V515 Course Reflection

Posted: December 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

Sustainable Communities V515 was my first exposure to the world of sustainable living. I had read few articles online but did not realise the depth of it. This course is perfectly designed for co learning and co teaching and the grasp you get on the concepts is way better and completely different from a course which has exams. I feel a course with exams has a temporary knowledge gain when compared to a course like V515.

I have lived in India for twenty three years of my life and was completely used to a different style of living but learnt the American life style in the past one and a half years. Whenever I completed an assigned reading or read somebody’s blog, I always compared it with India and if the ideas in the reading could be applied at a global level. And overall, I felt that it is possible to be sustainable and form sustainable communities throughout the world.

The best part of the course for me was the blogging and tweeting. It paved a way for me to think, research and write spontaneously. You always need a push to start writing your thoughts, and this was my push. When you learn a new concept, you blog not only for yourself, but also for the whole class to learn with you.  That created an added pressure and thus this pressure developed into great blogs. The twitter feed part was very creative and limiting in the same way. “How can I compress all my thoughts into 140 characters?”, it was a challenge and needed creativity, and was fun. But the difference in thoughts of other people, coming from the same readings was very thought provoking.

Viewing the world has been a different experience after this course. The outside experience blogs made me think of every experience in a sustainable fashion. I had been to coal mines and reclamation sites through one of my other courses and observed the locations with a different viewpoint.

The personal and group projects were the two things which stood out for me. I got to learn so much that I could not imagine. The group project made me learn about how community development works and how a project can be developed from mere ideas. Working with NESCO was a real world experience in a class, which is a rare and valuable opportunity. My concentration at SPEA is energy but I had never thought about it through the mindset of a community development project. Thus, it broadened my knowledge scale about energy development.

My personal project – Indiana Renewable Energy, made me develop skills to effectively communicate with the Energy firms and exchanging ideas about the present and future of energy development in Indiana. I could understand what kind of situation the state of Indiana is in, and what exactly is in the mind of a person working in a Renewable Energy firm and what kind of work and policies should be applied to change the whole energy scenario in Indiana.

The book ‘Toward Sustainable Communities’ by Mark Roseland has a perfect emulation of what problems the world is facing right now and what we might face in the future. In a way Roseland explains to us that the answer to our problems is right in front of us, we just need to learn how to decipher it.

I have learnt a lot from this course and I will use the concepts of sustainability in all possible ways. If I was the instructor, I would not change anything about it. It is a fun way to understand concepts which are very important for the present and future.

(Adding a video of how sustainability can be explained in 2 minutes)


Personal Project Summary

Posted: December 8, 2013 in Uncategorized

I worked on this project as I wanted to understand the Indiana renewable energy market by contacting the people in the industry who are actually working towards developing and installing renewable technologies. This personal project helped me network with a lot of professionals in the Indiana Renewable Energy Industry and thus understand the present situation of the energy markets.

Indiana is mostly powered by coal and its coal power plants are one of the dirtiest in the nation. It is ranked as one of the least green states of USA. But it is the third fastest growing state in wind generation and ranks eleventh in the country. The solar energy development potential in Indiana is moderate, but the southern part of the state has an average of around 4.5 hours of sunlight throughout the year, thus there is scope. Indiana’s Solar Thermal Grant program, administered by the Office of Energy Development, has helped fund more than a dozen solar projects in the state.

I went through a lot of websites to find out the list of renewable firms in Indiana and the following were very useful.

Energy Source guides: http://energy.sourceguides.com/businesses/byGeo/US/byS/IN/byB/manufacturers/manufacturers.shtml

Energy Systems Network: http://www.energysystemsnetwork.com/

Office of Energy Development: http://www.in.gov/oed/

NRDC : http://www.nrdc.org/energy/renewables/indiana.asp

Indiana Renewable Energy Association: http://www.indianarenew.org/

I made a list of most of the renewable energy firms which develop and provide renewable energy to residents and communities, created a questionnaire and tried to contact most of them, but I was not very lucky. I realised that most of the firms do not respond to your emails and take your calls. The ones who responded to my emails and calls have been mentioned in my previous blogs. They had a very clear idea about what is going on in the market.


The conclusions I could decipher from the responses I received are that all the firms firmly believe in sustainability. They have been working really hard to pass a Renewable Energy Standard (RES) in Indiana which is one among only fourteen states which do not have it. Thus Indiana is at a great disadvantage for a new business investment.

The firms also make a point to educate the public about energy efficiency and renewable technologies, thus spreading awareness amongst people who have very less knowledge about the externalities of fossil fuel based generation such as climate change.

The costs involved in buying renewable energy products and technologies is very high, this is the biggest reason why small renewable firms find it hard to develop and market their products. Nobody wants to invest into an expensive solar panel system even if it provides free energy, as the pay back times are really large. Most of the firms believe that Indiana will not have a RES for a very long time. The state government does not provide any tax credit for any renewable technology, but there is a thirty percent tax credit through the federal government. One of the representatives of Phoenix Mechanical also mentioned that they could not sell even one solar heating system, even after starting their business in 2008.

In the field of bioenergy, as mentioned by a representative from Hoosier Energy, Indiana is already the 8th-largest biogas producer in the country. There is some limited expansion of landfill gas energy plants and there will be anaerobic digestion of manure on cattle and swine farms, but ethanol and biodiesel will continue to dominate in Indiana in the near future.

Thus I can summarize that the Indiana energy market has been very difficult for the renewable energy systems and high efficiency equipment, as there is a lot of resistance without any renewable energy credits. I hope this scenario changes in the future and Indiana joins the league of the greenest states in the country.

This project has been a great personal research, which I always wanted to perform, and has helped me develop my marketing and analytical skills. Overall, the whole process was a great learning experience.

The final firm which responded was Hoosier Energy A description about the firm and then the answers to my questions follows:

Hoosier Energy:


It is an energy generation and transmission cooperative which provides electric power to eighteen member distribution cooperatives in central & southern Indiana and southern Illinois. It includes, two coal fired power plants, a natural gas fired combined cycle plant, natural gas fired peaking plants, a renewable energy landfill methane generating plant, 1450 miles of transmission lines and around 300 substation and delivery points.

Hoosier Energy is a Touchstone Energy Co-operative; it provides service according to four core values: integrity, accountability, innovation and commitment to community.

Hoosier Energy’s power portfolio includes clean renewable energy from landfill methane, coalbed methane, hydro power and wind energy.

The objectives of Hoosier Energy’s Renewable Policy are:

–          To create diversity of sources of power supply

–          To provide member co-ops with renewable energy to support their consumer programs

–          To strengthen and reinforce their environmental stewardship initiatives.

–          To improve rural communities of central and southern Indiana.

Response to Questions:

1)  Is Sustainability a part of your firm’s motto? If yes, how do you work towards it?

A: The Hoosier Energy Mission Statement is:

To provide member distribution systems with assured, reliable and competitively priced energy and services in a safe and environmentally acceptable manner.

Sustainability is not mentioned specifically, but is implied in the environmentally acceptable manner piece.  We work towards this in many ways by making sure we have the best environmental controls on our plants, habitat restoration, supporting environmental groups and pursuing renewable energy projects.

2) Do you think Indiana (which uses coal as its main energy source) will move towards maximizing its renewable energy and reduce its fossil fuel usage?

A: There is already a trend away from coal and towards natural gas and renewables.  I think this     trend will continue for a decade or more.

3) What are the qualities that you look for in a person while hiring him/her for a job at your company?

A: There are hundreds of jobs in our company, each of which require different traits.  Overall it is important that an applicant will fit in to the utility business and more specifically the cooperative culture.

4) If you get a chance to develop your firm in an international developing country for example, India, would you be ready to move to a new country and what will your basic strategy be?

A: We are not planning to expand out of the country and it is very unlikely that we would ever do   so. However, numerous countries are working with US based cooperatives and copying the business model, which I think is a very good model to emulate.

5) I wanted to specifically know about the kind of research Hoosier Energy is taking up in the Bio energy side and what do you think is its future in the Indiana markets?

A: We are not doing any research per se at the moment.  We have kept abreast of developments and continue to monitor them.   Ethanol and biodiesel will continue to be the dominant forces in Indiana bioenergy for the foreseeable future.  There is some limited expansion of landfill gas energy plants that is feasible and there will be anaerobic digestion of manure on cattle and swine farms.   Neither of these represent huge amounts of power.  There may be a few hundred megawatts of capacity if all the projects get built.  There is potential for thousands of MW of wind and solar in Indiana.

Reference:  Energy, H. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.hepn.com/default.asp

I tried to get most of the details and renewable energy technologies from the company representatives. The next firm is a growing renewable energy service provider:

Phoenix Mechanical:



They are a plumbing and HVAC business located about 20 miles north of Fort Wayne in a small town.

They started offering solar thermal heating products (solar hot water and solar space heating), around 2008-09.

The services they provide are:

Heating and Cooling, Plumbing, Water treatment, Air quality system, renewable energy systems (Geothermal heating and cooling, Solar hot water heaters, solar space heaters, solar pool heating)

They also believe in educating their clients about ways to achieve energy efficiency.

Link to the products and services provided: http://www.garrettenergysystems.com/News.htm

They also have a learning page on their website which helps the general public learn more about fossil fuels and renewable energy: http://www.garrettenergysystems.com/LearningCenter.htm

Responses to my questions: 

1) Is Sustainability a part of your firm’s motto? If yes, how do you work towards it?

A: I am not sure I would say that sustainability is part of our motto, but we do try to educate our clients on the cost saving factors of energy efficient products.  Energy savings equate to lower energy costs in the future. While some clients do upgrade to more energy efficient products {expensive} in reality, and sadly, most consumers are bottom dollar cost driven.  They want the cheapest cost today.

2) Do you think Indiana (which uses coal as its main energy source) will move towards maximizing its renewable energy and reduce its fossil fuel usage?

A: Personally I do not believe it will be anytime soon. The federal government offers tax credits for geothermal, solar hot water and solar electric.  There are no state incentives in Indiana. Until the front end cost to consumers is lowered, I see little change coming in the future.

3) What are the qualities that you look for in a person while hiring him/her for a job at your company?

A: Honesty, strong work ethic, good “people skills” and a working knowledge of the industry.
4) If you get a chance to develop your firm in an international developing country for example, India, would you be ready to move to a new country and what will your basic strategy be?

A: We have no expansion plans at this time.

It was also mentioned by one of the representatives that – “They have had many inquiries over the past few years on solar products; however they say that people get a “shock” when they learn the cost of the system”

Based on my questions on their growth in the solar and geothermal energy side : “Sad to say, we have not sold any solar heating systems.  We have installed one solar attic fan. We do sell and have installed geothermal heating and cooling systems”

This shows that there is a bit of awareness spread among the people of Indiana about energy efficiency and climate change, but unless the costs drastically fall, it would be very difficult for the consumers to move towards renewable energy sources.

“LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a program that provides third-party verification of green buildings. Building projects satisfy prerequisites and earn points to achieve different levels of certification. It is a green building tool that addresses the entire building lifecycle recognizing best-in-class building strategies”(US Green Building Council).

I got a chance to take a tour of the newly built Cyber Infrastructure Building (CIB) on the Indiana University – Bloomington campus. It has been rated 74/110 in the LEED rating based on Sustainable site, water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources used, indoor environmental quality, innovation and regional priority.


It was a very weird experience where I felt as if technology was the way to get closer to nature. They have constructed a technologically advanced building with a very less carbon footprint.

At the entrance there is a globe surrounded by 4 projectors which projected the global daily updates, which I thought was very cool!

The Globe

The Globe

We were first taken outside the building to show us the parking facility which was very compact, space saving and priority was given to energy efficient and electric vehicles (they had a special parking). They also had a location where they may set up charging points for the electric cars.

Fuel-Efficient-Vehicles-Carpool                                                   Bike-Room

Cycling is greatly encouraged and there was a cycle storage room inside the building which accommodated up to 35 bikes. The room also had other cycling tools. This greatly helps reduce the carbon emissions.

The building is designed to conserve space and thus conserve energy in all the ways possible. Even the cabins of the people with higher posts were made smaller to reduce wastage. There were specific printers on each floor which had to be used by the employees, which reduced the paper wastage and also helped conserve electricity. Most of the data was digitized and paper usage was minimized.

Small Cabins
Small Cabins

One of the best parts of the tour for me was when the guide mentioned that the ceiling of one of the conference rooms was made from recycled t-shirts!!

The centralized heating system used at CIB, was not new and was a reused system, which is a great idea to decrease production costs and construction costs.

The sunshades used were specially designed to maximize the usage of solar energy to heat and light up the building. They also had solar panels for hot water on top of one of the buildings. The design was very innovative and they had special rooms for people to hang out and develop creative ideas.

Recycling is greatly encouraged and there are recycling bins placed at varied locations throughout the building.

It was a very hands-on experience I got from what I learn in the Sustainable Communities course and will surely be valuable throughout my career.


LEED-India & GRIHA – Green building rating in India

India started to mirror the global trend when LEED-India Programme was adapted from United States Green Building Council’s LEED. This is a private initiative which is run by the Indian Green Building Council (IGBC) in India. The IGBC (Indian Green Building Council) mentions that LEED-India works on a whole-building approach to sustainability by recognizing performance and efficiency in the five key areas namely sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.


The alternative system is GRIHA which stands for ‘Green Rating for Integrated Habitat Assessment’. It has been conceived by ‘The Energy and Resources Institute’ (TERI) in India and jointly developed by Ministry of New and Renewable Energy (MNRE) as the national rating system for buildings. It is a green building ‘design evaluation system’, and is suitable for all kinds of buildings in different climatic zones of India. . It is a 100 point system with a set of 34 criteria. Some of them are mandatory. Minimum qualifying score to qualify is 50 and the rating is given in 1-5 stars, 1 star for every 10 points over 50.

Both GRIHA and LEED-INDIA are operating at the national (in India) level. Both these ratings have a checklist of criteria and points that are assigned to these criteria based on their relative importance.

A wide range of rating systems have developed in different parts of the world based on local climates and geographical conditions.


Thus based on such rating systems, we can develop greener futures for our communities.


(2012). Green-building rating: Overrated. Centre for Science and Environment, Retrieved from http://www.cseindia.org/userfiles/green_building_rating.pdf

GRIHA. (n.d.). Green rating for integrated habitat assessment. Retrieved from http://www.grihaindia.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=73

Personal Project Update 4

Posted: November 26, 2013 in Uncategorized

I have realized that it is not very easy to get information from all the companies you want to. The other friendly ones who responded to my questions are:

Riverbridge Electric:



It is a full service mechanical contracting business which is specialized in electrical, plumbing, heating, cooling, that is based on its renewable energy products. Its website mentions:
“Riverbridge Electric has a focus on energy efficiency and environmental sustainability. Our technicians have generations of experience in the trades. Our team specializes in integrating Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning, Electrical, Plumbing, and Solar into the building in order to provide comfort and efficiency. Our mission is to provide the best quality service and installation.”
The most important aspect of their business is the conscientious and capable work ethic their technicians bring to our homes and businesses.

The renewable energy services they provide are:
Electrical: Installation and servicing most electrical systems, including residential, commercial, industrial, and agricultural. They can understand the need for and can build energy efficient control systems. They plan to implement the “Smart Grid” technology in their services soon.

Electric Panels

Electric Panels

Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning (HVAC): Heating and cooling are few of the greatest users of energy at residential and commercial buildings. Riverbridge Electric provides energy efficient products such as: ground (water) source heat pumps, air source heat pumps, condensing gas furnaces, condensing gas boilers, inverter technology mini-split systems, and also with a variety of indoor air quality control equipment.

Amana Outdoor Heat Lamp

Amana Outdoor Heat Lamp

Solar Electric and Solar Thermal: They design, install, and integrate most solar energy projects. This includes, solar domestic hot water and space heating. Photo Voltaic systems are also designed and installed to counterbalance some of the building’s energy use. Thus producing enough power to put into the grid or to stand alone for off-grid uninterrupted power supply.

Amana Furnace Installation

Amana Furnace Installation

Water and Electric

Water and Electric

The direct link for the products they provide is  http://www.riverbridgeelectric.com/services.php

Responses to my Questions:

1)      Is Sustainability a part of your firm’s motto? If yes, how do you work towards it?

A:   Efficiency, energy efficiency and sustainability have been part of our mission since this business was started in 1978. I installed my first Solar system in 1978, it was a large residential system to supply domestic hot water and space heating. The reaction from the community was that I was some kind of nut for thinking this voo-doo technology would work. We are a mechanical contracting business specializing in HVAC, electrical, and plumbing. I have always encouraged our clients to replace inefficient appliances and infrastructure with new energy efficient products and systems, including furnaces, boilers, heat pumps, cooling equipment, water closets, faucets, waste water & potable water systems, electrical     and lighting systems. My passion has always been Solar both Thermal and Photvoltaic. Indiana has proven to be a very difficult market for renewable energy systems as well as high efficiency equipment. A lot of this resistance to “new things”could be our rural agriculture area!

2) Do you think Indiana (which uses coal as its main energy source) will move towards maximizing its renewable energy and reduce its fossil fuel usage?

A: Indiana has a very strong fossil fuel and bio-fuel lobby and is entrenched in Republican style resistance to logic. This state has encouraged and subsidized utility scale wind and some PV, though most of the attention has gone toward bio-fuels and coal. I am a believer in Distributed Generation (“make it where you use it”) where as centralized power production has inherent inefficiencies. I do believe that our state will have no choice but to move toward encouraging more renewable energy use, but we will resist and delay moving in that direction. It will most likely take much more education and awareness!

3) What are the qualities that you look for in a person while hiring him/her for a job at your company?

A: Environmental awareness , physically healthy, ethical, willing to learn, smart, ability to think critically, decision making ability, fearless and social.

4)  If you get a chance to develop your firm in an international developing country for example, India, would you be ready to move to a new country and what will your basic strategy be?

A: I have been struggling as a small business for way too long to want to expand/extend at this point in my life! Growing up in the 1960’s, being infallible and overflowing with idealizm, I thought that “we” would change the world. Realistically we got diverted toward accumulating stuff and raising families, losing track. As I have traveled to various places on the planet I have thought about this last question a lot. A simple answer would be: Education with an open mind and a critical world view! I would travel, but I would not relocate permanently, I live in the “best” place on the planet, and I have a large important, supportive, conscious, loving family!

General Information:

  • Product types: solar electric power systems, photovoltaic modules, inverters.
  • Address: 500 E Main St North , Manchester, Indiana USA 46962
  • Telephone: +1 260 9821180
  • FAX: +1 260 9820685
  • Web Site: www.riverbridgeelectric.com

I tried contacting many renewable energy firms but got responses only from the people who  are good at their work and greatly interested in spreading their products and marketing renewable energy systems.

I wanted to give a little back ground about the companies that responded to my questions.

SunRise Solar Inc :

Bill Keith, the President of the company, after working for nearly 25 years running a roofing company, started  SunRise Solar Inc. , to develop the “SunRise Solar-Powered Attic Fan”. As a roofer, wanted to offer an alternative to traditional electric attic exhaust fans  as he clearly understood the importance of proper attic ventilation, and . Thus he developed the “Solar Powered Attic Fan”.
Sunrise Solar logo

Bill Keith’s success and determination has attracted national media coverage, and has also drawn the attention of the White House. Bill Keith was invited twice by the White House to attend President Obama’s meetings in Indiana, where he challenged the President to reach out to small businesses that are innovating renewable energy products. SunRise Solar was also recognized for its efforts to reduce energy consumption and promote American manufacturing at Vice President Biden’s Middle Class Task Force Summit in Philadelphia in March 2009.



SunRise Solar has received many awards and notable interviews including:

2010 – Indiana Green Business Award – Reducing Energy Consumption
2009 – CNBC Street Talk with Erin Burnett
2009 – ABC WorldNews with Charles Gibson & Bill Weir
2008 – Innovation Award – Northwest Indiana Society of Innovators
2007 – Named “Energy Patriot” by US Senator Richard Lugar
2006 – “Best Product” BUILDERnews Magazine
2006 – “Most Valuable Product” Building Products Magazine
2005 – “Most Valuable Product” Building Products Magazine

Their products can be found on http://www.sunrisesolar.net/products/by-type.html


SunRise Solar

Response to my questions:

1)      Is Sustainability a part of your firm’s motto?

A:     Our motto is “Reducing Energy Consumption Worldwide Through Solar-Powered Ventilation”.

2)      Do you think Indiana (which uses coal as its main energy source) will move towards maximizing its renewable energy and    reduce its fossil fuel usage?

A:      No, I don’t see us “maximizing” renewable energy in Indiana unless the Fed mandates it.

3)      What are the qualities that you look for in a person while hiring an employee for a job at your company?

A:     We look for detail-oriented problem solvers…..with passion.

4)    If you get a chance to develop your firm in an international developing country for example, India, would you be ready to move to a new country and what will your basic strategy be?

A:    I would evaluate the opportunity from an opportunistic point of view. However my goal is to grow domestic production not to take jobs overseas.

General Information:

  • Business type: manufacturer, wholesale supplier
  • Product types: Solar Attic Fans. . . made in the USA – roof mounted, gable mounted, remote panel option, and commercial roof application.
  • Service types: Solar Ventilators – Solar Home Products
  • Address: P. O. Box 53, St. John, Indiana USA 46373
  • Telephone: 219-558-2211
  • FAX: 219-306-4571
  • Web Site: http://www.sunrisesolar.net

Earth Solar Technologies Corporation:



Their mission is to empower those who reside in single family or multi-unit complexes in cities and towns, or rural farms and village settings anywhere in the world, to generate eSolarTech™ based renewable electrical energy for lighting, heating, cooling, medical equipment, appliances, technological devices, utility power back-up, safety and general well being.

At  Earth-Solar they operate at the front edge of renewable energy technology and also with a basic belief in social and environmental justice.

They are delivering solar based products through our eSOlarPowerCELL™ brands. This technology is perhaps the first 100% emissions free power grid available in global markets.  They are also engaged in advanced research and development of photovoltaic control systems as applied in commerical and community-regional scale energy systems. Their research associates are the Advanced Energy Laboratory at the School of Engineering and Technology at Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis (IUPUI). THeywelcome partnerships with entrepreneurs and researchers.

Their products can be found on http://www.esolarmarket.com/


Response to my questions:

1) Is Sustainability a part of your firm’s motto?

A: “We at Earth-Solar believe that access to clean and affordable energy, produced free of violence, is a universal human right.”™

2) Do you think Indiana (which uses coal as its main energy source) will move towards maximizing its renewable energy and reduce its fossil fuel usage?

A: Not until the current governance of Indiana is radically changed. Governor Pense has made it clear on many occasions that as far as he’s concerned coal is here to stay; he even speculated that nuclear would be something worth implementing. The investment community long ago wrote off nuclear as a bankable energy technology. When Big Coal is made to pay for its emissions of carbon, mercury, methane and other calculable particulates that’s when solar will be enabled to proliferate in Indiana. We in the solar business can already show up to 50% cost savings over fossil fuel generated power right now.

3) What are the qualities that you look for in a person while hiring him/her for a job at your company?

A:  Competence at their profession, commitment to environmental justice and integrity.

4) If you get a chance to develop your firm in an international developing country for example, India, would you be ready to move to a new country and what will your basic strategy be?

A:  We’re already in 5 countries. And yes, we’d love to add India. Look at the Contact page at www.esolartech.com.

General Information:

  • Business type: Photovoltaic Cell Manufacturer
  • Product types: eSOlarPower: Division (1) Manufactures Photovoltaic Cells; Provides Equipment, Training and Infrastructure to entrepreneurs who want to establish Photovoltaic Panel Manufacturing. .
  • Service types: eSOlarCities: Division (2) Plans 100% Sustainable Cities and Regions
  • Address: 902 Broadway, Indianapolis, Indiana USA 46202
  • Telephone: 317. 926. 7000
  • FAX: NA
  • Web Site: http://esolartech.com