Mark Bortman to speak at environmental forum

The Newtown Township Environmental Advisory Council has announced its next environmental forum, to be held on Saturday, April 12th from 9:30am until noon at the Newtown Township Municipal Building, 100 Municipal Drive, Newtown Township. The forum will be an informational session on solar and energy efficiency technologies.

The tremendous growth in the U.S. solar industry is helping to pave the way to a cleaner, more sustainable energy future. Over the past few years, the cost of a solar energy system has dropped significantly – helping to give more American families and businesses access to affordable clean energy. Mark Bortman, founder of Exact Solar, is one of PA’s and NJ’s leading solar energy system installers with extensive experience in solar photovoltaics (PV), solar water heating, and solar pool heating systems. Mr. Bortman will be speaking on these solar technologies, including how they work, the environmental benefits, and how installing solar energy systems can help residents and businesses control their energy costs. Mr. Bortman is a Certified Sustainable Building Advisor and Interstate Renewable Energy Council Certified.

Attendance is free and open to the public. Learn more about this important environmental topic!

Further information can be obtained from Steven Jenks at sjenks22@hotmail.com.

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Langhorne Open Space preserves land used for community gardens

by June Portnoy

Whether you’re a novice or master gardener, if you’re looking for a location with excellent growing conditions to plant vegetables or flowers this upcoming season, consider renting space at the community gardens at Langhorne Heritage Farm, located at 222 North Green Street.

“These gardens, located on eight acres of farm soil, provide the full sun exposure required to successfully grow most vegetables and flowers, as opposed to so many residential areas that have become shaded by trees over time,” says Dawn Clabbers, Garden Manager and Board Member of the Langhorne Open Space (LOSI). In addition, the attraction of these gardens is that many people have little or no actual planting space at home.

The rich soil at Heritage Farm is deeply tilled in early spring for gardeners and ready for planting by the first week of April, weather permitting. The site is entirely organic, and the use of herbicides, pesticides and non-organic fertilizers is prohibited.

For your convenience, nine water taps are located throughout the garden space, so all you have to do is simply grab a hose and connect it to the closest tap.

New this year are two volunteer, veteran gardeners who will share the overseeing of the community gardens and serve as point people for any questions and concerns.

“The concept of gardening is very spectral, depending on what you are interested in growing,” explains Dawn. “Some folks want to get an early start with cool weather crops, like lettuce and peas, while others wait for warmer soil and higher temperatures to grow zucchini and tomatoes.”

According to Dawn, weekends can get very busy, so many gardeners do their planting during the week when it’s quieter.

“Many of our gardeners enjoy the idea of being alone with nature,” explains Dawn. “This is a quiet place in a busy world.”

Returning gardeners receive first priority to keep their existing space from the previous year. The community gardens are then opened to everyone on a first-come, first-serve basis. “There is no limit to the number of spaces you can rent, but we encourage our new gardeners to start with one space,” advises Dawn. “It’s surprising what a 20’x 20’ space can yield in a season.”

Dawn adds that you don’t have to be a Langhorne resident to rent a space at these community gardens. People come from all over Bucks County and as far away as New Jersey to garden here. The idea of providing these community gardens to the public grew out of LOSI’s goal of preserving and making use of open space, as opposed to developing it into homes.

In 1984, The Langhorne Heritage Farm, a historic farmhouse from 1840, was the last remaining working farm in Langhorne Borough. LOSI (first called Save-the-Farm) was established that year to try to save this farm and property, including a farmhouse, large barn, a smaller barn and several outbuildings, from becoming a townhouse development.

In 1986, this organization successfully negotiated and funded the purchase of the farm from its owner to become a park owned by Langhorne Borough. Borough Council members discussed the merits of utilizing the farm’s open space for community gardens, and in the late 1980s they offered eight plots for use to gardeners. Today, there are currently one hundred 20’x 20’ spaces available to rent for gardening. The cost is $50 for one space and $30 for each additional space. 

Langhorne Borough continues to own this property, and from the time of its initial purchase of this land, LOSI was appointed to finance and manage the farm and surrounding grounds, including its community gardens. Heritage Farm does not receive any taxpayer support.

The community gardens open in early April and remain open until the end of October. Space fills up every year by the first part of May, so if you’re interested in renting a space, consider reserving your plot of land soon by emailing Dawn at community.gardens@comcast.net.

You can also rent the Langhorne Heritage Farm for special occasions, such as birthdays, weddings and bridal showers, although no alcoholic beverages are allowed on the premises, as it is a town park.

For information on renting this historic farm for your next event, visit www.langhorneopenspace.org.

Langhorne Open Space depends on the financial and volunteer support of its members. If you would like to become a member of Langhorne Open Space, visit their website. LOSI welcomes your support!

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Warmer pool, lower bills, cooler world

submitted by Mark Bortman, Exact Solar, mark@exactsolar.com

Finally it seems that spring has sprung! After our long, cold, snowy winter, it is nice to play outside and plant some flowers. Before we know it, it will be time for one of my favorite summer activities – swimming.

I really enjoy swimming. One of the things I don’t like, however, is getting into cold water. Unlike my kids, if the pool is cool, I take forever to get in, if I get in at all.

Of course, there is a way to avoid this – heat the swimming pool. This can be an expensive proposition, however. Natural gas, propane and electric bills can skyrocket to hundreds of dollars during the swimming season, not to mention the untold environmental impacts of mining and burning those fossil fuels.

Of course, there is a way to avoid this, too – harness the natural, free energy of the sun. Solar pool heating systems do an excellent job of adding 10 to 15 degrees to the temperature of an unheated pool. They don’t cost much more to install than any other type of heater but they cost nothing to run! The heat from the sun is free and will never go up in price.

Solar pool heaters work by circulating the water from the pool through solar collectors. These collectors are made from a special blend of polymers and are designed to capture the heat from the sun and transfer it to the water. Each collector is rated for up to 48,000 BTU’s per day.

Although solar pools heater are not as well-known as the other types of heaters, they have been around for over 30 years and their popularity is growing. They have withstood the test of time and their warranty supports this. The panels come with a full 12 year and limited lifetime warranty – far longer than any other type of heater.

As the swimming season starts, think about the difference solar energy can make – a warmer pool and a cleaner environment. Then, make a choice to make a difference.

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DelVal announces upcoming symposium on energy in transition

The Precarious Alliance, a sustainability symposium conceived by Delaware Valley College President Dr. Joseph S. Brosnan, will be exploring energy-related issues such as climate change, green design and technology, fossil fuels and renewables, boomtowns and transition towns during its spring forum to be held April 3rd and 4th at the college in Doylestown.

To get the dialogue started, three keynote speakers will be featured. Among them, renowned environmentalist Bill McKibben, best-selling author and founder of 350.org, the first large-scale global grassroots climate change initiative.  

The symposium will include a plenary panel, roundtables, workshops and more. According to Dr. Tanya Casas, Assistant Professor of Sociology, this year’s focus on energy is especially relevant to all who will be attending. “Whether you are impacted by the severe weather patterns the country has been experiencing, concerned about rising gas prices, or worried about the future of our environment, this symposium will offer open dialogue, creative ideas and real, practical approaches to addressing energy concerns.”

[Read more...]

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Keep your lights on when the power goes out

submitted by Mark Bortman, Exact Solar, mark@exactsolar.com

It certainly has been a tough winter for the power company. Don’t you just hate it when the power goes out? An outage of just a couple hours is no big deal, but the extended outages we’ve had recently sure are frustrating. It seems that it is only getting worse.

In light of this, many people are looking for back-up sources of power. While generators have been the most common option, more people are turning to a quiet, environmentally-friendly alternative: battery back-up.

Batteries, also known as an Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS), have been used for years to provide constant power to sensitive electronics such as computers. Recently, these systems have been expanded to be able to power more and bigger loads. The systems can be set up to work automatically and turn on in an instant.

Best of all, if the batteries are paired with solar panels, you can harness the power of the sun to keep recharging the batteries!

A battery back-up with solar power system provides clean, renewable, emergency power when there are unexpected power losses due to work on local power lines, weather disturbances or power outages. The batteries used in these systems are not your typical rechargeable batteries. They are heavy duty, maintenance free, deep-cycle batteries designed for this application.

A big advantage of battery back-up systems is that they are very quiet.  In addition, batteries can be “refueled” by solar power rather than diesel fuel, propane or natural gas.

Typically with the battery systems, we isolate the “critical loads,” the things in your house you want to be sure to run when the power goes out.  Since the number of batteries required depends on what you want to run when electricity from the utility is not available, separating the critical loads helps limit the number of batteries and thus the cost of the system.

Think about an affordable back-up energy solution that can replace the need for fuel based systems such as diesel generators. The solar back-up solution is low maintenance, long lasting and produces low cost renewable energy.

Next time the power goes out, don’t be left in the dark!

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Bucks County Economic Development Corporation

Bucks County Economic Development Corporation (BCEDC) was established in 1958 to fulfill the mission to create a vital and strong economic base through the preservation and creation of job opportunities for Bucks County. The vision of BCEDC is to establish and create a healthy and vibrant economy through innovative programs that will enhance existing and new business to improve Bucks County’s competitiveness and economic prosperity for continued and future growth.

BCEDC connects business and industry with all forms of government from local-state-federal. Undertakings such as cooperation agreements to administer loan programs, development of former military bases, management of infrastructure, and other projects deemed necessary to create a vital economic base for Bucks County.

BCEDC also connects businesses with economic development business consulting services like Ben Franklin Partnership and Delaware Valley Resource Center. BCEDC works closely with SCORE and Temple University/Lehigh University Small Business Development Centers to assist start-up businesses. BCEDC works with BCITC to assist companies with the international markets.

[Read more...]

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Gloria Hall recognized for long-term commitment to farmland preservation

by June Portnoy

Doylestown resident Gloria Hall was recently awarded the 2013 Bucks County Conservation District’s (BCCD) George M. Bush Farmland Preservation Award. The award recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding efforts or contributions in the preservation of Bucks County agricultural lands.

Gloria received this award for founding the Friends of the Farmstead (F.O.F.), which played a critical role in the preservation of the 113-acre Peter Taylor Farmstead as a working farm and a place today listed on the National Register of Historic Places. She was also recognized for her “Save the Farms” campaign that triggered a highly successful Agricultural Land Preservation program that now includes 156 preserved farms across Bucks County totaling almost 14,000 acres. 

Gloria’s advocacy for land preservation dates all the way back to 1970. In 1965, she and her husband, Glenn, moved from Florida to Newtown after he was hired as the first faculty member at Bucks County Community College. They rented a farmhouse built before the Revolutionary War located in Hidden Valley Farms, now Newtown Crossing. Five years after renting this home, it was placed on the TBR (To Be Removed) list, slated to be razed by a Chicago developer who wanted to make room for new homes as part of a PRD (Planned Residential Development).

“We couldn’t allow this historic farmhouse that we loved with a passion to be destroyed,” says Gloria.

[Read more...]

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Solar panels – A gift that keeps on giving

submitted by Mark Bortman, Exact Solar, mark@exactsolar.com

A lump of coal. What a lousy thing to get for Christmas. All kids know that they had better stay off of Santa’s “Naughty” list or that is what they are going to end up with in their stocking.

What kids might not know, however, is how bad that coal really is and what it is doing to the world that they are growing into. Coal leaves behind a long trail of pollution. Mountaintops are removed and acres of forest and wilderness are stripped to get the coal.

There is pollution generated to transport the coal to the power plant. Tons of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, small particles and hydrocarbons are released in the atmosphere when it is burned. Piles of ash and sludge are left over from the combustion. These end up leaching pollutants in the soil and water.

Coal’s negative impact to our environment and our health will be felt not only now by future generations, too. Unfortunately, about half of the electricity we use in Pennsylvania comes from burning coal.

Renewable energy sources such as solar panels, on the other hand, are everything that coal is not. There is no mining, no pollution or harmful emissions, no toxic residue.  Even better, the energy from the sun and wind is unlimited. 

Moreover, once solar panels are installed, they cost nothing to run. They just keep producing electricity – and savings on your electric bill month after month.

Now that is something I’d like to see in my stocking.

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It’s that time of year again

submitted by Mark Bortman, Exact Solar, mark@exactsolar.com

Time to sit back and remind ourselves that we should be thankful for all the things we take for granted. One of these is our electric system. Without a second thought, we know that every time we flip the switch, the lights go on.

Over a billion people – a quarter of the world’s population – live without access to electricity. This means limited light at night, no refrigeration, no communication. When we lose power for just a few hours, it seems that a huge wrench has been thrown into our works.

I was speaking with the manager of the UN’s Green Economy Team. He said that, without a doubt, lack of access to reliable energy is the main cause for poverty around the world.

Solar energy can help alleviate this problem.

There are some great non-profit organizations that are working to get low-cost solar lamps to people in rural villages. Without solar lights, these people have to use kerosene lanterns to see after the sun goes down. Not only is the dark smoke from these lanterns a health hazard, but the fuel is very expensive. The cost of the fuel traps many families in poverty.

The fuel for the solar lamps, on the other hand, is free! This means that the money normally spent on kerosene can go to nutrition, education or other important areas. 

In addition, solar lamps give off no harmful smoke or pollution. Not only does this improve the health of the people using the lamps, it also helps to fight climate change.

It is estimated that the soot emitted by the kerosene lanterns contribute more to climate change than all the carbon dioxide release in Britain in a year. Not many times do you hear about a win-win-win scenario. But again, with solar, we have one.

And that is something for which we can all be thankful.

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From generation to generation

submitted by Mark Bortman, Exact Solar, mark@exactsolar.com

I was thinking about my grandfather the other day. When he was alive, we used to talk about what life was like when he was a kid. Electricity had not come to his neighborhood yet. Light came from gas jets, heat came from coal that was shoveled into the basement, and refrigeration came from the iceman or the box out the window in the winter.

It is hard to believe, but that was only 100 years ago. Wow! How much and how fast the world has changed since then!

I wonder what life will be like when my future grandchildren are grown (my own children are only teenagers now, so hopefully that will be well down the road). Will cancer be cured? Will energy be cheap and abundant? Will the air and water be clean? 

Just like generations before us, our actions directly affect the lives of future generations. This is where the concept of “sustainability” comes into play. The definition of sustainable is meeting the needs of today without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

How can we, in good conscience, risk the health and well-being of our grandchildren in order to satisfy our energy hungry ways when it is easy to reduce our energy consumption and help our environment?

There are many changes that can allow us to be more efficient with our energy usage and greatly reduce the use of fossil fuels. These are changes that, once in place, you won’t even notice. With many small changes, we can improve the ability of future generations to meet their needs. All it takes is the will.

Will I be telling my grandchildren stories about how we used to have plenty of clean water before it was all contaminated by fracking fluid? Or about how Pennsylvania used to have beautiful mountains before all the tops were removed to mine coal?

If we can reduce our overall energy use and replace fossil fuels with renewable energy sources, the world for future generations will be a much better place.

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