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.