Rockville Company Allows Clean Energy to be Purchased Locally
Friday, Nov. 19, 2010
by Courtney Pomeroy | Staff Writer
Although everything feels and looks the same as it did a few months ago at the Natural Fusion Hair Studio in Frederick, the electricity used to wash towels, power hair dryers and keep the lights on is now entirely carbon-neutral.
The salon is one of 21 Frederick businesses that have signed up to pay for their electricity through Clean Currents, a Rockville-based company that allows customers to purchase clean energy credits to neutralize their power usage.
Clean Currents purchases renewable energy in the form of credits (RECs) from wind farms in Texas and bundles the equivalent of that energy with their customers’ electricity usage.
The credit is a green representation of one megawatt-hour of electricity that was generated from a renewable energy source. While the wind farms sell their generated power to nearby, regional grids, "they also have remaining RECs, which they sell to suppliers," he said.
"None of these companies are actually producing their own power," he said. "They are purchasing the power from generators all across the country and placing it on the regional grid."
While there are some wind farms in the Mid-Atlantic region, there are several, larger farms located throughout the country.
The existence of companies like Clean Currents, which can offer carbon-neutral energy in places like Frederick County, where there are no wind farms, is "increasing demand or spurring further development of wind power in the United States," Vermeiren said.
Kelly Chapin, co-owner of Natural Fusion, said sustainability and reducing impact on the environment is one of the business's main focuses. Her husband, Earl Pindar, is a hairstylist and she has a bachelor's degree in environmental science, she added.
They have a re-circulating water pump, low-flow washers and dryers, and recently switched all of the lighting from halogen to florescent.
"Anytime we can make that decision we will do it because we really believe in it," she said. So when she heard about Clean Currents, it seemed like a no-brainer.
"It raises awareness and it increases the demand for reusable energy," she said. Chapin noted that the business's energy bill has actually decreased slightly since switching. Wind power with Clean Currents is comparable in price to regular power, Vermeiren said.
Café Nola, another downtown establishment that focuses on reducing its impact on the environment, switched to Clean Currents about three months ago, according to manager Kevin Collins.
A friend of some of the employees started working for the company earlier this year, and "as soon as he mentioned to us that we could get our electricity from wind plants instead of black coal and oil, we were like ‘yes, yes, yes, yes.'"
The café hosted a "Green Power Happy Hour" Thursday night to raise awareness about their new, renewable energy source and other efforts it takes to decrease its environmental impact, like recycling, composting and using local food sources.
Lisa Orr, the Sustainability Program Coordinator in the Frederick County Office of Environmental Sustainability, said she loves that she has the opportunity to support wind power energy through Clean Currents.
Her Burkittsville home is powered by energy credits purchased from the company. She said she switched because she wanted to "walk the talk ... not just think like an environmentalist but to act like one too."
"It's not like I'm getting wind powered energy, I'm purchasing the environmental attributes of wind powered energy," Orr said. "More realistically, what I'm paying for is helping to sustain wind farms."
She said the sustainability office will soon launch a program called the "green homes challenge," which will encourage county residents to use less power, adopt green lifestyle practices and implement renewable energy resources. Clean Currents will be one suggestion the office will make to participants of the challenge, she said.
To learn more about Clean Currents, visit cleancurrents.com.
To get more information about the green homes challenge, contact the Frederick County Office of Environmental Sustainability at 301-600-6864.