To create enough local energy for effective whole systems living
The Alliance for Sustainable Communities–Lehigh Valley proposes a Regional Energy Center as an effective local response to the life-threatening global climate disruption caused by excessive burning of fossil fuels. The global heating effect is most evident at the north and south pole regions where average temperatures have already increased over 12°F. Multiple feedback loops (vicious cycles) are accelerating the warming, moving the planet in the direction of the potentially-cataclysmic “runaway greenhouse”.
Global heating is actually unfolding hundreds of times faster than scientists predicted only a few years ago. (For example, the 250-million-acre Antarctic Larsen ice shelf was expected to survive the next 100 years but melted in 2002 — in about 30 days.) The precautionary principle demands that we respond to this crisis with every resource we have.
The chief function of the Energy Center will be to make the Lehigh Valley self-sufficient in energy production while reducing the CO2 pollution that causes global warming. The Center may be characterized as an Energy Extension Service, providing information and resources on energy much as the existing extension services provide information and resource on agriculture. The failure of federal and state government to respond leaves local action as the only viable alternative. A growing number of local initiatives in other regions are beginning to address some aspects of the crisis. We hope that a comprehensive local effort to do our share will inspire other localities to take appropriate action.
What are the major components of the proposed energy center?
- Administration – to coordinate efforts to implement the vision and mission
- Alternative fueling station – appropriate fuels may include, electric, bio-diesel, and hydrogen (if generated fossil-free)
- Education – providing resources for schools and colleges; collaboration with academia to train technicians to install, and repair energy self-sufficiency systems
- Business incubators – for vital energy-related products that are not now being manufactured in this area
- Pilot plants – to demonstrate promising energy-generation systems
- Greenhouses – to demonstrate connectivity, “closed loop” year-round organic growing and permaculture
- Library-museum – to collect, store, demonstrate retrieve and disseminate Energy information
- Mass transit interface – walk, bike, carpool, trolley, bus, light rail, rail, park and ride
- Municipal modeling network – to encourage each municipality to operate and publicly demonstrate an energy-self-sufficient building preferably a municipal one.
- Building codes and ordinances – to be updated to include all self sufficiency measures
- Permaculture cultivation – in and outdoors, principles applied to society
- Community Reuse center – community exchange of building components, lumber, appliances, books and magazines, especially anything to do with energy
- Symbiotic Manufacturing – zero waste is possible. With careful design by-products of one become resources for another product
- Testing laboratories to test soil and water samples and do energy audits on systems and structures
- Visitor-Conference-Media Center – to share information, dialogue, receive feedback, educate the public about energy concerns
- Local (on-site) generation of needed energy – to reduce long-distance transmission losses and dependence on faraway power sources
- Energy self-sufficient residence (demonstration) – showing how Green building principles and improved systems can cut the amount of energy that is now wasted — estimated at 50%–80%. The logical first step is to implement the many proven energy- and cost-saving systems that are already available. (The particular mix of approaches selected will vary from building to building.) Some resources and incentives are already available to encourage prompt action, including grants, low-interest loans, and tax deductions.
(Where certain aspects of energy are already being addressed locally, the center will support those efforts.)
Major focus areas include
- Transportation that is not based on fossil fuel
- Structures that are energy self-sufficient
- Agriculture that is guided by permaculture principles
- Industry where waste products are used by others
- Commerce that follows the principles of the Sustainable Business Network
- Health systems where full health and vitality, not treating illness, is the goal
Energy tools that will be used to make buildings non-CO2 polluting and energy self-sufficient
- Super insulation (R-30–40)
- Triple glazing and heat-reflecting glass
- Building ‘eyebrows’ to shade windows from summer sun (as on the new PPL building in Allentown)
- Light shades (operable parabolic bounce light shades)
- ‘Sun tubes’ to bring natural light inside
- Shade trees in strategic locations to reduce heat load, absorb CO2, provide wind-breaks, plus evaporative cooling in Summer
- Photovoltaic shingles or panels
- Wind power on site
- Micro-hydro power on site
- Passive and active solar heating and solar hot water
- Ground-source (“geothermal”) heat-pump systems
- Attached greenhouse for heating, food, quality of life, and abundant high quality light
- Sun-room envelope structures
Other building-related energy considerations
- Energy efficient appliances
- High efficiency pipe insulation and effectively separating hot and cold flows
- High-efficiency compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) – maintain safe distance from users; recycle used lamps to avoid mercury pollution
- Excellence in engineering and layout
- New buildings oriented to south or southeast to best use solar lighting and heating
- On-site waste-water treatment; ‘Living Machine’ to provide tertiary treatment of water and year round food production.
- Composting toilets
- Ventilation adequate to deal with radon and off-gassing of building materials
- Minimize building edge. (Round like a yurt is the ultimate shape, but not usually practical)
- Task-lighting and heating
- Automatic shut-off or reduction for lighting and heating of unoccupied rooms
- Bounce lighting (indirect) to reduce eyestrain and improved ambience
- Rain-water harvesting saves money, water, and energy – and avoids chlorine and fluorides added to most treated water
- Growing vines on building sides provides insulation, esthetics and wildlife habitat,
- Photovoltaic, wind, and hydro-power generated close to locations of end use to avoid transmission loss
- White roofs to reflect heat and light – last longer than dark roofs, but cost more
- Light interiors such as unpainted plaster or skim coated spackle save light and reduce off-gassing and fire or smoke hazard of paints
- Rooftop gardens require extra strong structures, but provide excellent insulation and possible food production
- Structures may at times have energy to spare, which can be fed to the grid.
Appropriate ordinance and building code changes are needed to facilitate community-wide implementation.
In July 2006, the mayors of Easton, Bethlehem, and Allentown signed the U.S. Mayors Climate Protection Agreement. We are very proud that two Alliance endorsers played a role in bringing the three mayors to this milestone event. Now we all have to encourage our municipalities to work towards the goals of the Agreement: to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to at least 7% less than in 1990.
The Alliance for Sustainable Communities – Lehigh Valley