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Amaris Homes Granted Prestigious Housing Innovation Award for Second…




energy efficient custom homes

Amaris Homes’ award-winning model home is in Afton, Minnesota, and is a custom spec four-bedroom, 3 ½-bathroom home.

We are extremely proud to be recognized once again for our work to build custom homes with green building practices.

Amaris Homes, a leader in the affordable energy home industry, received Grand Winner recognition in the “Custom Homes on Spec” category from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Housing Innovation Awards. This is the second time they have received this custom home design award in the last four years. In 2017, Amaris Homes tied for first place; this year the company was the only one named Grand Winner.

The company’s award-winning model home is in Afton, Minnesota, and is a custom spec four-bedroom, 3 ½-bathroom home with a high-performance insulation system, energy efficient appliances and a high-efficiency comfort system, among other green features.

Amaris Homes has more certified custom-built green homes than any other builder in the state of Minnesota. While most other states have hundreds or even thousands of certified homes with the Department of Energy’s Zero Energy Ready Homes Program, Minnesota only has 34. The Department of Energy’s Housing Innovation Award winners represent the top 1% of U.S. builders that meet the rigorous specifications for the energy efficient custom homes program.

“We are extremely proud to be recognized once again for our work to build custom homes with green building practices,” said Raymond Pruban, Amaris Homes founder and chief manager. “These awards provide further reassurance of the quality of our green homes, not just in build and appearance, but what they can do for the environment.”

Energy efficient custom homes from Amaris Homes cut costs for homeowners by saving on energy bills while also doing so in a way that contributes to a sustainable future.

“Our goal is to continue to build homes with energy and water efficiency,” Pruban added. “We will continue to grow the number of green homes we produce in 2021.”

This Amaris Homes home incorporates efficient design principles that are calculated to save a homeowner $3,350 annually compared to the average new home.

As a healthy home builder, Amaris Homes has committed that every home it creates will meet the Zero Energy Home Program requirements.

Amaris Homes has won each time they have entered the Housing Innovation Awards. They also recently won the Reggie Award in 2019, which is an award granted for homes with high aesthetic appeal, along with other renowned custom home design awards.

For more information on Amaris Homes, or to speak with a homebuilding expert, visit or contact Raymond Pruban at (651) 242-4850 or

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800,000+ People Risk Water Shutoffs In The Great Lakes State




November 30th, 2020 by NRDC 

Originally published on the NRDC Expert Blog.
by Cyndi Roper , co-authored with Sylvia Orduño, People’s Water Board Coalition

More than 317,000 households serving an estimated 800,000 Michiganders throughout Michigan are known to be behind on their water bills and could face water shutoffs, according to new data (XLS) compiled by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in collaboration with the People’s Water Board Coalition (PWBC).

The data show that this is a bipartisan crisis. Michigan’s water affordability crisis is well documented in cities like Detroit and Flint, which are represented by Democrats. However, these new data reveal how the threat of water shutoffs looms for families in urban, suburban, and rural areas, which are represented by Republicans and Democrats.

Our analysis used data compiled by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) through water system reporting requirements in a June 2020 supplemental appropriation, which created a water assistance program funded by federal Coronavirus Relief Fund dollars. Participating water systems submitted data for the accounts that were in arrears for bills accrued between March 1 and August 31, 2020. The data were then matched against the MDHHS food assistance program benefits database. While some of the households were eligible for assistance, the vast majority were ineligible.

Since the onset of the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stressed the importance of handwashing to prevent the spread of COVID-19, and emerging research suggests there could be a link between a person’s not consuming enough water and their susceptibility to COVID-19. Further, safe and sufficient water is known to be essential to human health.

PWBC and the Michigan Welfare Rights Organization have been seeking shutoff protections and water affordability measures for more than two decades. At the onset of the pandemic, NRDC worked with PWBC and others to win water reconnection Executive Orders — 2020-28 and 2020-144. The groups also helped secure funding to offset water bills for low income households and to repair plumbing to make reconnections possible.

We also helped ensure there were reporting requirements in the executive orders and in the legislation that provided the water assistance funding. As a result, we obtained these groundbreaking data highlighting the widespread and bipartisan nature of the state’s water insecurity issues.

In a threat to water security for nearly 1 million Michiganders, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled along party lines in October to limit the governor’s executive powers. As a result, Governor Whitmer’s water reconnection Executive Order was immediately repealed. The next lifeline for people facing potential water shutoffs is Senate Bill 241 that Senator Stephanie Chang will be introducing after Thanksgiving. The bill essentially codifies Executive Order 2020-144 to require reconnections for those homes that have had their water shutoff for non-payment. We’re working to extend the expiration date from December 31, 2020 to March 31, 2021 or later since we know the economic impacts of the pandemic will linger. NRDC, PWBC, and a number of other organizations are working to secure this vital protection, which will benefit hundreds of thousands of Michiganders during the COVID-19 crisis and its aftermath.

The following highlights the impact of water insecurity beyond Detroit and Flint as summarized in our analysis (XLS).

Macomb County

  • 31,548 households serving ~78,869* residents.
    • 16,433 households serving ~41,083* people reside in the county’s senate districts represented by Republicans (SD 8 and SD 10).
    • 15,115 households serving ~37,786* people live in the county’s senate district represented by a Democrat (SD 9).

Monroe County

  • 4,991 households serving 12,477* people are represented by a Republican senator (SD 17).

Saginaw County

  • 15,555 households serving ~38,888* residents all reside in a Senate district represented by a Republican (SD 32).

Upper Peninsula

  • 24 water systems have reported a combined 4,581 households serving ~11,452* residents who are behind on their water bills. All UP residents are represented by a Republican senator (SD 38).

Although the current crisis has intensified the problem of water shutoffs and affordability, this problem predates COVID-19. The data we’ve obtained through legislative and executive actions lay the groundwork for our collective efforts to secure short-term shutoff protections as well as long-term measures to ensure all residents have access to safe, affordable, and sufficient water.

*Based on 2.5 persons per household as reported in the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.

Related story: EPA Refuses to Protect Children from Perchlorate-Contaminated Tap Water


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Tags: detroit, Donald Trump, Flint, Macomb County, Michigan, Michigan Supreme Court, Michigan Welfare Rights Organization, Monroe County, NRDC, People’s Water Board Coalition, Saginaw County, Upper Peninsula, US, water insecurity, Water security

About the Author

NRDC is the nation’s most effective environmental action group, combining the grassroots power of 1.3 million members and online activists with the courtroom clout and expertise of more than 350 lawyers, scientists, and other professionals.


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Shared Micromobility Is Replacing Car Trips





Published on November 30th, 2020 | by U.S. Department of Energy

November 30th, 2020 by U.S. Department of Energy 

In a 2019 survey of seven cities, 45% of those using shared micromobility (bikes and scooters) said that they would have completed their trips using a personal vehicle or rideshare vehicle if the bike/scooter was not available.* Another 9% would have used transit for their trips.

Bikes/scooters replaced walking trips for 28% of respondents, and 18% would have used other modes or not taken the trips if shared micromobility were not available.

*Survey data includes respondents in Santa Monica, CA, Alexandria, VA, Bloomington, IN, Brookline, MA, Hoboken, NJ, Oakland, CA, and San Francisco, CA.

Shared micromobility refers to small fleets of fully or partially human-powered vehicles including bikes, e-bikes, and e-scooters.

Source: National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), Shared Micromobility in the U.S.: 2019, Summer 2020.

Part of the 2020 Fact of the Week series.

Article courtesy of the US Department of Energy.



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Tags: bikesharing, electric scooters, Micromobility, US

About the Author

U.S. Department of Energy The mission of the U.S. Energy Department is to ensure America’s security and prosperity by addressing its energy, environmental and nuclear challenges through transformative science and technology solutions. Learn more.


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Renewables = 20% of US Electricity Generation in First 3 Quarters





Published on November 30th, 2020 | by Zachary Shahan

November 30th, 2020 by Zachary Shahan 

In the first 3 quarters of 2020, while renewable energy accounted for 70% of new power capacity in the country, it still accounted for just 20.4% of total electricity generation in those 9 months.

That’s down a bit from the 22.2% share that renewable energy held in the first 6 months of the year. As the economy has come back to life a bit, electricity demand has risen again, leading to a need for more non-renewable sources.

Breaking things down further, solar and wind power together accounted for 11.3% of US electricity generation, also down a bit from the 12.5% share these two held in the first half of the year.

However, comparing the market share of the first 9 months versus the first 6 months is not the most compelling way to evaluate trends. Instead, it’s worth looking deeper and comparing the first 9 months of 2020 to the first 9 months of 2019 and 2018. From that perspective, 2020’s figure of 20.4% is up from 18.4% renewable energy share in the first 9 months of 2019 and 17.6% renewable energy share in the first 9 months of 2018.

Furthermore, solar and wind’s 11.3% share of 2020 US electricity production is up from 9.5% in the first 9 months of 2019 and 8.7% renewable energy share in the first 9 months of 2018.

Solar has gained 1.1% market share since 2018 and wind has gained 1.5% market share. This may feel like slow movement. Well, yeah, it certainly does. However, the US electric grid is humongous, and power plants built years or decades ago do not close down overnight. So, even as 70% of new power capacity is from renewables, renewables only grow their share of overall electricity generation across the grid by a couple of percentage points a year. Think of it like the US vehicle fleet — even if 70% of new vehicles were electric, there’d be many gasoline vehicles remaining on the road, because new vehicles are a small portion of the overall vehicle fleet driving on roads across the country every day. (Side note: that’s another problem.) Or think of it like your pantry, but days are years. Perhaps you buy some new cookies, but you still need to spend a few days or even weeks (not me) clearing through your existing cookies before you start eating the new ones. (Right?)

Anyway, cookies and cars aside, let’s close on a fun chart. The next and final chart is a chart of coal’s rather sharp decline over the past few years. That decline is due to both the rise of renewables and the rise of natural gas (here’s a link to that chart, but it’s not such a fun one when you consider all the greenhouse gas emissions, and especially methane leaks, that still result from natural gas use).

Oh, one more thing. Following the previous quarterly report on US electricity sources, one of our faithful readers and great commenters noted the following:

“Something that ‘everybody knows’ is that you ‘need’ batteries if you are going to have solar/wind on your grid.

“But it is my understanding that the amount of batteries (or other grid scale storage) in the US is currently pretty small, both in absolute amounts (how much we can store) and in usage (how frequently we fill/empty them).

“That’s likely to change as we start pushing towards 100% RE, but talking about where the storage numbers are right now and how they’ve been changing as %RE grows would be interesting.”

It’s a great point and interesting matter. So, I looked into battery storage figures as well. On page 185 of this EIA report, I found the following table:

Confusing? Unclear what these figures stand for? The following description may help:

“Values for 2019 and prior years are final. Values for 2020 are preliminary. Time adjusted capacity for month rows is the summer capacity of generators in operation for the entire month; units that began operation during the month or that retired during the month are excluded. Time adjusted capacity for year rows is a time weighted average of the month rows. Usage factors are a comparison of gross generation with available capacity. See the technical note for an explanation of how usage factors are calculated.”

Still confusing? I agree. Nonetheless, what is clear is you can see the trends. You can see how much battery energy storage use is growing. Usage increased more in the pasts few months than from July 2018 to December 2019.

Related reports:



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Tags: us coal, US coal production, US Electricity Generation Reports, us natural gas, us natural gas generation, us nuclear, US nuclear energy, us nuclear power, US renewable Energy, US Solar Energy, US Wind Energy

About the Author

Zachary Shahan is tryin’ to help society help itself one word at a time. He spends most of his time here on CleanTechnica as its director, chief editor, and CEO. Zach is recognized globally as an electric vehicle, solar energy, and energy storage expert. He has presented about cleantech at conferences in India, the UAE, Ukraine, Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, the USA, Canada, and Curaçao. Zach has long-term investments in NIO [NIO], Tesla [TSLA], and Xpeng [XPEV]. But he does not offer (explicitly or implicitly) investment advice of any sort.


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Volkswagen Orders KUKA Robots For ID. Buzz, And Other Volkswagen Group News




Cars KUKA robots

Published on November 30th, 2020 | by Steve Hanley

November 30th, 2020 by Steve Hanley 

If you are looking forward to owning an ID. Buzz, the all electric successor to the Volkswagen Microbus, you will be delighted to learn that Volkswagen has committed to purchasing the digitally controlled KUKA industrial robots needed to manufacture it. The robots will be installed at the company’s commercial vehicle factory in Hannover, Germany. In a press release dated November 25, KUKA Systems says it will be “responsible for the planning, delivery, assembly and commissioning of a fully automated body shop system for the underbody of the all-electric ID. BUZZ.”

Credit: KUKA

“Intelligent systems are needed to meet the requirements for the cost effective production of complex e-vehicles. Close cooperation between systems engineering and the automotive industry is more important than ever here,” says Gerald Mies, CEO of Kuka Systems.

MAN Begins Series Production Of Electric Buses In Poland

MAN Truck & Bus, which is part of the Volkswagen Group, announced on November 29 that series production of its 12 meter Lion City electric buses has  begun at its factory in the Polish city of Starachowice. The first customers will be VHH, the public transportation agency for the German city of Hamburg and the Holstein region. An articulated 18 meter version is expected to begin series production in about 6 months.

Credit: MAN Truck & Bus

“I am very pleased that we are now able to offer the innovative and multi-award winning Lion’s City E in series production. The start of series production is an important milestone on the eMobility Roadmap for MAN Truck & Bus and for the Starachowice site. We are thus expanding our production portfolio and consistently taking another step towards sustainable mobility,” says Michael Kobriger, a member of the MAN Truck & Bus board of direcors. “I would like to pay tribute to the entire team, which has worked tirelessly and across departments to develop a reliable electric bus and successfully integrate it into production.”

In addition to Hamburg – Holstein, the company has received an order from the Swedish city of Malmö and Nobina Sverige AB, Scandinavia’s largest bus operator, which has ordered 22 MAN Lion’s City E electric buses.

Volkswagen Group Components

We tend to assume that auto manufacturers make all the parts for their vehicles themselves. They do not. They rely on suppliers for thousands of pieces from windshields to tires, brakes, seats, door panels, and key fobs. There are as many people who work for those suppliers as work for the companies themselves.

As part of its transition to a manufacturer of electric cars, Volkswagen Group has created a new division known as Volkswagen Group Components which actually manufacturers many of the parts that make up its MEB based cars. For instance, according to a company press release, 40% of the parts needed to build the ID.4 electric SUV are sourced internally from Volkswagen Group Components.

The rotors and stators for the electric motors used in MEB based cars are manufactured at Volkswagen’s Saltgitter factory, then sent to the Kassel factory where they are combined with motor housings, gearboxes, and intermediate housings from the Hannover and Poznań factories into completed electric drivetrains for cars built in Germany and later in the US. The electric drives for the Chinese market are produced at the Tianjin factory. In all, Volkswagen Group Components is one of the largest global producers of essential electric vehicle components.

Thomas Schmall, CEO of the independent unit, says, “The considerable share of added value that our components contribute to the vehicles of the Group brands is an indicator of our competitiveness. It underpins the Group’s electric offensive and shows that we have taken the right product decisions regarding our future focus. This means that Volkswagen Group Components is on the way to becoming one of the largest manufacturers of automotive e-components worldwide.”

ID.1 Rumored

Lastly in this news round up, Reuters reports that Volkswagen is accelerating development of a smaller electric vehicle that may be known as the ID.1 in a push to offer a Polo sized EV that sells for between $24,000 and $30,000. You won’t see any photos of the new car, known internally as Small BEV, because none exist. But just as the ID.3 bears a family resemblance to the Volkswagen Golf, the smaller, less expensive electric car will probably look very much like a derivative of the current Polo.

Volkswagen did not provide details on what the vehicle might look like, when it might be launched or where it might be built, what size battery it may have, or what its range might be. It did tell Reuters the European Union’s more stringent emissions rules will force it to boost the proportion of hybrid and electric vehicles in its European car sales to 60% by 2030, up from a previous target of 40%.

Sources say the existing MEB chassis is too large to accommodate a car that is smaller than the ID.3 so significant modifications to that platform will be necessary if the company decides to go ahead with the ID.1. But first, there needs to be a business case for the Small BEV and apparently Volkswagen believes there is if it has begun the downsizing process. An informed but still speculative guess is that such a car might go on sale in 2023. 


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Tags: electric buses, MAN Truck & Bus, Volkswagen Group, Volkswagen Group Components, Volkswagen ID, Volkswagen ID Buzz, Volkswagen ID.1

About the Author

Steve Hanley Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his homes in Florida and Connecticut or anywhere else the Singularity may lead him. You can follow him on Twitter but not on any social media platforms run by evil overlords like Facebook.


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