London’s Iconic Red Buses Getting 2 Times More Efficient, but…

New Red Bus for London Is Super Green

Yesterday, the first such buses started running on route 38, a busy route between Victoria and Hackney (in case you know the city and are curious). The hybrid bus is based off of the design of the historic Routemaster. It is reportedly 15% more efficient that traditional hybrid buses and 40% more efficient than conventional diesel-fueled double deckers.

“In tests at Millbrook Proving Ground, the engineering test vehicle emitted only 640 grams per kilometre (g/km) of carbon dioxide (CO2) and 3.96 g/km of oxides of nitrogen (NOx) – less than half of the CO2 emitted by a current diesel bus (1295g/km) and under half of the NOx emitted by a current diesel bus (9.3g/km),” Transport for London (TfL) notes.

“In testing, fuel economy was also better than twice that of a standard diesel bus at 11.6mpg.”

Rolling Out on London’s Streets

Interestingly, TfL notes that it’s the “first bus to be designed specifically for Capital’s streets in more than 50 years.”

Other than the demo line mentioned above, 7 more buses are set to start running soon. “This first bus will be quickly joined by a further seven prototypes at a rate of one every couple of weeks as they roll off the Wrightbus production line where a team of 25 engineers and a 40-strong production team have built the prototype buses.” By the end of May, these initial 8 should all be running.

“From today Londoners will have the chance to jump aboard this stunning piece of automotive architecture on which every feature is tailored to the London passenger,” London Mayor Boris Johnson said.

“It represents the very best in British design, engineering and manufacture and is a demonstration of what can be done given imagination and determination.”

Suffice it to say, this is the greenest/cleanest such bus around.

Woops.. Price is Not Right

While all of its above good qualities are true, the price for all of that is a bit higher than the price of an average double-decker bus, £1.4 million compared to about £190,000.

“Riding this bus is surely the most expensive bus ticket in history,” Labour MP for Tottenham David Lammy wrote in an open letter to Mayor Boris. “With 62 seats at a cost of £1.4m, the cost per seat is £22,580. At £22,695, you can buy a brand new 3 Series BMW.”

Aside from the Labour party, members of the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party have also criticized Mayor Boris. Green Party London mayoral candidate Jenny Jones slammed the Mayor for not sticking to his pledge of making all new London buses hybrids from 2012 on. 800 new buses are set to roll out in 2012/13, and only 52 are to be hybrids. Hmm… not good. It looks like Mayor Boris has turned to flash rather than practicality,.. or he and his crew thought these new buses were going to be a whole lot cheaper.

Much more info on the new buses is available on Transport for London’s site.

Source: Clean Technica (

Hawaii’s Largest Wind Power Project Now Under Construction

Hawaii’s largest wind power project, the 69-megawatt (MW) Kawailoa Wind project on Kamehameha Schools’ Kawailoa Plantation lands on Oahu’s North Shore, is now under construction.

location of hawaii's largest wind power project
On the North Shore of Oahu Island, Hawaii

The wind power project will include thirty 2.3-MW Siemens wind turbines, which will produce enough electricity to power approximately 14,500 homes on Oahu Island, approximately 5% of the island’s total electricity demand.

U.S. Senator Daniel K. Akaka, Hawaii’s Lieutenant Governor Brian Schatz, State Senator Mike Gabbard, Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle, and others hosted a project groundbreaking on Friday.

“This project will not only help the State meet its renewable energy goals, but it will also help preserve and support continued agricultural production for future generations,” Giorgio Caldarone, Regional Asset Manager and Renewable Energy Sector Lead at Kamehameha Schools, said. ”Kamehameha Schools is committed to sustainability and to investing in projects today that will create positive outcomes for future generations. Mahalo to the North Shore community and to everyone else who helped to make this vision a reality.”

“This is the largest wind farm in Hawai’i’s history, and it shows the progress we are making toward our clean energy goals. This is a great day for Hawai’i. We’ve moved from talking about renewable energy to actually doing it,” Lt. Gov. Schatz.

That line above that I bolded really stands out to me. The huge majority of the U.S. population supports and wants more investment in clean energy. Poll after poll after poll shows this. And a lot of folks in highly influential positions talk about supporting clean energy. But support and talk are different from action, and they generally come long before it. It’s exciting to see more and more states, localities, and nations moving forward with clean energy, and I can only hope that the others will quickly move from theoretical support and talk to action. One key reason we featured so many stories like this on CleanTechnica is because I think they inspire others to start and eventually implement such projects, or similar projects that green their world with another clean technology.

But, back to the project, here are some more details you might be interested in:

“In December 2011, the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission approved a power purchase agreement between First Wind and the Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO), which serves more than 400,000 Hawaii customers. Hawaii state law mandates 70 percent clean energy for electricity and surface transportation by 2030, with 40 percent coming from local renewable sources. Kawailoa Wind will significantly advance the state’s progress toward these goals.”

I’m sure that clean energy mandate was a huge part of this project’s fuel. Don’t have such a mandate in your state? Or have one that you think is too weak? Organize some influential and inspirational people and get it going!

Source: Clean Technica (

Solar Garden for Mars Chocolate (M&Ms Maker) Unveiled

Mars Chocolate has unveiled a new solar garden (aka solar farm or solar power project) at its Henderson chocolate factory in Nevada. Mars Chocolate produces M&Ms, as you may well know, as well as Las Vegas’ Ethel M chocolate and numerous other chocolate and candy options.

mars solar garden las vegas chocolate factory

The new solar project provides the chocolate factory with 100% of its electricity. On Thursday, state and local government officials, executives from NV Energy, juwi solar Inc. (JSI), and Mars Chocolate North America leaders cut the ribbon on the new solar garden (just sounds nicer, doesn’t it?). Here are some details on the project:

  • It includes 2,112 ground-mounted solar panels on 4.4 acres.
  • The solar project “generates 1,258 megawatt hours of zero-emission electricity each year, offsetting 867 metric tons of greenhouse gas – the equivalent of removing approximately 170 vehicles from the road.”
  • Put another way, it produces enough energy to power 115 Nevada homes.
  • It is “the largest solar installation by a food manufacturer in Nevada.”

It’s not the largest solar project in the world, but it does what it needs to do and cuts a slice out of some overabundant greenhouse gas emissions.

Mars’ Commitment to Solar & Other Renewable Energy Sources (Considerable)

This isn’t Mars’ first foray into solar energy, of course. As I reported back in 2009, Mars turned on a solar garden at its headquarters in New Jersey back in November of that year. I remember a commenter getting on me for not including a photo of that project at that time — luckily, Mars released a photo of this new solar garden with the announcement in Vegas.

“At Mars Chocolate North America, we have the opportunity to make a difference in the world,” said Mike Wittman, vice president of supply. “We are proud of the investments we are making to ensure we are using the earth’s resources responsibly. This newest solar garden moves us closer to our goals of eliminating our carbon footprint at our sites by 2040 and using 100 percent renewable energy.”

No matter what you think of prepackaged chocolate, you have to appreciate that goal and this new solar project.

More on Mars’ Nevada Solar Garden

Additionally, over 700,000 annual visitors to the adjacent Ethel M Botanical Cactus Garden will be able to view the solar garden from a special vantage point dedicated to that. That’s one thing we sorely need — more eyes on live solar projects. It inspires others to follow suit, or at least helps to plant the idea in their heads.

Here are a few more details on the project:

“Mars will purchase all of the energy generated by the solar garden and JSI will own the project and its associated energy credits. Mars worked closely with NV Energy to ensure that the new installation met net metering requirements, enabling Mars to receive energy offsets from the utility based on the amount of energy their solar panels will produce.

Source: Mars

President Obama Announces Funding for Breakthroughs in Natural Gas and Biofuels as Alternative Fuels for Vehicles


Department of Energy  – Friday, February 24, 2012

Today, President Obama announced new funding to catalyze breakthrough technologies for two key alternative fuels – natural gas and biofuels – as part of his all-of-the-above energy strategy to reduce our reliance on foreign oil and provide American families new choices for vehicles that do not rely on conventional gasoline.   Through its Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E), the Energy Department will make $30 million available for a new research competition in the coming months that will engage our country’s brightest scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs to find ways to harness our abundant supplies of domestic natural gas for vehicles. The Department of Energy will also make $14 million available to support research and development into biofuels from algae.  These programs will spur American innovation and encourage scientific breakthroughs that will help diversify the nation’s energy portfolio, grow American companies, and develop alternative vehicle technologies that do not rely on oil.

President Obama announced the programs during a speech at the University of Miami in Miami, Florida, where he toured the school’s Industrial Assessment Center (IAC), an Energy Department program that teaches students how to become industrial energy efficiency experts as they help small- to mid-sized manufacturers cut energy costs.

“As President Obama made clear in his State of the Union address, in order to build a strong economy and reduce our dependence on foreign oil, we must invest in developing American energy sources like natural gas and biofuels,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “Through the new programs announced today, we can help revolutionize the way Americans fuel their cars, saving money for families and businesses while building new industries here in the United States.”

Funding Breakthroughs in Natural Gas Vehicles

ARPA-E’s $30 million funding announcement for natural gas breakthroughs build on President Obama’s call for a new era for American energy that benefits from the safe, responsible development of the near 100-year supply of American natural gas, which has the potential to support more than 600,000 U.S. jobs. Today’s natural gas vehicle technologies require tanks that can withstand high pressures, are cumbersome and either too large or too expensive to be suitable for passenger vehicles. ARPA-E’s projects under this new program, titled Methane Opportunities for Vehicular Energy – or “MOVE” – will focus on overcoming these barriers by developing innovative, low-cost natural gas storage technologies and methods to lower pressure in vehicle tanks that will help enable the widespread adoption of natural gas vehicles.

Specifically, ARPA-E seeks to fund projects that will develop lightweight tanks for cars that can run on natural gas and fit into modern passenger vehicles. This approach includes developing affordable natural gas compressors that can efficiently fuel a natural gas vehicle at home. ARPA-E also seeks to fund projects that will develop absorbing materials that are able to hold gas, similar to how a sponge holds water.  These materials could lower pressure in vehicle tanks that hold and release natural gas, making them safer and more affordable for American consumers.

President Obama launched ARPA-E in 2009 to seek out transformational, breakthrough technologies that are too risky for private-sector investment but have the potential to translate science into quantum leaps in energy technology, form the foundation for entirely new industries, and have large commercial impacts. Demonstrating the success ARPA-E has already seen, the program announced last year that eleven of its projects secured more than $200 million in outside private capital investment after initial funding from its programs.  Today’s announcement begins ARPA-E’s fifth round of funding. To date, ARPA-E has hosted four rounds of competitions and attracted over 5,000 applications from research teams, which has resulted in 180 groundbreaking projects worth over $500 million. For more information and application requirements for the Funding Opportunity Announcement, please visit

Funding to Develop Homegrown Transportation Fuels from Algae

The Energy Department’s $14 million funding announcement to develop transportation fuels from algae builds on an Administration-wide commitment to biofuels research, development, and demonstration that includes support for the construction of commercial-scale, next-generation biorefineries. Part of the Department’s sustained investment in biofuels technologies focuses on unlocking the potential for homegrown transportation fuels from algae, which have the potential to replace up to 17 percent of the United States’ imported oil for transportation. In addition, algae feedstocks offer additional benefits, such as an ability to be grown in ponds near industrial facilities where algae can feed off the carbon emissions from power plants or digest nitrogen and phosphorous from municipal waste water.  The Department is currently supporting more than 30 algae-based biofuels projects, representing $85 million in total investments.

Through the new funding announcement, the Department will seek proposals from small businesses, universities, and national laboratories to modify existing facilities for long-term algae research and test new production processes that could lead to commercial biofuels made from algae. Specifically, the new projects will establish and operate research “test beds” for algal biofuels that can facilitate development, test new approaches to algae production, and discover innovative ways to minimize the water and nutrients needed to mass produce algae for commercial biofuels. These advanced research projects will aim to significantly improve the sustainability of algae-based biofuels and accelerate technological breakthroughs.  These awards represent the first phase in a total $30 million investment in algal biofuels in fiscal year 2012.

The competitively selected projects will receive up to $14.3 million in fiscal year 2012 funds, with an additional $6.7 million available in fiscal year 2014 funding, subject to Congressional appropriations, for projects that meet rigorous performance criteria. Applications are due on April 18, 2012. For more information and application requirements for the Funding Opportunity Announcement, please visit the Funding Opportunity Exchange website.

This article was first published by Department of Energy.

Construction of the Largest U.S. Geothermal Heat Pump System Underway

A groundbreaking geothermal heating and cooling project shows that these super-efficient heat pumps are gaining traction

by Christopher Williams

Construction of the largest ground-source geothermal heating and cooling system in the United States is now underway and half complete.

The project, located on the Muncie, Indiana campus of Ball State University, will be large enough to heat and cool 47 buildings, replace four coal-fired boilers, and save the campus roughly $2 million a year over the 30-year life of the system.

The project will also help create 2,300 direct and indirect jobs throughout the construction period.

This is great news for a technology that has been available, efficient and economical since the 1940′s. In 1993, the EPA called it “the most efficient, environmentally clean, and cost effective space conditioning system today.” While the technology has been known for decades, the size of the Ball State project proves that geothermal installers and designers are gaining confidence to implement the technology on a massive scale and are winning the trust of risk-averse property owners.

The role of ground source heat pumps in the U.S.

Geothermal, or ground source heat pumps, can play a critical role in changing the U.S. energy mix by reducing the use of petroleum, coal and gas for on-site heating and cooling applications. The technologies we tend to think of when we use the term “renewable energy” — solar PV, wind, and hydro — usually do nothing to address thermal energy, which makes up roughly one third of our nation’s energy use.

For example, space heating represents 45% of energy use in the average single-family home in the U.S. — by far the single biggest use of energy for consumers. But consumers tend to think mostly about renewable electricity technologies, rather than heating and cooling technologies. Geothermal heat pumps can eliminate the need for on-site fossil fuel use for the heating of a property, particularly in the Northeast, where fuel oil is used to heat a large percentage of buildings.

The state of the geothermal heat pump industry

“Geothermal heat pump technology has grown to a point where people are beginning to understand what it is, what it offers in terms of benefits over conventional systems and that it can be successfully implemented at all levels, from the smallest single family residence to the large-scale retrofit at Ball State,” says Ryan Carda a geothermal engineering expert who co-founded GeoConnections and who co-authored the International Ground Source Heat Pump Association (IGSHPA) manual on geothermal design and installation.

The numbers back up Carda’s comments. Pike Research projects that the industry will double from 2010 to 2017, with the technology also making solid gains in the utility sector.

The U.S. geothermal heat pump industry has seen strong growth when compared to the broader economy. With a 30% federal investment tax credit until 2016, and the ability to install projects outside of the regulatory authority of the utility (unlike most solar PV systems), adoption rates continue to increase.

As Carda points out, educated contractors are also helping grow the market: “I believe that education at all levels is one thing that can help this technology take the next step.  Building owners need to understand what geothermal can do for them in terms of energy consumption, operating and maintenance costs, overall comfort levels, etc.  It all starts with contractors, architects and engineers as they are the ones who need to relay that message [to property owners].”

The Importance of the Ball State Geothermal Project

The Ball State University project is enormously important for raising awareness about this under-reported technology.

With both Republican and Democratic lawmakers hailing the project, it’s a small glimmer of hope for bipartisanship on energy. It also shows how sophisticated the engineering and construction practices in the geothermal heat pump market have become. And finally, the media attention — from stories in the Environmental Leader,the New York Times, and Indiana National Public Radio — give the industry the attention it deserves.

Chris Williams is an IGSHPA Certified Geothermal Installer and Chief Marketing Officer at HeatSpring Learning Institute. If you’re interested in learning how more about how geothermal heat pumps work, you can download free “Geothermal Survival Kit.”

First published by

Kingdom of Tonga Plans for 50% Renewable Energy by 2015

Are you familiar with the Kingdom of Tonga (aka Tonga). It is “an archipelago in the South Pacific Ocean, comprising 176 islands scattered over 700,000 square kilometres (270,000 sq mi) of ocean in the South Pacific,” according to Wikipedia. 52 of its 176 islands are inhabited.kingdom of tonga

Yeah, not exactly one of your closest neighbors.

Well, despite its small size as distant location, Tonga is providing a bit of inspiration to the world these days. It has set a goal of getting 50% of its electricity from renewable energy by 2050 and has set out a plan to do so.

tonga renewable energytonga renewable energy resources

I wonder why the island kingdom would be so focused on installing renewable energy?… Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that its islands could soon be covered in water from the effects of global warming. But that’s certainly not the only concern. Additionally, Tonga is heavily reliant on increasingly expensive (and imported) oil for its energy, putting it at great economic risk right now.

“Launched in 2010, the Tongan government laid out its Tonga Energy Road Map (TERM) in order to reduce carbon emissions, improve its electrical grid, and cut its dependence from foreign energy sources,” Zachary Rybarczyk of Climate Progress writes.

“During the oil price spike in 2008, Tonga’s economy screeched to a halt. And since then, with oil prices continuing to rise, many consumers are not able to afford electricity at all.”

From a little over a year ago, here’s an Al Jazeera video on Tonga’s power crisis and move to solar power:

From TERM:

The Tongan economy and electricity consumers have been exposed to high and volatile electricity prices linked to oil prices over the last ten years. Between 2001 and 2004, the average price of crude oil increased from around US$25 per barrel to around US$40 per barrel, an increase of 60%. In the next 4 years to 2008, the average price of crude more than doubled to a peak of around US$100 per barrel. In late 2008, crude oil prices dropped and continued fall into early 2009 averaging around US$62 per barrel during 2009. Diesel prices tracked the price of crude oil and led to Tongan electricity rates exceeding TOP1.00/kW-h in late 2008. Crude oil price is expected to increase in the future based on projections from the United States Department of Energy.

Now, Tonga has received grants from New Zealand and technical support from the Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Program (REEEP) to move forward with its renewable energy ambitions. And the nation is hopeful it will “a blueprint for other Pacific Island states that are grappling with similar challenges,” said Martin Hiller, the Director General of REEEP.

Tonga signed an MOU this January with Masdar (a company best known for its planned super-green city…Masdar) and the Abu Dhabi Fund for a large solar photovoltaic (PV) project on one of its islands. The 500-kilowatt solar PV project, being built on Vava’u Island, is projected to provide electricity to over 13% of Tonga’s 110,000 citizens. Another solar project on its main island, Tongatapu, is already being constructed.

Images: Tonga on globe via Wikipedia user TUBS; Tonga islandwhite-sand beach, and shallow water via shutterstock

Originally posted by Clean Technica

Geothermal – Frequently Asked Questions


Frequently Asked Questions


How efficient is a GSHP?
The GSHP is one of the most efficient residential heating and cooling systems available today, with heating efficiencies 50 to 70% higher than other heating systems and cooling efficiencies 20 to 40% higher than available air conditioners. That directly translates into savings for you on your utility bills.Can one system provide both space heating and cooling for my home? And what about heating hot water?
Yes. A GSHP can be a combination heating/cooling and hot water heating system. You can change from one mode to another with a simple flick on your indoor thermostat. Using a desuperheater, some GSHPs can save you up to 50% on your water-heating bill by preheating tank water.

How does a GSHP system heat water for my home? 
Using what is called a desuperheater, GSHPs turn waste heat to the task of heating hot water. During the summer, when the system is in cooling mode, your hot water is produced free as a byproduct of the thermal process. In winter, with the heating mode, the desuperheater heats a portion of your hot water. Desuperheaters are standard on some units, optional on others. Stand-alone systems that will heat water all year around can be purchased.

How much space does a GSHP unit require?
Most of a GSHP installation is underground. Inside the house, the heat pump units are about the same size as a traditional heating and cooling unit.

How long will my GSHP system last? 
GSHPs are durable and highly reliable. The GSHP contains fewer mechanical components, and all components are either buried in the ground or located inside the home, which protects them from outside conditions. The underground pipe carries up to a 50-year warranty.

How noisy is the GSHP unit? 
GSHPs are very quiet, providing a pleasant environment inside & outside of the home. GSHPs have no noisy fan units to disturb outdoor activities, on or near the patio.

How safe are GSHPs? 
GSHP systems are safe and protected. With no exposed equipment outdoors, children or pets cannot injure themselves or damage exterior units. GSHPs have no open flame, flammable fuel or potentially dangerous fuel storage tanks.

What about comfort? 
A GSHP system moves warm air (90-105(F) throughout your home or business via standard ductwork. An even comfort level is created because the warm air is moved in slightly higher volumes and saturates the building with warmth more evenly. This helps even out hot or colds spots and eliminates the cold air blasts common with fossil fuel furnaces.

How effective is this underground system? 
The buried pipe, or ground loop, is the most recent technical advancement in heat pump technology. Recently, new heat pump designs and improved buried pipe materials have been combined to make GSHP systems the most efficient heating and cooling systems available.

Are GSHP systems guaranteed? 
Nearly all GSHP system manufacturers offer a warranty for major components that is equivalent to the warranties for conventional heating and cooling systems. Manufacturers of plastic pipe used for ground loops warrant their products for 50 years.

Can these systems be used for commercial, industrial, or apartment requirements?
Yes! Many GSHP systems are being installed using a multitude of systems hooked up to an array of buried vertical or horizontal loops. This simplifies zone control and internal load balancing.

What are the advantages to an HVAC dealer?
GSHP systems create a huge retrofit market not subject to wild fluctuations in housing construction. There is also ample opportunity for stable growth benefiting the dealer and his employees. In addition, these systems are relatively maintenance-free, requiring only regular filter changes. This means fewer maintenance and support calls. There is no outside equipment, so wear and tear is less.

Savings / Costs:

How will I save money with a GSHP?
GSHPs save money, both in operating costs and maintenance costs. Investments can be recouped in as little as three years. There is a positive cash flow, since the energy savings usually exceeds payment on the system.

How much does a GSHP cost? 
The initial investment for a GSHP system is greater than that of a conventional system. However, when you consider the operating costs of a geothermal heating, cooling, and water heating system, energy savings quickly offset the initial difference in purchase price.

What other costs are there besides the GSHP system?
You can expect an installation charge for any electrical work, ductwork, water hook-up, and other provisions or adaptations to your home that are required. Your installer can estimate these costs in advance.

How would increased use of GSHP systems affect electricity cost and availability? 
The reduced peak load requirements would allow utilities to serve more customers and to lower fixed costs per customer, thus offsetting some increased variable costs. This would result in less cost per kilowatt, since fixed investment for new capacity is high.

Does my state offer any incentives for installing a GSHP system? 
Some utilities offer rebates or incentives to their customers who purchase GSHPs. To see what your state has to offer click here.


Are GSHP systems difficult to install? 
Most units are easy to install, especially when they are replacing another forced-air system. This is known as a retrofit. GSHPs can be installed in areas unsuitable for fossil fuel furnaces because there is no combustion and thus no need to vent exhaust fumes. Ductwork must be installed in homes without an existing air distribution system. Your dealer or installer can assess the cost of installing ductwork.

Can I install a ground source heat exchanger myself?
It’s not recommended. Thermal fusion of the pipe, drilling and trenching are procedures best handled by licensed professionals. Nonprofessional installations may result in less than optimum performance, which could cancel out anticipated savings

How far apart are trenches and vertical boreholes spaced? 
Trenches are spaced four to five feet apart while boreholes are spaced ten to fifteen feet apart.

How long does it take to install a horizontal system? 
This depends on soil conditions, length and depth of pipe, and equipment required. A typical installation can be completed in one or two days.

How long does it take to install a vertical system? 
With the vertical installation, time varies with conditions on the site such as type and depth of the overburden, type and hardness of the bedrock, and the presence of aquifers. Typical drilling times are one or two days; total installation can usually be accomplished in two days.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of the horizontal and vertical installations, respectively? 
Horizontal installations are simpler, requiring lower-cost equipment. However, they require longer lengths of pipe due to seasonal variations in soil temperature and moisture content. Since a horizontal heat exchanger is laid out in trenches, a larger area is usually required than for a vertical system. Where land is limited, vertical installations or a compact Slinky™ horizontal installation can be ideal. If regional soil conditions include extensive hard rock, a vertical installation may be the only available choice. Vertical installations tend to be more expensive due to the increased cost of drilling versus trenching, but since the heat exchanger is buried deeper than with a horizontal system, vertical systems are usually more efficient and can get by with less total pipe. Your GSHP contractor will be able to help you decide which configuration best meets your specific needs.

How can I be sure the pipe is installed properly? 
Use a reputable contractor. Don’t be afraid to ask for and use references. Reputable dealers and loop installers will be happy to give names and phone numbers for you to call and confirm their capabilities. Find out where the installer received training, whether he or she is IGSHPA-accredited, and how many systems he or she has installed. Also, check with your utility company representative for names of installers.

Is it advisable to install a GSHP system large enough to handle my total heating needs? 
GSHP systems are generally sized to meet all your cooling needs. Depending on heating needs, a GSHP system usually supplies 80-100 percent of your design heating load. Sizing the system to handle your entire heating needs may result in slightly lower heating costs, but the savings may not offset the added total of the larger system. Special consideration should be given to systems in the north where multiple capacity units should be considered to handle the large variation between heating and cooling loads. Your dealer/installer should provide a heating and cooling load calculation to guide your equipment selection.

Environment / Climate:

How do GSHPs protect the environment? 
GSHP systems conserve natural resources by providing climate control very efficiently-thus also lowering emissions. GSHPs also minimize ozone layer destruction by using factory-sealed refrigeration systems, which will seldom or never have to be recharged.

What are the environmental benefits of GSHP systems?
Currently installed systems are making a huge difference in our environment! The systems are eliminating more than three million tons of carbon dioxide and is equivalent of taking 650,000 automobiles off the road. GSHP systems conserve energy and, because they move heat that already exists rather than burning something to create heat, they reduce the amount of toxic emissions in the atmosphere. They use renewable energy from the sun, and because the system doesn’t rely on outside air, it keeps the air inside of buildings cleaner and free from pollens, outdoor pollutants, mold spores, and other allergens.

Do soil freezing conditions create any problems? 
Not if a system is properly designed and installed. The three to four foot depths allow the sun to melt the frozen soil during the summer. Adequate length per ton capacity prevents objectionable soil movement.

Does this mean that in extremely cold climates additional heat sources are necessary? 
All systems require an emergency back up. Heat pumps can provide all the heat necessary even in the coldest weather. An economic analysis by your contractor should dictate what portion of the heat should be provided by the heat pump and what portion by auxiliary means.

Concerning Your Home:

Will my existing ductwork function with this system? 
Yes, in most cases. Your dealer or installer will be able to determine ductwork requirements and if any minor modifications are needed.

Will an underground loop affect my lawn or landscape? 
No. Research has shown that loops have no adverse effects on grass, trees, or shrubs. Most horizontal installations require trenches about six inches wide. Temporary bare areas can be restored with grass seed or sod. Vertical loops require little space and do not damage lawns significantly.

My yard contains many shade trees. Will this affect ground temperature and my ability to use it as an energy source? 
Not at all. The system is installed deep enough that it utilizes constant ground temperature.

Can a GSHP system be added to my fossil fuel furnace?

Yes. Called dual systems, they can easily be added to existing furnaces for those wishing to have a dual-fuel heating system. Dual-fuel systems use the GSHP system as the main heating source, and a fossil fuel furnace as a supplement in extremely cold weather should additional heat be needed.

Will I have to add insulation to my home if I install one of these systems? 

Ground source heat pump systems will reduce your heating and cooling costs regardless of how well your home is insulated. However, insulating and weatherizing are key factors in gaining the maximum amount of savings from any type of heating and cooling system.

First published on IGSHPA

Stay in compliance- spend the time before you pay the fine

A compliance inspection can be uncomfortable. Like getting audited, we all cross our fingers and hope it never happens. If we are not prepared, the consequences are costly.

Working with Fenley & Nicol is like having a good accountant – we teach you what regulator’s look for and show you simple ways to avoid fines. We provide our clients with low-cost, non-regulatory inspections. Our compliance experts inspect your facility, generate a comprehensive report, and work with you to find easy, manageable solutions that fit into your day-to-day operations. The information is completely confidential and what you do with it is up to you.

If you have already received a Notice of Violation we can help. A regulator’s job is not to collect fines, it is to get you to keep your facility in compliance. The right response can go a long way in negotiating an agreeable outcome. Let us get the violation removed, reduce your fines, and get your facility back into compliance.

Compressed natural gas gets new life as alternative fuel

Compressed natural gas is seeing signs of life in St. Louis, more than a decade after the alternative fuel for cars, trucks and buses made its debut here.

The move reflects a broader push by companies, including UPS, AT&T and Verizon, and municipal bodies nationwide to seek a cheaper and more environmentally friendly alternative to gasoline and diesel.

Increased demand now is prompting several automakers, including General Motors and Ford, to roll out vehicles that can be converted to run on compressed natural gas — or CNG — primarily for commercial use.

The renewed interest may even draw a local investment from Texas billionaire T. Boone Pickens, an outspoken advocate for the alternative fuel.

The company he co-founded, Clean Energy Fuels Corp., is in negotiations with a convenience store operator to open a compressed natural gas (CNG) fuel station at location in Bridgeton within the next 12 months.

The dispenser would be the region’s first public CNG station that’s open 24 hours a day. Clean Energy has 273 CNG fueling stations across the country – although none yet in Missouri – and estimates there are about 1,100 total CNG stations, both public and nonpublic, nationwide.

The development of a 24-hour-a-day public fuel station comes as the St. Louis region is poised to get an influx of new vans powered by natural gas on area roadways.

Last month, AT&T ordered 1,200 compressed natural gas cargo vans, marking General Motors’ largest order to date of the alternative fuel vehicles the automaker began producing in 2010. Since production began, GM has sold 3,000 CNG vans.

The Chevrolet Express vans AT&T ordered are being assembled at GM’s plant in Wentzville, giving a boost to the plant that added a second shift last month after more than two years as a single-shift facility.

“Right now, (CNG vans) are a small percentage of what we produce, but we expect that to grow,” said John Dansby GM’s plant manager in Wentzville.

From Wentzville, the vans travel to a supplier, Impco Automotive, in Union City, Ind., where the CNG fuel systems are installed.

“Our anticipation is that as long as there’s uncertainty in the price of gasoline, that continues to drive a strong interest in compressed natural gas because there’s consistency in price,” said Mike Jones, product manager for GM’s fleet and commercial operations.

The CNG option adds about $14,000 to the cost of each Chevrolet Express van, but for commercial fleets that spend a lot of time on the roads, the investment pays off, said Jerome Webber, AT&T’s vice president of global fleet operations, an AT&T unit that’s based in St. Louis.

At the St. Louis region’s only existing public CNG fueling station – located at a Laclede Gas facility in Shrewsbury – a gallon equivalent of compressed natural gas costs $1.89 versus more than $3 for a gallon of gasoline. The pump is only open to the public from 6:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday.

A majority of the pump’s users are fleet customers, such as AT&T and Laclede’s own service vehicles. Some companies have contracted with Laclede to use the fuel station after hours.

AT&T began exploring alternative fuels in 2007 for its 70,000 vehicles deployed in the U.S. as alternative fuel options and availability of refueling stations began to increase. The four CNG vehicles the company initially tested matched the fuel economy and reliability of gasoline or diesel options, and cost at least 30 percent less to fuel.

“There wasn’t a loss of fuel economy that you see with other ‘green’ vehicles like ethanol,” Webber said.

AT&T is on track to add up to 8,000 CNG vehicles to its fleet through next year, at a cost of $350 million. When the company began adding CNG vehicles to its fleet, 70 percent went to California, which has a wide network of CNG fueling stations. Now, with more fueling stations popping up, like in St. Louis, more than half of AT&T’s CNG vehicles are outside of California.

With its latest order from GM, 46 of the 1,200 vehicles will be used by AT&T in Missouri, adding to its existing fleet of more than 200 alternative fuel vehicles in the state.

In addition to cost benefits, AT&T says reducing fleet-based carbon emissions is driving its push for CNG vehicles. Vans fueled by compressed natural gas can produce 25 percent fewer carbon dioxide emissions than their gasoline or diesel-powered counterparts, GM says, citing U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data.

Speed bumps

The recent developments represent a dramatic turnabout for this fuel, both nationally and locally.

When Laclede Gas opened a CNG station for public use at a Shell station at Interstate 44 and Hampton in 1997, it was seldom used.

“That was a ‘build it, and they will come’ philosophy,” said Richard Ockers, project engineer with Laclede Gas. “Well, we built it, and they didn’t come. It can be a difficult sell to have to adapt to new technology.”

Laclede’s CNG equipment was moved in 2004 to its current spot in Shrewsbury because of underutilization.

“Laclede Gas knew the technology worked, and we decided instead of scrapping the equipment to move it to our own facility,” Ockers said.

Also in the 1990s, St. Louis’ public transportation system operator, Metro, made a sizable investment in CNG buses, spending more than $11 million to buy 37 CNG buses with plans to buy more.

However, the buses broke down more easily than their gasoline-fueled counterparts and needed to be refueled more often. Metro has since phased out its use of CNG vehicles, said Metro spokeswoman Dianne Williams.

The alternative fuel also saw a setback last year when Wentzville city officials abandoned a plan years in the making to build a natural gas refueling station, citing high costs.

But as the technology has improved, use of CNG for commercial vehicles has grown across the country over the past decade, primarily for bus and shuttle fleets. Los Angeles’ transit system added 95 CNG buses to its fleet in December, funded in part by federal grants.

Some local fleet operators are convinced of the value of compressed natural gas, including the St. Louis Airport Authority, which first began using a CNG vehicle in 1998. Since then, the authority’s CNG fleet has grown to 120 vehicles, including nearly 40 Super Park shuttles.

The authority refuels its fleet at a nonpublic CNG station that has four dispensers on a corner of the Cypress parking lot near Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. The authority also has a second CNG fueling station on airport property.

“I am replacing as many as I can with CNG,” said Mike Bernich, fleet manager at Lambert, who said the shuttles powered by CNG match the reliability of gasoline or diesel vehicles.

The authority saved $700,000 in fuel costs last year by using CNG instead of gasoline or diesel, according to an estimate by Thomas Schultz, manager of utilization engineering for Laclede Gas.

Clean Energy hopes the authority’s interest will spread to other businesses that serve the airport. The company has fueling centers near 26 U.S. airports, and St. Louis’ size and number of CNG vehicles in use made it a good fit for a new fuel center, said Ken Nicholson, Clean Energy’s vice president for the central region.

Kevin Herdler, executive director of the St. Louis Regional Clean Cities, a U.S. Department of Energy-sponsored initiative that works to reduce petroleum use in transportation, said the low prices and ample supply of natural gas – there’s at least a 100-year domestic supply — should keep costs down for the foreseeable future.

“There’s so much abundance of natural gas, it’s going to stay well below what gasoline sells for,” Herdler said. “It doesn’t take long to see the benefits, not only on the air quality, but also on the bottom line for these companies that use compressed natural gas.”

This article was first published by STL Today.

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Rev up the tapping of our own natural gas

Rev up the tapping of our own natural gas

Chicago Tribune  – Monday, February 06, 2012

If you are going to transform American energy to address the national security and economic risks associated with our OPEC oil dependence, there is only one solution: move our natural gas reserves into transportation, with an emphasis on the heavy-duty truck and fleet-vehicle markets.

Free-market advocates argue that’s bad public policy. They fail to understand that OPEC is far from a free market. They’ll tell you we shouldn’t pick winners and losers in the transportation fuel segments. I say it’s time to pick America over OPEC. Let’s go with anything American. I’m fine with the battery, but remember, it won’t move an 18-wheeler.

Imagine the impact natural gas could have in solving our energy problem. Targeting heavy-duty trucks and fleet vehicles — about 8.5 million in all — could cut our OPEC oil dependence in half in 10 years or less.

Fortunately, while we wait for Washington policymakers to lead, the move to replace more expensive, dirtier OPEC oil, diesel or gasoline with cheaper, cleaner domestic natural gas is gaining private-sector support. At an event in Chicago last week, two leaders in the natural gas vehicle industry — Navistar and Clean Energy Fuels — announced a plan to aggressively develop a comprehensive system to build natural-gas truck engines and provide the infrastructure to fuel them.

Over-the-road trucks tend to run the same routes on the same schedule. Drivers stop in the same places to rest, eat and refuel. Putting natural-gas refueling stations along the major travel routes is a relatively minor logistical issue. Building natural-gas engines for those trucks will be a major job creator.

We’re a country awash in natural gas. Since 2008, the biggest shift in energy resources has been the enormous reserves of natural gas in the vast shale deposits in Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and Appalachia. New deposits are being tested in places like Iowa and Ohio, but even now, we have a 125-year supply of domestic natural gas literally under our collective feet.

On the world market, natural gas is selling from $12 per million cubic feet in Europe to $16 in the Middle East. The price in the United States? Less than $3 because of our massive reserves.

Getting that natural gas out of the ground and into our rolling stock is another major job creator. A recent study by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP suggests that by utilizing America’s shale gas resources, “U.S. manufacturers could employ approximately 1 million more workers by 2025.”

America is sending nearly $1 million a minute out of the country to pay for foreign oil. We’re paying about $100 per barrel for foreign oil and, in the case of OPEC oil, often to nations that are hostile to our best interests.

With gasoline at the pump climbing toward $4 per gallon we might have thought energy would have emerged as a top-tier election year issue. In spite of the lingering threat to our economic recovery and our national security, it has not.

For more than four decades, every presidential candidate has said something to the effect of “Elect me, and we’ll be energy independent.” That’s four decades of failed promises.

Once we have serious fuel competition, we can control our energy destiny, have a better grasp on our energy costs and achieve what we’ve been promised for decades. To make that happen, we have to get on our own resources and in this case natural gas is an obvious winner.

T. Boone Pickens is founder and chairman of BP Capital.​

This article was first published by Chicago Tribune.