Friday, January 31, 2014

Is Obama's Administration Supporting BIG OIL?? Possible change in renewable fuel standard draws fire/Story 2

Obama: Federal Government Has 7 Years To Triple Renewable Energy

"When President Obama made his second State of the Union address, he talked extensively about the importance of addressing global climate change. “For the sake of our children and our future, we must do more,” he said. “But if Congress won’t act soon to protect future generations, I will. I will direct my Cabinet to come up with executive actions we can take, now and in the future, to reduce pollution, prepare our communities for the consequences of climate change, and speed the transition to more sustainable sources of energy.”

Obama now seems to be making good on those statements. On Thursday, the administration released an executive order directing the federal government to triple its use of renewable energy by 2020, which would bring the government’s renewable energy usage to 20 percent. The order will apply to all federal agencies, including the military.

The Associated Press, which obtained a copy of the executive order before it was published,noted that the federal government itself occupies approximately 500,000 buildings and operates 600,000 vehicles, and purchases more than $500 billion per year in goods and services. The order does not disclose the cost of the transition, but says the goal will be reached “to the extent economically feasible and technically practicable.”

The top priority for federal agencies is installing agency-funded renewable energy on-site at federal facilities, and retaining renewable energy certificates, or RECs. An REC is a certificate that represents the environmental value of one megawatt-hour of electricity. In buying a REC, the government essentially pays a little bit of money in order to claim and keep track of the clean benefit of the electricity produced.

Obama has pledged to address climate change during his second term, and in a June speech detailed a three-tier plan for the administration. That plan would cut carbon pollution in America, lead international efforts to cut global emissions, and prepare the U.S. for the costly impacts of climate change. President Obama framed the action as a moral obligation to do what we can for “the world we leave our children.”

    “This is the global threat of our time,” Obama said in June. “And for the sake of future generations, our generation must move toward a global compact to confront a changing climate before it is too late. That is our job. That is our task. We have to get to work.”

But once the President makes an official announcement of the executive order, he will likely face harsh opposition from fossil fuel-backed politicians who have historically opposed his attempts to mandate the use of more renewable energy. After his June speech, Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) — a coal insider who maintains an income of almost $2 million from a coal firm — compared the President’s rhetoric on climate change to a “war on America.”

The military has already begun a transition to efficient and renewable energy, after the head of the U.S. Pacific Command cited climate change as “probably the most likely thing that is going to happen … that will cripple the security environment, probably more likely than the other scenarios we all often talk about.” The Army is now proceeding with its “Net Zero Energy” initiative, which means that on some domestic bases, they will aim to produce as much energy, water, and waste as they consume. Cost and reliability are the primary reasons, but cutting carbon pollution will be one of the outcomes."

- See more at:

Is Obama's Administration Supporting BIG OIL?? Possible change in renewable fuel standard draws fire.

Great article from our main site this week.  Here's the first story.

For many of us we've believed that President Obama, and his administration have always been authentic when it comes to helping to move our country towards a more sustainable, and self-sustaining future. But when we read reports that the federal government plans to change previously agreed upon policies, when it comes to sustainability,  we become increasingly more cynical of the leadership. 

This week we are sharing two important reports that have to do specifically with renewable fuels and the fight happening in Washington that will affect all of us. So as you read this first story under, "Possible change in renewable fuel standard draws fire,"  we also ask that you take a look at the second story, "BIG OIL vs RENEWABLE FUELS?"

The first story came to us from the Quad City Times in Des Moines, Iowa that is drawing attention to the vast strength of the Oil Industry and their Lobbyists when it comes to not only setting policy, but actually being able to change policy. For Renewable Now we are trying to get a earnest sense of what President Obama wants his legacy to be when it comes to renewable energy;   is it authentic or is it politics as usual? Read the article and you decide.

DES MOINES — Speakers at Iowa’s Hearing in the Heartland dropped the hammer Thursday on the federal government’s plan to roll back the Renewable Fuel Standard.

They charged that the change would hurt rural jobs, investments and the environment while increasing America’s reliance on foreign oil.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad told participants the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposal to scale back renewable fuel volume obligations would have a direct effect on Iowa’s 41 ethanol plants, Iowa’s 13 biodiesel plants and the scores of facilities across the Midwest. He estimated the EPA change would cost nearly 45,000 jobs nationally and pose undue financial hardship and stress for thousands of families.

“We’re trying to create jobs, not destroy jobs in this country,” he said.

Last November, the EPA made proposals to scale back its fuel standard requirements for the total amount of biofuels blended into the nation's gasoline supply.

The agency's proposal would lower the requirement to 15.2 billion gallons of renewable fuels, with 13.01 billion gallons from conventional ethanol and 2.2 billion gallons from advanced biofuels. Previous requirements passed by Congress called for 18.15 billion gallons of renewable fuels next year, with 14.4 billion gallons of conventional ethanol and 3.75 billion gallons of advanced biofuels.

On Thursday, a coalition of farmers, commodity groups, renewable fuel industry and elected officials from Iowa and six other Midwest states took turns slamming the decision to scale back the production targets that potentially could “strand” billions of dollars of private capital and hand a victory to “Big Oil” and “Big Food” interests who have opposed the government requirement.

“The (Obama) administration’s proposal is a significant step backward — undermining the goal of increasing biofuels production as a domestic alternative to foreign oil consumption,” said a letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy signed by Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and 29 other U.S. senators.

“Further, the proposed waiver places at risk both the environmental benefits from ongoing development of advanced biofuels and rural America’s economic future. We urge you to modify your proposal,” the senators said in Thursday’s letter to McCarthy.

Grassley backed up the letter by telling the hearing participants at the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates that the EPA’s proposed action would be harmful to biofuel producers, to Iowa’s rural economy, to America’s national security and the environment. 

Sen. Jeff Danielson, D-Waterloo, said homegrown, renewable fuels such as ethanol are contributing to America’s energy independence, but unfortunately those fuel sources are “under attack, not by a foreign enemy — but by the EPA” with proposed cutbacks that don’t make common sense.

Indiana Lt. Gov. Sue Ellspermann said the proposed fuel standard changes would curtail production of ethanol and other biofuels. She accused the federal government of “backtracking” with a course shift that would “pull the rug out from under” farmers, investors and various producers.

“This industry has faced uncertainty forever,” said Iowa Agriculture Secretary Bill Northey, one of five state agriculture secretaries who attended Thursday’s hearing. But he noted the current situation has posed a new and “damaging” threat, and he questioned the legality of the action.

Branstad laid blame for the EPA change on “Big Oil,” its lobbyists and allies, noting that the petroleum industry has fought the expansion of ethanol and has put pressure on retailers not to install blender pumps.

“Big Oil is delighted that the EPA has recommended weakening the Renewable Fuel Standard. But they’re not happy. They want to repeal it altogether,” he said. “Their real goal is to repeal the Renewable Fuel Standard.”
- See more at:

Thursday, January 30, 2014

US Solar Jobs Growing Ten Times Faster than National Average Employment Growth

On the show we talk about creating jobs and how robust we believe the green economy has become.  This story reinforced that and made us feel great.  We hope it makes you feel good, too.

Of course, the manufacturing side was much higher before product, at cheap rates, got dumped into the US market from China:

The US solar industry now employs more than 142,000 individuals, having added upwards of 23,000 new jobs in 2013.

Today The Solar Foundation (TSF), a non-profit organization that seeks to further the understanding of solar energy through research and public education, released its 4th National Jobs Census report, which shows remarkable growth in the U.S. labor market as it pertains to solar energy employment.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

For today's show: Kelly Simmons, manager of Sustainable Practices/University of Colorado, Boulder

Will be one of our guests on a great show.  Below is some information on Kelly and on the school's Environmental Center.  Fascinating stuff:

"Kelly Simmons has been the manager of the Sustainable Practices Program, a non-credit, professional certificate-granting program of the Environmental Center at the University of Colorado Boulder, since 2010 where she oversees instructors, course design and content, strategic planning, budgets, and curriculum development.  She also teaches a for-credit Permaculture Design course in the University’s Environmental Studies Department.  In 2013, she led a team of volunteers in creating a public workshop on Dr. Al Bartlett’s award-winning lecture “Arithmetic, Population and Sustainability” to preserve his legacy and make his work widely available after his death.  Prior to working for the university, Kelly was living and working at Green School, an award winning K-12 international school in Bali, Indonesia where she designed and taught a sustainability curriculum for grades 1-8. 

Kelly has a BA in Environmental Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz and a Master’s in Education with Honors from Regis University. She also holds Permaculture Design Diplomas in Education and Community Service, and a Sustainability Management certificate from CU, and a GRI Reporting Certificate.  In 2008, she received an Emerging Leader award from the City Highland Club in Boulder."

LINK to their main site:

CU Environmental Center

The CU Environmental Center is the nation's largest and most accomplished student-led center of its kind. By translating student leadership into action and engaging the campus community, the Center helps CU-Boulder to become a global leader in sustainability.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Good follow up to the show we did from Carbon Day in Boston

In which we talked about this same issue plaguing their city.  Part of the problem is, based on the information we garnered, is that it is cheaper for the gas co to pay for the gas that leaks versus going in and fixing the pipes.  Of course, the escaping gas is not very helpful to the vegetation and people trying to live in the city.

See what you think.  Also, go to to find our shows from Boston that covered this same issue:

"The nation's capital is a pretty old city by American standards. It dates back to the late 18th century. Despite frequent face-lifts, parts of it are wearing out — for example, its underground gas pipelines. New research shows that Washington, D.C., suffers from thousands of leaks of natural gas.

We drove 1,500 road miles in Washington, D.C., and found about 6,000 leaks," says Robert Jackson, an ecologist and environmental scientist at Duke University. "That's roughly four leaks every mile..."

Link for the rest of the artidle:

Methane leaks mapped across the 1,500 miles of roads of Washington, D.C.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Europe Dividing Over Most Ambitious Carbon and Climate Plans

This is a great example of the business side of green.  Obviously, this is a very complex balancing act on quickly reducing emissions--a great goal--while not hiking current energy costs.  Government policy--and the environmental and economic platform they set--should mandate realistic goals for improvement in air and water quality but not at the expense of crippling companies, business growth, job creation, etc.

The good news is, we've matured to a level of bringing leaders together to have informed, intelligent discussions, game-changing conferences, and know that good things will come out of these conclaves.

Very exciting:

Ewa Krukowska, Bloomberg 
January 22, 2014

 The European Union is poised to take its first formal steps to expand the world’s most ambitious limits on fossil fuel pollution. That may widen a rift in how it balances green policies with the need for cheaper power.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Andy Palmer/Nissan's Chief Planning Officer

Interviewed with us on Thursday night.  The show will run on WARL 1320 AM on Weds, Feb 5, 2p, EST right after we finish our scheduled live show that day.  You'll hear lots of promotions for the show between now and then, and it will move right after that to

Andy is a very interesting guy and Nissan has a compelling sustainable story to tell.  Here's some details on Andy, his work, his look ahead for Nissan and their many models (64 worldwide) and some background on Nissan's green initiates.  It is very cool talking to the guy who knows what cars will look like, at least at Nissan, in 5 and 10 years.  We are hoping they will all be hybrids if not EV's:

Andy Palmer

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Andrew Charles Palmer CMG (born June 1963) is a British born chartered engineer and businessman. Palmer is Chief Planning Officer, Executive Vice President and Member of the Executive Committee of Nissan Motor Company.[1][2] Reporting directly to Nissan's President and CEO, Carlos Ghosn, Palmer shares the Chief Operating Officer role with two Nissan executives.[3][4] Palmer also serves as Chairman of Infiniti, and as President of Nissan Motor Light Truck Co. Palmer is a member of the Board of Directors of Nissan (China) Investment Company (NCIC), and of Nissan's joint ventures with India's Ashok Leyland.[2]

Palmer started his professional career in 1983 as a Project Engineer of UK Automotive Products Limited. In 1991, he became Manual Transmission Chief Engineer of Rover Group.[6]
Palmer joined Nissan in 1991 as business administration manager at the Nissan Technical Centre Europe (NTCE), where he became Deputy Managing Director in 2001 after managing vehicle design and testing.[6][7]
In September 2002, Palmer moved to Japan, where he became Program Director for Nissan's Light Commercial Vehicles (LCVs).[2]
Adding to his duties as Program Director, Palmer was named President of Nissan Motor Light Trucks Company Limited in 2003. After establishing the LCV business unit within Nissan in April 2004, Palmer was promoted in April 2005 to Corporate Vice President in charge of the unit. In February 2009, Palmer was appointed Senior Vice President, and entered Nissan’s Executive Committee. In October 2010, Palmer's responsibility was extended to include Global Marketing, Brand and Communications. In April 2011, he was named Executive Vice President.[2][7]
In his current position as Chief Planning Officer, Andy Palmer is "responsible for global product planning, global program management, global market intelligence, global IS, global Infiniti business unit, global marketing communications, global corporate planning (including OEM business), zero emission vehicle planning and strategy, global battery business unit, and global sales."[
Here's a link to Nissan's Green Program page:
Some base info: 


Seeking a symbiosis of people, vehicles and nature

Nissan's philosophy toward the environment, "Seeking a symbiosis of people, vehicles and nature," describes our ideal for a sustainable mobile society, now and in the future. We launched the Nissan Green Program with specific objectives to realize this goal, and we are pursuing it energetically.

Let us show you just how committed we are. At the following links, you'll learn more about our philosophy toward the environment and see what actions we're taking.

Friday, January 24, 2014

The switch to electric vehicles is good for everyone's health

This is a compelling argument for EV's sent to us by our friends at Sierra Club.  We hope this motivates you as well wherever you might live.

It is also good timing as last night we interviewed Andy Palmer, Worldwide Director of Planning at Nissan who, combined with two other executives at Nissan, fill the COO role and report directly to their CEO.  He's chairman of their Infinity division and, most important to us, heads up their EV production and battery technology.

Our next post will profile Andy in more detail, give you an overview of Nissan's green mission statement and progress, and preview what is a great radio show you will be able to find, once it runs on our network, 24/7 at 

In the meantime we bring you  this sobering op-ed from Margaret Gordon:

"I live in West Oakland. From my apartment window in a two-story affordable-housing complex, the sounds of passing BART trains add to the other impacts of living on 7th Street, especially the trucks from the U.S. Postal Office Distribution Center and Port of Oakland, less than a mile away, that pass 24 hours a day.
In the two decades I've lived in West Oakland, I've had nearly one neighbor a year die of some form of cancer. Children in my neighborhood are seven times as likely to be hospitalized for asthma than those in other parts of Oakland - one of the highest rates in California. I suffer from asthma myself.
It probably doesn't surprise you that I don't drive a Tesla electric sports car. So why would a person like me care that Gov. Jerry Brown wants to invest millions of dollars this year to put more electric vehicles on California's roads?
It's because I work to increase awareness of the health crisis around the port, and galvanize grassroots support for solutions. The good news: There are solutions. A soon-to-be-released technical study commissioned by the California Cleaner Freight Coalition will show that using electric-transportation technologies for local and short-haul trips could eliminate tailpipe emissions in communities like West Oakland that are heavily burdened by freight traffic.
Think about all the smaller diesel vehicles that serve neighborhoods: the FedEx vans that deliver packages to our doors, the beverage trucks that stock local supermarkets and grocers, the AC Transit buses that get people to work, and the tour buses at Jack London Square. What if whole fleets like these were replaced with emission-free electric vehicles?
Switching to electric would not only make life better in neighborhoods like mine, but also save bus and truck owners' money, replacing pricey petroleum with less-expensive, clean electricity. The technology is ready today, but rebates and loan assistance are needed to deliver the technology to the mainstream.
And while you're at it, California, please help communities like mine by changing all types of polluting vehicles on our highways. Some 40 percent of Californians live close to a freeway or a busy road - more than in any other state. This is true of almost everyone in West Oakland. So even without the port and its diesel traffic, we'd still be at higher risk for pollution-related illnesses.
By prioritizing the use of electric trucks, we can meet the state's goal of reducing diesel-particulate-matter emissions by 85 percent by 2020. California already has more electric vehicles on the road than any state, but the transition is slow and not nearly enough.
Charge Ahead California, a statewide campaign led by major environmental justice, conservation and health groups, is working to put a million electric cars, trucks and buses on the road in the next decade. Groups working to reduce road pollution in specific neighborhoods are joining the campaign.
In his State of the State address, Gov. Brown heralded the state's march to 1 million electric cars, trucks and buses as one of his administration's priorities. The approximately $200 million that he has proposed spending on low-carbon provides the infrastructure to assure equity for truck drivers. The plan is also going to require support from the Legislature to fund the clean-vehicle incentive programs and put in place other policies that make it easier and more attractive for people - including people in my neighborhood - to buy and own a cleaner car.
Thanks to people speaking up, the port already has taken some important steps to reduce its effects on the surrounding community. We've helped curb pollution by requiring old trucks to be retrofitted with air filters. We've put in place programs to reduce truck idling; and helped electrify docks so that vessels don't need to run their diesel engines to power ship systems.
West Oakland, and other portside neighborhoods like it, have disproportionately suffered the consequences of air pollution so that everyone can enjoy the benefits of international trade. As California shifts to electric transportation, isn't it only fair that our communities also have a chance to enjoy the benefits of that? "
Margaret Gordon is a community organizer, co-director of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project and a former Port of Oakland commissioner.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

National Geographic looks at the business side of green

Here's a great, insightful article that hits that heart of the business side of green.  A leaked, advance copy of a pending agreement between multiple countries on economic expansion within the Pacific Rim lacks, according to major environmental groups, sufficient safeguards to protect  water, air and other natural resources.

Obviously, we are not the experts on multi-international partnerships, but we do love smart growth and economic expansion that balances preservation, even enhancement, of the surrounding environment.  If, in fact, this pact lacks the basic safeguards, and repeats mistakes we've made for 200 years, then it should be sent back and reworked.  We have the historic data, science, engineering and will to do better.  Let's develop for the benefit of all societies, animals, wildlife.  Sure, there are compromises and sacrifices on both sides, and we love seeing investment and job creation any where in the world, but not agreements that lack foresight and long-term planning.

See what you think:

4 Ways Green Groups Say Trans-Pacific Partnership Will Hurt Environment

Photo of logs rolling into a plywood mill in Borneo, Malaysia.

Men work at a plywood mill in Borneo, Malaysia; many endangered trees are cut down around the world.
leaked draft of a major free trade agreement among the United States, Canada, Mexico, and nations on the Pacific Rim raises alarming questions about environmental protections, several leading green groups say.
"If the environment chapter is finalized as written in this leaked document, President Obama's environmental trade record would be worse than George W. Bush's," Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said in a statement after a draft of the agreement was published Wednesday on WikiLeaks.
"This draft chapter falls flat on every single one of our issues—oceans, fish, wildlife, and forest protections—and in fact, rolls back on the progress made in past free trade pacts," he said.
The proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership is a huge pact that would govern about 40 percent of the world's gross domestic product and one-third of world trade, said Jake Schmidt, international climate policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
The agreement involves a sprawling cast of countries: Australia, Brunei, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, Canada, Mexico, and the U.S.
The NRDC joined with the Sierra Club and WWF in criticizing the leaked draft of the environment chapter of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which WikiLeaks publisher Julian Assange said proved the chapter was "a toothless public relations exercise with no enforcement mechanism."
The White House has pushed back against such criticisms. In a blog post responding to the leak this week, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) wrote that "stewardship is a core American value, and we will insist on a robust, fully enforceable environment chapter in the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership) or we will not come to agreement."
Here are four grievances voiced by environmental groups over the leaked chapter:
1. They say the pact lacks basic environmental provisions.
This is all about what's not in the proposed pact.
The NRDC's Schmidt says that environmental groups are asking for "some pretty basic environmental provisions.
"We're saying don't subsidize unsustainable fisheries and don't do illegal things," he said.
Environmentalists say that the Obama White House has hinted that it will not support an agreement without enforceable environmental provisions, in recent remarks by some of the administration's key environmental players.
But the "overarching" problem with the leaked draft, Schmidt says, is that "there's no enforcement."
The leaked document mentions that trade partners should take steps to protect the environment, but Schmidt says that "there are many caveats that effectively allow countries to not make these enforceable.
"References to the word 'shall' are very rarely used," he says, "and are often paired with 'seek to' or 'attempt,' which are not legally enforceable."
2. Green groups say the draft agreement does not discourage overfishing.
The nations considering the Trans-Pacific Partnership have a "responsibility" to provide adequate protection against overfishing, but the draft agreement fails to provide that, said Carter Roberts, president and CEO of WWF.
The countries negotiating the agreement account for about a third of global fisheries production, Roberts notes, so the stakes are high.
Those countries have a range of direct and indirect subsidies for their fishing fleets, including payments, discounted loans, reduced prices on fuel, and so on.
Photo of shark fins drying in the sun cover the roof of a factory building in Hong Kong.
Shark fins, which are overharvested for soup, dry on the roof of a factory in Hong Kong.
"What we have been pushing for is for countries to phase out harmful subsidies ... that lead to greater harvest of fishing stocks than can be sustained," said Schmidt. "We're not saying end all fishing programs and support, but you need to make sure that any support is targeted at programs that don't lead to overconsumption of fish stocks."
For its part, the U.S. Trade Representative's office responded that the U.S. is "proposing that the TPP [Trans-Pacific Partnership] include, for the first time in any trade or environment agreement, groundbreaking prohibitions on fish subsidies that set a new and higher baseline for fisheries protections."
3. The pact does not take a strong enough stance against illegal wildlife products, activists say.
Green groups would like to see stronger enforcement of international laws on products made from endangered species, such as elephant ivory or tiger pelts, as part of a new trade agreement.
"The lack of fully-enforceable environmental safeguards means negotiators are allowing a unique opportunity to protect wildlife and support legal sustainable trade of renewable resources to slip through their fingers," WWF's Roberts said in a statement.
The negotiating countries are already party to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which prohibits overseas trade of endangered species, "but we know that enforcement is not 100 percent," Schmidt said.
4. Green groups say the agreement doesn't go far enough in preventing illegal logging.
Many endangered trees are cut down around the world, often throughlogging in restricted areas such as parks, sometimes under the cover of darkness. The U.S. has a law, known as the amended Lacey Act, that prohibits import of illegally logged timber products. Australia has a similar law, and Japan is considering one.
The NRDC and allied groups want each country that signs onto the Trans-Pacific Partnership to enact an equivalent law.
Follow Brian Clark Howard on Twitter and Google+.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Developer seeks to use ancient technology to draw energy from Pawtuxet River

Today on the radio side we talked a lot about renewables, including a very innovative, public way of raising money for solar.  Lost in the development of solar and wind is a more traditional clean energy system, certainly common here on the east coast:  Hydro.

This article came from the Providence Journal and gives us some insight into a modern day hydro project, off of the historic Pawtuxet River, that brings some new life to an old town, West Warwick, RI.  Good to see that a technology used in Europe has made its way here as well.

WEST WARWICK — On a 127-year-old dam on the Pawtuxet River, Robert Cioe wants to use millennia-old technology to do something new.
Cioe, a property developer based in North Kingstown, plans to build a hydropower project at the Natick Pond Dam that would be the first in the United States to use Archimedes’ screws, generators named for the third-century B.C. Greek engineer and scientist who is thought to have popularized the devices to pump water upward for irrigation and drainage.
When used in reverse, Archimedes’ screws have in recent years in Europe proven to be an efficient way to harness the downward flow of water to generate electricity. But the generators, which resemble giant corkscrews, have never been installed on this side of the Atlantic.
Cioe hasn’t developed a hydropower project before, so he is working with New England Hydropower, which has partnered with a firm that has installed about 30 Archimedes’ screw generators in the United Kingdom.
Representatives of New England Hydropower, based in Beverly, Mass., believe they have found a cost-effective way to build small hydro projects. They say there is potential for hundreds of such projects in New England. And they want to start with the Natick Pond Dam on the Pawtuxet River.
For Cioe, the project has been decades in the making. He bought property adjacent to the dam on the Warwick side of the river in 1968 and built 65 houses there. He sold the homes but hung on to a strip of land on the river, thinking that someday the dam could be used to generate renewable energy.
“I’ve been dreaming about doing this for a long time,” he said on a recent afternoon as he watched water rush over the dam.

Rhode Island has 742 dams, according to the state Department of Environmental Management. Many were built more than a century ago to power textile mills, but they serve little practical purpose these days. Hydropower advocates have long pushed for putting them to use again.
There are only five commercial hydro plants operating in Rhode Island, and they provide less than 0.1 percent of the state’s energy needs, according to the state Office of Energy Resources. The three largest are on the Blackstone River, with one each in Woonsocket, Central Falls and Pawtucket.
A study released this year by the state Renewable Energy Siting Partnership estimated that Rhode Island could generate as much as 15 megawatts of power from small hydro facilities on the Pawtuxet, Blackstone, Ten Mile, Wood-Pawcatuck and Woonasquatucket rivers — enough power for 22,000 typical homes.
But small — or low-head — hydropower has been notoriously difficult to develop. Permitting, which requires approvals from state agencies and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, can be arduous, and the payoff can be modest.
“The process with FERC treats a 200-megawatt project out West the same as a 25-kilowatt mill project in Rhode Island,” said Charles Rosenfield, whose company, Putnam Hydropower, operates the plants in Pawtucket and Woonsocket as well as one in Putnam, Conn. “It’s money upfront, and there’s no certainty you can complete the project.”
New England Hydropower has invested a lot of time and effort at the outset to understand permitting, said Chris Conover, the company’s chief marketing officer.
“A lot of renewable energy companies have the technology, but they don’t realize how hard it will be to get it up and running,” he said. “We recognized early that there is a permitting process in this business. If you do what they ask, if you comply, all of these permitting things are doable.”
It might be more expensive now to navigate through the relevant agencies, but those costs will come down once the company has a good process in place, Conover said.
And New England Hydropower believes there are ample opportunities for viable projects. New England has about 10,000 dams, and New York State has another 5,000, Conover said. New England Hydropower has looked at all of them, at least on maps, and has created a list of potentially hundreds of places suitable for Archimedes’ screw generators.
The company is working on other projects in Connecticut and Massachusetts. It also has its eye on other sites in Rhode Island. But the Natick Pond Dam project is furthest along.

Cioe has built hundreds of houses around the state and developed the Metro Center office park in Warwick and the Wickford Junction commuter rail station in North Kingstown, where his company CO Construction is based.
But in the 45 years he owned the land near the dam, he was never able to move forward with a hydro project. Others had tried, including one company that received preliminary federal approval to do site work, but nothing came of the plans.
Last October, Cioe attended a meeting of the Environmental Business Council of New England and listened with interest to a presentation by New England Hydropower. He approached Michael Kerr, CEO of the company, afterward.
Kerr gave a personal presentation to Cioe in December, and the two decided to work together. Under their agreement, New England Hydropower will do the installation work, but Cioe will own the project.
In February, they applied to the FERC for a permit to carry out a feasibility study and received approval in May.
At a budget referendum in June, West Warwick voters agreed to sell Cioe land next to the dam. The parcel sits on the opposite side of the river from the land Cioe bought in the 1960s and is more appropriate for development. The land, which had been off the tax rolls, cost about $22,000 and needs remediation for hazardous materials. The dam also needs repairs.
In July, the state Economic Development Corporation approved a $200,000 recoverable loan to Cioe’s company JAL Hydro from the state Renewable Energy Fund.
The money will help pay for site investigation, preliminary design, licensing and permitting, structural engineering and final design. Under terms of the grant, if the project is successful, Cioe will repay the money to the fund.

During a tour of the project site, which sits just below the Providence Street Bridge, Cioe talked about his plans and the history of the area.
The Natick Pond Dam was built in 1886 to store water to power the Natick Mills, where hundreds of workers wove cotton yarn in a complex that dated to 1807 and was expanded over the course of the 19{+t}{+h} century.
Water that collected in the 24-acre pond above the dam was channeled into an eight-foot-deep headrace on the West Warwick side of the river that ran 800 feet to the mills before exiting down a tailrace to rejoin the river.
With the decline of textile manufacturing in the 1920s, the mills closed and, after sitting idle for years, burned to the ground on July 4, 1941.
There are few visible remnants of the mills, but the granite-block dam, which stands 20 feet wide and 166 feet long, is in remarkably good shape, said Cioe.
The 50-foot-wide granite-lined headrace has been filled in over the years. Although parts of the wooden sluice gates that controlled the flow of water from the pond are still visible, it has been a long time since water flowed through the channel.
Cioe plans to open the headrace. Water would flow through it, along the side of the river, into two 11-foot-wide by 60-foot-long Archimedes’ screw generators installed at a downward tilt, and then back into the Pawtuxet River.
The size of an Archimedes’ screw — and its generating capacity — is dictated by two factors: the height of the dam and the volume of water. The generator runs most efficiently at an angle of 22 degrees.
The screws at the Natick Pond Dam would have a combined power output of 296 kilowatts and would generate about 1,500 megawatt-hours a year, enough electricity for about 250 typical Rhode Island homes.
Hydraulic sluice gates would control the flow of water that enters the screws. The screws would turn slowly enough — 30 to 40 revolutions per minute — to allow fish to pass through unharmed, though they would not be able to swim up the dam, according to New England Hydropower.

In the last legislative session, lawmakers expanded the state’s landmark distribution generation program to include small hydropower. The program sets ceiling prices for different types of renewable energy, such as solar and wind power, and requires National Grid to negotiate 15-year power purchase agreements with developers. The contracts are important because they guarantee revenue.
The change was made to give more support to small-scale hydro generators, said state energy commissioner Marion Gold. Legislators also extended the period for contracts to go into effect in recognition of the long time it can take for hydro projects to secure permits.
“That was something concrete we could do to support hydro,” Gold said. “We’re continuing to work with the utility to integrate the growing amount of renewable energy into the grid.”
State regulators have yet to set a final price for small hydro, but Gold said 17 cents a kilowatt hour is being contemplated. That is higher than prices for power from fossil fuel-fired plants, but it’s lower than prices in Rhode Island for power from offshore and onshore wind turbines and solar arrays. The first hydro contracts will go out to bid next year.
Along with the West Warwick project, the state Office of Energy Resources has been in contact with developers with proposals in East Providence and North Smithfield.
If he secures a contract, Cioe expects to make about $250,000 a year selling power. With an estimated project cost of $2 million, he would be able to pay everything off within the 15-year power contract.
Any revenues afterward would be pure profit, he said. Archimedes’ screw generators have an estimated lifespan of 30 years. 
As he walked along the West Warwick side of the river, Cioe pointed out the path of the headrace. He clambered over the granite foundation of one of the mill buildings and expressed wonder that an iron crank that once controlled the sluice gates still turns smoothly.
He plans to finalize purchase of the riverfront land in the next few weeks. The project, he said, should move forward quickly afterward.
There are huge challenges. It’s not like the old days when a mill could dam or divert a river with little oversight. These days, permitting can take years.
Cioe, however, is undeterred. He believes that by this time next year his two Archimedes’ screw generators could be up and running.
And then the Natick Pond Dam would be generating power once again.