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Welcome to the San Joaquin Valley Clean Energy Organization (SJVCEO). We are a non-profit located in the heart of California tasked and dedicated to leading the eight-county region that makes up the San Joaquin Valley. Our vision is to help improve the quality of life by significantly increasing the Valley's use and reliance on clean energy (energy efficiency and renewable energy sources).

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What is this Term…Demand Response?


In the realm of energy efficiency the term demand response is being brought up more every day. Many business owners and/or homeowners do not know what the term means. Well let me dive in and break down what demand response is and how you can benefit.

What is demand response? Demand response, in lamens term, is when a customer gets paid for not using energy. These utility programs work to actively engage consumers in how they modify consumption, all while reducing peak demand and avoiding system breakdowns. Customers are able to receive incentives or discounts for participating in demand response programs through their utility supplier.

So how does demand response work?   For those not in the utility industry here is the cliff notes version of how demand response works. A utility offers credits to a consumer to install an automated device on an outside air conditioning unit. The utility is then able to turn the unit off at intervals of peak demand. Some individuals do
not care for the automated program controlling   their energy usage so utilities do offer other programs that fall under demand response. Other systems can detect when energy is at a high usage point, and then reduces voltage without cutting power altogether. [i]

Why is demand response important? Demand response is the country’s current answer to increasing energy demand.  By participating in demand response you are actively helping our utility grid work more efficiently. Predictions are that demand response can cut up to 15% of energy demand in the U.S. all while helping to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Oh and the savings of about 50% by only decreasing power use by 5% does not hurt either.


What’s the future of demand response?
The idea of demand response seems to be spreading faster than wildfire, pardon the phrase Californians. Automakers are now working on the idea for electric vehicles. Several utilities have run tests to see if cloud computing would be compatible in transporting a message directly to electric vehicles. The message is designed to ask that the car’s owner briefly suspend charging to boost grid stability. If the car owner agrees to participate, they are compensated for their energy reduction.[ii]

Whether you are a fan of the idea or not, demand response will be something to keep your eye on in the future. With the developments in only the past couple of years I am sure that there will be a lot more to come down the road.        



[i] “Demand Response- An Effective Program To Reduce Costs And Help The Environment”, Nov. 3,2014, http://www.energybiz.com/article/14/10/demand-response-effective-program-reduce-costs-and-help-environment
[ii] “ The Newest Demand Response Participant: Electric Vehicles”, November 2, 2014, http://theenergycolle.com/sbattaglia/2149791/newest-demand-response-participant-electric-vehicles ctive

  Posted on November 12, 2014 | 5:00 pm

The Green Teams Part I

America’s favorite pastime is watching sports. Nearly every day of the year, tens of millions of us spend a few hours watching our favorite teams and athletes do what they do best either on huge, flat screen TVs at home or live, in facilities large enough to make each of us feel like an ant. I am one of these people who lap up and get lost in every bit of these crazy, energy-sucking shows. While there has been a lot of negative news surrounding some of the national sports leagues lately, I want to talk about this industry and its concentration on going green in a short series. I know it sounds a bit ironic, but bear with me; it's actually an uplifting and inspiring tale.

Remember these days?
Photo source: ign.com
Bright lights, jumbotrons, packed stadiums. This industry has changed drastically from the small-scale games played in fields and streets and does not sound (or look, if you’ve ever been to a major sporting event) energy efficient in the least. On the surface, it seems like an energy black hole and if I were unaware of everything the industry has been doing over the past few years to increase their energy conservation, I might feel like a hypocrite, supporting the industry so whole-heartedly while I simultaneously sit here rallying for energy efficiency and renewable energy programs every day. But I know some secrets. May I let you in on them?

The NRDC caught on to this new trend in sports to go green and put together a reportin September 2012 outlining some of the industry’s greatest efficiency achievements. I love the NBA like it’s my job, so I’ll briefly mention some of its activity first. The Miami HEAT and the Atlanta Hawks were the first two NBA organizations to have LEED certified arenas; the HEAT is on track to further their energy efficiency goals and be re-certified in 2014. The Staples Center in Los Angeles, which hosts hundreds of events attracting millions of fans each year (and is home to my beloved Lakers), received an ISO 14001 certification (for environmental management standards) in 2010, the first arena in the US to do so. The NBA started greening their All-Star games in 2008 with recycling and composting programs, organic cotton apparel for the athletes and basketballs made of recycled materials. The Association also sponsors Green Week each year and launched an awesome websiteto create awareness and promote their Green Week community projects (beach cleanups, home refurbishments). I knew there were reasons for my love of the NBA beyond my obsession with the game!
Photo source: CONCRETE jungle

This is only a taste of what is happening in this unexpected merger of sports and energy responsibility. The reportpresents case studies of several other teams and venues from all major sports leagues.

The posts that follow will ensure that all those torn between their love of the game and their devotion to saving the world (or just curbing energy use – no difference really) will never feel like an outcast in either circle again. I promise.

  Posted on November 6, 2014 | 7:00 am

EEK-O-Friendly Halloween

It's Halloween time, and if you know me well, you’ll be surprised to hear that I was once terrified of what eventually became one of my favorite holidays. I used to hide under my family’s kitchen table every time the doorbell rang. I’m not kidding; it really was that bad. That was long ago, though, and by the time I was in first grade, I ventured out in my Jasmine costume and faced the world of trick-or-treating, which has, since then, become a lot more realistic and spooky.

My peacock costume
Halloween 2011
I’d like everyone to give my mama a big round of applause, because nearly twenty years ago, she was ahead of the game, making Halloween a reuse and recycle kind of holiday. My Jasmine costume was ribbon wound around the legs of old baggy sweatpants paired with the matching boat-neck sweatshirt. A few years later, she made me Piglet ears using scraps of poster board and a headband. This has rubbed off on me, and never, in my entire life, have I purchased a Halloween costume nor have I used anything but a spare pillowcase to carry my candy. Sure, I bought a pair of cat ears here and a pair of wings there when I was in a time crunch, but for the most part, I LOVE making my Halloween costumes and in recent years my costumes have only become bigger and more extravagant art projects (see pictures) using things around the house or a few small findings at a fabric store.

Making Pebbles and Bamm-
Bamm costumes in 2012. Yes,
I used real chicken bones.
DIY costumes are one way to cut down on waste and consumerism, especially if you’re using old clothes and things around the house. If you’re not the sewing type, however, costume swaps have gained tons of momentum around the country. Throw a costume swap party with a bunch of your friends… you’re bound to find something you like or something you can easily turn into this year's Halloween costume of your dreams! Making your own face paint is a good way to be green, too, not to mention a good way to avoid carcinogens and chemicals. As long as you look into natural food coloring or make your own (to prevent any potential allergic reactions), you can just add a few drops to unscented lotion or pure cocoa butter (found at your local health food store) and you’ve got face paint!

Sugar-free, useful AND fun!
Photo Source: ebay.com
I’m pretty sure candy and Halloween treats are the hardest thing to give up. Personally, I can’t resist a Snickers or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup. However, there are ways to make your Halloween healthier while simultaneously indulging yourself a little bit. Plus, you'll cut down on the number of wrappers going into a landfill this year. Our old SJVCEO coworker, Maureen, has a clever approach: she buys candy she doesn’t like so she’s not tempted to eat it all. Once my sister and I both left for college, my mom only bought two or three bags, set aside a few pieces for my dad, and closed up shop once the bags were empty. Another good idea is a combination of both of the above: buy a limited amount of candy that you won’t crave, get rid of it Halloween night and makesome funky AND healthy treats to keep around the house. School supplies, like fun pencils, are another sugar- and wrapper-free alternative. Or if you, like me, are a dark chocolate fiend, you can just get dark chocolate in bulk. It’s healthy so you don’t have to feel bad about sneaking some for yourself OR dishing it out to the neighborhood.

Here’s to a safe, fun and GREEN Halloween!

  Posted on October 31, 2014 | 7:09 am

Do You Need a Energy Tune Up?

Currently I live in a house with 3 housemates. The house was built in the early 90s and is about 1,800+ square feet. One of the housemates owns the house and has the responsibility of bills, bills, bills and taxes (yuck). What came into discussion late this summer was the wretched PG&E bills, which some might say is as hard a pill to swallow as taxes. It is safe to say that in the city of Fresno, residents are most dependent on their air conditioners around the June through August summer months. Our bill was no exception as we experienced an average of $278 a month with August reaching as high as $320. I sat with the homeowner in awe as to wonder what on earth we were doing that the bill was so high. After all, the house is empty 5 days a week between 8:30 am and 5:00 pm and we felt that was a significant amount of time to not be using any electricity that the bill shouldn't put us into traumatic shock.
                                                                         
After asking the homeowners several questions about the house: water heater, air conditioning, fridge, dishwasher, washer and dryer, windows, insulation and anything I could think of, I finally contacted my local Central Valley Energy Tune up (www.cvetu.com). This FREE service provides education to homeowners about energy savings opportunities in their homes through a variety of free energy efficiency service offerings.[1]I requested that we have the comprehensive “Whole-House Home Energy Survey” option which would include their inspection of the entire house including air conditioning system and attic. While the homeowners have not received their detailed reports, the “energy inspectors” did have input that provided some insight into how they could save on their energy bill.

First, the house faces south-southwest, so that means the 2 bedrooms that face the front of the house have direct experience with the Fresno summer sun from about 3:00 pm – to 6:00 pm where the average temperature this summer is in triple degrees side of the thermometer. So we have two rooms that have “sauna-like” temperatures that the house has to work harder to cool down. The proposed solutions: a) keep the door open so hot air doesn't stick; b) get low emissivity windows.

The second opportunity was definitely a shock and considering that I personally am not a homeowner, I find it interesting to discover that there lazy contractors did half of the job with the insulation. (See photo below)

Just randomly, the in the front part of the house, where the sun faces, the thermal imager registers that there’s no insulation. Hmm. Homeowners had no idea.While I am all for energy efficiency and insulation is one method to get there, I am baffled at the randomness and sloppiness of the contractors/installers themselves. Why would they all of a sudden just not finish insulating the house?  We’ll never know.

So here’s the lessons learned. First, Central Valley Home Energy Tune Up is FREE. You really can’t lose having an inspector review your home and receive a detailed report providing you with what’s going on with your home. Second, contractors suck.




[1]“Home Energy Tune-Up”, accessed October 13, 2014, http://www.cvetu.com/home-energy-tune-up

  Posted on October 27, 2014 | 5:03 pm

BioCNG™ For Your Car

Biogasused to be considered a non-reusable waste product, but over the last decade or so, a number of benefits of the gas have come to light and biogas is now recognized as a renewable energy source for fuel, electricity and thermal energy.

The folks at Unison Solutions in Dubuque, IA have created BioCNG™, a system that converts biogas into a gaseous fuel for vehicles, much like your typical clean natural gas (CNG). Jan Scott, President of Unison Solutions, gave a webinar – “Converting Biogas into Vehicle Fuel” – for Sustainable City Networkabout his company’s work, the process of turning biogas into usable vehicle fuel and some interesting facts about this renewable energy source.

The customary process for turning biogas into a renewable energy source seems simple enough. A lot needs to be removed from biogas after it has been extracted from landfills and digesters and before it can be used for energy. First, the biogas goes through hydrogen sulfide removal and then it is compressed. The gas needs to be completely dry, and so the moisture removal process is crucial. Once this is complete, the gas enters a Siloxane, Volatile Organice Compounds (VOC) and Carbon Dioxide removal process and then the fuel is ready for use in boilers, turbines and internal combustion (IC) engines. Unison Solutions notes that BioCNG™ is ready for use in CNG vehicle fueling stations and CNG vehicles at this point as well.
Source: BioCNG™

Jan Scott presented a bunch of inspiring tidbits about CNG in his webinar. The one that shocked me the most is that the US ranks 17th in the world for number of CNG vehicles on the roads (120,000 compared to more than 15.2 million worldwide). There are several existing reports about how much further along Europe is than we are in the states with these vehicles, but you’ll be interested to know that no European country is in the top five either. Nearly 19% of all CNG vehicles in the world are in Iran! Pakistan, Argentina, Brazil, and India complete the top five. Most of these countries are developing nations, yet they’ve managed to bring far more clean vehicles and the infrastructure that supports them to their roads than we have.

In 2011 alone, CNG vehicles offset the use of over 350 MILLION gallons of gas. AND 40% of all waste haulers purchased in the same year were CNG. Imagine what we could do if we took alternative fuel and vehicles a little more seriously in this country. To top this all off, CNG costs at least $1.50-$2.00 less per GGE (Gasoline Gallon Equivalent: 120,000 BTU/Gallon) than gasoline does. That’s huge! (Source: Jan Scott's webinar)

Source: Unison Solutions

So, not to sound like a broken record, but we have a lot of concepts and technology out there to get cleaner vehicles on our country's roads. This stuff is far from untapped, but it can certainly seem that way when I look at how much other countries have accomplished in this area. America… let’s do better. Seriously.

  Posted on October 8, 2014 | 4:57 pm