Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tool allows building owners to track energy savings

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that an average of 30 percent of energy used in commercial buildings goes to waste.

Officials believe reducing those losses represents the best opportunity for "immediate and cost-effective reductions in energy use and greenhouse gas emissions." The EPA's Portfolio Manager is an available tool building owners can use to monitor energy use in buildings and savings should they install energy efficiency retrofits, such as lighting, variable frequency drives and other measures.

Its compare and contrast features allow the performance comparison of similar structures and the ability to set baselines and establish goals. Progress can be tracked over time. The tool enables the building manager to document reductions in energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, water use and costs in a single building or entire portfolio.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Reducing greenhouse gas emissions

Expect to hear a lot more of AB32 in the coming months. The law was signed by Gov. Schwarzenegger more than three years ago but has gained steam as various jurisdictions in the state seek to reduce their greenhouse gas levels to meet its requirements. In essense, the measure means to cap California's emissions by 2020. Cities and counties are required to implement climate action planning measures that include adopting green building practices and installing energy efficiency retrofits in existing buildings. It's something cities and counties are already planning to do with Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant allocations, courtesy of Stimulus funds. This just happens to be another step in that direction. The SJVCEO plans to roll out a program to explain what it all means. Stay tuned. Helpful information can be found at CoolCalifornia.org. Yosemite photo courtesy Leire Heras.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Straw-bale homes provide super-insulated option

Straw bale homes, long on the energy-efficiency fringe, may be receiving more attention as cost-effective and energy-saving construction methods gain prominence. I stumbled across a significant reference to the time-honored building method while reading through the U.S. Department of Energy's Energy Efficiency site and decided to follow some of the links provided. An article posted to BuildingGreen.com, explains the merits of the practice: high R-value, simplicity of construction and ample supply of material. As a reporter in Washington state's Skagit Valley, I chronicled the construction of a straw-bale house on a hillside overlooking verdant farm fields and forest. It was more high-end custom than practical, but intriguing. I wonder if any have been built in the San Joaquin Valley. The photo is of a house under construction from Autonomie Project Inc.

Greening Main Street

The SJVCEO's connection to the U.S. Department of Energy has been relatively close with recent EECBG work but could grow should we win funding for the Greening Main Street program. The proposed initiative is an ambitious move to provide "green" business assesments and upgrade and certify commercial downtown districts in the economically hard hit San Joaquin Valley. The idea is to bring energy efficiency savings to businesses and make them more competitive. Jobs and revitalization are hoped to follow. Entrepreneurs could, of course, do this on their own. But everybody could use a boost. The grant was submitted last month, and we hope to know relatively soon whether the bid is successful. The photo is a shot of downtown Reedley, one of the cities participating in the program. It appears courtesy of the city.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Energy efficiency coming soon to Valley cities

Here at the SJVCEO we've been working frantically applying for Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grants through the California Energy Commission for the past several months. Well, good news, the application is in for the 32 cities and three counties involved in the Clean Energy Partnership. We're waiting now on approval and getting started on installation of energy efficiency retrofits. In the meantime, I've had a little time to scour the Web and learn more about the various technologies we'll be installing. One concept that captured my interest is solar water heating. It offers a much faster return on investment than installation of solar panels and is a good match geographically for Valley homes. The altestore.com has a couple of great detailed videos on the subject offered free of charge. Systems can be had for $3,000 to $6,000, depending on wants and desires and last about 30 years, the site said.