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Town Hall kicks off Earth Week

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By Roger Snodgrass

Green is busting out this year in Los Alamos.

A well-attended Energy Town Hall meeting at Fuller Lodge Tuesday morning, marked a departure in scale and emphasis from past years’ events.

Los Alamos County Environmental Services Manager Regina Wheeler facilitated the four-hour program that included new work and initiatives at the laboratory and practical programs like water conservation in the county.

Wheeler also took a turn as a presenter and gave an overview of the county’s increasing commitment to a program of energy and resource sustainability over the last couple of years.

She talked about the indirect benefits of the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Building Rating certification for the new Eco Station.

Among the advantages was the fact that the new building had been flushed of all its odors and chemicals before the employees moved in. The building and furnishings were not giving off noxious gasses.  There was natural lighting and operable windows with views.

“Comfort in the office, is one of the big things,” she said. “You don’t have the noisiness or the off-gassing. We just moved in and our staff is much calmer.”

She also praised Atomic City Transit, the county’s free transportation system, which not only reduces carbon emissions and increases community mobility, but also enables people to meet their neighbors.

Michael Chertkov, project lead on a Smart Grid project, talked about the lab’s analytical work on goals and proposals for energy efficiencies.

“We try to test how good those predictions are,” he said. “Sometimes they’re good, sometimes not so good.”

If everybody comes home after work and plugs their electric vehicle into the grid at six o’clock, for example, there’s going to be a serious spike in usage, he noted. If you tell people to shuffle their plug-in times, not everyone is going to cooperate as a rule, so that has to be taken into account as well.

“How do you deal with social and cultural factors,” he was asked. “What about all the right of ways and easements that have to be obtained and the viewscapes that will be impacted?”

“We really don’t know,” Chertkov said.

The forum was jointly sponsored by several energy and environmental groups from Los Alamos National Laboratory along with Los Alamos County.

Last year, by contrast, one of these groups, the Energy Security Center started up a series of meetings to which the public was not invited.

Statements on the center’s website currently indicate that they are the portal to LANL’s energy research and are focused on “secure and sustainable carbon neutral energy solutions for the nation.”

This year, the Energy Town Hall received a few words of welcome from Chris Cantwell, Associate Director of Environment, Health and Safety, who champions another lab sponsor: the Energy Management Council. The council is an advisory board of technical experts chartered to advise laboratory managers on energy science.

Another sponsoring laboratory element was the Environmental Management System, represented by Denny Hjeresen. The EMS is a grassroots program for pollution prevention and environmental improvement.

The lab was recently the recipient of several pollution prevention awards by the National Nuclear Security Administration, and those award winners will be recognized in a ceremony today.

Running concurrently with many other activities during this season is the lab’s Great Garbage Grab, now in its sixth year. The contest, which started last week and runs through Friday, is about picking up the largest amount of litter and winning the 2009 Traveling Trophy.

Laboratory Director Michael Anastasio heads “Mike’s Green team,” one of the teams in the competition.

Laboratory Deputy Director Isaac “Ike” Richardson delivered the welcome address at the Energy Town Hall. Other lab participants included Energy Security Center Director Steven Buelow, Monica Witt of the Materials Recycling Facility, and Tony Ladino of the Chemistry and Metallurgy Research Replacement project, which is also a LEED facility.

Wayne Evelo of the Los Alamos Site Office, and John Arrowsmith, the county’s utility manager joined Bill Jones of LANL infrastructure and site planning to talk about “the renewable energy feasibility study.”