Solar garden growing some serious savings for Colorado community

“Solar garden” kind of sounds like some magical place where you can grow your own solar panels.

Although that’s not quite how it works, the savings these kinds of ...

Tagged: solar, florence colorado, solar arrays, solar garden

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Solar garden growing some serious savings for Colorado community

Solar farm in Colorado

Clean Energy Collective, “a leading developer for community solar solutions,” recently presented the Florence, Colorado, city council with a plan to participate in the company’s community solar arrays for Black Hills Energy customers. And under that plan, the city could save $1.5 million over 20 years.

Key Points

Solar gardens are a great way to take advantage of energy from the sun without having to buy solar panels.

One Colorado community could realize some serious savings from such a garden.

Black Hills Energy Colorado customers can take advantage of the utility company's roofless solar program.  

“Solar garden” kind of sounds like some magical place where you can grow your own solar panels.

Although that’s not quite how it works, the savings these kinds of gardens produce can be pretty magical — or at least substantial.

That’s what one Colorado city is finding to be true.

According to an article from the (Colorado) Daily Record News, Clean Energy Collective, “a leading developer for community solar solutions,” recently presented the Florence, Colorado, city council with a plan to participate in the company’s community solar arrays for Black Hills Energy customers.

And under that plan, the city could save $1.5 million over 20 years.

Kevin Morse, vice president of commercial sales, told the council that CEC builds commercial-sized solar arrays. Those arrays connect to Black Hills Energy’s grid.

Here’s how Morse explained it:

“… [I]f the City of Florence were to purchase a number of panels, then the solar panels would then be used to generate power to the power grid.

“This generated power is then bought by Black Hills Energy and then Black Hills Energy uses the power to supply its customers.

“During this time, Black Hills Energy will then apply ‘Community Solar Garden Service Credits,’ for the power they produce.”

Black Hills Energy works with business like Clean Energy Collective so that customers can take advantage of energy from the sun. Colorado customers can also take advantage of our roofless solar program.

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Be good: Santa has lots of coal

Santa has no shortage of coal to put in your stocking, so make sure you’re on your best behavior.

Blame natural gas, nuclear or renewables, but Santa no longer has to ...

Tagged: Coal, Santa, renewables

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Be good: Santa has lots of coal

Santa holding a lump of coal

St. Nick will have even more coal at his disposal soon when France and England stop using coal power completely by 2023 and 2025, respectfully.

Key Points

  • France will stop using coal power by 2023 and England by 2025.
  • France already uses a lot of nuclear power and is using more renewable power.
  • Many of its coal-fired plants are very old and would have been expensive to update. 

Santa has no shortage of coal to put in your stocking, so make sure you’re on your best behavior.

Blame natural gas, nuclear or renewables, but Santa no longer has to compete with the energy industry as much to get his hands on the black lumps.

St. Nick will have even more coal at his disposal soon when France and England stop using coal power completely by 2023 and 2025, respectfully. 

Both countries are using more renewable energy to take coal’s place. France also gets a majority of its electricity from nuclear power, making the transition even easier.

One reason the countries are opting to ditch coal is that many of their coal-fired power plants are nearly 50 years old and would require expensive updates to stay functional.

Here in the U.S., the Energy Information Administration predicts that utility-scale electricity generation from coal will average 30 percent of the mix this year. Last year, coal supplied about 33 percent of total U.S. electricity generation.

So you better watch out, you better not pout, because you-know-who is coming to town. And he may have some coal to unload.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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We’re sharing even more energy tips @KeepingEnergyAffordable. Stay informed about the latest issues, learn about new advances in technology, and understand how we're keeping energy affordable, one photo at a time.

Electric vehicles: The low talkers of the auto industry

Low talkers. You know, the people you can never understand because they speak so softly. Here’s an official definition according to the highly reputable website, theseinfelddictionary.com:

low-talker ...

Tagged: Electric Vehicles, low talkers, pedestrian safety

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Electric vehicles: The low talkers of the auto industry

Pedestrian narrowly avoids colliding with car

U.S. road safety regulators decided that electric vehicles must be louder by 2019 to be safer for pedestrians. The regulation applies to pure electric and hybrid vehicles. They must make noise when cruising at speeds under 19 mph.

Key Points

  • Electric vehicles are very quiet.
  • This can be a selling point for some but a danger to pedestrians.
  • U.S. road safety regulators are requiring all electric vehicles to make noise by 2019. 

Low talkers. You know, the people you can never understand because they speak so softly. Here’s an official definition according to the highly reputable website, theseinfelddictionary.com:

low-talker – (related terms: close talker, high talker, puffy shirt) 1. a person who talks in a low, soft voice. 2. nobody hears anything when a low talker speaks. 3. may cause the listener to accidentally nod their head and say “yes” and “oh, sure” and end up wearing a funny/puffy shirt 4. quote: “She’s one of those low-talkers. You can’t hear a word she’s saying! You’re always going ‘excuse me’, what was that?” — Jerry

Apparently the U.S. government doesn’t want to take any chances of accidentally wearing a puffy shirt.

U.S. road safety regulators decided that electric vehicles must be louder by 2019 to be safer for pedestrians.

The regulation applies to pure electric and hybrid vehicles. They must make noise when cruising at speeds under 19 mph. Apparently, that’s the magic number when they get too quiet. Any louder and they make noise from the wind and road.

Tesla seems to already have plans to start including pedestrian speakers that beam sound directly to people in the car’s path. Toyota and Nissan already offer an optional noisemaker with their electric vehicles.

Rumor has it that when auto makers heard about the new regulation, they nodded their heads and said, “oh, sure.” 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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If solar power had a prom, this would be its prom queen

“Wow, I just love your solar charging station. It’s so beautiful.”

Not a comment you’ve probably heard before.

But a new company is working to change ...

Tagged: solar, alternative energy, pretty energy

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If solar power had a prom, this would be its prom queen

Solar flowers

In addition to its aesthetic appeal and functionality, the product can serve as a resilience center during power outages since it doesn’t rely on the power grid.

Key Points

  • If solar power had a prom, Totem Energy would be prom queen.
  • The company’s new solar power device looks like a flower.
  • It could be a new tool for cities to move away from distributed energy. 

“Wow, I just love your solar charging station. It’s so beautiful.”

Not a comment you’ve probably heard before.

But a new company is working to change that with its flower-shaped device that harvests and stores solar power, serves as a Wi-Fi and 4G communications tower, and is a street light and electric vehicle charging station.

Basically, it’s pretty and smart too.

The company behind this prom queen of the solar industry is Totem Power. CEO and founder Brian Lakamp wants to bring solar into the spot light. “Right now, all of this infrastructure is relegated to the back of the building — you know, to non-glorious places like next to the dumpster,” Lakamp told Fast CoExist. “By really rethinking what the product is and putting a true design mentality to it you can create something that fundamentally changes the equation for people.”

In addition to its aesthetic appeal and functionality, the product can serve as a resilience center during power outages since it doesn’t rely on the power grid. Or when power is abundant, it can feed excess electrons back to nearby buildings.

The company hopes this will be another tool for cities to use to be less dependent on power transported into cities. Instead, several small stations like these can help supply energy right where it’s generated.

No word yet on if this local energy will be more affordable than the kind that is delivered by transmission lines, but we’ll know more when it goes on the market in 2017. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Read this before you get your game face on

And we’re off.

The shopping season has officially begun.

Before you head out to fight the crowds and buy that gamer in your life the console of his or her dreams, ...

Tagged: gamer energy, saving energy, holidays

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Read this before you get your game face on

Gamer in the light of the screen

Before you head out to fight the crowds and buy that gamer in your life the console of his or her dreams, check out these tips from Energy Star about how to save a little energy when you set them up on Christmas morning.

Key Points

  • Shopping season is here.
  • Before you hit the sales, make sure to check out a product’s power-saving features.
  • Many game consoles have special features to help save energy. 

And we’re off.

The shopping season has officially begun.

Before you head out to fight the crowds and buy that gamer in your life the console of his or her dreams, check out these tips from Energy Star about how to save a little energy when you set them up on Christmas morning.

  • Activate power-saving settings: Xbox One comes set up to listen for the “Xbox On” command to turn on and allow other devices to access it through the network. By configuring the “Energy-saving Power Mode,” you can disable such features and drop the Xbox One's standby power use by 98 percent! The Play Station 4, with software updates, enters a low power “Rest” mode after one hour of inactivity; you can reduce that time to save even more. Users can also enable time limits for USB power charging when the PS4 is in “Rest” mode. The Wii U’s power consumption is already optimized in all non-gaming modes, consuming less than half a watt when your console is standing by.
  • Turn off the controllers: The PS4 includes a useful feature that allows the controllers to turn themselves off when not in use. You can choose to turn off your controllers automatically after 10 minutes, 30 minutes or 60 minutes, depending on your gameplay habits.
  • Dis-Kinect when you aren’t using it: Xbox’s Kinect accessory can instantly recognize your body movements. This feature can use up to 14 watts when the game console is in use. So if you don’t use Kinect often, consider disconnecting it.
  • Keep up on your updates: With Sony’s System Software version 2.0 update, the PS4 now powers down automatically, and the USB ports enter a much lower power state once connected controllers are fully charged, dropping the power consumption by over 65 percent.

Don’t tell my daughters, but Santa is bringing them a bike and trampoline. I’ve yet to see any energy tips for those, but you’ll be the first to know if I track any down.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Election’s surprising impact on energy (and it has nothing to do with Trump)

One in five Americans will soon have access to legal marijuana.

On Election Day, the citizens of California, Massachusetts, Nevada and Maine voted to legalize the recreational ...

Tagged: marijuana, electricity, election

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Election’s surprising impact on energy (and it has nothing to do with Trump)

Growing light

Even before the recent election results, some were estimating that the [marijuana] industry was on track to buy as much as $11 billion of electricity a year.

Key Points

  • Four more states voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.
  • Cannabis is an energy-intensive industry.
  • Some experts are suggesting that states should regulate the type of energy pot producers use.

One in five Americans will soon have access to legal marijuana.

On Election Day, the citizens of California, Massachusetts, Nevada and Maine voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. They can now puff, puff, pass with Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Alaska and Washington, D.C.

And that could mean big changes for the energy industry; growing marijuana takes a lot of energy.

Even before the recent election results, some were estimating that the industry was on track to buy as much as $11 billion of electricity a year.

According to High Country News, Xcel Energy, which serves most of urban Colorado, sells 300 gigawatt hours of electricity to pot growers per year — enough to power some 35,000 homes.

A recent article in the Washington Post shed some light on the energy needed to light up:

The published statistics on energy use from indoor marijuana production will blow your mind (whether or not you use the stuff). In a 2012 study of the “carbon footprint of indoor cannabis production” published in the journal Energy Policy, researcher Evan Mills noted that “on occasion, previously unrecognized spheres of energy use come to light,” and marijuana is a textbook example.

“One average kilogram of final product is associated with 4,600 kg of carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere, or that of 3 million average U.S. cars when aggregated across all national production,” wrote Mills.

The reason is simply the technology required. “Specific energy uses include high-intensity lighting, dehumidification to remove water vapor and avoid mold formation, space heating or cooling during non-illuminated periods and drying, pre-heating of irrigation water, generation of carbon dioxide by burning fossil fuel, and ventilation and air-conditioning to remove waste heat,” writes Mills.

Some are citing the industry’s large energy needs as reason to regulate the type of energy it uses. It’s already a highly regulated industry, so adding stipulations on its energy use and greenhouse gas emissions isn’t that much of a stretch. According to the article, Boulder County in Colorado is already set to require marijuana facilities to “directly offset 100 percent of electricity, propane and natural gas consumption” through renewables or other means.

Whether the industry’s energy use ends up being regulated or not, one thing is for sure: This growing industry will increase demand for energy. It will be interesting to see how our communities and utilities respond.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Gobble up some energy savings

My daughter is still trying wrap her mind around Thanksgiving. Yes, June, we get together with people we love and think about everything we’re thankful for. And then Daddy watches ...

Tagged: Thanksgiving, save energy

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Gobble up some energy savings

Turkey ready for football

Before you start counting your blessings, here are a few tips to save some energy while you prepare your holiday feast.

Key Points

  • Save energy while you prepare your holiday feast.
  • Using the right cookware can save energy.
  • Get in a good cooking rhythm to avoid wasting energy. 

My daughter is still trying wrap her mind around Thanksgiving. Yes, June, we get together with people we love and think about everything we’re thankful for. And then Daddy watches football, and we eat until we get sick. It’s what Thanksgiving is all about, June Adele.

Before you start counting your blessings, here are a few tips to save some energy while you prepare your holiday feast.

  • Get the good cookware out — In addition to looking nice for your guests, cookware with a flat bottom is much more energy efficient. Pots with warped bottoms wobble on your stovetop, leaving a lot of space open above your heating element. According to the Department of Energy, a warped-bottom pot could take 50 percent more energy to boil water than a flat-bottomed one.
  • If buying new, consider copper or ceramic — Copper-bottomed pans heat up faster than regular pans. For oven cooking, ceramic and glass are more efficient than metal pans. In fact, you can turn your oven down 25 degrees if you’re not using a metal pan. Who knew?
  • Clean up — And not just because your mother-in-law will be in your kitchen. Clean burner pans on your stove help reflect heat up to your cookware. It doesn’t work as well if it’s blackened or dirty, making it less efficient.
  • Turn on the Chainsmokers — Belting out “We ain’t ever getting older” can help you get in a good cooking rhythm. And that can translate into energy savings. Do all your chopping before you turn on your appliances. Do prep work while your oven preheats to avoid having a hot oven run with nothing in it.
  • Bonus tip Spatulas make great microphones. This doesn’t save energy, but hey, it’s the holidays. Live a little.

Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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3 topics to diffuse the dinner conversation this Thanksgiving

Raise your hand if you’re terrified that politics will come up at Thanksgiving dinner this year.

Welcome to the club.

After a divisive election, even my family ...

Tagged: trump, Thanksgiving, energy fun facts

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3 topics to diffuse the dinner conversation this Thanksgiving

Heated Thanksgiving discussions

Take note, and you, too can navigate your way through our first Trump Thanksgiving.

Key Points

  • Dinner conversation at holidays can be tricky, especially this year.
  • Avoid turning your Thanksgiving meal into political combat with these conversation starters.
  • If all else fails, try doing something crazy and have everyone say something they’re thankful for. 

Raise your hand if you’re terrified that politics will come up at Thanksgiving dinner this year.

Welcome to the club.

After a divisive election, even my family that is normally in complete political agreement will likely avoid the topic. I hate conflict, so this year I’m going to come prepared with topics to steer the conversation. That will also help me avoid over sharing about potty training my daughter or just yelling random syllables to divert the crowd.

Take note, and you, too can navigate your way through our first Trump Thanksgiving.

  1. Speaking of the transition of political power, did you know that many electric devices continue to use standby power even when they’re turned off? In fact, some appliances use as much energy when they’re turned off as when they’re on. It’s best to unplug unused electronics to save energy.
  2. Yes, I’m sure the campaign teams are exhausted. Which reminds me, did you know that restarting your car actually uses less fuel than letting it idle and emits less exhaust into the air? The general rule of thumb is that restarting your car uses about the same amount of energy as idling for 10 seconds. So, unless it’s a very, very quick stop, you’re best off turning off the engine.
  3. Indeed, that would be a big wall to build. Which reminds me, when we were considering building that addition on our home, our contractor reminded us to consider our furnace size when creating our plan. Many homeowners forget to upgrade their heating and cooling systems to accommodate the additional room, which throws off the entire home’s energy balance.

Now pass the pumpkin pie, please. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Space: Solar energy’s final frontier?

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a place where the sun always shines? A magical location where clouds never block the sun’s rays and the sun never sets?

Turns out, ...

Tagged: solar, space, alternative energy

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Space: Solar energy’s final frontier?

Solar in space

Scientists are figuring out a way to bring solar panels straight to the source: the sun.

Key Points

  • Scientists are close to making space-based solar energy a reality.
  • The technology and engineering is ready to go.
  • If successful, it could create affordable and dependable solar energy. 

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a place where the sun always shines? A magical location where clouds never block the sun’s rays and the sun never sets?

Turns out, such a spot exists.

Just look up.

Scientists are figuring out a way to bring solar panels straight to the source: the sun.

Here’s how the smart people at the Smithsonian describe the process:

“There are dozens upon dozens of ideas for how to build a space-based solar collection system, but the basic gist goes something like this: launch and robotically assemble several hundred or thousand identically sized modules in geosynchronous orbit. One part comprises mirrors to reflect and concentrate sunlight onto solar panels that convert the energy into electricity. Converters turn that electricity into low-intensity microwaves that are beamed to large, circular receivers on the ground. Those antennae re-convert the microwaves back into electricity, which can be fed into the existing grid.”

Here’s a quick run-down of what researchers see as the pros and cons of space-based solar energy.

The good:

  • The technology already exists. Researchers have been looking into this idea since the 1970s. The engineering and technology is ready to go.
  • It’s expensive but not crazy expensive. Estimates are that it would cost about $4 billion to $5 billion to build a space-based solar system. Yeah, that’s a whole lot of money. But, by comparison, China is currently spending $28 billion on its Three Gorges Dam, and the Watts Bar nuclear plant in Tennessee cost $4.7 billion.
  • It would produce affordable electricity. Based on current designs, the electricity produced by the project would cost consumers about 3 centers per kilowatt. That’s as affordable, or even cheaper, than electricity from currently available sources.
  • It won’t make a death ray. The power coming back to earth from space would be spread across a large area. Project leaders insist that no one will get burned up or die.

The bad:

  • There might be a wavelength traffic jam. We all use safe wavelengths every day to use our cell phones, radios and satellite transmission. It’s crowded, and some worry that there might not be room for solar microwaves to get through.

 For more on space-based solar energy, read this great article by Michelle Z. Donahue.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Energy Tip

KEEP THE AIR CIRCULATING.

Install an attic ventilator. An attic ventilating system draws cool air up through the house and may provide as much comfort as an air conditioner at a much lower cost. Use the system to "pump in" cool air during summer evenings.

Hey, Frosty, will you cool my house this summer?

Frosty the Snowman was a jolly and happy soul. So I bet he’d be happy to stick around for the summer and help cool off our homes and businesses.

Researchers from the ...

Tagged: alternative energy, Frosty

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Hey, Frosty, will you cool my house this summer?

Frosties feeling frosty

It’s already being done on a small scale in Japan and Sweden. Snow from the winter is stored, and then in the warmer months, it’s pumped into a network of pipes, similar to hot water systems used for heat.

Key Points

  • A new study looked into using stored snow to cool buildings in the summer.
  • It’s already being done in Japan and Sweden.
  • The chilled meltwater goes through a series of pipes, similar to hot water systems used for heat. 

Frosty the Snowman was a jolly and happy soul. So I bet he’d be happy to stick around for the summer and help cool off our homes and businesses.

Researchers from the University of British Columbia recently studied if using chilled meltwater to cool buildings was a viable option for Canada.

It’s already being done on a small scale in Japan and Sweden. Snow from the winter is stored, and then in the warmer months, it’s pumped into a network of pipes, similar to hot water systems used for heat.

The researchers pointed out many positive aspects of using chilled meltwater. It’s quiet, unlike our noisy traditional AC units. It’s reliable. And, it doesn’t require any refrigeration units.

Unfortunately, even with these pros, the researchers concluded that storing huge amounts of snow for summer cooling doesn’t make much sense. They studied several snow storage options including inside and outside on, in and under the ground. They also looked at higher tech options like watertight storage and high-density storage where the snow is compacted for storage.

The researchers found that most of the methods required too much space and harmful or expensive materials.

Sorry, Frosty, I guess you can’t stay for summer. But we hope you’ll come back again some day. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Shower vs. iron: The most energy-efficient way to get wrinkle-free

Some might call it the lazy man’s wrinkle releaser. Instead of reaching for the iron, you turn on a hot shower and hang a garment in the bathroom for a quick steam to get out the ...

Tagged: Energy Efficiency, saving energy

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Shower vs. iron: The most energy-efficient way to get wrinkle-free

Wrinkly dog wears ironed clothes

The guys over at Touchstone Energy did an analysis to compare the two methods. Here’s what they found.

Key Points

  • It’s time to settle the iron versus shower debate for once and for all.
  • No matter how convenient it might seem, steaming your clothes in the shower isn’t the best choice.
  • The shower method uses 16 times more energy than an iron.

Some might call it the lazy man’s wrinkle releaser. Instead of reaching for the iron, you turn on a hot shower and hang a garment in the bathroom for a quick steam to get out the creases. But that shortcut might be costing you a lot on your energy bill (and few angry family members who had to take cold showers).

The guys over at Touchstone Energy did an analysis to compare the two methods. Here’s what they found:

Iron

A typical iron is rated at 1,100 watts. Settings will vary, but let’s assume the iron uses 1,100 watts, and it takes you 15 minutes (0.25 hours) to iron your clothes. Energy used = (1,100 watts x 0.25 hours) / (1,000 watts/KW) = 0.275 kWh. That’s about 3.5 cents worth of electricity at the 2015 national average residential cost of electricity, 12.7 cents according to EIA.gov.

Shower

Let’s assume you are at home with your water heater set at 120 degrees. Most shower heads are limited to a 2.5 gallon per minute flow.

So how much energy would it take to heat the water used if you turned on the shower for the same 15 minutes it took you to iron? We will only consider the energy used to heat the water, and we will assume we are using an electric resistance water heater. With the shower on at 2 gallons per minute, the answer is a surprising 4.4 kWh — 16 times more than the iron.

As with most things, using the right tool for the job is usually the best choice. And you won’t even have to answer to anyone for using up all the hot water.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Wind and solar give up their spots at the kids table

Sitting at the kids table can make you feel like a second-class citizen. Then you grow up and realize that the adult table includes making small talk about politics and pretending ...

Tagged: renewable energy, kids table, jello

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Wind and solar give up their spots at the kids table

Kids table

According to Fast Company, every day in 2015, the world built about a half a million solar panels, and China built an average of two wind turbines every hour. With that kind of growth, the International Energy Agency estimates that we’ll use 28 percent renewable energy by 2021.

Key Points

  • Renewables are on the rise.
  • There is now more global capacity for renewable electricity than coal.
  • The International Energy Agency estimates that we’ll use 28 percent renewable energy by 2021. 

Sitting at the kids table can make you feel like a second-class citizen. Then you grow up and realize that the adult table includes making small talk about politics and pretending to love your great-aunt’s Jell-O salad with cheese on top.

Let’s hope wind and solar have better luck with their table promotion.

The International Energy Agency announced in a new report that there is now more global capacity for renewable electricity than coal.

Of course, that doesn’t mean we’re actually using more renewable electricity. Sources like solar and wind can’t produce electricity 24/7 like coal can. Since we generally like to be able to turn on the lights even when the sun isn’t shining or the wind isn’t blowing, sources like coal still provide most of our energy.

Still, this surge in renewable capacity is significant. According to Fast Company, every day in 2015, the world built about a half a million solar panels, and China built an average of two wind turbines every hour. With that kind of growth, the International Energy Agency estimates that we’ll use 28 percent renewable energy by 2021.

Good luck at the adult table, renewable energy. And consider yourself warned about the Jell-O.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Election got you down? Read this

It’s been a tough campaign this presidential election. No matter who you voted for, chances are you need a little dose of optimism this week.

Meet Maanasa Mendu. At just ...

Tagged: alternative energy, energy technology, smart kids

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Election got you down? Read this

Maanasa Mendu

Small leaves connected to a trunk move with the wind and rain and harvest power from that motion. Flexible solar cells on the leaves also capture energy from the sun. And it costs about $5 to make.

Key Points

  • Smart kids remind us to be optimistic about the future.
  • One 13-year-old just invented a device that generates electricity from wind, rain and sun.
  • It only costs $5 to make. 

It’s been a tough campaign this presidential election. No matter who you voted for, chances are you need a little dose of optimism this week.

Meet Maanasa Mendu. At just 13-years-old, she invented a device that makes energy out of the wind, rain and sun.  

It’s called HARVEST, and it was inspired by the shape of a tree. Small leaves connected to a trunk move with the wind and rain and harvest power from that motion. Flexible solar cells on the leaves also capture energy from the sun.

And it costs about $5 to make.

Mendu first thought of the idea on a trip to India to visit her grandparents when she noticed how often they were left in the dark when the grid was overloaded. She then, entered her HARVEST idea in the 2016 Young Scientist Challenge, a competition for grades 5-8. She was paired with a mentor at 3M who helped her refine her concept and build a prototype.

Her hard work paid off. Mendu won the challenge and the $25,000 that comes with the recognition.

The best part?

Her device actually works.

She’s successfully charged her phone and powered a 15-watt LED bulb with it. She hopes to commercialize the product and already has ideas for future inventions to help solve the world’s challenges.

Thanks for reminding us that the future is bright, Maanasa, and good luck with your next invention.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Tesla makes solar pretty

Solar panels are bulky and probably won’t win you many curb appeal points. But don’t worry; Elon Musk is on it.

He unveiled Tesla’s ...

Tagged: Tesla, solar, alternative energy

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Tesla makes solar pretty

Tesla solar roof

There are still a lot of questions about the new solar roof. Who would I call if I wanted it installed? And the big question remains pretty murky: Will a solar roof be affordable?

Key Points

  • Tesla unveiled its new solar roof last week.
  • It’s made of textured glass and gives solar panels more curb appeal.
  • It’s unknown how affordable it will be. 

Solar panels are bulky and probably won’t win you many curb appeal points. But don’t worry; Elon Musk is on it.

He unveiled Tesla’s new solar roof last week. And it’s pretty. It looks like a regular roof, only it’s actually textured glass layered over solar panels. According to Tesla’s website, there are four styles to choose from including Tuscan, slate, textured and smooth. Sure, not as many options as the book of shingles your roofer has, but there’s likely one that would fit the style of your home.

The textured glass allows the light to pass through and onto a standard solar cell. If all goes according to plan for Tesla, the company will acquire SolarCity after a shareholder vote on Nov. 17, and together they will produce the solar cells and glass components.

There are still a lot of questions about the new solar roof. Who would I call if I wanted it installed? My roofer? My electrician? Or maybe my utility? And the big question remains pretty murky: Will a solar roof be affordable?

Tesla says yes. Its website touts that it will be “lower cost than a traditional roof when combined with projected utility bill savings.”

But there are a lot of variables to consider. I’m sure I paid much less to replace the roof on my house with asphalt shingles last year than someone who chose something like a Spanish clay roof. Plus, electric rates in my area are generally pretty low, so it might take a little longer for me to recover any additional expenses than someone who lives in an area with higher rates.

I’m excited to learn more about Tesla’s solar roof and appreciate them looking into ways to make renewable energy more appealing. Time will tell if this latest take on rooftop solar will be a viable — and affordable — option. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Brent
How does the Tesla Roof stand up to hail?
3 weeks 6 days ago
Hillary
Great question, Brent. Tesla says it's glass panels "are much more durable than conventional roof tile — something that’s important in areas with risk of hail." You can read more about it here: http://www.theverge.com/2016/10/28/13463236/tesla-solar-roof-battery-new-elon-musk
3 weeks 6 days ago

This could be the hottest hole ever drilled

Iceland loves geothermal energy. The country is run entirely on non-fossil-fuel resources, including a lot of geothermal and hydropower.

So it’s no surprise that researchers ...

Tagged: Iceland, geothermal, renewable energy

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This could be the hottest hole ever drilled

Iceland Deep Drilling Project

Drillers in Reykjanes are going deep to tap into magma between tectonic plates in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. There, temperatures reach 400-1,000 degrees Celsius.

Key Points

  • The Iceland Deep Drilling Project might be the hottest hole in the world.
  • If successful, the project could be a long-term clean, renewable energy source.
  • The well would have an energy capacity of 50 MW compared to 5 MW at a typical geothermal well. 

Iceland loves geothermal energy. The country is run entirely on non-fossil-fuel resources, including a lot of geothermal and hydropower.

So it’s no surprise that researchers in Iceland are figuring out ways to take their geothermal efforts up a notch.

Or should we say down a notch. Five kilometers down to be exact.

The Iceland Deep Drilling Project started in August and is on track to be the hottest hole in the world. Drillers in Reykjanes are going deep to tap into magma between tectonic plates in the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. There, temperatures reach 400-1,000 degrees Celsius. Temperatures that hot could give the site an energy capacity of 50 megawatts compared to 5 megawatts at a typical geothermal well.

Iceland hopes that this extreme heat will create a long-term energy source that could be replicated around the world.

Geothermal energy is generally considered one of the good guys in the energy world. It’s clean and renewable and can supply power around the clock.

We’re rooting for you, Iceland!

Learn more about geothermal energy.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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The wheels on this bus go round and round … and round — on a single electric charge

The driver on the bus says “move on back, move on back, move on back.” But soon he might not have to yell it quite so loudly thanks to a new electric bus that can hold a charge ...

Tagged: electric bus, alternative energy, clean technology

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The wheels on this bus go round and round … and round — on a single electric charge

Proterra electric bus

The new electric bus by Proterra can go at least 350 miles on a single charge. That makes it possible for these hard-working vehicles to do a whole day’s work without having to take a break to charge back up.

Key Points

  • New technology is making electric public transportation more feasible.
  • A new electric bus can go at least 350 miles on a single charge.
  • The electric buses cost more to purchase but less to run per mile than diesel buses. 

The driver on the bus says “move on back, move on back, move on back.” But soon he might not have to yell it quite so loudly thanks to a new electric bus that can hold a charge long enough to make it through an entire day’s routes.

A new electric bus design is a breakthrough that might make electric public transportation more feasible for a community near you. The new electric bus by Proterra can go at least 350 miles on a single charge. That makes it possible for these hard-working vehicles to do a whole day’s work without having to take a break to charge back up.

The company achieved the 350-mile milestone by completely redesigning the bus from the wheels up. It has a light carbon fiber frame, a battery pack about the size of a twin bed mattress and features regenerative breaking that helps the bus stay charged throughout its busy day.

Of course, there’s a catch. These buses cost about 50 percent more than their diesel counterparts, averaging $800,000 a pop. But Proterra has some solutions for city budgets. One is to finance the difference in cost between a diesel model and an electric one.

The other is a bit more innovative. The company will sell a city the bus at the cost without the battery and then lease the battery to the city. That lease is then categorized as the fuel cost for the bus and levels the playing field a bit.

There’s also the long-term savings to consider. According to Smithsonian Magazine, it costs only 19 cents per mile to run an electric bus versus 84 cents per mile to run a diesel bus.

The company behind these buses is optimistic about the future of the electric bus industry. “The cost of batteries continues to drop,” said Matt Horton, senior vice president of sales at Proterra. “The technology is getting better and better. I really think that in 10 years, the game will be over for fossil fuels in public transit.”

And yes, the mothers on the bus will still say “shh, shh, shh.” 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Energy Tip

PLANT A TREE

Planting trees or shrubs that provide shade for your air-conditioning unit can increase efficiency by up to 10 percent.

Happy Halloweenergy!

Today is Halloweenergy. Haven’t heard of it? Think of it as Festivus, only instead of “airing of the grievances” we have an “airing of the filter” where we change the air ...

Tagged: Halloweenergy, Ernest Moniz, Energy Efficiency

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Happy Halloweenergy!

Ernest Moniz

What kid wouldn’t want to dress up as a solar panel or United States Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz?

Key Points

  • Halloweenergy is way cooler than Halloween.
  • It’s like Festivus for the rest of us, only we save lots of energy and money.
  • Check out the costumes to have the best Halloweenergy ever. 

Today is Halloweenergy. Haven’t heard of it? Think of it as Festivus, only instead of “airing of the grievances” we have an “airing of the filter” where we change the air filter in our heater to help it run efficiently and save some money. We also swap out the “feats of strength” for “feats of savings” and do things like weatherize our windows.

It’s great fun.

Really.

Not convinced? Then check out these Halloweenergy costume ideas from www.energy.gov. What kid wouldn’t want to dress up as a solar panel or United States Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz?

Now go celebrate Halloweenergy. Festivus for the rest of us, and Halloweenergy for everybody! 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Raymond Diana Scott
We prefer a paper bill.
1 month 4 days ago
Kelsey@BlackHills
Hi Raymond, thanks for reaching out. We'll be able to better assist you over the phone. Please call Black Hills Energy's customer service at 888-890-5554. Thanks again!
1 month 4 days ago

Rake in the savings with Energy Action Month

You survived back to school. You owned that Labor Day picnic. And now you get to sit back and relax until the hectic holidays begin, right?

Wrong.

Now is the ...

Tagged: save energy, Energy Action Month

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Rake in the savings with Energy Action Month

leaf raking with sassy red boots

The chart breaks down your to-do list with average annual savings to help you decide what’s worth the effort. It’s all part of Energy Action Month.

Key Points

  • October is Energy Action Month
  • Prioritize your energy actions with this chart that shows how much money different projects can save.
  • Then take a nap. 

You survived back to school. You owned that Labor Day picnic. And now you get to sit back and relax until the hectic holidays begin, right?

Wrong.

Now is the time to get your home ready for energy savings before the cold winter sets in.

But before you feel overwhelmed, check out this great chart and these tips from the Department of Energy. The chart breaks down your to-do list with average annual savings to help you decide what’s worth the effort. It’s all part of Energy Action Month.

Now get to work. If you’re fast, you might have time for a nap before Black Friday.

Recommended action

Potential savings (as a percentage of utility bills)

Average annual savings in $
(based on
EIA average
end-use expenditures
*)

Install exterior low-e storm windows

12%-33% annually on heating
and cooling bills

$100-$274

Seal uncontrolled air leaks

10%-20% on annual heating
and cooling bills

$83-$166

Plant shade trees

15%-50% of annual
air conditioning costs

$35-$119

Use a power strip for electronic
equipmentand turn it off
when not in use

Up to 12% of electric
bill per year

$100 

Replace an older toilet that uses
6 gallons per flush with
a WaterSense model

 

$100 

Turn back your thermostat
7-10 degrees
for 8 hours a day 

Up to 10% annually on
heating and cooling bills

$83

Weatherstrip double-hung windows

5%-10% annually on
heating and cooling bills

$42-$83 

Replace your home's five most
frequently used 
light fixtures or bulbs with
models that have earned the Energy Star

9% on electricity bill annually

$75

Lower water heating temperature

Save 4%-22% annually
on your water heating bill 

$12-$60

Insulate water heater tank

Save 7%-16% annually
on water heating bill

$20-$45 

Fix leaky faucets; one drip per
second wastes 1,661 gallons of water

 

$35

Use sleep mode and power-management features on your computer

Up to 4% of annual
electric bill

$30

Insulate hot water pipes

Save 3%-4% annually
on water heating bill

$8-$12

 

 

 

Total potential savings**

 

$723-$1,182

*Average annual energy expenditures per household in the U.S. are as follows: space heating: $593; water heating: $280; air conditioning: $237; refrigerators: $153; other (lighting and electricity): $827
**All actual savings will vary depending on home, climate, products, and use.
The above list is just a sampling of the potential savings you could see by making smart energy choices in your home. Not all of these improvements will be possible for everyone, and savings will vary.

Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Hurricanes could blow away old wind turbine designs

It’s hurricane season. If you live on the coast, it’s time to prepare for emergencies and evacuations. ...

Tagged: alternative energy, hurricanes, wind energy

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Hurricanes could blow away old wind turbine designs

hurricane from space

A new design option is being tested in Japan. It resembles an egg beater, with vertical blades that could possibly handle hurricane-force winds.

Key Points

  • Hurricanes make a lot of wind energy.
  • Unfortunately, traditional wind turbines can’t handle that kind of wind.
  • New designs might make it possible to someday capture energy from hurricanes. 

It’s hurricane season. If you live on the coast, it’s time to prepare for emergencies and evacuations. If you’re a Midwesterner, be prepared to see Al Roker yelling into a microphone and nearly falling over from the strong winds. Either way, you’ll probably want to stock up on snacks.

Hurricanes are powerful storms. According to a recent article on www.Smithsonian.org, a single storm can release 600 terawatts of energy. As the article’s author Michelle Donahue put it, that’s a gold mine of clean energy.

Donahue outlines a few ways we could someday capture some of this energy. As you’d probably guess, it’s not easy. One approach might be to make mobile wind farms to deploy in the path of storms as they develop. However, this approach hasn’t gotten much traction because hurricanes tend to change track quickly, making it hard to predict where to put the equipment.

Instead, researchers are working on ways to make permanent wind systems, that if by chance have to endure a hurricane, would be able to capitalize on those gusts. Traditional wind blades and turbines shut down in high winds to prevent damage. Those long blades just can’t withstand the kind of high winds a hurricane or other major storms bring.

A new design option is being tested in Japan. It resembles an egg beater, with vertical blades that could possibly handle hurricane-force winds. One prototype is currently installed, but no word yet on if it will work as planned. Another design from researchers in Florida looks like a long, horizontal screw that turns with the wind.

The beauty of this design is that these turbines actually reduce the wind effect on buildings. Installing one on your home or business would not only help the structure make it through a storm in one piece but also harness enough energy to keep the lights on even if power lines are compromised.

Unfortunately, neither of these designs is ready for prime time during this hurricane season. But here’s to hoping new technologies like this will be ready for storms in the future. I bet Al would love to do a feature on it.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Spend less on energy, more on candy this Halloween

Halloween is for more than tricks or treats. Out on a walk the other day, I was impressed with how many homes decorate for this spooky holiday. Blame Hobby Lobby or Pinterest, but ...

Tagged: Energy Efficiency, holidays, Lighting

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Spend less on energy, more on candy this Halloween

jack-o-lantern lights

LEDs are worth it. They consume 80 percent less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent strands.

Key Points

  • Halloween decorations are a big deal.
  • When making your home spooky, make sure it’s energy efficient too.
  • LEDs are worth the investment, no matter what holiday you’re decorating for. 

Halloween is for more than tricks or treats. Out on a walk the other day, I was impressed with how many homes decorate for this spooky holiday. Blame Hobby Lobby or Pinterest, but Halloween decorating is big business now.

Before you hang that string of orange lights, remember to keep your Halloween energy efficient. LEDs are worth it. They consume 80 percent less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent strands. LEDs are great options to light up your pumpkins too.

Still not convinced? Then check out these LED treats from the Department of Energy:

  • Safer: LEDs are much cooler than incandescent lights, reducing the risk of combustion or burnt fingers.
  • Sturdier: LEDs are made with epoxy lenses, not glass, and are much more resistant to breakage.
  • Longer lasting: The same LED string could still be in use 40 holiday seasons from now.
  • Easier to install: Up to 25 strings of LEDs can be connected end-to-end without overloading a wall socket.

And just to keep things interesting, you have my permission to skip the treats and go straight to tricks for any home that chooses not to use LEDs. 

Just kidding. Don’t do that. Really.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Make your homecoming even happier with this one trick

My parents were great at finding ways to save money when I was a kid. We learned to always switch off the lights when we left a room, take short showers and turn the thermostat down ...

Tagged: programmable thermostat, save energy, Home Heating

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Make your homecoming even happier with this one trick

cute westie sleeping

According to the Department of Energy, a programmable thermostat can help you save as much as 10 percent on heating and cooling costs. And the best part? It will heat up the house before you get home.

Key Points

  • Turn the heat down while you’re out of the house this winter to save money.
  • A programmable thermostat can help you save up to 10 percent a year on heating and cooling costs.
  • Plus, it makes your house much more comfortable to come home to. 

My parents were great at finding ways to save money when I was a kid. We learned to always switch off the lights when we left a room, take short showers and turn the thermostat down when we left for the day.

Unfortunately, this meant that if you happened to be the first person home that evening, you had to enter a cold house and wait what seemed like eternity to turn the frozen tundra into a habitable environment that wouldn’t immediately make your toes fall off from severe frost bite (yes, it really was that dramatic, but give me a break; I was a teenager).

If only they had purchased a programmable thermostat, we all could have suffered a little less. According to the Department of Energy, a programmable thermostat can help you save as much as 10 percent on heating and cooling costs. And the best part? It will heat up the house before you get home.

You might be thinking, won’t it cost more to heat a cold house up instead of just keeping it at a consistent temp all day? Surely my furnace will have to work so hard to warm up the cold space, I won’t even save anything. Well, you’re not the only one to wonder that, but contrary to popular belief, it’s not the case. Here’s how the DOE explains it:

“A common misconception associated with thermostats is that a furnace works harder than normal to warm the space back to a comfortable temperature after the thermostat has been set back, resulting in little or no savings. In fact, as soon as your house drops below its normal temperature, it will lose energy to the surrounding environment more slowly. The lower the interior temperature, the slower the heat loss. So the longer your house remains at the lower temperature, the more energy you save, because your house has lost less energy than it would have at the higher temperature. The same concept applies to raising your thermostat setting in the summer — a higher interior temperature will slow the flow of heat into your house, saving energy on air conditioning.”

The only reason you might not want to immediately run out and buy a programmable thermostat is if you have a heat pump. But otherwise, make your kids (and toes) happy, and consider installing one before winter sets in. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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This new process may help keep your energy and beer affordable

The other day, we popped into a brewery. At the table next to us was a group of guys planning their own brewery. At a brewery. And soon two friends at our table started talking about ...

Tagged: beer, biomass, wastewater

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This new process may help keep your energy and beer affordable

beer

This is a win-win. Breweries spend a lot of money properly disposing of their wastewater, and companies need materials to make energy storage cells.

Key Points

  • University engineers figured out a way to keep beer and energy affordable.
  • They are converting the wastewater from the brewing process into materials needed to make energy storage cells.
  • Thank you. 

The other day, we popped into a brewery. At the table next to us was a group of guys planning their own brewery. At a brewery. And soon two friends at our table started talking about how they want to open their own breweries. So yeah, it’s a brewery bonanza out there, folks.

This could be good news for the energy industry. Engineers at University of Colorado Boulder figured out a way to use the wastewater made from making beer into materials needed to make energy storage cells.

This is a win-win. Breweries spend a lot of money properly disposing of their wastewater, and companies need materials to make energy storage cells.

“Breweries use about seven barrels of water for every barrel of beer produced,” said Tyler Huggins, a graduate student in the school’s Department of Civil, Environmental and Architectural Engineering and lead author of the new study. “And they can’t just dump it into the sewer because it requires extra filtration.”

Previous attempts to turn biomass, like timber, into carbon-based battery electrodes haven’t succeeded because it takes a lot of steps to change the chemical makeup enough for the material to work. Plus, supplies are limited and expensive. But brewery wastewater is sugar-rich and can quickly grow a fungus that makes the most efficient naturally-derived lithium-ion battery electrodes known to date.

The researchers are working on ramping up production and commercializing the technology.

A way to keep beer and energy affordable? These guys might just be my new heroes.


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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We’ve come a long way since Jed

We talk a lot about exciting new ways to make energy. But ...

Tagged: oil, Natural Gas, Wind, resources, energy technology

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We’ve come a long way since Jed

Cowboy playing the guitar

While many easy-to-get oil reserves have already been depleted, companies are still uncovering new natural gas and oil reserves in places like Texas, where you’d think all the good stuff would have been discovered by now.

Key Points

  • America keeps getting better at using the energy resources it already has.
  • Oil, natural gas and wind resources that at one point weren’t accessible, are now affordable energy options.
  • New technology and innovation are making it possible to use more energy sources. 

We talk a lot about exciting new ways to make energy. But a recent article in Slate illustrates how we’re getting better at extracting energy from the old tried and true resources.

For instance, once upon a time it only took a gunshot for Jed to discover oil on his land and, “move to Beverly … Hills, that is.” While many easy-to-get oil reserves have already been depleted, companies are still uncovering new natural gas and oil reserves in places like Texas, where you’d think all the good stuff would have been discovered by now. This is possible with new technology that allows for more efficient mining. In other words, we can now get to hard-to-reach energy sources, and do it at a price that can still make a profit even with today’s low energy prices.

But getting better at using old energy isn’t exclusive to fossil fuels.

If you drive by a historic red barn, chances are there’s a small metal windmill nearby. Farmers harnessed energy from the wind well before it was a major source of fuel for electricity. Now, thanks to improvements to wind turbines, this resource is a major power source.

I love learning about new ways to make energy, but it’s important to remember that we need to continue getting better at using some of the resources we’re already using to keep energy affordable.

Some things never get old. Like swimmin’ pools. And movie stars. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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Energy Tip

CHOOSE PLACEMENT WISELY.

Do not place lamps or television sets near your thermostat. The thermostat senses heat from appliances, and that might cause the A/C to run longer than necessary.

What you don’t know about energy in Africa

Who doesn’t love a good pop quiz? OK, so maybe not if it’s coming from your seventh-grade science teacher, but this is one that’s fun.

It’s from National Geographic, ...

Tagged: energy education, pop quiz, africa

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What you don’t know about energy in Africa

african quiz

You won’t believe what portion of sub-Saharan Africa doesn’t have electricity. And I bet you haven’t heard how many barrels of oil a day are stolen in Nigeria.

Key Points

  • Quizzes can be fun.
  • Especially when they teach you about energy in Africa.
  • Take the quick to learn about stolen oil in Nigeria and energy potential in Kenya. 

Who doesn’t love a good pop quiz? OK, so maybe not if it’s coming from your seventh-grade science teacher, but this is one that’s fun.

It’s from National Geographic, and it helps you learn about energy in Africa.

Still not convinced? You won’t believe what portion of sub-Saharan Africa doesn’t have electricity. And I bet you haven’t heard how many barrels of oil a day are stolen in Nigeria. See? Pretty interesting stuff, even if you get the answers wrong.

Take the African energy quiz for yourself.

Although energy in Africa is interesting, it also impacts how we keep energy affordable. In a global economy, it matters when energy demand goes up as countries develop, even if it’s half a world away.

The new technologies to address getting rural areas access to energy can have applications here at home, and learning more about how others use energy can give us a renewed appreciation for our reliable access to power.

OK, so end lecture. Now go take that quiz. If you’re brave, post your score below. 


Sarah FolslandSarah is mom to the two cutest little girls in the world. Before choosing to make changing diapers and reading bed time stories her full time gig, she earned a degree in political science from The University of South Dakota, worked in the governor’s office as a policy analyst and dabbled in communications at her local utility. Follow Sarah on Twitter @EnergyMommy.

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