Climate Expo showcases local solutions to energy efficiency and a cleaner environment

by June Portnoy

During PennEnvironment’s Spring Climate Solutions Expo, local presenters offered a variety of solutions on how to tackle climate change and move to 100% renewable energy at the Bucks County Audubon Society in New Hope last month.

Hosting the expo was Audrey Beedle, PennEnvironment Bucks County Lead Organizer, who described PennEnvironment as a statewide citizen-based advocacy group with approximately 130,000 members across Pennsylvania.

The group is dedicated to protecting our air, water and open spaces.

On the state level, PennEnvironment has presented a bill to the PA legislature to shift the entire state to 100% renewable energy.

This bill is the first of its kind with bi-partisan support.

The expo’s first presenter was Dara Bortman, co-owner of Exact Solar, a local solar energy system installation company based in Yardley.     

According to Dara, the solar panels you see on roofs, referred to as photovoltaic panels (PV), generate electricity from the sun’s rays.

“When we first started installing PV systems, the cost was about $10 a watt, but now depending on the system, that cost can even be below $3 a watt,” described Dara. “As more and more people have adopted these PV systems, they have become less expensive.”

Dara explained how homeowners obviously generate more electricity from PV systems during the summer months and get more electricity from PECO during the winter months.

She said, “With solar panels, you use your own solar generated electricity in your home when the sun is out. You export any excess kilowatt hours (kwhs) to PECO, getting a credit for each. You use (import) PECO electricity when you need it, just like regular customers and pay only for the net difference each month. If you export more than you import, the excess rolls over to the next month. Over the course of a year, the goal is to have the kwhs exported offset the kwhs imported, so you ultimately end up close to netting to zero with PECO. People are going solar because it makes financial sense.”

The expo’s second speaker, Tom Wells, is a local remodeling contractor and a volunteer with Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

This national organization engages with members of Congress regarding carbon reduction legislation, which is part of the Climate Change Solution.

Tom spoke about the Carbon Fee and Dividend, a legislative bill created by the Citizens’ Climate Lobby along with some consultants.

“Economic modeling shows that a fee on carbon will reduce emissions, increase jobs, grow GDP, reduce negative health effects and increase energy independence,” explained Tom.

The final presenter of the day was Jenny Isaacs, founder and director of a former non-profit that sponsored workshops on converting ordinary gas cars to 100% electric vehicles (EVs).

As the owner of her fourth EV, a Nissan Leaf, she provided first-hand advantages of EVs, which are cars that run on batteries.

According to Jenny, EVs are more efficient and cheaper to operate.

Plus, their electric motors are extremely durable and long lasting.

Also, driving EVs, as opposed to gas or diesel vehicles, reduces greenhouse gases and automobile emissions that pollute our air.

According to Jenny, in 2006, the only way to get an EV was to convert conventional vehicles into electric vehicles. In contrast, today EVs are readily available for purchase. “With the price of gas continuing to rise, these EVs are a great inexpensive alternative,” said Jenny.

PHOTO CAP: From left, Dara Bortman, Jenny Isaacs, Tom Wells, and Audrey Beedle.