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DC food council expands to Baltimore

A Washington, D.C., nonprofit that certifies restaurants that offer diners healthful and sustainable foods is expanding to Baltimore.
 
The United States Healthful Food Council (USHFC) has certified its first restaurant in the Baltimore area, Zia’s Café in Towson, and will certify up to 10 Baltimore-area locations as part of its continuing expansion, says the food council’s Director of Marketing Chris Stemp.


Founded in 2011, the council offers the Responsible Epicurean and Agricultural Leadership (REAL) certification program. It is a points-based nutrition and sustainable best practices certification similar to  the United States Green Building Council’s LEED program.
 
The food council has certified more than 30 dining establishments in D.C. via its pilot program, as well as four national corporate cafes, including Google in San Francisco. Partnerships with sites like OpenTable allow diners to search for REAL restaurants.

The food council received the majority of its undisclosed funding from one individual, as well as funding from its founding corporate sponsor, Fortessa Tableware Solutions. A three-year grant from the state of Tennessee allows expansion into the state. Establishments do pay a small fee for certifications.

To date, the council has not applied for funding from Baltimore-area investors or for city grants.

“Baltimore is a great city with a thriving food scene,” Stemp says. “DC was our pilot city and we were very successful, which gives credibility in Baltimore; many of the chefs and restaurant owners know each other.”

The food council currently has a registered dietician in Baltimore and a member of its panel of experts who helps identify potential REAL restaurants. Once a core group of Baltimore-area restaurants are established, the food council plans to hire a city manager to aid Baltimore operations. The food council currently employs 11. 

Writer: Renee Beck
Source: Chris Stemp, United States Healthful Food Council

Relay Foods launches mobile site, expands delivery location

Relay Foods, the online delivery and drop-off service for locally sourced products, recently launched its mobile website. According to Matthew Smith, art director for Relay, customers can now "complete their entire shopping order from their mobile phone."
 
Within two weeks, Smith says mobile users will be able to collaborate on the same list the way they can on Relay's main website. The mobile website "works on any device with a modern browser," says Smith, "not just Apple or Android."
 
Relay cofounder Arnie Katz launched the company in 2009 in southern Virginia and has since expanded to serve Annapolis, Baltimore, D.C., and Philadelphia. According to Katz, Relay is expanding its delivery services to Fredericksburg in the next few weeks and will turn its attention to North and South Carolina in 2014.
 
"We deliver groceries to places where customers congregate," Katz says. Instead of delivering to customers' doorsteps, which is costly, Relay sends its customers' orders to pick-up locations—apartment or office buildings, or other public areas. "We reduce delivery fees to zero and we can offer prices comparable to those at the grocery store." Home delivery is available for an additional fee.

Katz says he believes that food transparency is "the number one way to fix the food system in the United States. Relay is known for transparency, for knowing where [the food we source] was produced and how it got from farm to plate," he says.
According to Katz, transparency helps both consumers and producers. For consumers who want to eat locally sourced food, Relay makes it easy for them to know where the meat, dairy and produce on their plates are coming from. For the farmers, Katz explains, "transparency builds brand…and reduces price pressure, which results in better food products."

Customers seem to like Relay. "We're growing quickly," Katz says.
 
Relay Foods is offering a $30 discount on orders of $50 or more. Enter the code "SAVE30" to receive the discount.

Writer: Allyson Jacob
Source: Matthew Smith, Relay Foods
 


Friends & Farms grocery delivery expands to Baltimore City

Friends & Farms last month launched two pickup sites in Baltimore, in Roland Park and Little Italy. The Columbia-based alternative food provider is starting with 30 customers at the new locations but expects to increase that number and to add additional pickup sites in the future.
 
“We knew there was a community in the city for us,”  says director of marketing Regina McCarthy, who conducted a marketing campaign with an emphasis on social media before the Baltimore launch.
 
“We picked those sites because they are central and north of downtown,” says McCarthy,  “and also because we are working with people who understand what we're doing.”
 
The Baltimore pickup sites are at the Gilman School, at 5407 Roland Ave. and 210 South Central Ave, at Stratford University.

Friends & Farms sells weekly baskets of fresh, locally-grown produce and other items year-round. Customers pick up their baskets at designated sites on designated days. Since its founding last year, the company has grown from three sites to seven and from 30 customers to over 250. Sites are located in Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Howard counties besides Baltimore. It's one of several companies that are delivering farm-fresh produce and meat
 
McCarthy says that co-founders Philip Gottwals and Tim Hosking not only wanted to offer an alternative food system to consumers but to give farmers financial security. Before the growing season, company staffers meet with about 70 local farmers to plan crops for the baskets. The company also works with local bakeries, creameries, meat processors, fishermen and people who make honey and preserves.
 
Weekly baskets vary in size: one-person at $40 per week, two-person at $51 per week and four-person at $76 per week. A vegetarian basket runs $55 per week. New this year are gluten-free and dairy-free options.
 
Each basket contains enough food for one week, including  fresh produce,  two proteins (fish, poultry, meat or vegetarian),  bread and dairy. Food selection varies with the seasons. The company sends customers a weekly newsletter with recipes and updates on the farmers, and sponsors a yearly tour of the farms.

Friends & Farms has a staff of nine, and may be hiring additional staffers this fall.

 
Source: Regina McCarthy, Friends &Farms
Writer: Barbara Pash
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Constellation in the running for $7B in federal alternative energy contracts

Constellation is in the running for up to $7 billion in federal contracts to install alternative energy technology in the U.S. Army, Navy and Air Force bases in this country and abroad.

The Baltimore-based regional energy provider, a subsidiary of Exelon, last month qualified to provide up to $4 billion in geothermal alternative systems. The company has submitted bids to qualify for the remaining, up to $3 billion, for solar, wind and biomass systems.
 
The Renewable and Alternative Energy Power Production contracts stem from a congressional mandate to reduce the U.S. military's reliance on fossil fuel. The goal is for U.S. Department of Defense installations to receive 25 percent production and consumption of energy from renewable sources by 2025. In 2012, the department reportedly spent more than $21 billion on conventional fuel contracts.
 
Constellation's executive director of the federal energy management programs John Dukes says geothermal was likely chosen as the first renewable to install because the technology can provide a reliable, steady source of energy for heating and cooling.
 
“The army strategically laid out geothermal as the biggest opportunity in compliance with their mission. It is starting with geothermal because that’s where they see the biggest bang for their bucks,” he says.
 
Dukes expects to hear by August whether Constellation qualifies for any or all of the other three renewables. He does not know how the up to $3 billion in contracts for solar, wind and biomass will be divided.
 
For the geothermal contracts, Constellation is one of five companies to qualify to bid on such contracts. The other companies are EEC Renewables LLC, California; Enel Green Power North America, Massachusetts; LTC Federal, Michigan; and Siemens Government Technologies, Virginia.
 
Within the next three to four months, the defense department will issue requests for proposals for possibly seven to nine projects within the U.S. and abroad. Dukes does not know if and when more geothermal contracts will be offered, although a meeting this week with army officials might answer that question.
 
The contracts will include power purchase agreements, meaning that the award-winning company builds and maintains the geothermal system at its own expense but has a guaranteed market for the energy produced. The government will buy the energy at a predetermined rate in long-term contracts that can run up to 30 years.
 
Geothermal uses the subsurface temperature to produce energy. There are different technologies and delivery systems depending on the location. Dukes says Constellation intends to bid on every geothermal contract although there is no guarantee that it will win any of them.
 
“It’s going to be highly competitive but we expect to be successful,” he says. “The awards will be based on the lowest price of electricity from the different geothermal technology.”
 
Source: John Dukes, Constellation
Writer: Barbara Pash

M&T Bank Stadium and Horseshoe Casino going for LEED certification

Two of Baltimore's most prominent construction projects, M&T Bank Stadium's $35 million renovation and the Horseshoe Casino, are both aiming for the green building standard known as LEED certification.

Lorax Partnerships LLC
, a Columbia-based sustainability consulting and certification company, is providing green services to the renovated stadium and the new casino. In order to get LEED certification, a LEED-qualified professional has to be involved from start tofinish, from the planning to selection of material and the construction.
 
The two-year renovation of the M&T Bank Stadium will begin this spring, with the National Football League Super Bowl champions the Baltimore Ravens primarily footing the bill. The design phase of the $400 million casino will be completed this summer and construction by July 2014. It will feature three full-service restaurants and six local eateries

Lorax Managing Partner Neal Fiorelli says part of the renovation at M&T involves installing energy-saving measures at a so-far undetermined cost. Fiorelli says the Ravens are aiming for a minimum LEED Silver operational standard for an existing building. Green changes at the stadium will involve lighting and refrigeration, waste recycling, cleaning products and products for the concessions.
 
The US Green Building Council’s LEED, for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is a voluntary certification for structures with different rating levels of Silver, Gold and Platinum. A so-called green building meets certain sustainability markers for material, construction process and exterior environmental work.
 
Lorax is involved in the design and construction of Caesar’s Entertainment Corp.’s new Horseshoe Casino, located near M&T Stadium.  Fiorelli says the goal is at least a LEED Silver certification for new buildings. He says it is too early to know what green measures will be involved.
 
Founded in 2003, the privately financed Lorax provides green and LEED services directly to commercial building developers and owners, corporate real estate agencies, design teams and property managers in the private sector. In the public sector, the company works directly or as subcontractors on local, state and federal buildings.
 
Fiorelli says the company’s typical breakdown is 60 percent private and 40 percent public buildings but in the past few years, the breakdown has tended to be half private and half public.

Since 2006, when LEED certification became the widely recognized  standard in the construction industry, Fiorelli estimates Lorax has done 120 LEED projects with another 30 to 40 in progress, They range from public libraries and school buildings to private health clubs and office buildings.
 
He says the company works with all the major commercial real estate developers in the area, including Manekin, St. John Properties and Merritt Properties. “It has become a selling point” to attract tenants, he says. 
 
At the same time, the building industry underwent a dramatic change. Sustainable materials that were once expensive special-order items are now widely available at competitive prices, says Fiorelli of items like heating/air conditioning systems, windows and lumber.
 
Lorax currently does $1 million in sales per year but Fiorelli is hoping to double that this year by emphasizing the company’s corporate environmental consulting service. The company also oversees new construction and the retrofitting of existing buildings, to a LEED rating or whatever sustainability level the client wants.
 
Lorax’s staff of eight have all qualified to give LEED approval. Fiorelli says the company is hiring up to two staffers this year as researcher and assistant project manager.
 
Source: Neal Fiorelli, Lorax Partnerships LLC
Writer: Barbara Pash

Furbish Co. Sells Green Wall to Costco

Baltimore's Furbish Company unveiled its first product, SmartSlope, an eco-friendly green wall. The wall has been in development for two years and is now commercially available. It is being used by the first Costco in Washington, D.C., and constructionl was completed last week.  

Jimmy Dick, director of business development, says the "living" wall is intended to satisfy locally mandated storm water management regulations as well as for aesthetic considerations. The walls at Costco were installed as a vertical rain garden, with a circulating system that captures and recirculates storm water to water the plants that grow on the walls.
 
"The [DC] district told [Costco] it had to handle its storm water on site and this is how they are doing it," says Dick. Another green wall is scheduled to open next year at Phase 2 of The Shops at Dakota Crossing, in the DC area, as a component of its storm water management system.

Furbish was formed in 2003 to install and service green roofs. While it will continue that aspect of the business, Dick says it is developing products as well. SmartSlope, the living wall system, is its first product. Modern Foundations, in Woodbine, manufactures the system.
  
The living retaining wall system consists of individual concrete modules, each 20 inches wide by 15 inches deep by 8 inches tall. The modules link together.
 
After the modules are installed, SmartSlope provides native grasses, herbs and plants to grow over and cover the wall. The company’s system costs about $5 more per square foot than the typical concrete wall installation of $25 per square foot.
  
However, the majority of SmartSlope's business remains green roofs. This consists of installing a roof-top drainage system, layer of soil and plants that can withstand weather and wind.
 
Dick says that 99 percent of its green roof business is with commercial customers. “There’s no return on investment for residential customers,” he says. “Also, home roofs are not built for the weight” of a green roof.
 
Federal and municipal regulations and tax rebates for installation of storm water management systems have spurred growth of the green roof industry. Dicks says that SmartSlope already has $3 million worth of green roof contracts for 2013.
 
It has installed green roofs on behalf of Princeton, Rutgers and George Washington universities; a US Department of the Interior building; and the Baltimore Hilton, connected to the Convention Center.
 
In 2009, Furbish received an investment of $81,000 from the Chesapeake Bay Seed Capital Fund, a partnership of the state Department of Natural Resources and the University of Maryland. The funding was used to develop SmartSlope. The Maryland Technology Enterprise Institute is a minority investor.  In August, SmartSlope received about $200,000 from the Maryland Industrial Partnerships for development of alternative blends of green roof material.
 
Michael Furbish is the founder of the company. In 2008, it moved into an 18,000-square foot former warehouse in the Brooklyn area of the city that was renovated for office use and retrofitted with solar panels to provide radiant heating and hot water. The company has 15 employees.
 
Source: Jimmy Dick, SmartSlope
Writer: Barbara Pash

Baltimore Ravens Torrey Smith To Pitch Energy Startup

Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith makes his debut this month as a spokesman for PointClickSwitch.com, a website that offers one-stop comparison shopping for residential and commercial electricity consumers.  

The Baltimore startup, a division of state licensed electricity broker Maryland Energy Advisors, is using the football player to promote its Nov. 13 launch in Maryland and four other states.
 
Phil Croskey, founder and CEO of PointClickSwitch.com, says the company approached the National Football League winning-team member because it was looking for someone with name recognition in the Maryland market.
 
“He’s a class act, a high-character individual and we appreciate that,” Croskey says.
 
PointClickSwitch.com operates in two states, Maryland and Illinois. It is currently going through the licensing process in three additional jurisdictions – New York State, Ohio and Washington, D.C. Croskey expects it to be operational in all three jurisdictions by mid-2013.
 
PointClickSwitch.com provides a listing of energy suppliers and their current rates per kilowatt hour, the standard measure of electricity. There is no fee for consumers to use the website or to change suppliers. The suppliers pay the company a marketing fee per customer but the rate to consumers is the same whether through PointClickSwitch.com or directly from them.
 
Suppliers on the website include familiar names like Constellation Energy, Con Edison, Castle Bridge Energy and Pepco, along with a lesser known company like Cool Currents, which offers electricity from renewable energy sources. Maryland residents can sign up for any supplier on the list, depending on the supplier’s regional arrangements.
 
“We serve everything from studio apartments to heavy industrial users, although large commercial projects need a more customized approach, which we also do,” says Croskey, who notes that customers can save up to 20 percent on their electricity bill by comparison shopping.

“We have suppliers charging 9.1 cents versus 7.69 cents per kilowatt hour,” he says.

Croskey, former director of economic development for the Baltimore Development Corp., founded PointClickSwitch.com in 2010. It is a portfolio company of Wasabi Ventures Accelerator at Loyola University of Maryland, and operates out of an office in downtown Baltimore.

As the company expands into new markets, Croskey expects to hire three to five employees to add to its current staff of three. He is looking for employees to focus on the new markets, although they can work from Baltimore to do so. He is also looking for an IT person to manage the company’s social media.
 
The company is privately funded although Croskey does not rule out a financing round as it expands.
 
Source: Phil Croskey, PointClickSwitch.com
Writer: Barbara Pash

Maryland Alternative Energy Company Expanding to Pennsylvania

Clean Currents, an alternative energy company in Maryland, is moving into a new market and adding more employees. It launched operations last month in eastern and central Pennsylvania, and plans to expand to Philadelphia in early 2013.
 
Clean Currents provides electricity provided through sustainable methods, including wind and solar, for residential and commercial buildings. It also sells and installs hot-water tanks powered by solar-thermal for residences.
 
Founded in 2005, Clean Currents houses its operations in Silver Spring but opened a sales office in February in Baltimore's Federal Hill neighborhood.  “It’s a great city for green activities and it was time for us to be here,” Clean Currents spokeswoman Megan Barrett says. 
 
As a result of its expansion, Clean Currents is in the process of adding to its current staff of 25. The company plans to hire up to five people for sales positions in Maryland. It is also hiring one person to serve as a community organizer in Pennsylvania.
 
Barrett says that part of Clean Currents’ mission involves encouraging and supporting green activities in local communities. It partners with neighborhood groups, nonprofits and schools to do so. The company's Green Neighborhood Challenge gives communities and nonprofits the opportunity to raise funds for green projects such as building community gardens, starting recycling programs and preserving green space.

On the energy side, the company contracts with wind farms nationally and in the mid-Atlantic region that are connected to the electricity distribution grid. Clean Current sells wind-generated electrical power to customers in the form of renewable energy certificates that are applied to their electricity bills.
 
Barrett says the cost varies by utility area. Clean Current offers fixed-rate contracts of one and two years, in which customers pay the same rate regardless of price fluctuation in the market.
 
Currently, a Clean Currents one-year residential contract to receive 100 percent of your electricity from wind power costs 9 cents per kilowatt hour, the standard measure used for electrical power. By comparison, BGE’s electricity rate for standard offer service is 8.964 cents per kilowatt hour effective through May 31, 2013.
 
Clean Currents uses Solar City, a national company with a Maryland office in Beltsville, for rental of solar panels. This arrangement allows customers to rent rather than buy the solar panels after installation.  Starting in 2013, Clean Currents will have its own solar panel installation program, says Barrett.
 
Federal and state tax credits may apply to solar panels and to solar-thermal hot water tanks.
 
Source: Megan Barrett, Clean Currents
Writer: Barbara Pash
 
 
 

Anne Arundel County Manufacturer Moves Into Bigger Digs

SemaConnect Inc., a manufacturer of electric vehicle charging stations, has moved from an Anne Arundel County incubator to new headquarters in a business park in Bowie. The relocation last month from the Chesapeake Innovation Center in Annapolis to an 8,000-square foot facility in Melford Business Park more than triples the size of its office. It allows SemaConnect to have its business and manufacturing operations under one roof for the first time and to continue its market expansion. 
 
Founded in 2008, SemaConnect’s station is web-based, wired into a 240-volt electrical source and can be mounted on a wall or pedestal. The company moved into the incubator in 2010, after having developed its first product and winning a federal contract administered by the state of Maryland and the Baltimore Electric Vehicle Initiative to build and install 58 electric vehicle stations around the state.
 
By 2012, SemaConnect has manufactured and sold almost 100 electric vehicle stations in Maryland and almost 500 stations across the US, from Washington, D.C., to Hawaii, according to Naly Yang, director of marketing.
 
Since 2010, when nearly all sales were to public entities like the state of Maryland, the number of private entities buying stations has grown. It started as a free program the state of Maryland was running. Now, says Yang, a lot of businesses like commercial real estate developers and hotels are interested in having a charging station as a way to promote themselves. The station owners determine what, if anything, they will charge for the stations’ use.
 
SemaConnect was recently commissioned to produce 1,500 stations for major retail sites across the U.S. like Walgreens and Simon Properties. This year, too, it is expanding its market to Canada, starting with British Columbia.
 
SemaConnect went from four staffers in 2010 to its current 25 employees, including a national sales team. Yang says the company is the third largest manufacturer of charging stations in the US based on the number of stations deployed.
 
Source: Naly Yang, SemaConnect
Writer: Barbara Pash

Blue Water Baltimore Grants to Fund Water Conservation Projects

Blue Water Baltimore is using a $400,000 federal grant to improve storm water management in Baltimore City. The nonprofit advocacy group intends to contact about 5,000 homeowners and institutional property owners as part of the Water Audit Program. 

Blue Water Baltimore was formed in 2011 from five different nonprofit organizations, all of which shared the same environmental goal, says Dana Puzey, Blue Water’s water audit program manager. The nonprofit will help homeowners pay for green roofs, rain gardens, conservation landscaping and other projects.
 
After doing an initial assessment of storm water on the individual sites, staffers will recommend ways to reduce the volume of water runoff, Puzey says. If the property owner decides to go ahead with the recommendation, he or she can apply for a rebate from Blue Water for the project.
 
Based on previous outreach efforts, Puzey says that many homeowners want to undertake such a project, but it isn't feasible because it’s too expensive or they don’t have a big enough site to make it work.
 
She figures that the 5,000 people they contact will result in 400 projects per year. The number of “in-ground” projects will vary depending on whether Blue Water is able to get matching grants from local government for the federal money.
 
Blue Water’s grant is part of an overall $9.2 million in grants the Chesapeake Bay Program and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation distributed last month. A total of 41 projects in six states and Washington, D.C., got awards for Chesapeake Bay environmental initiatives.
 
The Baltimore metro area received nearly $750,000. Besides Blue Water’s grant, the Center for Urban Environmental Research and Education at the University of Maryland Baltimore County received $324,000 to work with the Maryland Transit Administration and Highway Administration on adopting pervious concrete and subsoiling. The project includes a demonstration project to replace an existing parking lot at the Maryland Science Center with pervious concrete.
 
Source: Dana Puzey, Blue Water Baltimore
Writer: Barbara Pash
 

State Hears Proposals For $113.5 M Consumer Energy Fund

The Maryland Public Service Commission will hear proposals Aug. 7 on where to spend the $113.5 million fund created to benefit Baltimore Gas and Electric customers following its parent company's sale to a Chicago energy company.

By the June 15 deadline, 19 organizations had submitted 100 proposals, among them Baltimore County, Baltimore City and Baltimore Gas & Electric Co., as well as nonprofit organizations like Baltimore Electric Vehicle Initiative, Fuel Fund of Maryland and The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.

The proposals for the Customer Investment Fund include energy efficiency projects and support for low-income residents. Maryland's Public Service Commission approved Constellation Energy Group Inc.'s $7.9 billion sale to Exelon Corp. on the condition that it pass on some of the cost savings to customers.

PSC spokeswoman Regina Davis said in an e-mail reply to inquiries about the hearing that it doesn't offer comment on the record for matters that are before the PSC. Davis also says that the PSC has not given a deadline for its final decision. 
 
Fuel Fund Executive Director Mary Ellen Vanni calls the PSC initiative “unprecedented.” Says Vanni, “This is the first time within Maryland that the PSC has put out a request on how to spend settlement money.” The Fuel Fund has requested almost $20 million for low-income aid.
 
However, there are several unknowns regarding the PSC hearing. Vanni says the organizations that submitted proposals have not been told if the hearing will go on for more than one day or if the PSC has a timetable to make a decision. Vanni says she does not expect a PSC decision before December 2012, given the number of proposals submitted.
 
The PSC has not indicated how the money will be allocated, she says. “The PSC can do whatever they want,” says Vanni. “They can decide to give all the money to one or two organizations or divide it among several groups. They can also say to us [the Fuel Fund], ‘You asked for $20 million and we’ll give you $10 million.’”

Paula Carmody, People's Counsel of the Maryland Office of People's Counsel, agrees with Vanni. The PSC set up the fund, asked for proposals from the community "and they can do what they like." She expects the PSC to pick a certain nimber of proposals that they like, then ask that further work be done on them to "firm them up." The Office of People's Counsel has requested $36.3 million for multiple programs, including establishing a model for greater rate affordability for low-income customers that can be used throughout the state.
 
Aleeza Oshry, manager of the sustainability initiative of The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore, says that most of the proposals are intended to enhance and/or expand existing programs. 
 
That is the case with the two separate proposals Associated submitted. One proposal is from Associated itself for $2.7 million to extend its existing Green Loans Fund Program to northwest Baltimore nonprofits for interest-free financing for energy upgrades. The second is from CHAI: Comprehensive Housing Assistance Inc., an Associated agency, for $2 million for its existing residential weatherization program in northwest Baltimore.
 
“We are the only faith-based organization that has submitted proposals” to the PSC, Oshry says.
 
Other organizations that submitted proposals, some for multiple-year funding, include:
Abundant Power Solutions, $5 million;
American Council for An Energy-Efficient Economy, $111 million, multi-programs;
Baltimore City, $55 million for its Green & Healthy Housing Initiative;
Baltimore Community Lending;
Baltimore County, $20 million to $50 million, multi-programs;
BGE, $54.7 million, multi-programs including small businesses and schools;
Baltimore Electric Vehicle Initiative, $10 million for an e-vehicle workforce;
Community Assistance Network, $1.7 million;
Energy Associates;
Green Renewable Earth Energy Corp;
Maryland Alliance for Fair Competiion;
Maryland Clean Energy Center, $5 million, seniors and veterans;
Maryland Energy Administration/State of Maryland, $113.5 million, multi-programs;
National Housing Trust; and
Public Technology Institute, $3.8 million, nonprofits and counties.
 
 
Sources: Regina Davis, Maryland Public Service Commission; Aleeza Oshry, The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore; Mary Ellen Vanni, Fuel Fund of Maryland, Paula Carmody, Maryland Office of People's Counsel

Writer: Barbara Pash
 
 

State Spends $37M On Upgrades To Benefit The Bay

Maryland is spending more than $37 million on technology improvements to septic systems and wastewater treatment plants around the state, including two plants in Baltimore City. The funding is intended to enhance the plants’ efficiency and create jobs, says Jay Apperson, spokesperson for the Maryland Department of the Environment.
 
The state’s Chesapeake Bay Water Quality Project has designated 67 major plants for improvement. To date, 25 plants been upgraded, with another 16 plants scheduled to be completed by 2013. The goals of the long-term and ongoing project are to reduce pollution and to improve water quality of the Chesapeake Bay.
 
Apperson says that water quality-related projects in the current fiscal year account for about 5,000 jobs. Water quality-related refers to wastewater treatment plant and septic system improvements and to drinking water projects.

The latest funding is part of a series of grants from the Chesapeake Bay Water Quality Project.

The current funding goes to the following:
• $13 million to Back River Plant, Baltimore City, which has previously received $20 million from the project and other state sources;
• $3.7 million to Patapsco Plant, Baltimore City, which has previously received about $139 million from the project and other state sources;
• $2 million to New Windsor Plant, Carroll County, to help pay off a previous $3.8 million loan; and,
• $3.7 million to Emmitsburg Plant, Frederick County, in addition to a previous $1.7 million grant.

In addition, $14.8 million has been allocated to counties throughout the state for septic system upgrades.
 
The Baltimore City plants are two of the largest in the state. Improvements at Back River would reduce nitrogen discharge by 67 percent at Back River and by 83 percent at Patapsco that ultimately goes into the Chesapeake Bay, according to Apperson.
 
Source: Jay Apperson, Maryland Department of the Environment
Writer: Barbara Pash

Green Energy Firm Hiring 12

GreeNEWit, an energy efficiency and implementation company, expects to hire at least a dozen employees within the year. It is looking for retrofit service providers, engineers and software developers, says Co-founder Jason Jannati.
 
The company is also working on a new product that it expects to roll out next year. The product is a proprietary software program to measure and assess energy efficiency measures that was originally developed for internal company use.
 
Jannati co-founded the company in 2008 with Josh Notes and Matej Harangozo, who were all classmates at Oakland Mills High School, in Columbia, where greeNEWit has its office. The company is a member of the Howard Technology Council but is not a tenant in its incubator. GreeNEWit won the council’s annual technology award for 2012 Green Company of the Year.
 
The company now employs 35 people and expects to have $4 million to $7 million in sales for FY 2012. It subcontracts with utilities BGE and Pepco to evaluate and install energy-efficient measures in individual residences, multi-family units and businesses. Jannati says greeNEWit is the leader in multi-family properties, having seen over 15,000 apartment units in under a year, from August 2011 to July 2012.
 
The company also works with property managers and property owners on an apartment complex’s common areas like pools and parking lots, focusing on storm water run-off and rain water capture.
 
Depending on the situation it encounters, Jannati says the company may do something as simple as installing energy-efficient light bulbs and timers so power is off when not needed to replacing heating and ventilation systems.
 
He mentions that the state of Maryland recently announced Empower Maryland, a program whose goal is to cut energy consumption by 15 percent by 2015. “It’s all about building sustainable communities,” he says.
 
Source: Jason Jannati, greeNEWit
Writer: Barbara Pash

Chesapeake Bay Trust Gets Green Jobs Grant

For the second year in a row, the Chesapeake Bay Trust and the state of Maryland received federal grants to further green jobs training and environmental projects such as stormwater management.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Green Streets, Green Jobs, Green Towns initiative awarded $375,000, with more than $100,000 going to projects in Baltimore City.

Last year, the EPA initiative awarded $211,000 to the Chesapeake Bay Trust and the state. The initiative is long-term and ongoing but applicants must apply each year for grants.

The award is open to local governments and nonprofit organizations in urban and suburban watersheds of the Chesapeake Bay region of Maryland, Washington, D.C., Delaware, Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia for infrastructure projects.

For this year's grants, there were 31 applicants, of which 10 were awarded grants, says Dr. Jana Davis, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Trust, which administers the grants. The grant applications must have a "green," aka environmental, component and to specify training in green jobs. 

Davis says the initiative benefits the Chesapeake Bay for stormwater management, the communities for improvements and companies by providing a supply of employees with green jobs skills and experience. Davis does not have a figure for the number of jobs the 2012 grants will create. It depends on how the projects are handled, she says.

The 2012 Green Streets-Green Jobs-Green Towns grants went to the following projects:
Baltimore City, Belair-Edison Neighborhoods Inc., $34,900 for a green sidewalk infrastructure;
Baltimore City, Southeast Community Development Corp., $67,100 for bioretention areas in Patterson Park and Ellwood Park;
Cecil County, Housing Initiaitve Partnership, $35,000, for stormwater management in North East;
Wicomico County, Town of Delmar, $18,900 for stormwater management;
Prince George's County, Town of Forest Heights, $55,000 for techniques homeowners can use;
Maryland, Water Environment Federation, $10,000 for educational outreach;
Virginia, Town of Ashland, $25,000 for green improvements to municipal buildings;
Virginia, Matthews County, $85,000 for stormwater managment;
West Virginia, City of Romney, $25,000 for stormwater management; and,
Pennsylvania, American Rivers, $20,000 for educational outreach.

Source: Dr. Jana Davis, Chesapeake Bay Trust
Writer: Barbara Pash; innovationnews@bmoremedia.com 

City Schools Save Money On Electricity Bills

Three Baltimore City public schools saved more than $1,500 on electricity in two months in February and March as the result of a program of the city Office of Sustainability and the U.S. Green Building Council Maryland Chapter.

The chapter received a $24,750 grant from the office to demonstrate to students and school personnel how simple, no-cost conservation measures can reduce the schools’ electricity bills, says Geoff Stack, of Stack Coordination, an independent sustainability consultant and co-chair of the chapter’s Green Schools Committee.

The measures include turning off lights and air conditioners when not in use, shutting down computers and being aware of so-called “vampire” devices that still pull electricity even when they are “off.”

The sustainability office chose three sites for the program:  Curtis Bay Elementary/Middle; Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women, a middle school housed in a building on Franklin Street; and W. E. B. DuBois High School and Reginald F. Lewis High School, both of which are housed in the former Northern High School building.

The program will continue through June. Stack worked with volunteers to teach students energy-saving tips and held a workshop for teachers and administrators on doing an energy audit. He says the chapter hopes the lessons learned in the schools will be used at home, too.

Stack says that in a preliminary evaluation, overall energy usage decreased 3.5 percent in all three buildings for the months of February and March. Put another way, that represented a saving of $1,535 on their electricity bills.

According to Chris Parts, the Maryland Chapter board’s secretary and the board liaison to schools, the program is a partnership between the the U.S. Green Building Council and the Alliance to Save Energy, with the former using the Alliance's process, tools and curriculum. The chapter has been demonstrating the model to multiple school districts since 2008 and to the Baltimore City school system since 2010.

Parts, an architect who is a LEED-certified professional, says the chapter's goal is to develop a program that can be used across school systems in the state.

Sources: Geoff Stark, Chris Parts, U.S. Green Building Council Maryland Chapter
Writer: Barbara Pash
 
 
 
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