Project Frog Building Systems for the Future

I caught a small segment of an Anderson Cooper 360 show that highlighted the first energy efficient building in New England. It’s also the only independent school in Hartford Connecticut. Watkinson School – Center for Science and Global Studies is a Project Frog design. Project Frog’s website states it “makes the most technologically advanced, energy-efficient building systems on the planet. Employing innovative clean technology across the construction spectrum.” I was impressed, but than again I’ve always been in the modern, contemporary mode, what is Project Frog’s style.

Watkinson School needed a new building and fast. So in keeping with the theme of science and global studies that surely covers global climate change, the school went with Project Frog’s building plans/concepts, and 7 months later the school was ready. It leaves no carbon footprint and cost far less to run than a conventional building.

Check out the segment I saw on CNN and Project Frog’s website for more information. To me this looks like the way to go for charter Schools, new office buildings, retail, and hopefully homes of the future. And the biggest news here, it’s cheaper than standard building structures. Project Frog’s website lists the qualities of it’s buildings:

Healthier-low VOC, high air quality, abundant daylight
Higher Quality-engineered, factory built, premium materials
Safer-2008 IBC, zone 4 seismic, 110+mph wind
Materials-high recycled content
Operations-50-70% less consumption
Waste Reduction-near zero on site construction waste
Purchase-single integrated point of purchase
Permit-weeks not months
Build-5X faster than traditional construction
Purchase-25-40% less first cost
Operate-50-75% less operational cost
Recycle-100% recycle potential

I think we’re going to hear a whole lot more about Project Frog. Finally a company that presents a win, win situation for new building construction. Oh forgot to include that local contractors put up the buildings too.

Watch the video

Read more about Project Frog:


Governor’s Urge Congress for National Renewable Portfolio Standards

A bipartisan group of 29 governors across America called the Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition is urging congress for National Renewable Portfolio Standards “to provide a minimum 10 percent of their electricity from renewable sources like wind, solar, geothermal and biopower, by 2012. Over half of the states in the nation already have enacted some form of renewable electricity standard,” according to an article on ENS.

Iowa governor Chet Culver (D) is the Coalition’s chairperson, and Rhode Island’s governor Donald Carcieri (R) is the co-chair. Governor Culver would like to see a “national renewable energy standard of 25 percent by 2025, which he says could create more than 300,000 green jobs.” The governors just released “Great Expectations: U.S. Wind Energy Development, the Governors’ Wind Energy Coalition’s 2010 Recommendations.” According to the same article the recommendations urge Congress to:

Adopt a Renewable Electricity Standard.

Develop new interstate electric transmission system infrastructure as needed to provide access to premier renewable energy resources both onshore and offshore.

Fully support coastal, deep water, and offshore wind energy technology and transmission research and development.

Streamline permitting processes for both offshore and onshore wind energy development projects.

Expand the U.S. Department of Energy’s work with the states and the wind industry to accelerate innovation.

Extend the Treasury Department Grant Program in Lieu of the Investment Tax Credit, and adopt a long-term renewable energy production tax credit with provisions to broaden the pool of eligible investors.
The article has a lot of information in it. The governor’s involved have experience from their own state’s success with alternative energy. The best thing if this is enacted is that “actual transmission investment should flow from successful renewable power projects that can offer to purchasers the lowest delivered price of power for their product.” Yessss.

This push by governors is a thumb’s up for energy reform. After reading this it doesn’t appear the commercials on TV about energy reform raising taxes on the middle class hold water. Especially when the governor’s cited, “42 percent of all new power plants installed in the nation in 2008 are powered by wind.” So almost half of new U.S. power plants are already independent of fossil fuel.

The governors also addressed the cost of a national renewable energy system for interstate transmission “estimated to [to be] on the order of $75 to $100 billion to support economic power transfers and meet the 20 percent of renewable energy standard.” The governors’ report stated, “This investment can be obtained from the private sector, since current investments in transmission throughout the nation are now in the range of $5 billion to $10 billion a year from private sources.” Hmmm?

Read it:


New Urbanism; the Most Important Green Trend for 2010

I happened across Original Green’s website and spotted an article “The Green Top 10 for 2010″ relative to issues about sustainability. The trends described come from Steve Mouzon, a new urbanist architect that see his predictions coming to fruition over the next decade. They are in New Year’s countdown mode starting with:

# 10 Offshoring Reversal

There will be more interest in not only buying American but buying local as fuel costs make shipping products thousands of miles less cost effective as producing it ourselves.

# 9 The Sustainability of Preservation

Saving a building is in essence saving the environment as one headline of this article
stated: “The greenest brick is the one that’s already in the wall.” There is a trend to develop a viable method to “factor in the true value of preservation, both within the U.S. Building Council and elsewhere, because how can we say that we’re being green if we keep throwing buildings away?”

Another headline here is that GE targets net zero energy homes by 2015. These homes will sport photovoltaic sources, and windto produce energy. There will be efficient lighting, and on demand appliances, a place for energy storage, water filtration systems, a heat pump water heater utilizing the geothermal heat pumps that also contribute energy to the home. All is controlled through a master energy manager control panel and monitored with a smart meter for the home’s input/output to a smart grid.

#8 Gizmo Green Gets Exposed

This trend stems from the realization that going green is expensive and what with the economy the way it is, greening up homes to lower utility costs probably won’t happen as quickly as returning to passive heating and cooling methods.

If you’ve kept up with my blogs, I’ve blogged more than once that even on the coldest days in the winter if the sun is out in full, I shut off my main heat, open my blinds to 12 ft. of southern exposed windows, as well as, my front door. The sun warms the entire front of my house! That’s passive heating. In the summer we utilize 2 overhead fans, awnings, and shades to keep cool without a/c. Block the sun, and you will usually block the heat. True passive cooling would only use natural breezes, but my overhead fans use far less power than a/c.

#7 The Meltdown Vacuum

Because the construction industry and all related industries took a hit during this economy, overdevelopment of strip malls and subdivisions has stopped. What the arrested economy and construction business really did was bolster the courage of do it yourself homeowners. The advent of more and more do it yourself cable shows for home improvement wannabes unleashed a grassroots construction industry that is expected to keep growing.

#6 A Return to Gardening

Gardening is a real no brainer for anyone who cooks every night and wants to be economical and healthy. Usually people who would have a garden are also people who eat crops du jour “of the day.” Whatever is ripe is what is eaten that evening. By eating seasonal crops and buying locally when weather doesn’t permit a garden, we get a greater variety of natural vitamins and minerals, and many times without the pesticide problem. It’s cheaper, healthier, and easier to have a garden no matter how small. Believe me, I hate paying $3 for a bunch of fresh basil for a recipe when in the summer… Home gardening looks to increase everywhere even in urban landscapes.

#5 The ReCoding of a City

This trend reverses urban sprawl where going just about anywhere, to a convenience store, or the doctor’s office requires riding in a vehicle. The zoning code that works to reverse urban sprawl and concentrate people in cityscapes again is called the “Smart Code.” As the article states: “2010 looks like it might be the year that’s the tipping point with cities choosing this very smart way to reverse the tide of sprawl and make green cities possible.”

#4 The Return of Durability

Another no-brainer for me. In this post-melt-down economy people will return to buying better and more durable products to avoid tossing and buying new again because they simply can’t afford it. The article says: “High consumption is unsustainable.” Could our bulging trash dumps be an indicator?

#3 The Emergence of the Live-Work

We will either be working from home via the Internet or walking to work because the office is in the neighborhood once again, at least close enough to get there without the use of a car.

#2 The Big Convergence

There are three major components that mark this era happening right now, “the Meltdown, Peak Oil, and Climate Change.” This economic downturn ruined people. It was truly an economic meltdown. We know that oil has indeed peaked in production and is a finite source that will not last forever. And finally, climate change reality may be taking a back seat to economic suffering now but the “convergence” of all three of these things has created quite a movement, and an opportunity to return to what Mouzon calls “a Golden Age… something that would have been impossible in our previous sprawling, over-consuming, debt-ridden condition.”

#1 The New City

This is the top trend. It’s really a return to the old urban neighborhood where you walked to work, shops, school, clinics, and church. Entertainment and restaurants are within easy reach too. The only twist is that the rooftops of urban buildings will more than likely sport solar panels and wind turbines while grass and trees replace tarry surfaces. And anywhere there is available space to contain earth material a garden will grow.

Read the whole article:


Rep to Introduce Legislation in MI House to Allow Loans to Citizens by Local Governments for Renewable Energy Devices

According to a blog on Michigan Liberal and a brief article on, Representative Joel Sheltrown of West Branch planned to introduce legislation in the MI House today that would “allow local units of government to issue bonds to provide for loans to homeowners and businesses located within their jurisdiction for renewable energy production and energy efficiency improvements.” The bill concentrates on sun, wind, and geothermal energy production. And energy efficiency improvements include federal Energy Star qualifying improvements affixed to the structure.
Important points about the bill:

  • It’s voluntary. The decision to issue loans is up to local governments
  • The process for distributing loans under the bonds is also left to the local unit of government
  • The loans would not exceed a 20-year re-payment period
  • The interest rate on the loans would not be more than 0.5% higher than the interest rate on the bond.
  • The loan is qualified through the property rather than the owner’s credit rating
  • Repayment of the loan would be made through winter and summer property taxes and would remain with the property in the event of a sale.
  • The loan is qualified through the property not the owner’s credit rating so that more homeowner’s and businesses would qualify.
  • Homeowner’s and businesses would perform more energy improvements.
  • Property owners would generate their own renewable energy
  • The need for manufacturing, service, contracting, and building jobs in the green sector would increase from demand.
  • This bill does not impact the state as far as money because the only caveat for property owners—no state tax credit for any of this. And the loan programs are not dependent on state budget support.

This bill could lead to property owner’s earning a percentage of all excess energy they produce beyond their own needs, as it should be. It’s one heck of an incentive to move forward on renewable energy. Germany has a solar program that is similar. The government offers cash incentives for solar or wind devices. Property owners earn a percentage of what they produce.

Imagine getting money back for energy instead of paying a recurring monthly bill that restricts us from being as cool as we would like or as warm? Conservation spurs innovation. No one likes to cut back do they? We do so out of conscience. But if someone comes up with a way around it, we’re in.

Read the whole blog by Brady about the new House Bill:


Warren Buffet and Google Invest Heavily in Geothermal

There seems to be renewed interest in the potpourri of alternative energy sources by some of America’s billionaires. First T. Boone Pickens announced he is going with wind and natural gas. Now Warren Buffet and Google invest heavily in geothermal.

California leads the way in geothermal with 75 plants in a corridor called “The Geysers.”

Nevada is second for geothermal power with “45 new plants underway.” A good article in the LA Times on what we have already and where we’re heading with this new alternative energy source:,0,7002141.story?track=rss

The article noted that at 4 to 7 cents per kilowatt, geothermal is competitive with wind and a whole lot cheaper than solar. Geothermal plants take up far less space, and geothermal is a constant.

It looks like the government is interested in geothermal also. And the ariticle went on to say, “In October, the Bureau of Land Management said it planned to open more than 190 million acres of federal land in California and 11 other Western states for new geothermal development.” President Bush’s ranch in Crawford runs on geothermal, and oddity considering his predisposition toward oil. But in any case, it demonstrates that he recognizes the value of alternatives for our future.


Natural Gas Prices Will Be Much Higher This Winter

The U.S. has an overabundant supply of natural gas. We’re being told that it’s a fuel for the future. Other countries are creating cars that run on natural gas and the U.S. is losing out. Are we?

I heard on ABC news the other day that natural gas is going up 22% this winter when we use the stuff to heat our homes. Looking around at some of the country’s newspapers it appearsthe increase may be higher. Parts of Pennsylvania expect over a 33% increase, and Frankfurt, Kentucky claims that natural gas is up 70% from last year. If you’re wondering why natural gas is going up when it’s oil that’s high not the gas, and oil never seemed to affect the price of natural gas before, it’s because of demand.

So here we are again with a fossil fuel that has to be extracted, and boy are we devastating some beautiful places in America extracting the stuff, while demand continues to rise so the costs are getting out of hand no differently than oil. And we’re still screaming for offshore drilling for more oil? This should be a big kick in the pants to get away from fossil fuel forever.What is it we’re not getting?

Natural gas prices weren’t all that bad until oil got so outrageously expensive. Industries that can either use oil or natural gas have switched to gas. Meanwhile, we started using more natural gas to produce electricity. Natural gas consumption always used to be predominantly in the winter months, for heating purposes, now because of industry and demand for electricity for A/C, natural gas prices aren’t fluctuating cyclically. They’re just plain going up and up.

Just dandy huh? We need to get off this merry go round and realize that in the future we must adapt to a potpourri of energy sources, like some wind, some solar, some geothermal, etc., or we’re just going to keep hitting the same demand wall.

Calling for the U.S. to move solely to electricity may sound like we’re putting all our eggs in one basket too but electricity is the one source of power that appears to know no bounds for it’s generation. All types of things can be converted to electricity. With the advent of the hydrogen fuel cell and PEM’s, electricity will have even more ways to keep us in power in the future.


Clean Coal Remains Illusive

We’ll soon be seeing a new media blitz from the coal industry because people are catching on that coal is not clean. The industry is throwing $30 million dollars into an advertising and public relations campaign under the name of Americans for Balanced Energy Choices (ABEC). But the list that follows are all polluters like Billiton the largest mining company in the world, or CONSOL the largest producer of bituminous coal in America. They just don’t have motivation to cut into that kind power unless it’s from the kindness of their hearts.

AMEREN, American Electric Power, Arch Coal, Arkansas Electric Coop, Associated Electric Coop, Association of American Railroads, Basin Electric Power Coop, BHP Billiton, Buckeye Industrial Mining, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Group, CONSOL Energy, CSX, Detroit Edison, Duke Energy, Edison Electric Institute, First Energy Corp, Foundation Coal, Hoosier Energy, Massey Energy, National Mining Assoc., National Rural Electric Coop, Norfolk Southern, Peabody Energy, Southern Co., Tri-State Generation and Transmission, Union Pacific Railroad, Western Farmers Electric Coop.

This group is using other groups like America’s Power and Clean Coal USA to advertise across the country to make their coal look green. So be alert. There is nothing new. There is not a new kind of coal plant that generates electricity with lower CO2 emissions. There is coal that has very low sulfur content. And sulfur content and other particulates can be removed by what is termed “scrubbers.” That’s not new technology, but it will help alleviate lung problems. Until something drastically changes coal users like the cheap dirty stuff because everything else costs money. This is a good article about it from the Wall Street Journal:

In 2001 President Bush committed to more advanced clean coal technologies. According to an article on DOE’s website: “The Clean Coal Power Initiative is providing government co-financing for new coal technologies that can help utilities meet the President’s Clear Skies Initiative to cut sulfur, nitrogen and mercury pollutants from power plants by nearly 70 percent by the year 2018. Also, some of the early projects are showing ways to reduce greenhouse emissions by boosting the efficiency by which coal plants convert coal to electricity or other energy forms.” Come on, 10 more years to just get sulfur, nitrogen, and mercury pollutants down? That’s lame.

Not much is new with coal except for trapping the gas, and where to put it. Our Michigan CO2 well should be about full this weekend. It didn’t hold nearly enough liquid CO2. It’s not a solution. How many more holes are we going to rip into the earth? We have over 500,000 mines in the U.S. Many are old and abandoned. We have over 500,000 oil wells, many are done, fini. That’s a lot of holes in the ground. Will the earth heal quickly from the millions of holes we’ve drilled?


Renewable Portfolio Standards; Environmental Resume for States

I ran across a good website that explains RPS or Renewable Portfolio Standards. A state’s RPS spells out what is being enacted within the state to lower the state’s dependency on fossil fuels through conservation and alternative energy initiatives. And it draws jobsmany, many jobs! An analogy would be that an RPS is like a state’s environmental resume for new green businesses looking for a home fortheir headquarters/operations.

So all RPS’s aren’t the same of course. An RPS must be tailored to the state. All states won’t lean equally on the wind, solar, or geothermal power mix that are major parts of a state’s RPS. Some states will rely on solar more than wind, or wind more than geothermal power. An article that discusses Michigan’s RPS and how it already leaves solar out of the picture is That’s too bad because solar has been really good for me this winter in Michigan.

There is a lot of reading here and it’s very interesting. Twenty-four states have already established RPS’s and are experiencing a lot of job growth. Considering Michigan barely regulates its CO2 emissions, and keeps inviting more polluting industries into the state, I don’t find it surprising that Michigan doesn’t have an RPS yet. Of all the states that have suffered heavy job loss, an RPS should have been first on an agenda for our congress. Contact our reps. and senators to get moving on “green” job opportunities in the thousands in Michigan and cut the polluters loose.

The tax benefits to states that court “green” business is good also. The sercoline website below stated that in Nevada, one geothermal plant paid “$800,000 in county taxes and $1.7 million in property taxes. In addition, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management collects nearly $20 million each year in rent and royalties from geothermal plants producing power on federal lands in Nevada half of these revenues are returned to the state.” In Iowa, “the 240 MW of wind capacity installed in 1998 and 1999 produced $2 million per year in tax payments to counties and school districts and $640,000 per year in direct lease payments to landowners.”

So having, as well as, advertising a good RPS will garner states more jobs, a greater tax base, and a much healthier environment while helping alleviate overall global warming. The big bonus: it entices more business to come on board, like Minnesota: “The 143 wind turbines in the 107-MW Lake Benton I project in Minnesota, installed in early 1998, brought $250 million in investment.”

Are Michigan’s tradeoffs to polluting industries for a few hundred jobs saved here and there being offset against higher health care expense due to bad air, or water pollution, and include the loss of new “green” jobs that bring more tax revenue, and entice more businesses to invest in Michigan? I’d like to see that equation. I don’t think Michigan is heading in the right direction, except for the very temporary oil drilling blitz that will probably occur, whether we want it to or not. But at some point, our demand will exceed our supply and we won’t have oilmen in the White House to push that agenda any longer.


A Fossil Fuel State

I’m sorry to read that Michiganpersists withpollution policy instead of sound environmental policy. We need to get the corporate friendly senate moving in a cleaner direction. We have an obligation in this state to at very least try to keep the water clean. If we keep goofing off, someone might decide we are poor stewards and should share the wealth and management of our water. Does adding more coalburners to the list of 19, including the country’s second largest in Monroe, sound like anyone here pays attention to health issues, future problems with water shortages, or the earth? The latest out of MI senate is a push to alter abortion issues in Michigan. That’s the big priority? People need jobs; we need a decent and moral economy. By moral, I mean we do our utmost not to disturb life in the process of living and producing. A green economy can offer plenty of jobs but that ride is being held up either on a state or federal level and benefits the oil industry.

We know for instance about oil leases that have been sold in pristine areas and/or habitat for polar bears, seals and all types of birds. Drilling there is pending and the oil industry wants to get moving. It’s becoming obvious that placing the polar bear on the endangered list is purposely being stalled. All that is needed is a great motivator. Bingo, gas will go up beyond $4.00 per gallon shortly. We’re already being taunted by that forecast. People are expected to cry drill, drill, drill and to hell with the animals. And we’ll probably do that, instead of seeing the big picture and how we’re being manipulated by the utilities. Even Warren Buffet commented that we’ve been sticking straws into the earth and sorry but it’s a finite practice. We will eventually run out. We collectively had over 500,000 wells. Our demand is ridiculous, and growing and it all revolves around the same fossil sources.

Heaven forbid we advance in technology and perfect wind and solar power for the individual home, and make it cheap. Houses would stand-alone without need for utilities. It’s almost laughable isn’t it? We are street smart enough to know the powers that be won’t let that happen. Anyway, our airwaves will be controlled shortly. Can’t even get free air anymore, besides there is that ever lovin entertainment/sports world that’s always going to charge too.

We could practice conservation. We could develop an RPS for Michigan, (more on that in another blog), which would entice green developers to come here. I’ve been saying this for quite awhile. What green industry is going to plant themselves next to a bunch of pollution? We’ll never get away from polluting industries once they are established without paying for it dearly. The buck will pass on to us for corporation’s stubborn business sense if and when in the future a big conservation effort needs to be enacted because, gee, we really are polluting ourselves to death.

I was reading the Sierra Club’s “The Mackinac” and it states what I’ve been reading elsewhere, that many places in this country are not giving permits to more coalburners. The front-page article said 44 proposed coal-fired plants were either denied or withdrawn in 2007 thanks to The Sierra Club. So what happened here?

There were five more coalburners looking for environmental permits in Michigan, with three more new plants under discussion the article said. It also stated that the challenge to put a moratorium on coal-fired plants in Michigan is daunting. Well I guess, especially with a corporation friendly senate. It said, “The state has refused to regulate the CO2 from coal plants that contribute to global warming (so long as the applicants address other pollutants, the state will let them be built). So that’s why the rush to install scrubbers? The scrubbers address other pollutants that are breathing irritants, but not the mercury that is permeating through the water to the fish, to the birds, and eventually anyone who drinks the waterone of the world’s largest freshwater supplies that is no longer so fresh. Or the CO2, that’s warming us up and causing some really bad weatheralmost tornado season. What’s the sense of the Great Lakes Legacy Act? What a tail chase, and meanwhile the water and Michigan loses, while the polar bears, seals, fish, and birds, the entire earth, take a back seat to our excess.

Take a stand and participate. Read:


Beware That Tricky Little Word “Foreign” When Referring to Oil

I don’t know if any other people interested in moving forward with all types of alternative energy have noticed the purposeful placement of the word “foreign” in many of the presidential contenders, Bush/Cheney,and legislator’sspeeches. When a politician says they will make sure to fund research for new technologies to get us away from “foreign” oil dependence, they are probably talking money for a new type of oil drilling process. Technically, they won’t be lying, just misleading, if you tend to disregard that tricky little word “foreign.”

Granted, it’s been said that we do not have alternative technology available yet to take up the brunt of our oil demand, but it seems we keep looking to only one, and not a combination of alternative sources. What about a combination of alternative energy sources? I hear this idea floating around, but no gelling. The Sierra Club of Michigan has a very good presentation that shows a combination of energy sources, wind, solar, geothermal, etc., plus conservation programs like reclaiming wastewater, and recycling may meet all of our energy demands in Michigan. But we’re not advancing toward a future that will no longer be reliant on one big massive conglomerate like the oil cartel is to us right now. It seems we work toward monopolies in this country. Then we’re upset when we’re stuck with them without a choice. We should be looking to all venues to move forward for our energy future, not reinforcing the idea of fossil fuel again, like it’s all right because it belongs to us.

I see the big push to get away from “foreign” oil as the big ruse to drill in the Arctic circle, the polar bear habitat, Utah, even Livonia, MI for Pete’s sake, and anywhere a slant oil drill can legitimately be utilized to “not’ enter our protected National Parks. They do so anyway at an angle right under protected habitat, while doing a great deal of damage with all the accompanying paraphernalia like roads, pipeline, trucks, heavy equipment, and trash. Ditto for coal mining. Using coal is getting away from “foreign” oil, all oil, but is still perpetuating the use of filthy fossil fuel that will eventually run out. Sure it might be thousands of years before it does, but at what price, gutting the countryside, ruining the earth trying?

So beware of that tricky little “foreign” word that comes before oil. It’s not a detail that should go unnoticed, because it doesn’t make any difference. It does, or they wouldn’t be slipping it in there. It makes all the difference in our lives, our environment, and our world whether our future continues to poke around the earth and the oceans below for oil or coal that is “OURS.” Our oil and coal burn just as filthy as the “foreign” stuff.