Posted in clean renewable energy

A suburban oasis

Today I visited the home of Ed & Priscilla in Hatfield PA. As part of the national solar home tour, they showcased their brick ranch home built in 1960, modernized with solar hot water, solar electric, an electric car in the garage, and day lighting.

Years ago, Ed teamed up with Alan Rushforth and learned about the installation of large scale solar hot water systems. And about 8 years ago, he installed 2 solar hot water panels above their porch roof. The generated hot water is piped into a 400 gallon tank that he custom-made from his experience with Alan. This non-pressurized drain-back system needs no antifreeze because all the water drains back when the pump shuts off. The panels are US-made by Soleen.

 

Two years ago, Ed decided to install a rooftop solar electric system, also known as PV (photo-voltaic). The 16 panels, each rated for 345 Watts, results in a 5,520 Watt system, generating about 6,600 kWh, enough for this household.  The panels are Canadian-made by Silfab Solar; the inverter is a Sunny Boy 5000.

In the garage, they’ve got an electric car, a Nissan Leaf. They need never go to the gas station with it, since the car is powered by a rechargeable battery and electric motor. The amount of electric required to keep the car charged is covered by the amount generated by the solar panels. So one could say the car is powered by the homegrown electricity.

In the kitchen, they brought in more daylighting with Solatubes fitted into the roof.

Being avid gardeners, we also got to see their rain barrel, their vegetable garden, and their composting area. In addition, we were surprised to see their bee-keeping operation along the back fence, complete with fish pond providing water for the bees, and a pollinator garden supplying food for the bees. I returned home to savor some of their scrumptious honey.

 

 

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Posted in banking, clean renewable energy, divest, no fossil fuels, pipelines, solar, transition

Marcellus Shale – A Blessing or a Curse?

Our state has been blessed, some say. Possibly cursed, say some others. I’m talking about the abundant gas reserves in the Marcellus Shale. Cursed because of issues during Extraction, Transportation & Consumption.

Extraction is also known as hydraulic fracturing or fracking. When chemicals are forced into the ground, they contaminate the water table, affecting the well water of rural townships. As the gas is forced out & captured, there are leaks. Leaks that affect the local air quality and detrimental to the health & property values. The same methane leaks are an important contributor to climate change, worse even than carbon dioxide. 

Transportation of fracked gas is typically by pipelines. Pipelines that are known to leak or explode, with cleanup expenses left to the taxpayers. Rights for these pipelines, going thru wetlands, woodlands and private property, are gained via eminent domain in the name of public utility.  but are really for private gain by fossil fuel companies. Permit applications are shoddy, and fragmented construction begins in communities with the least resistance. Communities are not compensated for the devastation, nor the liability.

There are several pipeline developments, all headed to or through the greater Philadelphia area – the Mariner East 2 pipeline slated to carry fracked gas liquids from west to east, ending up in nearby Delaware County, and destined for export, to be made into plastic bags in Europe. How does this qualify the pipeline builders to claim in the courts that they’re a public utility? 

Then there’s the Atlantic Sunrise Pipeline destined to travel north to south, going through farmland in Lancaster County. And the PennEast pipeline thru Bucks County into New Jersey. And smaller segments across the Delaware River (which supplies the drinking water for 15M people), and into the Pinelands in South Jersey.

gas burning from a kitchen gas stove

Which leads us to …Consumption. The pipeline going thru the Pinelands is headed to a gas power plant, where the fracked gas will be burned to generate electricity. Much like the SEPTA gas plant locally in Nicetown that 350 Philly and others are fighting. Advertised as clean burning at point of ignition, the industry ignores the devastation left in its wake. 

Once you realize that natural gas is the same as methane, and that methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than even carbon dioxide (86 times), you’ll agree, it’s no longer clean burning.

Who’s doing this extraction, transportation & building up the large scale demand for fracked gas? The same companies behind the Dakota Access Pipeline:  

Sunoco Logistics, Williams Company, Energy Transfer Partners

Who’s funding these companies?

Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Citibank, Citizens Bank, HBSC Bank, TD Bank

And many of us thru our personal accounts, our investments and our retirement plans.

It’s time to #divest and #reinvest all of our funds into clean energy from #solar and #wind, and leave the Marcellus Shale reserves resting safely underground.


Initially presented at Indivisible NW Philly meeting on March 12 2017.

Posted in clean renewable energy, solar, solutions

We went solar – You can too!

Originally published on the Northwest Philly Solar Co-op site, here.

Months ago, we learned of DC SUN, a neighborhood solar co-op in Washington DC. Some of us met with Anya Schoolman, their founder, and decided to bring their model to our neighborhood of Northwest Philadelphia.
See this early video to understand how DC SUN helps neighbors negotiate with utilities, contractors and the government to get solar energy installed on residential rooftops.
Looks like the solar co-op can not only assist with bulk buying, i..e a volume discount from the installer, but other ways to help with the installation costs, such as…
  1. the DC Rebate program, basically a subsidy from utility funds, now called Affordable Solar
  2. the Federal tax credit for renewable energy
  3. option to sell the green value of clean energy, or SRECS (solar renewable energy credits), earning the household about $900 per year
  4. option to lease the system, where the household pays 1/3 less than the utility rate for 25 years.

If you or your organization is in the vicinity of Northwest Philadelphia, come join us!

Posted in clean renewable energy, no fossil fuels, solutions, transition

Solar in the Northwest

I’ve been hearing about solar panels since I was in high school, over 3 decades ago. But yesterday, as a member of the Northwest Philadelphia Solar Co-op, I interviewed a Mt Airy couple who have had solar panels on their roof for a year and a half now. Both were eager to talk about their experience.

They raved about their installers. Showed me their 2 electric meters; one for electricity coming from PECO and the second one added to track the electricity that their rooftop was pushing back onto the grid. bud-n-mollie-1

I asked where all their other equipment was that I’d read about: the inverters and batteries and such. And realized that when a solar installation is grid-tied (meaning not off-the-grid), it’s a lot less involved. All they had were the 13 panels on the roof, and the second meter. No other equipment on the porch or basement.

For 7 months of the year, I learned, this system produces in excess of the household’s consumption. During this time (April thru October), their bill is about $7 per month. The other 5 months, it triples to about $20 per month.

They have monitored their production and consumption via an online application, and once noticed a spike in their usage. Concerned that someone was tapping into their system, they drilled into the data and discovered usage during one month, in the wee hours of the night.  A month that coincided with a visit from their teenage granddaughter with all her electrical devices!

When asked why they invested in this solar installation, it was simply… Why, for the common good! Sitting on their serene back porch, I realized the beauty of this. There was no need to explain the horrifying effects of climate, nor of the immediacy of action required.

Weavers Way Co-op and The Shalom Center have teamed up to get solar-coop2more solar installed in Northwest Philadelphia, by forming the Northwest Philadelphia Solar Co-op, explained on the flyer here. We all benefit from increased reliance on renewable energy and it is important to develop community-based initiatives that increase its use.

Know that a solar photo-voltaic (PV) system generates clean electricity using a free energy source that will never run out and never go up in price. The fuel requires no mining, no drilling, no mountain-top removing and no transporting, doesn’t require burning or processing, and is never in danger of spilling, emitting, or polluting. In fact, the clean energy produced by your solar energy system emits no greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and helps reduce global climate change and our dependence on fossil fuels and the volatile fossil fuel market. As with all manufacturing, there is some waste in that process.

When will solar become the norm, so that every Philly structure with the solar potential achieves this potential? To get to this tipping point, we’re sharing stories from people who already have solar installed at their home or workplace. Each installation will be summarized on a Solar Facts sticker, shown below, for easier comparison.

As you’ll see, the 30% Federal tax credit really made this investment affordable and economical. I remember when we got an estimate 11 years ago, a 2kW system was priced at $18,000. And there was no Federal or State incentive that we could apply for. That’s going from $9 per watt to $2.8 per watt!  With the industry scaling up, and government policies to support & encourage us all, this one example looks to be a third cheaper than what we were quoted.

solar facts

Want to join NPSC? Or simply share your story? Please contact NPSC via Barbara Bloomfield at (215) 247-9204 or barbbloomfield2 [at] aol.com.

What is it that’s keeping people from installing solar on their rooftop? Some of the responses we’re heard are:

  • We’re tenants.  Have your landlord contact NPSC.
  • We’re in a condo. Have your condo association contact NPSC.
  • We have plenty of sun, but are short on cash. The Northwest Philadelphia Solar Co-op is looking at financing, perhaps thru the Free Loan Association of Germantown (FLAG). Please contact NPSC.
  • We have too many trees and not enough sun. No solar potential. I hear you. Keep the trees. Maybe you’d like to lend through the Free Loan Association of Germantown for other solar installations.

The Earth needs YOU!

Posted in clean renewable energy, no fossil fuels, pipelines

Break Free actions in Philly

The week of actions around Break Free from fossil fuels began in Philly with the Right to Breathe mobilization on Saturday May 7th. If you missed it, you must see it storyboarded here, just to see the giant sunflowers and the hundreds of people who participated. A Huffington Post piece explains the action quite well. Our Right to Breathe action was also reported on by Democracy Now.

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Two days later, the People’s Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force claimed eminent domain by forming a human pipeline at an industry conference. See the press release from this action, a video documenting this, and media coverage by Penn Live. Online, this action was seen by almost 10,000 people.

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To give you a bit of history… Having seen gas pipeline projects tear apart the Pennsylvania countryside, digging thru private property, oftentimes farmland and preserved green spaces, blatantly ignoring the protests of rural citizens, and all behind the shield of eminent domain, the People formed the People’s Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force, and had disrupted the Governor’s Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force meeting in January, documented on this video. As you’ll see from the video, some People were arrested when they tried to state our perspective, and still need help paying for the ensuing fines & legal fees.

The People’s Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force tactic of creating a human pipeline was used later in the week at another Break Free action in Washington DC.

Later, several members of the People’s Pipeline Infrastructure Task Force joined up with friends at Earth Quaker Action Team for their action outside the PECO headquarters, which was reported on by the Metro and Newsworks.

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A report by the Guardian deems the Break Free protests against fossil fuel expansion were the largest ever global disobedience. I think we’re all heartened to be in the company of people on the side of truth.

Coming up next, a Town Hall Meeting on Oil Refinery Expansion. It’s on Thursday, May 19th at 7pm at Kingkessing Park4901 Kingsessing Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19143. For details and to join the online discussion, see this

Posted in clean renewable energy, no fossil fuels, pipelines, Uncategorized

Human Pipeline brings message to Gas Profiteers

I had a bit part in a direct action today. See news release and photo.


NEWS RELEASE
Tuesday, May 10, 2016
Contact: EDGE Angela Vogel 206-579-9309 or Elizabeth Arnold 267-745-7041

HUMAN PIPELINE BRINGS MESSAGE TO GAS PROFITEERS:
WE DON’T WANT A FOSSIL FUEL FUTURE – RENEWABLE ENERGY NOW!

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Philadelphia – A group of Pennsylvania residents claimed eminent domain today for a right-of-way through the lobby of a Penn’s Landing hotel during two energy industry conferences. Using their own bodies and lengths of industrial tubing, they built their own pipeline to carry their message to industry and government officials who want to double down on investment in fossil fuels and fracking instead of shifting to  renewable energy sources.

The Hilton Philadelphia at Penn’s Landing is hosting two conferences this week: The Natural Gas for Power Generation (NGPG) Summit on the conversion of coal-fired electrical generation plants to gas, and the Association of Energy Services Professionals spring conference.

“Converting coal-fired plants to gas often really means building a new gas-fired plant. It’s another investment that justifies more fracking, more pipelines to Philadelphia and more pollution,” said Meenal Raval, a Mt. Airy business owner. “Using fracked gas for power causes a path of destruction from wells, pipelines, and compressor stations through thousands of communities.”

The chairman of the NGPG Summit is Michael Krancer, who served as Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and then returned to his partnership at Blank Rome, where he heads the law firm’s Energy, Petrochemical & Natural Resources Practice. Krancer is also a member of the Greater Philadelphia Energy Action Team, a trade group that recently announced plans to seek public funding for a massive natural gas pipeline to Philadelphia.

“This is the revolving door in action,” said Angela Vogel of EDGE (Ending Dirty Gas Exploitation). “The same people go back and forth between government and industry, working together to keep profiting by poisoning us.”

On Monday an NGPG session called How to Overcome Environmentalist & Community Opposition and Accelerate the Approval Process included the topic “How to influence regulators and dominate the regulatory review and permitting process.” Tuesday morning featured pipeline proponent Philip Rinaldi, CEO of Philadelphia Energy Solu tions, whose refinery has suffered multiple fires in the past two years and produces two-thirds of the toxic air emissions from industrial sources in Philadelphia.

Built along two tidal rivers, Philadelphia is the city second-most at risk to power outages from climate-change-fueled storms. Members of the public who brought their message to the conferences say that reliance on fossil fuels undermines global efforts to slow climate change and locks the city and the state into decades of fossil fuel use while the rest of the world shifts to energy efficiency and renewables.

“Monday’s presenter on community opposition said, ‘Listen, listen, listen’ to what communities tell you. We are telling these industries that Philadelphia wants clean energy, not the fossil fuels that are making Philadelphia the asthma capital of the Northeast, poisoning our drinking water, scarring our state with pipelines, and destroying our planet,” said Elizabeth Arnold of EDGE (Encouraging Development of a Green Economy).

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Posted in clean renewable energy, climate, solutions

Uniting around our climate target

Last Thursday, a few of us met at a Quaker facilitated discussion on climate targets, specifically around the international Paris agreement last December, about getting our planetary temperature well below 1.5 degrees centigrade.1449778748021

The topic? Uniting around targets.

We represented research & policy folks from regional environmental non-profits plus grassroots & faith-based activists.

Professor Donald Brown of Widener Law School, and blogger at Ethics & Climate,  spoke about the need to set a carbon budget, asking us to keep in mind not just the business of reducing our carbon emissions, but to also maintain an ethical & moral perspective as we go forth.

We learned that this meant weaving in responsibility to future generations, equality for the current generations as well as the rights of developing nations.

Given all this, he suggested that the US target is not 80% carbon reduction by 2050, but the more equitable one of 100% carbon reduction by 2035.

In other words, we need to be carbon neutral in 18 years. Gasp! Apparently, speed matters.

In the discussion that followed, I learned that the Sierra Club’s goals include a carbon-free electric sector for 2030, and carbon neutral by 2050.

We had some excited discussion about targets that are politically acceptable versus those that are demanded by physics and ethics.

As we parted, I sensed an agreement that we need to work together, despite our divergent tactics, but still reeling in shock at the carbon budget for our state and the speed by which we need to get there.

A follow-on solutions-based public meeting to discuss getting our state of Pennsylvania to this goal of carbon neutral in 18 years, is set for the evening of Wednesday May 18th. It’s from 7 to 9 in the evening at the Friends Center at 1501 Cherry Street in Center City Philadelphia. If Center City is too far for you, you can also join via a webinar. Details and registration here on EventBrite, and here on Facebook, too, for up-to-the-minute dialog. Please join me & others for this discussion.

Posted in clean renewable energy, no fossil fuels

MORALtorium rally in Harrisburg

Earlier this week, there was an event, the MORALtorium Rally & Legislative Hearing, organized by

Green Justice Philly, a coalition of local & national organizations including the above 3, announced the event here.

Pennsylvanians against Fracking announced it here, where you can also read comments and see photos from the event.

The same day, StateImpact covered the rally with this story: Opponents question climate benefits, morality of natural gas. Despite the protests from various faith leaders, our State’s Department of Community & Economic Development had this to say:

“DCED wants to maximize opportunities for natural gas projects,” agency spokeswoman Denise Brinley told the committee. “Pennsylvania needs to become more than a producer of natural gas. The commonwealth also needs our businesses and residents to become consumers.”

Makes me want to ask if the Commonwealth has stepped outside it’s own echo chamber and asked our businesses & residents if they wish to consume more gas? If they did, they might hear:

  • Not at the expense of creating undrinkable water; or
  • Keep it in the ground. We’d prefer wind or solar, thank you very much.
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photo credit Pennsylvanians Against Fracking

A sample talk from a faith leader is found here. Her response to the online chatter against this effort is even more interesting: Responding to Pushback against Activism.

Posted in clean renewable energy

Philadelphia’s Energy Future

Another voice from our coalition. That of Zein Nakhoda, which you can read in it’s entirety here. Zein was amongst the several citizens who spoke at the public hearing of Philadelphia City Council’s Special Committee on Energy Opportunities. Some quotes…

“Philadelphia should not build its energy future on fuels that exacerbate environmental and economic disaster.

Philadelphia should not sacrifice the long term security of residents and workers for the short-term gains of fossil fuel corporations. Nor should it rely on precarious and limited resources such as shale gas – which requires toxic and destructive fracking and transport practices in order to get to Philadelphia.

The energy transition we need would create living wage “climate jobs” – green union jobs in renewable energy and energy efficiency sectors that mitigate the pollution in our communities and curb carbon emissions.

This transition is possible. For example, a Center for American Progress study found that 2.5 to 4 more jobs are created for each million dollars spent on energy efficiency measures, like retrofitting and mass transit, than jobs from one million dollars spent on oil and natural gas operations.”

Posted in clean renewable energy, solutions

Disruption at LNG Exports Talk

Philadelphia City Councilman David Oh arranged for an event on the Drexel campus last Thursday. Titled LNG Exports: Exploring the possibilities in Philadelphia, it entailed a keynote presentation by Cheniere Energy, opportunities for the nation & Philadelphia in LNG production & export, plus 3 panels on LNG & energy infrastructure, market analysis & investment, site preparation.

LNG panel

Here’s what we found about Cheniere Energy: Poster-boy For The Shale Gas Hallucination, which, summarized, states that “the shale gas story is not about an economic miracle, the wonders of technology, the prowess of job creators.  Instead, it’s a place where the cheap capital enabled by central banks goes to die.”

Several residents went, and found that most of the attendees at this forum did not live in our region. That the panelists were likewise from all around the US. That there was no representation from public health professionals, nor any mention of public health.  Who will speak for the people? When citizens began questioning Councilman Oh, the reply was… I don’t work for you. So the questions, and the attacks, on industry continued. And yes, security was called to protect industry from citizens, and one by one, the citizens were escorted out.

Some of what happened was covered by the media. Jon Hurdle of StateImpactPA wrote IMG_0083Shale Gas Opponents Shout Down Industry Speaker at Philadelphia LNG Session; Andrew Maykuth of the Philadelphia Inquirer wrote Anti-drilling protest interrupts Drexel energy forum; and someone from the Marcellus Drilling industry wrote “Peaceful” Protesters Removed from LNG Export Hearing in Philly.

I do hope Councilman Oh heard us. And plans to gain a balanced education around this subject by inviting public health professionals and those in the renewable energy field to a future forum.  We, as citizens of greater Philadelphia, have concerns. Concerns about air quality from increased emissions. Concerns about water quality when we hear about a tunnel under the Delaware river. Concerns about pipelines coming through our properties, bringing the Marcellus gas into our region. Concerns about trains exploding from the increased volume of dirty fossil fuels headed our way.

We invite Councilman Oh, and all of City Council to look to the future. A future with reduced greenhouse gases, a future with solar panels or greenery on every roof, a future with fewer cars and more rapid transit, a bright green future for future generations. We can do it. We must do it.

See Also: http://greenjusticephilly.org/index.php/a-reality-check-for-david-oh