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Nonprofit Ranks Maryland a Top Energy Efficient State

Maryland's efforts to become more energy efficient are gaining recognition.

The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy has ranked Maryland as a top 10 state in energy efficiency. The organization recently published its 2011 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard rankings and cited Massachusetts and California as the top two states.

The council bases its rankings on states’ efforts to use energy efficiently in their residential, commercial, industrial and transportation sectors.

Maryland received high marks in transportation and transit-oriented development. The council recognized Maryland’s high standards for tailpipe emissions and land use transportation planning.

Energy efficiency goals and programs under the EmPOWER Maryland Energy Efficiency Act of 2008 also contributed to Maryland's high score. That legislation directs the Maryland Public Service Commission  to require Maryland's electric utilities to provide energy efficiency services to its customers to achieve 10 percent of a 15 percent per-capita electricity use reduction goal statewide by 2015.

The governor’s office estimates that since 2009, Marylanders have saved more than $117 million through efficiency upgrades, reduced consumption and investments in renewable energy options.

Source: Maryland governor’s office
Writer: Amy McNeal

Hamilton Crop Circle Raises Funds

Even though it's fall, and most people are done with gardening for the season, the Hamilton Crop Circle is still going strong. The effort, run by urban farmer Arthur Morgan, is finding new ways to raise money for its hoop houses, fundraise for its programs and get fresh produce to Baltimore's less fortunate.
The Hamilton Crop Circle used the fundraising website Kickstarter to raise more than $15,000 in 45 days to fund its program of building hoop houses for winter growing at the Hamilton Farmer's Market and Hamilton Elementary/Middle School. Through the elementary/middle school hoop house project, Hamilton Crop Circle will be able to increase its educational programs at the school to expose children to gardening and healthy foods. The produce that is grown by the students is used in the school cafeteria, so the kids get to taste the results of their work.
Urban farmer Arthur Morgan and the Hamilton Crop Circle are also taking initiative in gathering leftover produce from area farmer's markets and farming operations to feed the hungry. Seven Maryland farms allow Morgan to glean the leftovers from their fresh crops, which he then transports to Baltimore City non profits that feed the hungry and homeless.
The Hamilton Crop Circle has also recently held several local fundraisers, including restaurant nights, happy hours and even a Tattoo Day at the Baltimore Tattoo Museum.
Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Erika Alston

Baltimore Celebrates 9 New Electric Vehicle Chargers

Baltimore now has 9 new chargers available for drivers of electric vehicles. Mayor Stephanie
Rawlings- Blake, Department of General Services Director Theodore “Ted” Atwood, Parking
Authority of Baltimore City Executive Director Peter Little, and John Murach of Baltimore Gas
and Electric were on hand at the dedication celebration for the new chargers. The Mayor
also took a spin in a new Chevy Volt, which is being considered as a fleet vehicle by the
Department of General Services.

The 9 new car chargers are located at city owned garages around downtown Baltimore.
Electric vehicle chargers have been installed at the Arena Garage, the Baltimore Street
Garage, the Caroline Street Garage, the Lexington Street Garage, the Little Italy Garage, the
Penn Station Garage, the Redwood Street Garage, the Water Street Garage, and the West
Street Garage.

The celebration ceremony for the 9 new chargers is a part of the city's efforts to reduce
energy consumption. During the month of October, which has been designated “Energy
Awareness Month,” Baltimore City officials have also held energy awareness and green
initiatives seminars. Baltimore's city government is also holding a City Employee Energy
Challenge, pitting different city departments against one another in a competition to
reduce energy use. According to the Department of General Services, the Baltimore City
government is on target to meet its goal of a 20% reduction in energy use by 2015.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Department of General Services, Baltimore City

Twin Ridge Apartments and Standard Solar Go Green

Standard Solar, a Baltimore based solar panel installation firm, installed a large array of solar panels at the Twin Ridge apartment complex in Pikesville this month. The array consists of 36 panels mounted on the roof of the clubhouse. It is a 6.66 kW system with an estimated annual output is 8,218 kilowatt hours. 

"We were inspired by the environmental as well as the economic benefits to add solar power to the Twin Ridge Community. Residents will immediately benefit from this step in making our community more green and there is a sense of pride in seeing the panels on top of our clubhouse; however our residents will also benefit the system every time they use the exercise facilities or the restrooms by our pool. The solar panels should help keep the landlord's costs down and hopefully reduce future rent increases," says Brian A. Goldman, Esq., General Partner at Twin Ridge Apartments.

The newly installed panels will power the clubhouse area of the complex, including the gym, management offices, showers, common rooms, restrooms, and maintenance facilities. The solar array is the first of its kind in the Baltimore area.

"Twin Ridge is the first apartment complex in Baltimore County to go solar, setting an example for others in the Baltimore community to go green by using solar as an affordable alternative to conventional power," says Rick Berube, Vice President of Operations, Standard Solar.

The management company of Twin Ridge Apartments is interested in continuing to add more alternative energy option like solar power in the future. As alternative energy costs become more affordable, the apartment complex ownership will be looking at ways to use alternative fuel sources including solar power to power individual apartments.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Sources: Brian Goldman, Twin Ridge Apartments; Rick Berube, Standard Solar

ATR Launches Solar Car Chargers

Advanced Technology & Research Incorporated has launched a new line of solar car chargers. The newest addition to ATR's solar product array was installed at 10401 Old Georgetown Road in Bethesda, MD on August 8th, in a ceremony attended by Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley. The ceremony marked the debut of Maryland's first high-efficiency, small-footprint solar system for EV charging. The product launch included an on-site demonstration with electric vehicles of The Solar Power Pole, a sun-tracking EV-charging system.

"Using renewable solar energy to power up electric vehicles is one of those closed loop systems that is hard to resist. ATR looked to fill a niche with a very efficient, sun tracking solar array, perched on top of a single monopole. This configuration provides the most power with the smallest footprint and it is much easier to site in the typical parking lot," says ATR Vice President of Energy Systems Rob Lundahl

The Solar Power Pole features an 18-foot tall elevated six-panel solar array that utilizes ATR's GPS-based sun-tracking technology for efficiency gains of 30-45% over conventional rooftop solar arrays. The pole-top mount keeps the panels well overhead and the curbside footprint very small. The systems are grid-tied to assure continuous availability of charging power.

"We want to install more units in high traffic and high visibility locations. These chargers are attractive and high tech. We believe that the early adopters of electric vehicles are forward looking and they will seek out the solar chargers as the next step in zero  carbon commuting," Lundahl continues.

The car charger launch adds a new product to ATR's expanding lines. ATR also offers a single panel tracker, a pole mounted tracker designed for use by homeowners that holds 2 solar panels, and a large solar tracker that can be retrofitted to wind turbine poles.

Writer: Amy Mcneal
Sources: Rob Lundahl, Alan Cohen, Advanced Technology and Research, Incorporated

Green Product Placement Prepares for Launch

Baltimore native Beth Bell was inspired to start a new business earlier this year by an online chat at the TED forums with one of her film industry colleagues. That chat led to her new business venture, Green Product Placement.

"I had an interest in the new green economy, but wasn't sure what it was I could do exactly to become part of it, when this idea came to me. Now, I'll be able to take the sum of my career experience to not only promote the types of brands and companies I really believe are our future, but also use media to be able to promote sustainable lifestyles," Bell says.

Green Product Placement aims to place green, sustainable, and locally-sourced products in films. Since the inception of her idea in the spring, Bell has been able to partner with several of her film industry colleagues in the US, UK, and Canada to get the ball rolling. Beth and her team are currently working their industry contacts and searching for products that would fit the bill. Locally-sourced products to raise the believability threshold of a movie's setting will be a part of the stable at Green Product Placement as well.

"The idea behind the local angle is this: not only do we support local entrepreneurs, but they help to 'set the place.' Say you're shooting a film in Toronto, but it's supposed to be Baltimore, what makes it 'seem' Baltimore? Local brands; the type of potato chip bag on the kitchen counter, or coffee they use or beer they drink," Bell continues.

Green Product Placement will be moving into the next stage of its plan, a fundraising drive on indiegogo this fall. The company is looking to complete the final startup phases and fully launch in early 2012.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Beth Bell, Green Product Placement

18 Rabbits Tells Stories of Trouble Spots

Inspired by stories he sees when filming in troubled parts of the world, Baltimore documentary filmmaker Richard Lakin is looking to use his company, 18 rabbits digital media, to inspire change and draw attention to the problems faced by people in some of the world's most challenged places.

"Most of our pop media is obsessed with the trivial; the scandals of political figures, what Kim Kardashian is up to, or yet another vampire story. When I'm on these travels, I meet a lot of people who are serious about making a real change in the world. Telling their stories is my way of clearing out some of the clutter and focusing on real issues," Lakin says.

The company has partnered with foundations, NGOs, and non-profits from the US and around the globe to create social media strategies that draw attention to the work being done in countries like Honduras and Kenya. 18 rabbits also works with organizations to promote corporate responsibility, sustainability initiatives, and education.

"I believe that social media has the ability to change perceptions and influence policy, and that is my approach to web campaigns. Some people still think that promoting their cause on outlets like Facebook and Twitter is not something to be taken seriously, and use traditional media outlets for their branding, marketing, and public image. They are being left out of the global conversation," Lakin notes.

18 rabbits digital media recently entered into a partnership with an organization that promotes sustainable business practices and corporate social responsibility initiatives in the Middle East/ North Africa region, and will be providing content production and web strategies.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Source: Richard Lakin,
18 rabbits digital media

Advanced Technology & Research Solar Tracker Debuts

Advanced Technology & Research has been a specialist in robotics, motion control, and automation for over 30 years. In 2009, while looking for ways to keep the company relevant in the changing world of technology development, Rob Lundahl, Vice President for Automation and Systems at ATR, was inspired to get to work on a new product that could utilize existing infrastructure to create solar power.
"Driving to and from work every day," Lundahl says, "I saw light and utility poles all along the highway and in malls and shopping centers and thought, 'These are unused assets. Why not develop tracking mounts for solar panels that can be easily installed on light poles and produce grid-tied power to the local utility network accessible at the base of the pole?'"

The products that ATR developed on this theme include a one-panel, pole-mounted solar tracker that uses GPS to track the sun for optimal power output; a two-panel, ground-mounted tracker; a solar car charger; and a hybrid wind/solar power system. The ground-mounted, two-panel array was recently displayed at the Maryland Solar and Wind Expo.

"So far, we've seen lots of interest from consumers, businesses, and government agencies," Lundahl says. "We installed our first pole-mounted tracker for a very low cost at the ENVIRO CENTER, in Jessup, where it is generating energy as well as serving as an educational tool, including by displaying its power output online in real-time."

ATR produces the tracking mechanism and assembles the tracker at its Columbia facility. Triton Metals in Solomon's Island fabricates the tracking mount. ATR will be installing solar panels on a wind turbine on Tilghman Island in late June and will install its first solar-assisted car charger in Bethesda in late July.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Sources: Rob Lundahl, Alan Cohen, Advanced Research & Technology

Landscape Architecture Startup Promotes Environmentally Responsible Design

A new sustainable landscape architecture firm is riding the trend toward green design and planning. land/arch works with developers to take a new approach to environmentally friendly landscape design. The Timonium-based firm creates landscape designs that promote conservation and a low carbon footprint while maximizing the natural resources available at a new building site.

"We emphasize sustainable design and planning because we feel that as a whole, landscape architecture and planning is not adequately addressing these issues," says Rick Kingsbury, a founder of land/arch and a licensed landscape architect.

Land/arch has been working to raise awareness of the potential problems that may be faced by a developer who chooses to bring landscape consultants into the late phases of a construction project. The firm emphasizes looking at the design and planning of a site in it's earliest stages, to promote walkability, water and soil conservation, and the use of native plants in the site design.  

"Site planning is still focused on the automobile, to the detriment of people and how they interact with each other. Landscape architecture and design for the most part still emphasizes exotic plant materials that have high maintenance and water requirements," continues Mr. Kingsbury.

Through the firm's Integrated Design approach to planning, landscape architects visit the site of a project in the early planning stages, and formulate a low impact design plan with the goal of promoting sustainability while reducing maintenance costs. land/arch is currently working on a LEED Platinum residence in Annapolis and a new playground to be built in Baltimore.

Writer: Amy McNeal
Sources: Rick Kingsbury, land/arch

MD-Asia Environmental Partnership Hosts Clean Water Summit

The Maryland-Asia Environmental Partnership will build on a multilateral relationship between the Far East and Mid-Atlantic on April 13 during MD-AEP's Clean Water Summit at Baltimore's Center Club. Chesapeake Bay stakeholders and water management experts will assemble to prepare a Maryland delegation for the Singapore International Water Week conference this July.

As MD-AEP head Peter Gourlay explains, "The genesis goes back three years to our Asia Water Management Forum at the Center Club in 2008, where we invited Singapore's National Water Agency chief executive to give the keynote speech." That was a major draw for experts and officials from around the Mid-Atlantic. The 2011 Clean Water Summit will use the Chesapeake Bay as a backdrop for exploration of water-related issues, since it is a symbol of health for the tourism industry and a source of drinking water for 16 million people. Real estate, fisheries, port management, and energy will all be discussed during the summit.

Gourlay adds that subjects that may seem tangential to water management issues are a critical part of the forum: "We're breaking down this Clean Water Summit to: food safety; the water-energy nexus, which involves efficient water usage and efficient energy use in pumping water to different locations; potential for sustainable agriculture and poultry cleanup in Maryland," and other areas where attendees can share concerns and best practices.

"Very often you'll hear that we get a very bad grade in terms of the health of the Chesapeake Bay, but in fact it's probably more scrutinized than any other water body on earth because Washington sits right on top of it." Asian countries and companies are interested in how Mid-Atlantic governments balance enforcement and economic growth, in Gourlay's experience.

The Clean Water Summit will feature participants and speakers from the Chesapeake Bay Commission, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Maryland Bureau of the Environment, the World Bank, and even Coca-Cola, whose management views water as a sustainability and commodity pricing concern.

"I think we can turn water practices into an advantage from a tourism standpoint and also science and technology solutions being implemented in the Bay." Gourlay says.

Source: Peter Gourlay, President, Maryland-Asia Environmental Partnership
Writer: Sam Hopkins

Columbia Company Puts Stimulus Money to Work For Solar Energy

A Columbia company is using $1.1 million in Maryland Energy Administration grant funding that originated as federal stimulus money to build devices that will make solar power generation more efficient. Advanced Technology & Research Corp. (ATR) plans to use GPS-based controllers to nudge its Solar Pole Tracker systems and the panels they move in the direction of sunlight, optimizing electricity production throughout the day.

The pole-mounted module will first be attached to vertical surfaces such as parking lot light posts that are already connected to the grid. With MEA funding contingent on production of 1200 units by March 2012, ATR is working to make the product more affordable and predicts a five-year payback period when state and federal clean energy incentives are taken into account. The Solar Pole Tracker hub also has space for advertisements, which could make them profitable for operators of distributed power generation systems such as parking lots with multiple solar panels mounted on light poles.

ATR also wants to make Solar Pole Trackers for wind turbines for doubled clean energy impact. "President Obama and Governor O'Malley know how important it is to stimulate American innovation and bring manufacturing back to the U.S. to generate new jobs," says Rob Lundahl, ATR's vice president for automation systems. ATR expects to create dozens of green jobs in Maryland as production of the Solar Pole Tracker and related devices increases.

Writer: Sam Hopkins
Source: Rob Lundahl, ATR

Ziger/Snead Teams With Habitat for Humanity On City's First LEED Platinum Home

Baltimore, the City of Firsts, is now home to one of Habitat for Humanity's first award-winning sustainable housing showcases of 2011.

The renovated rowhome at 1810 Laurens Street in the Sandtown-Winchester section of West Baltimore is the first house in the entire city that meets the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum standard, and it is the first Habitat for Humanity house in Maryland to achieve LEED Silver standing. Jonas Risen of the Ziger/Snead architecture firm led a team that incorporated renewable energy, efficient water usage techniques, and high indoor air quality standards into the existing rowhome dimensions.

By working with Baltimore's most prevalent form of housing, the Laurens Street project serves as a model for how low-cost housing can incorporate modern, green features to alleviate "sick building syndrome" and help raise home values in economically depressed areas. "This project shows how much people care about sustainability in affordable housing," Risen says. In addition to being a showcase Habitat house with a family set to move in, "the Greenest House in Baltimore" also won the USGBC Maryland chapter's People's Choice award, meaning that the architecture community is impressed by the house and will take lessons from its design elements.

Writer: Sam Hopkins
Source: Jonas Risen, Ziger/Snead

Governor O'Malley Holds Forum on Sustainability

Gov. Martin O'Malley convened a forum on sustainability, the third in a five-part series designed to elicit feedback and ideas as he prepares for his second term. The forum focused on laying the groundwork for a sustainable future and gathering input from various stakeholders, including recommendations for legislation and actions related to clean energy, natural resource management, agriculture, and smart growth.

"As a State, we must move forward on a smart, sustainable path," says Gov. O'Malley. "Building upon our recent successes, we need to create a foundation for both our future and our children's future. We have to make tough decisions, governing through green initiatives and living our own lives as examples."

The event gathered together more than 750 participants, including conservationists, farmers, and business owners, who attended plenary sessions and discipline-specific workgroups. Discussion topics for the breakout groups included Smart Growth, Bay Restoration, Clean Energy/Climate Change, and Resource Based Industries.

Following the work sessions, Gov. O'Malley convened a discussion of outcomes and recommendations with all forum participants.

Recommendations included:

Bay Restoration: Continue to ramp up Bay Restoration efforts, including building upon Maryland's Phase 1 Watershed Implementation Plan, to ensure reaching our Bay Restoration goals by 2020 —five years earlier than any other State in the watershed.

Clean Energy/Climate Change: Aggressively pursue the development of offshore wind generation as a clean energy solution as well an avenue to create thousands of green jobs.

Smart Growth: Increase support for development projects in transit oriented, sustainable communities through funding, financing, tax credits, and other incentives. Continue to promote public transit ridership, which has increased 17 percent since 2006.

Resource Based Industries: Develop new policies and programs that provide economic incentives for rural landowners, including farmers, to conserve their land instead of developing it; develop new programs to support environmentally friendly resource-based industries, including sustainable agriculture and forestry, aquaculture, and nature-based tourism.

"The world is changing as a result of these issues, and Maryland can choose to be either a leader or a follower in the resulting New Economy that is upon us," says Gov. O'Malley.

Source: Office of the Governor
Writer: Walaika Haskins

EPA Honors Baltimore City and Miller's Court as 2010 Smart Growth Achievement Winners

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has awarded Baltimore City's Miller's Court its 2010 Smart Growth Achievement Award for Smart Growth and Green Building. According to the government agency, Miller's Court is a model of integrating mixed-use redevelopment with preservation of a landmark historic building and sustainable design principles to help revitalize an entire community.

The EPA created the National Award for Smart Growth Achievement in 2002 to recognize exceptional approaches to development that respect the environment, foster economic vitality, and enhance quality of life.

The building, located in Charles Village, is a model for adaptive reuse of historic structures in urban neighborhoods, the EPA says. In a transitioning area of the city, this project directed development towards the existing neighborhood and revitalized a long-abandoned property to create new office and residential spaces. The project has also been a catalyst for surrounding neighborhood development by creating a sense of stability and demonstrating long-term commitment to the community.

Source: Environmental Protection Agency
Writer: Walaika Haskins

Baltimore Green Spaces to map city's vacant lots with help from volunteers with smartphones

On December 11th, Baltimore Green Space is sending 20 2-person teams to explore Baltimore and put their smartphones to use for a good cause -- to create a map of vacant lots that have been turned into community green spaces, including gardens, pocket parks, horseshoe pits, and the like.

The group has undertaken this task, it says, "because Baltimore City is working hard to streamline its sales process for land and buildings." While Baltimore Green Space acknowledges that this is great news, it says the improvement presents an urgent challenge to preserve green spaces.

With some 13,000 vacant lots, the group hopes to help the City deal with the information problem it faces as the city doesn't know which of these "vacant" lots are actually community assets that improve the livability of neighborhoods and thus property values.

The City is eager to learn which lots should be included in the "community use" category of their database, according to Green Space. The organization has already given them about 200 block/lot numbers, but says there are considerably more that need to be mapped and, unfortunately, the time to document them is running out.

Green Spaces has piloted "a great way to document the exact location of gardens" using geo-coded photos taken on smartphones. It has already tested the technology out during a 3-hour event during which six teams of volunteers photographed 150 addresses. Now, there are another 450 to go.

During the Dec. 11 event the group plans to catalog the remaining addresses as well as any that they don't yet know about.

Source: Green Space
Writer: Walaika Haskins

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