earth energy Solutions GROUP

… revealing and resolving the economics of energy efficiency

Leave a comment

What We Talk About When We Talk About Energy

October 15, 2012
By Jing Jin

In the past year, ardent and persistent campaigning from students who have since established Energy Corps has yet to result in such a fund at this university. While I support Energy Corps and SEI for championing a self-sustaining funding stream for energy efficiency projects, I am not yet convinced that such funds and their concomitant projects result in a meaningful net reduction in energy use.

When I asked if the specific projects advocated by SEI were mostly technology retrofits targeted toward infrastructure, for example motion sensor lights, or if they included behavior change campaigns targeted toward users, Orlowski was careful to say that SEI focused on funding and left project selection up to each school.

Sure, retrofitting a building or dorm reduces energy consumption and carbon emissions, but if the University continues expanding in Ithaca and beyond, tweaks here and there will not balance the carbon books as more services are provided and students served. I am not anti-growth and share the excitement for the tech campus and other facets of our burgeoning global presence. I do, however, want to urge that as we cast our eyes on greater prospects, we must also hold the University to its commitment of climate neutrality by 2050.

Energy use, of course, is a mind-numbing practical and ethical dilemma facing not just universities but consumers at every level — from individuals to the world as a whole. It is certainly a big ticket issue in the presidential election, whether a voter is more concerned with securing supplies of fuel, access to which fluctuates with domestic and international politics, or more concerned with abating the environmental consequences of present and projected energy practices.

Energy independence is a far more complicated goal than the emerging reality the candidates have made it out to be. In the first debate, President Obama celebrated that “oil and natural gas production are higher than they’ve been in years.” Indeed, as James Burkhard of IHS Cambridge Energy Research Associates has testified in the Senate, “A ‘Great Revival’ in US oil production is taking place — a major break from the near 40-year trend of falling output.” Forty years ago, the U.S. was also in the grips of the Arab oil embargo, which cemented fuel supply as a supreme source of national anxiety.

The load of the U.S.’s oil imports is lightened by increased production and decreased demand. (According to IHS CERA, this is due to higher fuel economy standards — about as close as this administration has gotten to environmental reforms — and an aging population.) However, the $70 billion and growing invested in 2010 to develop U.S. oil and gas belies a continuing long-term dependence on fossil fuels.

The shift from reliance on foreign fossil fuel sources to domestic ones is not all that stabilizing. We have now deigned to figuratively scrape oil and gas from the very bottom of the barrel. The reserves that have trumpeted this Great Revival, such as Marcellus shale gas, Alberta tar (oil) sands, Arctic oil and deep offshore oil, can only be tapped at steep costs to fossil fuel companies, ecosystems and people.

These unconventional fuels, or forms of extreme energy in the words of Hampshire College professor Michael T. Klare, require extraction methods which are unprecedentedly invasive and which use inordinate amounts of water and release toxic amounts of waste. Due to environmental and human health concerns, activists in America, Canada and around the world have mounted successful campaigns to delay hydrofracking in New York, the building of the Keystone XL to pipe tar sands to refineries and drilling in the Arctic by Shell. The Great Revival is unquestionably beset with practical and ethical uncertainties which companies, policymakers and consumers must wrangle with.

I am one of those voters who is more concerned with environmental consequences than with fuel supply, and I don’t harbor any illusion that my camp is necessarily on higher moral ground. I would say that we are uninterested in business as usual, which is what further development of fossil fuels would maintain, at best. Sandra Steingraber writes in Living Downstream, a book about the environmental causes of cancer, of “the unimaginative way things are.” She attacks the unremitting momentum of petrochemical development (for fuel, for industrial products and for consumer goods) in the face of undeniable evidence tying the industry to environmental and human health problems.

For the U.S. to rejoice in further oil and gas exploitation, not as a crutch for advancing toward a truly energy independent future, but as an insistence on squeezing out every murky drop of oil and undisturbed pocket of gas is to be deeply unimaginative.

When we talk about increasing energy efficiency at Cornell without talking about reducing overall energy use, and when we talk about cutting dependency on foreign fuels without talking about building capacity for new domestic energy sources, we fall short on thinking through the full spate of practical and ethical considerations.

Jing Jin is a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences. She may be reached at Ringing True appears alternate Mondays this semester.


Leave a comment

earth energy Group supports and implements actions to reduce energy expenses in Schools

Penny-pinched schools — huge market seeks energy efficiency

Daniel Cusick, E&E reporter

Anthony Wright knows well how summer heat in Memphis, Tenn., can zap life out of even the hardiest souls, including the roughly 107,000 students and faculty who begin filling the city’s roughly 7,200 classrooms each year in early August.As Memphis City Schools’ coordinator for energy management and conservation, Wright also knows what the heat does to his district’s bottom line, sucking tens of millions of dollars annually to keep buildings cool for up to 250 days a year.

“We’re pretty generous with our comfort when the students are there,” said Wright, who in his first week of the fall semester had to contend with outdoor temperatures of 92 to 98 degrees Fahrenheit.

But as late afternoon rolls toward evening and school buildings empty out, Wright turns from cooling manager into energy miser, turning up thermostats, shutting down unessential lights and sealing off areas that require precise temperature controls from rooms that can stand an overnight warmup.

Often the next morning, he pores over the previous day’s energy use, plugging data gleaned from real-time energy meters into a software program called the “Energy Star Portfolio Manager” that allows him to track every kilowatt-hour of electricity used across the entire school district.

“For every degree [of thermostat adjustment], it’s like a 2 percent savings,” Wright said. “And when you’re counting every percentage point, and even tenths of percentage points, the savings add up pretty fast.”

The $8B challenge

Squeezed by shrinking budgets, rising energy costs and aging infrastructure, America’s schools are coming up with creative ways to squeeze every kilowatt and British thermal unit out of aging, often inefficient buildings that literally form the backbone of the U.S. education system.

Their challenge is significant. In 2008, the Energy Department estimated that the nation’s 93,000 K-12 schools spend $8 billion annually on energy, second only to teacher salaries and more than was spent nationwide on classroom books, supplies and equipment.

“Rising energy costs, coupled with declining property tax revenues, are increasing budgetary pressures on schools,” DOE said in conjunction with the 2008 publication of its “Guide to Financing EnergySmart Schools.” “These challenges make energy-saving strategies a real opportunity for schools undertaking new facilities construction and major renovations.”

But where school construction in the United States before the Great Recession was a $20 billion enterprise — with fast-growing suburbs and even some urban districts building new classrooms — today there is a shrinking public appetite and even less taxpayer revenue to underwrite major school expansions.

According to the “2012 Annual School Construction Report,” published by School Planning and Management magazine, “The demand for school space and improved facilities has not lessened — the number of children schools serve continues to rise — but, as a consequence of the 2008 recession, combined with the anti-tax sentiment it spawned, the money has dried up.”

Some low-cost ways to start

As a result, schools and school districts — often in conjunction with foundations, electric utilities and private-sector energy innovators — are looking at ways to make existing buildings perform better. Such efforts are often channeled through retrofits of old, inefficient boilers, air conditioners and lighting systems, or by simply recalibrating existing energy-consuming systems to make them work better and more cheaply.

According to the Alliance to Save Energy, which helps schools achieve efficiency, many buildings can cut their electricity consumption by 5 to 15 percent without spending any money on new lighting, heating or air conditioning. The key, the alliance says, is interventions that change the way students, faculty and school administrators view and use energy.

“We’ve been hampered by so long by the invisibility of energy and how hard it is to get a handle on how much we’re using, whether at home or work or school,” said Merrilee Harrigan, the alliance’s vice president of education in Washington, D.C. “Now, if we put diagnostic tools in kids’ hands and let them learn how to do an energy audit and then drive school activities based on a no-additional-cost model, we’re finding that schools can become highly efficient buildings.”

Schools that go beyond tapping up thermostats and conducting “lights out” campaigns to invest in technologies like the federal government’s Energy Star Portfolio Manager software can cut energy costs by as much as 30 percent, Harrigan said. “Even with constrained budgets, people are finding ways to use energy better.”

Such approaches are taking root in urban districts like Memphis and Washington, D.C., where energy managers and students are learning new ways to assess, monitor and reduce energy consumption. They’re also catching on in suburbs like the North Penn School District outside Philadelphia, where energy use plummeted by 25 percent in one year due to student-driven conservation efforts, and Gresham-Barlow School District in suburban Portland, Ore., where 14 of the district’s 19 schools achieved Energy Star ratings of 90 or above.

In outlying districts, like central Michigan’s Ovid-Elsie Area Schools, plans are under way to upgrade four schools and the district’s administration building with energy-efficient lighting, high-efficiency boilers, better insulation and a new automation system to better manage and track energy use. The improvements, funded with a $1.1 million Energy Savings Performance Contract, are expected to net $85,000 in annual energy savings. A significant portion of those savings will come back to the school in cash to pay off the initial investment.

“During these tough economic times, it was helpful to use avoided energy expenses rather than the schools’ capital to fund necessary building improvements,” Ryan Cunningham, the Ovid-Elsie Area Schools’ superintendent, said in a statement last week announcing the energy savings contract with Ameresco Inc. of Framingham, Mass.

Powering buildings when nobody’s there

For school systems looking to achieve similar energy efficiency gains with lower capital costs, experts point to the North Penn School District, based in Montgomery County, Pa., one of the largest districts in the state with nearly 13,000 students spread across 17 school buildings.

Last fiscal year, the district shaved its energy consumption by 25 percent by recalibrating its schools’ lighting, cooling, heating and other systems to work only when needed and not a minute more. That, coupled with a concerted effort by students, faculty and administrators to only use the energy necessary to do their work, cut bills by $895,000.

“I’m real proud of my school,” Thomas Schneider, the district’s manager of energy and operational efficiencies, said in an interview.

Schneider, an engineer who spent years in the private sector as a construction manager and designer of K-12 schools and other infrastructure projects, said the primary obstacle to shrinking a school system’s energy footprint is not student reluctance. In fact, he said, “if you can get the passionate energy of the student body behind you, there’s no limit to where you can take it.”

More than students, he said, it is the school systems’ “engineers and the wrench-turners,” many of whom are trained to adhere to local building codes rather than achieve operational efficiencies, who need to change their thinking.

For example, schools’ maintenance and operations protocols, often dating to the 1970s, usually require school buildings to be managed like sealed envelopes, where temperature and lighting demands are presumed to be constant rather than fluctuating with days, seasons or even the school year.

Under a new approach — and usually aided by advanced systems control technology — lights, air conditioners, boilers and other energy-hungry equipment can be turned on and off based strictly on a building’s user needs and occupancy.

“School is in session 185 days out of 365 days, so about 50 percent of the year. And we’re operating 10 to 12 hours out of the day,” Schneider explained. “If you can ensure that your essential equipment shuts off when nobody’s there, it makes a huge impact.”

Equipping students to tackle the problem

Where engineering and mechanical solutions aren’t enough, students are stepping up to squeeze even more energy savings out of school buildings, experts say, often with the aid of smart meters and “dashboard” technology that allow students and teachers to convert school buildings into real-world energy laboratories.

In Memphis, the district joined the Alliance to Save Energy’s Green Schools affiliate program in April 2011, expanding on a pilot project that had gained support from the Tennessee Valley Authority and local utility Memphis Light, Gas and Water. The program brought focused attention to the schools’ energy challenges and pledged to reduce energy consumption by 5 to 10 percent year over year.

The program also unleashed an army of energy auditors as Memphis youngsters canvassed school grounds, measuring every piece of energy-consumptive equipment — from industrial boilers to vending machines — looking for ways to curb energy demand and maximize efficiency.

In 11 months, Memphis City Schools cut systemwide electricity consumption by nearly 8 percent, racking up an estimated $2 million in avoided energy costs. “Energy efficiency is not rocket science,” Wright said of the program. “It’s just about turning it off and turning it down.

“I know we’ll eventually get to the point where all the low-hanging fruit is gone, and some additional investment will have to be made” in replacement systems, he added. “But right now I celebrate every percentage-point improvement that we’re getting.”

What does the ‘dashboard’ say?

The Memphis program has also benefited from the participation of firms like EnerNoc Inc. of Boston and New Energy Technology of Grand Junction, Colo., which have invested millions of dollars to bring smart grid technologies to the education sector.

EnerNoc, which had previously provided demand-response services to Memphis City Schools through TVA, increased its involvement with the district last August by placing energy monitoring equipment in 25 schools to allow facilities managers and students access to real-time information about energy consumption and costs. Within a month of the launch of the monitoring program, EnerNoc engineers had flagged school building inefficiencies and system overrides that would have added $180,000 annually in energy costs had they not been corrected.

At the same time, equipment provided by another firm, New Energy Technology, is helping to put EnerNoc’s real-time data into the hands of students and administrators via an online energy center, or “dashboard,” that provides straightforward information and analysis for how the district is faring in meeting its energy efficiency goals.

Matt Plante, EnerNoc’s vice president of energy efficiency sales, said in an interview that real-time energy monitoring has become increasingly popular with school systems, especially as lessons are shared from district to district and state to state about how wasted energy can be converted into real dollars.

“It helps them very directly through reductions in their utility bills,” said Plante, whose company now works with 170 school systems nationwide and maintains an energy consumption database for nearly 1,000 school buildings.

Leave a comment

earth energy Group shares another energy efficiency tip to reduce expenses

Did you know you could be paying different rates for your electricity and / or natural gas in the same day?

Many utilities charge for Peak hours and Non-Peak hours based upon demand.

Take a look at your power bills or phone your Utility to learn when and if the rates changed.

Based upon what you learn MODIFY your use of Peak time energy as at all possible.

This simple strategy can mean hundreds or thousands of dollars each month.

Today’s Energy Efficiency Tip by your Energy Specifiers at earth energy Solutions GROUP.

1 Comment

earth energy Group congratulates Lizanne Cox and 19 other Teachers

News Release
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
New England Regional Office
June 1, 2012

Contact: EPA Public Affairs, (617) 918-1010

Environmental Education Award Presented to New Haven Teacher

(New Haven, Conn. – June 1, 2012) – EPA presented Lizanne Cox, an English teacher at Common Ground Charter High School, with a “Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Educators.”

Common Ground High School is a charter school in New Haven, Conn. founded in 1998 with ecology as its organizing theme. Liz Cox arrived at the school in 1999 as an English teacher and quickly demonstrated that the local environment can be a powerful context for challenging, authentic, meaningful learning.

Ms. Cox is one of only 20 teachers nationwide who has been selected to receive this prestigious Presidential award.  Along with the award recognition, Ms. Cox is receiving $2,000 to advance her professional development in environmental education. To further support the award winning teachers, each teacher’s school will also receive a $2,000 award to fund environmental education activities and programs that support the teacher.

Since 1999, Ms. Cox has been an integral member of the Common Ground charter school’s teaching staff and has helped develop environmentally-themed courses which are at the heart of school’s curriculum. She has brought exceptional knowledge and passion to issues including food security, food banks, urban farms – and used these topics to help her students understand the many interconnected issues surrounding our environment and their lives.

Ms. Cox’s courses have connected the places and issues that are most relevant to low-income city kids of color. At the same time, Ms. Cox is adept at mixing place-based, hands-on learning with the highest academic standards. Every day, her classroom work proves that urban environmental education can be as rigorous as anything taught in any school in the country.  Her courses have become core parts of the school’s curriculum. Ms. Cox’s work has also created dramatic student achievement educational results. Over the last several years, Ms. Cox has taken on increasingly important roles at the Common Ground charter school, including Dean of Student Affairs and now as School Director.

“EPA is very pleased to present this exceptional teacher with recognition for her decades of hard work and innovation in helping young people gain the skills and knowledge to make a lasting difference in their lives and community,” said Curt Spalding, regional administrator of EPA’s New England office.

More information on how EPA supports environmental education:

#  #  #


Lightbulb comparison, calculate cost of LED vs Incandescent vs CFL vs MH vs HPS

CFLs have toxins; consider nontoxic LEDsearth energy Solutions GROUP recommends that all businesses (residents as well) know the cost over time between newer energy efficient lighting technology vs what we have known and used for a Century.

Patrick Mullins has for a decade been comparing such costs and incorporates the CO2 reduction in addition to cost savings over time.

The higher lumens offer better light; no toxins make them more desirable in all environments; their recyclability is all moving toward sustainability.  Oh, the reduced (diminished) maintenance expenses related with replacements go away.

The old inefficient lighting is not banned but why would you not leverage safer long term measures and be able to save money while reducing the toxic carbon released into our atmosphere?

We encourage your responses to that question.

Check out Pat’s CALCULATOR and decide yourself or give us a call at earth energy Solutions GROUP to help you make sense of it all.

KNOW your actual energy consumption and allow us to show you numerous alternatives to reducing your consumption and operating costs…  We do that for you at no charge.

Leave a comment

Urgently enter Schools into the Green Ribbon Competition

Deadline Fast Approaching for Schools to Enter the Green Ribbon School Competition

PHILADELPHIA (February 7, 2012) — EPA Regional Administrator Shawn M. Garvin is encouraging all schools in the mid-Atlantic region to get recognized for their environmental achievements by entering the Green Ribbon School Competition.

The deadline for the new pilot award program, created by the U.S.. Department of Education and supported by EPA, is March 22 but all applications must be sent to the individual state Department of Education by February 23, 2012. Each participating state may nominate up to four of their highest performing schools that meet the criteria for recognition: environmental impact and energy efficiency, healthy environment and environmental literacy. The U.S. Department of Education will select one winning school in each participating state.

“This is a great opportunity for schools to brag about their efforts to save energy, reduce costs, create healthy environments for their students and improve student and staff health,” Garvin said today during a tour of the Thurgood Marshall School in Philadelphia. “By applying for Green Ribbon recognition, schools will be moving forward in adopting green concepts and becoming even greener.”

EPA has long encouraged the creation of healthy school environments because green school buildings and education are vital to the development and learning of every student. Green schools benefit teachers and other staff as well because they, too, work better when the indoor air and other conditions are healthy.

In his State of the Union Address, President Obama emphasized the importance of education in building a strong future for America. Creating healthy schools is one way we can support our students and their learning.

For K-12 schools interested in applying, a webinar to assist in the application process will be held Feb. 7, 2012 at 4 p.m. (EST). Event address for attendees is:

The event number is 753 402 875 and the event password is Gr33n1..

Call-in toll free number (US/Canada) is: 1-866-469-3239. Access code is 753 402 875

For more information about the Green Ribbon Schools competition, go to:

Contact: Donna Heron 215-814-5113/


Lighting comparison old vs new technology LED SSL, oh my

A picture of part of the lighting system at Ol...

What color do you want from your bulbs?

For the past few years here in the USA many businesses have implemented ‘newer technology’ lighting in an attempt to save on their energy cost.  Unless this capital expense can be financed or they are cash rich; it becomes a cost comparison issue regardless of the environmental benefits.

What is the cost to operate the lights?  This is the major factor related to the ROI.  Who can finance; should you finance?  These factors and more are presented in a spreadsheet to assist earth energy Solutions end users in their decision making process.

The generations of LED / SSL technology continue to be developed and we are far ahead of the typical incandescent, sodium vapor, metal halide, fluorescent technologies we consider ‘typical’.

Street lighting for an example when replacing old with new LED can save up to 70 +/- % on energy consumption which equals energy expense.  The results are immediate in truly lighting up an area as opposed to a yellowish hue.

Our Schools provide more valuable assets when retrofitting the inside lighting.  The faculty and students will then coexist in safer indoor Air Quality.  Removing the ‘flickering’ and toxins from fluorescent and CFL lighting provides a healthier overall indoor environment.  Further, the Schools reduce their expenses which they desperately need due to budget cut-backs

The benefits are huge over the long-term.  That is the way businesses need to rethink ‘lighting’.  The traditional throw away commodity called a light bulb is fading into the sunset and unfortunately into our landfills.

Together, we must consider how we recycle these old toxic materials which are in a large part not recyclable and cause serious problems in our watershed and other places. Learning about 100% recyclable LED products is an obligation to us for so many positive reasons.

Job creation is our primary motivation when working with businesses and recommending Energy Efficiency measures.

We are seeking Electricians, Lighting Design Engineers and equivalent experience in the USA.

For more information on Lighting Comparisons, cost and energy efficiency or obtaining your Energy Star Label, contact us Analysis@eeSGroup.US