Glacial Energy Blog

Which State is the Leader in Wind Energy?

wind energyWind turbines can be found all over the country, dotting the landscape and swinging their massive blades through the air. By the end of 2012, the United States boasted a staggering 45,100 wind turbines, generating over 60,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity. This was also the first year where wind energy surpassed all other energy sources, providing about 42 percent of generated electricity. But which state provides the most wind energy in the country? That would be none other than the great state of Texas.

Not only does Texas boast the highest number of wind turbines and generated electricity, it has also generated thousands of American jobs and provided numerous economic and environmental benefits. Even though they are the national leader, that isn’t stopping Texas from planning to nearly triple its electricity generation. Texas is the first and currently only state to surpass the generation of 10,000 MW of electricity. The state generates 10,929 MW of electricity as of October of 2012, 535 of those megawatts were added last year alone. There are another 1,291 MW worth of facilities currently under construction and an estimated 22,239 MW planned for future construction. Texas generates enough electricity to power over 2.7 million homes.

Texas established a renewable portfolio standard in 1999 that was amended in 2005 requiring the state to generate 5,880 MW of renewable energy by 2015 and generating 10,000 MW by 2025. Having already surpassed that requirement in 2010, the National Renewable Energy Lab now estimates Texas’ wind resource could potentially provide 19 times the state’s current electricity needs. The state also holds four of the top five spots for the largest wind farms in the country.

In addition to all the generated electricity, the wind industry in Texas has supported 6,000 to 7,000 jobs in 2011. This includes operation, management, construction, and manufacturing for these gigantic turbines. There are at least 37 Texas facilities involved in the production of wind turbine components, with more facilities expected to open in the coming years. Wind power projects also produce lease payments for land owners and increase the tax base of communities. Collectively, land owners have received $31 million in annual lease payments, and the state’s tax base includes $115 million in annual property tax payments.

Generating electricity from wind turbines produces no emissions and uses virtually no water. Thanks to the thousands of online turbines in the state, nearly 19 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions have been offset. When it comes to wind energy, Texas is as green as it gets.

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About Glacial Energy: Glacial Energy is one of the fastest growing national retail energy suppliers selling electricity and natural gas to residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional customers in deregulated markets across the country. Glacial Energy has the resources and market knowledge to provide customized quotes for your business or cost-saving opportunities for your home. Learn more about Glacial Energy by visiting:  www.GlacialEnergy.com.

The World’s Most Energy Efficient Building?

Green City vectorMany home and business owners are making an effort to have energy efficient buildings. They invest in new windows, smart thermostats they can control with a phone, properly insulate and weather strip, and reduce needless energy consumption. But, the Bullitt Center is a project of the Bullitt Foundation that will become a 50,000 square foot building in Seattle, Washington. And it very well could become the most energy efficient in the world.

Centered around natural lighting, energy conservation, and green technology, this building aims to be the greenest building ever seen. This project could become a stepping stone for businesses wanting to be more energy conscious. The building itself will be six stories tall and the first floor has been leased to the International Living Future Institute, which presented the Living Building Challenge, an effort to focus on energy conservation and green practices. The building has an open floor plan and large windows, emphasizing the use of natural lighting. Businesses will be given the option to choose their own lighting.  One viable option is full spectrum lighting, which can produce artificial sunlight. And of course, energy efficient LEDs are always plausible, too.

It isn’t just the building that will be green. Another purpose is to promote a green lifestyle. The building will feature bicycle storage areas and pedestrian friendly locations. The building will also feature a green roof, which provides added insulation and a lovely garden space, solar arrays to help provide power, and it will collect and store rainwater. Furthermore, no toxic materials will be used for construction. The building will have no PVC or lead anywhere in it.

The Bullitt Center has the potential to become the greenest building on the planet, and will hopefully set the standard for future commercial buildings.

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About Glacial Energy: Glacial Energy is one of the fastest growing national retail energy suppliers selling electricity and natural gas to residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional customers in deregulated markets across the country. Glacial Energy has the resources and market knowledge to provide customized quotes for your business or cost-saving opportunities for your home. Learn more about Glacial Energy by visiting:  www.GlacialEnergy.com.

How Las Vegas is Using Solar Power

Desert Solar AerialLas Vegas is a city of bright lights, fancy shows, sprawling deserts, and a brand new solar farm that will provide energy for a nearby waste water treatment plant. The 15,000 panel solar farm is densely packed into 25 acres of city land that was originally an empty strip of land serving as a buffer between the city and the treatment plant. The plant treats and processes all of the city’s waste water on its way toward Lake Mead.

According to Tom Perrigo, Las Vegas’ chief sustainability officer, the water treatment plant alone accounts for approximately one third of the city’s energy expenditure, along side streetlamps and city buildings. The new solar farm will generate six million kilowatt hours of energy each year, providing about 20 percent of the plant’s power requirements. This three megawatt solar farm is the largest installation in Las Vegas’ energy portfolio.

Solar panels have been installed on 29 other city buildings and generate an additional two megawatts of energy, which surpasses the benchmark set by the city council in 2008. Between the solar arrays and other programs, including converting to LED light sources, the city’s annual energy bill has been cut by $5 million in the past ten years. The solar installation project was funded using the city’s sanitary enterprise fund, and some of the costs were deflected thanks to rebates and grants.

In the long run, renewable energy projects always pay for themselves.  This solar array is expected to repay the investment within 25 years, but the installation is expected to function for 40 or more years, potentially paying for itself twice over in savings. With wide open expanses of untouched desert, Las Vegas and other cities in Nevada will likely expand their energy portfolios with more concentrated solar farms to provide a clean and renewable energy source.

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About Glacial Energy: Glacial Energy is one of the fastest growing national retail energy suppliers selling electricity and natural gas to residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional customers in deregulated markets across the country. Glacial Energy has the resources and market knowledge to provide customized quotes for your business or cost-saving opportunities for your home. Learn more about Glacial Energy by visiting:  www.GlacialEnergy.com.

Which State is the Leader in Solar Energy?

Home with solar panelsSolar generated electricity is fast becoming a popular alternative energy production method. Many homes lay out solar panels on their roofs to capture the sun’s rays and turn that into clean, affordable energy. But, there’s one state where entire roofs are covered and some fields are home to long rows of obsidian and chrome colored panels. Who is this solar leader? It is none other than the beautiful New England commonwealth of Massachusetts.

In 2012, Massachusetts doubled its solar capacity to 194 megawatts, enough to power 30,000 homes, making it the leader in the solar market. By 2017, The Bay State is expected to generate 250 megawatts of solar energy. All of this comes as a result of solar programs, including Solarize Massachusetts and Commonwealth Solar. Massachusetts legislature requests that utilities get at least 15 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020. As a result, large quantities of solar panel arrays, known as solar farms, are popping up all over the state.

Of course, a major incentive for mainstream acceptance of solar electricity is its affordability. The cost of solar panels has dropped over 60 percent over the past decade. It is worth noting, however, to beware of overly cheap panels, as they may not be as efficient as a pricier model. Even still, the savings garnered from utilizing solar energy will far outweigh the cost per panel.

The progressive thinkers and well organized leadership, coupled with falling panel prices and incredible incentives is giving solar energy a bright future in Massachusetts. Solar energy is a cheap, environmentally friendly, alternative energy source that is gaining popularity all over the country, and it’s proving its attractiveness in Massachusetts. It’s only a matter of time before it is one of the top methods for generating electricity.

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Image courtesy of Sean Dougherty of Video Excellence

About Glacial Energy: Glacial Energy is one of the fastest growing national retail energy suppliers selling electricity and natural gas to residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional customers in deregulated markets across the country. Glacial Energy has the resources and market knowledge to provide customized quotes for your business or cost-saving opportunities for your home. Learn more about Glacial Energy by visiting:  www.GlacialEnergy.com.

The Driving Force behind LEDs

Led bulbs in woman's hand isolated on black backgroundWe all know Light Emitting Diodes, or LEDs, are energy efficient and bright light sources. With the rapid increase in LED usage, the world will be saving about $30 billion in energy costs by the year 2027. That’s equal to the annual output of 44 large power plants! Of all the electricity produced in the world, approximately one fifth of that is dedicated to lighting, resulting in 1.9 billion tons of carbon dioxide being produced annually. LEDs could very well secure a much more energy efficient future for our planet.

The US Department of Energy estimates that LED efficiency will be two and a half times greater than current fluorescent bulbs by the year 2020. These bulbs, estimated to produce 258 lumens per watt, will save 90% more energy than our current fluorescent lamps. And by that time, prices will have fallen by 80%, making it more affordable than ever to invest in the growing technology.

LEDs can function continuously for about 11 years. That’s right, 11 years of uninterrupted use. All other lighting solutions on the market last merely a tenth that amount of time. While incandescent bulbs will cease functioning solely because the filament has snapped, LED lights simply dim as their life span runs out, losing about 70% of its original luminosity after about 100,000 hours.

A typical incandescent bulb radiates about 90% of its energy as heat, and compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) radiate about 80% heat energy. LEDs remain cool to the touch and effectively radiate nearly all of their energy as light. This ability to remain cool as well as provide more concentrated, directional light lends them to be extremely beneficial in many environments, including hospital operating tables, wedding uplighting, stage lights, and general home use cuts way down on ambient heat.

But what really drives these powerful lights? Well, actually, they’re called drivers. LED drivers serve as the bridge between bulbs and the power supply. They control all the functions of the LEDs and allow them to be so versatile in nearly any situation. Each lighting solution requires a unique LED driver, but the ever changing technology allows for more options to suit our needs. LED drivers allow different power supplies to serve as the basis for an easily configured lighting option. They can command the lights to turn on when ambient light drops below a certain level, operate on a timed schedule, or function as effective emergency lights.

The reason why every lighting situation requires a unique driver is due largely in part to the quality of LEDs and how they are implemented. The number of bulbs or strings, as well as the overall quality of the bulbs will determine the type of driver needed. Will they need to be dimmable, or will they flash? Will they run continuously, or only turn on when someone enters the room?

Speaking of dimmable LEDs, strings tied to a dimmer switch can further reduce energy consumption and costs. The human eye cannot see the difference between LEDs running at full power and LEDs running at 90% power. Running the lights at 50% power can effectively double their lifespan as well.

Simply put, LEDs outshine the competition. They are brighter, cheaper to run, and last much longer than anything currently available. They cost more to install initially, and installing the proper drivers is very important, but in the long run, they will provide high quality light at a fraction of the cost. Studies show that switching to LED lighting improves performance in the workplace and has an overall positive effect on the health of individuals. LEDs are the perfect way to go green and feel good about your lighting investment.

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About Glacial Energy: Glacial Energy is one of the fastest growing national retail energy suppliers selling electricity and natural gas to residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional customers in deregulated markets across the country. Glacial Energy has the resources and market knowledge to provide customized quotes for your business or cost-saving opportunities for your home. Learn more about Glacial Energy by visiting:  www.GlacialEnergy.com.

Home Improvements That Will Save Energy!

Green and Blue Home VectorWe all want our homes to look presentable to guests who visit and potential buyers when we’re ready to sell. We also want to feel good about our home – our investment – in general. By making some energy efficient home improvements, you can improve how your home looks, save money, and feel good about your investment.

According to a report by Harvard University, buyers are willing to pay up to 10% more for a green home. But you don’t just have to be selling your home to see the benefits of going green. Replacing old windows and doors will improve energy efficiency by minimizing heat gain and loss during summer and winter months, respectively. This can save hundreds of dollars annually on your electricity bill. There are many other ways to improve your home and save some green while going green.

  • Solar Water Heater – Solar water heating systems use 50% to 80% less energy than a standard heater. They can lower your energy bill by 10% to 15% annually. They are more costly to install, but most homeowners recover the cost of their investment within a few years. Also, a solar water heater may qualify you for a tax credit equal to up to 30% of the cost of the unit.
  • Phase Out Incandescent Lights – The federal government passed a law in 2012 effectively banning incandescent lights that range from 40 to 100 watts. The law requires all these incandescent bulbs be phased out by 2014, but you can start phasing them out now. Start switching over to energy efficient LED and CFL bulbs now and start seeing the savings.
  • Add Skylights – Adding or upgrading to an ENERGY STAR rated skylight can cut utility costs by eliminating the need for artificial lights during the day. Skylight manufacturer Velux claims installing a solar powered fresh air skylight can improve energy efficiency by up to 37% and qualify you for more tax credits. During the winter months, skylights also allow more warmth from sunlight to enter your home, further reducing your energy needs.
  • Replace Old HVAC Systems – According to ENERGY STAR, 50% of energy consumption in the typical American home goes to heating and cooling the house. Updating your Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning system with newer and more efficient systems can drastically reduce energy costs.
  • Upgrade Windows and Doors – ENERGY STAR rated windows will keep your home air-tight and help keep costs down by preventing heat loss in the winter and heat gain in the summer. Weather stripping your doors will also prevent drafts and lower your energy costs as well.

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About Glacial Energy: Glacial Energy is one of the fastest growing national retail energy suppliers selling electricity and natural gas to residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional customers in deregulated markets across the country. Glacial Energy has the resources and market knowledge to provide customized quotes for your business or cost-saving opportunities for your home. Learn more about Glacial Energy by visiting:  www.GlacialEnergy.com.

Natural Gas . . . Vehicles?

Natural gas fuel pump at gas stationGasoline powered vehicles have existed for well over a century. The first gasoline powered car was road tested in 1893 by the Duryea Brothers in Springfield, Massachusetts. Since then, almost every vehicle we see on the road runs on fossil fuel. Many of them are a hybrid of fossil fuel and electricity.  But a growing number of alternative energy vehicles are making their own mark in the transportation world: Natural Gas Vehicles (NGVs).

According to the Natural Gas Vehicle Commission of America, there are over 120,000 NGVs on the roads in the United States and over 15 million worldwide.  All of these vehicles meet even the strictest emissions standards put forth by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  Over the course of the year 2011, NGVs helped offset nearly 360 million gallons of gasoline consumption in the United States. They are also as safe, or safer, than any of their gasoline or diesel engine counterparts.

Natural gas currently costs about $1.50-$2.00 less per gasoline gallon equivalent (GGE). A GGE is the amount of alternative fuel required to equal the energy content of a single gallon of gasoline. In 1994, the United States National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) defined 5.660 pounds of natural gas to equal one GGE. There are only about 1,000 NGV refueling stations in the United States, but there are home refueling appliances that will allow you to refuel your vehicle right at home.

According to the American Public Transportation Association, nearly one-fifth of all transit buses ran on natural gas in 2011. They are currently the largest consumer of natural gas in vehicles, accounting for about 62% of all NGVs in the United States. Waste collection and transfer vehicles are the fastest growing group of NGVs, currently accounting for about 12% of all NGVs in the US. On top of all that, more than 35 airports in the US employ the use of NGVs in their vehicular fleets, taking up another 9% of total NGVs.

So, what makes a natural gas vehicle so important? Natural gas is cheaper and cleaner than gasoline, plus 98% of natural gas in the US was produced in North America. Compared to the 47% of imported oil, natural gas production is more of a boon to the local economy. Carbon monoxide emissions from NGVs are 70-90% lower than that of fossil fuel vehicles, carbon dioxide emissions are 20-30% lower, nitrogen oxides are 75-95% lower, and non-methane organic gas emissions are 50-75% lower.

There are numerous manufacturers that make natural gas vehicles, including Chrysler, Ford, and Honda. The EPA even listed the natural gas-powered Honda Civic as the cleanest commercially available, internal combustion vehicle on the market. The natural gas vehicle market is growing, and with all the benefits, it will certainly be worth the investment.

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About Glacial Energy: Glacial Energy is one of the fastest growing national retail energy suppliers selling electricity and natural gas to residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional customers in deregulated markets across the country. Glacial Energy has the resources and market knowledge to provide customized quotes for your business or cost-saving opportunities for your home. Learn more about Glacial Energy by visiting:  www.GlacialEnergy.com.

The Benefits of Weather Stripping

HandymanAs houses age, they can develop small cracks along seams in windowsills, door frames, and attic spaces. These tiny cracks can have a major impact on your energy costs. Air seeps through these cracks, causing your home to lose 30 to 40% in extra heat in the winter and cooled air from your air conditioner in the summer. One way to combat this issue is to weather strip your house.

What is Weather Stripping?

Weather stripping is taking a material such as sponge, foam, felt, rubber, vinyl, or metal and using them to fill in the gaps formed by these cracks. Soft materials like sponge, foam, and felt are generally the most inexpensive, but are also the least durable materials. Vinyl is a very common weather stripping material, being that it is fairly durable and resistant to moisture. Metals such as copper, stainless steel, and aluminum are often used in conjunction with other materials to help reinforce them. These materials will prevent air, dust, and insects from passing through the gaps between windows and their sills or doors and their frames. It is important to seal the gaps on doors that lead to attics, basements, and garages as well as those leading outside, as these rooms can be prone to air leaks.

Types of Weather Stripping

  • Pliable Gaskets – These rubber seals can be applied to door and window stops or to window sashes.
  • Rigid Strip Gasket – These thin strips of vinyl, felt, or foam can be attached to wood or metal strips and affixed to window and door frames.
  • Door Sweep – A metal strip with sponge, vinyl, felt, or brushes is screwed into the bottom of the door and is particularly useful for doors that lack or have a low-profile threshold.
  • Door Shoe – A similar design to the door sweep, this aluminum and vinyl strip is again affixed to the bottom of the door and maintains a seal with doors that have a higher profile threshold.
  • Folded Strips – Metal or vinyl strips laid in window channels or between the door and jamb help seal most gaps.

Installing weather stripping is relatively easy to do. Some materials even have self-adhesive options, requiring only a clean, dry surface to attach to. Others may slide into place or require some glue, screws, or nails. It is recommended you follow the manufacturer’s directions when weather stripping your own home.

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About Glacial Energy: Glacial Energy is one of the fastest growing national retail energy suppliers selling electricity and natural gas to residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional customers in deregulated markets across the country. Glacial Energy has the resources and market knowledge to provide customized quotes for your business or cost-saving opportunities for your home. Learn more about Glacial Energy by visiting:  www.GlacialEnergy.com.

What is “Power Felt”?

power felt very close white backgroundElectricity can be generated by many different means.  Solar panels, wind turbines, hydroelectricity, natural gas, coal, and geothermal vents are many of the ways we generate electricity. But now, David Carroll, a nanotechnologist from Wake Forest University has developed a thermoelectric fabric he calls power felt that generates electricity from heat or movement.

The fabric is created using carbon nanotubes, which converts heat and motion energy into usable electricity. Carroll foresees the fabric being sewn into smart phone cases, wrapped around appliances or entire homes, and worn in clothing, where it could charge your phone and power medical devices that monitor your health. Because of the felt’s composition, it actually feels like wool felt, unlike the ceramics in other thermoelectric materials. The fabric is incredibly versatile – from being wrapped around a car’s tail pipe to capture lost heat, to being woven into our clothing to recharge our phones – and very cheap to manufacture. It costs about 25 cents for a couple square feet, enough to wrap up a laptop.

The medical applications of power felt are astounding. Not only does an electricity generating fabric reduce the need for batteries for sensors, but it can also power other medical devices that can check blood sugar levels, administer insulin and other injectables, and even monitor a patient’s risk of falling. These “high-performance clothes,� as Carroll calls them, eliminate the need for bulky, heavy batteries and are easily worn by children and elderly patients alike. In addition, the felt itself functions as a sensor for temperature. As Carroll puts it, “It’s creating power from that temperature, but it is also measuring it. If you measure temperature locally and you do it in the right way, you can know an awful lot about a person and their physiology.�

Power felt isn’t solely limited to just recharging your phone in your pocket or monitoring your vitals through your clothes. It can be bundled with other energy options, potentially doubling output. An example that Carroll gives is taking a cheap 12% efficiency solar panel and adding power felt to the back of it and letting it drape off of it. The solar panel will capture some light, the power felt will capture some heat, and in the event of a breeze, the power felt will also capture energy through the movement of the fabric. This can get you about 30% efficiency in power generation. The theoretical limit of solar cells is 33.7%, and most fall well below that mark.

Power felt, used in the aforementioned way, is like having a solar panel and wind turbine running at once, for a small fraction of the cost. Typically, there is always a light breeze blowing, even after the sun has set, which allows power felt to generate electricity at night. The versatility of the material and its low cost will make it a powerful contender in the alternative energy market.

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Image courtesy of Wake Forest University

About Glacial Energy: Glacial Energy is one of the fastest growing national retail energy suppliers selling electricity and natural gas to residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional customers in deregulated markets across the country. Glacial Energy has the resources and market knowledge to provide customized quotes for your business or cost-saving opportunities for your home. Learn more about Glacial Energy by visiting:  www.GlacialEnergy.com.

Car Debate: Electric vs. Hybrid

Racing Through Alternative Fuel Sources - SpeedometerThere’s no doubt that internal combustion vehicles will eventually be obsolete. We’ve already seen the advancements with locomotives; from steam locomotives, to diesel locomotives, to electric and magnetic monorails. Cars will be no different; though it’s highly unlikely they will run on magnets or rails. Hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) have actually existed since 1901, when Ferdinand Porsche developed the Lohner-Porsche Mixte Hybrid, the first ever gasoline-electric hybrid vehicle. HEVs didn’t become widely available until 1997 when Japan released the Toyota Prius. Similarly, all-electric vehicles have existed since the late 19th Century, but advances in internal combustion made it cheaper to mass produce gasoline powered vehicles. The 1970s and 80s saw a brief renewed interest in electric vehicles, but it didn’t catch on until the mid 2000s with highway capable cars such as the Tesla Roadster and Nissan Leaf.

Issues facing HEVs and EVs

Which vehicles really have the edge? Hybrid electric vehicles still have to rely on an internal combustion engine, but they can store and make use of some of the energy that would otherwise be lost when braking. No matter how well integrated the electric and gasoline powertrains are, this will never be the most efficient option. Conversely, an all-electric vehicle requires a battery with a great enough capacity to equal that of a liquid fuel tank. These batteries are large, heavy, and prohibitively expensive. In addition, these batteries are recharged through stations either at your home or in a city that may be run by non-renewable resources such as burning coal. Between that and the energy lost transmitting all that electricity to your vehicle, is it really making efficient use of the energy you save?

Possible solutions

It is possible to generate your own electricity through solar or wind power right at your home and use that to recharge your vehicle, but this adds considerable cost to an already expensive vehicle. Not to mention there are not very many recharging stations throughout the country, making your range of travel very limited and often out of the way. An HEV that relied on a hydrogen fuel cell rather than gasoline would exponentially increase its range, but the efficiency issue remains in that it takes a considerable amount of energy to compress the gas enough to be inserted into a vehicle, let alone  gas stations do not carry hydrogen.

So, which vehicle is better? Hybrids tend to be more cost effective, but it’s likely the world will eventually shift to an efficient all-electric vehicle once recharge stations are more widespread and the energy can be readily acquired through renewable resources like solar, wind, or hydroelectricity.

Source 1, Source 2, Source 3.

About Glacial Energy: Glacial Energy is one of the fastest growing national retail energy suppliers selling electricity and natural gas to residential, commercial, industrial, and institutional customers in deregulated markets across the country. Glacial Energy has the resources and market knowledge to provide customized quotes for your business or cost-saving opportunities for your home. Learn more about Glacial Energy by visiting:  www.GlacialEnergy.com.

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