Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wellness Wednesday: Houston, we have a problem

NASA Flight path over Valley, Photo from NASA
The problem being air quality in the Central Valley. It’s no surprise that the Valley has some of the worst air pollution in the state of California. One, this is a valley and pollutants happily settle in between mountain ranges. Two, this is the agricultural hub of the country (think dirty industry). Three, population continues to rise which means so does automobile use and other polluting factors. One, two, three equals bad air for you and me. 

Ewww - Jan. 22nd over Fresno, Photo from NASA
If you have seen a large plane circling the Valley, have no fear, NASA is hereNASA’s DISCOVER-AQ (short for ‘Deriving Information on Surface conditions from Column and Vertically Resolved Observations Relevant to Air Quality’) mission is a $30 million effort to measure air pollution. Flights began in January and will continue through February in order to get a sampling of agricultural and vehicle traffic areas from Bakersfield to Fresno. Findings will help our local Air District get a better idea of what is floating in our air, how to better predict pollution, and lay out the next steps for improvement efforts.  

As the SJVCEO likes to say, you can’t manage what you can’t measure. Let’s hope this serves as a piece to the puzzle and moves California that much closer to fixing our air quality.
Throwback! Fig and Olive, plus two siblings say 'please clean up the air for all future generations!', Photo from Fig and Olive's mom

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

"Sping into LEED" showcasing LEED certified buildings in the Central Valley

USGBC-CC is hosting a local LEED project showcase and celebration of green building design. Keynote speaker Darius Assemi and other leaders from the green building industry will provide an overview over the benefits of green building design and LEED certification. Local LEED certified projects will be highlighted and awarded. “The evolution of peoples’ mindsets about what green buildings actually entail is evidenced by the number of certified and registered LEED projects throughout our communities.”, said Michelle Musson, President USGBC Central California Chapter: “There are no limitations as to who can benefit from these sustainable buildings, as they affect our air, energy, water, work, and personal and play environments.”

When? Thursday, February 28th 2013 5:00pm-9:00pm

Where? The Tower at Riverpark
A Lance Kashian Building with pending LEED Certification
205 East River Park Circle, Fresno, CA 93720

Sign up?

Who? The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) is a 501c3 nonprofit organization committed to a prosperous and sustainable future through cost-efficient and energy-saving green buildings. The USGBC Central California Chapter (USGBC-CC) was formed in 2005 to cultivate a healthy and flourishing environment for a more sustainable Valley.

The USGBC’s mission is to transform the way buildings and communities are designed, built, and operated, enabling an environmentally and socially responsible, healthy, and prosperous environment that improves the quality of life. USGBC-CC represents seven counties in the San Joaquin Valley and works towards its mission through its LEED green building certification program that encourages and enables green buildings and communities.

Contact: 800-788-9013 or

Grange Network to host first free webinar on efficient water delivery this Thursday

The SJVCEO likes to make friends wherever we can, so when we met Jim Anshutz preparing for our Clean Energy Jobs workshop last December we knew we'd be fast friends!

Sure enough, the work Jim and his partner, Kurt Maloney are doing with AGH20 is right up our water/energy nexus alley.  In addition to collaborating on our C6 training program they have also started a web based community for irrigation industry called the Grange Network.  The new site serves the Agricultural Irrigation Industry's need to share knowledge and effectively use water.

On Thursday, February 28th the Grange Network will hoe the first in a series of free webinars hosted by top industry thinkers.  Click here to register. 

Topic: Making Drip Pay: Increasing Income, Reducing Costs and Improving Flexibility
Speaker: Inge Bisconer, Technical Marketing and Sales Manager, Toro
Date: Thursday, February 28, 2013
Time: 10:00 a.m. PST, 60 minutes
Cost: FREE!
Session Description: Drip irrigation for agriculture is gaining in popularity because of its many benefits.  This webinar provides an overview of how producers are increasing income, reducing costs, improving flexibility and achieving sustainability by using drip irrigation technology on row, field and permanent crops.

Case studies will be reviewed, along with a unique software tool called the Toro Drip/Mirco Payback Wizard. Finally, a typical drip irrigation system layout and design will be reviewed using Toro's AquaFlow 3.2 Drip Irrigation Design Software.

About Inge Bisconer: Inge Bisconer is the Technical Marketing and Saels Manger for Toro Mirco-Irrigation in El Cajon, CA.  She has worked in production agriculture, co-founded an irrigation consulting firm, and has held various technical, sales, marketing and management positions in the irrigation and water treatment industries over the past 30 years.

Inge holds a BS in agriculture from UC Davis, an MBA in technology management, and most recently authored the Toro Mirco-Irrigation Owner's Manual, a comprehensive guide for both new and existing row, field and permanent crop growers.

Inge currently serves as President of the California Irrigation Institute, is an Irrigation Association Certified Irrigation Designer (CID) and Landscape Irrigation Auditor (CLIA), and it past-chair of the IA's Drip/Mirco Common Interest Group and its Market Development subcommittee.

The "Grange Network  is a collaborative effort between AGH2O and vftnetworks--A Vignettes for Training Inc. Company.

photo credit: CUESA via photopin cc

Monday, February 25, 2013

Commission Unveils Plan to Double U.S. Energy Productivity

Last year the nonprofit Alliance to Save Energy (ASE) formed a coalition of energy experts. Now they have unveiled a set of recommendations designed to double U.S. energy productivity by 2030. The ASE's commission on National Energy Efficiency Policy called for expanding the U.S. energy economy through:
  • investments, 
  • modernization, and 
  • education. 
These efforts will target the entire energy structure, including:
  • buildings, 
  • transportation,
  •  manufacturing, 
  • power generation and 
  • natural gas infrastructure.
The Energy 2030 plan maximizes energy productivity by expanding financing opportunities, reforming taxes and regulations, spurring innovation, strengthening standards, and building consumer awareness. The commission also anticipates that the plan will help the United States establish global leadership in energy efficiency. 

If adopted, the plan could help the United States: 
  • add 1.3 million jobs; 
  • cut average household energy costs; 
  • save U.S. businesses $169 billion a year; 
  • increase the gross domestic product by up to 2%; 
  • decrease energy imports by more than $100 billion a year; and 
  • reduce carbon dioxide emissions by one-third.
The Alliance Commission on National Energy Efficiency Policy will collaborate with its 13 Honorary Congressional Vice Chairs to develop legislative proposals at the national level. The Commission was formed in 2012 by ASE, a nonprofit organization that promotes energy efficiency worldwide through research, education, and advocacy. 

See the ASE press release and the full reportPDF.

Photo Credit: Craig Miller Productions

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Theory of Probability supplies not a small number of unexpected results, controversial problems and paradoxes.

Coincidences fascinate us. They seem to compel a search for their significance. More often than some people realize, however, they're to be expected and require no special explanation. Surely no cosmic conclusions may be drawn from the fact that I recently--and quite by accident--met someone in Salinas whose 1) father played on the same Chicago high school baseball team as my father had and 2) daughter is the same age and has the same name as my daughter. As improbable as this particular event was, that some event of this vaguely characterized sort should occasionally occur is quite likely.

No time should be wasted trying to explain the meaning of these or other coincidences of similar type. They just happen.

More precisely, it can be shown, that if two strangers sit next to each other on an airplane, more than 99 times out of 100 they will be linked in some way by two or fewer intermediates. (The linkage with my father's classmate was more striking; it was via only one intermediate, my father, and contained other elements.) Maybe, for example, the cousin of one passenger will know the other's dentist. Most of the time people won't discover these links, since in casual conversation they don't usually run through all their 1,500 or so acquaintances as well as all their acquaintances' acquaintances.

With our seemingly endless interconnections and ability for instant access in a web based world, it makes one wonder why it's so hard to get information on where all the clean energy sector jobs are, or where they are planned to be? Is it really so top secret? 

One would believe that if there are jobs to be found the key is to connect those jobs with a qualified workforce...yet all I find are fee based database after fee based database. AAAGGGHHH!!!

I'm aware that we live in a capitalistic society but for peat's sake people! Where are the jobs in the clean energy sector? I say we get on a plane and start talking to one another. Aren't we all working for the same cause? Let's stop duplicating efforts and trying to vie for credit and begin working together for the cause--start collaborating to produce a viable product that can really make a difference.

Okay...okay, enough said...sorry if I sound a bit frustrated but let me tell you a little secret. I am frustrated.

I don't know about you but...I do feel a little better. Thanks for the bend of the ear, I will be sure to return the favor.

Oh, and if anyone has any info they would like to share with me regarding clean and renewable jobs in the San Joaquin Valley, please do, dcox at pesc dot com ( or feel free to call me at (559) 490-1318.

photo credit: caribb via photopin cc

photo credit: SenatorMarkUdall via photopin cc

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Wellness Wednesday: What the frack?!

Image from Getty via
I recently read an article about hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking’ as it is commonly called, and the impact on human and animal health. The full study on the natural gas extraction process and its effects can be read here. The study examined farms within close proximity of fracking sites and showed that those living there often suffered from ‘fatigue, headaches, nosebleeds, rashes and sensory deficits’ while animals on the farm were dying. If these animals or their milk were intended for consumption, I can only imagine that the adverse health effects would be that much greater in humans once ingested.

To be quite honest, I didn’t know much about the process until recently. All I knew was that it had a funny name – I know, I am so mature. Thanks to the media and free speech we have been bombarded with contradictory reports. I am sure you could take a good guess and figure out which side of the fracking fence debate I live on, but I also respect others’ opinions when they are well-founded. My hope is that most people, no matter their position on natural gas drilling practices, will take the articles, reports, studies, and arts as inspiration to do their own research and formulate their own opinions. You could even have a fracking film marathon in order to help make up your mind. What’s everyone doing this weekend?

Here are just a few of the more recent films related to fracking:

  • Promised Land ­– 2012 film with drilling rights, fracking, and Matt Damon (side bonus!)
  • FrackNation – 2012 pro-fracking documentary
  • Gasland – 2010 anti-fracking documentary
Image from

Friday, February 15, 2013

EPA Invites Communities to Apply for Smart Growth Assistance

Feb. 13, 2013

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today is inviting applications from communities interested in exploring barriers to smart growth and testing innovative strategies that can create healthier, more sustainable places to live, work, and play.

EPA’s Smart Growth Implementation Assistance (SGIA) program provides technical assistance to help communities grow in ways that improve the local economy, the environment, and people’s health. The program aims to help applicants develop solutions to local challenges, such as managing storm water  increasing transit-oriented development, and adapting to climate change, and to share those solutions with other communities.

EPA will be accepting applications from tribal, local, regional, and state governments and nonprofit organizations that have partnered with a governmental entity for their request for assistance. Applications will be accepted until March 1, 2013. EPA will provide assistance to three to four communities selected from this round of applications.

EPA is seeking applications in the following four categories:

1.    Community Resilience to Disasters and Climate Change – Projects should aim to develop planning principles and building design guidelines that ensure future development provides communities with better protection against storms, floods, and other natural disasters.

2.    Redevelopment for Job Creation – Projects should aim to support growing industries that provide quality jobs for existing residents using land use policies that direct development to existing neighborhoods, are pedestrian-friendly, allow for transit connections, and are close to businesses and public services.

3.    Manufactured and Modular Homes in Sustainable Neighborhood Design – Projects should help communities that are using manufactured and modular homes to address sudden population and economic growth. These communities should provide a mix of uses and maximize existing streets and other infrastructure investments, community gathering spaces, and water and energy efficiency.

4.    Medical and Social Service Facilities Siting – Projects should aim to explore planning for high-quality community service facilities, including health care centers and social services centers, in ways that support neighborhood economic development and healthy communities.

Since 2005, the SGIA program has helped an array of communities from across the country on issues such as stormwater management, code revision, transit-oriented development, affordable housing, infill development, corridor planning, green building, and climate change. In 2009, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) became involved with the SGIA program through the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. This interagency collaboration coordinates federal investments in infrastructure, facilities, and services to get better results for communities and use taxpayer money more efficiently. In many cases, HUD and DOT serve on the SGIA technical assistance teams, and help identify how SGIA projects can complement and build on past and future federal investments.

More information on the SGIA program and applications:

More information on the Partnership for Sustainable Communities:

Latisha Petteway (News Media Only)

Photo Credit:

Thursday, February 7, 2013

What is biomass electricity, and what waste to energy & biomass in California means for you and me.

What is biomass electricity? 
Biomass electricity is drawn from combusting or decomposing organic matter.

There are about 132 waste-to-energy plants in California, with a total capacity of almost 1,000 megawatts. These plants power our homes and businesses with electricity from waste matter that would have been released into the atmosphere, added fuel to forest fires, and burdened our landfills.

Why is biomass electricity important?
Using biomass to produce electricity reduces our reliance on fossil fuels, the nation's primary energy sources for electricity, and the largest contributors to air pollution and greenhouse gases. We will eventually run out of fossil fuels. Biomass electricity offers alternatives with many benefits:
  • Our supply of biomass is renewable, meaning it will not run out.
  • Electricity produced by biomass reduces the threat of global climate change.
  • Using biomass waste eliminates the need to place it in landfills.
  • Clearing biomass from wooded areas helps prevent forest fires.
  • Using by-product methane gases to produce electricity eliminates odor and reduces air pollution in surrounding areas.
Waste to Energy & Biomass in California...
Californians create nearly than 2,900 pounds of household garbage and industrial waste each and every second; a total of 85.2 million tons of waste in 2005 (according to the California Integrated Waste Management Board)! Of that, 43.2 million tons is recovered and recycled or used to make energy, but 42 million tons has to be disposed in landfills. Thanks to advances in technology, waste known as biomass, is put to valuable use producing electricity.

In 2007, 6,236 gigawatt hours of electricity in homes and businesses was produced from biomass: burning forestry, agricultural, and urban biomass; converting methane-rich landfill gas to energy (LFGTE); and processing wastewater and dairy biogas into useful energy. Biomass power plants produced 2.1 percent of the total electricity in California in 2007, or about one-fifth of all the renewable energy.

Bioenergy is renewable energy derived from biological sources, to be used for heat, electricity, or vehicle fuel. Biofuel derived from plant materials is among the most rapidly growing renewable energy technologies.

State Policy on Biomass and Biofuels
The Governor directed several state agencies - including the Energy Commission - to take major steps toward the widespread use of biomass to produce clean, renewable transportation fuels or electricity. This directive helped to reinvigorate the Bioenergy Interagency Working Group through the help of the California Biomass Collaborative.

The Bioenergy Interagency Working Group -- lead by Commissioner Jim Boyd of the California Energy Commission, and includes the Air Resources Board (ARB), California Environmental Protection Agency (CalEPA), California Public Utilities Commission, California Resources Agency, Department of Food and Agriculture, Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, Department of General Services, Integrated Waste Management Board, and the State Water Resources Control Board -- made a recommendation to the Governor in March 2006 on biomass and biofuels.

That report, Recommendations for a Bioenergy Action Plan for California , can be downloaded from their website. (PDF file, 56 pages, 4.5 MB).

The Governor issued an Executive Order S-06-06 (PDF file), signed on April 25, 2006, dealing with biomass and biofuels. Two important points stated that:
  • By 2010, 20 percent of its biofuels need to be produced within California; increasing to 40 percent by 2020 and 75 percent by 2050.
  • By 2010, 20 percent of the renewable electricity should be generated from biomass resources within the state; maintaining this level through 2020.
The Governor then in July 2006, released California's Bioenergy Action Plan (PDf file, 11 pages, 2.1 MB). The plan's objectives included:
  • Establish California as a market leader in technology innovation, sustainable biomass development, and market development for bio-based products.
  • Coordinate research, development, demonstration, and commercialization efforts across federal and state agencies. ----Develop biomass roadmap.
  • Align existing regulatory requirements to encourage production and use of California's biomass resources.
  • Facilitate market entry for new applications of bioenergy including electricity, biogas, and biofuels.
  • Maximize the contributions of bioenergy toward achieving the state's petroleum reduction, climate change, renewable energy, and environmental goals.( )
Photo Credit:

Monday, February 4, 2013

Start with why

Last month I had the great pleasure of attending energy efficiency sales training with Mark Jewell at EEFG in San Francisco, and let me tell you--it's a-may-zing!

The very first class began with a TED talk (we've thoroughly covered my TED obsession here and here) from Simon Sinek on how leaders inspire action. Why are some people just better able than others to lead? Sinek says he codified what 'it' is and he calls it the golden circle of communication--why, how, what. What do we do, how do we do it, and why do we do it. What Sinek says is that truly effective leaders, companies, messages have in common is that they start with the why.

This got me thinking, why do we, the Clean Energy Organization do what we do? Well, we do it because we believe that energy efficiency can provide a better quality of life for all people, especially rural and under-served communities.
That's easy, we talk about it all the time. But why do I, Courtney, do what I do?

"Something you love better than me, though you may not know it. 
Tara. It's this from which you get your strength. 
The red earth of Tara." 
To start, I love my home; I love the San Joaquin Valley. I find peace in driving the 99 and more so the back roads that runs along the foothills in the east and across the flat lands to the west. I love every single inch of the 27,000 square miles that make up this region. I'm not blind to the problems, the imperfections that others move away from. Yes, our air quality is horrendous, our land is drying up, our people live in greater levels of poverty than almost anywhere else, our energy is expensive and our pay is low. But I love the land--like all 27,000 square miles are my own Tara.

That's why I do what I do.

So, why do you do what you do? For my fellow energy evangelists out there, why do you do it? Is it passion? Is it pay? Leave a comment and remember, always start with why. 
Video: YouTube, Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action,

Photo credit: Photo Credit: Selznick, David O. (Producer) & Fleming, Victor (Director). 1939. Gone with the Wind [Motion picture]/ United Sates. Seiznick International Pictures. Lowes Inc.