Update on Windcentives

Finally, wind energy for homes and small business gets incentives from the Federal Government. Contact All Things Renewable for more information.

The following is courtesy of Southwest Windpower:

On February 17, 2009 President Obama signed into law the American Recovery and Re-investment Act of 2009. With a significant emphasis on renewable energy technology deployment and job expansion, the bill improved upon the 2008 small wind tax credit by removing “cost caps.” This change allows consumers and small businesses to deduct from their tax liability 30% off the installed cost of a wind turbine. Additionally, businesses will have the option of receiving their credit in the form of a cash grant.

SkystreamQ:  What does this mean to me?

A:  The entire cost of a Skystream system (plus installation) is reduced by 30 percent provided you have a tax liability over the course of two years. Depending on where you live, you could save even more! States have also implemented rebates for small wind systems which can be used in addition to the Federal credit. Furthermore, in the last two months alone, more than 30 states have introduced legislation that either expands incentives for renewable energy and/or addresses market barriers.
Typically, a tax credit is money that you can deduct from any money owed to the federal government at tax time (tax liability). The small wind tax credit can be carried over two years after the product is installed. For more information on how to take advantage of the credit, we suggest that you speak to a tax specialist.

Q:  How do I claim the credit?

A: You will be required to file the long form and itemize your deductions. The IRS form 5695 must be completed and filed with your taxes. The current form does not reflect the changes to the most recent legislation.

Q: What if I want to purchase and install more than one Skystream?

A: The stimulus package allows for a 30 percent tax credit on the total cost of multiple units. There is no cap on the 30 percent tax credit. Businesses may qualify for a grant from the US Treasury in lieu of a tax credit.

Q: I heard I can get cash back rather than a tax credit – how does that work?

A: Businesses can apply for a grant from the US Treasury and rather than a tax credit, receive a cash grant. The details are still being worked out but should be in place by April or May. Keep in touch with your dealer or the manufacturer for more information.

Q: Does this work for all small wind systems, even Whisper and Air Breeze?

A: Yes. The incentive is available to all users of small wind systems.

Q: How much does a Skystream cost?

A:  Although costs vary depending on installation and height, the following is a guideline for a Skystream mounted on a 33-foot’ monopole. 

Installed Cost ……………………….. $    14,000
Federal Incentive (30%) …………… $ ─   4,200
State Incentive ………………………. $            0*
Final Cost ……………………………. $      9,800

* State incentives can reduce costs further in some areas.


Taking Solar on (and off) the Road

When Julie and I were planning out All Things Renewable, I told her that I ultimately wanted to manufacture portable solar power stations and car ports.

Recently, we had a company request information on solar for construction trailers.  During the initial meeting with the client, it became clear that they typically didn’t own the construction trailers, and installing solar directly on them was complicated and impractical.  I presented the idea of a trailer-based solar power station, and they liked the idea enough to ask us to spec one out.  So, Brian and I sat down at a local diner one afternoon and started penciling out design specs and load requirements. Brian Matzen is my systems installation contractor and electrical consultant, and has years of experience in custom solar application design.

Solar generator is easily towable to a job site or field use

Solar generator is easily towable to a job site or field use

Anyway, we did a bit of competitive research, and Brian found a company that already builds these things to military specification.  It didn’t take long for both of us to realize there was little point in trying to build something to the customer’s requirements without having field tested a generic unit, so the logical decision was to talk with the manufacturer.

As a result, All Things Renewable now carries solar power stations. These units come pre-designed to military specs, so they are incredibly durable and sized to replace a 10kW diesel generator, except quiet and with no fumes.  These solar generators can be customized to suit specific output requirements, include wind turbines, propane backup systems, and even  mobile workstations.  Stop by the store to find out more.


Composting: Learning the hard way

A couple years ago, I was watching a spot on the local news station on ways to go green. The reporter had been composting for years, and using her backyard bin, she spoke of how easy it was to throw a bunch of stuff in and end up with a nutritious garden amendment.

Sounds like a good plan.

Now, I’m not a gardener, but I do want to reduce what I send to the landfill, especially since, with the lack of oxygen, my food scraps and yard clippings will take a very long time to decompose. Personally, I won’t be composting for the benefit of my sad, weedy landscape. But, who knows? My grass and perennials might appreciate the attention.

I bought a plastic compost bin at a discount store and started throwing stuff in. I had read a little about composting, so I knew that I needed more ‘brown’ (leaves, soiled straw) than ‘green’ (kitchen scraps). Unfortunately, I had no brown.  So, I went over to the local recycle center and picked up some free mulch as my brown material.

Julie's raccoon-resistant compost bin

Julie's raccoon-resistant compost bin

Over the course of the next year or so, I threw stuff into the compost bin. Everything from kitchen scraps to dog hair to used paper plates from a picnic went in. I didn’t pay it much attention, except to note that the latch didn’t seem to work well, because lid would open overnight. (The mystery was solved when Sean busted the neighborhood raccoon climbing out of the bin, grasping a peach. Solution: bungee cord.)

In early fall, I figured I should have something to show for my not-so-conscientious effort, and I decided to check the status of my pile.

Opening the bottom doors of the bin, which is where the good stuff is supposed to hang out, revealed the mulch I put in as my ‘brown’ material, tightly compacted, and impossible to dig into. Hmmmmmm…

So, I grabbed various yard tools and went into the pile from the top down, determined to both aerate and find some good composting action. With a lot of effort, I got about a foot down, only to discover the paper plates, corn cobs, and various food items from that picnic, looking exactly the same as the day I put them in. To be honest, the food did look different — it had shriveled and dried.

You mean I have to WATER this? I know that Colorado is dry, but I can’t even manage to water my houseplants.

At this point, I realized could possibly be doing something wrong. I might be doing something wrong. I relieved some frustration over the next several hours by hacking away at the pile, trying to get some oxygen in there.

A couple months later, when autumn had truly arrived, I rescued bagged leaves from my neighbor’s driveway for a supply of brown material. I even watered my pile, from time to time.

(In actuality, ‘watering’ consisted of emptying my compost pail, filling it with water to clean it out, and dumping the water on the pile.) Still, aeration was too much of a pain, so I didn’t bother.

Then, FINALLY, I found a manufacturer of a compost aerator and brought some aerators into All Things Renewable. They arrived last week! I brought one home and, on Saturday, I ventured out into the snow to test out this product, expecting a completely frozen pile and a frustrating struggle.

My new favorite tool

My new favorite tool

I’m happy to report that this thing ROCKS! I was able to fully loosen and turn everything in the bin in a few minutes and with little effort. This is when I experienced one of those ‘simple pleasures’ moments. My pile wasn’t frozen, which means that something is working. I didn’t see ANY identifiable corn cobs or paper plates, and I even found some actual compost!

I did get a little too excited in my aeration efforts and managed to bust open the corner of the bin. Did I mention it was a cheap bin? I’m planning to switch to a tumbling composter in the spring, or perhaps a worm bin. Maybe both! I’ll decide after attending our composting seminar.

Although it has been a small challenge, composting has made a huge difference in the amount of trash Sean and I send to the landfill. We’ve always recycled the usuals – newspaper, aluminum, glass, plastic bottles, etc. When we started composting and taking cardboard, paperboard, and mail to the local recycling dropoff, the results were amazing.

Those two simple changes took us from landfilling between one and two 45-gallon trash bins a week down to less than one 10-gallon bag every week. Now, we put our trash on the curb less than once a month.

If you are interested in reducing your waste and improving the health of your garden through composting, I highly recommend that you join me on Saturday, Feburary 28 at 10:00 a.m. for a workshop led by Steve Lawrence.

Steve will help you avoid my newbie mistakes

Steve will help you avoid my newbie mistakes

Steve is a Master Composter and a volunteer with Denver Urban Gardens public education program. He’ll cover all kinds of great stuff, including
* what you can compost,
* how to maintain water content,
* the problems you may encounter, and
* how to build an indoor worm bin.
(If you want to try worms but don’t want to build anything, you can buy a worm bin.)

If you register in advance and attend the workshop, you get a free gift from All Things Renewable. Is that a good enough bribe to make you get up on a Saturday morning?

Old Car + (re)New(able) Fuel = Great Idea!

Who says you can’t teach an old dog a new trick?  Ok, so it’s a car, not a dog, but you get my drift.  Recently I installed a kit on my 1997 Subaru Outback to convert it to run on E85.  So far, so good.  In fact, I think the ole Subie likes it, as it seems to have a renewed sense of vigor and runs a little smoother and quicker, IMHO.  Perhaps that’s because E85 is 100 octane, as opposed to the 85 octane level of the regular gas it had been running on for years. 

The process is a fairly simple one, and the kit took about 10-15 minutes to install.  Probably better to have someone install it who knows at least a little bit about cars and engines and such, but I probably could have done it myself had there been a shortage of mechanical talent in my house.  Fortunately that’s not an issue!  The kits can be found on the Internet, and I paid about $365.00 for mine.  It will pay for itself eventually, how long will depend upon the price difference between gas and E85 and how long it takes me to drive the required number of miles.

I made this change for several reasons, the primary reason being using a renewable fuel source rather than petroleum-based gas.  Along with that goes the whole ideal of supporting our local economy rather than a foreign economy.  I also hope that supporting the growing (no pun intended) biofuels industry will help it continue to invest in research and come up with the best way to make it.  I’ve heard of biofuel being made from some interesting non-food sources, two of my favorites being algae and used coffee grounds.

Using E85 rather than gas has some positive environmental effects as well.  The following is quoted from change2e85.com:

“Because E85 is cleaner than conventional gasoline, it emits less hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide and hydrogen. E85 reduces carbon monoxide emissions by as much as 70 percent — and less carbon monoxide helps reduce ozone formation and greenhouse gas levels. According to EPA, gasoline is the largest source of manmade carcinogens. Ethanol reduces overall toxic pollution by diluting harmful compounds found in gasoline such as benzene and other aromatics.”

Overall, this has been a decision I feel good about, and I would definitely recommend making the switch to anyone who is considering it.


Upcycling is a way to turn a used product into something useful again, such as shopping totes made from highway billboards, purses made from reclaimed seat belts, laptop cases made from soda bottle material, or glassware made from discarded wine bottles.  The potential (re)uses for items that would otherwise end up in a landfill are limited only by the imagination of those creative and resourceful enough to repurpose an item into something useful or beautiful.  Cottage industries are springing up all over the world, and there appears to be no end in sight to the products being upcycled.  It makes sense ecologically to reuse something rather than start from scratch.

For more information upcycling and recycling, visit earth911.com or allthingsrenewable.com.  There are lots of ideas to help get you started with upcycling.  We can all do a better job of helping to stop the rampant spread of waste and creation of unnecessary garbage, and upcycling and recycling are a great way to start.

Some interesting facts about bamboo

There is a plethora of information available on the Internet about the benefits of bamboo. To put some of it in a nutshell, some of the benefits of the bamboo plant include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Bamboo is the fastest growing plant
  • Bamboo timber can be harvested every year after the first 7 years of growth
  • Bamboo generates 30% more oxygen than trees, thus helping to reduce “global warming”
  • Bamboo’s wide spread root system and large canopy make an excellent water control barrier
  • Bamboo can restore land damaged by poor agricultural practices

Bamboo is being used in many ways, such as building homes, making flooring and home remodeling materials like PlyBoo, making useful home items, and it makes fabulous clothing fiber.  Bamboo fiber is:

  • Bacteria, odor, and chemical-free
  • Breathable and cool
  • Absorbent and fast-drying
  • Soft and silky
  • 100% biodegradable

So if you’re still waiting to try bamboo clothing, don’t wait much longer. You will fall in love with it from the very first second you try it on; it is silky-soft and gives a “warm fuzzy” feeling right away. And it helps this cold-blooded girl feel warm without being overly hot like a wool sweater would. One of my favorites is the rib tank from Bamboosa, shown here. It makes a perfect layering piece under a shirt, or try it under a loose-weave sweater for an added splash of color.