Waste Management Invests $30M in Renewable Energy to Fuel Fleet

Waste Management is investing $30 million in renewable energy infrastructure in Louisville, Ky., to fuel its natural gas-powered fleet of 80 trucks. To separate the methane gas from other gases, Waste Management will build a facility at the Outer Loop Recycling and Disposal Facility.

In addition to fueling its fleet, Waste Management will also sell any remaining gas to Texas Gas for the going natural gas rate.

Insider Louisville has more:

Texas-based waste disposal company Waste Management plans to invest $30 million in renewable energy infrastructure in Louisville.

Waste Management will use the gas produced naturally during waste decomposition at the Outer Loop Recycling and Disposal Facility, 2673 Outer Loop, to fuel its vehicles and sell off the remainder.

“The energy recovered at the landfill will be used to power Waste Management’s compressed natural gas-powered collection trucks,” according to a statement from the company. “The facility, the first of its kind in the region, will provide enough energy to fuel 800 trucks — the equivalent of 12,000 homes — per day.”

Read the full story here.

Students shown new perspective on renewable energy

Clean, renewable energy is not a new or revolutionary idea. The concept of renewable energy has been quantified, researched and advanced for more than 100 years since the invention of the battery in 1912, but the world still relies heavily on oil and liquid gas. According to Edith Newton Wilson, research associate at the University of Tulsa’s Department of Geosciences, as well as founder, president and CEO of Rock Whisperer, this is a growing issue. Wilson visited MSU on Feb. 16 to show her research presentation Transformation: From Fossil Fuels to the Future, the first of four installments of the Geoscience and Environmental Science Colloquium Series. 

Wilson’s presentation emphasized the need to improve energy efficiency and reduce pollutants and carbon dioxide emissions around the world in a time where clean, renewable energy is slowly becoming more widespread and affordable.

Wilson expressed that there are options available to help cities or regions reduce the amount of harmful pollutants produced, while the world’s technology advances to become more capable of handling the global call for clean renewable energy. 

“The most promising developments that are already available off-the-shelf, are to completely convert from coal to natural gas for electricity generation where we can’t use solar,” Wilson said.

For example, energy provider Dynegy purchased 17 power plants for $3.3 billion on Feb. 7. Of the 17 power plants purchased, the Coleto power plant in Fannin, Texas, has become a hot topic in the world of energy because of its possible future as a natural-gas-run power plant. If Dynegy chooses to convert Coleto’s power supply from coal to natural gas, it would become the first natural-gas-run power plant in the state of Texas. 

“On the transportation side, we don’t really have that option of getting off liquids all together without some technology advances, but we do have the option of improving the efficiency and cost of electric cars and then using clean electricity to charge them,” Wilson said.

Wilson explained that companies like Tesla Motors were moving in the right direction of clean energy, using advanced lithium-ion battery technology to propel its vehicles. Companies with gas-electric hybrid vehicles like Chevrolet’s Volt and Toyota’s Prius that use liquid-gas engines and lithium-ion powered motors, are paving a way for consumers to be able to own more environmentally friendly vehicles.

Clean renewable energy has become a more privatized sector of commerce as companies are pushing their own clean energy provisions. BP Alternative Energy’s wind farm “Trinity Hills” in Olney, Texas; NextEra Energy Resources “Wolf Ridge” wind farm, north of Muenster, Texas; and Gamesa’s “Barton Chapel” located south of Wolf Ridge in Bryson, Texas, are the three closest wind farms to Wichita Falls. Wind farms are sprouting all across the country, with more than 11,000 wind turbines alone in Texas, and more than 48,000 turbines across the United Sates.

Some companies have developed their own solar panel technology; the Smartflower company, who has developed the Smartflower POP — a self-calibrating and autonomous solar panel array that follows the sun for maximum power intake and efficiency while, on its own, producing enough electricity to power the average American home for an entire year, approximately 4,000 kWh per year.

“It [decision to convert] will be an economic decision leading the way rather than political decisions,” according to William Scott Meddaugh, professor of geosciences, explaining how the transition from fossil fuels to clean renewable energy will be economically pushed before it’s politically enforced. “People can vote with their pocket book a whole lot easier than they can vote with their ballots.”

Wind and solar energy combined are expected to become less expensive than fossil fuels by 2018. Solar energy was reportedly cheaper than fossil fuels by the end of 2016. 

Countries around the world are facing two common goals: become less reliant on fossil fuels and more reliant on clean, renewable sources of energy. This will prevent further consequences of global warming — a task that current and future generations will have to combat, according to Wilson. 

“I hope to see them [MSU students in the geoscience disciplines] working globally, not locally, understanding a multi-discipline of tools including remote sensing, geothermometry, extensive mapping skills in order to place solar or hydro-electric [energy sources] and understand where natural gas resources are,” Wilson said.

Some students like Gabriel Jacobs, geoscience graduate student, left the colloquium with a new perspective on the science of renewable energy. 

“It was interesting. It was definitely a perspective that I don’t immediately gravitate to,” Jacobs said. “I’m one of the regulatory types, who think that if you want to change the way things are done, to improve practices to make them more sustainable, more efficient, more eco-friendly, then you need a regulatory regime. But, it is encouraging how entrepreneurship and the ‘corporate activism’ have made serious gains [in the clean renewable energy field].”

Wilson encourages students around the nation to put forth their best efforts into research and development for more sustainable, clean and renewable energy.

“I would expect them [students in their future careers] to be working collaboratively across universities and across disciplines and languages and continents. I would expect to see them using all of the basics of geologies, not just one expertise but structural geology, hydrology, geochemistry. Everything to solve the problems because problems will be more complex and different,” Wilson said.

12 ways to make your community healthier

The environment in your neighborhood and surrounding community has a huge impact on your health and lifespan. Where you live determines how safe your drinking water is, whether you have access to healthy food, how often you get outdoors to exercise and whether you breathe clean air.

In fact, an analysis of 50 studies found that social factors, like your physical environment and quality of support services, account for over 30 percent of total deaths a year in the United States. That is, people living in dilapidated neighborhoods with fewer public services, safe spaces and supportive social networks are more likely to suffer poor health and premature death.

Public health officials are always looking for ways to close the health gap between ZIP codes, but there are plenty of smaller things you and your neighbors can start doing right now to help make your neighborhood healthier. Here are 12 ideas to help you and everyone around you live better and longer.

1. Grow healthy food

Garden-fresh fruits and vegetables grown naturally in your backyard with homemade compost and without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers are more nutritious than refrigerated produce shipped from long distances. Less reliance on transportation also means lower fossil-fuel use and fewer carbon emissions that cause health-harming climate change. Organize a healthy produce swap with neighbors who also have gardens or start a community garden. You can use an empty lot or work with local officials to find park space.

If gardening isn’t popular or doable in your neighborhood, start a centrally located farmer’s market or buy a bulk membership in a CSA (community-supported agriculture) to get farm-fresh seasonal produce for you and your neighbors. Also ask local grocery stores, restaurants and schools to offer more healthy food and drink options.

2. Make your community more walkable and bikeable.

Bike and walking path
Less than half of Americans meet the minimum guidelines for moderate physical activity. Advocating for places to walk and bike in your neighborhood can dramatically improve community health. (Photo: Alexey Yuzhakov/Shutterstock)

Each hour you spend in a car per day corresponds with a six percent increase in your odds of becoming obese. Obesity is linked to many chronic and deadly diseases. Too many vehicles on the road also leads to stressful traffic congestion, unhealthy greenhouse-gas emissions and accidents that injure and kill people and animals.

To make your community healthier and safer, advocate to make it more walkable and bikeable. Work with local officials to create pedestrian and bike zones. Ask for bike racks around town. Set up a “walking bus” where parents take turns escorting kids to and from school. Lobby for speed bumps, elevated crosswalks, lower speed limits and other traffic-calming designs to slow down drivers. Even small decreases save lives, as evidenced by a 2011 study from AAA which found you’re nearly 70 percent more likely to be killed if you’re struck by a car going 30 mph than by one going 25 mph. If you can’t walk or bike, consider carpooling.

3. Shop local

Buying from businesses in your community doesn’t just help them thrive, it also helps you and your neighbors in a number of health-promoting ways. For one thing, if stores are nearby you can walk or bike there, improving your physical fitness and reducing car use (see the previous tip). When shops are close and goods aren’t shipped from far away you minimize traffic jams, energy consumption, carbon emissions and habitat loss from sprawl. In addition, supporting community merchants strengthens the local economy, which in turn improves the health of your neighborhood and saves lives. Lower income and economic insecurity is widely linked to poorer health and lower mental well-being.

4. Test tap water

The lead-contaminated drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan, is a sorry reminder of how essential clean water is for human health. If you and your neighbors get water from a public water system, you may feel reassured by the water-quality report you receive each July. All public water agencies are required by law to list contaminant levels, including heavy metals and pathogens. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) posts reports, too — find yours here.

Of course, to be on the safe side you may also want to get your tap water tested independently. Your local health department may do it for free. Or band together with neighbors to pay for testing by a state-certified lab. Check the EPA’s list here for one in your area. If your community relies on private wells, periodic testing is even more important because well water isn’t regulated. Learn more here.

5. Reduce neighborhood waste

Litter isn’t just unsightly, it’s also dangerous for kids, wildlife and everybody else in your neighborhood. Improperly discarded cigarette butts, old tires, junk food wrappers, plastic soda rings, beer cans, chemicals and other trash can hurt or kill animals, start fires, promote harmful bacteria and clog stormwater drains (which causes flooding and contaminates groundwater).

Pick up trash when you see it or organize regular neighborhood cleanups. Start a compost pile in your yard instead of dumping food scraps and yard waste in the garbage, or set up a community compost center. Composting not only transforms waste into healthy nutrient-rich soil for your yard and garden, but it also cuts greenhouse gas emissions from the breakdown of organic matter in landfills and from fuel used to transport waste.

6. Plant trees

Planting a tree
In one year, an acre of mature trees absorbs the amount of CO2 produced when you drive your car 26,000 miles and produces enough oxygen for 18 people. (Photo: boonchoke/Shutterstock)

Besides absorbing air pollutants and carbon dioxide, protecting against climate change and providing oxygen, trees add to the health of humans, wildlife and neighborhoods in many additional ways. Plant trees in your yard (preferably native varieties adapted to soil and climate conditions) and encourage your neighbors to do the same. Consider organizing a community tree-planting project. Many cities and tree organizations like National Wildlife Federation’s Trees for Life program give away free seedlings to groups.

7. Opt for natural, organic lawn care

A beautiful yard may give your home curb appeal, but it can also exact a steep environmental price. Americans apply more than 70 million tons of toxic chemical fertilizers and pesticides to their lawns and gardens every year, which can seep into groundwater and run off into rivers and streams. Residential yards are also one of the nation’s biggest water guzzlers, and gas lawn mowers release far more carbon emissions per hour of operation than the average car.

Eco-friendly lawn care helps protect the environment and the health of your neighborhood. Stop using synthetic pesticides and herbicides in favor of organic alternatives, use homemade compost to fertilize naturally (as mentioned in tip 5), plant drought-resistant grass and other native plants that don’t need as much water, and mow with an electric or push mower. Get your neighbors on board and you’ll make a bigger collective impact.

8. Encourage development of parks and outdoor spaces

Father and son playing in the park
Being outside in green spaces cuts blood pressure, lowers the body-damaging impact of stress and promotes psychological well-being. (Photo: Twinsterphoto/Shutterstock)

Nature, trees and undeveloped fields and forests are good for your body and mind, according to several studies. It’s not just that they encourage you to get outside and move. Being in nature also cuts blood pressure, lowers the body-damaging impact of stress and promotes psychological well-being. Hospital patients who have a view of trees even tolerate pain better and go home faster.

Team up with community leaders to preserve green spaces, create parks, develop biking and walking paths, and establish more outdoor recreational areas. If you live in an urban neighborhood without many green spots encourage nearby schools, churches and community centers to open their playgrounds and other recreational spaces to local residents when not in use. Ask about indoor gyms, play areas, pools and even hallways for community use in bad weather.

9. Green the tiny spaces too

We all know those spots that could become real community assets with a little TLC. Maybe there’s an eyesore vacant lot that might be transformed into a public meditation garden or sitting park. Or how about that little strip of land between the sidewalk and curb that you and your neighbors could convert into a rain garden to absorb storm-water runoff and filter out chemicals, pesticides and other pollutants? Create a bigger rain garden in your yard to soak up rainwater from your downspouts, and urge your neighbors to follow suit. Check out more sustainable landscaping ideas here.

10. Volunteer in your community

Join a group that’s working to make your community healthier — whether that’s providing nutritious meals to older neighbors, fighting poverty or improving the environment in your area. Other ways to get involved include attending municipal meetings, writing letters to community leaders, getting appointed or elected to a town board such as the planning commission, and even running for city council or other local office. Not only will you be directly involved in decision-making about your community’s growth, open spaces, parks and other services that affect health, but studies show that volunteering also boosts your own physical and mental health. All the more reason to encourage your neighbors to get involved too. Check out the Idealist.org Volunteer Resource Center to find the best opportunities for you.

Solar-powered neighborhood
Installing just one 4-kilowatt residential solar power system offsets about 200,000 pounds of CO2 over 25 years — equal to planting over 2,300 trees. Imagine the collective impact of banding together with neighbors? (Photo: DutchScenery/Shutterstock)

11. Clean up your energy use

Installing solar panels on your home allows you to generate electricity without producing harmful greenhouse gas emissions. Too expensive? Do a bulk purchase with your neighbors and receive a discount. Solar co-ops like DC Sun allow communities to collectively green their energy use. If wind energy is more appealing, consider installing a small wind turbine on your property. Even better, organize your neighbors to create a community-owned wind farm like this one in Enfield, New York.

12. Be neighborly

Research shows that connecting with people around you makes you healthier and boosts your lifespan. Specifically, studies show that having a strong social network helps cut stress levels that can harm your immune system, coronary arteries and gut function, plus it elevates stress-busting hormones.

Introduce yourself to neighbors and stay in regular touch. Create a welcoming front porch and reach out to passersby. Or put an outdoor lounging space in your front yard instead of the back yard to improve your approachability. Organize a neighborhood party. Keep your community even healthier by creating a neighborhood “care watch” committee that provides local residents in need with home-delivered meals, rides to the doctor and help with everyday tasks.


Waste Management investing $30 million in renewable energy in Louisville

The Outer Loop Recycling and Disposal Facility is a 782-acre landfill in Louisville. | Courtesy of Waste Management

Texas-based waste disposal company Waste Management plans to invest $30 million in renewable energy infrastructure in Louisville.

Waste Management will use the gas produced naturally during waste decomposition at the Outer Loop Recycling and Disposal Facility, 2673 Outer Loop, to fuel its vehicles and sell off the remainder.

“The energy recovered at the landfill will be used to power Waste Management’s compressed natural gas-powered collection trucks,” according to a statement from the company. “The facility, the first of its kind in the region, will provide enough energy to fuel 800 trucks — the equivalent of 12,000 homes — per day.”

Methane gas, carbon dioxide and other gases are natural byproducts of every landfill, and the gases are funneled through pipes and burned off to prevent a gas buildup. Waste Management will simply tap into the existing natural gas supply.

The company will build a facility on site that will separate the methane gas from the other gases. The methane will be piped into a gas line owned by Texas Gas, Andy Reynolds, the public sector representative for Waste Management in Louisville, told Insider Louisville.

More than 50 percent of the gas collected is methane gas, Reynolds said. A small amount of the methane will be used to fuel Waste Management’s 80 local trucks, and the rest will be sold off to Texas Gas for the going natural gas rate.

“The remaining 90 percent of the energy that is generated will go to whoever the purchasers are from Texas Gas,” he said, so in theory, it could be used to power homes locally.

The non-methane gases will still be burned off by a flare.

Only one other Waste Management facility — a small landfill in Milan, Ill. — uses the technology that the company plans to install at the Outer Loop Recycling and Disposal Facility, Reynolds said, adding that Louisville will act as a template for a planned rollout of the technology nationwide.

Waste Management chose Louisville because the company both owns the property and runs the facility at Outer Loop.

“It’s also working in connection with Mayor Fischer and his strategic goals making sure Louisville is on the cutting edge of green technology,” he said. IL has reached out to the mayor’s office for comment. In 2013, Fischer established the city’s first Office of Sustainability and released a sustainability plan to protect the environment.

Although it has the same mission and outcomes as a biodigester, Reynolds said the technology that Waste Management is using is “very different.”

For one, he said, Waste Management is cleaning up and repurposing gas that is already there. The new technology also won’t change the amount of truck traffic coming into or leaving the facility, and the infrastructure Waste Management plans to install is smaller, Reynolds said.

“The biodigester is trying to recreate what the landfill already does,” he said.

Last year, an out-of-town company canceled plans to build a biodigester in West Louisville following substantial backlash from the community. Louisville Metro Council has since passed regulations that limit where biodigesters can be built.

Waste Management is working to secure the proper permitting and move through the regulatory process. The regulatory agencies that monitor the landfill are the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, the Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control District, the Louisville Metropolitan Sewer District, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, the Federal Aviation Administration and Jefferson County Waste Management District.

Reynolds said Waste Management hopes to start collecting the natural gas for reuse by end of this year.

The company has run the 782-acre Outer Loop Recycling and Disposal Facility for more than 45 years and employs 27 people there. The landfill processes 787,700 tons of waste each year, according to Waste Management, and has an estimated remaining life of 48 years.

The new technology will extend the facility’s estimated life, Reynolds said, but it is unclear by exactly how long. No matter what, the life of the landfill will be prolonged at least 20 years after it stops accepting refuse because waste produces gas for roughly two decades after it reached the landfill.

“This is something that we are really excited about. This is something that is entirely nonintrusive,” he said. “It doesn’t require behavior changes on anyone’s part, but it still provides better air quality.”

Petaluma city schools complete solar project

The Petaluma City Schools district last week celebrated the installation of solar panels at nine of its schools, an eco-friendly project that marked the culmination of a years-long effort to invest in solar energy across all district campuses.

The solar panels, which were installed on shade structures in parking lots and playgrounds, will provide 80 percent of the electricity across those nine campuses, resulting in a $230,000 net annual savings in energy costs, Chief Business Official Chris Thomas said.

Work began in July 2016 to install the solar components at Grant, McDowell, McKinley, McNear, Valley Vista and Penngrove elementary schools, as well as Mary Collins at Cherry Valley, Petaluma Junior High School and San Antonio High School, Thomas said. The project was complete by December, and a ribbon cutting ceremony was held at Valley Vista Elementary School on Feb. 3.

Funding for the $3.3 million project came from a combination of the school’s local bond funds and from Prop. 39, which provides money for energy-related projects in California’s K-12 schools.

In 2010, the district embarked on a $5.4 million project to install solar panels at Casa Grande and Petaluma high schools, an effort that was funded through district facility funds and Build America bonds, Thomas said. The district has seen a $1.4 million savings in energy costs from that project, she said. A solar energy component was also incorporated into the construction of Kenilworth Junior High more than a decade ago, she said.

“The district has had an interest in solar for some time … it’s been a passion for Petaluma City Schools to find a great way to provide clean energy,” she said.

The district will see a savings of more than $500,000 each year as a result of the solar components across the 12 campuses, though figures for the total percentage of solar energy produced across the district were not available, she said. Money saved from the reduction in energy bills will be used to offset the increasing costs of programs including special education, transportation, textbooks and other educational expenditures, she said.

TerraVerde Renewable Energy Partners, a Marin County-based independent energy advising company that works with schools, businesses and public agencies, assisted the district in the planning, design and bidding process for the nine-campus project. The panels were constructed and installed by Texas-based PCI Solar.

The company also worked with the district to implement solar at the high schools, TerraVerde President Rick Brown said. Though the new systems will only provide 80 percent of the school’s electricity needs annually, extra compensation netted from the electricity sent to the electric grid during the summer months when school is out of session will allow the district to offset 100 percent of its electric bill, he said.

“They can put that money back in the classroom rather than paying PGE,” he said.

District Superintendent Gary Callahan said the completion of the projects reinforces the district’s commitment to sustainability.

“I think our claim to fame is that we’re now the greenest school district in Sonoma County,” Callahan said. “It sends a message to the community that we value the environment and the taxpayer dollar, and that you can do both those things at the same time.”

Sheri Chlebowski, the president of the district’s board of trustees, said in addition to acting as a financial boon, the project will provide shade for students.

Sierra Energy award could spur international pilot project

Sierra Energy has received a Roddenberry Foundation award for innovation, building hopes that the Davis-based startup can expand its garbage-to-renewable energy technology to new frontiers.

Since 2009, Sierra Energy has been developing its FastOx gasifier, a virtual garbage eater that aims to convert municipal waste and biomass into electricity and renewable diesel. The $150,000 award come from the late “Star Trek” creator Gene Roddenberry’s foundation, which supports technologies that will “boldly go” into the future.

While the FastOx gasifier primarily is designed to reduce greenhouse gases and dependence on petroleum, most of the award funding will go toward developing a pilot program aimed at waste reduction in the slums of Mexico City.

“This award will help us build a network of philanthropic support and support from the United States Agency for International Development,” said Paul Gruber, Sierra Energy’s vice president of external partnerships.

Gruber — who has a background in international development — was the brainpower behind Sierra Energy’s application for the award.

Placing a FastOx gasifier at a landfill site, the company aims to launch a machine that would process 25 tons of waste per day, generating 1 megawatt of electricity. That amount is enough to power at least 1,000 homes, Gruber said.

“We think we can power a whole mini-city and provide a micro-grid solution,” he said.

Sierra Energy hopes to develop this international arm of the business alongside the local population to “co-develop the benefits.” If successful in Mexico, the company could turn to additional markets across Latin America as well as Southeast Asia, Gruber said.

“In the current political environment, this is a win-win situation,” he said. “We can have (American) job creation if we create these (FastOx machines) in the U.S.”

The FastOx is expected to begin trials at Fort Hunter Liggett this spring, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Defense. Initial results from the large-scale trial run could arrive by this summer.

While the first iterations of the FastOx processed 2 tons of waste per day, Sierra Energy has ramped up that processing power to 2,000 metric tons per day in recent years. The system uses an injection of pure oxygen and temperatures up to 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit to convert waste into carbon monoxide and hydrogen gas.

From there, the carbon monoxide can be used to create electricity, and the other materials are converted into renewable diesel fuel and hydrogen fuel cells.

As the FastOx undergoes its trial run later this year, the company has a lineup of investors and commercial customers interested in the product, Gruber said.

— Reach Felicia Alvarez at falvarez@davisenterprise.net or 530-747-8052. Follow her on Twitter at @Felicia_A_

Sierra Energy's FastOx gasifier is under construction at Fort Hunter Liggett, where a trial run of its garbage-to-renewable energy system is expected to begin this spring. Courtesy photo

Sierra Energy’s FastOx gasifier is under construction at Fort Hunter Liggett, where a trial run of its garbage-to-renewable energy system is expected to begin this spring. Courtesy photo

Mike Hart, CEO of Davis-based Sierra Energy, stands in front of a FastOx gasifier developed his company. The system gobbles up tons of industrial, construction, medical and electronic wastes and transforms them into renewable fuels. Courtesy photo

Mike Hart, CEO of Davis-based Sierra Energy, stands in front of a FastOx gasifier developed his company. The system gobbles up tons of industrial, construction, medical and electronic wastes and transforms them into renewable fuels. Courtesy photo

In ‘dark’ UP, voters want eco-friendly solar power to brighten their …

Lucknow, Feb 8: In poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, power cuts are a regular affair. The problem is so acute that in many places, the residents of the state have to endure 12 to 16 hours of power cuts daily. This has made their lives miserable, especially for farmers and factory owners.

As the state is all set to elect members for a new legislative assembly soon, majority of voters want solar power to solve the perennial problem.

According to a survey commissioned by 8minutes Future Energy Ltd, a huge chunk of voters have expressed their preference for solar power to deal with electricity crisis. The digital survey has been conducted recently in association with IndiaSpend and FourthLion.

Around 87% of voters in UP would opt for solar energy if it helped improve air quality and reduce pollution, stated a report by The Economic Times.

The worst affected people by power cuts are women, rural people and Dalits
“The survey has revealed that of the 38% of UP voters facing power cuts every day, 58% are women, 59% are rural voters and 61% Dalits,” added The Economic Times.

Almost half of the urban residents feel that air pollution is causing harm to their health. Around 46% of urban voters said the air they breathe is polluted, compared with 26% of rural voters, revealed the survey.

Surprisingly, people belonging to the low income groups are more supportive of solar power than higher income voters. Reason, perhaps because they believe that solar energy could be a lower cost alternative.

In fact, the 8minutes announced the survey results on Tuesday after the inauguration of its rooftop solar project at Lucknow’s Ambar mosque. Thus the mosque became the first all-women run minority religious institution in the country to go green.

Arjun Srihari, head of marketing and partnerships, at 8minutes Future Energy, said, “This rooftop solar project is a great example of how every community can benefit from solar. The entire process of taking either your home or your business solar is extremely quick and simple, and will result in significant financial benefit in terms of the savings on your electricity expenditure.”

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How to Go Green: The Ultimate Homeowner’s Guide to an Eco-Friendly Pad

If the phrase “eco-friendly home” makes you think of an off-the-grid hippie hut on one hand, or a bespoke LEED Platinum palace for those with Leonardo DiCaprio‘s budget on the other, we have news for you. Greening your home is easier than ever—and more convenient than taking on a full-blown renovation. If your 2017 bucket list includes learning how to go green, you’ve come to the right place.

The benefits of green upgrades, no matter the size, are far-reaching for both your global footprint and your wallet.

“You’ll have a home that is more comfortable, more durable, with lower energy bills,” says Eileen Oldroyd, a real estate broker in Mission Viejo, CA, and a National Association of Realtors® Green Designee, a distinction given to Realtors® who have completed training on energy-efficient and sustainable homes. “These upgrades will also be valuable if you ever decide to sell,” she says.

Here’s the scoop from green industry experts on the latest ways to slash your energy bills—and to do so while clearing your earth-conscious conscience!

Make your home a passive house

Forget LEED certification—the newly coveted green home credential is the deceptively named passive house standard. Unlike LEED certification, which speaks to how green the construction process was, a passive house is rated by how energy-efficient it will be when people are actually living in it.

“A passive house minimizes heating and cooling needs because it is sealed air-tight, meaning temperature-controlled air doesn’t leak out,” explains Ewan Utting, a passive-house builder in San Francisco.

Photo by ENU Construction/Equilibrium HouseA passive house in San Francisco built by Utting.

Although turning your home into a true passive house would mean a major renovation, you can reap some of those energy-saving benefits by replacing outside door thresholds, swapping old windows for new double- or even triple-pane ones, or covering the panes with a reflective coating that will beat heat in the summer.

One change you can make without spending a cent: “Remember to lock all of your windows when they’re closed,” says Eric Graham, a green home expert with Sunshare, a Colorado community solar company. “It creates a better seal between panes to keep air from coming in.”

Get smart (home tech, that is)

Leaving a light on here or there causes small but significant increases in the size of your carbon footprint and your energy bill, but new technology can stop those little expenditures.

“New smart home devices let you turn off lights, radios, or just about anything you plug into the wall from anywhere in the world using your smartphone,” says Oldroyd.

Check out Wemo home automation products from technology company Belkin, which include smartphone-controlled wall outlets, slow cookers, humidifiers, and more. Smart thermostats from companies like Nest or Honeywell learn your heating and cooling preferences and can be controlled from your smartphone or tablet.

Filling your home with smart products is easy and more convenient than ever now that home improvement stores like Home Depot have started stocking whole sections with smart home products.

Choose the right paint

Volatile organic compounds are chemicals found in many paints and building materials that easily vaporize and may pose health risks. Until recently it was gospel that the green-minded should choose low- or no-VOC paint, but those labels are too vague to mean much, says Jason Holstine, owner of Amicus Green Building Center in Kensington, MD.

“Because of the way the government defines VOCs, many concerning chemicals aren’t covered,” he says. “Instead, choose paints that are no-VOC and don’t contain solvents, ethylene glycol, acetone, or formaldehyde.” Some great brands include AFM Safecoat, Mythic, Colorhouse, ECOS, and Bioshield.

Go native with your landscaping

Today’s sustainable landscaping is less cookie-cutter and more tailored to your climate.

“The most eco-friendly backyard features plant and grass species that are native to the area where you live,” says Cassy Aoyagi of FORM LA Landscaping. “They thrive without chemical pesticides and fertilizers and need little water.” Rainfall during a normal year is usually enough.

According to Aoyagi, replacing a traditional lawn with native grasses will require 50% to 70% less water and save you approximately 60 hours per year in maintenance, for a savings of up to $3,500 in thirsty climates.

Photo by Christopher Yates Landscape Architecture – Opt for native grasses that are low-maintenance and drought-tolerant.

In Southern California, where FORM LA is based, Aoyagi recommends grama grass and California fescue. In various parts of the country, covering your lawn area with clover or low-growing herbs such as chamomile, thyme, and mint is a beautiful and eco-friendly option.

Consider solar panels

Whether or not solar panels make fiscal and environmental sense for your house depends on your climate, the layout of your roof, and whether your state offers rebates. For an instant estimate to see if solar panels are right for your house, enter your address into Google’s Project Sunroof. In a matter of seconds you can see how many hours of usable sunlight your home gets per year, the square feet available for solar panels, and the amount of money you could save based on that information.

For a more detailed breakdown of costs and benefits, contact a solar expert like Sungevity, a company that creates custom solar energy systems for homes all around the country.

Get an energy audit

Greening your home isn’t a one-size-fits-all process, and a certified energy auditor can suggest upgrades that will lower your energy costs.

“Often, the rebates you’ll receive from your utility company or on your taxes will offset the costs of the audit,” says Oldroyd. Homeadvisor.com reports the average cost to hire a home energy auditor is $373.

The Residential Energy Services Network has an easy-to-search directory of certified energy auditors in each state. Look for an auditor certified to give your home a Home Energy Rating System index rating, which is a score of your home’s energy efficiency. Lowering your home’s HERS index score will likely raise the resale value of your home if you sell in the future.

The post How to Go Green: The Ultimate Homeowner’s Guide to an Eco-Friendly Pad appeared first on Real Estate News Advice | realtor.com®.

Report: Renewable energy on the rise, but WTE has stalled

Dive Brief:

  • Renewable energy is on the rise in the U.S., but waste-to-energy (WTE) is not part of that growth according to the Business Council for Sustainable Energy’s new 2017 “factbook” produced by Bloomberg New Energy Finance. No new financing was reported for WTE technologies in 2016 and no new facilities were built last year. 
  • The largest recent WTE deals were $677 million in financing from 2012 for the Palm Beach Biomass Plant Facility Unit 2 — which was constructed in 2015 — and $575 million from 2013 for the Energy Answers Fairfield facility in Baltimore. That project folded last year after Maryland state officials said its permit was invalid.
  • Capital expenditures for WTE and biogas have been on a decline in recent years, though the report notes that since the number of projects in development at one time is often small, these trends can be more pronounced.

Dive Insight:

Overall, biomass, biogas and WTE generated 63 TwH of energy in 2016. That category grew by 132 MW in 2016, though WTE didn’t contribute to that growth. By comparison, England built five new WTE facilities with a combined 180 MW of energy capacity and 70 MW of steam capacity in 2015.

The lack of movement in the U.S. WTE market is not a new trend. While the technology plays a key role in managing waste for many regional markets and is ranked above landfills on the EPA’s recovery hierarchy, environmental opposition and steep capital costs have limited its expansion. As seen recently around Maryland’s plans to update facility requirements in 2018, the debate on emissions standards remains contentious. Multiple cities have also expressed an interest in moving away from WTE as they pursue high diversion rate goals.

Reaching those goals without using WTE may be difficult, though more local governments are looking to biogas projects as a way to reduce their reliance on incinerators or landfills. Biogas projects such as anaerobic digesters and landfill gas facilities were responsible for 54 MW of new energy and $24 million in financing for 2016. That $24 million went to CRR Environmental’s large new AD facility in California, which is set to open this year. As more states explore various organic waste diversion requirements, this could spur additional biogas investment in the future.

Despite these positive signs, the report groups biogas in the same category with WTE, biomass, geothermal and hydro as sectors that “are idling without long-term policy support.” The lack of notable financing for biogas and WTE between 2013 and 2016 indicates that no major construction projects can be expected in the near future. Since new federal policy on waste issues is rare, and state policies vary widely, the industry may not be playing a large role in the renewable energy revolution any time soon.