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Virtual Energy Forum

Orchard Garden Hotel
How exactly is $787B in stimulus funds being spent to help America become greener?

Which hotel is California’s first to become LEED certified (and just what does that mean, anyway)?

What Rockies town has become America’s “first smart-grid city”?

How can my company become more sustainable?

Interesting questions, huh?

And you know all the answers if you took my advice and participated in the Virtual Energy Forum, held yesterday and Wednesday at VirtualEnergyForum.com. But just in case you missed it, here’s a recap of two of the presentations I found most interesting:

Green stimulus funds
Mark Ginsberg, director of the Department of Energy, kicked things off with a not-quite-rousing but still informative presentation on U.S. energy management under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. He described the nation’s major metro areas (or as I like to call them, “Captivate hotbeds”) as the “action places where energy efficiencies can really be applied.” (Since almost all Captivate viewers live and/or work in the big city, he’s basically calling on you, dear Captivate viewer, to help usher in a new era of environmental responsibility!) He reiterated the U.S. plan to get 10% of our energy from renewable resources by 2012 and 25% by 2025, and to reduce greenhouse gases by 80% by 2050. Mr. Ginsberg explained the DOE and EERE (Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy) has almost $60 billion to spend toward those goals, with that money being allocated to states, which in turn allocate to businesses, municipalities and/or homeowners. He pointed out where to find energy funding opportunities and how to track where the money is actually going.

Orchard Garden Hotel
Melanie Lapointe of Swinerton Builders and Stefan Muhle of San Francisco’s Orchard Garden Hotel explained how the 86-room boutique hotel received California’s first LEED certification. LEED is the U.S. Green Building Council’s way of recognizing environmentally responsible architecture. In addition to the usual greening techniques – such as incorporating low-flow aerators on faucets; using Energy Star appliances; and utilizing planters that retain water to feed a plant over time, eliminating the need for an irrigation system – the pair pointed out some interesting angles you don’t normally give much thought to. Take worker training. You can have all the green tools in place, but if people aren’t using them correctly, Muhle says, what’s the use? One example he cited was breaking the old chef’s habit of defrosting food by keeping it under a stream of water. Huge waste of resources that can be solved simply by breaking an old habit. Another method the hotel uses to minimize footprint is to contract with environmentally aware companies, so not only is the hotel green in and of itself but also in its outside relationships. One example Muhle gave was how the hotel, too small for onsite laundry facilities, hired a local laundry that uses Earth-friendly cleansers and energy-efficient equipment. But the coolest thing the pair talked about was the futuristic-sounding Energy Key Card System, in which a guest’s key card doubles as an activator for the room’s lights and heating/cooling system. With this thing, you never have to worry about turning stuff off – or on, for that matter. It takes care of it for you. And they point out there are a couple traditional outlets in case you need power for something, like a laptop, when you’re not in the room. They say the system shows energy savings of close to 25%. Among the hotel’s other green aspects: It’s close to multiple modes of mass transit; car-sharing and carpooling services; a “bike to work” program, including bike racks and employee showering facilities; and a “cool roof” system that reduces the sun’s heat impact.

There’s a ton more greening info at the Virtual Energy Forum. If you sign up, you can still check out archived content on demand for the next 90 days.

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“Virtual Energy Forum”