Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Austin Energy to Boost Solar

via renewable energy access:
Photo: Austin Chamber of Commerce

"The Austin Convention Center's 188-panel solar array was installed by Austin Energy. The city-owned utility company is working to meet it's goal of having 20 percent of its electricity come from renewable sources by the year 2020.

Two important initiatives related to solar energy are set to appear before the Austin City Council on Thursday for approval. The first would be a 50-year lease for the city of Austin to obtain 453 acres from the Texas General Land Office in West Texas, which could eventually hold a large facility of concentrated solar paneling capable of producing 50 megawatts of power. The lease would cost $1 million total, but the city still lacks the resources to meet the costs of building the infrastructure, Duncan said.

The second plan would provide solar energy for the Austin Convention Center and a city warehouse located in East Austin, helping to accomplish the initial goal of powering all city buildings with renewable energy sources. The combined cost of this measure would be $315,000 a year for up to 20 years.

Another way that the city is trying to alleviate its energy dependency on oil and gas is by offering rebates for individuals that outfit their homes with solar systems. Duncan said the rebate program offers one of the highest incentives out of any similar system around the world, at $4.50 back per watt. The rebates cover about 70 percent of the costs for the individual, and the city has spent over $3 million on the program since its inception in 2003. "

Austin Energy

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Price of Oil in Texas

From today's NY Times:

Texas refines more than a quarter of America’s gasoline and are the largest onshore producers of both petroleum and natural gas. Texas is owed a debt of gratitude for shouldering so much of the burden of pollution and the risk of handling dangerous chemicals and fuels.

"Harris County, which includes Houston, reports more toxic releases to the Environmental Protection Agency than any other county in the United States. The region along the Gulf Coast is home to 250 petrochemical plants, and in Houston alone, an estimated 78,000 kids go to school within two miles of a refinery or chemical plant. Between 1995 and 2005, 27 of the 48 Americans who died in accidents at major refineries were from Texas. Oil provides a paycheck for many Texas families, but refineries also pollute their air and water, and cause them to worry about their safety....The level of carcinogens released in the processing of a barrel of oil is higher in Texas than anywhere else in the country, said Eric Schaeffer, a former regulator for the E.P.A. who’s now with the Environmental Integrity Project."

View video of the Texas City disaster, made by the United States Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board. It shows a minute-by-minute reconstruction of flammable liquids overwhelming the plant’s safety devices and eventually blowing up.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Housewrap, Building Paper, or Felt

Just researching online...and found this from the department of energy which for those who need a 101, this is a good start:

" Housewrap, building paper, or impregnated felt should be part of the exterior wall system that protects the building from water penetration. None of the materials are waterproof, but are intended to shed rainwater that penetrates exterior cladding. The surface formed by these materials is called a drainage plane, house membrane, or rain barrier. They are used to shed liquid water that may penetrate siding or roofing and to prevent liquid water from wicking through them, while remaining sufficiently vapor permeable (“breathable”) for outward drying (Straube 2001). By helping to keep building materials dry, these membranes improve building durability, decrease maintenance costs, and reduce the risk of moisture-related problems such as pests, mold, and rot.

Building Paper is a Kraft paper sheet impregnated with asphalt to increase its strength and resistance to water penetration. It is primarily employed as a drainage layer. It is graded according to a test of the amount of time required for a water-sensitive chemical to change color when a boat-shaped sample is floated on water. Common grades include 10, 20, 30, and 60 minutes. The larger the number, the more resistant the paper is to water.

Building Felts have been in use over a hundred years. Originally made from rags, today’s felts are made of recycled paper products and sawdust. The base felt is impregnated with asphalt. Ratings for felt harken back to the traditional weight of the material before the oil crisis of the 1970s. At that time 100 square feet of the material (1 square) weighed about
15 pounds. Modern #15 felt can weigh from 7.5 to 12.5 pounds per square depending on the manufacturer.

Housewrap typically refers to plastic sheet materials. Housewrap comes in a variety of materials and can be perforated or non-perforated. If joints and connections are sealed, housewraps can serve as air retarders to reduce air leakage. Housewraps are highly resistant to tearing, unlike building paper. Non-perforated wraps tend to have higher liquid water resistance because the holes between plastic fibers are very small.

Never install impermeable coverings inside the house.

Backprime all wood cladding to avoid water saturation.

Creating an air space between the exterior finish and the drainage plane effectively increases the durability of both components. Information on housewrap and building paper performance behind brick and stucco can be found at

If building paper or felt is used in areas prone to severe rain, install two layers. The use of two layers was once common and provides better than twice the performance of one layer. By providing a double drainage plane, they offer increased resistance to leakage at fasteners and allow for more flexible installation.

Installation is key for all types of housewraps. The sheets must be lapped, shingle-style, especially over and around windows, doors, and other penetrations (and their flashing systems). Use manufacturer-specified fasteners and space them closely
enough to provide required support.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Staples recycles ink cartridges

and more....

Staples offers a $3 coupon toward a future purchase of ink or toner when HP, Lexmark™ or Dell cartridges are recycled.

They also have two other programs to make it easy for our customers to recycle empty ink and toner cartridges:
1) Recycle for education
2) InkDropSM service

Read more about this on their site.