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Manitoba Hydro offers solar energy incentive program

Power Smart Solar Energy Program allows customers to use solar energy they need and sell excess

Manitoba Hydro wants to make it easier for customers to harness the power of the sun by offering incentives to those who want to generate their own solar energy.

The provincial power utility has launched the Power Smart Solar Energy Program, which allows home and business owners to generate their own electricity with solar panels and sell excess energy back to Manitoba Hydro.

The program will cover the installation of solar photovoltaic systems, which use solar cells to convert solar energy into electricity, at a rate of $1 per watt installed. That would cover roughly 25 per cent of the upfront capital costs of new installations.

A typical single rooftop photovoltaic module takes up about 1.5 square metres and produces about 250 watts of power — enough electricity to run kitchen lights, according to Hydro.

A special "bi-directional meter" that would be installed with the panels allow customers to use the electricity generated from solar panels when they need it, or sell energy they don't need to Manitoba Hydro.



Manitoba Solar Has a Long Climb to Reach Its Peak

The province of Manitoba shares many characteristics with its western neighbors when it comes to residential adoption of solar panels, while use of the technology is still very much in its early days relative to other regions in Canada.

Like its immediate neighbor to the west, Saskatchewan, Manitoba receives an abundant amount of sunshine and has a rather small population. Outside its capital city of Winnipeg, which is home to 60 percent of the population, it’s a predominantly rural province with just over 1.2 million people. And like British Columbia, it has little impending need for solar power, given its high use of hydro-electric power.

According to Dale Friesen, division manager for Manitoba Hydro, the province’s crown-owned power and natural gas utility, there are only a dozen customers with net metering who generate electricity from solar and offset what they buy from the utility or export it back. “We’ve had interest from early adopters,” he said, mainly from customers who have personal interest in the technology or want to go green. Manitoba Hydro is the sole commercial provider of electrical power. It operates 15 interconnected generating stations and serves more than 527,000 electric power customers.

There are both opportunities and challenges for solar panel adoption in Manitoba, said Friesen. The biggest challenge right now is economics, as the province has the benefit of the lowest electricity prices in North America, he said, thanks to its hydro-electric infrastructure. “Beyond that, the other challenges are related to knowledge and understanding.” Customers interested in solar panels for their home are not certain where to go, what to ask for, and what the strengths and weaknesses are of available products.

manitoba cabinWhile rural regions around the world are often early adopters of solar panels because of grid infrastructure limitations, said Friesen, Manitoba has a well-developed rural grid that supplies the majority of rural homeowners — who pay the same residential rate as an urban customer does in Winnipeg.

Tim Yusishen, president and CEO of Solar Solutions, said Manitoba is lagging when it comes to incentives that foster solar power adoption. “I think we are dead last in policy.” He believes there should be a more varied mix of energy sources in the province with a more distributed model, but it is difficult to compete with a subsidized utility. Residents who are adopting solar power are doing so because Manitoba Hydro costs are rising, and they are already paying for its infrastructure through their taxes. “People are concerned about the environment as well.”

Although the province relies a great deal on hydro-electric power, which does not have the negative effects on the environment that fossil fuels do, Yusishen said other sources of energy should be given a chance to help improve the security and stability of the grid, adding that rural areas still have reliability issues and Manitobans should have the option to buy green power. “Policies have to change.”

An incentive Manitoba doesn’t have that most provinces don’t have either is formal incentives for resident customers to adopt solar panels, such as Ontario’s Feed-in-Tariff (FIT) program, although it does have programs to support commercial and industrial solar power adoption and offers solar hot water incentives.

Net metering is relatively new, having been introduced in 2011, noted Dan Mazier, chair of the Elton Energy Cooperative (ECC), and right now there’s no standardized approach to apply for it, although he said he’s happy with the efforts being made by Manitoba Hydro. The province’s rural nature is a challenge, he said, with Winnipeg being its only major city and that Brandon, the second-largest city in Manitoba, has a population of just under half a million.

What the province needs to get Manitoba solar moving is a more tight-knit solar community, Mazier said. The ECC was formed in June 2006 by a steering committee to investigate the potential for developing renewable energy resources in the rural municipality of Elton, Manitoba. Its vision is getting communities across the province working together to develop renewable energy by pooling resources.

Lorena Mitchell, president of Evolve Green, said that some areas of Manitoba make it ideal for solar power as it is part of a sunshine belt that also encompasses its neighbors, but given its winters and snow accumulation, the company recommends that its customers adopt ground-mount solar panels for the best bang for their buck and easy snow removal.

She said interest in solar power is picking up as electricity costs rise, noting that Manitoba Hydro prices have risen to accommodate investments in infrastructure. Evolve Green has been in business since 2008, and saw its best uptick in business last year, with increased interest in urban areas, but Mitchell said farms are generally most interested, as they better understand the write-offs and there is no provincial sales tax for solar systems on farms.

Evolve Green often deals with new home builds for solar, as customers are folding in the costs with their new mortgages, said Mitchell, but some homeowners are financing solar with existing mortgages or lines of credit with low interest. Rising costs of electricity are one reason solar is getting more attention, she said, but some homeowners are driven by a desire to not be tied to the grid.

One solar power installation in Manitoba that has received a lot of attention in the past year is a home being built 40 kilometers southwest of Portage la Prairie by a couple from British Columbia who to live completely off the grid, in part because being connected to the grid would more expensive than their setup.

As described to the CBC, the CDN$40,000 (about US$32,000) installation is a 13-meter solar array with 48 panels, 10 meters high, that generates about 24 kilowatt-hours of electricity on a sunny day, or more than 700 kilowatt-hours in a 30-day month.

Right now, said Manitoba Hydro’s Friesen, 98 percent of the electricity supply generated in Manitoba is renewable – either through hydro or wind – and that combination means there are no near-term drivers for solar adoption, unlike provinces with utilities that rely heavily of fossil fuels, such as coal, for power generation. “Our greenhouse gas production is very low.” It’s something the utility is proud of, but it neither is it sitting still, he said. Manitoba Hydro is looking at different areas for alternative energy, including biomass and solar.

The utility has collaborated with Red River College, which has installed eight solar troughs (pictured at top) on their Notre Dame campus in Winnipeg to test how the technology fares in cold weather. The troughs have successfully been deployed in warmer climates, and are capable of powering 5,000 LED light bulbs or heat about eight to 10 homes on a cold winter day.

solar troughs

It’s not the first investment in solar power by the college. In 2002, its campus on Princess Street in Winnipeg deployed at the time was one of the largest solar energy systems in Canada, designed and installed by Solar Solutions. The south side of the block integrates solar photovoltaic modules in the curtain wall that forms the protective outside envelope of the building with a 133-module array capable of producing 12.6 kW of electrical power. The project placed fifth in the World Environment Building Competition in Oslo, Norway.

Manitoba solar hasn’t quite hit the economic threshold to put it in the mix, said Friesen, but the technology is maturing and the costs are coming down, and the expertise and knowledge is increasing daily.

“We have a bit of time in Manitoba to let the technology mature,” he said. “It’s not a matter of if, but when.”



Medicinal Uses
for the Hyssop Plant

hyssop plant

The hyssop plant is native from the Mediterranean to Central Asia. It is very aromatic, with small blue flowers blooming in the summer. It is an ancient herb, with the name tracing back to ancient Greek and Hebrew writings. It is also mentioned several times in the Bible.

It is considered one of the best herbs for asthma and has many other medicinal uses, as well. In fact, some of the most well known doctors in history, Hippocrates and Disocorides, both prescribed it for lung conditions.

Uses for Hyssop

The hyssop plant can help with 81 different medical conditions, including asthma, cancer, insomnia, and colds. There are various preparations, but the most common is in extracts and teas. These are very effective in treating respiratory infections and congestion. One of the reasons for this is because of the anti-spasmodic action of the oil. It works well combating mucus, which makes it a good choice for those who suffer from bronchitis.

Calming Effect

The Hyssop plant extract has a calming effect and this is why it is often used to treat anxiety. Another common medicinal use is for the prevention of seizures and works well for treating petit mal, which is a form of epilepsy. However, an overdose from the oils of the plant can cause seizures, so it should be used with care. Also, the plant should not be used during pregnancy.

The leaves of this pretty plant can be used as an analgesic for bruises, as well as helping speed healing. It is also helpful in treating gout, fever, circulatory problems, and as an effective weight loss supplement. Many people use to regulate their blood pressure, as well.

Hyssop is also effective at treating many digestive disorders, such as diarrhea and indigestion. It has been used for centuries as a treatment for nausea and vomiting. Most herbalists today believe that this plant is much undervalued in its uses today and most ancient teachings would likely agree.


For use as a tincture, the recommended dose is one to four ml, three times a day. When used in an infusion or tea, boil one cup of water and steep one to two teaspoons of dried leaves for ten to fifteen minutes. The tea or infusion should be taken three times each day, as well. Hyssop leaves can be added to salads, soups, and meats; however, you will want to use minimal amounts because the flavor can be quite strong.

A Few Final Thoughts

The hyssop plant has many medicinal purposes and there is plenty of history to back up its effectiveness. However, before you start any natural asthma treatment, make sure you speak with your physician to ensure it will not interact negatively with any current medications you might be on.



(more pics)



Verbascum thapsus

Mullein is an easily recognizable plant found throughout Michigan in fields, meadows, and anywhere the ground has been disturbed. It is a biennial, putting forth a rosette of fuzzy leaves upon the ground the first year, and sending up its characteristic yellow flowered stalk the second. After seeding, the plant dies. The dead brown stalk is an excellent indicator of where to look for first year rosettes, as they can often be found within 15-20 feet from the dead stalk. All parts of the plant offer an abundance of healing medicine.

An infused oil of Mullein flowers is perhaps one of the first remedies to think of in treating an ear infection, easing pain and speeding recovery time. The oil is simple to prepare: Find an abundance of flowering Mullein, pick the flowers and let them wilt for a few hours to reduce their moisture content, put them in a small mason jar and fill to the brim with oil... you may need to top it off again the next day. Set the jar, tightly capped, in the sun for a month or two, and then strain the oil into clean bottles. Because the flowers are quite tiny, about the size of a kernel of corn, you'll need to have access to plenty of them, and use a small jar so you're able to fill it. This oil can be applied with a Q-tip and allowed to work its magic. Mullein flower oil is often combined with infused Garlic oil (which is antibacterial and antiviral), and there are few remedies as effective for ear infections... I've also used it to treat infected piercings (not mine... so don't go trying to figure out where I'm pierced:)! The flower oil also has an old reputation for deafness, though this assertion refers to problems arising from the accumulation of wax, in which the oil helps to clear the obstruction. It can be used to treat ear mites in animals. Prepared as a tincture, Mullein flowers act to resolve swellings and ease the accompanying pain. I used a combination of Red Root and Mullein flowers once to treat an abscess in the ear canal, and the pain and swelling were quickly resolved (I was pretty impressed). I've used the same combination, along with ground ivy, to successfully resolve Meniere's Disease that was just beginning to manifest.    The flower tincture used internally is also of aid in treating swellings, and acts as a local anesthetic.  It can also be mildly or even strongly relaxant; I haven't quite figured out why it affects some people strongly.

The leaves are the most commonly used part of the plant, and among the first remedies to be thought of in treating congestion and dry coughs, as they are an excellent expectorant. An expectorant aids the lungs in expelling mucous and phlegm by loosening it from the walls of the lungs and allowing it to be coughed up; thus, Mullein will stimulate coughing, even though that's the symptom being treated. What Mullein is really doing is assisting the body's natural response to congestion - coughing - to be more effective. A strong tea, the tincture, and even smoking the dried leaves can achieve this end. Mullein is especially good for treating dry coughs that shake the frame of the body, and should be thought of whenever there is "wheezing". I used a blend of Mullein and Plantain when I inhaled a bunch of plaster dust while cleaning it out of my house after the drywall was put in.  It coated my lungs, and I got quite sick, with difficult wheezy breathing.  The Mullein and Plantain started working immediately, and resolved the condition quickly.  Mullein combines well with myriad other herbs; New England Aster for quivering, reactive lungs, a bit of Lobelia for asthma, Wild Lettuce if the uppermost reaches of the lungs feel dry and tight... I could go on and on.

Few people know, though, that Mullein is also an excellent remedy for the lymphatic system. Folk herbalist Tommie Bass says it can be applied as a compress to any instance of glandular swelling. The physiomedicalist Dr. William Cook called Mullein an "absorbent" of "peculiar and reliable power." He recommended Mullein leaves be made into a strong decoction, then that water used to wet more leaves that were then applied externally over the swelling. To further increase the efficacy of the preparation, Mullein root would be taken internally. The use of Mullein flower tincture to relieve swellings is also due to its lymphatic actions, and among the various parts that can be used, I think it offers the most pain relieving qualities.

If few people know about using Mullein leaves for swellings, even fewer know about using Mullein Root for anything. Yet, it is an incredibly useful remedy. In addition to its effects on the lymphatic system, it is an excellent remedy for treating urinary incontinence and loss of urinary control due to a swollen prostate because it tones and strengthens the trigone sphincter at the base of the bladder. Northern California herbalist Christa Sinadinos elaborates: "Mullein root is valuable as a bladder tonifying agent for the treatment of urinary incontinence (loss of urine with out warning.) It strengthens and improves the tone the trigone muscle (a triangular area at the base of the bladder) and significantly enhances bladder function. It has soothing diuretic properties; it increases the volume of urination, while decreasing the frequency of urination.  Mullein root also has mild astringent properties which reduce inflammation in the mucosa of the bladder.  It does not irritate or over stimulate bladder or kidney function.  Mullein root can be used as a long term tonic for individuals with urinary incontinence, recurring bladder infections, interstitial cystitis, and benign prostatic hypertrophy."  Christa offers flat out exceptional insights on this usage here (please note that pages 2 & 3 are mixed up).  One of my students used an infusion of Mullein root to treat Bell's Palsy that occurred as a complication of Lyme's disease, and it resolved the problem completely.  Years after that David Winston told me he'd been using it for Bell's Palsy for well over a decade, and considered it useful in other cases of facial nerve pain, along with other useful herbs for facial neuralgia like Saint John's Wort and Jamaican Dogwood.

I also use Mullein root quite frequently to facilitate "proper alignment". It may be that there are broken bones I need to be sure line up, or it could be a spinal misalignment.  These are applications I picked up from Matthew Wood, though he uses Mullein leaves, saying, “It has a moistening, lubricating effect on the synovial membranes… so that it is hydrating to the spine and joints. It is often indicated in back injuries. People think they are untreatable and incurable, but an increase the synovial fluids will make the spine more pliable and comfortable. The vertebra will slip back into place more readily, pain and inflammation will decrease and the condition will get better."

I can personally attest to Mullein’s usefulness in treating spinal injuries, as I’ve used it for years.  The first time I ever used it, I woke up with my back out.  I couldn't stand up straight, and while my mouth was saying, "Ow, ow, ow..." within me I kept hearing "Mullein root, Mullein root, Mullein root...".  I drove out to a field where I knew it grew, and searched for it under the snow (Mullein's fuzzy leaves insulate it and it usually overwinters).  I found some, and as I was digging it up I "heard" Mullein root stores up energy the entire first year of its life to put forth its strong, straight yet flexible flower stalk; and using it gives us access to that stored energy.  I chopped up a root, made tea, took a sip then a breath and was completely better.

A year or so after that (in which time I'd used the root a few more times, always to more or less immediate results), I suffered the rather dreadful "slipped disc" while, when changing a tire on the side of a dirt road my jack slipped and I jumped back away from the falling car with a heavy tire in my arms.  Along with chiropractic, I used the rather agonizing experience to figure out how best to treat this condition.  I ended up blending together a formula with Solomon’s Seal, Mullein Root, Horsetail and Goldenseal to excellent results (I daresay…).  This was created not so much as a pain reliever, but to restore strength and integrity to the disc itself.  To address the attendant muscle spasms (which were the worst part, in terms of outright agony), I used a combination of Black Cohosh and Arnica tinctures, taken in frequent small doses to help ease the sensitivity & reactivity of the muscles.  The results were excellent.  I could literally feel the disc growing stronger and the muscles relearning how to be relaxed.  Even now, after a few years, if I overdo it and feel even a twinge of sensitivity in the disc, a few doses usually completely removes the discomfort.  It's truly kick ass stuff.

Mullein root on its own, though, is also markedly effective.  Prepared either as an infusion or taken in small doses as a tincture, it's been a lifesaver for me when working a bit too gung-ho has me wake up the next morning with my back "kinked" and not quite able to straighten up.  I usually take about 7 drops of tincture, stretch out a bit, and the kink disappears and I feel perfectly aligned.  While the occasions when this has worked are too numerous to recount, it doesn't always work... just most of the time.  On the most recent occasion, the Mullein tincture didn't work immediately, but took about a week,  (used concurrently with an antispasmodic blend of Black Cohosh and Arnica, a bit of Saint John's Wort, and a visit to my chiropractor).  Among these, I know the Mullein was especially important because when I broke my bottle while away for the weekend, the stiffness and misalignment went from almost better to lousy.  When I resumed, virtually all the redoubled sensitivity dissipated and I felt more or less better in a couple days.

Others have found it useful as well.  On a recent visit to Michigan, Matthew Wood and I were talking about this little known use of Mullein, and comparing and contrasting his use of the leaves with my use of the root.  One of the participants, who, though completely new to herbalism and a bit overwhelmed by the onslaught of information, went the following week to get some Mullein (leaves; the root is quite hard to find, commercially) and sent me an email another week later, saying, "I've suffered with a herniated disc (the one between the lumbar vertebrae and sacrum) since my son was 15 months old.  I ended up being on bed rest on a cortisone "blast" for a week at that time.  The disc is really thin and the area has been fragile since then.  So,  My  back got really whacked out a couple of weeks ago and I didn't want to go the Motrin route.  I purchased some Mullein tincture at my local health food haunt and by the time I was half way to Commerce (from Ferndale) to pick my son up my back was feeling so much better...  The Mullein has been a life saver."

While I haven't yet used the leaves in lieu of the root, I had a remarkably lucid dream about how the leaves could be picked proportionally along the flowering stalk to the area along the spine that is kinked.  So, I'll shortly be gathering mullein leaves and sorting them into "lower third", "middle third", "upper third" to see where that exploration leads.  I could tell more stories.  The point is, though, that this is an area in which Mullein excels, but is far too seldom used.  Hopefully these elaborations will begin to change that.

Perhaps, as opposed to a physical complaint, the need for alignment is energetic... someone is scattered all over the place, and needs to focus and direct their energies.  Mullein root will assist us in such a need.  Try carrying some in a medicine bag, taking a few drops of tincture or rubbing a bit into your wrists or temples.  Mullein is one of the plants that's ideal to use in such a way, as it's spirit has reached out and touched so many people I've met, and among those many who really weren't all on board with the idea of plants having a spirit and consciousness of their own.  For my part, I think I've had several epiphanies using Mullein each year since I began using it. 

I look forward to learning what it has yet to share with me...

© jim mcdonald





June 2013 Update: The 2009 Winner of a 500 Watt Hummer Wind Turbine from Evolve Green



Oak Lake Community School was the 2009 winner of a 500 Watt Hummer Wind Turbine from Evolve Green's annual contest. Shown above is a picture recently taken of the wind turbine mounted next to their school, which is located just north of Winnipeg in Manitoba.

This contest was formerly an annual event offered by Evolve Green to help our local schools acquire alternative energy products for educational purposes for their schools.


Sustainable Education At Landmark Elementary

NOTE: EVOLVE GREEN is a proud sponsor of this project!

Source: Steinbach Online


Two years ago curriculum support teacher Russ Dirks had an idea to open a greenhouse at Landmark Elementary. Since then he has implemented sustainable strategies throughout Hanover School Division like a compost program and a waste reduction goal of 50% for the entire division. After the excitement of the ribbon cutting ceremony on Tuesday Dirks is still looking to grow inside and outside of the greenhouse.

"Well one of the things is that we want to grow lettuce and we want to do that in the fall because that's a good one to grow in the fall. We want to have that as a part of a celebration and begin to see that growing our own food, it isn't just a part of math, science or social studies it really is part of all those subjects. We are thinking about ways we work together and ways we work together to be healthier and take care of our earth. Then we also want to use this greenhouse as kind of a living lab. Even if there isn't the weather to grow things we also want to use it as an outdoor classroom. It's a place where we can do measuring, check out water temperatures with our solar heater system, all kinds of scientific inquiry can happen in the greenhouse even if there aren't plants in there".

Education Minister the Honourable Nancy Allan cut the green ribbon with garden sheers as an assembly of students cheered. She says she is happy to see how excited the students at Landmark Elementary are about sustainable development education. The Education Minister says the learning in this greenhouse will go beyond the school and into the community.

"It's so exciting to see this project. This is an incredible project. It's education for sustainable development. It's about reducing waste and taking care of our planet. It's so exciting that this has a community component as well because the students in this school are going to be learning in the greenhouse as well as growing vegetables for a food bank. So this is just a pretty amazing project, it's so phenomenal actually that I believe it's going to be a model for the other schools in Hanover School Division and for other schools in our province".

Dirks proudly says that the greenhouse is powered by the sun. The greenhouse uses a solar heater that was partly built by the students of LES and a solar panel for electricity. Grade six student Farai Chamarenchah says they first started by collecting pop cans. After cutting holes and gluing them together with aluminum glue they painted them black to absorb more heat. She explains that a fan then pushes air through these cans creating a "little tornado" like air stream which is then blown into the greenhouse creating the tropic like atmosphere. Chamarenchah says that the greenhouse has already taught her many things.

"I think it was a fantastic idea. We get to learn and grow in different ways. It shows our whole school that we need to be careful of what we do and take care of our Earth. There are so many things that we didn't know until we started this".

The greenhouse project was made possible because of support from community partners, the provincial government and Hanover School Division. Dirks says he would like to see "the circle not stop with us". Noting that one of their goals from the beginning has been to raise funds through their greenhouse celebrations in order to promote greenhouse education in third world countries. Dirks says although this is the end of one goal it is really just the beginning.



University College of the North Solar Heating System










Here are some pictures of the installed solar heating equipment purchased from Evolve Green at UCN

(University College of the North).


Alberta’s bold plan to cut emissions stuns Ottawa and oil industry

Source: The Globe and Mail




Study Shows Energy-Efficient Homes Are 32% Less Risky for Lenders

Many have argued that energy efficiency reduces the risk of mortgage default. Now they have the data to prove it.

Source: Green Tech Media


When Mike Baldwin built a home for his client in Maryland that was 40 percent more efficient than an average single-family residence, he figured it would command a better price in the market. He was wrong.

An appraiser valued it for $5,000 less than it was built for, saying it was "overbuilt" compared other homes in the area. So thousands of dollars came directly out of Baldwin's pocket.

"Builders aren't going to leap into this market unless energy-efficient homes are appraised differently," said Baldwin, who is president of Baldwin homes.

The problem is far bigger than the one appraiser who didn't value Baldwin's energy-efficient home. It's a systematic issue that goes back to what's valued within a mortgage itself. Even though efficiency retrofits reduce energy bills -- which can account for 15 percent of the cost of home ownership -- the lending industry doesn't factor them into a loan.

That's because the data on whether energy efficient homes truly reduce risk hasn't been clear -- until now. 

"We found that Energy Star certification reduces default and payment risk. The more efficient the house, the less the risk is for prepayment and default," said Nikhil Kaza, a researcher at the University of North Carolina's Center for Community Capital.  

Kazah was referring to an empirical study released yesterday by the Institute for Market Transformation (IMT) comparing Energy Star-certified homes to standard homes. Energy Star is a federal standard for houses that are 30 percent more efficient than average homes. Kazah and his colleagues reviewed nearly 30,000 single-family Energy Star residences around the country and compared them to 71,000 conventional homes. The study controlled for size, homeowner income, loan type, employment, and credit score, ensuring that the profile of each category was similar. 

They found that Energy Star homes were 32 percent less likely to go into default. And those findings, said Kaza, are at a 99.9 percent confidence level. 

"We've been talking about this for a while, but now we have the data to back it up," said Cliff Majersik, executive director of IMT. "It's time now to fix mortgage underwriting guidelines to consider energy efficiency."

Indeed, the folks at IMT and others have been talking about factoring efficiency into mortgage standards for years. In 2011, the organization helped promote a bipartisan bill introduced in the Senate called the SAVE Act that would instruct the Department of Housing and Urban Development to include energy use in new mortgage guidelines. Lenders factor in income, personal assets, and property value -- why not energy, which costs homeowners roughly $2,200 a year? If homeowners save on energy costs, argue the researchers, then they have more money to pay a mortgage.

There are lots of potential qualitative unknowns behind the data. Perhaps homeowners who care about efficiency are more fiscally responsible and are therefore more likely to repay their loan; maybe those living in energy efficient homes are happier and stay in their homes longer; or maybe education level plays a role.

Mike Frantantoni of the Mortgage Bankers Association agreed that there are inexplicable factors at play that could slightly "overstate" some of the findings. But the researchers made sure the control group was very similar to the Energy Star homes in almost every way.

"It looks like the people who are buying energy-efficient homes are similar to the ones who are not. [These factors] might change the result slightly, but it doesn't lead me to question it," said Frantantoni.

Those advocating for revised lending standards say it's time to include energy consumption. Action wouldn't come on the lending level, but at the federal level, where mortgage guidelines are created. That could spawn a culture shift that would reach all the way down to the appraisal level -- ensuring that builders like Mike Baldwin get fairly recognized for the efficient homes they're building.

"If we can somehow get a mortgage that encourages efficiency, Energy Star buildings will increase across the board," said Baldwin. 

This is the first study of its kind to quantify the relationship between reduced lending risk and energy efficiency, said the researchers. Although some of the underlying factors at play are still fuzzy, they argued that the numbers are enough to spur change.

“You can act on this without knowing the exact cause. We now have enough information to adjust federal mortgage guidelines. The fact is that we are seeing lower default rates, and that’s a lender's biggest concern," said IMT's Majersik.



Weather Station Going Up Near Kleefeld

(Installed by Evolve Green)

Source: Steinbach Online


2012 12 weather1

If you've driven by the old Kleefeld dump in recent days, you may have noticed some weather equipment that's been erected. Steinbach Emergency Coordinator Denis Vassart says this is all part of an online weather station by Environment Canada.

Vassart says the equipment will provide weather information such as temperature, wind speeds and precipitation amounts for the Steinbach area. "Right now if you look at Environment Canada's website and you pick Steinbach as your site you're interested in, it will give you temperatures but on the site it says as observed at Emerson," notes Vassart. 2012 12 weather2

He says obviously the weather at Emerson can be entirely different from the weather at Steinbach and that is the reason they pushed for the new station. The project is an initiative between the Seine Rat River Conservation District, Hanover School Division, Rural Municipality of Hanover, Manitoba Agriculture Food and Rural Initiatives, Environment Canada and City of Steinbach.

Vassart notes the group started working on this project in 2009 and the expectation is that by early February it will be up and running. Then, when you visit Environment Canada's website and view weather information for Steinbach it will show conditions as observed at Kleefeld.

"For weather related emergencies it will be a big help," notes Vassart, who is also Emergency Coordinator for the RM of Hanover. "It's also a great learning tool for the students in the Hanover School Division that can go out there and have a look," he says.

The gate entering the grounds will remain locked, though Vassart says Hanover School Division will have key access if needed. However, he asks the general public not to enter that site.



Welcome To Lorette Billboard - Solar Powered & With LED Lights

(Installed By Evolve Green)

Source: Evolve Green



Evolve Green has recently installed solar panels and LED lights to the "Welcome To Lorette" billboard seen on the highway just outside of the town of Lorette.


UPDATE... New Lights Extend Winter Fun on Abe's Hill

(Installed by Evolve Green)

Source: Evolve Green



Evolve Green has recently installed a solar powered LED park light at the top of Abe's Hill. This is fully commissioned and operable. Kids can now enjoy tobogganing day or night, even during the short days of winter!


New Lights Extend Winter Fun on Abe's Hill

(Installed by Evolve Green)

Source: City of Steinbach website



New solar powered lights are being installed at the top of Abe’s Hill in L.A. Barkman Park on Giesbrecht Street. In winter, hours of fun are spent tobogganing, skiing or snowboarding down the hill. The solar lights will allow these winter activities to continue well into the evening.

Solar panels, located on the light post, will collect and store enough energy to run the lights for up to 6 hours each evening. The lights are programmed to turn on at dusk, extending the fun every day by a few hours.

Installation is expected to be completed in the next few days, weather permitting.

The solar lights are one of several recent additions to Steinbach parks made possible in part by a $15,000 Community Places Grant. New stationary fitness equipment also at L.A. Barkman Park and new playground equipment at E.A. Friesen Park were also recently installed.



Solar-Powered Floating Schools Allow Bangladeshi Kids To Learn During Monsoon Season





Source: Inhabitat
Image Credits: Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha


During monsoon season in Bangladesh, the very severe onslaught of torrential (extremely heavy) rain is such a frequent problem that hundreds of schools have to shut down periodically because of it.

Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha, a non-profit organization in the area, has started building solar-powered schools which float like boats (they technically are boats) to help address the problem.

They enable schools to continue operation even on floodwater, and into the night, unlike non-solar-powered, grid-connected schools, which end up in the darkness if there is a flood or if it is too stormy.



Sandy-Battered Neighborhood Gives Thanks For Solar

Source: Grist
Video Credit: ClimateDesk on Youtube.



In the Rockaways, Long Island, the Bell Harbour Yacht Club made it possible for a local relief effort to serve Thanksgiving dinner to the community that to solar power… they still didn’t have electricity from the grid due to Hurricane Sandy.

This location became an important hub for supplies after Sandy, and the fact that their power wasn’t reconnected quickly enough certainly didn’t help. So, they started utilizing portable solar panels to provide electricity for lighting, some heating, etc.

I’m sure they were happy and thankful that their Thanksgiving wasn’t ruined by darkness and cold weather.



LED Lighting Helps Increase Milk Production By 6 Percent!

Source: As reported by Kirsten Korosec
Website: smartplanet



LED lights are becoming increasingly well known for their energy saving and eco-friendly benefits, with users being able to save significant amounts on their lighting bills when compared to other forms of lighting such as fluorescent and incandescent lights. LED bulbs are to be found in a wide variety of different applications, the latest of which is an extensive field study involving dairy farmers switching to LED lights in their milking sheds.

The research carried out by Oklahoma State University was originally commissioned to look at the performance of the LED lights overall, including electricity consumption and increased durability when installed on a working farm. As a side note, researchers monitored milk production to see the effects that the LEDs had on the livestock to ascertain whether the LED lights would harm the animals and affect their feeding. A reduction in the production of milk would indicate a problem.

However, a startling discovery has come to light, milk production actually increased following the switch from fluorescent to LED bulbs. In fact, the test herds produced an average of 6% more milk under LED light bulbs, equivalent to an extra half gallon per cow per day! The results amazed researchers and farmers alike and they are now looking into exactly why this would happen, as this could mean a revolution in dairy production.

One theory centres around the fact that LED lights reduce stress in the animals, making the cows more productive. The light given off by the new LEDs is a less harsh, more natural light than the previous fluorescent bulbs, offering a far more appealing environment for the livestock.

Dairy farmers can certainly benefit from switching to LED light bulbs in terms of the environmental and energy-saving benefits. LEDs use around 90% less electricity than other standard light bulbs and have a much improved life span – the average LED bulb lasts around 50 000 hours. An added advantage for installation on a working farm is the increased durability offered by LED bulbs, they are not subject to degradation from heat or vibration and therefore are far less prone to failure.


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