Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Washington County recognized as gold sustainable community by TVA

Sept. 12, 2013 – Washington County has earned a gold rating in the Tennessee Valley Authority’s new “Valley Sustainable Communities” program, and the designation should help the community better compete for jobs and investment.
The gold level designation recognizes that a community has taken a leadership role in implementing sustainable practices and has made a commitment to sustainability efforts focused on economic development.

A sustainability team with representatives from local governments, non-profit groups, the Johnson City Power Board, businesses and schools all worked closely with the WCEDC on an application after TVA introduced the program in January. The initiative helps communities evaluate their sustainable assets and programs, and encourages them to promote those and to increase their commitment to sustainability – all with an eye toward being more economically competitive in a world where those issues matter.
“Corporations are as concerned as ever with operating in a sustainable manner,” WCEDC Chairperson Lottie Ryans, a vice president with Century Link, said. “This designation, and the work our community does to improve and expand its sustainable assets, can provide a competitive edge as we work to attract new jobs and investment.”
TVA’s economic development arm plans to provide significant extra marketing resources to promote the designated communities across the Valley.
“TVA Economic Development’s mission is to work with our region’s communities to help them be prepared and differentiate themselves to better compete in global markets,” said John Bradley, TVA senior vice president of Economic Development.  “We plan to provide marketing resources to promote the designated sustainable communities.  These efforts will include online and direct mail to corporations that have shown commitment to sustainable business models.”

The Chairman and CEO of Kingsport-based Eastman Chemical Co., a Fortune 500 company with a verified track record of sustainability, welcomed the news that a nearby community had achieved the designation.
“As a company with a longstanding, strong commitment to sustainable practices, we know the many benefits of pursuing sustainability, and we know that practiced wisely, sustainability is economically beneficial,” Eastman’s Jim Rogers said. “We are pleased to learn that one of our local communities has pursued and attained TVA’s new program.”

With Tennessee’s oldest curbside recycling option, an innovative landfill gas-to-energy program, a growing greenway and green space network, and a growing focus on promoting sustainable development, the City of Johnson City played a major role in demonstrating to TVA’s consultant, Boyette Strategic Advisors, that Washington County merited the second-highest designation.
“We live in a beautiful environment here in Washington County, so it only makes sense to preserve our assets sustainably,” Johnson City Mayor Dr. Ralph Van Brocklin said. “As Tennessee’s first ‘Green City,’ Johnson City has shown a strong commitment to sustainable practices, as have other important institutions and businesses throughout the county. It’s gratifying to see that commitment recognized, and we look forward to promoting that designation in our economic and community development efforts.”
 The goal of the program is to increase the likelihood that communities will be viewed as progressive and competitive by companies planning to invest in new or expanded business locations. The Johnson City Power Board’s sustainable initiatives also contributed to the successful application, and its CEO, Jeff Dykes said he anticipates further emphasis on sustainable energy practices in the future.
“I’m glad TVA is encouraging this aspect of economic development,” Dykes said. “Being a part of the application process and seeing ETSU, the City, Jonesborough, Mountain States Health Alliance, environmental advocates and Washington County all around the table with us was an encouraging sign that the whole community is serious about sustainability.”
Learn more at or by contacting the WCEDC’s Jeff Keeling at (423) 794-9173 or

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Plasmonic nanostructures could prove a boon to solar cell technology

Do 'plasmonic nanostructures' hold the key to next-generation solar power?  (Photo: Shutte...Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have found a way to harvest energy from sunlight more efficiently, with the help of so-called plasmonic nanostructures. The new findings suggest that plasmonic components can enhance and direct optical scattering, creating a mechanism that is more efficient than the photoexcitation that drives solar cells. The development could therefore provide a real boost to solar cell efficiency and lead to faster optical communication.

When photons hit the surface of a solar cell, the energy they carry is absorbed by the atoms of a doped semiconductor. If the energy absorbed is higher than a set threshold, known as the energy gap, then electrons are set free and can be used to generate electricity.

Read full article HERE

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Making Your Home Energy Efficient Room by Room: Basement

Is your basement cold, drafty or damp? Do you have appliances that may be costing you more money than they need to? Would you like to improve your comfort while saving energy and reducing your utility bills? These energy saving tips for your basement just might be the solutions you need to make your basement more cozy and energy efficient.
Reduce Humidity in the Basement
Does your basement smell musty? Is there mold or mildew, condensation on windows, or rotting wood? If there is, you most likely have a humidity problem. Increased humidity can make your space uncomfortable, and cause or aggravate allergies from mildew, mold and mites. The ideal relative humidity level for comfortable and healthy living is between 30 and 50 percent. If your relative humidity level is outside that range, you may experience problems.
If you are experiencing high levels of humidity, check that the vent from your clothes dryer is venting to the outside, and not into your basement. Make sure that the ground outside slopes away from the house and that all downspouts release water at least three feet from the building. If you're still experiencing high humidity, you can use a dehumidifier to remove the excess moisture from the air. Look for one with the ENERGY STAR logo, which uses less energy than standard models and can save you over $200 in energy costs over the life of the unit.
Energy Saving Tips for Your Water Heater
·         Lower the thermostat on your water heater to 120F (many are set to 140F) or lower, and save over $350. You won't notice a difference in the heat of your water, but you'll save money on your energy bills.
·         Touch the tank on your water heater. If it feels warm, you can save energy - and money - by installing an insulating "jacket" or "blanket". Easy to install, it costs around $10 to $20 and will pay for itself in energy savings within a year (you'll save over $30 a year). Choose one with a minimum R-value of 8.
·         For additional savings, insulate the hot water pipes coming out of the water heater to keep the water hot until it reaches its destination - the tap. This is especially important where pipes travel through uninsulated areas like crawlspaces.
·         Why pay to heat water when you're not home? Before leaving on vacation, turn off your electric water heater, or turn down your gas water heater.
·         If you're buying a new water heater, save energy with a tank less water heater. Unlike traditional water heaters that continually heat water and keep it on reserve in a tank for whenever you may need it, tank less water heaters supply hot water only on demand. You won't waste money heating water 24/7, and you'll always have hot water when you need it.

Old Fridges Suck Energy
Do you have an old fridge running in your basement (or garage)? If you do, it's costing you $90 or more to operate each year. Can you survive without it? If you absolutely need a second fridge, consider getting a new, smaller bar-sized fridge. New fridges are far more energy efficient than those manufactured before 1993. How much is your old refrigerator costing you?
For maximum efficiency, keep your fridge and freezer as full as possible. Unplug the fridge when it's empty and remember to keep the fridge and freezer doors open when the fridge is unplugged.
Seal Your Basement to Save Energy

A common place for air to escape your home, or for drafts to occur, is around vents, ducts, pipes and electrical wires that lead to the outside. To increase your home's energy efficiency and lower your energy bills, seal small gaps with caulk, and fill holes up to three inches with spray foam. For gaps or holes larger than three inches, cover with foam board and seal with spray foam. Be sure to seal all areas between the sill plate and the foundation, and in the spaces between rim joists. Basements are a common place for significant air leaks. You can really improve your home's energy efficiency. Save money on your energy bills, and help the environment by sealing all the leaks in your basement and the rest of your home.