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…)

September 4, 2013

Bipedal Blog Power

by at 4:05 pm.

Since the chicken issue has flown the coop & the Blog of Record ashamedly went on a witch hunt, we have to have some poltical salt water taffy to chew on, as we head towards the September 24th Preliminary Election.

We The People are binging on Bicycles! And, the local Blogs play the tune!

From the yucksters over at Sons of Franky Cabot, Ned brings us:

The revolution has started. (-snip)
It was only a matter of time before the city took notice. Enter the City employee bike share program. Sure it’s only four bikes right now, but we expect this wave of enthusiasm to extend to the council chambers. Since its time to get into it, I thought I should take it upon myself to thoughtfully recommend the most appropriate pedal powered options for our sitting council.
Mayor Murphy
Unicycle: Trading performance and efficiency for showmanship and nonconformity.

Councilors Mercier & Elliott.
2-man Tandem: The ultimate intersection of team work and strategy. Plus, you can harness Rita’s wind when Rodney gets tired of pedaling.

Take it from a seasoned blogger. It is totally NSFW, but do make a habit out of visiting SoFC. I consider it a ‘guilty pleasure.’ Who knew, Joe Rogan would be my latest internet swami? Snuggle up with a pitbull, crack a Zima, kick back and let SoFC take you away.
(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\

January 5, 2013

Thoughts on the Senate Special Election

by at 11:35 am.

I know, I know, can’t we at least enjoy a few days off between major statewide elections, right? But too bad. Dems, are you ready? I think I am.

The sort-of crowning of Rep. Ed Markey has irked not a few grassroots types, I’m sure. Personally, I’d like a half-decent primary too, it does some good things, like increase the scope of the debate, but especially, gets the grassroots woken up and organized early enough to do some good - since a special election has such a short timeframe. One would hope that the engine that elected Elizabeth Warren (like, perhaps, Elizabeth herself) comes forth to inspire us to pick up the work again, once we’ve gone through the primary (hint, hint, Senator Warren!). And I’m always looking to repeat the MA-05 special election primary to replace Meehan, which is my gold standard for a great, feisty, interesting primary, but which lacks the circular firing squad we sometimes see (*coughChrisDohertycough*).

I’ll be honest, there are probably candidates I could love more than Ed Markey, just on the grassroots-outsider-tough fighter sort of feel. But. But. I love Ed Markey’s environmental record, and his roughing up of the oil companies, especially BP after the horrific oil spill. I feel like everyone else sort of have given them a pass, though given the ferocity of their continuing feel-good marketing campaign I think they still feel damaged (good. and you aren’t convincing ME). He has fought hard to try and get a carbon tax on oil/coal/gas, one key component holding renewable energy back (since it has to compete with a giant, subsidized, established industry).

If there is a more important issue than our economy and the flagrancy of the financial sector which Elizabeth Warren has spent so long fighting against, it’s the environment. Specifically, global climate change. Every decade has been warmer than the last, and we’re no longer talking about trying to avoid the tipping point. We’re talking about just how far past the tipping point we’re going to go. This is disaster. This is destruction of our entire human civilization. And without addressing both the inevitable (now) outcomes of climate change, and finding a way SOON to cease making it worse, the financial meltdown is gonna look like a boom economy compared to where we will end up.

The conservatives love to say, but the earth has fluctuated climate in the past. Yes. It has. Usually a lot more minor and a lot more slower, but it has cooled/warmed in a cycle going back to the dinosaurs. But also, giant empires have fallen because of much smaller climate change. (Hell, the dinosaurs died out due to climate change.) Picture a world in which half its population has to flee into other half’s populated areas to survive terrible weather extremes or the inability to grow crops where once crops flourished, or the masses who have always lived on the coast having to flee inland. Do you think we could take in a good portion of the Mexican population and keep our country intact? Do you think we can let half of Mexico’s population starve to death and keep our country intact? Can Canada double its population with environmental refugees from the US and remain a prosperous country? This is what we are facing if we don’t turn back now. I’m not exaggerating, that’s actually the middle-level scenario science models are displaying. The worst case is…you don’t want to know.

There are consequences in turning our planet’s climate back millions of years to much higher average temperatures. By burning the carbon locked in the earth at the time of dinosaurs, that’s exactly what we’re doing. Except instead of taking millions or tens of millions of years to do it, we’re doing it in a couple hundred. Trees can’t migrate in a decade or two. Populations of animals and, yes, people, can’t just pick up that quickly and rebalance the ecology in what amounts to seconds in the geological scale.

If Ed Markey becomes our standard bearer, either before the primary or after it, I think I’d be fine with that. In fact I’d be more than fine with it. I’d be pretty damn happy, and ready to get to work.

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…)

September 29, 2012

Mill City Grows…Community

by at 7:19 pm.

Today I took my newly coiffed hair (some old friends didn’t recognize me, I don’t tend to post self-portraits on Facebook) and my min pin to the Mill City Grows Harvest Festival. Since its Back Central location isn’t far from where I live, it was hard to think of an excuse not to.

I’m really glad I did, because I was pretty amazed at what they’ve accomplished in its first year. Using the synergy in the City Manager’s neighborhood initiative as well as the know-how and talent of its founders, Mill City Grows took a blighted park area, where nightly criminal activity plagued police and residents alike, and turned it into a space where area residents - most without growing space of their own - could pay a reasonable $15 per plot to have a space to grow…well, whatever they want.

One comment from Assistant CM DPD head Adam Baacke, was to remark that what was amazing about the project was how much it created and grew a sense of community. (That’s paraphrased, he was way more eloquent.) It also is attractive to our many immigrant communities, who left home gardens and farms behind when they came to our city. Besides the garden plots, renewal of community use of the space, and elimination of the blight and hence most criminal activity, Mill City Grows has also brought in bright and colorful artwork ringing the inside of the secure fencing in the garden area. Many of the raised beds sported signs and decorations of their own.

Despite the morning mist and gray skies (though no rain fell at the festival itself), the turnout was high and the cheerfulness of the crowd was palpable. I was amazed to find a lot of the people involved in the project were friends of mine. Even though I’ve heard bits and pieces all summer about this project, it could be the best kept secret this last summer in Lowell.

What’s even better is MCG is going to bring this model and idea to other areas of the city - Centralville, the Acre, and the Lower Highlands - there being a scheduled vision session and site cleanup coming up on October 20th for the latter.

EDIT: more at Room 50! With better pictures. :D

Some pics I took today (also shared on Facebook and Twitter): (after the flip) (more…)

May 14, 2012

We’re Number Awesome!

by at 9:56 am.

In case you needed a reason to feel superior, here’s an article in Slate touting why Massachusetts is one of the best states to live and work in. Because by the numbers, we stack up really well. Even to the rest of the world.

Did you know that Massachusetts ranks lowest on traffic fatality rates (yeah, I know!)? That our kids are the best in the nation in math and reading in fourth and eighth grade tests. We rank fifth and ninth on reading and math worldwide. We have the lowest divorce rate in the country (despite all them gays that get to marry, it didn’t bring the end of marriage as we know it). Our unemployment is nearly 2 points below the national average, and the third highest in the world on worker productivity. We have some of the best technology stats out there.

We also “recently displaced California as the nation’s most energy-efficient state.” Take that, you West Coasters!

Of course, we’re not perfect, and there’s plenty to work on in government, business, and society as a whole, but you should be proud as hell to be a Bay Stater. I know I am.

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 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…)

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