decisions by a Virginia judge to dismiss Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli’s demand for documents related to research by climate scientist Michael Mann a “victory for scientific discovery.”

Most aspects of e-waste not regulated in U.S., Va.
Summary: Virginians are creating piles of potentially dangerous waste. The problem is old electronics, or e-waste -- computers, cellphones and other gadgets that people toss because they've found something newer and shinier.

Leesburg axes Southwest Connector Trail, moves forward with Downtown Improvements
Summary: At their Sept. 14 meeting, Leesburg Mayor Kristen Umstattd and the Town Council voted to delete the planned Southwest Connector Trial from the town’s Capital Improvements Program and also to move forward with Phase I of the Downtown Improvements Project.

Q&A: Arbour Realty's Genevieve Concannon and Adam Gallegos

Green D.C. recently participated in an email Q&A with Arbour Realty Founder Adam Gallegos and Director of Business Development Genevieve Concannon. They provide readers with insight into the emerging field of green real estate and Arbour Realty's efforts as the first sustainable real estate company in the D.C. area.

Green D.C.: What is Arbour Realty and what is a green real estate company?

Arbour Realty: Arbour Realty is the DC area's first green real estate firm and now the leader in technology and social media innovation in the real estate community. This means that Arbour Realty is founded on green living and sustainable principles, teams up with ecobroker professionals and employs advanced technology and social media into their real estate platform. What this means for their clients is that they have highly educated agents on their side who understand the market, the importance of energy efficiency and healthy living in the homes. Meanwhile, the Arbour Realty team is aggressively approaching the social media market with very relevant blogs, tips and community information. We are constantly seeking out the latest and greatest technology that will enable our clients to have an even more seamless transaction while remaining as conscious of our carbon footprint as possible.

GDC: Why was Arbour Realty started in this tough real estate market?

AR: Adam Gallegos, the founder of Arbour Realty already had a strong following of referral based real estate business. This foundation provided him with the confidence to break off from Re/Max (a recognized real estate brand) to start local firm, Arbour Realty. Adam felt strongly about creating an environmentally responsible business and could tell that the real estate industry is entering a major evolution. The distinction between “green” and “not green” is dissolving. Demand for more efficient, healthier homes is causing new home builders and home renovation companies to change the way they have been doing this since they entered the business. We see this happening very quickly with commercial real estate and residential is not far behind. You wouldn’t think about investing in a new commercial building if it was not going to be built to LEED standards. USA Today today recently reported that green building now accounts for 1/3 of new U.S. Construction. As more consumers demand a real estate team that can help them find more efficient healther homes, Arbour Realty is becoming the firm of choice in the DC area.

GDC: What sets Arbour Realty apart from other real estate companies in the D.C. Area?

AR: Arbour Realty stands on the forefront of real estate brokerages in the DC metro area because we are constantly striving for the latest technology for our clients. We have an incredibly user friendly website that enables clients and shoppers to view communities and do their due diligence before they even get started on their search. We use paperless office systems such as docusign to encourage time and paper saving techniques, we staff only ecobroker agents, and even have some LEED certified professionals on our team. Our agents are able to give their clients intimate knowledge of green building, healthy living and current market conditions to better guide their clients through their real estate transactions. Above all, Arbour Realty was selected out of thousands of real estate brokerages to be better homes and gardens real estate brokerage to watch for the Mid-Atlantic region due to all of the amazing technology that we incorporate into our business. We are also a gold certified green business, and are highly active in community building by putting on local lectures, promoting community involvement and offering a more consultative approach to the real estate process.

GDC: What is an ecobroker and what sort of education is required to be a certified agent?

AR: Ecobrokers are agents who have gone through extensive training to understand green building principles and healthy living practices. There is a strict curriculum outlined by the now eight year old program that ensures that ecobroker agents have the knowledge of environmentally sensitive issues, green building, comfort and health issues; all of these things marry into a strong agent who can effectively educate and guide their client to the best home for their needs. These agents, such as those on our team, are, again, able to guide their clients to cost effective, energy efficient homes that they will be healthy and comfortable in. Armed with this knowledge and the knowledge of their own market, ecobroker agents can really help their client understand what it means to live a healthy lifestyle, and own a home that is energy efficient and hopefully, in the long run, will have a greater return on their investment.

GDC: What criteria do you use to select your vendors?

AR: We incorporate vendor partners who are also led by a green commitment in their business practices, for instance, we partner with green living consulting to provide actionable healthy living plans for our clients once they are in their home. Green living consulting is founded on the same principles as Arbour Realty in that the owners practice what they preach, and are hugely active in the educational community. We also work with vendors whom we have done actual projects with, and feel that their integrity and value are unrivaled and really mirror our own core values.

GDC: What is green about your business practices?

AR: We have a green commitment that we would love for you to take a look at that outlines a very good portion of the reasons Arbour Realty is a green business.

GDC: Why is this a good time to go green if you are buying or selling your home?

AR: There are some great loan programs available that make it possible to improve the performance of any home. With as little as 3.5% down, you can purchase a home and make a number of improvements with additional money borrowed. Lenders already understand the additional value that such improvements make to a home. We are happy to talk to you more about your individual situation and goals.

For any improvements you plan to make to your home it is worthwhile to consider some eco-friendly options. Stainless steel appliances and granite counter tops do not capture the attention of a buyer like they did a few years ago. I’ve hosted open houses where potential buyers were much more impressed with some of the newest eco-friendly materials. If you plan to keep your home for several years or more, you will want improvements you make, to keep up with times.

GDC: What advice do you have for home buyers and sellers who might be curious about going green but are skeptical of the costs and don't know where to begin?

AR: The best place to start is with a home energy audit. A good auditor can make low and no-cost recommendations that can improve the efficiency and value of your home. They can also recommend ways to get the best bang for your buck when it comes to larger investments. The additional return on investment can happen a lot quicker than some consumers might think. We post a lot of tips and suggestions for free on our website, Twitter and Facebook page. You are welcome to check some of those out.

GDC: Any other information you would like add?

AR: We work with a lot of different people in the DC area with varying degrees of interest in “green.” Some, flat out don’t care. They just want to work with Arbour Realty because they have heard great things about the results we produce and the customer service. We love these clients just as much. What’s funny, is that they often find themselves asking questions about energy efficiency and healthy indoor air quality at some point during the home buying or selling process. We like to educate consumers when they are interested, but we are not hear to push our ideas on anyone. We simply want to provide a better customer experience than can be found at any other firm in the DC area. We will continue keeping a light carbon footprint in the meantime.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Guest Post: A Smart Grid For Heat

A cement kiln waste heat recovery power plant

By Robert W. Timmerman PE, CEM, LEED AP

The need:
Buildings need both electric power and heat. Electric power runs lights, computers, and air conditioning; heat warms the building in winter, and heats domestic hot water year round. The total energy used by a building is the fuel burned to make electric power plus the fuel burned on site for heat. On a nationwide basis, about 30% of the total energy used by buildings goes for heat. The percentages are higher in the Northeast and the Midwest. To make buildings fully renewable, a renewable supply of heat is needed in addition to a renewable source of power.

The Thermal Smart Grid
The Thermal Smart Grid would supply much of the heat energy needed by buildings from renewables such as solar heat, and by recycling otherwise wasted heat from power and industrial plants,. The various sources of heat would be coordinated by real time controllers combined with a sophisticated rate schedule which would encourage the optimum use of resources to match each building’s particular need.

Availability of these sources would be enhanced by interseasonal thermal storage, storing heat in summer for use in winter. This technology has been demonstrated in Europe, and designs have been prepared for an interseasonal storage project in Massachusetts. The economies of scale with thermal storage give the Thermal Smart Grid a natural advantage over smaller scale systems. Interseasonal thermal storage extends the amount of heat available, and might make possible the storage of winter cold for efficient summer cooling. The same distribution system could distribute cooling in sumer.

Potential Energy Savings
By recycling the waste heat from fossil fired power plants within economic thermal transmission distances of population centers, the Thermal Smart Grid would save about 5% of the total energy used by buildings, and would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 75 million tons per year. Use of other heat sources would increase the savings: a combination of solar energy with interseasonal storage could increase the savings to perhaps 12% of the total energy used by buildings, which would be 40% of the fuel burned to heat buildings.

The Parts of the Smart Grid
Just as the Electrical Smart Grid, the Thermal Smart Grid is a system, that includes sources of heat, heat customers, piping to interconnect them, short term and long term thermal storage, and controls to manage the system and interconnections. The grid itself would be a piping network operating a relatively low temperature in order to obtain heat at high efficiency. At the design maximum water temperature of 120F (50C), heat is available at reasonable efficiencies from simple solar collectors and from recycled power plant and industrial waste heat. Use of water at this temperature for heating is an established technology.

Just with electrical grids, an overall control system would manage the Thermal Smart Grid. This would take the form of an executive controller that would match the daily demand for heat with the resources available. Surplus heat would go to storage, and shortages would be made up from storage, or from local heating systems. Overall control would be assisted by an innovative rate schedule, where customers contract for a fixed flow rate of hot water, and are billed for the quantity they use, as well as the monthly bill for the quantity. This gives the customers the flexibility to optimize how their buildings use heat.

Is McDonald's Going Healthy?

I snapped this picture on the D.C. Metro. Could the ultimate symbol of our unhealthy fast-food nation finally be going on a diet? For the sake of the millions of obese, nutrient-deficient Americans out there I sure hope so.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Capital Bikeshare Launches Today!

Our Nation's Capital is turning into a world-class biking city with expanded bike lanes and now Capital Bikeshare -- a bike sharing program launching today with 114 stations and 1,100 bicycles in the District and Arlington. An annual membership is only $50 to grab a bike whenever you want one and return it to any station you want.  

Here are some pictures I took of the Adams Morgan station before the bicycles were installed plus a picture of what the bikes will look like from a demonstration at the Arts on Foot Festival in Gallery Place/Chinatown:

Adams Morgan Day Festival Goes Green

This year's Adams Morgan Day Festival featured an expanded Green Pavilion sponsored by ZipCar, Washington Gas and the D.C. Department of Environment. I had the chance to interview some of the vendors and here are some notable quotes from the participants followed by pictures from the fest.


"Green DMV (District Maryland Virginia) started as an organization with a vision to create pathways out of poverty through green job training and sustainability. So we really focus on low income and disadvantaged communities, really involving them in the green movement and getting them into the green job force." -- Dina Faticone, Program Manager, Green DMV

"Live Green offers a green lifestyle to everyone at a very affordable price. So we're hoping on expanding to the rest of the country. Our offices are around the corner from Adams Morgan. We started here in D.C., in this community. We consider this our community. We believe America's ready to go green. It is a perfect opportunity." -- Megan Barret, D.C. Community Organizer, Live Green

"Standard Energy Solutions comes into your house to determine where you are losing energy from...People say they can sleep on the second floor again after a retrofit because it is not too hot. We've done lots of audits in D.C. It's a good chance for people to save money and increase their comfort level." -- Dave Condon, spokesman, Standard Energy Solutions

"Instead of bulldozing houses they can donate them and instead of buying virgin renovation materials they can buy reclaimed very cheaply. 40% of our solid waste is made up of construction debris. We need to recycle building material. For example, instead of buying a kitchen cabinet that's made out of sawdust from China with all the fossil fuels, harvesting, mining involved, instead of causing all that pollution and energy use you can get something that came out of your neighbor's house and you can build community and create good green jobs in the process." -- Ruthie Mundell, Outreach and Education Director, Community Forklift, a thrift store for home improvement


Saturday, September 18, 2010

Big Oil Goes On Offensive

You can't walk two blocks in our Nation's Capital without running into a Big Oil advertisement. There are the Shell ads plastered in every possible nook and cranny of the Metro subway system and in so many spots in Union Station that they might as well name it Shell Station.

These ads are deceptive because Shell has rebranded itself an "energy" company that wants to "pass energy on to future generations." But will that energy be dirty oil and gas or clean and renewable energy? If it is dirty fossil fuels then there won't be much of a future for the next generation of consumers Shell is so desperately seeking.

Let's get one thing straight -- Shell and other Big Oil companies are in the fossil fuel business and there is no way around it no matter how many oversized ads they plaster across D.C. If they were talking about algae oil and geothermal energy as the solution to greenhouse gas emissions that would be one thing, but they aren't. Instead they are talking about burning "cleaner" oil and natural gas. But guess what? They are still fossil fuels with a heavy carbon footprint that contribute to global warming no matter how you dance around it or no matter how many additives you mix in.

And then there is the ultimate deceptive advertising and marketing campaign run by the Oil and Natural Gas Industry in the form of the "Rally for Jobs" signs plastered on street lamps all over town and in banner ads on the Washington Post website.

This ladies and gentlemen is the result of millions of dollars being poured into fighting any sort of Climate Change and Clean Energy legislation that would cut the corporate tax breaks for dirty energy companies in favor of incentives for wind, solar, geothermal and biofuel companies. It is important the voting public sees right through their propaganda and says no to the dirty energy industry by electing officials who stand up to Big Oil and boot out politicians who are on their short leash.

This "Rally for Jobs" is actually not a rally at all, but a carefully crafted "virtual rally" on September 22nd from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. where I assume a litany of oil and gas industry employees will spout off from Houston, Texas about how we need dirty energy jobs and not taxes. Not one word will be mentioned about renewable energy and energy efficiency and how for decades the tax breaks have been unfairly distributed to big oil and gas companies to the detriment of millions of clean energy jobs that would save our economy and the environment.

Shame on Big Oil for pouring millions into these deceptive advertising campaigns to keep the public addicted to their harmful products when they could be using that money to invest more in research and development of renewable energy sources that would end our dependence on oil and natural gas once and for all.

Pictures of Shell's advertising blitz:

Metro Train

Union Station

Pictures: Columbia Heights Revitalization

Outgoing Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty's legacy of positive changes in our Nation's Capital will be sorted out and debated over the next few years. One vivid reminder out of many is the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Northwest Washington. 

This area on 14th Street was scarred by riots in 1968 following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. And many storefronts and homes remained vacant for decades as drugs and crime ravaged the neighborhood. The District started the revitalization of the neighborhood in 1999, but the area really started taking off in 2008 when Mayor Fenty cut the ribbon for the DC USA shopping center that brought suburban amenities like a Target and Best Buy to the heart of the inner city.

And demographically Columbia Heights is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the Washington area with blacks, whites, Hispanics and other groups all mixing together. The melting pot gives the feeling of being in a bustling neighborhood in the middle of Manhattan.


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