September 30, 2012

Solar energy potential

According to Virginia Sierra Club, solar energy is one of the fastest growing sectors of the American economy, with more than 5,500 solar companies employing people in every state in the U.S. And . . . Virginia could meet almost 20% of its electric demand from solar energy.  Yet today that figure is much less than 1%.

Support these Solar Tours in your neck of the woods and at the same time support Virginia's hard-working solar businesses.

Hampton Roads Solar Tour, October 6 and 7

Saturday, Oct. 6, sites on the Southside (Norfolk, Chesapeake, Virginia Beach) and Middle Peninsula (Gloucester) will be open.

Sunday, Oct. 7 sites on the Peninsula (Hampton, Newport News, Poquoson, and Williamsburg) will be open. Registration by web site ( or phone (757-214-6732) is required. The tour is free.

Richmond Solar Tour on October 6

Richmond BySolar hosts its annual Virginia Heatstore tour. It's part of the nonprofit American Solar Energy Society (ASES) National Solar Tour, the world's largest grassroots solar event. Slated for October, 6, 2012 from 11 a.m. till 5 p.m. at 5912 Long Street, Richmond, VA, the tour introduces Richmond residents to the solar technologies their friends and neighbors are using to 1) slash monthly energy bills, 2) improve property values, 3) realize tax credits as they 4) assert their energy independence and 5) create a cleaner community.

Shenandoah Valley Solar Tour on October 6

On Oct. 6, enjoy a self-guided tour of various homes and small businesses throughout the Shenandoah Valley in Virgina (I-81 corridor), including properties in Harrisonburg, Rockingham County, Augusta County, Waynesboro, Staunton, and the Roanoke Region.  Visit for more information.

Metro D.C. Solar Tour on October 6 and 7

Celebrate the 22nd Annual Metro Washington, D.C. Tour of Solar and Green Homes. Over 70 solar and green homes are on tour for 2012 and . Homes are open from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Oct. 6 and 7, 2012. Visit

September 27, 2012

Sewage snow?

No sh*#.

The Arizona Snowbowl Ski Resort not only clear-cut 74 acres of forest in their expansion project, but this ski resort will be the first in the world to make all of their fake snow from treated sewage effluent this coming ski season. No yellow snow jokes, please.

The local Navaho tribe doesn't like it and considers it a threat to their sacred land. But this kind of water is already used widely to irrigate golf courses, parks and soccer fields. I have seen plenty of these signs on Florida courses.

The United States Forest Service, which owns the land where Snowbowl is, says the treated water meets the highest standards — just below drinking water.

It looks like climate change has reduced the natural snowfalls, and ski resorts will use more effluent water in coming years.

Will the nearby aquifers suffer? Probably no more than they already have from centuries of untreated sewage and chemicals seeping through the soil layers. At least this stuff is treated.

September 23, 2012

Ocean warming??????

Ocean warming? Get used to this new phrase.

NOAA's ocean scientists just reported that 2012 sea surface temperatures along the northeast coast of the U.S. set all-time records. Lobsters are molting earlier and squid are moving into waters not usually theirs.

The average sea surface temperature exceeded 51°F during the first half of 2012, exceeding the previous record high set in 1951.  The average  surface water temp has typically been lower than 48°F over the past three decades, so this is a big deal for the critters in the ocean.

In some locations like the Chesapeake Bay (in the Middle Atlantic Bight region), temperatures were more than 11°F above historical average at the surface and more than 9°F above average at the bottom. 

What does this mean to marine ecosystems? Plankton were the first to respond, blooming earlier than ever. Cod moved farther northeast and the fishermen followed. Lobsters thrived in Maine waters this summer, as did crabs and oysters in the Chesapeake. Prices for all three dropped as the supply increased.

Even Captain Pete jumped into Chesapeake waters this late September weekend to scrape barnacles off our sailboat's propeller. That can be called "captain change."

Nuclear news to keep you awake at night

I just read a thought-provoking article in ScienceDaily that might add to my insomnia.

There are 64 new nuclear reactors under construction in the world at this moment--27 in China alone. After Fukushima, that might raise some eyebrows.

But the alarming thing is that 19 of these are being built in areas prone to tsunamis.

Was March 2011 so far back in our memories that any responsible company, or country, could risk another Fukushima?