Archive for November, 2013

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:

Logo

Logo

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.

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“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.

timthumb

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.

LEED-India

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.

Capture

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

References:

(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:

Logo

Logo

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.

two-solar-attic-fans

two-solar-attic-fans

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:

Logo

Logo

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

Jharia is one of the most important coal mines in India. It is one of the largest in Asia. It is present in the state of Jharkhand which is in the eastern part of India. Once a great resource with high quality coking coal, uncontrollable fires have turned it into an inferno. The people of Bokhapadi village in Jharia face severe economic and environmental consequences because of the mining activities. Jharia was once an area filled with dense forests and local tribes used the land for farming and their livelihood. But to fuel the economic growth, the mining industry is extracting more coal every day at the cost of the people and the environment. The coal mining industries have forced the people to let go of their farms and now the people are forced to become coal scavengers.

Jharia Coal Reserve

Jharia Coal Reserve

Coal Fire

Coal Fire

There is a continuous fire burning in the mine due to the temperature and oxidation. Most of the fires in Jharia ignite when coal, exposed to air during mining operations, spontaneously combusts. This fire gives out smoke which contains poisonous gases such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxide and sulphur dioxide. Thousands of poor, mostly unskilled, migrants from neighbouring states have settled in Jharia over the years. Most of them collect coal illegally and earn money for just two meals a day. This has led to ill health of the people living around the mine, causing lung diseases. It also has resulted in child labour, and the most common diseases in this area are tuberculosis, asthma, pneumoconiosis and other chronic lung disorders. All the other environmental impacts of burning coal, such as, green house gas emissions, global warming and climate change are also important issues.

One of the miners in the video mentions – “We are working against nature”. So these are few of the consequences of going against the natural environment.

i-402-7da-9-1

Inferno

Coal Scavenging

Coal Scavenging

Can we put a money value on the problems these people are facing? The pricing of the market does not include these externalities. The effects on the people around coal mines should be taken into consideration when the price of a good is being set. It is very difficult to take into consideration all these externalities, but as mentioned by Pearce and Barbier in the article- “The Economic System and Natural Environments”, environmental economists have developed complicated techniques to measure the total economic value of an environmental asset.

Child Labour

Child Labour

Thus I personally believe that the costs of these externalities should be added to the price of fossil fuels and other polluting goods in the energy market. There should be a global implementation of carbon tax. This would create awareness among the people and the markets, and great care would be taken to prevent such environmental and social impacts. It is difficult but a very strong and viable option to work towards environmental sustainability.

References:

Caton, P. (2010, October 13). Jharia coal belt documentation . Retrieved from Jharia Coal Belt Documentation

Munnik, V., & Hochmann, G. (2010). The social and environmental consequences of coal mining in south africa a case study . Retrieved from http://www.bothends.org/uploaded_files/uploadlibraryitem/1case_study_South_Africa_updated.pdf

Ugly Faces of Economic Development in India [Web Video]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dbd1gF3Z5Fo

Peace, G. (2011, October 4). The true cost of coal – jharia coal mine, india. Retrieved from http://quitcoal.org/blog/true-cost-coal-jharia-coal-mine-india

Prakesh, A. (Photographer). The rising global interest in coal fires [Web Photo]. Retrieved from http://www.earthmagazine.org/article/rising-global-interest-coal-fires

Mining of coal, in the United States, has been going on since the 1740s, but surface mining became widespread only after the 1930s. After mining is completed, coal mining companies have to reclaim the mine land to the standards defined by the state and federal government. This is a “Sustainable” practice. It is based on the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act (SMCRA) of 1977.

“SMCRA balances the need to protect the environment from the adverse effects of surface coal mining with the Nation’s need for coal as an essential energy source. It ensures that coal mining operations are conducted in an environmentally responsible manner and that the land is adequately reclaimed during and following the mining process” (Title V of the SMCRA).

Reclamation Standard: If the coal mine was a farm with productivity “x”, before mining, then after the mining procedure has been completed, the reclaimed land should have the productivity of “x” or more


I recently visited an abandoned coal reclamation site called Enos in Pike County, IN. It was a site where the coal mining companies, before 1977, used to dump all the waste coal (powdered form). The technologies available during that time could not burn the powdered form of coal and could only burn stoker coal (We have the technology to burn the pulverized coal now). This coal has been lying in the same area for more than fifty years, and only recently action was taken to clear and reclaim the area by OSM (Office of Surface Mining). But the damage was done as it had a lot of adverse environmental effects such as:

  • Land Disturbance – The disturbance of forests, surface and ground water, soils, local land use, native vegetation, and wildlife populations.
  • Water pollution – Acid mine drainage (AMD). It is the water rich with metals that are formed from the reactions between rocks containing minerals of sulphur and water. The acid run-off formed, dissolves heavy metals such as copper, lead, and mercury into ground and surface water.
  • Destruction – surface and underground aquifers
RECLAMATION SITE

RECLAMATION SITE

The project of clearing the land was given to a contractor by OSM and there was no exchange of money between the two parties. The contractor did the job only because he earned a lot just by selling the (waste) coal.

The water due to the AMD was nearly blood red with a pH of around 2.0. The authorities were worried that this acidic water could pollute the water system of Patoka River which was nearby. Thus they used a bioreactor system to purify the water and strip off all the acidity.

BEFORE RECLAMATION

BEFORE RECLAMATION

AFTER RECLAMATION

AFTER RECLAMATION

ACIDIC WATER

ACIDIC WATER

ACID MINE DRAINAGE

ACID MINE DRAINAGE

The Bioreactor that was constructed was very efficient and was able to remove most of the oxides and sulphates, and brought down the pH from around 2.0 to 7.1 (pH of pure water is around 7.0). This clean water later joined the Patoka River.

THE BIOREACTOR

THE BIOREACTOR

THE WHOLE SITE

THE WHOLE SITE

It is mentioned by Ann Riley in the article,What is Restoration? – “It may be institutionally or ecologically not possible to restore a waterway”. But there is a lot of research going on in reclamation practices as there are a lot of problems involved with it.  Still, such sustainable practices can help prevent the land damage and inhibit pollution for the present and future generations.

References:

OFFICE of SURFACE MINING RECLAMATION and ENFORCEMENT. (n.d.). Regulating coal mines. Retrieved from http://www.osmre.gov/programs/rcm.shtm

Coal mine reclamation. (2011, August 22). Retrieved from http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Coal_mine_reclamation