Solarponics Hosts First Annual Nonprofit Volunteer Signup Day

Solarponics Hosts First Annual Nonprofit Volunteer Signup Day

Solarponics has partnered with local nonprofits to host the first annual Share the Sunshine Volunteer Signup Day event happening this Friday, November 18, from 11 AM to 1 PM at Solarponics office in Atascadero. Attendees are invited to meet a nonprofit that is a perfect fit for them to volunteer.

Solarponics created Share the Sunshine as a way to introduce their employees to nonprofit organizations in the community that need help. At Solarponics, every employee gets a paid day off to volunteer for a cause of their choice.

When employees started inviting family members and friends, they quickly realized how rewarding and valuable this program was for everyone involved. The idea quickly expanded to our community-wide launch of Share The Sunshine Volunteer Signup Day.

“We saw how our employees jumped at the chance to volunteer when the opportunity presented itself,” says Kristian Emrich, Solarponics president. “Share The Sunshine is that opportunity, made easy and approachable for everyone in the community.”

Over a dozen area nonprofit organizations are expected to be on hand to share what they do, and what type of volunteer help they need. Organizations attending may include; health services, animal rescue, faith, arts and education, food services, community development, environment, and more.

Come by and meet your local nonprofits Friday, November 18, from 11 AM to 1 PM at Solarponics office, 4700 El Camino Real, Atascadero. Find a nonprofit that is a perfect fit for you. Give your time, and your heart to those in need in our communities. For more information, visit

Washing Away A Bad Laundry Habit.

Washing Away A Bad Laundry Habit.

By Frank Scotti, Sustainable Energy Advocate – October 01, 2022 – As far back as I can remember, my mom always used liquid laundry soap, or detergent, to wash our clothes when we were kids. Like most everything, my parents never questioned the product, or its environmental impact. Liquid detergent was just what you used. Then, when I moved out and was responsible to wash my own clothes, I, too, chose liquid detergent out of familiarity and habit.

But now I know that liquid laundry soap is not good for the environment. Heck, it’s not really even a soap. Detergents are mainly a synthetic combination of chemicals designed to produce optically clean clothes, but as a result, also introduce a ton of chemical pollutants. These chemicals include; phosphates, formaldehyde, chlorine bleach, ammonium sulfate, dioxane, sodium lauryl sulfate, optical brighteners, ammonium quaternary sanitizers, dyes, benzyl acetate, dichlorobenzene. After your clothes are washed, all of these chemicals are drain out with the water and remain in our water, forever.1,000 loads of laundry are started every second of every day in the US. Assume we use an average of 2 ounces of detergent per load, that equates to 492,750,000 gallons of chemical detergent pollutants added to our water supply each year from laundry alone.

In addition, 700 million empty plastic detergent jugs are thrown away each year in the US alone, with less that 30% ever being recycled. Factor in all of the water used to create the detergent, and all of the CO2 emitted to transport these heavy jugs from factory to consumer, the environmental impact of liquid laundry detergent is simply staggering.

Recently we have finally seen an innovation in the category, laundry detergent sheets.
Laundry sheets are lightweight, compact, don’t use water, are pre-measured amounts, and come in compostable paper packaging.

The basic ingredients of laundry detergent sheets are: deionized water, natural plant-derived surfactants, enzymes, and in some cases, a fragrance. A box of 100 load sheets weighs only  about 7 oz., compared to the equivalent liquid weighing almost 10 lbs. Plus, laundry sheets and packaging contain no plastic at all.

I tested a laundry sheet brand called Earth Breeze for one month. I use a front-loading wash machine, so the sheet goes in the top detergent cup, folded. I was skeptical at first. But here’s what I found.
The sheet dissolved fully. There was no residual residue or signs of soap or other chemicals. Surprisingly, clothes seemed to be just as clean. I did not notice any difference. I used both the fragrance free and the Fresh Scent. I did prefer the Fresh Scent over fragrance free.

Like I said no noticeable difference between the Earth Breeze laundry sheets and my other liquid detergent. I shall admit that I do not have heavily soiled clothes. Both my boys no longer live at home, and I don’t regularly work on cars getting oil stains on my work clothes. But the average garden variety soiling came clean with no issues. The switch for me is a no-brainer, especially since the cost per load of laundry sheets vs. liquid is about the same.

 

I have freed up extra space in the laundry cabinet to store other stuff I don’t need. I don’t have any large jugs to dispose of and hope they get recycled. I can take on with me when I travel. My clothes get just as clean.

No matter how hard I try, I really can’t find anything to complain about. Laundry sheets are an amazing substitute to liquid laundry detergent.

Since testing laundry sheets, I have not reverted back to liquid detergents. I think I may have finally broken the cycle of habit and complacency and made the full-time switch to laundry sheets. I suggest that everyone give them a try.

Sustainable Travel Tips: Eco Flying

Sustainable Travel Tips: Eco Flying

I recently came across an article in the AAA magazine, Westways, talking about sustainable travel. It was a bit basic and abbreviated, but touched on something that I had not really been aware of, something that I had to learn more about.

Air travel is the biggest contributor to CO2 emissions related to travel. The average CO2 emissions of a Boeing 747-400 international flight is about four tons of CO2 equivalent per person for a 4,000 mile flight. To put that into perspective, a typical gasoline vehicle produces 4 tons of CO2 emissions in an entire year. But don’t cancel your flight just yet. There are a number of airlines that are now using biofuels for their commercial flights because of the known fact that air travel is the biggest contributor to CO2 emissions of any long-distance travel trip.

The aviation industry is getting swept into the international movement to reduce C02 emissions partially due to a surge of eco-conscious travelers demanding greater eco accountability. By using renewable jet fuels derived from such things like algea, waste carbon, or corn-based ethanol, the airline industry may very well be able to reduce C02 emissions by at least 25% within a few short years.

“Algae is a good alternative fuel source for this industry. It’s an alternate feedstock for bioethanol refinery without the need for pretreatment. It’s lower cost than coal or natural gas. It also provides for a more efficient way of carbon capture and utilization,” says Joshua Yuan, chair of Synthetic Biology and Renewable Products in the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology.

According to reportlinker.com, the biofuels industry is poised to grow by $1.31 billion between 2022 and 2026. That would be a compound annual growth rate of 6.74%. Exxon Mobil, for example, is investing $600 million in algae. Algae is highly synergistic with the established oil and gas industries, and it can be refined on the same site as is petroleum.

Airliners that have used biofuels for their commercial flights include Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Azul Airlines, British Airways, Finnair, Japan Airlines, Jet Blue, KLM, Lufthansa, Scandinavian Airlines, United Airlines, Virgin Australia, and Virgin Atlantic. As for Jet Blue , it is using sustainable aviation fuel at its hub in the Los Angeles International Airport. It is working with World Energy and World Fuel Services so that it can get sustainable aviation fuel.

“Sustainable aviation fuel is one of the most promising ways to rapidly reduce air travel emissions and help our industry move toward our net-zero goals,” says Sara Bogdan, JetBlue director of sustainability.

Other tactics that eco-friendly airlines are implementing include; sustainable in-flight products, eliminating single use plastics, sourcing local food service, coating technologies to make the planes lighter, and improved aerodynamics.

The next time you are planning a vacay that includes air travel, visit the website alternativeairlines.com which allows travelers to search for flights using biofuels. While the options are limited, the site did produce some very possible alternative flight itineraries.

Happy green traveling.

Energy Efficient Remodeling Ideas for Older Homes

Energy Efficient Remodeling Ideas for Older Homes


Energy efficiency is one of the largest topics for homeowners in recent years. Buyers want a property that will have predictable bills, and homeowners want to lower the monthly charges they’ve been seeing.

If you’re interested in finding energy-efficient remodeling ideas for your home: consider trying some of these tips!

Seal Your Home From Top to Bottom

Your home should be as sealed as possible. This means everything from the roof to the floor should be air-tight and capable of handling anything you throw at it. The most common areas people miss are their soffit, roof gaps, their HVAC system, and the exhaust from their washer and dryer, and stove. Make sure these allow for one-way flow only, stopping your home from filling with whatever temperature you’re avoiding.

Inspect Your Windows and Doors for Air Leaks

Windows and doors are the largest culprits for heating and cooling issues. Carry a lit candle near your windows and doors, and watch the flame carefully. If it suddenly pulls towards, or away from, any door or window: you have an air leak. There are a couple of options for what you can do next. You can either replace the windows and doors entirely, or you can go for something smaller like a window sash replacement and simply weatherstripping your door. Although eventually, you’ll want to replace them: this can be a fantastic fix in the meanwhile.
Check Your Insulation Levels
How well insulated is your home? Do you know the last time your insulation was checked? If you’re not sure, call a professional and ask for them to check out your property. Be aware that if your insulation hasn’t been checked in over forty years, the company you work with will probably charge extra in case of asbestos. This is a normal charge and will protect them from a potentially hazardous environment.
Know What Solar Can Do For You!

Solar can help both your home and the environment in one go. By absorbing solar rays and converting that power into electricity, it can lessen the amount of power your home needs to draw from the grid. Beyond that, this can also give you tax cuts that many homeowners are thankful to grab.

Although solar is expensive upfront, you’ll save enough money in the long term that this equipment will pay for itself over time. This isn’t a great fit for every home, depending on which direction it’s facing, but it’s a fantastic choice if you want to source your energy in a greener way.

Make the Switch to Energy Efficient Lighting

Your lighting could be doing more damage to your bills than you expect! Just like you wouldn’t expect roller skates to be useful on a crush-and-run driveway, you can’t expect the same old lightbulbs that haven’t been updated in sixty years to offer the amount of energy-efficient LED bulbs can. With brighter and clearer light, longer lifespans, and more energy efficiency, there’s no reason to avoid these bulbs. They’re very useful and offer everyone an affordable chance to have a greener home.

Replace Any Older Roof or Siding

Your old roof and siding could be holding you back. These both protect your home from the elements when they’re in good condition, but the second they’re older, you’ll realize they’re holding you back and leaking a lot of air (and possibly moisture!). Go for a roof that will last over fifty years and works great with solar, like slate shingles! For your siding, it’s vital that you pick something that’s both attractive and sturdy. Some types of siding can work well over thirty years, although they can be a little more expensive.

Check Your Foundation and Repair if Necessary

If you test your windows and doors, and over half of them are leaking, aren’t shutting correctly, and seem almost tilted despite being fine not long ago: it’s time to look at your foundation. One of the main reasons it’s vital to fill cracks in concrete is water can take a small issue and blow it out of proportion in no time. Keep an eye out for any foundational issues: and call a professional if you suspect something might be wrong.

Add Extra Shade On Your Home’s Windows

Although no tree should be anywhere near your roof: you can shade your home by using greenery that covers your windows to some degree. By planting shrubs and bushes along the exterior of your home, the light will be more filtered before it gets to your windows. This will allow less heat to come in and will protect your home. Beyond this, when paired with landscape drains, local shrubs can also help keep water out of your yard, an added bonus!

Every Property Can Be More Energy Efficient

Your property should be as energy efficient as possible. Take the time to follow these tips, and you’ll be amazed at how much your heating and cooling bills will drop!

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Susan Holmes is a contributor to Innovative Building Materials. She is an editor and content writer for the environmental industry. Susan is focused on helping fellow homeowners, contractors, and architects discover materials and methods of construction that increase property value, maximize energy savings, and turn houses into homes.

Chicago Announces Plan to Power City with 100% Renewable Energy

Chicago Announces Plan to Power City with 100% Renewable Energy

Chicago’s public buildings could all be powered by renewable energy under a plan announced by Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Aug. 8.

The mayor, along with Illinois Gov JB Pritzker, on Monday said the city has an agreement with Chicago utility Constellation Energy, along with Massachusetts-based Swift Current Energy, a renewable energy developer. The two spoke at a news conference at the Chicago Urban League. The deal would make Chicago one of the world’s largest cities to commit to using 100% renewable energy.

“I am incredibly proud to advance this commitment to transitioning all city operations to 100% renewable energy by 2025,” Lightfoot said. “The signing of this agreement demonstrates that the City of Chicago is leading by example and driving high-impact climate action, building the clean energy workforce of the future and equitably distributing meaningful benefits to foster the local clean energy economy for all.”

Climate Action Plan

Construction of projects related to the plan is set to begin by year-end. Lightfoot touted the plan’s job creation potential in addition to how it would reduce the city’s carbon footprint. “The 2022 climate action plan deepens our city’s longstanding commitment to climate action, and sets a goal of reducing emissions in Chicago by 62% by 2040,” Lightfoot said.

The mayor’s office said the agreement with Constellation will support the purchase of renewable energy for all city facilities and operations by 2025. An initial five-year energy supply agreement is expected to begin in January 2023.

“We are providing a clean energy solution that will help the City of Chicago,” said Jim McHugh, chief commercial officer for Constellation Energy.

Large Solar Farm Project

Lightfoot’s office said the agreement also will enable a supply of renewable energy for major organizations across Illinois. The city in 2025 will begin partly powering large facilities such as the city’s airports and other buildings with renewable energy from solar power, which will be generated from a Swift Current Energy solar farm—the 593-MW Double Black Diamond project—in Sangamon and Morgan counties in downstate Illinois.

The groups on Monday said construction and operation of the solar farm is expected to create hundreds of jobs, and would be among the state’s largest solar projects to date.

“We are thrilled to have the City of Chicago as a key customer for the Double Black Diamond Solar project,” said Matt Birchby, co-founder and president of Swift Current Energy, in a statement. “Double Black Diamond Solar has the capacity to create significant benefits for the State of Illinois. We commend the City of Chicago for their leadership in securing 100% clean, renewable energy for all city buildings and operations and Sangamon and Morgan counties for hosting this project.”

“Double Black Diamond makes Sangamon County a leading generator of clean solar power,” said Andy Van Meter, Sangamon County board chairman, in a statement. “We are pleased to host an infrastructure project of this magnitude that will create meaningful and long-lasting benefits for our area and the state. The project will employ hundreds of construction workers and directly create permanent, high paying positions. It will also create a significant, long-term source of tax revenue for our schools and community.”

The mayor’s office said the city also will purchase renewable energy credits from other sources for its remaining power uses, which could include the electricity supply for small- and medium-sized buildings, and street lights.

—Darrell Proctor is a senior associate editor for POWER (@POWERmagazine).

California’s Net Energy Billing Plan, NEM 3.0, Explained.

California’s Net Energy Billing Plan, NEM 3.0, Explained.

The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is proposing to update the net energy metering policy for solar homeowners, commonly referred to as NEM.

The proposed billing plan, NEM 3.0, is complicated and confusing, not surprising. Maybe it was intended to confuse, so we don’t really focus on how unjust the proposed new plan is. But don’t fret. I have summarized the proposed changes for you here:

Historically the export compensation of solar in California is based off a Net Energy Metering (NEM) Policy. Both NEM1.0 and NEM2.0 were under this compensation mechanism. With NEM, when a system owner is generating more electricity than they are consuming, the excess energy is exported back to the utility grid and the customer receives a credit equal to or slightly less than the full-retail rate. This credit can then be applied to offset electricity consumption within the current billing cycle (i.e. monthly) or in future billing cycles before expiring annually at some specified month (known as the true-up period).

NEM has been the law of the land in California since 1995, covering all customers of the state’s three largest utilities—PG&E, SCE, and SDG&E. It’s currently on its second version, NEM 2.0. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is nearing the end of designing NEM 3.0, and the changes that have been proposed could greatly reduce the financial benefits people can get by owning solar panels or subscribing to community solar.

Under NEM 3.0, most of the homeowners savings are stripped away, ending up in the utility company’s pockets. Under NEM 2.0, current solar customers in California save an average of between 22 and 36 cents for every kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity generated by their panels. Under the proposed NEM 3.0 plan, the credit for excess generation will go down to just 4.7 to 5.8 cents, on average. Let’s not forget that the utilities currently already make a good profit reselling excess solar power at peak energy rates.
Save $310 per month or save $10 per month. That is NEM 2.0 vs. NEM 3.0 in the simplest terms.
Example: In April, under the current NEM 2.0, my solar array produced 1.5MWh of energy. My home used .5MWh. The additional 1 MWh was sent to the grid and I receive a credit of $310 (1,000 kWh x $0.31 [$.34/kWh retail rate LESS ±$0.03/kWh grid fee] = $310). I will use this credit in any month where my use exceeds my solar energy generation, such as in July and August when I am running my air conditioner.

Running the same scenario under NEM 3.0, my solar array produces 1.5MWh of energy. My home used .5MWh. The additional 1 MWh was sent to the grid. But I only receive a credit of $0.05/kWh. In addition, I must also pay a “participation” fee of $40/mo. on average. My new monthly savings is just $10. Ten stinking dollars. Thanks, PG&E, for letting me keep a little sumpin’ sumpin’.

In May 2022, the CPUC commission delayed the decision “until further notice.” The solar energy industry, as well as the utility energy industry in California expect the issue to be revisited this year, possibly as soon as July 2022. If and when a final NEM 3.0 decision and policy is voted on and approved, NEM3.0 could be implemented as soon as Jan 2023.

Industry and consumer lobbying fighting for solar rights has taken place throughout the negotiating process. Unfortunately big utility has the power to get their way. It seems like the CPUC has forgotten the “Public” part of their name, and are siding with big utility companies and their control over energy and shareholder profit. You can still call your local representative, or the governor’s office to voice your support for solar rights.

The good news, if there is any, is that, folks who go solar before the NEM 3.0 deadline, possibly as soon as December 2022, MAY be locked into the NEM 2.0 rate structure for 10 years. Calculate your new solar savings by looking at 10-year return on investment, not 25 years. And being that the decision to go solar and lock into NEM 2.0 will have to happen before Dec, 2022, you will also qualify for the 26% solar tax credit before drops again.

Office of Governor Gavin Newsom : https://govapps.gov.ca.gov/gov40mail/
California State Assemble: https://www.assembly.ca.gov/