Posts Tagged ‘energy’

My Electric Utility Company Does Something Cool — Really!

Okay, I’m something of an energy geek, but even my non-geek wife thought this was cool.  We recently got a mailing from Connexus Energy, our electric company, that showed how our home compared to 40,000 randomly selected others for electrical use. We received a GREAT rating (the two smiley faces) for using 4,436 kilowatt hours in 2008, roughly 30% less than the average home and a 15% reduction from 2007.  I also had a easy to understand chart that maps out our monthly use, the average use, and what they called “our efficent neighbors,” who represent the top 20% of the low-use crowd.

Anyone else get anything like this from their power company?

Water-generated power that doesn’t give a dam in Minnesota

From MPR, an interesting little piece on the nation’s first hydrokinetic power station, now under construction in Hastings, Minn. This differs from traditional hydroelectic power, which we have been making for 100 years or so, in that no dam is required, just the natural current of the river, in this case, the mighty Mississippi. Think of it as an underwater wind turbine.

Minnesota Drivers Kick Gas?

The Star Tribune covers a trend that began this summer, when the price of a gallon of regular unleaded gasoline was nearing $4 a gallon. Even as prices have fallen, Minnesotans are driving less, using more alternative fuels, and taking mass transit more often.

Are you one of the many Minnesotans that have changed their habits after the price of gasoline went up? Anyone taking a bike? Sharing a ride? Discuss.

Capitol Getting Free Energy Audit from Wal-Mart

The National Governors Association‘s Greening State Capitols program has selected 20 participating capitol complexes. Considering Tim Pawlenty is the NGA Chair that’d be some shit if we weren’t on the list.

From Wal-Mart’s press release:

During the next year, engineering experts will visit the 20 capitol facilities to examine the lighting, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems, as well as refrigeration equipment and building structures. Each governor will then receive recommendations on how to improve the energy efficiency of his or her capitol complex. The recommendations will be based on technologies that have proven successful in Wal-Mart stores, Sam’s Clubs and supplier facilities around the world. According to its engineering analysis, Wal-Mart, through its Supplier Energy Efficiency Program, has already helped participating organizations save between 20 and 50 percent on their energy bills.

More on Wal-Mart’s role, from the Greening State Capitols program announcement (pdf):

Wal-Mart will only recommend technologies that give the state a return on investment within five years, unless a state specifically asks for a different time frame. At the state’s request, Wal-Mart will use its procurement skills to attract bids from interested companies and facilitate installation of the recommended technologies.

Each state will provide personnel to help conduct the audit, implement recommendations, and track results.

It makes some sense when you consider what Wal-Mart has done to make their stores more energy efficient. And it jibes with the fact that real change on a large scale only happens when it becomes a business incentive to do so.

I still wonder about conflicts of interest, though. Wal-Mart can’t just be doing this out of the goodness of the VP of Sustainability‘s heart. PR? While it’s not guaranteed, they’re obviously going to get further business when the states implement their recommendations.

(via Maria Energia)

Earth Hour Observance: What’s the point?

The City of Minneapolis will observe Earth Hour by shutting off all non-essential lights from 7-8pm on Saturday, March 29.

I’m sure some of those big office buildings will see a (teeny, tiny) bit of a dip in their Xcel bill. It is significant in that 7-8pm on a Saturday is a pretty busy time for downtown what with all the bar-goers, dinner-goers, theater-goers, etc. So it’ll certainly be noticed.

But what do we really get out of this? The idea is that everyone else in the city will follow suit. So we all bust out the batteries, sit in the quiet, and sketch out our personal conservation plans by candlelight? Do we get to hear back how much energy was saved by the city in the effort?

The Earth Hour movement encourages you to sign up, thus triggering the flow of information-packed email to your inbox. (Strangely, they link to a Facebook application for an environmental footprint calculator. Try the original source.) If the city is making a show of its participation, how about spending the money they save on energy on citizen education? Or funnel it to non-profits that provide such education.

I’m not opposed to energy conservation, but I think Earth Hour ends up being more of an inconvience than a learning opportunity or an awareness raiser. Wouldn’t kill anyone to put down the internet and read a book for an hour, though.

(via Maria Energia)

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