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Idaho’s first Energy Neutral home, now under construction, will produce more energy than it demands November 11, 2009

Posted by cleanidahoenergy in AEHI, Electric cars, electric vehicles, Energy Neutral, housing, renewable energy, Solar energy, Transportation.
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Eagle company developing new home that will incorporate solar, computer technology to be an energy producer; company eyes markets in business and agriculture

Nov. 11, 2009

For more information,
Micah Gosney 208-939-3495
Don Gillispie 208-939-9311

www.aehipower.com
www.energyneutralinc.com

www.facebook.com/AEHIPower
www.twitter.com/energyneutral

An Eagle company is constructing its first “Energy Neutral” home, designed from the ground-up to produce more energy than it consumes.

“This first home will establish that an efficiently built home equipped with renewable technologies will achieve energy neutrality” said Micah Gosney, Executive Director of Energy Neutral.

The idea of using renewable energy to augment residential power has been around for years. However, Energy Neutral is using established methods of energy production – such as solar panels – and combining them with energy-saving construction practices to provide an affordable home that achieves energy neutrality. The home may draw energy from the grid as needed, such as during evening hours, but send energy back into the grid on sunny days. In all, the home is expected to be a net producer of electricity and carry a zero energy bill over its life.

Energy Neutral is a holding of Eagle-based Alternate Energy Holdings Inc., which is seeking to build a nuclear plant in Idaho and other states and is working with Chinese companies on related energy ventures. AEHI CEO Don Gillispie said he has had the idea for several years to make an energy neutral home and is funding its construction with a personal loan to the company.

“Renewables produce energy considerably less than half the time, so integrating them with a reliable source baseload power gives the best of both worlds,” said Gillispie. “This is another way to help the state and country by lowering grid demand and consumers’ power bills not to mention reducing emissions.”

“This house, costing the same as a conventional heated and cooled building, will save its owner over $200,000 in energy bills over a fifty year life at today’s costs,” Gillispie said. “When you consider the escalating cost of energy, the savings could approach $1,000,000 over the same time period effectively allowing the homeowner to buy the house including interest with his energy savings.”

Biltmore Company of Meridian was chosen to construct the home and construction started on November 3, 2009 and will be completed in the spring of 2010. The home’s address is 12963 W. Scotfield Court in Boise in the Monet Meadows subdivision, located in west Boise, near Centennial High School.

The 2,900 square-foot Craftsman/bungalow style home costs about as much as a typical home to build (around $100 a square foot), due to government and utility incentives. It will include:

  • Photovoltaic panels sufficient to supply energy requirements to more than cover everyday consumption
  • 2 X 6 wall construction using advanced framing techniques for energy efficiency and material conservation
  • High efficiency insulation upgrades including foam insulation and blow-in blanket
  • Radiant Low E roof barrier to reduce heat transfer
  • Power save energy conservation controls
  • Solar attic fans for heat expulsion during hot summer days
  • Low E and U factor windows to conserve heat transfer
  • Key placement of sun tubes for day time illumination
  • Room occupancy sensors can tell if someone is in the room and shut off the lights if they aren’t
  • Compact fluorescent and LED light bulbs
  • High-efficiency heat pump with zoned air conditioning system
  • Integrated Green Materials.
  • A computerized system that monitors energy use in the house and looks for waste and potential savings.

The home will feature standard amenities such as a full basement; five bedrooms; home office; three bathrooms; covered front and rear patio; three car garage; large master suite with sitting area and spacious master bathroom; large kitchen with solid surface counter tops and large dining area; 10’ ceilings in living area; 14’ ceiling in office; 9’ ceilings for all other area; hardwood floors; expansive windows and 8’ entry and interior doors; fully landscaped front and rear yard with sod, trees, planter bed with bushes and underground sprinklers; and finished and painted garage.

The home will participate in Idaho Power’s net metering program, drawing and supplying energy to and from the grid.  Energy Neutral Inc. seeks to assist homeowners and businesses to reduce their dependence on traditional power by implementing alternative renewable power sources.

Energy forecasters predict more and more people will charge their hybrid vehicles at home, making further demands on the energy grid. Gillispie said energy neutral homes will be able to soak up some of that demand, allowing people to power their cars, in part, with free energy from their homes.

Energy Neutral is able to add more energy production features in future houses, such as photovoltaic panels that resemble shingles and small wind turbines for windy areas. While Energy Neutral is showcasing its abilities with the model home, it can also apply these technologies to farms and businesses and is hoping to break into those markets as well. Gillispie said he hopes to eventually develop an Energy Neutral subdivision in Idaho and the model home is the first step.

“We think this will become more common over time in all kinds of development, especially if someone builds an example to show that energy neutrality is attainable, affordable and can be done with traditional construction methods. It is a green house that saves your green backs.” Gillispie said.

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About Elmore County's Comprehensive Plan June 9, 2009

Posted by cleanidahoenergy in AEHI, Agriculture, approval process, economic benefits, Elmore County, nuclear industry, rural nuclear, Snake River Alliance, Solar energy, Wind energy.
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(We submitted this opinion to the Mountain Home News today for publication tomorrow.)

The Elmore County Commission said some surprising things Monday. Since they can’t hear any more testimony, it is likely my words won’t make it to them. But it would be helpful, whether or not this project succeeds, to clarify a few things.

The Commissioners correctly pointed out on several occasions the comprehensive plan appears to conflict with itself. That is to be expected in a complex effort like land use planning, but it doesn’t have to be that way. As I will talk about, our rezone proposal actually does conform to the comprehensive plan because our development would provide steady, well-paying jobs; will greatly improve the local tax base; won’t threaten the rural way of life so important to Elmore County residents; and we have addressed concerns about possible future misuse of the land.

The Commission asked their attorney for an opinion as to whether or not they can restrict future uses of the land. The Commissioners are concerned that if they rezone the land for industrial use and the nuclear plant isn’t developed, the landowner could apply to build some undesirable use and the commission would have little ability to stop it.

This is a reasonable concern. However, we addressed it early on in the process. Along with our application, we submitted a development agreement. The agreement makes clear that if we do not build a nuclear power plant on the land, then it must revert to agricultural zoning.

Elected officials are understandably reluctant to deviate from their comprehensive plans. However, they also know there will come times to make reasonable exceptions. We believe this is such a time. The current comprehensive plan, however well-intentioned, did not foresee the possibility of an ambitious and economically significant proposal such as ours, the most expensive single piece of private infrastructure ever proposed for Idaho.

The designated industrial location, Simco Road, has very little water; a 20-mile-long pipe would need to be constructed, presenting insurmountable safety and right-of-way concerns. The site has geologic issues that also make it difficult to site a nuclear plant there. Interestingly, much more intrusive uses, such as industrial wind farms and natural gas plants, may be located anywhere in the county without a heavy industrial designation. This is especially puzzling, as a nuclear plant emits no smoke, noise, dust or odors and takes up very little space.

Another commissioner said the people of Hammett have spoken overwhelmingly against the rezone. While many Hammett-area farmers spoke as individuals (and included their feelings again as members of a group), that is by no means representative of Hammett the town, where many of the workers on these farms actually live.

Of the 1,600 signatures we gathered in favor of the rezone (half from Elmore County), we estimate at least 50 came from in and around Hammett, where our community organizing efforts found people, many of them agricultural workers, desperate for stable, well-paying jobs. These figures suggest national polls about nuclear power, which routinely show 70%-plus support.

One of the commissioners’ least enviable jobs is to balance competing interests, each of them important. Should they (as our opponents say) approve an industry that would destroy the rural way of life? Or should they adopt a clean, stable source of energy and the jobs that go with it? Unfortunately, our opponents have presented this as an either-or choice when, in fact, it is not. In terms of being an industrial use, we will no more impose upon Elmore County’s rural way of life than a cheese plant or an air force base (which we whole heartedly support as a veteran run organization).

If the farmers could demonstrate the plant we propose would harm their way of life, they might have a case for keeping hundreds of their fellow county residents from holding power plant jobs. As it stands, however, nuclear plants are excellent neighbors. Of the 1,300 acres proposed in our rezone, about 200 would be for the actual plant. The remaining land would consist of ponds and farms, as is common in the predominantly rural settings where nuclear plants are located. According to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, it costs 1.8 cents to produce a kilowatt-hour of electricity with nuclear power, and that power is produced more than 90 percent of the time (http://tinyurl.com/2pgc8k). That’s a significant benefit to farmers

Indeed, Elmore County farms have for decades abutted extremely intensive heavy-industrial uses with no problems. I’m speaking of Mountain Home Air Force Base, Despite the general mistrust of government in our society, the Air Force Base has been a good neighbor and is a pillar of the region’s economy. Safe to say, MHAFB would have a hard time fitting in the Simco Road location.

One commissioner also expressed concern about how construction would affect local services. Any sort of significant project will certainly impose some burdens and we have suggested ways to address them. Ideas include paying money directly to the county to reduce the bill for all taxpayers as compensation for disruption; job training; a community center; scholarships; direct infrastructure funding; and a committee to oversee service needs (for details, see my open letter to the people of Hammett on my blog at www.cleanidahoenergy.wordpress.com). Not to mention, these burdens would pale in comparison to the benefits specified in the next paragraph.

Current farms in Elmore County produce 2.86 jobs (some seasonal) per acre, or about 4 jobs at the current location. Our plant would produce 500-year round jobs at the site and 5,000 peak jobs per year during construction; $558 million in local payroll and labor income; and $205 million in local ripple payroll income. The plant would also create an additional 1,754 full-time support jobs and massive improvements in schools, police, fire and other infrastructure funding.

The irony isn’t lost on me that the commission these days is also holding meetings on how to deal with a pressing budget crisis. Our proposal would start putting people to work immediately and increase the economic security for the all residents of Elmore County.

One of the Commissioners made another important statement. If Elmore County residents – and presumably the Snake River Alliance – wish to see farmland kept undeveloped, they should probably consider forming a land trust or other legal vehicle to accomplish it. To restrict private property rights for that reason is not a wise use of power.

Things are going well for AEHI. Last week, we signed an agreement with Source Capital Group Inc. to raise money for the project. The funds will cover land, water rights and engineering services to obtain Nuclear Regulatory Commission approval to construct and operate an advanced nuclear plant in Elmore County, Idaho, estimated to total some $70 million. Every company that has undertaken the NRC application process has successfully completed it and received a construction/operation license.

We see a bright future for Elmore County, one that many communities in America share. It is a future of economic security and low-cost energy, with a nuclear plant quietly, cleanly and dependably powering its farms, homes and businesses. We hope the Elmore County Commission votes for this future and approves our rezone.

Environmentalists continue fight against renewable energy January 6, 2009

Posted by cleanidahoenergy in AEHI, anti-renewable energy, balanced approach, Energy policy, environmentalists, renewable energy, Snake River Alliance, Solar energy, Wind energy.
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Normally, the media are very starry-eyed when reporting on renewable energy. When it comes to coverage of nuclear power, the media are extremely skeptical and ask the tough questions (as all good journalists should), but renewable get a pass and questions about reliability, viability, environmental impact and public support are rarely raised.

That’s not the case in last week’s Idaho Statesman and kudos to Rocky Barker for taking a realistic look at renewable energy. He writes, “Greener energy sources such as geothermal wells and sprawling wind farms are being touted as the nation’s environmentally friendly answer to energy independence, but so far, alternative energy developers are finding that they face many of the same conflicts as traditional generation plants.”

Among other projects, Barker looked at “the most controversial wind farm in the state,” the proposed China Mountain project, a 185-turbine farm in Twin Falls County. The project, on 30,000 acres of public land, would produce more than 400 megawatts of electricity (by comparison, our plant would produce four times that amount of energy on four percent of the area, and at 95 percent reliability, compared to around 20 for wind). Environmentalists have opposed wind farms nationwide, not just Idaho.

As Barker reports, in July, a regional Fish and Game supervisor voiced concerns about the effects the wind farm could have on wildlife, including the endangered sage grouse. Neighbors complained about the effect the wind farm would have on the views from their cabins and Advocates of the West, a group that provides lawyers for environmental groups, is preparing to challenge several wind projects planned in sagebrush habitat.

July 1, 2008, was a good example of where the priorities of some environmentalist lie. The embattled China Mountain wind farm was facing a crucial public hearing, but it was the same night as a meeting to organize opposition to our nuclear plant. When push came to shove, “We were not present at the China Mountain scoping meeting because it occurred the same night as our public meeting about the AEHI plant.” Liz Woodruff, SRA energy policy analyst, said the SRA “submitted comments regarding the proposal” but tellingly doesn’t say if they actually supported China Mountain or urged officials to approve it. The Snake River Alliance’s own mission statement declares that it can oppose specific facilities, but advocating for specific facilities isn’t part of the mission (at least give the SRA credit for sticking to its real game plan).

I think the radical environmentalist veneer is starting to fall. Something tells me the SRA didn’t try to “educate and inform” residents opposed to China Mountain, as they have done to rally opposition to our plant. Personally, I think the SRA lacks the stomach to face an angry group of neighbors and declare that a wind farm should be approved because it’s in the broader public interest. If the Snake River Alliance is out there directly supporting specific renewable facilities in public hearings, they’re doing a good job keeping it quiet.

Some environmentalists take opposition to renewable a step further. Laird Lucas, lead attorney for Advocates of the West, says he’s “skeptical that wind, solar and geothermal plants spread out across the wide open spaces of the West and linked to populated areas through vast transmissions systems are the answer to increasing carbon-free energy supplies,” according to Barker’s story.

“I think there’s a chance that these big solar farms and wind farms will be obsolete almost as soon as we develop them,” Lucas says in the story. “We need to somehow get people engaged directly in producing our own energy.”

I think some environmentalists are really aiming for a larger target and their ultimate goal is to “power down” and de-industrialize our society. I’m not making any of this up – see it at http://www.postcarbon.org and similar sites, where discussion of “societal collapse” and hopeless peak oil scenarios are enough to make you end it all today. An industrial society needs industrial energy sources and combating those sources is one way to “power down” our civilization.

In the meantime, out-of-the-mainstream environmentalists will have to content themselves with paying lip service to renewable energy, by opposing it or failing to speak up for it every chance they get. I hope the media educate the public about this more.