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Net-Zero Energy Building

Net-Zero Building Ashley Halligan, an analyst at Software Advice, asks whether or not net zero is a realistic expectation in Breaking Down Net Zero: Reality or Wishful Thinking? By 2050, all commercial buildings must become net-zero.  By 2030, all federal facilities must be net-zero.  These ambitious targets were set by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. So… what does net-zero mean? Also known as NZEB (Net-Zero Energy Building), net-zero building aims to match energy consumption with on-site production.  Though there are multiple definitions floating around, for our purposes “net-zero” refers to a building that produces the same amount of energy as it consumes in a year, flattening out the the building’s net consumption to carbon-neutral. How is this “net-zero” status achieved? There are essentially two basic methods of creating a net-zero building: retrofitting and ground-up initiatives.  The first step for either choice is to plan to minimize the building’s overall energy consumption.  For ground-up initiaves, this is handled in the planning process; retrofitting projects should make most changes ahead of time. Before modifying the building or adding on-site renewable energy systems to existing infrastructure, some basic measures can be taken to reduce the amount of energy needed to run the facility.  This can be as simple as using LED lights, such as DirectLED Flourescent Replacement Tubes, or exchanging an old refrigerator for a Steca PF166.  When you’re shopping for appliances, you should always look for the Energy Star label.  Also, setting your programmable thermostat down a smidgen can notably reduce energy consumption.  Explore solar thermal heating and set the water temperature to a max of 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Because heating, cooling, and ventilation accounts for about 30% of overall energy consumption in commercial buildings, it is wise to consider upgrading aged HVAC systems to newer Energy Star HVAC systems.  Furthermore, setting the temperature to 69 degrees in the winter and 78 degrees in the summer can make a noticeable difference. As new infrastructure is developed, energy efficient design techniques will be implemented to reduce the amount of energy used in heating, cooling, ventilation, lighting, etc. Passive solar design maximizes use of the sun’s light with features like south facing windows and strategic shading to illuminate rooms during the day without too much heat, reducing the need for artificial light and HVAC systems.  Many buildings were not originally designed to make use of passive solar technology, which can pose a series of obstacles while retrofitting a building.  Constructing net-zero buildings from scratch has its advantages in this area. Whether retrofitting or constructing buildings with net-zero in mind, it is imperative that building contractors, property owners, and CEOs collaborate...

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Why Bother Saving the World?

In the scientific community, there is almost no dispute about the existence of global climate change and its causal relationship with human activity. Since the industrial revolution, humans have been releasing copious amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, effectively blanketing the earth. Arctic sea ice melts, sea temperatures rise, glaciers retreat, vegetation changes. We have sprung changes upon the natural world in a short amount of time, giving plants and animals little time to adapt. We have a history of arrogantly exploiting the natural world. In the grand scheme of things, we’re at a moment where we’re faced with a challenge: to care about something greater than ourselves.   Because you’re reading this, I’ll assume that you do accept that anthropogenic factors have played a role in global climate change. This means you’re on the same page as the overwhelming majority of scientists, climatologists included. This increased awareness of global climate change and sensitivity towards energy consumption has, in part, been a catalyst for progress in renewable energy. Priorities are shifting and gradually we’re seeing public policies reflect this change. It’s these policies that are helping solar energy compete with fossil fuels (which are also subsidized). Truthfully, most people are motivated to adopt renewable energy because it saves them money. People go solar to cut back on their electric bills and see a solid ROI. But is there something else beneath the surface that motivates us? Are we just rationally self-interested “consumers” or are these decisions, at least in part, informed some higher emotional faculty? What are our underlying motivations for taking on the challenge to reduce our carbon footprint on this planet? Our worldviews bring about a set of values in response to the crisis of global climate change. We obviously care about this planet we call home, but for what sake do we care? Some wish for a clean environment because of your vested interest in the survival of their children and descendents. Perhaps you believe that the earth and all its resources are ours for the taking, so we must change our consumption habits in order for humankind to endure long-term. If people are not conscientious of environmental behavior now, humankind’s means for survival can be cut short in the future. These types of worldviews are most consistent with more human-centered, Western ideologies. Alternatively, your concern for the well-being of the planet could be rooted in a concern for life as a whole…. a more nonhuman-centered worldview. Do you see inherent dignity in all living things who deserve to live and thrive? This view is consistent with deep ecology. Deep ecology is the view that...

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USA Today Features GoGreenSolar Customer’s Dream Home!

GoGreenSolar.com customers Philippe and Thao Jeanty have received national attention after purchasing a 9.4 kW solar system with GoGreenSolar.com.  The couple from Tennessee was recently featured on USAToday.com. and mentioned in the New York Times.  Here’s their story. Philippe Jeanty is a radiologist in Nashville, Tenneessee, though he was actually born in Congo and lived in Belgium for some time.  Philippe lives with his wife Thao, who grew up in Vietnam. Philippe made a trip to the United States in the late seventies, where became interested in energy efficiency.   This curiosity eventually became the driving force behind the development of the couple’s sustainable dream home that most clean energy enthusiasts will only passively dream of.   Their home now has geothermal heating and cooling, it’s own drip irrigation system to water their garden, solar hot water heating, and a photovolatic (PV) system. Philippe he received help from a local solar guru with the photovoltaic (PV) installation, but he designed the plans for his home with an application called Google SketchUp.  Philippe bypassed the typical method of hiring an architect, allowing him to channel his DIY work ethic.  The SkechUp plans were converted to blueprints by Scott Jenkins, and the house was built by Green Homes (Johnny and Travis Johnson). Local springs supply the couple with usable water for their quaint farm. Their home is even set up with a drip-irrigation system to water their orchard and garden!  To heat their water, they make use of an evacuated tube solar heating system by Apricus.  According to Philippe, the water heater produces an excess of hot water in the summer.  “We have to flush out some hot water from time to time,” comments Philippe.   The interior of the home is equipped with LED lighting and clerestory windows that provide great light in the summer with no insolation.  They oriented the house on an East-West axis to get the best insolation possible.  South-facing windows are shaded during the summer months by the roof overhang, and are fully insolated during the winter to help passively warm the house.  In addition to designing the home for passive solar, the six and a half inch walls are insultated with a corn-based spray foam. They have also installed a geothermal heating and cooling system under their hickory wood floors, which they haven’t had to use the past three winters, even with outside temperatures of five degrees Fahrenheit! Philippe and Thao held onto wood, windows, bathroom fixtures, and just about anything from their previous home that could be repurposed.  By collecting fallen trees on the property for their wood-burning stove, Philippe and Thao keep their home toasty during the winter months.   Wood that was once part of their old house...

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Volunteer with GRID Alternatives!

Established in 2001, GRID Alternatives is a nonprofit organization that provides low income communities access to solar energy.  GRID Alternatives was founded by two engineers who are driven to make clean energy accessible to the low-income communities that need solar energy the most.  The people at GRID Alternatives are on a mission “to empower communities in need by providing renewable energy and energy efficiency services, equipment and training.” In addition to helping families produce their own solar energy, GRID Alternatives provides a unique educational experience for its volunteers.  Unemployed and underemployed individuals from the community are encouraged to cultivate a valuable skill-set through volunteer and team leader programs. By working on installations for the Solar Affordable Housing Program, volunteers get hands-on experience and networking opportunities that they couldn’t get anywhere else.  Through GRID’s Team Leader program, volunteers have the opportunity to become certified PV installers with the North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners.   A GRID volunteer can use this real-world experience to get their foot in the door of businesses in the solar industry. The unique environment created by GRID Alternatives draws in people from all walks of life. Environmental activists, students, engineers, and professionals in the solar industry are just some of the people that volunteer with this nonprofit organization.  Everyone comes together to help the community, learn new skills, reduce CO2 emissions, and sweat bullets in the California sun. I recently had the opportunity to go on a volunteer installation with GRID Alternatives.  The mission was to install a 2.3 kW AC system for a low income home in Long Beach, California. The first day of the installation began at 8:30 am on a overcast Tuesday morning.  Shortly after the last volunteers arrived, we introduced ourselves and the project supervisor went over some basic safety precautions. While the ground team was busy prepping and splicing the ProSolar rails, several of us got up on the roof to determine how the array could be configured in compliance with the regulations in the city of Long Beach.  As the morning clouds burned off, we quickly realized that the sun would not spare us.  After taking measurements and marking the lay-out that was established by GRID team leaders, we drilled into the rafters where the ProSolar FastJack Stand-offs would soon be mounted.  Around each hole that was drilled, we cut a few inches of the surrounding roof to make room for the flashing.  After bolting the base of the standoff with caulking and inserting the flashing under the top layer of the roof, we screwed in the ProSolar FastJack Stand-off.  We then sealed a fitted washer over the flashing...

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Please Vote for GoGreenSolar.com

We’ve applied for a grant with Chase but we need your help!  In order to qualify, we need your vote today.  Every vote counts and we really appreciate your support. Here are some directions on how you can help us out: 1. Go to MissionSmallBusiness.com 2. Click LOG IN & SUPPORT 3.  The next page has a search bar. Type in “Go Green Solar” and press SEARCH. Below you will see “GoGreenSolar.com, Go Green Solar” 4.  Click “VOTE” 5.  Share it with your friends on facebook and twitter! You can also read the application that we submitted to learn more about us and our business: Tell us about your business; how successful is it and why is it unique? At Go Green Solar, who we are as individuals is intimately connected to who we are as a business. Not only do we live with solar energy, but we also live solar energy. Having spent years cultivating a detailed understanding of green technology, we strongly believe that green energy makes economic sense. By implementing green energy into our communities, we will also improve the air we breathe and reduce the negative impact that fossil fuels have on our planet. We are aware that millions of people around the world do not have access to basic electricity. When green energy becomes mainstream, with economies of scale, it is our belief that renewable energy will be accessible to everyone. All people deserve to have access to reliable, efficient energy. This is what we hope to see, and this is why we are steadfast in our pursuit of a sustainable future for our planet. At Go Green Solar, we understand that a need for change that has been thrust upon our world. We have the foresight to visualize the changes that will occur in the years to come and plan to play an integral role in creating a sustainable world for future generations. What makes Go Green Solar successful is that we are different. Our passion, technical expertise, and commitment to exceptional customer service sets us apart from our competition. Our staff is composed of enthusiastic individuals who understand green energy inside and out. Every team member is dedicated to providing precise information about the products we offer, whether a customer is inquiring about LED lighting, wind turbines, or looking to build their own solar system from scratch. We frequently attend seminars and courses on emerging technologies to expand upon our existing knowledge. Our constant vigilance of the rapid evolution of green energy keeps our competitive edge sharp, allowing us to better serve our clientele. Our customers know that they can trust us...

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