Frederick conference showcases energy-efficient products

July 18, 2008|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

FREDERICK, Md. -- From compact fluorescent light bulbs to a hybrid electric trash truck, a wide range of energy-efficient products was on display Friday morning at the SMART Green Showcase in Frederick.

The conference was sponsored by U.S. Rep. Roscoe G. Bartlett and Strengthening the Mid-Atlantic Region for Tomorrow, a not-for-profit group that supports research and development for businesses.

It featured dozens of booths where companies displayed their greenest wares.

"We're trying to show people how to go green without spending a lot of money," said Dan Chambers, who represented The Home Depot at the conference at FSK Holiday Inn.

Chambers pointed to products like high-efficiency toilets and programmable thermostats, which he said can save homeowners serious money.

A programmable thermostat, for example, can cut heating and cooling costs by up to a third, Chambers said.

Across the room from Chambers, Christian May of Standard Solar talked to people about the benefits of solar electricity.


"If you want to watch your electric meter run backward, install a solar panel," May said.

The average residential customer can save 35 percent to 40 percent on their electric bill with solar panels, May said.

Heather Siefers of Frederick said she was impressed by the range of products and information she received at the conference.

"My husband and I are big into conservation. We're always looking for ways to get a little more environmentally friendly and save some money in the process," Siefers said.

She noted that the homeowners' association where she lives prohibits residents from installing solar panels or using clotheslines outside.

Some organizations at the conference offered tips for convincing HOAs to change their regulations, Siefers said.

Outside in the hotel's parking lot, Carlos Fernandez-Bueno pushed an uncommon energy saver.

His company, Potomac Wind Energy, builds monopole residential windmill towers that range in height from 33 feet to 60 feet.

The windmills, which cost $14,000 to $16,000 can be used for pumping water, for electricity or to aerate ponds, and can generate 400 to 600 kilowatts per month, he said.

"As long as you have wind, it's feasible," Fernandez-Bueno said.

Most counties in Maryland do not have laws addressing residential windmills; Fernandez-Bueno said most are permitted on a case-by-case basis.

Next to Fernandez-Bueno's stand, Mack Trucks displayed another rare energy saver: a hybrid electric trash truck.

The truck's hybrid system consists of a diesel engine, electric machine and batteries for electrical storage, said Peter Prout, director of government relations for Volvo Group North America, which owns Mack Trucks.

Prout noted that the Volvo Powertrain Plant in Hagerstown has contributed in the construction of the company's diesel particulate filters, which he said "reduce particulate matter to almost nothing."

Washington County Commissioners President John F. Barr, who attended the conference, said the range of products opened his eyes to what is possible in terms of energy conservation.

He said the county should think about offering tax incentives to citizens who want to pursue eco-friendly technologies.

"Obviously, with the high price of energy and the limits of fossil fuels, this is something we are going to be forced to pay attention to," Barr said.

Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire, who also was at the conference, said he wants to invite some of the vendors to present their products at a Tuesday commissioners' meeting.

"If you want it, it's here," Aleshire said. "I'm kind of a nut about this stuff, but these kind of changes will end up costing taxpayers less if we can incorporate them."

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