Electricity Conservation News and Tips
from Please Conserve

Rating a cool roof

The Cool Roof Rating Council was created in 1998 as a non-profit independent organization to establish accurate and credible test methods for evaluating and labeling the solar reflectance and thermal emittance (radiative properties) of roofing products. That information is disseminated to all interested parties including building code bodies, energy service providers, architects, specifiers, property owners and community planners.

The mission of the CRRC is three-fold:
1. To implement and communicate fair, accurate, and credible radiative energy performance rating systems for all types of roof surfaces.

2. To support research into energy related radiative properties of roofing surfaces, including durability of those properties.

3. To provide education and objective support to parties interested in understanding and comparing various roofing options. At the core of the CRRC is its Product Rating Program, in which roofing manufacturers can label various roof surface products with radiative property values rated under a strict program administered by the CRRC. In the labeling program there are no thresholds for criteria that define “cool roofing”. The program developed by CRRC has been accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). Also the CRRC is the sole authoritative entity for cool roof properties used in the California Building Energy Efficiency Standards, Part 6, Title 24.

For more information on U.S Green Building and Product programs please see:

Largest CPV solar plant in Latin America supported by Hydro Aluminum

A precision-extruded aluminum framing system manufactured by Hydro has been installed at a 500-kilowatt electric generation facility in Durango, Mexico, the largest concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) solar facility in Latin America. Located about 550 miles north of Mexico City, the Durango site is already designated to expand to 10 megawatts total capacity in the near future.

The solar plant comprises 184 Skyline Solar X14 arrays. It uses parabolic mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto crystalline silicon PV cells. These arrays are mounted on extruded aluminum space-frames that raise them off the ground and allow them to track the sun through its daily east-west arc. Extruded aluminum was chosen for the frame structures because it provides efficient material utilization, low capital costs and short development times. Aluminum is corrosion-resistant and provides high stiffness to resist wind, improving this system’s accuracy and robustness.

“Our solar engineering specialists worked with Skyline’s team to review their design and were able to help optimize the frame design and identify cost saving opportunities using Hydro’s extensive library of alloys and extrusion expertise,” said Allan Bennett, vice president of solar market development for Hydro‘s Extrusion North America unit. “Together, the engineering teams were able to remove 40 percent of the structural material used in early frame prototypes. That reduced Skyline’s costs for raw materials, manufacturing and shipping.”

In sunny climates, CPV is the lowest cost solar technology for medium (less than 20 MW) and large-scale electricity generating facilities. Today, these constitute the fastest growing portion of the solar market.

About Skyline Solar: Skyline Solar manufactures integrated concentrated photovoltaic systems, incorporating industry-proven silicon cells, durable mirrors and single-axis tracking. The company was founded in 2007 and is funded by NEA and other investors. It has been awarded contracts by the U.S. Department of Energy and Department of Defense. Skyline Solar has 11 patents to date on its CPV architecture. For more information, visit,
About Hydro: Extrusion North America is a unit of Norsk Hydro, a global supplier of aluminum and aluminum products. Based in Norway, the company employs 23,000 people in 40 countries and has activities on all continents. Rooted in a century of experience in renewable energy production, technology development and progressive partnerships, Hydro is committed to strengthening the viability of the customers and communities we serve.
In North America, Hydro is a leading provider of extruded aluminum solutions including supply sourcing, extrusion, finishing, and fabrication of components, as well as contract manufacturing services, for a variety of industries. For more information, please visit,

Steel and aluminum producers make green gains

Domestic steel and aluminum producers consider “going green” a high priority—not just for altruistic reasons, but because it makes good business sense. While they have already made significant progress in becoming better stewards of their environment, mill executives say they intend to continue pushing the envelope as far as technology allows.

“We are a very energy-intensive industry,” says Brett Smith, senior director of government relations for the American Iron and Steel Institute in Washington, D.C. “It takes a lot of energy to make steel, so getting increased energy efficiency is the right thing to do for a number of reasons. It makes sense, not only from an environmental perspective but an economic perspective, as well.”

When steelmakers are more efficient, they consume less energy, and consuming less energy has a positive impact on their bottom line, says Eric J. Stuart, vice president of environment and energy for the Steel Manufacturers Association in Washington, D.C.
“Up to this point, there haven’t been regulations on the reduction of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. But many companies realize that by reducing the amount of energy they are consuming, they are also reducing their greenhouse gas emissions,” Stuart says.

For companies represented by SMA—the minimills that remelt steel scrap in giant electric arc furnaces—energy usage is a particularly large part of the cost of steel production. They are continually looking for ways to reduce their power need, and at the same time reduce the demand they are putting on the region’s electrical grid, he adds.

Aluminum, another very energy-intensive industry, has also spent an inordinate amount of time and resources to improve its energy efficiency and reduced its greenhouse gas emissions, says Charles Johnson, vice president of environment, health and safety for the Aluminum Association in Arlington, Va.

The environmental accomplishments of big aluminum and steel are all the more notable considering they were largely proactive, rather than forced by government legislation or regulation.

The domestic steel industry has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions (largely carbon dioxide) by 35 percent and increased its energy efficiency by about 30 percent since 1990. That is 240 percent of the Kyoto protocol, an international climate change agreement calling for an annual GHG reduction of 5 percent from 2008-2012, says Christopher Plummer, managing director of Metal Strategies Inc., West Chester, Pa.

Meanwhile, the aluminum industry has sharply reduced primary production, while stepping up secondary production or aluminum recycling. Since 1992, the industry has reduced primary production by more than 80 percent. During the same time period, the primary aluminum industry has become 17 percent more energy efficient, while the secondary aluminum industry has become 59 percent more energy efficient. “These are great industrial efficiency gains, especially in the current climate where energy costs and production dominate so much of the political discussion,” Johnson says.

Southern California and solar solutions

Just as cool temperatures and autumn rain sets in in the northern part of the country, here in Southern California, the sun blazes in cloudless skies, day after day. Ignoring such a plentiful and reliable source of energy might seem like overlooking a pile of cash sitting in the corner, but there are some barriers to installing a functional solar system that homeowners cannot, or are not, willing to overcome.

Deciding on whether to install a solar power system involves understanding your options and deciding on how big an investment you are willing to make in your home. You might be a dedicated conservationist and believe that any reduction in the power you draw off the grid is worth the money spent to reduce greenhouse gases associated with the production of that energy. Or, you might focus on long-term goals, such as improving the resale value of your home. Solar systems can also free you to live in remote areas, completely off the grid. Taking advantage of free information from governmental agencies is a good start, and finding local specialists that can answer specific questions and design a solar solution tailored to your needs is essential.

The most basic type of residential solar energy is a thermal solar system, which collects the sun’s energy to heat water. These systems do not store energy or create electricity, but save you from firing up your furnace to heat water. They are relatively inexpensive systems, ranging between 1,000 and 4,000 dollars.

Solar electric or photovoltaic technology transforms the energy from the sun directly into electricity. The system generates a direct current and a transformer changes it to the alternating current you use in your home. Batteries store any energy you do not use immediately for use at night or on cloudy days. When the amount of electricity you generate exceeds your use, you can opt to sell back the excess to the electric utility company that services your area. Some major manufacturers include SMA (inverter technology), and Mitsubishi, Suntech, and Canadian Solar for the modules themselves. Photovoltaic systems are pricier, averaging around $25,000 for a 3-killowat system.

New solar companies start up every day, and you should research the track record and staying power of each before investing in a system. Energy Efficient Solar, based in Pomona, California, has been in business since 1990. Going solar is a major investment, but there are various incentives and rebates available through governmental agencies. Check out the U.S. Department of Energy’s Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency for up-to-date information.

The most energy-efficient homes integrate smart home design into solar systems to maximize passive heating and cooling. Planting deciduous trees on the west side of your property can reduce cooling expenses in summer, while allowing the sun’s rays to heat your home in the winter. 

Finding an energy audit solution

An energy audit is a great way to discover places for you to save energy – and money. The first step in an energy audit is to talk to your power company. Many offer free audits that attempt to weed out energy wasting habits.

Second, consider energy management software.These programs track your usage and help you identify areas of waste. Take a demo of the Energy Lens program at

If neither of those steps satisfy you, you may want to call in a pro. Many consultants these days conduct energy audits that identify air leaks, wasteful equipment, places that need more insulation, and such. Look online under “energy consultants”to find one near you.

Green imaging options for the office

ENERGY STAR is a government program to encourage the use of energy-efficient equipment. The program is a joint initiative of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy.

The fact that those two organizations are involved highlights the duality of saving energy – it conserves valuable natural resources, and lowers your total cost of ownership.

The ENERGY STAR designation generally means an appliance does a job as well as a standard appliance, but uses at least 25 percent less energy.The EPA says that imaging products including small and large-format – with ENERGY STAR status will save more than $3 billion over the next five years and prevent emissions equivalent to the exhaust of 4 million cars. Imaging equipment isn’t the only equipment in an office, but due to its cost, electrical footprint, and maintenance, it requires more attention than other equipment.

Another issue to consider is the presence of toxic materials in imaging equipment. One way to check that is to see if your supplier is compliant with RoHS, a European Union directive that stands for “Restrictions on Certain Hazardous Substances.” Standardization with RoHS compliancy is moving to the United States; it is already mandated in California.

If you’re buying a large-format printer, two other items to consider are the warm-up time and how good the first print is. You can waste a lot of energy and paper if your printer does poorly in either of these areas. Another item you should look at when shopping for new imaging equipment is the recyclability of the parts. If your printer can be refurbished and resold after it leaves your shop, you will have one less downstream issue to worry about. Inquire first if the manufacturer of your equipment has a program to take back and refurbish used equipment. If this is an issue, see about leasing or purchasing certified refurbished equipment.

Wind power industry continues offshore push in U.S.

The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) recently continued its push for clean energy and more emphasis on its offshore wind siting policies.

Christopher Long, an experienced energy policy crafter in Rhode Island, will serve AWEA as the Manager of Offshore Wind and Siting Policy, working as a lead staff member and advocate on offshore wind issues.

His work will include staffing the association’s Offshore Wind Working Group and acting as the liaison to the Offshore Wind Development Coalition, which AWEA helped launch in 2010. He was prominent in the numerous sessions regarding the offshore wind business opportunity at WINDPOWER 2011, the world’s largest wind energy conference, held in Anaheim, Calif.

In addition, Long will assist AWEA on siting issues including interactions with wildlife, sound and visual impacts, and related permitting issues.
One of Long’s past primary responsibilities was energy policy including the development of offshore wind energy projects, and he was appointed to represent Rhode Island in the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Atlantic Offshore Wind Energy Consortium.

Long was also a fellow in the New England Clean Energy Council’s Leading Clean Energy Ventures program at the Boston University School of Management, which focused on innovation, venture formation, technology commercialization and job creation in the clean energy economy.

Because of high electricity costs and the close proximity of abundant offshore wind resources to major population centers, offshore wind can provide cost-competitive electricity to our nation’s coastal regions and will help to stimulate economic development, diversify our energy supply, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The association considers 2011 to represent a significant milestone year for wind power, with several major developments and coordinated strategic plans for an offshore wind industry in the United States.

Commercial-scale off-shore wind turbines have been in use in Europe to help provide power to communities facing high-energy costs, or those that encounter less wind on land. Wind turbines in the ocean generally encounter a steady, stronger wind stream than land-based turbines, which have to rely on power generators in many cases.

A change in furniture showroom lighting saves energy

That nice furniture you look at on a showroom floor usually has light cast on it for effect – and those lights can be on 12 or more hours a day.

It represents another area in which going green can save money, plus have a better effect on the products being showcased in stores and warehouses across the country.

European Furniture Warehouse, a Chicago retail business that imports modern classic and contemporary European style furniture, is an example of a company that relies on precision lighting to highlight its products. The furniture importer recently replaced 1,030 75-watt halogen bulbs in their showroom floor with Energy Brite solid-state LED lights that use only 15 watts without sacrificing the quality of the lighting.

“We had heard about other businesses saving on energy costs by using LED lighting,” said Randy Racana, vice president of EuroFurniture. “We did the research and added up the potential savings. The decision to switch was simple, the math was very clear,”

EuroFurniture sought out the help of Go Green Technologies, a Schaumburg, Ill., company specializing in energy-reducing green technologies, to make the switch.

“We looked at the existing lighting of EuroFurniture and evaluated their needs,” says Ron Bender, vice president of Go Green Technologies. “We presented them with an LED alternative and showed them the benefits.”

Those benefits, and the math that was attractive to Racana, showed that over the course of a year, EuroFurniture would save nearly $30,000 or about 80 percent on energy costs.

But the new bulbs represented other savings.  Unlike halogens, the LED lights generate very little heat, so EuroFurniture is able to cut 15 percent of its air conditioning bill. With the 50,000-hour life expectancy of an LED, or about 11 years, halogen bulbs would need to be replaced nearly 20 times more than a single installed LED bulb.

The old halogens used a flood pattern, but the new LEDs have a 45-degree beam. “The spot-lighting is a much better way to showcase our furniture,” says Racana, “Rather than flooding the showroom, we are now displaying our furniture like pieces of art.”

Over time the furniture stands to benefit as well. Ultraviolet rays from halogen bulbs deteriorate artwork and furniture, while LED lights transmit no ultraviolet emissions. LED lighting also does not attract bugs. Some businesses install LED lighting in entryways just to keep buzzing insects from entering their establishments.

Wind energy association spreads good news on growing industry

The American Wind Energy Association is reporting that America ’s wind power industry grew by 15 percent in 2010 and provided 26 percent of all new electric generating capacity in the United States. With the 5,116 megawatts added last year, U.S. wind installations now stand at 40,181 megawatts — enough to supply electricity for more than 10 million American homes.

“The American wind industry is delivering, despite competing with energy sectors that have permanent government subsidies in place,” said Denise Bode, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). “Wind is consistently performing, adding 35 percent of all new generating capacity since 2007 — that’s twice what coal and nuclear added combined.”

Recent statistics from the AWEA U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report reveal that wind continues to be an important player in the nation’s energy sector, with lower costs competitive with other generation sources, and it’s second in new generation capacity only to natural gas.

“It’s simple: Wind is affordable,” says Elizabeth Salerno, director of data and analysis and chief economist for AWEA. “It’s costing less than ever, and competing with other sources thanks to improved turbines built for better performance without a big price tag.”

The U.S. wind market entered 2011 with 5,600 megawatts under construction — more than twice the megawatts under construction at the start of 2010. The extension of a tax credit in December 2010 provided a signal to investors to continue growing in wind energy.

The association believes the industry is on track to produce 20 percent of America’s electricity by 2030, as was laid out by the Department of Energy during the Bush administration.

AWEA is the national trade association of America’s wind industry, representing more than 2,500 member companies.

Geothermal power capacity could double by 2020

As global energy demand increases and efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions intensify, an increasing number of countries throughout the world are looking to tap geothermal resources, a clean source of power with little to no emissions.

According to a new report from Pike Research, escalating investment in geothermal power could result in a 134 percent increase in total geothermal capacity between 2010 and 2020, from 10.7 gigawatts to 25.1 GW, under a high-growth forecast scenario. Under a more conservative business-as-usual forecast scenario, the cleantech market intelligence firm estimates that geothermal power capacity would increase 34 percent to 14.3 GW by 2020.

“Worldwide potential for geothermal energy is immense,” says senior analyst Peter Asmus, “but geothermal remains an underutilized resource and represents only a small fraction of the global renewable energy portfolio. Improved access to resource data, more efficient drilling processes, increased understanding about the industry’s potential, and improving access to financing are driving expanding interest in the sector.”

Asmus adds that the current installed capacity of 10.7 GW is spread across 26 countries with a combined output of approximately 67 terawatt hours (TWh) of electricity. Currently, the United States is the global geothermal leader with 3.1 GW of installed capacity, and seven countries represent 88 percent of the world market. While conventional geothermal resources account for nearly all online capacity today, enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) and co-produced wells both offer opportunities for expansion outside of rift zones or volcanically active regions throughout the world.

Pike Research’s high-growth forecast scenario assumes a continued increase and persistent volatility in the price of oil, tightening carbon regulations, improved access to capital, standardization of geothermal exploration data, contribution from EGS-enabled and co-produced resources, technological breakthroughs in exploration and drilling equipment, improved access to drills and skilled labor, and sustained policies supporting renewable energy mandates, grants and tax subsidies. “Even if progress falls short in these areas,” says Asmus, “the potential for geothermal market expansion remains strong, and even our conservative business-as-usual forecast is consistent with growth rates observed in the industry since 1990.”

For a free executive summary of the report, visit:


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