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Green Street Academy Plots Expansion

Green Street Academy, a Baltimore City public school, will more than double enrollment and relocate to a new home to accommodate the expanded student population.

That's according to Green Street Co-founder and Chairman David Warnock who calls the academy a "transformation" school. Warnock says that means it operates within the public school system and is funded by the Baltimore City school system, along with $500,000 from corporate sponsors and private donors. The city school system also provides administrative and janitorial services, unlike a charter school that operates totally independent of the school system.

Besides the standard academic studies, the academy focuses on the environment and sustainability. “We use the green economy to inspire kids. We work with our corporate and private partners to create real world skills,” says Warnock.
The academy opened in fall of 2011 with 270 middle school students in grades 6, 7 and 8. In fall 2013, it will add a 9th grade and a 6th grade class, turning it into a combined middle/high school. When fully built out, Warnock expects the school to have about 700 students. Acceptance is by lottery.

“We will follow the students through high school,” Warnock says.

The academy is currently housed in a public school building, the former West Baltimore Middle School, on North Bend Road. To accommodate the increased enrollment, Warnock is searching for a new, larger home, preferably on the city's west side. He expects to move within the next two years. Warnock is raising money for the new home but declined to give a figure.
To showcase their skills, academy students are hosting an expo June 6-8 for parents, sponsors and community members. Energy and environmentally focused businesses will give demonstrations, sponsored by Accenture. Chef Spike Gjerde of Woodberry Kitchen will give a cooking demonstration from the academy’s own tilapia farm (in the school basement). Students will race the electric vehicles they’ve built, sponsored by Constellation Energy.
Source: David Warnock, Green Street Academy
Writer: Barbara Pash

Baltimore Funds Climate Action Plan

Baltimore City is spending $150,000 to create a Climate Action Plan as part of the city’s overall sustainability initiative to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 15 percent by 2015.

The city adopted the sustainability plan in 2009 but it wasn’t until this year that there was funding to implement it. Beth Strommen, director of the city’s Office of Sustainability, says Baltimore received $6.1 million from the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for a variety of energy projects, among them the climate action plan.

“Our goal is to help Baltimore be a more sustainable city, with environmental education and green buildings,” Strommen says.

But Baltimore has unique challenges.

Unlike many cities where the major source of greenhouse gas emissions is vehicle-related, in Baltimore the emissions are overwhelmingly come from commercial and residential buildings. That's because 40 percent of the housing stock was built prior to 1939.

"We are an old city with old houses," Strommen says. 

The Climate Action Plan will have different short-term and long-term goals, by 2020 and 2030, respectively. Stommen says the city has hired AECOM Technology Corp., a global company with expertise in climate action plans, to create the plan.

The plan will look at such issues as land use, green infrastructure, water and waste.

“We are including an adaptation piece,” says Strommen. “How do we adapt to extreme weather events, and to flooding in the Inner Harbor? How do we minimize economic loss? And, also, minimize loss of life with, for example, cooling centers.”

Strommen did not have a timetable for the plan’s completion. Once it is ready, Baltimore City has already received two grants, for a total of $107,000, to begin putting the recommendations in place. The city is also seeking additional federal and state money to implement the plan.
Source: Beth Strommen, Baltimore City Office of Sustainability
Writer: Barbara Pash

Baltimore Gets First Fleet Of Propane Taxis

Veolia Transportation launched the first taxi fleet in Baltimore powered by propane gas last Friday. Baltimore is the second city in the national transportation company’s roll-out of propane-powered taxis, with Denver first and Pittsburgh to follow.
Veolia is starting with 25 taxis in Baltimore but expects to add another 25 taxis in the next month, for a total of 50, as parts arrive. Dwight Kines, regional vice president for Veolia, says the propane tanks can be installed in any full-size automobile. In Baltimore, they are being installed in the Ford Crown Victorias that the fleet uses.
Veolia is Baltimore City’s largest operator of taxicab services. Operating under the names Yellow, Checker, and Sun Cabs in Baltimore City, and Jimmy’s Cab in Baltimore County, the company has a fleet of nearly 700 vehicles.
Kines says that of its 580 taxicabs in Baltimore City, 430 are privately-owned and 150 are company-owned. “Eventually we will convert all of our cabs to propane and will offer [conversion] to the private owners,” Kines says.
So far, private owners have been reluctant to convert to propane but Kines expects that to change as gas prices rise. The company installed a fueling station for propane, a form of natural gas, which currently sells for $2.45 per gallon. With gas, a Ford Crown Victoria gets 12 miles per gallon; with propane, 23 to 25 miles per gallon.
“We get fuel economy and a cheaper cost per gallon,” Kines says, adding that because propane is a “cleaner” fuel” than gas, there is less air pollution and also less wear on the vehicle’s engine.
The company looked at other clean energy options like electric vehicles, but decided on propane. Veolia received a grant from Virginia Clean Cities for the propane conversion. The Southeast Propane Autogas Development Program, a public-private partnership, provided the grant money to Virginia Clean Cities.
Veolia operates in about a dozen cities. Kines says that after Pittsburgh, the company is considering Kansas City, Mo., and Jacksonville, Fl., for further roll-outs. Eventually, plans call for a total of 300 of its cabs nationwide to be converted to propane.
“We are setting an example,” he says of the Baltimore roll-out.  “We hope other fleets in the city follow our lead.”
Source: Dwight Kines, Veolia Transportation
Writer: Barbara Pash; [email protected]


Flush Tax to Pay for Clean Water Projects

The Maryland Board of Public Works approved $43 million in grants to local jurisdictions for clean water and Chesapeake Bay projects in the last two months.

Administered by the Maryland Department of the Environment, the projects are part of an ongoing effort to improve water quality for Marylanders and reduce nutrients in the Bay.

“We’ve updated 67 of the largest waste water treatment plants” in the state so far, says Jay Apperson, the environment department's deputy director in the office of communications.
State funding comes from the Bay Restoration Fund, which is paid for by the “flush tax.” The 2012 General Assembly passed legislation that doubled the tax to $30 per year for septic users and $2.50 per month for public water users.
Federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act grants, aka stimulus money, were also available. The state is allocated a certain amount of stimulus funding, and environmental department picked the recipients.
Grants went to:
Allegheny County: more than $1 million to City of Cumberland for sewer overflow storage facility.
Anne Arundel County: $5.4 million for Broadwater Water Reclamation Facility; $90,455 for Peach Orchard Stormwater Management; and $345,000 Rhode River/Cheston Point Living Shorelines.
Baltimore City: $2.5 million for the Montebello Reservoir Cover Project.
Harford County: over $33 million for Sod Run Wastewater Treatment Plant; and $2.6 million for Joppatowne Wastewater Treatment Plant.
“The water quality projects – for drinking water and waste water – are all designed to improve the quality of the waterways, including the Bay,” says Apperson, “and to ensure that Marylanders have as clean drinking water as possible.”
Source: Jay Apperson, Maryland Department of the Environment
Writer: Barbara Pash

State to Review Biz Tax Credits Under New Bill

Newly passed legislation allows the state to review tax credits for individuals and businesses and to evaluate whether the credits are benefiting the state. 

The legislation eliminated a provision to "sunset", or automatically terminate, tax credits after businesses initially opposed the bill.

Tax credits have become a powerful tool in attracting businesses in film, biotech and other industries. Though the tax revenue lost from the credits are small, the number of business tax credits have increased, according to a legislative report on Senate Bill 739/House Bill 764. There are now a total of 30 different tax credits in Maryland, the report states.

The 2012 General Assembly passed the Maryland Program Evaluation Act. Gov. Martin O'Malley has not yet signed the legislation but is expected to do so. The business community opposed one of its provisions, to automatically end tax credits for about 20 to 30 entities on a rolling, five-year basis. The provision was deleted from the final bill.

"Not only would the provision have killed the tax credit, but in order to get the tax credit restored, the General Assembly would have had to act legislatively," says Brian Levine, vice president government relations, Technology Council of Maryland Inc. "The portion [of the bill] that impacted business negatively was removed."

About 70 entities and business-related activities are subject to periodic evaluation for tax credits. Originally opposed by the business community, the Maryland Program Evaluation Act went through several changes before getting the business community’s approval.  

The provision for automatic termination was removed from the bill, which, instead, sets up a process and an evaluation committee of members appointed by leaders of the Senate and House of Delegates that works in consultation with state agencies.
The committee must submit reports to the General Assembly if the tax credit should be continued, with or without changes, or terminated. Public hearings are also required. The onus is on the committee to show why the tax credit should be removed, says Levine, rather than having it happen automatically.

Levine says that legislators “worked with the business community to craft a compromise. We are pleased with the outcome. In the end, we did not oppose the bill.”
Levine says the Tech Council and the business community opposed the automatic termination provision.

For example, he says, the state has an $8 million biotechnology tax credit to help early-stage companies. In the original statue, the biotech tax credit does not have a termination date. Had the provision remained in the bill, it would have meant that "every five years, this tax credit would be terminated automatically and could only be revived through legislative action,” says Levine. “We felt that was untenable.”
Ronald Wineholt, vice president government relations for the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, calls the tax credits “one of the most important economic development” tools.

But, he says of the original bill, “We were concerned that automatic termination of tax credits could limit the usefulness of businesses that were considering coming to Maryland.”
Sources: Brian Levine, Tech Council of Maryland; Ronald Wineholt, Maryland Chamber of Commerce
Writer: Barbara Pash

Architects Examine Trends in Park Design

Parks aren’t just for beauty and relaxation anymore. In this environmentally-conscious era, they play a role in sustainability as well.

Just how that is accomplished is the subject of a talk on new trends in park design, to be held on Wed. April 25 at the University of Maryland, Baltimore BioPark, 829 West Baltimore Street.
Joan Floura, of Baltimore-based Floura Teeter Landscape Architects, and Glenn Marschke, of Wallace Montgomery, will review environmental site design and what it means for public parks. The hour-long event is being held in a Floura Teeter-designed pocket park. It is free and open to professionals, civic leaders and the public.
In particular, the speakers will focus on Maryland’s 2007 Stormwater Management Act and Environmental Site Design, says Kathy Walsh, Floura Teeter’s marketing coordinator.
“The regulations are intended to prevent storm water runoff going into the Chesapeake Bay. They will talk about the types of plants, the design and irrigation,” says Walsh.
The state regulations as well as those in Baltimore City and other local jurisdictions “affect landscape design, especially in urban parks,” she says.
The talk is part of Baltimore Green Works’ 9th Annual Green Week and features a variety of programs through Sat. April 28.
Among them: Wed. April 25, 7 p.m. film premiere and panel discussion of “Green Fire,” life of Aldo Leopold, founder of the modern green movement, at Cylburn Arboretum, 4915 Greenspring Ave.; Thurs. April 26, 6 p.m., social mixer sponsored by Civic Works, at The Red Maple, 930 N. Charles St.; Sat. April 28, 8:30 a.m. urban farming workshops and tours, at Civic Works’ Real Food Farm in Clifton Park.
Source: Kathy Walsh, Floura Teeter Landscape Architects
Writer: Barbara Pash

Md. Scientists Study Why Spring Came Early

A scientific study of the change in the seasons has implications for the tourism and travel industries. Researchers at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science found that spring is arriving earlier – and autumn will be later – in the suburbs of Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
“Spring is arriving earlier in the cities relative to the rural areas, the reason being the cities have warmer climates because of rooftops and asphalt” streets and parking lots, says Andrew Elmore of the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science. “Also, the cities don’t have vegetation around them, which has a cooling effect.”
Elmore conducted the research with Steven Guinn, of the UMd. Center, Burke Minsley of the U.S. Geological Survey and Andrew Richardson of Harvard University.

Using high resolution satellite data of trees and forests in the region collected over the past 25 years, the group found that the urban landscape traps heat in the summer and holds it throughout the winter, triggering leaves to turn green earlier in the spring and to stay green later into the fall.

The urban heat islands affected the growing season in areas within 20 miles of the cities, allowing for a longer growing season and the cultivation of new varieties.

Elmore says that temperature difference can have an economic impact. “If spring comes earlier, that’s an important time for tourism,” he says. “There are so many people living in urban areas and they are responding to an earlier spring.”
The study did not address climate change specifically, although Elmore may examine that in the future.
Source: Andrew Elmore, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science
Writer: Barbara Pash

Maryland Ranks High In National Green Jobs Survey

A newly released nationwide survey ranks Maryland in the top five states for the number of “green” jobs.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ first-ever Green Goods and Services Service is based on 2010 data. The state’s workforce came in fourth, with 87,000 Marylanders, or 3.6 percent of the workforce, holding jobs in green services and goods production.
“The green economy is thriving in Maryland, and it’s almost certain to expand in the future,” according to Stuart Kaplow, immediate past chair of the Green Building Council of Maryland.
Kaplow said he wasn’t surprised by Maryland’s high ranking. “But it’s nice to be validated” by an official survey, he says.
Of the green jobs in the state, the largest percent was in utilities, accounting for 13.6 percent of all employment in that sector. Almost 9 percent of all workers in the construction industry were “green,” as were those in transportation and warehousing.

California had the most green jobs, 338,000 workers or 2.3 percent of the state’s workforce. Vermont had the highest proportion of green jobs, 13,000 workers or 4.4 percent.

In the mid-Atlantic, Washington, D.C. had more green jobs than Maryland, 3.9 percent of its workforce, mainly because of the many public employees who were involved in green goods and services. Pennsylvania was the only other state in the mid-Atlantic that ranked in the top 10.

Green jobs accounted for 2.4 percent, or 3.1 million jobs, of all workers nationwide.  

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; Stuart Kaplow, Green Building Council of Maryland
Writer: Barbara Pash

Solar Tracking Devices Installed at Port of Baltimore Company

Follow the sun could be the motto of Advanced Technology & Research, a firm that a few years ago developed a product to do just that.

Instead of stationary solar panels, an increasingly familiar sight on rooftops, the Columbia-based company makes a solar tracking device that rotates as the sun moves. The rotation of the device allows for maximum performance, capturing 30 to 45 percent more energy than stationary solar panels aligned at an optimal angle to the sun, says Robert Lundahl, Advanced Technology's vice president for energy systems and automation.
Lundahl says the device has residential and commercial use as an energy-saving measure. But it is being bought and installed for other uses as well. Mid-Atlantic Terminal at the Port of Baltimore recently installed three devices to power electric vehicles operated by Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics. Wallenius Wilhelmsen is powering two electric vehicles to move personnel and material around the port, and has indicated it may order more devices in the future.
Another recent installation was a row house residence in Federal Hill, where the company's distributor NEXUS Energy Homes installed one on the rooftop. It was the first sun-tracking device installed on a Federal Hill residence.
Advanced Technology's device can be ordered with one standard-size, 235-Watt solar panel (known as a single tracker) or with two 235-Watt solar panels (dual tracker). The tracker is connected to a mounting. The mounting can be placed on a rooftop or on the ground. A GPS-controlled drive unit rotates the panels to follow the sun.
Like solar panels, the device is then connected to an electric grid; accumulated energy reduces the electric bill.
The basic cost of the ATR device is $2,895 before installation. The number of devices is determined by roof size and budget. The devices are eligible for state and federal renewable energy tax credits. 
Advanced Technology & Research is a 38-year old engineering company that traditionally works with military and coastal agencies. It began making the solar device four years as a response to the increased demand for energy-efficient products, Lundahl says.
Landahl says the company is focusing on the mid-Atlantic region now but may go nationwide as the market increases. 
Source: Robert Lundahl, vice president for energy systems and automation at Advanced Technology & Research
Writer: Barbara Pash

Entrepreneurs Start New Wine-in-a-Box Biz

Wine lovers can now taste a new local label on the market.

Open Door Cellars is offering three varietals -- chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon and merlot. And the wines come in a box, not a bottle. The wines are being made at a winery in California under the supervision of Michael Fishman, a wine connoisseur and company co-founder with Greg Rochlin.
“We are starting distribution in Maryland, Delaware and Washington, D.C. We intend to make it a national brand. As we grow, we will take office space,” says Fishman who, with Rochlin, also co-owns Quarry Wine & Spirits.
Prestige Beverage Group is distributing the wines in liquor stores, wine shops and restaurants. They come in bag-the-box packaging that, Fishman says, preserves freshness longer after opening than a bottle. It's also more eco-friendly, the business owners say, yielding 85 percent less packaging compared with bottled wines. 
The boxes are available in two sizes: 3-liter (equivalent to 4 bottles), priced in the mid-$30s, and 1.5-liter (two bottles), in the low $20. The price is the same for all the varietals.
Fishman says they started Open Door Cellars in response to a need they saw in the market for such wines in the convenience and affordability of bag-in-the-box packaging.
“There are other bag-in-the-box competitors but not as this price point,” he says. “Our goal is to provide broadly distributed, high-quality wines.”
Fishman declined to provide financial figures for Open Door Cellars. The privately-held company has hired one full-time employee, a sales representative, and two part-time employees, to conduct in-store wine tastings. He expects to hire more employees as the company grows.
Source: Michael Fishman, Open Door Cellars
Writer: Barbara Pash

Local Filmmakers Create Documentary on Chesapeake Bay

Local filmmakers have made a documentary about efforts to preserve the Chesapeake Bay tributaries.
The film airs on Maryland Public Television (MPT) April 17 and will be on permanent view at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels. Executive Producer Tim Junkin says he plans to send the documentary to churches and other organizations after the airing.
Originally budgeted at $100,000, the documentary was produced for “almost nothing,” says Junkin, thanks to “donated time and pro bono” work.
Junkin, executive director of the nonprofit Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy, served as executive producer and writer of “Let Our Rivers Flow,” a 25-minute-long, color film about the Midshore rivers, which include the Choptank, Miles and Wye rivers and Eastern Bay.
Junkin says the documentary describes the rivers, their history and current ecological status, and what people in the communities are doing to preserve them.
Last year, a shorter, 18-minute-long version of the documentary was shown at the Wild and Scenic Film Festival, in Easton. For the current documentary, which was professionally filmed, edited and scored, several scenes were reshot.
Tom Horton, a former Baltimore Sun environmental reporter and the author of several articles and books, narrates the documentary. Bird Dog Wheeler provides music production; Sandy Cannon-Brown is editorial director and producer; and Patrick Anderson is principal photographer.
“Let Our Rivers Flow” airs during MPT’s Chesapeake Bay Week.
Source: Tim Junkin, Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy
Writer: Barbara Pash

Israeli Companies Coming to Baltimore

Thirteen companies from Israel will convene in Baltimore at the end of the month to gain familiarity with the nuances of doing business and living in one of the country’s top markets for high-tech and medical innovations.
The Maryland-Israel Development Center’s MarketReach symposium is a yearly event that brings together companies that have already received funding from private investors but are looking to test their business and fundraising mettle in Maryland.
In the past, medical innovation companies have dominated MarketReach events, but the 2012 crop of participants includes Organis, developer of an environmentally friendly insect repellent platform, Sol Chip, a company that makes clean energy systems for low-power applications, and Novospeech, which produces speech recognition software.
The event is meant to increase the Israeli companies’ awareness of the US and Maryland markets and create excitement among Maryland-based investors, researchers, and entrepreneurs. Maryland's research base includes Baltimore's Johns Hopkins University and University of Maryland professional schools, and the Bethesda-based National Institutes of Health, among others.
The impact of MarketReach companies' arrival to explore their options is intended to result in local US bases for the Israeli enterprises. Barry Bogage, Executive Director of the Maryland-Israel Develoment Center, says, "As companies grow, we'll bring them here to open offices in Baltimore and Maryland in general."

More information on participating companies and attending MarketReach America 2012 on March 29 is available at the MIDC website:

Writer: Sam Hopkins
Source: Nancy Boguslaw, Maryland-Israel Development Center

WorkingWonders Wants to Become the Whole Foods of Home Goods

Baltimore based green home goods retailer WorkingWonders has made its name as an online retailer of sustainably sourced and green products for homes and families. The company is looking to do something unusual  – make the jump from online retail to traditional brick and mortar.

“WorkingWonders aims to be the first brand nationally recognized for sustainable home & lifestyle retail,” says WorkingWonders CEO BethAnn Lederer. ”In a nutshell, socially and environmentally savvy consumers have the 'Whole Foods' option, but the same does not exist for our homes.”

The company focuses on green products that are manufactured by small and medium sized companies, with the goal of keeping two-thirds of its retail products and production lines coming in from US companies. WorkingWonders is looking to open a flagship style retail location in Baltimore that fulfills this mission.

The WorkingWonders team is developing plans to attract investor interest in the proposed retail location. As they work on this plan for a brick and mortar store, WorkingWonders is continuing to add more sustainable home products to their mix. The company is also accepting applications for internships this year.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: BethAnn Lederer, Working Wonders

Woodberry Kitchen Owners to Open Cafe in Hampden

Woodberry Kitchen’s Spike and Amy Gjerde will open a coffee shop at Hampden’s Union Mill this spring.

The 1,500-square-foot café will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Also still in the works is Half Acre, a fast-casual eatery that the Gjerdes will open at 3801 Falls Rd. in the middle of this year. The 75-seat restaurant will serve lunch and dinner.

The café will be under construction next month and open in March or April, says Michael Morris, the real estate manager for the Gjerdes’ restaurant ownership group behind Woodberry Kitchen, Artifact and Half Acre.

One of the area’s first farm-to-table restaurants, Woodberry Kitchen is one of the Baltimore area’s most popular restaurants. It earned the accolade of Bon Appetit magazine, which named it one of the Top 10 Best New Restaurants in America in its September 2009 issue.

Writer: Julekha Dash
Sources: Spike Gjerde, Woodberry Kitchen; Michael Morris, real estate manager

Constellation Energy Accepting Renewable Energy Grants

Constellation Energy is now accepting applications for its EcoStar Grant Program, which promotes renewable energy.

In its third year, the program provides grants of up to $5,000 to organizations working on community projects that fit into one or more categories designated by the Baltimore firm: pollution prevention, education and outreach, energy efficiency, conservation and community activism

Past winners of EcoStar grants in Baltimore include Coppin State University, Knowledge Is Power Program charter schools and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. Coppin State University used EcoStar grant funds to study nanotechnology and solar power. Constellation has awarded EcoStar grants in 20 states since the program's inception. Last year, it awarded 85 EcoStar grants.

The deadline for applications for the 2012 EcoStar grant program is March 10. Grant awards will be announced on or before Earth Day, April 12.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Christina Pratt, Constellation Energy

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