Archive for October, 2014

Going Green Made Easy

Posted on: October 15th, 2014 by Bob Jorgensen

Most people would say they value the environment and want to preserve it for future generations. However, not everyone is familiar with how to do that. I will give a few suggestions that not only will help you be environmentally friendly but also will save you money either directly or indirectly.

Most people think of recycling as the most common way to care for the environment. East Peoria is fortunate to have a free curb side recycling program that collects paper, cardboard, plastic (#1-5,7), aluminum and tin. If you live where you can’t get recyclables collected, save them and drop them off at a variety of drop off locations in the Peoria area. By recycling, you are diverting trash from landfills which will slow the increase of garbage dumping fees and slow the depletion of natural resources. Reprocessing recyclables also uses significantly less energy than creating new items from raw materials.

In addition to recycling, shoppers should “precycle.” This is a practice of purchasing products with the waste stream in mind. Say to yourself “How will I dispose of this container?” before making your purchase. The following are some tips. Buy in bulk will reduce the total amount of packaging. Only purchase items packed in recyclable materials and post consumer content packaging. Avoid excessive plastic wrap and Styrofoam.

Use “off peak” electricity. Lowering the electrical demand during peak times will save the electrical companies from having to produce as much electricity during peak times (saving on pollution) and will save on stress on our already dated electrical grid system. You can even sign up to pay an hourly rate for electricity to give you an incentive to use off peak electricity. Go to for more information.

Some other easy things you can do to help the environment:

  • Wash your baggies and reuse them. You can purchase a baggie drying rack relatively cheaply and you will stretch the life of your baggies.
  • Don’t let your car idle. The gas used in idling for 10 seconds is equal to the gas used in restarting your car. Also, avoid drive through lines. Park, turn off your car, and walk into the restaurant or bank.
  • Set your water heater to 120 degrees.
  • Use an adjustable thermostat and adjust the heat and air to be used less when gone for extend periods during the day or while on vacation.
  • Pull down shades or close blinds to limit heat entering the windows during the summer.
  • Use cold water for washing clothes. Most germs and bugs are killed in the drier and not during the wash cycle even when using hot water.
  • Take shorter showers or turn off the water when sudsing.
  • Replace incandescent lights with LED lights. They cost more but last much longer than even CFL bulbs and give off better light. Each LED light bulb saves about $130 over its 23 year life versus incandescent bulbs.
  • Replace any refrigerator older than 1993. Ameren will give you a rebate and you will save a great deal on electricity with a newer Energy Star model.
  • Buy a front load washing machine which uses about 50% of the water and electricity as top load washers. They also require less detergent.
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Not only is it healthier, but saves on the electricity required to lift the elevator. Same goes for automatic doors. Use manual doors if that is an option.
  • Bring your own containers for leftovers when dining out.
  • Buy locally produced foods and goods. It helps the local economy and cuts down on transportation emissions.
  • Use native vegetation or landscaping instead of lawns. Saves on law treating chemicals and exhaust from lawn mowers.
  • Install rain barrels to water gardens and landscaping.

As you can see there are many ways that we can lessen the impact on our planet. Many are free. Many will save money in the long (and not so long) run. Please save this article and stick to your fridge. Consider committing to at least three of the above bullet points during September and add an additional one each month thereafter. Every little bit helps to preserve the planet for generations to come.

In The News

Posted on: October 3rd, 2014 by rjohnson

This story originally appeared in the East Peoria Times Observer

By Jeanette Kendall, TimesNewspapers

Paying attention to gas prices is not something that three residents really have to worry about.

Mary Arnold, Bob Jorgensen and Martin Hobbs all drive electric cars, specifically the Chevy Volt.

These three environmentally conscious people said they think it’s great that the East Peoria city leaders had electric charging stations installed in the Levee District.

Jorgensen said he charges his car there about twice a week, while Arnold, the pastor at First United Methodist Church in East Peoria, and Hobbs, who teaches earth science at East Peoria Community High School, use them less frequently.

Because Jorgensen, a member of the East Peoria Green Team, often attends the City Council meetings at the Civic Plaza, he takes advantage of charging his car while doing so.

“I charge as much at the city’s stations as I charge at home,” Jorgensen said.

“It’s convenient,” Arnold said. “It’s such a quick charge.”

The charging stations in the Levee District are free to use.

According to Matt Berger, the city’s IT coordinator, the year-to-date report for the charging stations shows that there have neverbeen more than three people using them at once, but there have been 29 unique visitors. Users have saved 98.5 gallons of gas, according to the ChargePoint dashboard.

Arnold said she decided to get a Volt to support the environment and for economic reasons.

“We’ve had substantial savings. We had a gas guzzler that we traded for it and we’ve saved over $200 a month in gasoline costs alone. We have not seen any significant increase in our electric at home,” she said.

Electric cars have an electric motor but a gas generator, Hobbs said. The motorist can switch between the two, or if the electricity depletes, the car will automatically switch to gas.

“It’s seamless,” Hobbs said.

The Volt has a computerized dashboard and through OnStar communicates with Chevy about the vehicle’s performance. Jorgensen said he receives a monthly report from Chevy and he learned that he saved 28 gallons of gas in August.

“That’s a lot of money,” he said.

Hobbs said he purchased his Volt in December 2011. Since that time, he has saved about $4,000 in gas over his Honda Civic.

“I had my first oil change at about 35,000 miles,” he said.

The biggest maintenance for the vehicle is having the tires rotated, Hobbs said.

The vehicles come with a plug in for a standard wall outlet.

“That’s how I use mine. I don’t have a 220. I just plug in to my garage plug in every night,” Arnold said, adding that the car can be plugged into any outlet anywhere.

“So if you went on vacation, like if you went to a camp, you can just plug it in there,” she said.

It takes Arnold about 10 to 12 hours to fully charge her car.

Hobbs pays attention to when it’s cheapest to charge the car.

“I pay an hourly rate for my electricity so I charge off peak. I pay about 2 cents a kilowatt hours,” Hobbs said. “Earlier this summer it was free for one hour.”

If he is charging his car during the day, Hobbs, of Eureka, can also use some of the energy from his solar panels. Hobbs, who charges his car using the 220 volt option, said a full charge takes about three-and-half hours.

“I’m a big supporter of renewable energy,” Hobbs, a Green Team member, said.

The batteries on the Volt have a warranty for eight years or 80,000 miles, Jorgensen and Hobbs said. To replace the battery pack, it costs $5,000 to $7,000.

Still, the trio said it’s worth the purchase.

Arnold said the sticker price for her vehicle was $41,000, but she paid less than that. Plus, she said she is going to get a $7,500 rebate for purchasing an electric car.

Hobbs said he purchased the electric car when it was first released in the state in 2011.

“I paid $500 over the (manufacturer’s retail price). Now I’ve heard you can pretty much get below that,” he said.

Jorgensen said after the $7,500 federal rebate and the $4,000 state rebate, he paid $24,000 for his Volt.

According to, a 2015 Chevy Volt is listed at $34,995. The Volt has many bells and whistles. Arnold said she likes the fact that she can start her car from her phone.

“It rides very nice. The seats are very nice. It handles wonderfully. It rides much better than the Prius, much better than a couple of the Ford products we looked at,” she said.

“There’s a reason it’s the No. 1 rated car in America as far as customer satisfaction,” Hobbs said.

Some may think an electric car would not have any pickup, but Hobbs said that is not the case.

“Most people think of it as a golf cart or something, but it has 273 pounds of full torque which is like a strong V6,” Hobbs said. “It’s got everything any other car would have.”

“I had to watch it on the interstate because you can get up into the 70s even before you realize it,” Arnold said.

Arnold said her family will always own a hybrid vehicle.

Hobbs and Jorgensen said they plan to stick with Volts in the future unless something even more energy efficient comes along.

“I’m looking at the 2016 Volt because it’s a five-seater,” Hobbs said.

“This is the first cool car I’ve had. I’ve never had people come up to me and talk about my car. I like being a celebrity that way,” Arnold said.

“I also like that they’re made in America,” Jorgensen said.

The dashboard of Bob Jorgensen’s Chevy Volt shows the charge information for the vehicle. Jeanette Kendall/TimesNewspapers

Mary Arnold of East Peoria and Martin Hobbs of Eureka stand by their electric cars in the parking lot at the Fondulac District Library. Hobbs has his car plugged into the charging station. Jeanette Kendall/ TimesNewspapers

Wind Power in America and Central Illinois

Posted on: October 1st, 2014 by rjohnson

TurbineAmerica has been blowing in some great numbers for electricity generation from wind. There was $25 billion invested in the wind industry in 2012. All 50 states have either a wind farm or a wind industry factory. In the electricity generating industry from building the facility to generating the electricity, wind is cheaper than coal and nuclear, and comparable with natural gas. In fact 42% of new electric generating in America has come from the renewable energy giant, wind.

When you factor in the other benefits of renewable energy generation like wind, it should be a clear leader in the energy field. The planet’s health and human health benefits are huge. Clean wind power in place at the end of 2012 has avoided about 100 million metric tons of the climate changing gas carbon dioxide from going into the atmosphere. These gases have lead to climate changing extreme weather that has cost America $188 billion in 2011 and 2012. Remember the record weather we have had in Central Illinois in the last two years, ranging from record temperatures, drought, river heights, rainfall, and mudslides. Also since wind power neither uses or pollutes water, as opposed to fracking, coal, and nuclear industries, it saves 38 billion gallons of water per year. The use of all this water has depleted ponds, lakes, streams, and underground water tables. This water is needed for drinking and crop irrigation.

In Central Illinois we now have numerous wind farms, a few are: Ridge South Wind Farm in Livingston Co., Horizon Wind Energy by Pontiac in Livingston Co., White Oak Wind Farm by Carlock, Rail Splitter Wind Farm partially in Tazewell Co., and Twin Groves Wind Farm by Bloomington, Normal. These farms not only provide clean electric energy at a good cost they also contribute to communities in other ways. For example in the contract agreements county boards include language that ensures that roads are repaired if the heavy equipment degrades them. Taking a look at the Twin Groves Farm we see that they have 240 turbines that produce 1.65 megawatts of electricity each. This electricity can supply the needs of about 120,000 homes for a year. Twin Groves covers 22,000 acres of farmland outside of Bloomington/Normal. But the actual agricultural land being lost to the towers is only 1 % of the total acreage, or 220 acres. This is because farmers can still plant and harvest all but a small area around the bottom of the tower. A huge bonus for the farmer is that for every tower located on his land Twin Groves pays him $5000 a year in leasing fees. The Twin Groves Farm also helps support 2 schools to the tune of $250,000 in tax revenue to each district per year. Another financial benefit for the area is the jobs and payrolls that it pays contributing many millions of dollars a year to the local economy.

The wind industry supports about 80,000 jobs across the United States, about 25,000 in manufacturing of parts. When the industry first got going in America the majority of parts were made in other countries. Now it is estimated that almost ¾ of the parts are Made in America.

Making sure that this clean useful industry continues to grow we need our politicians to support it. In Illinois the legislature passed a Renewable Portfolio Standard that said Illinois would produce 25 % of their electricity through renewable by 2025. Another driving force is the Wind Production Tax Credit (PTC). This gives tax incentives to companies in the wind generating industry. We have been giving tax credits to fossil fuel generating industries for a very long time. The oil industry has been getting tax subsidies for 100 years. This PTC is a much smaller amount than is currently provided to the fossil fuel industry. Finally, you might remember that many towns in Central Illinois aggregated their electricity two years ago and it reduced people’s bills by about 30 %. When this great bargain was struck by many municipalities it was stated by almost all of them that they wanted 100% of their electricity to come from clean renewable energy sources, like wind.

I hope you can see that Wind Power is right for Central Illinois. Now we have to keep reminding our elected officials that they need to support the wind industry through the legislation they pass.

Tours of the Twin Groves Wind Farm for groups of 10 or more people can be setup by calling 1-309-724-8278.