Salty, but sweet…

In this season of food fascination (what with Diwali, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, and Christmas all involving sweet and savory cuisine), we couldn’t help but notice this delicious little tidbit in the Cape Cod Times of all places.

The story describes how the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (DOT) recently announced that it had developed a new system that will allow it to deal with icy roads, using the preventive application of brine – method that is both economically and environmentally sound.

The new brine system can pre-treat roadways before the snow accumulates.

From the article:

“This is not the first time a preventative approach has been tried; for years, Mass DOT has favored liquid magnesium chloride as a pre-storm treatment. One practical problem with this compound, however, is that it has a limited working life; it can only be applied a few hours before a storm is slated to hit.

In contrast, the brine solution does not use chemicals. It also uses less sodium, and costs only 55 cents a gallon, compared with 89 cents per gallon for the magnesium chloride. When you apply between 20,000 gallons and 30,000 gallons of the stuff, as the Massachusetts DOT does every year, that cost difference can add up quickly.

But the real savings may be found in the fact that brine can be applied two or three days, rather than hours, before a storm hits. This means that, with a little bit of planning, the state can substantially reduce the number of overtime hours it has to pay to employees and contractors.”

The system, from Brine Xtreme (see their web site here) costs about $250,000 but, as a preventive measure, has the sustainable effect of reducing the salting and sanding needed, saving lives, and putting less harmful materials into the local aquifer.

The article goes on to argue for regional, multiple-town collaborations:

“(This) represent(s) yet another example of how a regional approach can accomplish more than individual towns can on their own. A centrally-located brine machine in the mid-Cape area could potentially become a Cape-wide clearing house for ice clearing.”

It also mentions – and we need to mention this for our project management readers – that the implementation of this steady-state solution (pun intended) is the outcome of a pilot project in Western Massachusetts.  So once again, we see the intersection of sustainability and project management in a very real, salt-of-the-earth sort of way!


A successful story of solar stimulus

A recent front-page story in the Cape Cod Times uncovered a situation where the American recovery and Reinvestment Act (the ARRA – remember that?) has been successful.  And since it involves sustainability and since the words “project manager” and “jobs” were featured heavily throughout the story, we thought we’d share much of it with you here.

Many have clamored against such stimuli, asserting that this is “big government” getting “on our backs” and riding taxpayers.

However in this case, utility-cost-reducing solar panels, thanks to the ARRA, are being installed at Cape Cod Community College.  That article – an interesting read in and of itself, can be found here:

One quote from that article, though, is what caught writer Sean Gonsalves’ attention:

“The total cost of all the (alternative energy) projects (at the college) will come to more than $4 million … an investment tax credit through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act helps make it affordable for the company.”

Gonsalves caught up with Allen Giles, president of Turning Mill Energy, the Sandwich-based company installing the college’s solar panels.

He asked Giles flat-out, does he think these alternative energy investment tax credits, or “subsidies,” are an example of “job killing” big government getting in the way of private-sector growth?

“Actually,” he told Gonsalves, “it’s the opposite.”

The section below is extracted from the article:

Giles (whose father named him after the Allen wrench) pointed out the difference between political rhetoric and reality.

“A tax credit allows successful businesspeople who have a tax burden to take their tax dollar and invest it in new projects, rather than the government giving out grants,” he said.

These sorts of tax credits, Giles explained, puts tax dollars to work directly into a project, which provides an “effective” economic stimulus.

“Traditionally, renewable energy projects were very large,” he said.

“Large investment firms invest in large solar farms and large wind farms because they get paid on putting the deal together. And let’s be honest, they’d rather get 2 percent on $100 million dollars than 2 percent on $1 million.”

The stimulus bill allowed Giles’ company to bring together individuals in the local economy who had a tax burden, and instead of sending taxes owed on investment income to the Internal Revenue Service, it let them reinvest that money in renewable energy projects.

“These tax credits can be used to offset federal tax obligations. That’s putting tax money straight to work, with no overhead associated,” Giles said.

“If I wanted to do the college project before the (stimulus bill), I would’ve gone to a large investment firm. And they pretty much laugh at me because the project wasn’t $100 million,” he said.

The backstory, Giles said, is that Turning Mill used to be a company that built cellphone towers, which was a booming business up until 2006-2007.

Then the recession hit.

“We had close to 25 employees from the Cape region. But, starting with the financial downturn, we had to lay folks off,” he said.

The company had to come up with a new business plan.

They started looking at renewable energy, Giles said, because “to us, putting up a wind tower is same process as putting up cell towers.”

Giles said the stimulus bill and the commonwealth’s 2008 Green Community Act, which allowed for renewable energy to be sold to electricity suppliers, “was kind of like the perfect storm.”

“We’ve hired back a lot of the people we had to let go,” Giles said.

And Turning Mill jobs aren’t low-wage service and retail jobs.

“We’re talking about permitting specialists, engineers and project managers. Also, we were able to hire our own crews — electricians and laborers,” Giles said.

The best part, he said, is that Turning Mill is diving into the local labor pool.

“We’ve found the local pool to have tremendous experience in this line of work,” he said. “We are the poster child for taking advantage of thoughtful legislation.”

Imagine, if the community college trained the specialists, engineers, project managers and electricians of tomorrow, helping to stave off the economically harmful demographic trend of young people leaving the Cape in search of jobs.

Of course, to understand the Cape’s economic interests clearly, we have to cut through the stormy rhetoric and see reality.

So in this case – and we would imagine that –  although Cape Cod is a nice and unique place – this scenario is, or could be repeated all over the US, if people would have the long-term thinking and creativity to do what’s being done at Cape Cod Community College with the ARRA tax credits.

More jobs, more projects, more project managers, and greater sustainability.  As Michael Scott, of The Office would say, “it’s all good”.


Power Play

We blog about projects, and we blog about sustainability.  And we really like to blog about projects which “buy in” to the idea that they can set examples for others.  And it’s icing on the cake if it involves games or sports, especially on Father’s Day!

This weekend we came across a story about – of all things – a new hockey rink – in Falmouth, Massachusetts, and its outstanding consideration of energy and sustainability in its design and in its planned operation.

The article comes from The Cape Cod Times.  Here is a link to the entire story, we encourage you to read it.

But what struck us was the way that just one or two people in this project made the difference.

To quote the article,

“The rink is equipped with a number of energy-saving features, including a waste heat recovery system, lighting that is free of chlorofluorocarbons and advanced insulation. Many of these features were researched and planned by Sia Karplus, director of research at Science Wares, a Falmouth architecture and engineering company.

Karplus said she had worked on planning highly energy-efficient homes in the past and volunteered to help make the rink as energy conscious as possible.

“In many ways it’s a refrigerator with the door open,” she said of traditional skating rinks and their inherent energy waste problems. She then asked, “What can you do to make the most energy-efficient rink ever?””


What we want you to notice is the way Sia took this on as a challenge – as we always imagine the best project managers do their work – as change agents and “get-r’done” types of contributors.

Some of the statistics for this ice rink:

  • Cost: $6 million
  • Square feet: 49,000
  • Panels: 3,302
  • Seats: approximately 700
  • Electricity produced: 900,000 kilowatt-hours/year
  • Energy use estimate compared to other similar rinks: 50%

The creators and sponsors of this project are justifiably proud.

You can visit their site and see photos of the construction and some of the very creative energy-saving ideas they implemented by clicking here.

And whether you are a hockey fan, an energy fan, or a project fan, we think you’d agree that although the energy savings may be icing on the cake, there’s no icing on this play!


What green will you find at a liquor store?


What green will you find at a liquor store?

…we know you’re probably thinking:

  • Midori (which, by the way is the Japanese word for green)
  • Heineken bottles
  • Crème de Menthe

and that’s good.  But that’s not what we’re thinking.

We’re thinking about the 602-panel solar roof of Luke’s Super Liquors in West Yarmouth, Massachusetts (Cape Cod).  We’re thinking about the 182 kW of power it’s capable of generating.  And, of course, we’re thinking about the number of projects triggered like this one at Luke’s, especially in the last two years, by government subsidies, on Cape Cod, Massachusetts, the USA, and worldwide.  And we think about the opportunities that abound for the project managers savvy enough to learn the technologies, the language, and the benefits of green energy.

From this article in the Cape Cod Times, we quote:

Solar panels are covering rooftops on schools, homes and businesses, marking a shift not only in how the region gets its energy but also in opportunities for contractors. Since 2002, almost five megawatts of state-subsidized solar power have been planned on the Cape and Islands, most of it in the past two years, according to the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center.

The story goes on to say:

“This will be the largest one we’ve done,” said Pat Edwards of Middleboro, Beaumont Solar’s project manager, on Tuesday as he looked down on iridescent blue panels being installed on Luke’s Super Liquor Store in West Yarmouth. Beaumont — a New Bedford-based sign company — has embraced solar as an opportunity for the company to use existing skills and equipment, Edwards said.

Beaumont has installed several large systems on the Cape already.

“You’ve got to change with the times,” Edwards said.

Beaumont’s president, Phillip Cavallo, started taking on renewable energy projects after he bought the company four years ago. The company’s 21 employees now work on solar projects 80 percent of the time and signs 20 percent of the time, Cavallo said.

Engineering and construction companies are evolving rapidly to fill the niche partly created by incentives and policies that encourage renewable energy projects, said Marybeth Campbell, workforce development program director for the Clean Energy Center.

“We’ve seen in the last year-and-a-half a huge explosion,” she said, adding that the number of companies doing photovoltaic installations has jumped from 25 to 200, with more than 1,000 people doing the work statewide.

So once again – at the intersection of green and project management, this time we found not only opportunity, but a really good craft summer ale.  More on that in  later post.

Read the whole story here.