Monday, December 17, 2012

Celebrating the Holidays with Light

The holidays are here, and it seems natural to fight the growing darkness with artificial light.  Indeed, it is embedded in our culture.  This may seem to run counter to the eco-message that suggests we do with less, that we sacrifice our comforts and pleasures, in order to save the earth.  At times this is appropriate, and increasingly unavoidable, but we need to stop and celebrate the change of seasons and the holidays we enjoy this time of year.  We will not judge those who light up their homes, although we recognize it can be a matter of taste.  Glen Ellyn has recently decided to procure residential power from renewable sources.  Local citizens may find this a reason to feel good (as we should!) but not to disregard any further energy conservation efforts.  Cool Cities does not advocate excessive consumption regardless of whether the power comes from coal or wind.  But this time of year, perhaps, we can relax a bit and embrace the use of celebratory lighting.

Yes, we often do waste light.  It is useful to define waste as energy expended with no benefit.  As can be seen in the stunning photos recently released by NASA (below), much human-made light is directed to space, which may provide a nice view to those looking down from airplanes, but provides little benefit to us on earth.  There are many reasons for addressing this as a significant environmental and energy policy problem.  But holiday lighting, well done or not (as in National Lampoon's movie "Christmas Vacation") has a distinct and important purpose. 

In closing, a safety note is in order.  You may have read various safety tips in the media stating that police departments recommend that homes be well lit to deter crime.  The source of this information is never clear, nor is there specific advice on how to make the lighting truly effective.   "More" is not "better" in this instance.  Instead, we have many examples of lighting that can actually be hazardous by causing glare. This is especially problematic for elderly, who do not see well at night, as they attempt to visit friends and relatives during the holidays.  Glare can also hide criminal activity.  Well designed lighting is not only more attractive and pleasant, it makes sidewalks and driveways and surrounding areas more visible.  As a bonus, good lighting often uses less energy.  Beware, good advice is not available at hardware stores.  While, do-it-yourself lighting is often inferior, we are fortunate to have good advice available on several websites for organizations such as Illinois Coalition for Responsible Outdoor Lighting  or the International Dark Sky Association.

Meanwhile, may we wish you joyous holidays!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Climate lecture at First Presbyterian Church in Glen Ellyn

Special event at First Presbyterian Church in Glen Ellyn: "What do Christians Need to Know About Climate Change?"

Find out when Earthlings host guest speaker Ben Lowe of the Evangelical Environmental Network on Sunday, December 9, at 6 p.m. in the parlor, as part of our regular Earthlings meeting. Ben will talk about what the climate crisis currently looks like, and how it is challenging the work of the Church around the world. You'll also hear how Christians are faithfully responding to this issue -- and what we can do to help. Following his talk, we'll have time for Q&A. Everyone is welcome -- and this is a great opportunity to bring a friend! (Use the West entrance)

An introduction to Ben Lowe's views are found in Relevant Magazine

Sunday, November 25, 2012

November-December eco calendar

Activies in Glen Ellyn and the Chicago area

November 26 - Glen Ellyn's Board of Trustees reviews bids for electrical aggregation, including green power (mostly wind) and sources that contain the usual mix of coal and nuclear energy sources. Some residents have expressed a desire for green power, others have said "no, we want lowest price." The actual difference may be a mere fraction of a penny. We shall see.

November 28 - Bill McKibben's "Do the Math Tour" in Chicago,

November 28 - Naperville Green Drinks. Bring nonperishable food for donation. Live music.

December 1 - Civic Betterment Party town meeting and voting (Glen Ellyn),

December 8, 9-11 am - Glen Ellyn Park District restoration work day,

December 9, 6 pm - The Earthlings of Glen Ellyn's First Presbyterian Church host guest speaker Ben Lowe of the Evangelical Environmental Network, in the parlor, as part of its regular Earthlings meeting. Ben will talk about what the climate crisis currently looks like, and how it is challenging the work of the Church around the world. You'll also hear how Christians are faithfully responding to this issue and what we can do to help.

December 21 - Winter solstice walk at Morton Arboretum,

Getting outdoors this winter:

Glen Ellyn Park District work days continue through the winter. According to Renae Frigo, park district naturalist, the next work day is on Dec. 8 and will most likely be clearing more buckthorn. Next year, work may move to other small neighborhood parks (Danby, Ackerman, & Glen Ellyn Manor) in addition to Churchill. The schedule is pending.

Snowshoe rentals at Morton Arboretum -

Ski rentals at DuPage Forest Preserves -

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Peter Gorr's Experience With Solar - Part 4

Year One Results

Promises Made, Promises Kept

In this concluding part I want to review actual production and usage results as well as review once again why a move to a new energy portfolio for this country is so right.  Up until now everything presented relating to system performance was based on estimates and projections. It is just over a year that my system has been in operation and, simply stated, it has performed better than promised.

With my communications gateway connection and online monitoring I have very detailed information to source. Here is a screen shot of my system near the end of a day in June 2012.  I can view each panel’s production in real time as well as historically.  The slightly darker panels show some shading starting as the sun goes down behind some trees. There are many reports I can pull down as I actively manage my energy usage and production.

Recall I designed my system to deliver 80% of my historical electricity usage.  It has delivered over 94% through a combination of a couple of things.  First, it was estimated that I would see just less than 8 megawatt hours of energy per year.  I produced over 8.7 mwh. This is weather dependent and will vary but not by much. Second, I continue to seek energy efficiency measures as I move to more than meet my home electricity demand and make room for adding an electric plug-in vehicle to my electricity demand mix.  If I can replace the thousands of dollars I pay filling a gas tank with the electricity I produce, well, that’s seriously green in more ways than one.

The following chart shows my system performance and my usage.  The 12 month window I am using is June 22, 2011 through June 21, 2012.  This is when my net metering began. Where the red usage line is below the blue production line, I was producing more energy than I used and it was “stored” for me by ComEd (through the net metering program).  Where the usage was in excess of production I either called for my stored energy, if it was there, or paid ComEd for electricity.

In terms of dollars and cents, if I did not have this system I would have been billed $924 for the electricity my home used.  Instead I paid just $53 for electricity from ComEd, a savings of $871.  Since I remain connected to the grid, I do pay the delivery service fee monthly.  What I have affected is only the cost of the electricity supply.
The following is the first bill I received that showed an excess of energy. Note a few kWh of energy is being held and will rollover to the next month if I need it.


What a great feeling of liberation to finally shed myself of the guilt and expense of using dirty energy. This is an emotion I did not anticipate and it has become the most valued. I no longer consider the use of energy as some evil and to be avoided practice although wasteful behavior should always be avoided. Rather it is now a welcomed part of making life comfortable and prosperous. As I became more aware of climate change and its impacts, just turning a light on became something I felt guilty about. What a way to live. Now I flip on a light and it doesn’t matter. Land use is no more than was already occupied by my home (compare to power plants, oil and gas wells), there is no water use (compare to fracking and nuclear), I produce no pollution (compare to any fossil fuel), and no CO2 emissions (ditto), I’m not using up limited resources (ditto again), and it is not costing me anything more than I have already spent (my fuel is free and unlimited).    

Also I was able to sell the RECs (defined in Part 2) I produced from July 2011 through December 2011 for $200 each or $835.  I hope to sell all my RECs in 2012 for $125 each but won’t know until the end of the year.  But I put $1706 into my pocket with potential for more.  If I sell these 2012 RECs, then the first year of operation will have netted me $2,456 in combined savings and REC sales.  Using straight line depreciation of my system as mentioned earlier of $1,848, I am $608 positive.  I originally estimated $702.  Pretty close and I’m thrilled.  Recall, I never expected this project to yield positive cash flow until years from now if ever.  I did it for all the other reasons.  And remember with that electric vehicle in my future, at $4 per gallon, I’ll add another $3,200 to my savings. 

I went into this project to prove to myself and others that there are better ways to live. Not just responsibly but economically. With such a strong case whether you talk the environment, the domestic economy, or the personal economics, then why such an uphill battle for renewables to be a bigger part of our energy portfolio?

I believe the answer, and it may surprise you, is the lack of applying free and fair market capitalism principles to energy. Please note, “free and fair”, not just “free”.  Ironically it is usually big corporations, their beneficiaries, and their bought and paid for politicians that argue for free markets (little to no regulations) but not for fair markets.  Behind the scenes these corporations aggressively fight anything that levels the competitive playing field. What is more central to capitalistic principles than competition? Understand what all companies seek, but would never admit, is securing a monopoly position in the market. This shifts the power from the consumer to the producer. This power gives producers control of pricing and supply which in turn generates massive wealth that can be used to influence public opinion and government policy.   

Case in point, I am now an energy producer as should be my right in a free market.  But there is no market for my energy besides my own home.  It’s the law! I cannot sell my excess energy production.  It is prohibited.  Under net metering rules if I have excess energy at the end of a mandated 12 month period, ComEd just takes it.  In my first year, ComEd took 430 kWh from me without as much as a “thank you”. That is more than half a month’s electricity usage for me. Is that a free market? Someone is certainly getting something for free but I don’t think that is how it is supposed to work. Is it a fair market? I feel robbed and believe I was but the law says it is OK. 

Why is this important beyond what is basic fairness?  While I am producing energy for my own consumption, there is a possibility that I may reach a point where I consistently produce more than I use in a year. Why can’t there be an exchange for me to sell my excess energy at market rates? Wouldn’t this be good for society, good for investors, good for small business development, etc.? The answer is simple; it would be stepping on current large electricity producers’ toes.  In fact if such a market had existed I might have bought a larger system to create a revenue stream for me but state law prohibited it. Any wonder who wrote (or more precisely “bought”) that law.  Shouldn’t we be doing anything and everything to find and open new and dynamic markets that would stimulate demand, supply, innovation, and the economic growth that accompanies such events?

In conclusion, I couldn’t be happier with my decision to go solar but at the same time it opened my eyes to the fact that the energy companies have such a strangle hold on everyone’s energy dollars and energy behavior that breaking that grip is largely beyond the capacity of most individual consumers. Until that grip is freely and fairly eliminated, a future of less expensive, clean, and unlimited energy will be kept from the majority of residents.  It’s irresponsible, it’s anti-American, and it’s anti-free market capitalism. But no, I’m not joining the Tea Party, they should be joining us.


1  U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Air and Radiation, The Benefits and Costs of the Clean Air Act from 1990 to 2020, Summary Report, March 2011.

2  Stern, Nicholas, The Stern Review of the Economics of Climate Change, 2006, HM Treasury, London.

3 Freeing the Grid, Best Practices in State Net Metering Policies and Interconnection Procedures, December 2010, Network for New Energy Choices, New York, NY.

4  Estimating U.S. Government Subsidies to Energy Sources: 2002-2008, Environmental Law Institute, September 2009.

About the author:  Peter Gorr lives in Palatine, IL and is a husband, parent, and grandparent.  He is a retired business executive and holds a MBA from the University of Chicago in Marketing and Statistics.  He is on the Executive Committee of the Northwest Cook County Group of the Sierra Club, an active member of the Illinois Solar Energy Association, a Board Member of Friends of Busse Woods and a founding member of Friends of Deer Grove East conservation groups.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

2012 Illinois Solar Tour Highlights

The Illinois Solar Tour is organized annually by the Illinois Solar Association.  This free event allows residents an opportunity to open their homes for public viewing of solar vewing up close.  Homeowners and small businesses participate.  It is always enjoyable to see what others are doing, and to share ideas for conserving energy and generating clean energy on site.

Site #1 - the Van Loan home in Naperville

This home features an 8.92 kW rooftop solar array.  Since installing this May, it has already produced more than 6,000 kW-hours, which is about half of what a typical home uses in an entire year.

Site #2 - the Armstrong home in Naperville

This home was designed with passive solar features to maximize the benefit of the sun, and has a green roof along with a photo-voltaic solar panels.  Beneficial landscaping, much of it native and with edible fruits, helps shade the home in the summer.

Site #3 - Brighton Car Wash, Naperville

Jason Morin, co-owner of Brighton Car Wash on 75th Street, enthusiastically explains the operation of hot water tubes mounted on the roof.  Solar energy has saved this small business thousands of dollars, and allows him to use hot water to wash cars with less detergent, providing his customers with a superior service.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

October Eco Events

October calendar:

October 6 - Illinois Solar Tour. This is a large event, but you can drive around at you own pace and see as many solar installations as you wish. It's also free!

October 6, Glacial Ridge Forest Preserve workday, Glen Ellyn, 9 am-Noon. Also other dates and locations for volunteer work listed at

October 8 - Glen Ellyn public hearing about electrical aggregation. Come, learn, ask questions, and voice your opinion. Meanwhile, Glen Ellyn residents should watch for the insert in their water bill.

October 13 - National Weather Service open house, Romeoville,

October 13 - Churchill Park volunteer workday, Glen Ellyn,

October 14 - Danada Fall Festival, also featuring local folk musicians,

October 19 - Starved Rock Lodge Astronomy Day coincides with a meteor shower,

October 20 - Doug Tellamy, author of Bringing Nature Home, will be speaking at a program sponsored by the Wild Ones, the Sierra Club, the Conservation Foundation, and the DuPage and Will County forest preserve districts,
This is a free event, but registration closes on October 17.

October 22 - The second Glen Ellyn hearing on electrical aggregation,

Other items:

Nicor Gas rebates,

Watch your trees and shrubs, including parkways. Dry conditions are continuing in one of the driest years ever recorded in Chicago.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

DuPage environmental events calendar

September 10 - Sierra Club's evening program featuring Drew Carhart, who will discuss the effects of outdoor lighting on the natural world at night,

September 15 – Argonne National Laboratory Energy Showcase,

September 16 Birthday bash for the Conservation Foundation at McDonald Farm,

September 22 Cantigny Green Fair,

September 22 – Glen Ellyn Park district volunteer opportunity on National Public Lands Day,
September 26 - Lombard Park Prairie Days,

September 29 – Glen Ellyn Electronics Recycling, Duane Street & Lorraine Road parking lot, 8am - 12pm,

October 6 – Illinois Solar Tour,
October 14 – Green Readin' book discussion group will be discussing Doug Tellamy's book (see next item) -

October 20 – Doug Tellamy, author of Bringing Nature Home, will be speaking at a program sponsored by the Wild Ones, the Sierra Club, the Conservation Foundation, and the DuPage and Will County forest preserve districts,
This is a free event, but registration closes on October 17.

October 24 – SCARCE's Green Tie Gala fundraiser,

November 6 - General election – vote!  Includes Glen Ellyn referendum for electrical aggregation

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Guest Post by Peter Gorr

Part 3:  The Economics of My Solar System
Glow of the Sun or the Glitter of Gold?

When I discuss my personal experience with renewable energy technology the first question I am always asked is:  “What does it cost?”.   I don’t like to answer this without first asking some questions myself.  For instance: “Why are you interested?”

The value someone places on a renewable energy system can generally be determined by how they answer 4 key questions.  First, how important is it to you to protect the environment?  Second, how important is spending less on energy?  Third, how important is it to support domestic economic growth? And fourth, do you prefer to lead or follow your neighbors in changes to your lifestyle?

How a person answers each of these questions will reflect what they place value on and what they are willing to invest.  So for a seller of systems, it is critical to understand a potential buyer’s motivation.  For me, the environment, the economy, and becoming a leading example of responsible behavior were the prime motivations.  I didn’t think wealth creation was even a consideration but, as I will show, it is also a strong reason.

Now let me review the economics because this is the area that surprised me the most, pleasantly I might add, and is misunderstood.  First you need to have adequate capital to undertake this kind of project, just as you would for any other home improvement.  I have a home equity line of credit at 2.5% so it made sense for me to tap that.  The total cost I faced was $47,428.  Your first reaction I’m sure is OUCH!  Hold on.  Before I get into the details let me say I wish I could find more investment choices like this.   

The economics are a little challenging to detail because it is not just a matter of computing a breakeven point by dividing total cost by annual energy savings.  A renewable energy system has value as a hard asset, generates RECs (Renewable Energy Credits explained in Part 2) that can be sold for revenue, and may qualify for tax credits and rebates in addition to the energy savings. 

Here is a summary of the costs and rebates/credits:
Installed System Cost:                        $46,200

Permitting & Interconnection:            $  1,228

Total Costs:                                         $47,428

30% Federal Tax Credit:                     ($14,228)

30% State Rebate:                              ($14,028)

Total Owner Out-of-Pocket Cost:      $19,172

How often do opportunities to spend $19,000 for over $47,000 worth of goods happen?  While I still have to come up with $19,000, my net worth has been increased by over $25,000.  This is what makes my analysis different from so many others.  I focused on my net worth change while most everyone else I encounter seems to just focus on the cash outlay.  Actually I have very little cash.  Cash is not a good place for your money if you are seeking growth.  I like to put my money to work.  Consider:  Are stocks cash, are bonds cash, is a house cash?  No, they have cash value and we tend to describe them in these terms.  We typically convert much of our cash into value bearing instruments and this is how I view this investment.  I received $47,000 worth of value for $19,000!  I wish I had a larger roof!

This is not the end of the analysis.  The system’s value will depreciate over time and since it carries a 25 year warranty I used this length of time.  Offsetting this depreciation are the energy savings and the revenue generation in the form of the sale of RECs.  Here the payback is cash which further enhances my net worth.  The following are the estimates I used in starting the project:

Annual Electricity Savings:      $    950

Annual REC Sales:                   $ 1,600

Annual System Depreciation:   ($ 1,848)

Total Annual Gain:                    $     702
Taking all the added home value, cost, rebates, tax credits, revenue, and savings results in an estimated net worth growth in year one of $26,772.  Over succeeding years, assuming a certain level of electricity price inflation, continued REC sales, etc.  my net worth inches up even more than the system depreciation takes away, keeping me attractively positive throughout the life of the system.  I estimate the contribution to my net worth in year 10 will be $36,050 and the system would still have 15 years of warranty remaining.  Also to be as thorough as possible I take into account the potential growth (estimated at 5%) of my initial $19,000 if I invested it somewhere else. 

Now some may say, but solar systems are so attractive only because of these rebates and tax credits.  Partially that’s right so what are you waiting for?  I didn’t write these rules but I’m certainly not going to ignore an opportunity when I see it.  Even with these rebates and credits renewable energy still finds it hard to compete because fossil fuels also receive cost advantages and subsidies some of which were discussed in Part 1.  I consider these rebates and tax credits as leveling the playing field a little but it is still far from level for renewable energy.  What was not discussed in Part 1 on this subject is that fossil fuels receive 2.5 times the level of federal subsidies as renewable energy (with most of the renewable energy subsidies going to corn ethanol).  Remove corn ethanol from the equation and fossil fuels receive 6 times the benefits as renewable energy sources.  Also I agree that this is not a desirable means of managing this energy market.  Eliminate all the tax advantages, subsidies, and rebates while making sure all production costs are accounted for in pricing and let’s see how things play out.  My prediction is that fossil fuels will become just that…fossils.  Pollution is a type of waste. Waste is a sign of inefficiency in a business and a real cost. If these costs associated with pollution (and the Supreme Court ruled that carbon emissions are a form of pollution) were reflected in the price of fossil fuels (as I argued they should be in Part 1 of this series) I believe you would see a competitive landscape that would start to favor renewable energy.  Furthermore as innovations drive costs down, they will get us to a world that I hope to see:  one of clean and cheap energy.

Is solar right for everyone?  Of course not and it need not be.  I believe the best market for solar right now would be the top 10% of US households.  Why?  They have an average net worth of over $1 million not counting their homes so they certainly have the resources, are always looking for good investment opportunities, and are probably the worse energy consumers and carbon emitters because of their lifestyle.  So we could take a nice bite out of carbon emissions by transitioning these households to renewable energy and guess what, they become wealthier in the process.  The rich get richer.  Well this time we all stand to benefit.

- Peter Gorr

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Eco events in central DuPage County

Sat, July 21, 9:00-12:00 am, Glacial Ridge work day,
We meet at at Walnut Glen Park, corner of Walnut St. and Longfellow Ave, west of Whittier and north of Hill Ave. in Glen Ellyn. Call Bruce Blake,Steward at (630) 629-2520 or e-mail to for more information.

Sat., July 28, Chase the Moon Bike Ride,

Wed, August 1, 7 pm, Lecture: "Myth-Busting the Tar Sands",

Ann Alexander, Senior Attorney with the Natural Resource’s Defense Council’s Chicago office, will unpack some of the myths that pervade discussions of the Canadian tar sands, frequently promoted as a safe and secure source of energy for the U.S. She will address the economic impact of tar sands importation as well as its environmental impacts, both from extraction in Canada and refining in the Midwest and the Gulf Coast.

Rainfall report: We received over 2-1/2 inches on the east side of Glen Ellyn. What did you get?

Tree watering: Despite the recent rains, heat will return. We can watch our trees and keep them hydrated while being mindful of watering restrictions. Glen Ellyn, for example, seems poised to begin enforcing its watering regulations.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Oak Park, Illinois, Looking at Smart Grid Technology

Interview with K.C. Poulos conducted by Cassandra West

Oak Park officials in early June signed a letter of intent with the Korea Smart Grid Institute (KSGI), one more step toward testing smart-grid technologies through the village. KSGI is seeking to invest in international areas to test and study new technologies. Oak Park is one of two cities in the U.S. selected by the Institute to participate in such an initiative. GCC spoke with K.C. Poulos, Sustainability Manager for the Village of Oak Park, about the signing and what it means.

What does this letter of intent do?
The letter of intent is a renewal of one signed in 2010 between the Korea Smart Grid Institute, the Village of Oak Park and the Illinois Smart Communities Coalition. These three entities are working together to bring projects to Oak Pak that would demonstrate how a smart grid works, both from inside the home, to the lines, and to the back-office technology that ComEd uses. It’s really about facilitating demonstration projects. That’s what Oak Park’s role is. The Korea Smart Grid Institute is looking at two sites in U.S. to demonstrate its technology. One is in Stony Brook, Long Island [N.Y], and one is here in Oak park. They’re interested in showing their technology in a village setting and they’ve really taken to Oak Park and they’re excited about putting a couple of demonstrations here.

Can you clarify what you mean by a demonstration?
KSGI is looking at residential and commercial demonstrations in which they would put solar panels on single-family homes, provide a battery storage system and then connect the battery to the grid. The homeowners would collect solar power during the day and store energy in a battery, then in the evening, the house would use that battery for any energy uses that it needs. So, it’s off the grid at night.

How does a smart grid help facilitate sustainability? (excerpt from Wikepedia.en)
The improved flexibility of the smart grid permits greater penetration of highly variable renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power, even without the addition of energy storage. Current network infrastructure is not built to allow for many distributed feed-in points, and typically even if some feed-in is allowed at the local (distribution) level, the transmission-level infrastructure cannot accommodate it. Rapid fluctuations in distributed generation, such as due to cloudy or gusty weather, present significant challenges to power engineers who need to ensure stable power levels through varying the output of the more controllable generators such as gas turbines and hydroelectric generators. Smart grid technology is a necessary condition for very large amounts of renewable electricity on the grid for this reason.

How do the smart meters in Oak Park play into this project?
The only way a house becomes a smart house is if it can provide its usage information back to ComEd and also receives real-time usage information from ComEd, so there’s a two-way communication system that’s built into the meters.

Do we really have a smart grid or just a step toward having a smart grid?
We’re just in the beginning staging of deploying a smart grid. The smart meters are in place in Oak Park. One of the next steps is to upgrade the transformers and the substations that are in our area so they have the solid-state communications devices and can read the data points that are out there. …There’s a lot of self-healing and redundancy that’s built into a smart system so that it takes a problem and reroutes energy to customers through another line without having to send a truck out.

How might this project with the Korea group involve conserving energy or reducing use?
By providing a renewal energy source on a person’s home, they’re able to supplement their usage with renewal energy right there at the house, so they’re pulling less energy from the grid and that saves money on their bill.

What’s the best way for residents to learn more about Oak Park’s sustainablity initiatives?
They can visit our website,

Provided by Lonnie Morris, Chair, Sierra Club River Prairie Group
Written by SStovall and published at

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

About heat drought and storms

The July 1 storm with its 80 MPH) winds absolutely hammered parts of Glen Ellyn.  After at least half of the households in Glen Ellyn lost power, the most immediate observation was how the community pulled together.  Folks came out of their homes to help neighbors pull away and chop branches, and checking on neighbors to see if they needed anything.  If someone had electricity, they shared it.  They even invited neighbors over for dinner.  It was refreshing to see this.

After the loss of power, the second impression is show much we depend on air conditioning.  The typical American home is not very good at keeping out hot air, designed with air conditioning in mind, especially for multi-day outages.  This makes us increasingly vulnerable as climate change begins to assert itself in more ugly ways, and makes the need to move away from fossil fuels even more critical.
Here's one possible scenario.  As the average temperature and humidity rises worldwide, the demand for air conditioning also rises, forcing us to continue our investment in more power plants to handle peak electrical demands.  Meanwhile in Glen Ellyn, more storms lead to more flooding, stronger wind events, and the increasing loss of our urban tree canopy which used to help keep our homes cooler.  Be mindful, there is nothing new about the weather we have been having lately.  Not every event can be blamed on climate change.  Still, science is telling us that the overall trend is leading to more extreme weather events, more records being broken, as the planet gets hotter.  This is indeed something we need to factor into our long term urban planning.

A third impression concerns our trees.  Long time residents will tell you about the trees we used to have that did a wonderful job of cooling our streets.  Our parkway trees, for example, our being damaged by heat and drought, heavy construction equipment, diseases, and in some cases old age, and are being removed faster that they are being replaced.  It's not easy to notice the trend day-by-day since we still have lots of foliage, but look at all of the stumps.  The quality of our urban forest is changing.  We now have fewer of the stately oaks that, when kept healthy, become quite old, and are resilient to just about anything that nature throws at them - as long as we are not damaging them.

A final note:  when the AC came back on, folks retreated to their homes, which can lead to isolation.  Fortunately, Glen Ellyn is strong community.  The next time you need neighbors, they will be there for you.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Glen Ellyn conservationist at Moving Planet

We are finally posting this video from the Moving Planet DuPage event last fall. The message still rings true.

Monday, May 7, 2012


Is SCARCE really in trouble?  A flyer posted on Kate Samp's Sustain DuPage blog, indicates the answer could be "yes."  The big question seems to be whether the public, and the DuPage County Board, understands all that SCARCE does.  Glen Ellyn Cool Cities has not partnered with SCARCE on any projects, but we know who they are and what they do.  SCARCE is a unique educational voice and advocate for recycling and energy efficiency in Glen Ellyn and DuPage County.  Elected county officials need to know how SCARCE is valued by the DuPage electorate in order to help fund it when hard budgeting decisions need to be made.  If the County Board senses the public values SCARCE, the group and its programs will continue to get funding.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Earth Day Awareness celebration at Lake Ellyn

Saturday, April 21, 9 a.m. - Earth Day celebration at Lake Ellyn.

Bring your family, friends, scout troop, or service group to help clean this great park! We are looking for photos of people doing green.  Bring your camera and take pictures.  We will get you published! 

Special programs suitable for the whole family will start at 9:30 a.m., featuring:

Glenbard West High School Eco Club

Citizens for Glen Ellyn Preservation: tree preservation efforts, heritage trees

Illinois Coalition for Responsible Outdoor Lighting: good v. bad lighting

Tina Koral: edible and sustainable landscapes

Bonnie Gahris: invasive plants

Cool Cities: lighting and energy
Follow link to see the flyer.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Starting off Earth Month with Some Energy Saving Ideas

Save Energy - Tips from the EPA

Reduce your carbon footprint! Leaving your car at home twice a week can cut greenhouse gas emissions by 1,600 pounds per year. Save up errands and shopping trips so you need to drive fewer times. If you commute to work, ask if you can work from home at least some days, and you'll reduce air pollution and traffic congestion - and save money. Reduce greenhouse gases on the road.

Don't idle! Remind your school system to turn off bus engines when buses are parked. Exhaust from idling school buses can pollute air in and around the bus, and can enter school buildings through air intakes, doors, and open windows. Constant idling also wastes fuel and money, and school bus engines really need only a few minutes to warm up. More about reducing engine idling.

It's electric! You can check how much of your electricity comes from renewable "green" power sources, such as wind or solar. Green power produces less carbon emissions, reduces air pollution, and helps protect against future costs or scarcity of fossil fuels. If green power is a consumer option, check price differences from suppliers before you buy. The green power locator.

Tread lightly! Use public transportation, carpool, walk, or bike whenever possible to reduce air pollution and save on fuel costs. Leaving your car at home just two days a week will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an average of 1,600 pounds per year. If you can work from home, you'll reduce air pollution and traffic congestion - and save money. Reduce your carbon footprint.

Make your home an Energy Star! When you do home maintenance, also do a home energy audit to find out how you can save money by making your home more energy efficiency. And if every American home replaced just one conventional light bulb with a compact fluorescent light bulb, we would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes a year. Find more energy savings.

eCycle it! Take your old computer, DVD player, or other electronics to an electronics recycling center. Reusing and recycling materials like copper, gold, and others saves natural resources and reduces mining and processing. eCycling also helps avoid land, air, and water pollution by capturing and reusing hazardous substances such as lead or chromium. Find eCycling centers near you.

Everyone can make a difference! High school students can study links between everyday actions at their high school, greenhouse gas emissions, and climate change. Become a "climate ambassador" leader in your school or neighborhood and motivate friends, schools, and community leaders. Talk to you friends - help spread the word! Learn more at school.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Does warm weather now mean a hot summer?

From the Chicago Office of the National Weather Service:

Northern Illinois and northwest Indiana are in the midst of a rare March warm spell. For the first half of the month of March, Chicago was 11.9 degrees above normal and Rockford was running 10.6 degrees above normal. What does that mean for the rest of this spring and summer? Here is a look back at other warm Marches and how the following springs and summers turned out.
March rank
Avg Temp
from Normal (37.9)
Spring Avg
Departure from normal (47.7)
Summer Avg
Departure from normal (71.8)
No. of 90 degree days
From this table we can see that years with very warm Marches ended up having very warm springs. The spring of 1921 was the second warmest on record. In fact all but 1973 ranked in the top 20 all time. But a similar correlation with warm summers does not exist. Three of the summers following a warm March were above normal and only 2 were much above normal. Summer of 1921 was the 3rd warmest on record. But 2 of the summers were near normal and 2 were below normal. We can also look at the number of days of 90 degree weather. Three of the years had an excessive number of 90 degree days, 3 had less than the normal number of 90 degree days, and one was close to normal.

Climate the culprit?