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Students are taking “hands-on” to a whole new level

E-House tour at E.C. Goodwin Technical High School

Earlier this week Pat Ciarleglio and Ray Mencio, both with the Connecticut Technical High School System, served as tour guides for staff members from the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund (CCEF) and the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund (CEEF) who came to the technical high schools to witness the early fruits of an exciting new educational/workforce development program developed for these schools. The program provides curricula and hands-on projects focused on renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. It is funded with grants from CCEF’s Learning for Clean Energy Innovation – Tech (LCEI-Tech) program and the CEEF.

An exciting hands-on component of the program is the construction of E-Houses. Students at E.C. Goodwin in New Britain, Oliver Wolcott in Torrington, and Grasso in Groton are working to construct E-Houses, which feature the latest renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies.

Through CCEF’s LCEI-Tech program, these technical high schools have been able to immerse themselves in solar technology. Although the schools had previously been required to teach solar technologies, they had not secured the funding to implement updated and comprehensive solar technology lessons – until the launch of LCEI-Tech.

LCEI-Tech grants have helped to train instructors, develop new curricula, purchase new solar textbooks and obtain solar photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal systems. (Similarly, the CEEF has contributed funding for energy efficient technologies and curricula.)

The program underway at the technical high schools is an exemplary model of hands-on education. Students are able to read about solar panels and how they are installed in their textbooks and then they are able to go outside and install them on their E-House.

The frame of the E-House at E.C. Goodwin is up, and soon the students will be able to install the solar panels (which will be removable so that students from throughout the technical high school system can repeat the experience). The students with whom we met are very enthusiastic about their new curriculum and materials, and their teachers are extremely appreciative for the hands-on instructional opportunity.

In the future, the technical high schools hope to build E-Houses at three other locations. The CCEF looks forward to following the progress of these inspiring students and teachers – the future green workforce of Connecticut.

Please visit the Connecticut Technical High School’s website to read more about the E-Houses and their solar PV and solar thermal training.

Jocelyn Anastasiou
Project Associate, CCEF

350 EARTH

Last week, 350 EARTH launched the world’s first ever global climate art project. Artists and citizens from around the world showcased their art installations (some large enough to be seen from space) to illustrate their vision of what climate change means to them, with hopes of improving conditions. The outpouring of public support resulted in the creation of an abundance of art projects by individuals from around the globe who are committed to protecting our planet.

I chose to do Land Art as my 350 EARTH project. We transformed a part of my backyard into a peace sign with the number “350″ embedded within it. Last week’s Thanksgiving holiday gave praise to a bountiful harvest and, to follow along that theme, we used natural materials found in our garden, yard and neighborhood. Some of the materials used included sunflowers, kale, tomatoes, dried basil, Swiss chard, gladiola fronds, peony branches and hostas.

The peace symbol’s outline is made out of leaves from my two favorite weeping willow trees from the yard next door. Sadly, they were cut down earlier last week (considered a “hazard” from the insurance company). It gave me comfort to be able to use the leaves in this work that, for me, represents peace and hope for our planet and serves as a reminder—based on the elements it combines—that beauty in the natural world is right at our fingertips. We can control how our actions affect this natural beauty and our planet. Of course, supporting clean energy is one of the easiest and most impactful ways of reducing an individual’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Bill McKibben recounts the final 350 EARTH event, noting that it “took place on the beach at Brighton in the UK, where Thom Yorke (the lead singer of Radiohead) assembled a few thousand of his closest friends and biggest fans to brave the cold on England’s coast. Together, they formed the image of the legendary King Canute attempting to hold back the waters.”

This and other beautiful pieces submitted over the last week can be viewed in the slideshow here.

Please, let us know if you participated in this event so we can compile our own Facebook photo album of inspirational climate change art!

Jillian Carbone
Project Associate

NOW BE THANKFUL

As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, we are infinitely grateful for those who have helped to build model sustainable communities throughout Connecticut.

Many of the unsung heroes serve quietly behind the scenes. At the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund, the Legal, Accounting and Marketing teams provide vital support for our programs but are seldom seen or heard by the public. Similarly, countless municipal government employees, particularly in Public Works and School Facilities departments, work miracles in their communities every day without fanfare. Their contributions routinely improve the quality of life in their towns and save taxpayers money.

We also salute our CTCleanEnergyOptions collaborators: the Connecticut Department of Public Utility Control, Connecticut Light & Power, United Illuminating, Sterling Planet and Community Energy. Numerous environmental non-profit organizations, including Clean Water Fund, People’s Action for Clean Energy, Sierra Club and SmartPower, have provided significant outreach and education to spread the word about the many benefits of clean energy. For the past six years, these entities have worked with CCEF to develop a nationally-ranked green power program.

Various state and federal agencies support sustainability efforts at the local level. The Governor’s Steering Committee on Climate Change, comprised of the Department of Environmental Protection, Office of Policy & Management, Department of Administrative Services, Department of Transportation, the DPUC and CCEF, helps to provide solutions to climate change to municipal governments, businesses and individuals. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also lends direct support to our Communities program through complementary initiatives such as the Community Energy Challenge and Green Power Communities programs.

Our educational and workforce development programs have been enriched immensely by partners such as the State Department of Education, our community colleges and technical high schools, the Institute for Sustainable Energy and Connecticut Business and Industry Association. The Connecticut Science Center and the Connecticut Science Center Collaborative enhance these efforts with cutting-edge exhibits and teaching workshops. We are particularly grateful to the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund, which has helped to fund and cross-promote endeavors to make our state energy smart.

We sincerely appreciate the workers who build, design and install the renewable energy systems that now shine like jewels on our beautiful landscape. Connecticut is blessed with abundant natural resources and it is fitting that we are once again harnessing the power of the sun, water and wind. The growing community of solar installers, wind developers and fuel cell manufacturers creates the foundation for a vibrant green economy in our state.

Finally, we give special thanks to the clean energy leaders in our Clean Energy Communities. Those elected officials and task force volunteers have catalyzed a clean energy revolution in Connecticut. And yet, as First Selectman Gordon Ridgeway so eloquently stated at an event held in Cornwall Town Hall last week, the real heroes of this movement are the people in the communities who have signed up for clean energy or installed solar electric systems on their homes and businesses.

To all of Connecticut’s clean energy movers and shakers, we offer our heartfelt gratitude and wish you a happy Thanksgiving!

Bob Wall
Director, Energy Market Initiatives
CCEF

Tales from the Other Portland

Portland, Oregon, the City of Roses, is indeed an American Beauty. Beyond the thriving music and arts scene, the abundant microbreweries and coffee houses and Powell’s City of Books, there is a first-class sustainable transportation system that’s big on light rail and bicycles. And then there is the city’s strong commitment to clean energy – Portland is now the nation’s largest Green Power Community.

We had the pleasure of experiencing the “Greenest City in America” during the 2010 Renewable Energy Markets conference. Connecticut was not only well represented at the event (we enjoyed connecting with Brian Driscoll of Phoenix Press; Bob Maddox and Kat West of Sterling Planet; Jay Carlis, Tess Barton and Katie Barrett of Community Energy; Jonathan Edwards and Lyn Rosoff of SmartPower; Emily Bjorklund of Viridian and Tim Cole of the Connecticut Energy Advisory Board) but, more significantly, was featured in the proverbial highlight reels throughout the sessions.

The annual Green Power Leadership Awards, hosted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Energy and the Center for Resource Solutions, recognize leading organizations and individuals for significant accomplishments in advancing the voluntary markets for clean energy. Phoenix Press Inc., a family owned and operated printer in New Haven, was one of two winners in the On-Site Generation category based on its installation of the state’s first commercial wind turbine and its efforts to promote wind energy. Kohl’s Department Stores and Whole Foods Market, both multiple past winners, were honored in the Green Power Partner of the Year category. The companies have installed solar PV or fuel cells or both in Connecticut facilities using CCEF incentives. Finally, our friends at SmartPower helped Arizona Public Service develop “The Renewables,” a marketing campaign featuring animated clean energy superheroes that was honored in the Best Green Power Education Outreach Program category.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a division of the DOE that serves as the nation’s primary laboratory on renewable energy and energy efficiency research and development, issued its annual status report on the more than 850 utility green power programs. For the first time, the CTCleanEnergyOptionssm program achieved “Top 10” status in the categories of sales and customers (7th and 8th place, respectively.) Notably, the Connecticut program achieved this distinction against more mature programs, most of which are located in western states. The CCEF is proud of our work with the Department of Public Utility Control, Community Energy, Sterling Planet, CL&P, United Illuminating, nonprofits such as Clean Water Fund, People’s Action for Clean Energy and the Sierra Club and, of course, our local clean energy task forces in building a nationally ranked green power program.

Finally, the EPA is showcasing Cornwall, Connecticut, in its brochure on the Green Power Communities program. To date, 33 cities and towns in the country have achieved this status, which is based on percentage of support for clean energy compared to the community’s overall electricity usage. Cornwall is the first town in New England to reach the distinction and only the third on the east coast. The CCEF will join with the EPA in celebrating this significant accomplishment at Cornwall Town Hall on November 15. We will call upon the more than 100 Connecticut Clean Energy Communities to step up their support for green power. Need we remind you that the CCEF will provide a bonus kW of solar PV to participating towns that join Cornwall as a national leader? Connecticut has a way to go to catch up with Oregon, which boasts an astounding 18 Green Power Communities. But who doesn’t love a good challenge?

Bob Wall
Director, Energy Market Initiatives
CCEF

Running Like the Wind

October has been a big month of firsts for wind technology in the East!

First, internet giant Google and a New York financial firm entered into a major investment to fund a proposed transmission backbone for future offshore wind farms in the Atlantic. The Atlantic Wind Connection is planned to cover a 350-mile stretch along the Atlantic running from northern New Jersey to Virginia and will have the capacity of 6,000 megawatts—enough to serve 1.9 million households. A first-of-its-kind effort, this innovative endeavor will take advantage of the abundant wind supply off the Atlantic and generate a local clean energy supply, thus reducing our dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels. The Atlantic Wind Connection will also enable thousands of jobs in the United States.

The next advancement in wind technology is Connecticut’s own (as well as a Connecticut Innovations and Connecticut Clean Tech investment) Optiwind. Optiwind has created its first wind turbine to power Klug Hill Farm in Torrington. The turbine began generating power earlier this month, with an expected output of 150 kilowatt hours—more than enough to power the farm and the rest getting sent back to the power grid. Optiwind’s turbine design is for low-wind zones, perfect for this location in Torrington.

Last but certainly not least… Phoenix Press Inc., a family-owned printing company in New Haven, received a Green Power Leadership Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last week. Phoenix Press was one of only two entities in the United States to receive this award for on-site generation. The other winner was the City of San Francisco. The company’s 100-kilowatt wind turbine, which was funded in part by the Connecticut Clean Energy Fund, is the first commercial wind turbine in the state. The turbine stands tall near the Q Bridge along I-95 as a symbol of education and awareness of clean energy for the state. As the national award proves, we all have the power to make a difference!

Jillian Carbone
Project Associate

10/10/10 - My Global Work Party

The world unfolds differently on a bicycle. It’s like getting inside the mind of a cartographer; bends in the roads and intersections of streets suddenly make more sense. I am travelling on Fairfield Avenue from my hometown of Fairfield into my new city of dreams, Bridgeport. The signs on the buildings reflect the diversity of the Black Rock and West End neighborhoods: cafés, bars, bait shops, ethnic foods and startup houses of worship. All roads seemingly lead to Captain’s Cove, and magical vibes still linger around Seaside Park like a sunshine daydream.

I am joining a Critical Mass Bike Ride, one of 7,347 events held in 188 countries to celebrate climate solutions and build a clean energy future. The “10/10/10 Global Work Party” is the brainchild of 350.org, an international grassroots campaign formed to unite the world around solutions to climate change. Specifically, the movement calls for a reduction of CO2 in the air from the current level of 388 parts per million to 350.

The host of my party is the Bridgeport Community Land Trust, a nonprofit corporation that seeks to preserve open space and support environmental causes in Bridgeport including bicycle advocacy, community gardens, community farms and waterfront access. The BCLT currently has 21 community gardens located in low- to moderate-income neighborhoods that have converted abandoned land into productive farms and gardens.

Led by John Wilkins, vice president and bicycle chair of BCLT, our small but determined crew will pedal from the wharf behind the Bridgeport Railroad Station to Old Mine Park in Trumbull and back again. Our mission is to raise awareness of the need to complete the connection between the Bridgeport Housatonic Bike Way and the Pequonnock Valley Bike Way, which would foster commuting and recreational cycling between Newtown and Bridgeport. The general concept is embraced in the city’s groundbreaking B*Green 2020 Sustainability Plan, yet progress on the critical path remains stalled.

On October 10, 2010, the fellowship of the ride proceeds on a beautiful paved path downtown followed by busy city streets until we enter Beardsley State Park (the second park in this blog designed by Frederick Law Olmsted). In August, CCEF celebrated the installation of a 2-kW solar PV system at the Beardsley Zoo, earned by Bridgeport through our Clean Energy Communities program. Today, we bypass the caged animals and instead witness creatures in their magnificent native habitat including seven swans a-swimming and six – no, more like six hundred – geese a-laying. Later, we would happen upon one piper piping whose ancient drones filled the tree-lined corridor through the Pequonnock River Valley.

Like most adventures, the return is slightly anticlimactic except for the opportunity to converse with new friends with each reconfiguration of our procession. Back at the wharf, as we bid farewell to each other, I imagine that each rider is filled with a sense of accomplishment and a connection with difference makers who participated in similar work parties across the globe.

But one more chapter remains: a scouring of the shire, if you will. Bob Halstead, president of BCLT, alters my plan to extend the bike journey back home by inviting me to visit one of BCLT’s community gardens. He hitches my bike to a rack on his vehicle and we proceed to the Marina Village neighborhood, where the Westport GVI and Builders Beyond Borders helped to finish and plant a new community garden this summer. The raised beds full of cabbages and kales serve as an important reminder that reducing carbon emissions, expanding bicycling opportunities and planting gardens are all connected in much the same way as Bridgeport, Connecticut and Planet Earth. So it’s time to get to work and join the party in a neighborhood near you!

We invite readers to tell us about a 10/10/10 event they attended in Connecticut – nobody wants to miss a good work party.

Bob Wall
Director, Energy Market Initiatives
CCEF

Drum Roll, Please…

This summer, we launched a contest to name our blog. We invited all of our clean energy communities, clean energy leaders, local heroes, readers and contributors to join us in the process.

After reviewing dozens of entries, we are pleased to announce that we have selected “The Green Light” as the name for our Clean Energy Communities blog. The entry was submitted by Lisa Bohman, executive director, Avon Chamber of Commerce.

Lisa won four year-long passes to the Connecticut Science Center, the state’s premier space for science and technology learning (approximate value - $260) where visitors can experience life in a model sustainable community when they visit Energy City, funded jointly by the CCEF and the Connecticut Energy Efficiency Fund and one of more than 150 fun-filled, interactive exhibits.

In the spirit of the Communities Program, Lisa is giving back to participating Avon Chamber of Commerce businesses by raffling the tickets off among the members! We hope those lucky winners find the Science Center informative, educational, and fun. And we hope you continue to find our newly minted Green Light/Connecticut Clean Energy Communities Blog equally enlightening! Thanks to all readers who submitted a suggestion. If you have friends that haven’t yet subscribed to our blog, please pass the word on to them to subscribe!

Jillian Carbone
Project Associate, CCEF

It Starts with One

In 1986, Linda Maraniss took a trip with her husband to the Texas coast. While there, she strolled along the South Padre Island only to become dismayed at the amounts of trash surrounding her. Inclined to change this, Linda returned to work at the Center for Environmental Education (now known as the Ocean Conservancy) with the mission to organize the first international coastal cleanup. That year, 2,800 Texas residents joined together to cleanup 122 miles of Texas coast and capture 124 tons of trash in just two hours.

What started with one woman in the Lone Star State of Texas 25 years ago has swelled to a half-million volunteers taking action globally today. The 25th Annual Coastal Cleanup will take place on September 25, 2010, banding nations together to achieve clean waterways for our health, marine wildlife and our ocean’s ecosystem. Each year, the collected trash is recorded on data cards so the type, amount, and location can be studied and reported in the Ocean Conservancy’s Annual Report. From the data provided in the Marine Debris Index, local actions can be determined toward eliminating specific types of litter prone to certain areas.

The clean-up crew at Divi Tiara, Cayman Islands, 2003 Coastal Cleanup

Our friends at Save the Sound, a program of Connecticut Fund for the Environment, are once again leading the charge in Connecticut for the International Coastal Cleanup on Saturday, September 25th. In 2009, there were 68 local cleanups with 2,771 volunteers and a remarkable 21,500 pounds of trash — 43 percent more weight than in 2008 — were collected from Connecticut’s waterways. We trust that 2010 will be another banner year and have an even greater impact on the cleanup of Connecticut’s coastlines than years previous.

Because our Clean Energy Communities are already doing much more than simply supporting clean energy, we hope that you will consider joining a cleanup listed here in Connecticut throughout the months of September and November. If you want to get involved with this important happening, please contact Kierran Broatch at kbroatch@savethesound.org. Let’s improve our world’s waterways and save the wildlife that resides in them. You have the power to make a difference!

Jillian Carbone
Program Associate, CCEF


Save the Sound International Coastal Cleanup 2009. Seaside Park and Ash Creek Cleanup in Bridgeport, CT.

How Green Is My Hotel?

A growing number of consumers are applying a “green lens” to their choices of vehicles, appliances, food and other products. Now, Connecticut residents have a convenient source for determining which hotels, motels and bed & breakfasts are considered the most sustainable. The Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism have developed the Connecticut Green Lodging program, which offers certification to state lodging facilities that accumulate a specified number of points in categories including energy, housekeeping, waste management, water conservation and green meetings.

We checked with Kim Trella, Pollution Prevention Program Manager for the DEP, to see if the certification program recognized support for clean energy. She advised that a lodging business can earn points by enrolling in CTCleanEnergyOptions, purchasing renewable energy certificates (RECs) or installing renewable energy systems such as solar PV or solar thermal.

Clean Energy Task Force members should educate lodging owners as to how clean energy purchases can earn points toward Green Lodging certification and help the host community earn free clean energy systems. The CCEF will also highlight those businesses supporting clean energy on the Connecticut Clean Energy Communities site. Please reward the sustainability efforts of certified establishments by recommending them to your out-of-town visitors.

You can learn more about this program and the fifteen Connecticut establishments that have received certification in Augie V’s Green Blog.

Bob Wall
Director, Energy Market Initiatives
CCEF

The Revolution Comes Back To Compo Beach

Solar architect John Rountree stands beside the solar hot water heater that runs with all-solar power in the summer and 60 per cent solar power in the winter. Credit Nancy Burton

In 1777, nearly 2,000 British soldiers landed at Compo Beach in Westport and marched up Compo Road toward their raid on Danbury. On their return trip, they were counter-attacked by Minutemen in Ridgefield and Westport. Although the expedition was considered a tactical success for the British, the raid served to galvanize Patriot support in Connecticut.

By the mid-1800s, the Compo Beach area had developed into an agricultural powerhouse, known in particular for its onions. One farmhouse in the district was built in 1910. At the time, electricity was used primarily for transportation or industrial purposes and had not yet become an integral component of residential structures.

By 2010, another revolution was taking place throughout the state. During the preceding decade, Westport became the first town in Connecticut to purchase clean energy and the first to install a solar PV system on a fire station. Indeed, solar electricity can now be seen all over town - on more than two dozen homes, Staples High School (earned through the Clean Energy Communities program) and even at a local car wash.

And that 1910 farmhouse, now owned by Westport architect and long-time solar advocate John Rountree, is once again powered mainly by the sun. The 100-year-old home features both solar PV and solar thermal, a waste heat recovery system, high density foam insulation and many other high performance building features.

People’s Action for Clean Energy (PACE) will be hosting a tour the Rountree home this Saturday, August 28, from noon to 4 p.m. You can read about this wonderful old green house and the PACE tour in Nancy Burton’s article for the Westport Patch. We hope that the many clean energy revolutionaries will show their spirit by attending this event.

Bob Wall
Director, Energy Market Initiatives
CCEF