Published on Oct 06 2010 in blog
Even three days wouldn't be enough to experience all of West Coast Green; I was lucky enough to be able to attend one full day, and though I saw only a fraction of what was available, it was well worth it.
After the morning keynotes I squeezed in a quick visit to the tradeshow, which featured everything from energy management to the latest in building materials, water treatment and harvesting, and electric cars. Among the solar companies represented was Luminalt, a San Francisco company that's partnered with 1 Block Off the Grid to provide solar to local homeowners. They've been very helpful in researching options for installing a solar system at my condo complex. Speaking with them led me to the PG&E booth to get information about solar rebates for multi-family dwellings. I was glad to see examples at the tradeshow of LED lights, which I'm considering for both my home and the outside lighting at our complex, and a portable solar generator, which can be used by those who are off the grid. At the Plug-in America booth, I learned more about the latest in electric cars. There was so much to see at the tradeshow.
It was hard to pick which of the many excellent sessions to attend. My quest for more information about rebates and incentives for homeowners took me to "Energy Upgrade California - Residential Retrofits Go Live!" Leif Magnusson from the EPA, Panama Bartholomy with the CA Energy Commission, Michael Wheeler from the CPUC, and Jeff Gleeson of PG&E encouraged us to pursue the conference's theme of The Power of 10 by retrofitting our own home and getting 10 friends to do the same. Electricity demands are increasing about 1.2% a year, and this increase is from the building sector; our best and most cost-effective option is to decrease demand by increasing efficiencies. California has goals to decrease energy consumption in homes and commercial buildings, and plans are in place to facilitate this. A new program provides low-cost financing and high rebates for homeowners. I was encouraged to see these diverse agencies and companies working together to find solutions for all of us. While it's easier now to implement some of these measures in single-family homes, I look forward to more incentives for multi-family dwellings, which are on the way.
At another session on buildings, "Passiv Haus: Aggressive Savings," Prudence Ferreira of Integral Impact, Inc., Nabih Tahan of Bau Technologies, and Graham Irwin with Essential Habitat discussed the rigorous Passive House standard, which greatly reduces buildings' energy consumption. While it's best to apply it to new buildings, many existing ones can benefit greatly from a retrofit - especially older buildings, which tend to leak a lot. A main principle of the Passive House is to ensure there are no leaks in the building that would let out heat (or cool air in hot weather), but that doesn't mean the air is stale. On the contrary, because the system brings in fresh air and circulates it, it increases air quality, which is beneficial for people's health as well as the building's durability. During cold times it heats the air coming in to the house and sends out cold air. The system uses the ingenious method of capturing the heat generated by appliances and people, and it works so well that their slogan is that you should be able to "heat your whole house with a hair dryer." It can be more affordable than other green options, while giving a lot of bang for the buck. In addition, the Passive House works well in many climates, including California's. And in California, AB32 has set a goal for 2020 for all new homes (2030 for new commercial buildings) to be "zero net energy," meaning the amount of energy used by the building equals the amount produced either in the building or by nearby renewable energy resources. That's an ambitious goal, and the Passive House concept can help!
Attending a day of WCG inspired me in many ways, and I'll make an effort to attend more of it next year. Even one day left me feeling much better informed; there was so much useful information in one place, as well as many people to contact for follow-ups. I look forward to the conference next year, and in the meantime I'll do my best to extend my own efforts to the power of 10!