Monday, May 16, 2011

Community development: Access

Two North Carolina State Departments are going mobile. The Department of Cultural Resources and the Division of Parks and Recreation both announced the release of mobile applications that allow smartphone users to access information about their government agencies. That means putting everything from Civil War history to trail maps in the palm of a user's hand.

To access the Culture App (, available for Android devices, connects users with news and nearby sites of cultural history.

Or the Parks and Recreation App:
( available for iPod Touch, iPhone and Android devices.

Gratis and fee based versions are available.

Government moves like this make exploring our cultural and natural assets just a bit easier and us more mobile!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Sustainability: wind farming

There’s a fresh breeze blowing these days, that of wind energy.
At least two large-scale wind farm projects are in the works, and more farmland is being eyed by renewable energy companies for wind turbines.  With the high cost and unreliability of foreign oil these days, the nation is turning its attention to cleaner, domestic energy sources, including solar, wind and natural gas production.
Our region stands to lead the way in East Coast wind-generated electricity. First, as a leading agricultural region, we have plenty of land. And being near the coast, we have an abundance of steady wind.
Embracing these projects seems to be a no-brainer. Still, it pays to ask questions and retain a bit of healthy skepticism for what we might not know of any potential drawbacks.  The first wind farm proposal, called the Desert Wind Power Project, was announced in January by Portland, Ore.-based Iberdrola Renewables.
The company’s Atlantic Wind division wants to build up to 150 utility-scale wind turbines in the “desert” section of sparsely inhabited farmland that straddles Pasquotank and Perquimans counties. Eighty-two wind turbines would be in Pasquotank County, while 68 would be in Perquimans — a 300-MW facility generating enough power for 70,000 homes a year — roughly that of our Albemarle region.

Last week, the North Carolina Utilities Commission gave its approval. Now, Atlantic Wind needs local permits to support access roads, substations, collection lines, a meteorological tower and operations/maintenance facility.

Perquimans County’s planners were expected to consider the application Tuesday night, May 10. Pasquotank’s Planning Commission will consider its application Wednesday night, May 11.
Most of the 20,000 acres in the project would remain as farmland with the 475-foot-tall wind turbines operating on just 2 percent of the land. Up to 300 temporary jobs would be created, and local landowners would get paid about $1 million a year for allowing the turbines to be built on their land. Iberdrola has said it would employ about two dozen people to manage the wind farm once built. A second wind farm project has been proposed by Invenergy of Chicago, which plans to construct 100 turbines in the Hales Lake area of northern Camden and Currituck counties. 
The advantages of wind power are clear: With no fossil fuels burnt, no harmful greenhouse gases are emitted. They allow surrounding farmland to continue to be farmed. And when combined with solar energy, they can provide a significant and steady supply of electricity.
According to the National Climate Data Center, through 2002 the yearly average wind speeds for Norfolk, Va., was 10.5 mph, and for Cape Hatteras, 10.9 mph — the closest weather stations posted near us. Elsewhere in the East, only New York City, Boston, Mass., Key West, Fla., Mt. Washington, N.H., and Bridgeport, Conn., had equal or higher average wind speeds.
It’s no wonder the wind energy companies want to be here. And we see no reason why they shouldn’t be here

Monday, May 9, 2011

Preservation: Energy efficiency guidance

Interested in learning more about how to seamlessly integrate preservation and green building practices?  The National Park Service recently released The Secretary of the Interior’s Standards for Rehabilitation & Illustrated Guidelines on Sustainability for Rehabilitating Historic Buildings (PDF). Developed by the National Park Service’s Technical Preservation Services division, these are the first official federal guidelines for how to make changes to improve energy efficiency and preserve the character of historic buildings.

I really like the format; examples of “recommended” treatments and “not recommended” treatments make it a user friendly reference tool for the preservationist, HPC staff member or contracting professional.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Sustainability: State Energy Conference

Last week, I attended the 8th Annual Sustainability Energy Conference sponsored by the Energy Division of the NC Department of Commerce. There were over 1,000 people vending, presenting and like myself, just plain interested in seeing how this field is emerging.  Some cool facts. The state is focusing its resources (staff and funding) on six emerging sectors. They are as follows:
1. Solar. Did you know that NC is the 9th largest supplier of solar energy in the nation? I didn't and am pretty impressed with that statistic. We also offer some of the best personal, commercial and industrial state tax credits. They are summarized here.
2. Off-shore wind development: Is considered the next frontier of energy. UNC has done a substantial amount of research testing the opportunities engendered into our inner and outer coasts.  I learned that there's a race between our exiting state energy suppliers (Duke, Progress) and the more diverse suppliers such as Iberdrola Renewables, as well as our neighboring states- South Carolina and Virginia to lead the nation with this energy source. Morehead City, the Pamlico Sound and OBX all offer promising locations for developing wind energy.  Manufacturing, shipping and energy supply could be enhanced through policy and funding dedicated to launching this new market....Tuesday's Luncheon Keynote Speaker was David Shadle, Managing Director for Wind Business Development, Iberdrola Renewables. His discussion centered on Wind Development in the South and Other Tall Orders. was all very exciting and keeps me hopeful that we may actually recover down east from the loss of manufacturing jobs.
3. Smart Grid: I must have been daydreaming about small scale wind farms on the Pamlico Sound as I didn't write anything down about Smart Grid technology
4. Electrical Vehicles: Get Ready Raleigh is one of three EPA funded test sites. With support from lots of different groups, the City of Raleigh has successfully installed 3 publically available Eaton charging stations downtown. Actions have spurred other local entities to begin installing infrastructure, including the installation of 21 charging stations in a newly constructed parking deck. Raleigh is planning for the installation of additional charging stations.... I wonder if they need a small, rural community to set up a plug-in station for all those interested in "staycationing" this summer....
5. Biofuels: the goal here is to TRIPLE production over the next three years...a tall order. Check out this cutting-edge co-op,, my husband helped to construct their straw-bale solar biodiesel warmer...
6. Energy Efficiency in Buildings: It’s estimated that 60% of Green Economy jobs will surface from this sector; everybody from the home contractor to the industrial energy efficient expert is slapped into this category. I think the biggest challenge for improving the energy efficiency of our buildings lies in the market, or the lack thereof. I'm of the opinion that if we really want to see growth local, state and federal administrations should incentivize residential and commercial markets; refundable tax credits, low interest loans, guaranteed energy savings, etc