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Power Plug » Agricultural The Flex Your Power Energy Blog Thu, 27 Jan 2011 18:29:08 +0000 en LED Lighting Grows into Agricultural and Horticultural Sectors Tue, 10 Aug 2010 00:08:00 +0000 Megan Toth LumiGrow LED Grow Lights LumiGrow LED Grow Lights

This white paper from LumiGrow, Inc., a LED lighting solutions provider, outlines the benefits of using LED lighting for horticultural and agricultural industries.

When it comes to growing plants, LEDs are steadily gaining ground in this new market segment. Compared to widely-accepted types of grow lights like high pressure sodium, metal halide and fluorescent lamps, LEDs dramatically reduce the energy costs for farmers, growers and horticulturalists. Some studies even show that plants respond more favorably to high-quality LED lighting products.

According to a February 2010 DOE report, the projected energy savings from 2010-2030 as a result of LED lighting systems is estimated to total 1,488 terawatt-hours, representing $120 billion at today’s energy prices. With the widespread adoption of LEDs into general lighting applications, these savings would reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 246 million metric tons of carbon.

Here’s an excerpt from “Selecting LED Lighting for Horticultural Applications” that talks about why LED’s are so well suited for growing plants.

By using LED technology, we can turn electricity into light tailored specifically for plants with no waste heat. LEDs can dramatically improve the efficiency and quality of horticultural lighting by customizing the output spectrum to where plants can use it most. Because LEDs run cool, we can create productive small grow chambers or reduce heating costs in large ones. And, because we can control a mix of different LED colors, we can even mimic the natural seasons by changing the light output spectrum over time.

It’s no surprise that in the $100 billion lighting industry, LEDs are the fastest growing segment, projected to reach $8.2 billion in 2010 and $20.2 billion by 2014.

Lights Out for Earth Hour This Saturday Fri, 26 Mar 2010 19:57:27 +0000 Megan Toth

Join individuals around the world in celebrating Earth Hour by turning off lights, appliances and other electronics for at least one hour this Saturday, March 27 at 8:30 p.m. Started by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the annual event helps to raise awareness about global warming and demonstrate the collective power of simple, energy-saving actions.

Earth Hour began in Sydney, Australia in 2007, with 2.2 million homes and businesses switching off their lights for one hour. In 2008, participation rose with over 50 million people switching off their lights world-wide, and last year that number sky-rocketted to nearly 1 billion world-wide. Famous landmarks chose to go dark as well including the Golden Gate Bridge, the Empire State Building, the Las Vegas Strip, the Parthenon and Acropolis in Athens, and more.

In the past, some cities have been able to cut electricity demand by 13% during those peak hours. Help your city make an impact by powering down at 8:30 p.m. this Saturday.

Cities Suffering from Localized CO2 Domes Thu, 18 Mar 2010 19:14:55 +0000 Megan Toth Photo: Flickr

A new study recently found that local carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions may result in localized health and pollution impacts unrelated to global climate change. It is widely known that CO2 emitted in one city will eventually mix with CO2 emitted across the globe, contributing to an overall increase in the atmospheric concentration of CO2. As such, it doesn’t much matter where CO2 is emitted in terms of its contribution climate change. In contrast, the new study finds, CO2 may have direct local impacts on health and air pollution related to where CO2 is emitted and where its concentrations are highest.

While older research has found that local “domes” of high CO2 levels often form over cities, little was known about the health impacts of these domes. The study, “Enhancement of Local Air Pollution by Urban CO2 Domes,” by Mark Jacobson of Stanford finds that local CO2 emissions may increase local ozone and particulate matter that contribute to respiratory ailments. The study also estimates that local CO2 emissions may increase premature mortality by 50-100 people per year in California and 300-1000 per year in the United States.

The study carries significant implications for cities where high amounts of CO2 and other pollutants are emitted, and bolsters the already compelling case for local action.

Down on the Farm: Managing Irrigation to Cut Peak Demand Mon, 10 Aug 2009 21:24:26 +0000 Andrew Galbraith Image: Flickr

Hundred of farmers in Idaho are doing their part to curb energy demand on hot summer afternoons. They have enrolled in a program with The Idaho Power Company to shut off electric irrigation pumps when demand soars on hot afternoons. This program can save the power company up to 5% of its peak demand.

By taking a creative approach like this, the power company is eliminating the need to build expensive new power plants to meet that demand.

In the past most farmers kept their irrigation pumps running 24/7 because it was cheaper than sending an employee down to turn them off and on. With the payments from this program farmers can save an estimated $10,000 out of an annual $40,000 pumping bill, more than enough to pay for the trip down to the pump.

By cutting off irrigation on hot summer afternoons there is the added benefit of saving water when it’s most likely to evaporate.

This is just one way to save energy by saving water. Electric pumps are not just used by farmers, there are huge pumps moving water all over California. In fact 19% of the energy used in California goes to pumping, moving and treating water. By saving water in your home or business you will be saving energy across the system.

U.S. Could Save $1.2 Trillion with Energy Efficiency Mon, 10 Aug 2009 19:58:01 +0000 Andrew Galbraith Image: McKinsey & Co.

A new report by the consulting firm McKinsey & Co. shows that with $520 billion invested in efficiency the U.S. could cut our collective national energy bill by $1.2 trillion, a $700 billion return on investment. The firm also called energy efficiency the most compelling way to fight climate change and reported that 40% of U.S. emissions reduction potential comes from energy efficiency. This means that we can dramatically reduce our carbon emissions while also saving money and creating jobs.

The investment would cut U.S. energy consumption by approximately 23 percent, a savings “greater than the total energy consumption of Canada” said Ken Ostrowski, a senior partner at McKinsey. These gains could be made across the board in all sectors, although the report did not look at transportation. The residential sector accounts for about 35 percent of the possible efficiency savings, the industrial sector accounts for about 40 percent and the commercial sector about 25 percent.

The report did not factor in a price that could be imposed on greenhouse gasses. If carbon emissions were priced at $30 per ton it would lead to an additional 8 percent savings.

The McKinsey study outlines recommendations in four main categories:

  1. Increasing awareness and education: Increasing knowledge about energy saving methods and opportunities will motivate action and allow end-users to act more effectively to save money.
  2. Increasing incentives and financing: Monetary incentives such as rebates, tax credits, grants and tiered pricing will spur action, as will increased access to financing for capital expenses.
  3. Changing codes and standards: To capture all of the efficiency potential it may be necessary to mandate upgrades. This could include stricter building codes and efficiency standards for appliances and equipment.
  4. Third-party involvement: A private company, utility, government agency or NGO could purchase and install energy efficiency improvements directly for the end-user.

The study also identified a number of barriers to achieving the full $1.2 trillion in energy savings. The first would be cost, as this would represent many times the energy spending of the stimulus package, and would have to be maintained for a decade. Many consumers would not have the money for upgrades, even if they would eventually see full payback. There are also issues around who makes investments and who reaps the benefits. In many situations landlords, both commercial and residential, would have to make capital improvements, but it is their tenants who save on the bills.

Despite these obstacles, the report makes it clear that investing in energy efficiency has the potential to save America billions on our energy bills and is the fastest and cheapest way to cut our carbon emissions.

Win Free Tickets! e-Newswire Sign-Up Drive and Contest Mon, 10 Aug 2009 19:52:18 +0000 Megan Toth

In preparation for the cooling season, Flex Your Power is holding an e-Newswire sign-up drive and contest, and we need your help! Be the first of ten readers to sign up three friends and receive a no-cost floor pass to the 2009 West Coast Green conference (normally $45 in advance, $50 at the door).

Simply ask your friends to write “Referred by your email address” in the “How did you learn about e-Newswire?” box when they sign up, and we will tally the numbers. You’ll be helping us connect with more readers who want to Flex Their Power and you’ll have the chance to win. Tell your friends to sign up today: and don’t miss out on the chance to see the great exhibits at this year’s West Coast Green.

Onions Produce Power at California Processing Plant Tue, 04 Aug 2009 19:45:38 +0000 Megan Toth Gills Onions processing plant will produce electricity from onion waste (Photo: Gills Onions)

In the town of Oxnard, California, onions are no longer just for eating. Using a new Advanced Energy Recovery System, Oxnard-based Gills Onions will be able to make enough electricity from waste onion juice to power the equivalent of 460 homes, reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by up to 30,000 tons per year. Previously used for composting, the 300,000 pounds of waste produced each day at Gills Onions will be converted into ultra-clean electricity, heat and high-value cattle feed, saving the plant an anticipated $700,000 annually on electric bills and $400,000 in waste disposal costs. Gills Onions is also set to receive $2.7 million from the Southern California Gas Co. (The Gas Company) for the project, as part of a state program to encourage self-contained generation by businesses.

The system works by harvesting the leftover by-products of the onion plant (35-40% of the plant) including tops, skins and edges, and pressing the waste to separate the juice. The juice is then fermented and processed into biogas which goes to power two 300-kilowatt fuel cells.

“The project provides a model for how an agricultural and processing operation can work towards a goal of zero waste, in terms of both materials and energy,” said Prab Sethi, project manager for the California Energy Commission. “This project is an excellent example of outstanding environmental achievement.”

Gills Onions is a 25-year-old family-owned and –operated grower and food processor devoted to sustainable business practices. More information on incentive programs from The Gas Company and other California utilities can be found on utility websites, and on Flex Your Power’s rebate finder.

Water Crisis: Slow Reactions Delay Viable Solutions Thu, 05 Mar 2009 22:38:43 +0000 Stacey Meinzen (Image: California Department of Water Resources)

The Crisis: California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger recently declared a state of emergency around California’s current drought. His declaration asks all urban residents to curtail water use by 20%, increases conservation efforts and allows the state to seek more federal funding for water projects and the transfer of water to areas facing shortages. According to California’s farm bureau, about 43% of water taken from lakes and reservoirs is used for farming. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation said on February 20 it must cut its water allocation to farmers in California’s Central Valley for the first time in 15 years because of low reservoirs.

Slow to React: According to a recent report from Ceres (PDF, 1.1 MB), not enough businesses and investors are considering the potential for economic upheaval if water resources become as scarce as predicted. Decreasing availability, declining water quality and growing water demand are straining resources and profits. Manufacturing and agriculture sectors can expect decreased water allotments, shifts towards full-cost water pricing and increasingly severe water quality regulations, according to Ceres. Climate change and a world population predicted to grow by 50 million people annually will aggravate the problem.


The Savings: According to a report we highlighted in May of 2008, using recycled water could save enough energy to power 150,000 California homes and slash carbon emissions by a half-million metric tons annually if it made full use of secondary and tertiary recycled water supplies. For residents, that may mean installing a greywater system like the one we reported on in June of last year.

How many more reasons do we need to save water?

Energy Efficiency Crucial in Efforts to Cut Carbon Dioxide Tue, 03 Feb 2009 20:08:56 +0000 Megan Toth As carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise across the globe, the need for a strong commitment to energy efficiency becomes increasingly clear. In an informative and engaging presentation, Noe21 outlines the challenges we face related to climate change, as well as possible solutions. The presentation features a short video introduction to the global climate change crisis followed by an interactive diagram that allows viewers to experiment with alternative energy use scenarios. The site also provides information and resources on a variety of tools we can use to reach sustainable CO2 levels.


The presentation contains an assortment of compelling facts including:

  • If we do not change our energy strategy, projections show that by 2050, we will more than quadruple the amount of CO2 emissions that the earth can absorb, leading to desertification and natural disasters.
  • In order to achieve sustainable CO2 levels, we must produce no more than 1 ton of CO2 per person annually. While Bangladesh produces only 0.5 tons per capita, the United States produces a staggering 22 tons per capita.
  • Efficiency is a key solution. According to Noe21, 30-80% of energy is wasted by:
    - Unnecessarily heavy cars
    - Poorly insulated houses
    - Inefficient light bulbs and household appliances
    - Appliances left on standby mode

This presentation is yet another reminder that we must act immediately to thwart global climate change. A new study recently revealed that even if carbon dioxide levels are brought under control, it will take 1000 years or more to reverse the climate change which has already been triggered. As researchers explained, this grim revelation means the time to act is now, before the challenges we face become insurmountable.

Green Innovation Index Highlights California’s Energy-Efficient Economy Wed, 28 Jan 2009 21:31:03 +0000 Andrew Galbraith (Image: Next 10) (Image: Next 10)

The positive benefits of energy efficiency in California’s economic growth have been highlighted in Next 10’s 2009 Green Innovation Index. This is the second annual report released by the Palo Alto public policy group and prepared by the consulting firm Collaborative Economics.

Along with powerful indicators on transportation, energy generation and climate change, the report made it clear that increasing energy efficiency is good for the economy. California began investing in energy efficiency in 1974 with the establishment of the California Energy Commission and the start of efficiency planning. Data from this report shows that 35 years of investments have yielded impressive returns.

  • California’s energy productivity is 68 percent higher than that of the rest of the country. Measured as the ratio of energy consumed (inputs) to GDP (economic output), growth in energy productivity equates to more dollars of GDP generated per unit of energy consumed.
  • Californians, per capita, pay lower utility bills and spend billions less of their state economy as a whole on electricity than the rest of the country due to energy efficiency innovation.
  • The average monthly residential electricity bill in California is less than half of the average monthly bill in Texas, representing a total savings for Californians of nearly $25 billion in 2007. As a fraction of the state economy, Texas’ overall electricity bill is almost double California’s bill.
  • Over 1.5 million jobs have been created as a result of energy efficiency policies forged by California over the last 35 years, generating $45 billion in payroll.

The Green Innovation Index also reports on the carbon intensity of our economy, transportation trends, and alternative energy development. This data is key to moving California forward towards a cleaner, greener economy; because you can not plan for where you’re going if you don’t know where you are.