Archive for December, 2013

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)

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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.

Conclusions:

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:

A-Scan

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