Florida: FWC hosts climate change summit

30 09 2008

ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) – A climate change summit hosted by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will begin Wednesday in Orlando.

Climate change experts and fish and wildlife scientists will discuss the future of Florida’s animal populations and how to conserve and manage Florida’s resources. Experts from the FWC and other state and federal agencies will discuss the impacts of climate change on wildlife nationally and determine what it means for Florida.

Some of the experts attending include Virginia Burkett, a senior scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey, and Defenders of Wildlife’s Jean Brennan, a 2007 Nobel Peace Prize recipient for her work on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.





‘Green’ homeowners insurance now available in Georgia

30 09 2008

AP

Georgia homeowners who use environmentally friendly solar panels and recycled building materials on their houses can now get insurance specially designed for “green” homes, officials announced Tuesday.

The state insurance commissioner’s office has approved the first-ever green homeowners insurance policies in Georgia, commissioner John Oxendine said. The program – for customers of the California-based Fireman’s Fund Insurance Co. – guarantees that environmentally friendly homes will be rebuilt in the same way if they’re damaged or destroyed.

“We hope this will encourage and promote people to be green in their homes,” Oxendine said at a news conference at one of Atlanta’s houses with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

Georgia joins 26 other states where green insurance is available. Fireman’s officials say about two dozen Georgia homeowners have signed on so far.

Even homeowners who don’t have environmentally friendly houses can buy the green add-on from Fireman’s Fund to complement their existing insurance policy with the company, Oxendine said. That means if a house is destroyed in a fire or damaged by a tornado, for instance, the insurance company will rebuild it with a green design. It also will pay the hefty cost of hauling construction waste to recycling companies rather than junkyards, he said.

Laura Turner Seydel, daughter of media mogul Ted Turner, is one of the state’s new green insurance customers with her LEED-certified home in Atlanta’s posh Buckhead district. The home, called the EcoManor, has solar panels on the roof, natural lighting in almost every room, naturally dyed furniture and rugs, cabinets made from pressed hay, and a plumbing system that reuses rainwater and wastewater.

“I feel like I look better, think better and operate better,” Seydel said during a tour of her home Tuesday. “We have built a much healthier home for our family,” noting the home doesn’t have the chemicals and toxins often found in dyes, paints and construction materials.

Green building is more expensive because it requires specially designed appliances, hard-to-find plumbing fixtures and construction materials from within a 500-mile radius. But experts say green homeowners save about 30 percent on utility bills each month, which can quickly recoup the added cost of construction.

Seydel’s home is one of three LEED-certified homes in Georgia, according to the U.S. Green Building Council, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit. The certification means those homes meet a lengthy checklist of environmentally friendly requirements.

However, scores of Georgia homes are built with green components and energy-efficient designs, even though they don’t meet the stringent LEED certification, according to Southface, an Atlanta-based nonprofit that promotes green construction.





Statewide Tour Educates Homeowners and Businesses on New Georgia Clean Energy Property Tax Credits

30 09 2008

ATLANTA, September 30, 2008 – With the cost of traditional energy sources on the rise, interest in alternate energy sources like solar power is skyrocketing.  On Saturday, Oct. 4, at 18 locations in metro Atlanta and 36 sites statewide, the Georgia Solar Tour (GST) will demonstrate how solar power can and does work in Georgia.  The GST will also educate homeowners and businesses on how the new Georgia Clean Energy Property Tax Credits can save them money by installing their own solar systems.

 

The Georgia Solar Tour offers Georgians the opportunity to tour homes and buildings to see how neighbors are using solar energy, energy efficiency, and other sustainable technologies to reduce their monthly utility bills and help tackle climate change.

 

Selected Atlanta Sites (Open times noted. Links include details and directions):

·         Oakland Park Condominiums, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., 563 Memorial Drive (corner Memorial and Park Ave)

·         Stonehurst Place, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m., 923 Piedmont Ave (Bed & Breakfast)

·         Taylor Residence, 1 p.m. – 4 p.m., 750 West Sandtown Rd. Marietta

·         Berg Residence, 9 a.m. – Noon, 1111 Rosedale Drive, Atlanta (Virginia Highlands)

 

Solar Reception (Oct. 4, 4:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.)

A special reception Saturday at 4:30 p.m. at Southface Energy Institute (241 Pine Street NE) (directions) will conclude the Georgia Solar Tour, with comments by John Baumstark, CEO of Suniva.

 

According to survey results from the 2007 National Solar Tour:

·         76 percent of participants said they are definitely or very likely to invest in solar or energy efficient technology after the Tour, compared to less than 50 percent before the Tour.

·         A stunning 74 percent of participants indicated that they had never visited a solar or green-built home prior to this event.

 

“We are very excited to be showcasing the power of solar at 36 sites around our state on the 2008 Georgia Solar Tour,” said Georgia Solar Energy Society Vice-Chair, Laura Capps.  “We have been working to promote the use of solar and energy efficient technologies for more than 30 years in Georgia and really feel the tipping point is upon us.”

 

A fast growing segment of the population is implementing renewable energy technology to increase reliability and lessen environmental impact.  Interest in solar energy technology and energy efficient design continues to grow as energy prices rise. The Georgia Solar Tour offers the public a close up look at how solar technology works, and a chance to find out more about costs, savings and the ease of adding solar.

 

About Georgia Solar Energy Association

The Georgia Solar Energy Association is a non-profit organization working to promote renewable energy in the state of Georgia through education, research and advocacy. We promote all renewable energy production including, but not limited to, wind energy, solar thermal, photovoltaic energy, bio diesel and bio fuels, and micro-hydro energy.  We work towards further development and promotion of the solar industry in Georgia.  For more information, visit GSEA at www.gasolar.org.

 

2008 National Solar Tour

In 2007, the National Solar Tour attracted more than 115,000 attendees to 5,000 buildings in 2,900 participating communities nationwide. Now in its 13th year, this event is coordinated nationally by the nonprofit American Solar Energy Society (ASES), taking place annually in conjunction with National Energy Awareness Month.  In 2008, 48 states will participate with public tours of solar powered and energy efficient homes and buildings, educating the public about current solar technologies and rebates available. (www.NationalSolarTour.org)





Air quality a bit better in Atlanta

29 09 2008

Tuesday marks the end of smog season, when cooler temperatures arrive to clear the skies and freshen the air.

A full retinue of pollution controls, coupled with some good weather, gave metro Atlanta one of its easiest-breathing summers in a decade. In fact, this was the third-best year for air quality since 1998, when the state began measuring eight-hour increments of ground-level ozone, a key ingredient in smog.  When smog does cloud the skyline, it’s not as bad now as it was in the mid- to late 1990s.

“We just don’t see those extraordinarily high peaks, even on those brutally hot summer days when the winds are just stagnant,” said air quality expert Michael Chang, an atmospheric scientist at Georgia Tech. “We’ve made some measurable progress.”

But the standard continues to get tougher. Earlier this year, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency tightened the limit on ground-level ozone to 75 parts per billion measured over eight hours, down from the old limit of 84 parts per billion. The change was made to protect public health. The region violated the new standard on 29 days, which keeps it among the smoggiest metropolitan areas in the nation.

With most pollution controls checked off, Chang said it’s time to change the way the region develops and start investing in different modes of transportation, including commuter rail.

 

5 REASONS METRO ATLANTA’S AIR QUALITY HAS IMPROVED:

1. Power plant cleanup: Georgia Power Co. installed $800 million worth of pollution controls at seven of the state’s largest coal-burning power plants between 2001 and 2003.

2. More power plant cleanup: Out-of-state power plants that had dirtied metro Atlanta’s air installed similar controls to reduce emissions by 2004 under a federal requirement.

3. Vehicles got cleaner: During the past several years, new cars and pickup trucks have had to meet tighter emission standards.

4. Gas got cleaner: Georgia began requiring low-sulfur gasoline for 45 counties in and around metro Atlanta three years earlier than last year’s final phase-in of national low-sulfur requirements. Federal standards also require cleaner diesel fuel.

5. More people, less driving: High gas prices have forced drivers off the road; more commuters are opting to car pool, telework, take mass transit, bike or walk to work.

 

WHAT METRO ATLANTA PLANS TO DO TO GET EVEN CLEANER, AND COMPLY WITH THE FEDERAL CLEAN AIR ACT:

1. Convert Georgia Power’s Plant McDonough from coal to natural gas, scheduled to be completed in 2012.

2. Add pollution controls at all but the smallest of Georgia Power’s coal-fired units between 2011 and 2015.

3. Reduce emissions from older heavy-duty diesel trucks and buses.

4. Reduce emissions from locomotives and construction equipment.

Source: Georgia Environmental Protection Division





Washington County suddenly awash in power plant proposals

29 09 2008

Washington County could be poised to become Power Plant Central.

It already is home to two natural gas “peaker plants” that run during periods of high demand, and now two different companies are eyeing three sites for additional plants that would operate year-round.

In January, Power4GeorÂgians applied for permits to build an 850-megawatt coal-fired power plant northeast of Sandersville. This month, Oglethorpe Power announced that two Washington County sites east of Sandersville are in the running to host a 100-megawatt power plant, which would use wood chips for fuel.

If built, the plants would join those constructed in Washington County during the past five years by Progress Energy and Duke Energy Sandersville. They are also close to Georgia Power’s 1,500-megawatt Plant Branch in Putnam County.

Electricity might be “the new kaolin” for Washington County, said Tommy Walker, chairman of the Washington County Commission. The white clay, used in finishing glossy paper and making other products, was once the backbone of the local economy, but hundreds of kaolin jobs have disappeared in the past decade. Most recently, Imerys eliminated 50 jobs, Walker said.

“I’m pro-business, and I don’t think the (Environmental Protection Agency) or the state would allow us to have anything that would hurt us,” Walker said. “We want healthy industries. But certainly we need jobs.”

Oglethorpe Power estimates that the biomass plants would employ about 40 people each, which would mostly replace the recent jobs lost from Imerys, Walker noted.

While Plant Washington would be fueled by coal, which has faced broad opposition in recent years for its pollution, the Oglethorpe Power project is meant to broaden the company’s “green power” base.

Both Oglethorpe and Power4Georgians are companies made up of a conglomerate of energy cooperatives from around the state.

Oglethorpe is choosing among five sites to build two or three plants, which would be fueled by woody debris called biomass. Waste wood from logging, particle board plants and the construction industry will be burned to create steam for power. The plants will be designed to allow for mixing in other types of biomass, such as pecan hulls and peanut shells.

Read on here.





Perdue urges Bush to tap reserves to help with gas shortages

29 09 2008

Atlanta Business Chronicle

Gov. Sonny Perdue has sent a letter to President George W. Bush to ask him to order the U.S. Department of Energy to release a significant amount of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to help ease the pain of fuel shortages in the Southeast .

“As refinery capacity is returning to pre-hurricane levels, I believe a surge in crude from the reserve would bridge the gap until full production resumes and lessen the impact of shortages on the daily lives of our citizens,” Perdue said.

The U.S. Department of Energy has reported 57.4 percent of crude oil production capacity in the Gulf of Mexico is out. This is a slight improvement from Friday, when 59.3 percent of capacity was out.

The DOE has already released more than 4 million barrels of oil from the reserve. While it would take time for the crude to be processed by refineries and shipped to metro Atlanta market, release of the reserve would ensure fuel supplies continue to rise, the governor’s office said.

Read the letter here.





Event: Hands On Georgia’s Week of Service

29 09 2008

Hands On Georgia’s Week of Service is an annual event in which Hands On affiliates all across the state organize and mobilize volunteers in various events and activities in an effort to spread the word about volunteerism and meet the needs of all the communities in Georgia.

Hands On Georgia Week 2008 will inspire thousands of volunteers to address the multifaceted needs of Georgians through a variety of service projects designed to make a difference in their respective communities. From September 27 – October 4 communities will perform Hands On projects that address local needs as well as meet the desired interests of volunteers. Projects will include environmental clean ups, building restorations, wheel chair ramp construction, playground builds and tutoring sessions with children.

Hands On Savannah’s Week of Service activities:

Agency Spotlight: L.I.F.E. Inc.

Living Independence for Everyone Inc. (L.I.F.E. Inc.) is a small nonprofit advocacy organization dedicated to empowering people with disabilities to achieve equal rights, equal opportunities and integration into the community. L.I.F.E. Inc. is operated by and for people with disabilities. Our organization embraces the independent living philosophy. This philosophy is based on the core of independent living concepts of consumer control, self-advocacy, community change, and cross-disability participation. One of the bases of the IL philosophy is that everyone, no matter what his or her disability, has the right to make his or her own informed decisions.

L.I.F.E. Inc. was started by two women with disabilities with a vision for equal rights, equal opportunities and integration into the community for all people with disabilities. The organization started in 1986 in the home of one of L.I.F.E.’s co-founders. L.I.F.E. Inc. opened an office and became established in Chatham County. The organization grew and extended its reach into 10 additional counties. Through the advocacy efforts of its founders, L.I.F.E. Inc. was instrumental in bringing about accessible transportation, affordable, accessible housing and a home modification program to serve people with disabilities.

L.I.F.E. staff seeks to provide equivalent services to rural America. Living Independence for Everyone, Inc. is comprised of a team of eight dedicated staff, including four full-time and four part-time members. The staff is headed by an Executive Director, who oversees the general administration of the center. The Director is accountable to a Board of Directors. The staff currently consists of an Office/Home Modification manager, who is responsible for maintaining daily office operations, financial management, and coordinating the home modification and assistive technology programs. L.I.F.E. Inc. employs four Independent Living Coordinators. These coordinators provide the four core services of advocacy, peer support, independent living skills training, and information & referral. The Nursing Home Transition Leader identifies individuals in nursing homes who can live independently with the support of community based services and assists these individuals to transition back into their own homes. Over 51% of the L.I.F.E. staff and board are people with disabilities.

To volunteer call L.I.F.E. at (912) 920-2414.