30 September 2009

Local Home on the National Solar Tour

Mark Hanson, a local solar & EV innovator's home will be featured on the National Solar Tour. It is quite impressive. Here are the details:

Hanson Home (Jimmy Carters solar home plans)

Dates & Times: October 10th, 2009
Community: Roanoke, VA area Mapquest: 184 Vista lane, Fincastle, VA 24090
Presented by: Solectrol
Description: 5kW Grid Tie measured at the AC side with ZomeWorks trackers and SolarWorld, BP and Evergreen panels. Originally built in 92 from jimmy Carters Solar Home plans. Passive/Active solar heating, roof wind turbine, solar charged EV www.evalbum.com/1273
Fee: Free
Click here for a map to the site
Instructions for taking this tour:
For more information, contact: Mark E. Hanson, 540-473-1248,

Another example of the future of US affordable Passivhaus construction

29 September 2009


The Roanoke regional home builders recently had a Barkitecture competition to design a dog house. The dog house are being auctioned off and the proceeds are going to the SPCA.

Here is our entry complete with customized self watering commode drinking bowl:

Here are some other cool dog houses:

27 September 2009

It takes a Village to protect our President!!!

Andrew M. Manis is associate professor of history at Macon State College in Georgia and wrote this essay. It first appeared in the Macon Telegraph

For much of the last forty years, ever since America “fixed” its race problem in the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, we white people have been impatient with African Americans who continued to blame race for their difficulties. Often we have heard whites ask, “When are African Americans finally going to get over it?
Now I want to ask: “When are we White Americans going to get over our ridiculous obsession with skin color?
Recent reports that “Election Spurs Hundreds’ of Race Threats, Crimes” should frighten and infuriate every one of us.
Having grown up in “Bombingham,” Alabama in the 1960s, I remember overhearing an avalanche of comments about what many white classmates and their parents wanted to do to John and Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King Eventually, as you may recall, in all three cases, someone decided to do more than “talk the talk.”
Since our recent presidential election, to our eternal shame we are once again hearing the same reprehensible talk I remember from my boyhood.
We white people have controlled political life in the disunited colonies and United States for some 400 years on this continent. Conservativ e whites have been in power 28 of the last 40 years. Even during the eight Clinton years, conservatives in Congress blocked most of his agenda and pulled him to the right. Yet never in that period did I read any headlines suggesting that anyone was calling for the assassinations of presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan, or either of the Bushes. Criticize them, yes. Call for their impeachment, perhaps. But there were no bounties on their heads. And even when someone did try to kill Ronald Reagan, the perpetrator was non-political mental case who wanted merely to impress Jody Foster
But elect a liberal who happens to be Black and we’re back in the sixties again. At this point in our history, we should be proud that we’ve proven what conservatives are always saying — that in America anything is possible, EVEN electing a black man as president. But instead we now hear that school children from Maine to California are talking about wanting to “assassinate Obama.”
Fighting the urge to throw up, I can only ask, “How long?” How long before we white people realize we can’t make our nation, much less the whole world, look like us? How long until we white people can - once and for all - get over this hell-conceived preoccupation with skin color? How long until we white people get over the demonic conviction that white skin makes us superior? How long before we white people get over our bitter resentments about being demoted to the status of equality with non-whites?
How long before we get over our expectations that we should be at the head of the line merely because of our white skin? How long until we white people end our silence and call out our peers when they share the latest racist jokes in the privacy of our white-only conversations?
I believe in free speech, but how long until we white people start making racist loudmouths as socially uncomfortable as we do flag burners? How long until we white people will stop insisting that blacks exercise personal responsibility, build strong families, educate themselves enough to edit the Harvard Law Review, and work hard enough to become President of the United States, only to threaten to assassinate them when they do?
How long before we starting “living out the true meaning” of our creeds, both civil and religious, that all men and women are created equal and that “red and yellow, black and white” all are precious in God’s sight?
Until this past November 4, I didn’t believe this country would ever elect an African American to the presidency. I still don’t believe I’ll live long enough to see us white people get over our racism problem. But here’s my three-point plan: First, everyday that Barack Obama lives in the White House that Black Slaves Built, I’m going to pray that God (and the Secret Service) will protect him and his family from us white people .
Second, I’m going to report to the FBI any white person I overhear saying, in seriousness or in jest, anything of a threatening nature about President Obama. Third, I’m going to pray to live long enough to see America surprise the world once again, when white people can “in spirit and in truth” sing of our damnable color prejudice, “We HAVE overcome.”
It takes a Village to protect our President!!!

An Oldie but a Goodie!

26 September 2009

Technical Analysis of Sea Level Rise

If you are technically inclined click here for an interesting paper by L. David Roper, professor Emeritus of Physics at Virginia Tech. Here he takes a relatively calm approach to the prediction of sea level rise as a product of temperature change.

25 September 2009

CEED Training

24 September 2009

A Brief History of Social Security and Medicare

In 1935 after three years of trying Franklin Roosevelt was able to pass the Social Security Act. It was a different world. Roosevelt and the Dems had picked up 9 seats in the mid-term election of 1934 and the country was reeling from 6 years of depression. You can see from the vote tally below that the Social Security Act while a Democratic Bill, was supported in a bi-partisan way, probably because the Repubes realized it was hopeless to fight it and didn't want to be seen voting against it.

Democrats - 57
Republicans - 81
Farm Labor - 1
Progressive - 6
Democrats - 15
Republicans - 15
Farm Labor - 2
Progressive - 1
Democrats - 20
Republicans - 4
Farm Labor - 0
Progressive - 1
Democrats - 0
Republicans - 2
Farm Labor - 0
Progressive - 0

Democrats - 60
Republicans - 16
Farm Labor - 1
Progressive - 0
Democrats - 1
Republicans - 5
Farm Labor - 0
Progressive - 0
Democrats - 8
Republicans - 4
Farm Labor - 0
Progressive - 0

It was a slightly different situation in 1965 when Social Security was amended to include medicare. You can see from the vote below that though there was bipartisan support, it was the democrats, under Lyndon Johnson, that introduced and pushed through the bill, which in essence was the culmination of a twenty year effort that started with President Truman for universal health care.

Democrats - 237
Republicans - 70
Democrats - 48
Republicans - 68
Democrats - 8
Republicans - 2

Democrats - 57
Republicans - 13
Democrats - 7
Republicans - 17
Democrats - 4
Republicans - 2

So all those tea party, birthers that showed up at the health care town meetings, crying about not wanting socialism without understanding what it is and whining that no one should mess with their social security and medicare, do not realize that they have the Dems to thank for it. They do not realize that most of the progressive legislation over the last 50 years that has moved our society forward has been authored by the Democrats and that they really need to get in the reform wagon or be prepared to go broke in a broken system.

23 September 2009

I love this guy!

22 September 2009

21 September 2009

Watch and Learn

20 September 2009

Duct Sealing 101

19 September 2009


It has been said and remains true that Weatherization is the easiest, cheapest and most achievable carbon reduction strategy we can employ. Unfortunately, putting our money where our mouth is has taken years. We have a real opportunity to educate folks about the importance of weatherization now that the stimulus money has been released. In the next two years we will weatherize more homes than in the past ten years combined.

As the DOE says:
"By reducing the energy bills of low-income families instead of offering aid, weatherization reduces dependency and liberates these funds for spending on more pressing family issues. On average, weatherization reduces heating bills by 32% and overall energy bills by about $350 per year at current prices. This spending, in turn, spurs low-income communities toward job growth and economic development."

So lets get out and tell our friends, weatherize now and save the planet!

18 September 2009

Interesting EcoVillage Definition

I met this cool cat named Owl that turned me on to his blog. He had this definition of an ecovillage I thought was amusing.

17 September 2009

Guerilla Gardening

Here is a great and fun article on Guerrilla Gardening.

16 September 2009

15 September 2009

Help for Passivhaus Folks

This man is a hero!

He is Gunnar Anderlind, and has been working more than forty years with topics related to heat and moisture transfer in buildings. He is now working as a consultant. His earlier jobs were head of product development at Gullfiber (now Isover) in Sweden and associated professor at the Department of Building Science, Lunds University.

Go to his web site.

It really is cool. He has developed software and validated it for thermal bridge analysis.

As he says:

"I have put this page on Internet because I hope that the programs presented below can solve your specific problems. Some of the programs are worth a better destiny than just taking up space on my hard disk."

They are all freeware. COOL!

14 September 2009

Someone to watch on Waxman/Markey

Good article on Evan Bayh's pivotal role in the Senate Cap and Trade negotiations.

13 September 2009

An interesting look into American Electric Power

American Electric Power, which is the largest coal consumer in the Western Hemisphere and provides the power for our region is committed to coal. The political calculus is this:
There are 25 "coal states" which makes for 50 senators votes, nothing will shift the sand under their feet because it is held together with a money coagulant. For an interesting article that discusses AEP's future reliance on coal check this out and this.

12 September 2009

China ready to introduce large feed in tariff.

For those folks who make the spurious claims that we cannot make a commitment to climate change legislation because of the developing world's use of fossil fuels, here is a real kick in the teeth. China, a large developing country that uses alot of coal has made a commitment to sustainable energy and put their money where their mouths are. They are going for a goal of 20% sustainable generation by 2020. To move this forward they are getting ready to introduce a feed in tariff of likely between 1.09 and 1.5 yuan ($0.16-0.22) per kilowatt-hour of electricity. This is significant because this will be one of the highest paying feed in tariffs in the world and will spur economic innovations.

I don't think the folks here in the US realize how fast we are being outpaced by the rest of the world. How far back we will we be when (and if) we wake up?

10 September 2009

Net Metering Update

Here is the elusive 1:1 net metering language I discussed earlier:

20VAC5-315-50. Metering, billing, payment and tariff considerations.

Net metered energy shall be measured in accordance with standard metering practices by metering equipment capable of measuring (but not necessarily displaying) power flow in both directions. Each contract or tariff governing the relationship between a net metering customer, electric distribution company or energy service provider shall be identical, with respect to the rate structure, all retail rate components, and monthly charges, to the contract or tariff under which the same customer would be served if such customer was not a net metering customer with the exception that time of use metering is not permitted. Said contract or tariff shall be applicable to both the electric energy supplied to, and consumed from, the grid by that customer.

Click here for more info: Net Metering

After writing this I got this response from Carol Huffman, the AEP local netmetering coordinator which makes this much clearer:

Hi Adam-

Yes, that little summary is a little bit misleading. The entire law allows for the following:

First, the Net Metering program is intended for customers wanting to offset their own energy requirements so the generators need to be sized according to their loads.

Net metering periods run 12 months and begin on the first meter reading date following interconnection. A customer can carry forward, to the next 12 month period, excess generated energy to the extent that they purchased that number of kwhs from the utility during that same period. This is what I think the summary is referring to when it says "allows customers to receive the full retail value for their excess electricity at times when their system is producing more electricity than the building is consuming" because they are in essence offsetting future usage at retail rates. At the end of each 12 month period, you should come out even at the most (that's why you can only carry over to the extent you purchased that many kwhs during the year).

The Virginia Administrative Code 20VAC5-315-50 puts it like this:

"If electricity generated by the net metering customer and fed back to the electric grid exceeds the electricity supplied to the net metering customer from the grid during any billing period, the net metering customer shall be required to pay only the nonusage sensitive charges for the billing period. Such billing period credits shall be accumulated, carried forward and applied at the first opportunity to any billing periods having positive net consumptions. However, any accumulated billing period credits remaining unused at the end of a net metering period shall be carried forward into the next net metering period only to the extent that such accumulated billing period credits carried forward do not exceed the net metering customer's billed consumption for the current net metering period, adjusted to exclude accumulated billing period credits carried forward and applied from previous net metering periods."

This clause in the law, in my mind, ensures that customers are not sizing generation larger than their own energy requirements.

New as of last fall, customers now also have the option to enter into a contract with their utility to have those kwhs purchased at the PJM day ahead annual simple average LMP rate for the AEP zone and for the most recent calendar year ending on or before the end of each Net Metering Period. For calendar year 2009, that rate is .053 per kwh. The law does stipulate that they have to request to contract for payment PRIOR to the beginning of the net metering period. And remember too..the intend is still that the customer is producing to offset their own energy requirements.

The Virginia Administrative Code explains it as follows:

"...upon the written request of the customer, the electric distribution company shall enter into a power purchase agreement for excess generation for one or more net metering periods. ...For net metering periods beginning on or after January 1, 2009, the written request shall be submitted prior to the beginning of the net metering period....and obligate the investor-owned electric distribution company to purchase the excess generation at a price equal to the PJM zonal day ahead annual simple average LMP for the PJM load zone in which the electric distribution company's Virginia retail service territory resides, as published by the PJM Market Monitoring Unit, for the most recent calendar year ending on or before the end of each net metering period.

Hope this helps!

PS...I really enjoy your blog!

Carol R. Huffman, C.E.M.
Customer Services
Appalachian Power Company

09 September 2009

An update for Passivhaus folks

I spoke in an earlier post of the Passive House Diaries that is following the construction of a new Passive House in England. For those of us starting the PH movement in the US there is some real good real tim, real life trial and error stuff to learn. Also some very good commentary and discussion going on. Take a look if you have not.

08 September 2009

An Inspirational Power Station

As the technology progresses this will be the new wave.

07 September 2009

Cap and Trade Basics

06 September 2009

Good News Virginia there is a Solar Clause

It seems that the Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy has been successful in obtaining 15 million dollars in stimulus funds to supplement individual and commercial sustainable energy. They expect the rebates to be around $2,000 per kilowatt up to 5 kilowatts for PV, $1,500 per kilowatt for wind up to 5 kilowatts and $1,000 for solar thermal. The rebates will be retroactive to June 26, 2009. This is all in the planning phase and I am waiting for confirmation from the DMME on this. i have talked to the head of the program and he says that they have 4 people to administer almost 90 million in grants, so the program roll out has been a challenge, as has getting answers from both the feds and state on vexing issues such as if the rebates are taxable (magic eight ball says "most likely") and state recapture of delinquent accounts. There has also been alot of issues due to the fact that because of Virginia's inattention to alternative energy, there are very few qualified installers in the state and they are trying to avoid a bunch of johnny come lately's try to install these systems.

The particulars of the program have not been announced, but I will keep in contact with DMME and be updating as information becomes available.

05 September 2009

Depressing State of Affairs

In the past week I have had a chance to talk personally with both Tom Periello and Bob Goodlatte. I posed the same question to both.

I said, "I am a small business man with fifteen employees that provides health care to our employees. We have faced double digit inflation consistently in costs and I am forced to argue with insurance bureaucrats for services that should be covered."

I asked' "Is it possible or will you sit down with the reasonable people in the other party and truly work to come to a statesman like compromise on the reform of our insurance system to help those of us struggling with the system."

I was told by both Goodlatte and Periello that the chance of any real workable significant legislation to change heath care was doubtful. Goodlatte and Periello both said that the congress was to polarized to make any grand compromises. Periello said that the best he thought we could get was a symbolic change or an very incremental one.

What a depressing state of affairs!

04 September 2009

CEED Update

I will be giving a presentation on Passivhaus construction techniques at the Gereau Center for the folks that will be working on the CEED. There may be room for other interested folks, if you have an interest in attending, email me and if there is extra space I will send you an invite.

03 September 2009

Passivhaus Testimonial

Check this out co-housing folks

02 September 2009

AEP Update

I had a long conversation with Carol Huffman, the net metering director for the local Roanoke area. I made my suggestion about allowing folks to opt in for support of local generation buy back subsidies. She was polite and said she would "pass it along" to Ohio (home base). She pointed out the AEP was concentrating sustainability efforts on those states that mandated it. I pointed out that as the largest coal fired utility in the western hemisphere, they had a special responsibility toward mitigating climate change. She then went into the company line of their commitment to "clean coal" and their pilot sequestration projects. I told her that while I support anything they do in this area, that does not relieve them of supporting local generation. I tried to make the point that this would be a win-win, as the local producers could get a reasonable return on their investment from on site generation and AEP would get good public relations as being the utility to go beyond the state mandate and that it would be at no cost to them.

We will see, more if it develops.

01 September 2009