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SEPCO's blog on all things renewable and green

Happy New Year 2014

Posted by SEPCO

12/31/13 9:30 AM

Just saving the earth a little more and sending out a quick ecard on our blog to wish you all a Happy New Year!
Happy_New_Year
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Topics: Holiday

What To Do With All That Holiday Waste

Posted by SEPCO

12/26/13 9:30 AM

Holiday-Waste

Okay, the holidays are over with. All that is left is cleaning up and then comes the New Year. So what do you do with all this stuff? Between packaging, wrapping paper, leftover food and your pile of stuff, there is so much to go through and so much waste. How can you get rid of all this waste without being wasteful? Well there was an article on reducing waste last year, but let’s push a little further beyond these suggestions.

 

Reduce – Oh we all know the three R’s to lower our impact on the earth, but they are such good ideas why not keep bringing them up. Reducing your consumption is always brought up early on in the holiday season, even though ads tell you to buy out everything. But what about after the holidays, what can you do to reduce? Quite a bit actually! Reduce your waste by recycling (see below), reduce your electric usage by lowering your thermostat now that you aren’t entertaining and can throw on an extra sweater and reduce waste by composting your organic material.

 

Reuse – Yeah, here’s one of the others that gets jammed down our throats year after year. But it makes sense. Reuse what you can. Got a huge box that was wrapped with large pieces of wrapping paper? Can you fold the wrapping paper and store it for a small gift next year? What about using the box to help pack up your old stuff for donations? Same goes with the leftovers. Make something new. Make turkey burger sliders with mashed potatoes and gravy on top? Or turning that real tree into fire wood for your fire pit outside? So many things can be turned into something else with just a little creativity.

 

Recycle – Well this just seems to keep coming around. But you can’t control what others do. Therefore, Aunt Jane who keeps purchasing the new and improved trinket that comes packed in 15 layers of packaging material that only about 1% of it is recyclable will probably get you the same type of gift no matter how much you plead different. So what do you do? Don’t be like me and just smile, say thank you and stick all that stuff in the garage for years to come. Make something with it. Use it till it can’t be used any more. And recycle what you can. I have four recycle bins and one trash can at home…can you guess what is the most full every week?

After all is said and done, now is the time to relax while you wait for the New Year to come around next week. Happy holidays to everyone and we will see you after the New Year!

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Topics: Holiday

Merry Christmas 2013

Posted by SEPCO

12/24/13 9:30 AM

Just saving the earth a little more and sending out a quick ecard on our blog to wish you all a Very Merry Christmas!
Merry_Christmas
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Topics: Holiday

This Article Will Change the Way You Think About Solar Energy

Posted by SEPCO

12/19/13 9:30 AM

Most people by now will have heard of solar energy and will have a good idea of what it is, but that doesn't mean that they necessarily know everything there is to know about it. Indeed scientists don't know everything there is to know about solar energy, which is partly what makes it so fascinating. So even if you think you have a good grasp on what solar energy is and how it works, you probably don't know everything there is to know about it - nor just how amazing it really is. Read on and I'll show you…

The Basics:

Let's start with the basics. The first thing you may not realise is that the sun provides us with two types of energy which can both be considered 'solar' energy. One is heat (solar thermal), and the other is light (solar voltaic). It's light energy from the sun that most of us are interested in and that most solar panels use as it is a more efficient source of power.

Solar voltaic power works by using electrons that have been arranged into a particular pattern. This arrangement is such that when those electrons are hit by light, they will then be 'excited' and will start to move as a current. This is the current we then harness and transform in order to power lights, computers and more.

The Power of the Sun:

The important role of the sun is something that we shouldn't underestimate and it's not just light and heat that it provides us with. Of course the sun is what holds the Earth in orbit, but it's also what provided us with the basic elements necessary for life. Well - actually it wasn't our sun that provided us with most of those elements. Our sun produces a lot of helium, but it actually requires a star to die and collapse for there to be enough energy to create elements like, say, carbon. Which means that your actual body was original created in the heart of a dying star and then travelled through space to Earth. Which is amazing…

SunSolarEnergy

Also amazing is to think that actually most forms of energy on Earth came from the sun originally - the only difference is the degrees of separation. Fossil fuels for instance simply contain energy that was created by photosynthesis from the sun, geothermal energy comes from where the ground has been heated by the sun, wind energy is possible thanks to air pressure changes caused by the sun and the geothermal energy… only tidal energy is really any different which is formed by the moon's gravity.

The sun provides us with all our energy, and the stars gave us the elements that make up our planet. So of course it makes sense to go directly to the source for our most efficient energy solutions.

The Nature of Light:

What's also amazing though is the nature of light itself. Famously, light behaves as both a wave and a particle which is what gave us the basis for quantum physics and is something we still don't entirely understand. Furthermore, light can travel indefinitely with no medium to travel 'through' which is what allows it to reach Earth from the sun and the stars. And if nothing gets in the way of the light's path then it will travel endlessly out into space - eventually spreading out into single photons that may well travel for the entire lifespan of the universe itself.

LightRaySolarEnergy

About the Author: This post is contributed by Gemma Hastings. She is a solar power expert and works with www.solarpanelgrants.org. She promotes her opinions and ideas on living an eco-friendly lifestyle through her writings.

Img Src: Pixabay.com and Flicker.com

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Solar Power, Renewable Energy

Energy Deregulation and Your Small Business

Posted by SEPCO

12/17/13 9:30 AM

Energy deregulation is all about having the ability to choose your own electricity provider, rather than being forced to accept the rates of one local provider. As an individual, your primary benefit lies in the amount of money you can save, choosing the provider with the best offer. However, if you are the owner of a small business, energy deregulation can have an even greater impact on your business, affecting it a number of different ways.

To begin with, energy deregulation can help you and your small business save thousands of dollars on bills. Depending on the type of business you own or manage, your energy needs and required consumption may actually be above average, especially if it requires running large machinery and/or extended service hours. You may also be able to take advantage of green energy initiatives in your area. Paying less for electricity allows small businesses, which make up the backbone of the American economy, to remain active and continue providing their valuable goods and services. Statistics show that 8 out of 10 small businesses end up filing for bankruptcy, unable to cope with mounting operating expenses (including bills), on their own. Reduced rates on electricity can allow them to remain in business longer, keeping their budgets balanced and freeing up money that might be useful for expansion.

Energy-Deregulation

Moreover, energy deregulation can also mean cheaper prices on the goods and services small businesses have to offer. When companies price a product, all costs involved in its production have to be taken into account, in order to strike a proper balance between affordability and actually turning a profit. If the price of energy is included in the final price of the product, lower energy costs could potentially bring these prices down. Ultimately, it's up to each business to decide whether or not they can afford to lower their prices and pass this savings down to the consumer or keep prices the way they are, to expand their profits. Lowering prices would naturally make them more competitive with other businesses that provide the same goods or services, attracting more customers. Another potential benefit to members of the local community is that they have two opportunities to save money. The first occurs when paying their own energy bills to a deregulated provider of their choice. The second opportunity comes when they purchase items or services from a small business that has reduced their own prices, in response to lower energy rates.

As it stands right now, the only problem with energy deregulation seems to be that not all states have adopted it. Currently, less than half of the states provide their residents with the opportunity to choose their own electricity provider. The situation is even worse with gas, which is fully deregulated in 19 states and only partially deregulated in 5 others. This means that customers in some states can take advantage of the various opportunities deregulation can provide, while others have to stick to the same regulations and consequently, pay more for their energy.

energy-deregulation-2

All in all, energy deregulation is a great opportunity, which itself offers additional opportunities to both individual customers and small businesses. In an age where jobs and economic stability often stand on shaky ground, it's essential for every state in the land of opportunity to take a better look at the benefits of energy deregulation. The advantages of allowing their residents to freely choose where they get their own energy extend not only to each individual, but also to the small businesses upon which the American economy depends.

Yogesh Mankani is a small business consultant. He loves to share unusual and informative tips on small business blogs.

Img Src: iConnectEnergy.com and USPowerandGas.com

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Topics: Renewable Energy

12 Tips to Make Your Holiday A Little Greener

Posted by SEPCO

12/12/13 9:30 AM

Green_HolidayThere are many things that we can do on our day to day to reduce our consumption on the environment, but all seems to get lost in the holidays. I wanted to give you 12 fun tips to make your holiday a little greener and still be festive.

1. Make Your Own Gifts

Pinterest has thousands of ideas on different make your own gift ideas. You can reuse items around your house, such as jars for mixes, and provide a more thoughtful gift than anything you can buy at the store. Imagine all the green your wallet will be saving.

2. Use a Living Tree

Using a live tree not only helps the environment of your home by not dying and making a complete mess, but it also helps the environment of the earth as you can plant the tree after the holidays and then use it as an outdoor decoration for years to come. Also, imagine the shade in the summer months.

3. Wrap Gifts in Reusable Materials

My favorite is gift bags and boxes since they can be reused year after year, and when they finally fall apart, recycle them. You can also use fabric you have around your house or purchase scraps from a local fabric store. If you are crafty, you can make your own reusable bags and such, or even purchase them online from reuseit.com.

4. Gift Someone a Plant

Gardens are popping up everywhere you look now, either in containers or full on yards. If you have someone on your list that is thinking of starting a garden, give them seeds or even a live plant to get them started. Do they have an established garden? Maybe give them something exotic or new to try.

5. Make a Terrarium

Maybe your friend doesn’t have a green thumb, but you’d like to give them a piece of the outdoors for their indoors. Give the gift of a terrarium. You can either purchase these or make them if you are crafty. Best thing is, they are typically fully self-sustaining and require no upkeep.

6. Use Plantable Cards

They now make cards that you can plant…seriously. These are amazing. You send your card and the receiver can plant the card in the ground and watch it sprout into something beautiful. What an amazing concept. There are a ton of companies doing this now so here is a quick Google search done for you already.

7. Light Up With LEDs

LED string lights use a lot less energy than string lights of the past. They also provide a much brighter light than before. But don’t forget to turn them off when no one is around to see their beauty shine.

8. Donate to a Local Shelter

Donate all your older toys and clothes that you grew out of to those who need them most. This will give new life to unused items around your house, put a smile on someone's face and a warm spot in your heart.

9. Give to a Charity

Don’t know what to get that hard to gift person? Give to a charity on their behalf. There are thousands of charities that can use your help.

10. Gift Your Time

Instead of giving a gift to someone, give a favor. Maybe they need help doing something during the year. Or maybe they need something done that only you can do. What special talents do you have and can you give away your time?

11. Make Your Own Decorations

Make something out of nothing and decorate your home with them. Paint a nice holiday saying on a scrap piece of wood. Use branches around your home to hold a cluster of ornaments. I did a quick Pinterest search for you to get your creative juices flowing.

12. Stay Local and Small

Purchase your produce from the local produce stand. Go to small businesses for any gifts you purchase. Keeping your purchases to local and small businesses will help those most in the end.

I hope you enjoyed these tips. Please feel free to comment below with your additional tips that we may have missed. And as always, we here at SEPCO would like to wish you a wonderful holiday season!

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Topics: Green Ideas, Holiday

Renewable Energy is Everywhere: Hotels Leading the Way

Posted by SEPCO

12/10/13 9:30 AM

Green_HotelThrough wind energy, solar energy, biofuels, geothermal industry and reuse methods, the world is changing to renewable energy and resourceful methods of handling waste. Just by looking at the travel industry, you can see how innovative some of the companies have become. It's necessary that this happens, and many businesses across world markets are realizing the rapidly increasing market for renewable energy. By looking at some of the businesses in the travel industry, it's easier to see how far technology has come and how much other businesses could contribute by adopting these sustainable energy methods.

Generating Power Through Wind Energy

A number of hotels across the US have changed over to wind turbines in favor of reducing energy costs. The Hilton of Fort Lauderdale has six turbines on the rooftop of their hotel, which has gained a lot of press and attention for being one of the only hotels in Florida to use wind energy. The hotel has said that more green changes are to come in the future.

New Solar Power Technology

There are a lot of boutique hotels that are also changing to sustainable energy through solar panels. In fact, a small luxury boutique hotel invested $80,000 in solar energy. It has been able to decrease its energy bills by 60 percent. This isn't the first small hotel to change over to solar power. With solar shingles and other methods for solar energy, it's becoming easier to install solar energy on any type of building.

The Power of Biodiesel

Biodiesel has become a popular alternative fuel, and it's quickly replacing petroleum products. Many hotels are using this fuel, such as the Hilton Americas-Houston in Texas, which recently received the Green Seal certification. The hotel converted to biodiesel as an alternative fuel that is eco-friendly. The hotel received its first delivery of alternative fuel in July. The new program to use biodiesel has resulted in reducing greenhouse gases produced by the Hilton by 78%.

Geothermal Revolution in Nevada

In Reno, Nevada, the Peppermill Resort Spa Casino built a geothermal aquifer 4,400 feet underground to create a huge heating and hot water system for the hotel to use. Now the hot water is pumped up to the property at 1,200 gallons per minute. It saves $2 million annually. Peppermill has said that it is the hotel in the US whose heating source comes completely from geothermal energy produced right on the property. Many hotels in the area are going green. This is especially important as it is one of the most visited cities in the U.S., the millions of travelers can take advantage of these facilities first hand.

Waste Elimination and Reuse

Hotels are also looking for ways to repurpose waste around the hotel such as oil from the kitchen and scraps from landscaping. The Greco Hotel chain in Greece has a catering service that used to produce a lot of packaging waste. However, it has eliminated much of its waste by using returnable reusable glass bottles. Other hotels have switched over to soap dispensers, such as the Stratton’s Hotel in the UK, which use-to-use luxury miniature guest bathroom amenities. Now it uses dispensers for soaps and shampoos to cut down on waste.

Reduction of Water Usage

Many hotels are now offering discounts or other incentives to not require housekeeping and linen changes when staying multiple nights. Instead of replacing all sheets and towels every day on a couple night stay, they allow you to reuse your linens same as you would do at home. A lot of hotels are also now using a centralized, off site laundry to process all linens.

These are some of the facilities that are out in front of green innovation. They provide great green blueprints for others to follow. It is important that this trend continues and with this innovation, newer, more efficient products will be coming to market.

About the Author: Sam Marquit is an entrepreneurial independent contractor and home renovation/remodeling expert in New York. He's made it a point to share with my readers a day in the life of sustainable building. Forecasting the possible application and implementation of new green building materials and technologies is just one small part of his effort to reduce everyone’s carbon footprint.

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Topics: Guest Post, Green Ideas

6 Ways LED Technology is Changing the Signage Industry

Posted by SEPCO

12/5/13 9:30 AM

LED-Lighting-With-CE-RoHSSigns have long been a popular way of marketing, posting warnings or communicating information. Traditional printed or lit signs offer limited flexibility and visibility. Fluorescent signs offer improved visibility but are prone to damage and less energy efficient. These are six ways that LED technology is changing the signage industry.

1. Going Green with LED Signage

With the emphasis on sustainable and eco-friendly products, LED signage offers increased green benefits over nearly any other form of signage. From reprogramming existing signs to recycling old signage, disposing of old signage is easier and more affordable than traditional signage as well.

2. Interactive and Moving Signage

LED technologies make it possible to do more than simply convey a message. From flashing text and high-contrast colors to full images and animations, LED signs allow businesses to increase engagement and promote their message, product or service with greater results. In many cases, LED signage is also brighter than other forms of signage for increased visibility and easier reading from a distance.

3. Less Upkeep and Maintenance Costs

Due to reduced energy costs and increased bulb lifetime, LED signage is more affordable to implement and maintain that other forms of signage. The U.S. Department of Energy reports that the average LED can have a useful life of 25,000 hours of longer. They also produce light using a fraction of the electricity of traditional bulbs. The Department of Energy predicts that their plan to switch to LED lighting could save $250-billion in energy costs and replacement costs.

4. Larger Signage is Possible Due to Reduced Weight

Due to their compact size and lightweight design, LEDs allow for increased flexibility in sign placement and larger overall dimensions without risking damage to signage or structures. They also offer a greater variety of options for focusing light. This allows larger signage without worry of light pollution or interference with the visibility of other signage nearby. Many LEDs are designed for long-lasting outdoor use, making LEDs an excellent option for signage.

5. Improved Safety through LED Signage

Unlike incandescent, fluorescent or neon signage, LED signage releases very little heat. This allows for safer long-term usage. LED signage also uses a fraction of the electricity, with some requiring as little as 10-watts, to reduce the risk of electrical hazards or stress to wiring systems. This also makes it possible to utilize solar panels or other alternative solutions to easily light LED signage without the need to modify existing wiring.

6. Signage is Adaptable and Easy to Change without Costly Redesigns

Most LED signage uses a matrix of red, blue and green LEDs to create a wide spectrum of colors. This means that if you need to change the content of your signage, it is often as simple as reprogramming the board that powers the display. Instead of replacing bulbs or entire signs, reconfiguring an existing LED sign is as simple as connecting to the controller and implementing changes.

LED signage is changing the way that businesses think about advertising and signage placement. From reduced energy costs and longer service life to improved visibility and the ability to animate signage, there are plenty of reasons to consider upgrading your existing signage to LED-based solutions.

About the Author: Willie Pena is a freelance writer, video producer, visual artist, and music producer. He prefers the Oxford comma. In addition to writing for firms such as Icon Identity Solutions, IBM, Colgate, Transunion, Webroot and a multitude of private clients and websites, he also shoots, directs, and edits the hit celebrity web series “Teens Wanna Know”. Catch his rare blog posts on williepena.com, and connect with him on Google+, LinkedIn.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, LED Lighting

5 Useful Tools for a Successful Commercial Solar Lighting Project

Posted by SEPCO

12/3/13 9:30 AM

Commercial-Solar-Lighting.jpgThere are many things to consider when using commercial solar light systems for any project. First and foremost, not all solar lights are created equal and there is definitely no “one size fits all” solution. Due to sun hour differences in different parts of the world as well as needs for every project can be completely different, utilizing these five tools and working with a qualified solar lighting specialist will ensure your commercial solar lighting project be a successful one.

1. Google Earth

Where is your project located? The first thing to figure out is where exactly is the solar lighting systems going to be installed. One of the best tools is to use Google Earth to see the exact location to learn about any obstacles that could create a problem, such as shading from nearby trees or buildings. It is also used to determine rough estimates of the size area that will be lit.

2. NREL

The next thing to do is find out the number of sun hours available in your project’s location. Since each system is built for worst-case scenario, you need to look at the sun hours available in the winter. Since you size a project to run flawlessly when there is little sun, and then in the summer the system will have no issues at all. NREL is a great place to start this process.

3. AutoCAD

AutoCAD can be a great tool to get exact dimensions as well as terrain and other pertinent information for a project. The file can also be uploaded into a lighting engineering software to show a more detailed layout of the project including light levels (see 5). AutoCAD also allows for finding obstacles that may not be visible on Google Earth. This is not a requirement for every project, but a very helpful tool.

4. Wind Load Calculations

Do you live in a hurricane zone area? What type of wind load requirements are in your area? Making sure to let your solar lighting specialist know of specific requirements will ensure that your system is still functioning after a natural disaster. There are many steps a reputable commercial solar lighting company can take when they know the wind load requirements to ensure the durability of the system.

5. Lighting Engineering Software

Finally, lighting analysts software is the last step in any lighting  design for solar. Using the above tools along with other project specifications given by the designer or end user will be brought together in the lighting analysts software. The software provides project specific information such as luminance in either foot-candles or lux depending on the type of requirement needed as well as a visual rendering of what to expect after the installation is completed.

Not going through any of the steps above is a good sign you are being sold a “one size fits all” system that is not guaranteed to operate to its fullest nor meet customer requirements year around. These types of systems may cost less, but will cost more in the end by having to replace parts or the entire system due to failures and not meeting the requirements set forth in the beginning of the project.

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Topics: Solar Lighting, Solar Lighting Design

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