Left In Lowell

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November 12, 2013

Going Solar: A Massachusetts Journey

by at 9:11 am.

(What follows is a very long, comprehensive post filled to the brim with everything I’ve learned about going solar. Our installation is now feeding green energy into the grid, I obsess about cloudy days, and I’m looking forward to our new investment paying us back in both money, and in knowing we’re contributing a great deal towards a green future.)

The flurry of activity in and around my homestead during two days in the week of October 7th was very disturbing to my poor dogs, but exciting for us. After a journey of more than five years in researching and planning (more on that in a bit) the contractors we hired, NuWatt Energy Inc, were on our roof installing our 4.16kWh solar electric system. A system that, it is estimated, will be providing around 80% of our current electricity usage.

Why did it take us so long, and how did we finally decide on the path we did? The answer to that, I’m hoping, will give other people a shortcut to the knowledge we got the hard way, and give you several paths to solar for your own home or business if you think you’ve got the roof for it. (more…)

April 18, 2013

WTF FERC?!

by at 3:47 pm.

FERC had a brainfart.

The cub reporter quickly blurted out the bits his Editor want to float:

“We find that the proposed pneumatic crest gate system can be installed without unacceptably altering the dam or adversely affecting the park and historic districts,” FERC wrote in its ruling. “The crest gate system will also provide important benefits to recreation, fish passage, dam and worker safety, and project generation, and will help alleviate upstream backwater and flooding effects to the maximum extent possible.”

Of course, there are little gems stashed in the “Order Amending License.” (h/t Corey Sciuto)

Project Economics
47. The licensees’ proposal to install an inflatable crest gate system has an estimated capital cost of $5,980,000. This capital cost results in an average, annualized cost of $956,000. We estimate that the annual cost to operate the system would be minimal.

48. Operation of an inflatable crest gate system instead of flashboards could enable the project to generate more power, because the gates could be reinflated relatively soon after high flows. In contrast, the flashboards would be washed out for an estimated three months. The licensees estimate that project operation with the inflatable crest gates would result in an increase in annual generation of approximately 8,000 megwatt hours (MWh). Using a regional estimated alternative energy value of $38.74/MWh, as determined from the Energy Information Administration, Annual Energy Outlook for 2012, this additional generation would be valued at $310,000 annually. Therefore, the net cost of the licensee’s proposed action, including total capital costs and generation benefits, would be approximately $646,000 annually.

49. Although our analysis shows that the cost of installing the crest gates would exceed the value of the increased generation, it is the applicant who must decide whether to accept this license amendment and any financial risk that entails.
(bold mine)

There is a lot to digest. Please give it a go, then chime in here.

PS. We are about to find out, if the Dept. of Interior folks are willing to take it to the next level. The Dept. of the Interior(Parks) has a brand new Secretary and Energy(FERC) is due to get a new Secretary. So, leadership may come from the locals until Obama’s Cabinet members can find their way around. This matter may be determined by which Department has better insulated its ‘Legal Eagles’ from sequestration. :v\

October 18, 2012

Wherefor Art Thou Climate Change?

by at 9:45 am.

Whatever your political stripe, if you are an environmentalist you are probably disappointed in this year’s presidential and downticket races. Of course, it’s natural that the economy would be high up on the radar for the candidates, but for there to be zero talk about the environment, not to mention global climate change, the biggest national security risk of our time? It is, to make an understatement, utterly incomprehensible.

I am definitely going to watch this Frontline next Tuesday, “Climate of Doubt.” In it, they will examine the reasons why this topic has become persona non grata. Where once we as a nation were starting to agree that climate change was happening and that we needed to address it, there is doubt being raised by the extremely profitable industries that benefit from the status quo.



Watch Climate of Doubt on PBS. See more from FRONTLINE.

(more…)

April 24, 2012

Dam Partisan Politics!

by at 12:40 pm.

My man, Campi. The editorial ponders:

Is the Obama administration pushing for a crestgate system at the Pawtucket Dam to increase hydropower on the Merrimack River?

The illuminaries at the Blog of Record have stumbled upon a report. Maybe Bob LaRochelle FEDEX’d it over? Who knows? Anywho. This report, MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING FOR HYDROPOWER, is relevant to the matter regarding Enel’s proposed desecration of our City’s history. Unfortunately, the Blogger in Chief, over there, missed the boat.

The editorial opted to lift a line or two directly from an online press release about the 41 page document. The editorial cherry picked from here:

“Through collaboration and partnerships among federal agencies, the hydropower industry, the research community, and numerous stakeholders, we are succeeding in advancing the development of hydropower as a clean, reliable, cost-effective and sustainable energy source,” Castle told NHA conferees. “From assessing opportunities for new generation on existing Federal facilities to developing tools to get more energy from the same amount of water, we are working on many fronts to increase the potential of the largest source of renewable energy in the country.”

Now, whether the brain trust behind this editorial was too busy, or just had enough to sling some partisan arrows with, they negated to include some pertinent lines from the MOU:

Page 4

7. Promote an environmentally responsible approach to enhancing hydropower development that recognizes the need to preserve biological diversity, ecosystem function, our natural and cultural heritage, and recreational opportunities, and also recognizes that some geographic locations are not appropriate for new hydropower development.

*Wiki-Note: Cultural heritage is the legacy of physical artifacts (cultural property) and intangible attributes of a group or society that are inherited from past generations, maintained in the present and bestowed for the benefit of future generations. Cultural heritage includes tangible culture (such as buildings, monuments, landscapes, books, works of art, and artifacts), intangible culture (such as folklore, traditions, language, and knowledge), and natural heritage (including culturally-significant landscapes, and biodiversity).

10.Investigate ways to responsibly facilitate the permitting process for federal and non-federal hydropower generation and other renewable energy projects at federally owned and Indian tribe facilities by increasing coordination among the agencies that have jurisdiction and reducing unnecessary delay, while ensuring that environmental impacts are fully considered.

(emphasis mine)

I’d venture to say, the NPS and DOI are prepared to play the “cultural heritage” card. There is a crumb trail a mile long. Also, my understanding is that FERC has let Enel slide on the whole “environmental impacts” thingy. So, this MOU is hardly the coup-de-grace the BOR (pronounced bore) wishes it was.

Lastly, the audible dog whistle, “the reason you are going to get shafted by the bladder dam is because of the Democrats and their damn ‘green energy’ policies!” subtext to the BOR’s editorial? That is rather scumbaggy. Just sayin.’

On second thought, maybe this MOU isn’t ALL THAT relevant?

Photobucket

April 20, 2012

The Olive Branch Before The Storm

by at 11:29 am.

Jen Myers has an exceptionally tidy write up on Dept. of Interior’s invitation to some of the interested parties to kibbutz, Re: Enel’s proposed bladder dam.

“The applicant’s new proposal attempts to respond to many of the expressed concerns of the NPS and indicates there may be more flexibility n the design than NPS had previously believed,” Tittler wrote. “We feel strongly, as we have stated in the past, that a meeting in person, among as many consulting parties as possible, is the only way in which to move toward any resolution.”

The goals of the meeting, Tittler states are: “To gain a full and shared understanding of the effects of the applicant’s new proposal on the Pawtucket Dam; to discuss methods to further reduce the impact of crest gate installation; to see whether some version of a crest gate system is acceptable to all parties can be arrived at.”

The Blog of Record is also kind enough to host the PDF version of the DOI letter on their server.

To me, this looks like “seconds” are being dispatched to define the terms prior to the duelists meeting on the “field of honour.” Without question, one rule is mutually agreed upon, the coming events will not be “a la outrance.”

April 18, 2012

Wanna Screw With Enel & Their Bladder Dam?

by at 12:43 pm.

.
Do what these folks did:

Photobucket

I’ve heard a few “important” Lowellians opine that the desecration of the Pawtucket Falls Dam is a done deal. Really? Well, for sure, if Lowellians roll over.
(more…)

April 13, 2012

When The Important Are Impotent

by at 9:26 pm.

Update: As Joe S. says, Conflicts of interest abound!

Photobucket

(Link to Monty Python Sketch)
DEAD PERSON: I’m not dead!
CART-MASTER: ‘Ere. He says he’s not dead! CUSTOMER: Yes he is.
DEAD PERSON: I’m not!
CART-MASTER: He isn’t? CUSTOMER: Well, he will be soon. He’s very ill.

DEAD PERSON: I’m getting better!

“The organization is essentially defunct,” City Manager Bernie Lynch said to the City Council Tuesday night. “It has been for a period of time.”

Lynch, who is an ex-officio member of the council’s board, made his comments during a discussion of a controversial letter the council sent in 2010 to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in support of the crest-gate system proposed for the Pawtucket Dam.

When told it was Lynch who called his group defunct, Tibbetts said: “It is appalling Bernie said that because Bernie should have got an email reminder this week for the annual meeting in May at UMass Lowell’s Inn and Conference.”

“I guess we will be reaching out to the city manager and letting him know we are not defunct.”

(more…)

April 5, 2012

Campi Has This All Screwed Up

by at 12:56 pm.

Maybe by now you have read the offering from Lowell’s “Blogger in Chief?”

It starts out in a rather pedestrian tone:

Executives at the U.S. National Park Service and the Lowell National Historical Park are for preservation, period.

It is their single-minded job to preserve what they consider to be national landmarks and significant articles of value that promote their cultural, historical and educational mission.

They do a good job.

But, Campi quickly turns to set up a conflict. Not so much between the Park Service and Enel, but more between Lowellians that respect history and those whose lives are turned upsidedown when the Merrimack floodwaters come:

The Park Service wants to keep the flashboards on the Pawtucket Dam because they represent early 20th century history — not because it is a good way to regulate the Merrimack River’s waterflow.

Enel North America wants to install a technologically advanced balloon crestgate system at a cost of $6 million. At the push of a button, Enel would be able to control the water’s height, produce more electricity, and increase profits.

Enel says the system would also help control flooding issues in the Pawtucketville flood plain where 12 to 15 Lowell homes are at risk of severe damage during storms.

(Bold mine.)
(more…)

February 8, 2012

Lowell’s Movers & Shakers Are Trapped??

by at 5:40 pm.

Is the Merrimack Valley Economic Development Council holding many of Lowell’s “Most Valuable Players” hostage?

A small blurb in the Blog of Record listed the identities of those for and against Enel’s proposed “Bladder Dam.”

In Enel’s corner: The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua; the City of Nashua; the Lower Merrimack River Advisory Committee; Lowell Motor Boat Club; City of Methuen; Pennichuk Water Works; Greater Lawrence Community Boating; National Marine Fisheries Service; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Massachusetts and New Hampshire fish and game officials; Merrimack River Watershed Council; the Merrimack Valley Economic Development Council; UMass Lowell rowing coach Veronica Platzer; local fishermen; a handful of local residents; a Methuen business owner; and the chief engineer for new Hampshire’s Department of Environmental Services.

In opposition: The City of Lowell; the National Park Service; Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, Northern Middlesex Council of Governments; the town of Chelmsford; the town of Tyngsboro; U.S. Rep. Niki Tsongas; state Rep. Tom Golden; the Massachusetts Historical Commission; Lowell Green Building Commission; Lowell Parks and Conservation Trust; the National Trust for Historic Preservation; the property manager for the Williamsburg condominiums in North Chelmsford; and several Lowell residents, including members of the Lowell Flood Owners Group and Pawtucketville Citizens Council.

(bold mine)

What’s interesting is that the Merrimack Valley Economic Development Council (MVEDC) has a big chunk of its Board of Directors that are, on an individual basis, OPPOSED to the bladder dam. Yet, as demonstrated by the letter below, MVEDC’s president David A. Tibbetts has bundled a number of political and business heavyhitters, endenturing their “gravitas” under his letterhead.

Photobucket

(more…)

November 2, 2010

Go Vote - And NO On All Three

by at 8:04 am.

You know what to do today. Go exercise your democratic rights. (Update - find out where you vote and see a ballot preview here!)

Having been so busy lately (teaching, business, etc) I haven’t had much time to post about this election. But suffice to say, I am an enthusiastic NO on all three ballot questions. If any of these pass, we will see a regression in our state, and you will not like the results.

Regarding question one (return of the alcohol exemption) and question three (rollback of the sales tax to 3%), the last thing we need to do in the middle of a time of reduced revenues due to economic woes nationwide is to reduce revenues further by gutting taxes. Yes, math still works the way you were taught in school.

Look, no one loves paying taxes. Everyone would love to have that that $1.25 back on your $20 purchase. However, is that worth seeing more teachers laid off, fewer police, and longer lines at the RMV? We’ve cut the fat, folks, long ago. In fact, Patrick has done a lot to reform the state government - including state transportation department consolidation, which Republican governors have been talking about for years and never accomplished. We’ve started cutting the bone during this recession. Further reducing revenues is suicidal. Forget all the progress we’ve made on jobs, green initiatives, and our kids’ education if we have to cut more essential programs.

With regards to the alcohol tax rollback: don’t listen to the alcohol lobby that you are being “double taxed” on alcohol. What a lot of freaking whining! The excise tax is on volume and is so minuscule, it’s hardly even noticeable - if the excise tax were repealed, prices would hardly change at all. Most other states have a sales tax that applies to alcohol, alongside an excise tax. What the longstanding tax exemption on alcohol was, was a gift and a giveaway. Alcohol is not an essential purchase, so why the hell was it exempt? It should be subject to the same tax that is on all other nonessential goods.

On the sales tax reduction - really, you’re going to save about $3 on a $100 purchase. And remember, sales tax is not applied to most essentials in MA - clothing (unless you buy expensive Gucci) or groceries, for a start. A huge chunk of our discretionary spending budget comes from the sales tax. Is that worth seeing hundreds of teachers laid off? Or unsafe streets? The sales tax cut would be worth a loss of $20 million dollars to Lowell alone, if the cut were applied in full to local aid and Chapter 70 monies from the state. How many city services and school programs do you think $20 million would cut? And since it looks impossible, politically, for Congress to pass another stimulus bill next year, we will be losing the ARRA funding, which has been floating much of our state deficit from reduced tax receipts - our state would be further devastated by the loss of over half the sales tax.

On question 2, the elimination of comprehensive permitting to build affordable housing, also has a regressive result. Of course, many people are frustrated with this law and how it is applied in our communities. However, the repeal of it will have a devastating effect on families who need affordable housing. I don’t have to tell you we have some damned expensive housing costs here in MA. It’s a side effect of our leading-the-nation prosperity. The more people in the middle class and up can afford, the more expensive housing is. The more dense the jobs and opportunity, the more the demand for housing. For those who are in jobs that do not have the same level of opportunity, or for those who are underemployed, disabled, or retired with no savings, the availability of affordable housing is paramount to their survival.

Affecting how difficult is it to build affordable housing in Massachusetts means keeping some families out of the prosperity. That’s not what our state is all about. Maybe the law needs reform (and maybe it doesn’t), but eliminating it is no way to do it. It will only hurt some of our most vulnerable citizens. We’re better than that.

So, I will vote no to all three of the ballot questions. I wish we didn’t have to keep having the same damn debate over revenues and taxes - it’s exhausting to constantly have to defend what is undesirable by any human being. Where’s our ballot question enacting positive initiatives?? But as Governor Patrick has always said, we have to decide what we want government to do, and then decide how to pay for it. Ignoring the reality (and basic math) of the situation to vote for something that feels good now but will hurt us in the long run is just stupid.

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