Hemp Shield: The Greenest Solution in Woodstaining
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By Erin Hiatt, photos courtesy of Hemp Shield 


Using a wood finish, in particular for decks and wooden furniture, can serve both form and function. Wood finish can give a rich and beautiful luster while simultaneously keeping out water, protecting from the sun’s rays, slowing down the growth of molds and mildew, giving traction to the surface, and helping ease the cleaning process. But any typical finish found at your local hardware store is bound to be rife with toxic chemicals and pollutants.

However, for the eco-conscious there is a very viable, if not superior, solution. Hemp Shield is a hemp seed oil-based wood finish that may be the greenest on the market. “The thing to understand is that the revolutionary basis of Hemp Shield is the hemp seed oil molecule,” explains David Seber, president of Hemp Shield. “Turns out the hemp seed molecule oil is smaller than all the other molecules that are in oils for coatings. Therefore, not only does it penetrate the wood better, but it causes this amazing synergy among all the other components in the mixture.”

A quick glance at the label of a well-known and ubiquitous Hemp Shield competitor says, “WARNING! This product contains chemicals known to the state of California to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm.” One of the ingredients causing such mayhem is ethylene glycol, which can cause intoxication, drowsiness, or coma. Finishes also frequently contain polyurethane that contain isocyanates, considered a potential human carcinogen demonstrated to cause cancer in animal tests. Within isocyanates are VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, that have been shown to induce vomiting, dizziness, lung irritation, asthma and can exacerbate migraines.         


“Starting out, Hemp Shield is a new kind of a coating,” Seber begins, “It’s called a hybrid and it’s waterborne. It’s oil-based but waterborne. The first thing this does, it allows you to eliminate the amount of VOCs.” Seber, who has a long history in the wood and timber industry, wanted to stay in the business but in a way that eased his conscious regarding the environmental ramifications. “I had a redwood lumber yard,” he recalls. “And I felt that I owed dues to the forest.” The myriad uses of hemp first came to Seber’s attention through Jack Herer’s treatise on the plant, “The Emperor Wears No Clothes.”

Seber’s work in the lumber business harkens back to the early ‘80s, before the environmental disregard of the Reagan administration and the machinations of Wall Street caused him to reassess the industry. “So I did a study on what we could do to replace the amount of fiber that was taken out of the forest,” he continues. “In a temperate climate, the only one that would do it was hemp.”

Seber co-created Hemp Shield with Steve Neiswander, a former research director for a prominent paint company. “I met Steve in the depths of the recession (of 2008) without [either of us] knowing what the other person did. And the truth of it is that Steve is a world-famous paint chemist who’s been in the business for 30 years,” says Seber. “We collaborated together and Steve took every trick that he learned during his 30-year career and put them into Hemp Shield.”

Neiswander’s paint expertise and Seber’s extensive timber background enabled them to create an environmentally friendly finish that performs as well or better than their less conscientious competitors. ”Hemp Shield was designed consciously,” Seber says. “We established a principal with Hemp Shield of using the greenest components, the highest quality and the highest concentration possible on the market,” Seber explains.

There is a wood finish recipe, so to speak, that creates a synergy among the ingredients to create the final product. Standard Paints, Inc. writes on its website, “stain protection is accomplished mainly by three methods: pigment, vehicle, and bio protections. These three methods are the materials left on and in the wood and endure ongoing exposure to the elements water, temperature fluctuation, and ultraviolet light.”

Pigments, made from rare earth elements, are intended to deflect UV rays known to weaken wood, and absorb certain rays of light. About pigments, Seber explains, “They dig them up and they powder them, then they put them in something for color.” To protect the wood, Hemp Shield’s pigments are processed on a micro level into what Seber describes as a tiny needle-like formation, the same type of system used on Ferrari’s and other expensive cars. This pigment formation directs UV rays sideways, allowing the color and substance of the wood to shine through the sealant.

The “vehicle” is a solvent in which the pigments are suspended, and this is where Hemp Shield can really walk its eco-friendly talk. Seber uses Canadian-sourced hemp seed oil as his vehicle, another method to keep the environmental costs down. The hemp plant is known to grow well in a variety of climates and needs little water, pesticides, or fungicides. It has the additional benefit of being an excellent plant for crop rotation because it replenishes rather than depletes soil like many other crops.

And lastly, biocides, or bio protections, also present in wood finishes, are chemical substances intended to kill harmful organisms like mold and mildew by biological means. “Hemp Shield does have biocides in it,” says Seber. “We’ve tested them for toxicity. Hemp Shield is .00126 parts by volume. That’s less than your body, or my body, or any plant or animal in our environment.”

Seber says that using hemp seed oil helps improve the performance of the other ingredients, and that it’s not just for decks. “You can use it for anything made out of wood,” he says. Hemp Shield has in stock a formula intended for log cabins and can also be used on canvas. “Hemp Shield has no HAP (hazardous air pollutants),” he adds. “There are no fumes to Hemp Shield, you can use it inside.”

Mitigating environmental fallout continues to top Seber’s priority list. “From the very beginning, my main interest has been about the environment and I don’t think we have a lot of decades left before we have to do something heavy duty,” he says. “We don’t have enough time right now to do something about the paper or the textile [issues] before you kill everyone! That’s why I concentrate on Hemp Shield.” ♦



I know Why the Hemp Plant Sings: Plant Music Therapy with Teresa Helgeson
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by Evan Hundhausen

Teresa Helgeson is a certified hypnotherapist, registered massage therapist, master of two varieties of Reiki (an Eastern stress reduction therapy said to utilize “life force energy” to promote healing) and she is also known as “The Plant Music Whisperer.”

This year, Teresa had a booth at the NoCo Hemp Expo where attendees could listen to a recording of a hemp plant making music, and even meditate as they listened over headphones.

The first question anyone would ask is, “How can a plant make music?” Teresa explains this in detail in one of the videos on her website.

“The sound is being provided to the plant, but the plant is manipulating it,” she says in her video, “Music of the Plants.” “So what you’re hearing is the plant ‘play’ with that sound.”

The process involves attaching an electrode to the plant’s root and another to a leaf. This picks up the energetic frequency vibration from the plant, which is then translated into sound by a biofeedback synthesizer system.

THC had to get to the “root” of this phenomena, so we asked Teresa to explain the process further.

“I always equate it to if you were deaf your whole life and then all of a sudden had surgery and were able to hear,” says Teresa. “The very first time you heard [anything] would be extremely overwhelming because not only would you be hearing the sounds of everyone and everything around you, but you would also be hearing your voice, which you had never heard before… And the same thing happens to a plant the first time it realizes that it can manipulate that sound… The plant starts creating its own song, and its own natural healing song comes forth. And that’s what
my research is starting to show.”

Teresa claims plants’ “songs” are based on ancient knowledge, wisdom and practice.

“Indigenous shamans for centuries have known that every plant has a song and that’s how they are able to learn plant medicine is they journey with the plant and they learn the plant song. They sing the plant song. They become one with the plant, and in doing this journey, then know how to use the plant medicine. Well, the majority of people in the world don’t know how to do that.”

Neshama Abraham, CEO and Co-founder of Abraham Paiss & Associates, Inc. (APA), a national public relations and strategic marketing communications firm that also does industrial hemp consulting, invited Teresa to the 2017 NoCo Hemp Expo. It was through their conversations that Teresa was put in touch with a hemp grower who provided her with an actual hemp plant from which Teresa extracted music. She sold the music at NoCo Hemp Expo and it will eventually be for sale on her website. She’s been getting some interesting responses, to say the least.

“I’m getting lots of different feedback from those initial people at the NoCo Expo about their experiences with it, which is much different than the experiences with the plants we’ve been working with so far,” Teresa says. “The hemp plant and the music that the hemp plant plays is taking what I know to the next level. It is taking the healing benefits to the next level… It’s more powerful than any plant we’ve had any experience withso far.”

In the future, she wants to do peer-reviewed studies on hemp plants and publish her findings. She’s putting together a crowdfunding campaign so she can study the effects of plant music on stress, and is already working with a variety of laboratories and research institutions like PSYTEK Labs in Encinitas, California and the California Institute of Human Sciences.

In 2015, Teresa did a pilot study on the effects of plant music and even presented her findings at the ISSSEEM Research Symposium and the Subtle Energy Retreat.

“Some of the key things that we discovered was that the immune system got stronger, and that kind of blew my mind,” Teresa says. “We could see that in the bloodstream. As the white blood cells got larger they doubled and tripled in size in some cases and they were brighter in color and they were more active in the bloodstream, which was a strong indication that the immune system got stronger… Another thing that we saw is that the body went through a major detoxification, and the longer you listen to the plant music the more your body detoxes.”

As for other projects, Teresa thinks that if she got the necessary funding she could prove her theory that hemp music can possibly benefit those suffering with PTSD.

“PTSD is where I would like to go next because I too am a former military person. It was 35 years ago, but I was in the army and I had a lot of family members who served in the wars. And so I’m really interested in our PTSD research, and I really want to use the hemp plant in that research.”

Teresa discovered her plant music equipment in 2007 while in the sacred forest of an eco-spiritual community called “The Federation of Damanhur.” The mission of Damanhur is to learn from and live off of what the forest provides without disturbing its ecology. A book called “The Secret Life of Plants” heavily influenced this organization.

The people of Damanhur developed a biofeedback system called “Music of the Plants,” that measures the electrical resistance of vegetable tissue and then translates that frequency into music with the help of a biofeedback synthesizer, like what Teresa now does with her hemp plants.

Teresa had a very profound experience at Damanhur when she connected the equipment to a grove of birch trees. When the birch trees started playing music it sounded deep and baritone. This, she says, led to an out-of-body experience and a vision.

“I heard this voice say, ‘This is what you’re going to do with the plant music,’” says Teresa. She was outfitted with her own specially made plant electrode device and headed home.

When she returned to the states she had another vision during meditation that showed her a plant in detail. She went to a nursery in Berthoud, Colorado where she found a prayer plant, which she took home. Teresa says that through meditating with the plant it told her its name was Pixie, and it became the main plant she uses for her music therapy.

“What the plants keep telling me when I’m meditating with them is that if we could embrace the whole live plant we would receive much more benefit than just a piece or a portion of the plant as we do currently with flower essences,with oils and with herbs,” says Teresa.

Teresa plans to hit the road this summer traveling around North America to find more plants so she can record their music.

“I will be heading up to Yellowstone National Park, Glacier National Park and I’ll be going up into Canada to Waterton Lakes National Park and I will be recording plants playing in all of those national parks because I have another theory about the music that plants play in national parks,” she says.

If you’re interested in hearing the plant music you can have private session with Teresa or you can go to one of her events in Denver. She can also be found on, where she operates the largest sound-healing meet-up in the state. “If they were to go to Meetup and look for ‘crystal bowls and singing plants’ they’d find me,” says Teresa.

She is offering a free download of plant music when you visit her website called the “Immune Booster.” She has sixteen plant music CDs on her website for sale as well. Go to for more.

“WeedWatch” Parody of Apple Watch Advocates “Time for A Change”
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Seattle, WA - Coinciding with the release of the Apple Watch on April 20th, a Seattle-based multi-media company, Higher Ground, has created a parody ad to bring attention to marijuana legalization. The ad (“WeedWatch”) features a photo of the iWatch with the simple text, “Time for a Change: Legalize It.” A variety of marijuana-related icons and apps are featured on the device’s face.

One of the most innovative features of Apple’s Watch is the ability for users to customize the face of the device, and add additional information. In Higher Ground’s parody, they have taken the liberty to do just that! The watch face is full of humorous and advocacy-related apps including NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws), SXSW, Leafly (a Yelp-like mobile app for marijuana), 7-11, Cannabis News Network, and Doritos. The time? 4:20.

“The Apple Watch is a revolutionary product, and the legalization of marijuana in States across the country is also a revolutionary movement,” notes Higher Ground Editor-in-Chief Michael A. Stusser. “The message of our parody is as simple as the solution to the War on Drugs: Legalize It. It’s time to end Prohibition, and legalize, regulate and tax cannabis at the federal level.”

Based out of Seattle, where recreational marijuana was legalized in 2012, Higher Ground is attempting to “Elevate the Dialogue” and broaden the movement nationally. While legal in Washington, Colorado, Alaska and Oregon, the use, sale or distribution of cannabis is still a felony at the federal level, and over 600,000 Americans are arrested every year for marijuana-related offenses. The parody ad is being strategically placed in weekly newspapers (and on-line) in states where marijuana initiatives are being proposed, including Ohio, California, Nevada, Maine, Michigan, Massachusetts and Arizona. It will also run as the centerfold in the upcoming Marijuana Green Pages.

The launch of the Apple Watch continues to garner significant media coverage, as it is the first new product device from Apple since CEO Tim Cook took over the company. PreOrders for the iWatch began on April 10th, selling over a million units, and will begin shipping on April 24th. Using guerilla-style marketing, Higher Ground’s WeedWatch campaign will appear on posters, leaflets and mobile billboards adjacent to Apple stores nationwide.


Higher Ground produces the world’s first satirical news program about the legalization movement, along with a newspaper column and website. A multi-media company, Higher Ground creates highly-produced video assets including a flagship program (a mix between The Daily Show and CNN, just without that annoying Wolfe Blitzer fellow), a syndicated column on the legalization movement, a comprehensive and entertaining news website, events (Cooking with Cannabis!), along with viral social-media parodies.

Higher Ground has created a variety of videos and parodies that attempt to vaporize stoner-cliches (including a ReMix of Cheech & Chong’s iconic “Up in Smoke”), while also educating the public on the changing landscape of legalization. Along with their YouTube videos, the company has repurposed posters from the Reefer Madness era with an Original Artists Series, updated MadMen (whose characters smoke from vaporizers instead of cancer-sticks), and even crafted a Seattle Seahawks logo entirely out of marijuana in honor of the Beast Mode strain (named after running back Marshawn Lynch). Stusser’s Higher Ground column also runs in the Seattle Weekly.

Higher Ground explores and celebrates the elevated aspects of getting high. Founded during a revolutionary time of economic and spiritual transformation in the legalization movement, the brand will document and chronicle this incredible time in our history, and advocate for the legalization of cannabis (along with civil rights, gay rights, and human rights), and embrace the end of - yet another - prohibition.
Bizzaro Booze World
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by DJ Reetz

The bottle looked so innocent, like one of the high-end, high-fructose-corn-syrup-free sodas I’m used to getting from my local organic grocery.

Sitting in my hotel room in the first city in the world to fully legalize alcohol, I took a swig then, when nothing happened, I swigged some more. I figured if I was reporting the social revolution that was rocking the state, the giddy culmination of hooch prohibition, I should try a taste of legal, drinkable booze from a local swill shop.

What could go wrong with a pull or two?

Everything, as it turned out.

I had purchased the bottle from one of the literally hundreds of stores that popped up in the city following the landmark decision by voters to legalize booze. The store itself was massive, aisle after aisle, with hundreds of thousands of dollars of merchandise, certainly too much for someone new to drinking like myself to find his way through.

Overwhelmed, I asked one of the employees milling about for a recommendation.

"What are you looking for?" he asked, quizzically, clearly not understanding my question.

"Oh, I’d like one booze please," I replied.

"Umm…" The look on his face of pure condescension told me he clearly didn’t appreciate my naivety. "I can show you some wines, or give you a recommendation for a local craft beer. Or are you looking for spirits?"

Clearly, there was too great of a glut of options. The overwhelmedness I had felt when walking in to this massive store filled with bottle after bottle of booze was not going to be abated by this clerk, clearly a devote hooch-head with no understanding of those of us who don’t partake regularly.

"Just a regular booze, nothing fancy, it’s my first time," I replied, trying desperately to communicate to him just how unhelpful he was being.

"Okay," he said, rubbing his head in frustration with my simple request, clearly tired of helping me, a potential first-time customer, navigate this impossibly large selection. "Maybe one of our flavored vodkas, those are pretty popular with some of our younger customers."

Silently, I made a note of his intent to sell booze to children, and also his demeaning attitude. So far my attempts at drinking swill were not going smoothly.

He led me to a virtual wall of bottles, similar to a shelf you might find in a grocery store, except that instead of cans of delicious and nutritious corn, it was stocked floor to ceiling with hooch. I was amazed by the bottles, filled with a clear liquid that could surely be mistaken for water by a thirsty child. To make matters worse, not one of these water bottles seemed to be child proof. The clerk that had been "helping" me pointed me to the expensive booze on the top shelf, clearly going for the upsell, but I settled on a brightly colored bottle with an image of a slice of cake on the front called "Birthday Cake Vodka". I reasoned that if it was tasty and appealing to a child, certainly I could handle it. How wrong I was.

I left the hooch store with my bottle of booze in a brown paper bag, — clearly this industry doesn’t have the same stringent eye for safety that our local marijuana shops have at home — and returned to my hotel room for what I thought would be a night of casual enjoyment.

The first sip was oddly bitter, yet overwhelmed by the sweetness of the artificial cake flavor. I waited for a full two hours, and nothing came of my initial sip, other than a slight drowsiness. I began to suspect that I had purchased a bad booze, and I mustered the courage to give it another try.

This time I tilted the bottle up and took five large gulps, nearly halving the liter of hooch. The unusual taste made me wince, and immediately I felt the need to vomit bubbling up from my stomach. Fortunately, I hadn’t eaten anything in several hours, so my stomach was empty and I was lacking anything inside to regurgitate.

The effects were almost instant this time. The room began to spin and I was overwhelmed by a feeling of euphoria as my inhibitions seemed to melt away, replaced by an unexplainable confidence. Suddenly, everything I could do seemed like the grandest of ideas, and I decided it was time to call my ex-girlfriend and parlay this unexpected surge in confidence into a meaningful and heartfelt conversation.

When I got her voicemail, I was suddenly a flood of emotions, I was balling, telling her that I loved and missed her, and that she was the only person that had ever truly made me happy. I hung up and ascertained that she had had enough time to listen to my message and would be eagerly expecting a follow-up call so we could revive our long-dead relationship. When she didn’t answer, I suddenly realized that she was in fact a dumb-fucking-bitch and no one would ever love her, a message that I passed along to her voicemail.

Through my storm of tears I realized I had the solution to my problem of unhappiness, the second half of the bottle of hooch that was standing untouched on my hotel nightstand. I stood up, teetering over onto my face before clawing my way to the bottle, which I pulled again, hard.

Soon, the gentle swirling of reality began to stutter. I could feel that something wasn’t right, and the spinning world around me began to skip like a jostled record. Once again, the feeling of vomiting came roaring back, and I decided that the only remedy would be the greasiest, shittiest Mexican food I could get my hands on.

I cannot recall how the rest of the evening proceeded, just a vague memory of stumbling out on a quest for Mexican food. I awoke to find my hotel room, and myself, in a severe state of disarray. Trash was strewn across the floor, and my bottle of hooch sat nearly empty, tipped over on its side on the carpet. The sheets on the bed — in which I was not sleeping — were dragged all over the room. My head was pounding as though the gods of fury were trying to chisel their way out from inside. The front of my shirt was covered in vomit, the contents of which told me I had in fact gotten that Mexican food I remembered desiring, though I hadn’t had it for very long.

I hobbled my way to bathroom, as I was missing a shoe, where the blindingly bright vanity lights above the mirror stabbed through my eyeballs and into my very brain. Looking in the mirror I could see clearly that I had been punched several times in the face, by whom and for what reason I cannot recall.

It also appeared that someone had defecated in my hotel room’s bathtub.

Worse still, both my wallet and cell phone were missing, and I had no recollection of where they might be.

The next days when I was interviewing one of the operators of a local distillery, which is what people here call the booze equivalent of a grow, he informed me that a liter of vodka is not meant to be consumed by a single person in a single sitting. Unfortunately, this serving size was not indicated anywhere on the packaging, and the incredibly unhelpful sales clerk I purchased the sauce from had done nothing but give me a vague warning to "be careful" when I told him I was an inexperienced user.

Though the state seems to be raking in the high taxes and fees from the legal industry, reports from hospitals and law enforcement in the area paint a different picture. According to the CDC, booze-related car crashes kill almost 30 people every day, and hooch is believed to play a roll in any number of assaults and instances of domestic violence. Booze on its own has been widely shown to have adverse health effects and overconsumption can lead to booze poisoning and death.

The number of children finding a stash of swill and ending up in the hospital — where doctors must intubate them by shoving a respiratory hose down their windpipe — is on the rise in this state. The legal market has also made booze more attainable to children for some kind of spurious reason that defies all logic and analysis.

Clearly, there remain some kinks to be worked out by the industry.

But local booze makers decry efforts to safely package their hooch. One idea involved injecting half ounces of swill into Kevlar balls then pouring concrete over them, but most manufactures felt this would be asinine.

"That’s fucking stupid," says local booze man James Beam. "Just don’t be a complete moron and you won’t have a problem."

Does he sound a little shit-faced?



Science Fiction or Future Fact?
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by Erin Hiatt

The headline is definitely an attention grabber: "Solar panels that you can drive, park, and walk on. They melt snow and ... cut greenhouse gases by 75 percent!"

That’s the lead-in for the "Solar Roadways" campaign, and it sounds like it’s straight out of science-fiction fantasy. But it is, by far, the largest grossing campaign in Indiegogo’s history, closing at $2.2 million, more than 220 percent of the company’s $1 million goal. With more than 48,000 donors from all 50 states and around the world, the idea is clearly one that has mass appeal.

Interstate at Dusk

The Indiegogo campaign page ( says that "Solar Roadways is a modular paving system of solar panels that can be installed on roads, parking lots, driveways, sidewalks, etc., literally any surface under the sun. They pay for themselves primarily through the generation of electricity, which can power homes and business connected via driveways and parking lots. A nationwide system could produce more clean renewable energy than a country uses as a whole."

Scott and Julie Brusaw, based in Sandpoint, Idaho, are the co-inventors and co-founders of Solar Roadways, and their relationship goes back to early childhood when Julie’s mom babysat the young Scott.


Scott is an electrical engineer who has always had "electric roads" on the brain. He even has a childhood drawing depicting his vision of a solar roadway. Julie took a different path, studying psychology, and her voice has been very inspiring to Scott, who says that Julie is the one "thinking outside the box. She’ll be sitting in a meeting with all these engineers and she’ll say ‘What about this?’ and we all think, ‘Huh, that’s a great idea.’"

But it was former Vice-President Al Gore’s movie "An Inconvenient Truth" that really set Scott thinking. Julie had always been environmentally conscious but it was after seeing that documentary that Scott became more than another guy who recycles his aluminum cans. He was a true believer in green technology, a convert who wanted to create some meaningful change.

"The solar panels can withstand 250,000 pounds of weight, which is four times the legal weight of a semi-trailer truck and have traction to stop a vehicle moving up to 80 miles per hour," Scott says. "They won’t break or crack if something crashes on them. The base layers are made of 10-percent recycled glass."

Scott started tinkering with his initial prototypes and a lot of people took notice, including policy makers within the federal government. Avid fans of the Brusaws, who have a knack for snappy YouTube videos, include George Takei, aka Sulu, of the original Star Trek series fame.

The federal government reacted first. In 2009, Solar Roadways received a $100,000 Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grant from the Department of Transportation, then in 2011 another SBIR grant of $750,000, to develop and build a solar parking lot.

Parking lot west

panels only

Earlier this year, a fan made a video called "Solar Freaking Roadways" and posted it to YouTube. To say it went viral is an understatement. It’s had around 17 million views and counting. Then George Takei chimed in.

Takei has honed a very popular online presence since moving on from his Hollywood days, collecting over 1.2 million Twitter and 7 million-plus Facebook followers. Takei caught wind of the "Solar Freaking Roadway" video and composed the tweet heard ‘round the world: "I like the sound of that. Worth a look. Dare to dream, I say."

Literally overnight the Brusaw’s met their $1 million goal on Indiegogo. Scott, an admitted Star Trek fan, was thrilled with Takei’s attention, laughing, "How can you be an electrical engineer and not be a Star Trek fan?"

The prototype of a solar roadway that Scott is working on is made up of three layers:

The first is the road surface layer. It is an incredibly strong, bulletproof-type glass. It provides traction yet is still translucent enough to pass sunlight to the solar cells underneath. There are also LED lights and a heating element to melt snow. This layer must be weatherproof to protect the electronics. It is also responsible for redirecting sunlight to hit the solar panels at appropriate angles.

The second is the electronics layer. This houses a microprocessor board for sensing loads on the surface and controlling the heating element. It also controls communications, lighting, etc. The plan is to have a communications device every 12 feet, so it can be "intelligent" and change the LED pattern to relay messages to drivers.

The third is the base plate layer, and this distributes the collected solar power as well as data signals to all the homes and businesses connected to the roadway.

"The solar panels can withstand 250,000 pounds of weight, which is four times the legal weight of a semi-trailer truck and have traction to stop a vehicle moving up to 80 miles per hour," Scott says. "They won’t break or crack if something crashes on them. The base layers are made of 10-percent recycled glass."Tractor

Scott was also tasked with coming up with a solution for polluted stormwater. Stormwater is an abnormal amount of surface water due to a heavy rain or melting snow. With that drainage comes pesticides and herbicides that we use on our lawns, antifreeze and oil from our driveways, and other toxic substances. This now polluted water goes through our drainage systems and into waterways. Scott is working on a section in the cable corridors for storing, treating, and moving stormwater.

Traffic safety is another part of the concept. Scott explains that "the panels can also detect weight. It doesn’t know what it is, if it’s a person or an animal or a tree branch, but if 200 pounds, for example, steps on a panel then it can send a warning a quarter mile ahead to slow down or be cautious, and that is done within the microprocessor."

The LED lights in the second layer are the most sensitive, traffic-changing, and to some detractors, most worrisome part of the panels. Scott cited the city of Los Angeles because of its traffic problems, especially during work-time commutes.

"When you have eight lanes of traffic and the four lanes that go away from the city are practically empty and the lanes coming in are completely full, you could change that with the LEDs so in the morning you have six lanes coming into the city and two going out, then vice versa in the afternoon, and that can be done remotely."

The remote aspect to the LEDs has some people worried. They predict hacking and worst-case scenarios of madness and mayhem should anyone be able to change the lane patterns on dangerous whims.

There are also more general concerns of road workers losing their jobs, light pollution, noise, and the guesstimated astronomical cost, with some critics saying construction of solar roadways throughout the country could cost a whopping $60 trillion.

Brusaw shrugs off these criticisms. He says that displaced workers wouldn’t need advanced degrees to work the electronics, and that workers will be trained to learn the solar roadway system. He says the high cost is an apples-to-oranges comparison scenario. After all, there are no plans to just start tearing up roads around the nation and laying down solar panels.

"We are going to start here in Sandpoint with parking lots, walkways, etc. Then we’ll move onto bigger things, rest areas for example. We won’t go to high traffic roadways until it is absolutely perfect," he says.

Bike Path

The Brusaws were recently made honorary "Makers" by President Obama for the first-ever White House Maker’s Faire, a presidential forum where tech enthusiasts gather to share ideas. Bill Nye the Science Guy posed for a picture with Scott and Julie. The only thing that might have made that cooler was if Neil DeGrasse Tyson had been in the picture.

Or maybe George Takei for the photobomb.





Gone With The Wind?
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by Skyler Cannabaceae

Wind power advocates were down but not defeated when the Expiring Provisions, Improvements, Reform and Efficiency (EXPIRE) Act suffered a setback in the U.S. Senate earlier this year. A vote for consideration of the bill fell seven votes short of the necessary 60 to end debate and force action.

"This bipartisan idea - born on the plains and thriving across the country - is too important to fall victim to partisan games and procedural gambits. I will keep fighting to ensure our wind energy manufacturers and the middle-class families they support have the certainty they need to thrive," Mark Udall, the senior U.S. Senator for Colorado said in a statement.

Udall is a strong supporter of wind energy in Colorado. He made 27 floor speeches in 2012 in support of the tax credits and helped to extend them until the end of 2013. He extolled the benefits of the bill, especially the Production Tax Credit the industry holds dear.

"The Production Tax Credit for wind energy is a smart investment in our economy that strengthens our energy security, supports a strong Colorado industry and creates good-paying manufacturing jobs," he said.

The bill would have renewed the wind Production Tax Credit (PTC) and the Investment Tax Credit (ITC), both of which are tax relief measures to help fund wind power and research. The tax credits received strong support from both of Colorado’s senators.

Senator Mike Bennett lamented the defeat in a statement: "This is yet another example of Washington not doing the work that Coloradans and the American people expect us to do. This tax extenders bill was approved by the Senate Finance Committee with strong bipartisan support. Coloradans and the American people deserve better."

The PTC lets taxpayers claim a tax credit equivalent to 2.3 cents per kilowatt hour produced for a 10-year period, while the ITC offers the option of taking a 30-percent investment tax credit instead. Under the terms of the EXPIRE Act, the credits would have been extended through the end of 2015. As it stands now, the credits are in limbo; still being considered, but officially expired and only able to be used for tax years before 2014.

Bennett pointed out that the tax credits are a great benefit to the Colorado renewable energy industry and that there were economic repercussions when they previously expired that hurt the growth of the wind power industry. He quoted statistics showing that as many as 37,000 people will lose their jobs nationally if the credit permanently expires, including 5,000 employed in this state. Colorado is number six in the nation for percentage of power produced by wind.

Both senators issued statements encouraging their colleagues to support the measure two days before the vote. The bill needed 60 votes to continue in the Senate, but only received 53, with 40 votes against, mostly along party lines. Only one Republican, Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, voted with Democrats in favor of an up-or-down vote.

Bennett worked with Udall and used his seat on the Senate Finance Committee to include the wind PTC extension that would keep it in place until 2016. Bennett said that the jobs created by the credit gave a boost to the state’s economy "and a two-year extension will provide much-needed certainty to this growing industry."

The tax-extenders bill contained over 50 tax provisions that expired at the end of 2013, including deductions or credits for increasing research expenditures, charitable contributions of food, and investment in empowerment zones. The author of the originally bipartisan bill, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), is reportedly working on changes so that he can bring it up again with more support.

Tax Credits

by Rick Macey

Federal tax credits for wind power businesses are important for creating jobs and securing investment. What is less well known is that they provide incentives for industry standards.

According to Jeff Hebert, owner of Colorado’s Wind Orchard Energy, without those credits, wind power’s growth as a viable green technology will be curtailed.

"Big energy companies are trying to dry up these credits so they can keep their foothold on fossil fuels," Hebert said while working his booth at the National Cannabis Industry Association’s summit in Denver. "It’s certainly going to slow down the pace if those incentives are not there."

Before there were tax credits, companies which manufactured and marketed wind turbines could make unsubstantiated or exaggerated claims about how much electricity they would produce.

Hebert said the tax credits changed that. They forced companies to get their wind turbines certified so their customers would qualify for those tax breaks, giving a boost to the American Wind Energy Association and its standards.

Wind Orchard Energy specializes in small wind turbine systems. Hebert described a vision of a small town powered by 10 of them - "community wind."

He cited recent advances in design, materials, and control systems. "Finally technology has come to the small wind industry," he said.

And with that green tech comes the opportunity for people to free themselves - at least partially - from the fossil-fuel power grid at very compelling price points.

Hebert said one home with two small turbines would generate enough electricity to pay for the investment within two years. Each year afterward would be like getting free green energy and possibly payments for selling the excess electricity to the local utility company.

That is certainly one reason for the push back from big energy corporations, whose lobbyists are notorious for influencing public policy. "They want to keep us on a meter," Hebert said.

Without tax credits, investment in this green technology would likely shrink, and unscrupulous turbine manufacturers "would bring out the junk again," he said.

The moral of this story is the power of green - as in money for campaign contributions - can undermine green power.




DIY:Backyard Composter
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by Greg Holdsworth

Properly composted food scraps can be turned into an excellent fertilizer for gardens. However, composting food scraps in an open pile can attract some unwanted urban pests - rats, mice, raccoons and who-knows-what.

One of the simplest ways to compost food scraps is in a sunken garbage can. Also called a “bio digester,” the magic of this food waste composter is that it’s partially buried in the ground. There, holes allow earthworms, microbes, and other critters to ‘walk on in’ and do what they’re good at. A tight-fitting lid allows protection from unwanted pests, excessive rainfall, and drying winds.

The list of things you’ll need:

  • Galvanized metal trash can with lid (about $30 new). Plastic should be avoided.
  • Electric drill
  • Drill bit - at least 1/4”
  • Shovel
  • Gloves (no blisters on my watch)
  • Masking tape
  • Permanent marker
  • Spot to dig in


Step 1. Drill about 20 to 30 holes, at least 1/4-inch, in the bottom of the can.

Step 1

Step 2. Drill 20 to 40 more holes in the sides of the can, but only in the lower third. This is the part that will be covered by soil.

Step 2

Step 3. In a well-drained spot, dig a hole about 15 inches deep (about half as deep as your container).

Step 3

Step 4. Set the can into the hole. Then, push the soil back in around the sides and press it down with your hands, foot or the shovel.

Step 4

Step 5. Your new digester is ready to use! Collect food scraps, storing them in a container in your kitchen, and once or twice a week, throw the food scraps into the food scrap digester. I also add a little soil after the scraps to add more microbes and to increase the surface area to be broken down.

Step 5

Step 6. Here’s a cool tip: Take a piece of masking tape and place it at the top of the compost mixture. Then take a permanent marker and write the date that the digester was full and left to compost. You can open the lid periodically to see that the level has dropped from the material being broken down. Sweet!

Step 6

If odor or fruit flies are a problem, you can add leaves, grass clippings, sawdust, straw, or shredded paper to place a thin layer on top of each new food scrap addition to the digester. No worms need to be added to this digester. Worms will find their way in through the holes and will help break down the food scraps. If pests are still opening the lid, you can tie a bungee cord to the lid handle and hook it to the handles on the sides of the garbage can.

Step 7

Harvesting the Compost

Depending on your household’s food habits, a digester will fill in 2 to 6 months. Harvest the compost by shoveling the upper foot or so of non-decomposed food off to one side and shoveling the dark, soil-like compost out of the bottom of the digester.

If the unfinished compost is wet and smelly, mix it with some soil and wait a week for it to dry up. Return the top layer (which was set aside) back into the digester to finish composting and continue to add food scraps.

I’m in the process of installing a second digester. Similar to the traditional aboveground “three-bin” composting method, when one digester gets full, I’ll start to use the second digester. After 6 to12 months, all the compost in the first digester should be finished and ready to use.

Do Compost

Vegetable scraps, grains and pasta, fruit rinds and peels, breads, coffee grounds, filters, tea bags, newspapers and eggshells

Don’t Compost

Meat, fish, poultry, cheese, oily foods, butter, dairy products, other animal products, pet waste

Viola... fresh compost in a can!

Greg_Garden_New_Large_sqsGreg Holdsworth is a contributor to and owns a gardening business in the Dallas area called Your Own Victory Garden


A Sweet Energy Solution
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by Skyler Cannabaceae

You’re running some errands and your cell phone battery is about to die. Every regular mobile phone user has experienced this type of situation. There are no electrical outlets for you to use to charge your phone, so what do you do?

How about popping the battery out of your phone and refilling it with sugar?

It sounds like a pipe dream, but a team of researchers at Virginia Tech published a paper in January showing that a sugar battery is not only possible, but can feature a higher energy density than others. This could lead to it being stiff competition for the standard lithium-ion batteries used in most electronics.

Y.H. Percival Zhang, an associate professor of biological systems engineering at Virginia Tech and the primary author of the study, said that this battery “has an energy density an order of magnitude higher than others, allowing it to run longer before needing to be refueled.”

Zhang goes on to suggest that his battery could be ready in as little as three years to power all sorts of electronics, such as the cell phones and tablets that continue to grow as staples of American life. “Sugar is a perfect energy storage compound in nature,” Zhang told VA Tech’s campus news. “So it’s only logical that we try to harness this natural power in an environmentally friendly way to produce a battery.”

This isn’t the first time a battery has been created that runs on sugar. In 2007, Sony announced that they had created a “biobattery” that would use glucose as a power source. Building on the established science, Zhang and his fellow researchers created enzymatic fuel cells that contain a 15 percent maltodextrin solution. The paper claims that these could serve as ecologically friendly power sources for the portable electronics in years to come.

The battery would not be able to produce enough power to sustain large requirements for fuel sources, like cars, so don’t go pouring that bag of sugar into the tank just yet.

It could very well replace lithium-ion batteries, though. By creating a synthetic enzymatic pathway, the solution is broken down more slowly leading to a steady and even flow of energy; the lack of which had been a problem in previous bio-batteries

This new battery interests people who are concerned about lithium-ion batteries, the battery type most used in portable electronics, ending up in landfills all over America and wreaking havoc on the environment.

A report from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a part of the U.S. Department of Health, says that these batteries, “enter the solid waste stream and can contaminate soil and water.”

Zhang’s battery would neutralize this concern since the only byproducts are electricity and water. It would also eliminate the need to throw batteries into a landfill because they are refillable.

Not rechargeable, but refillable, which is better.

The new battery would not need to be plugged in to recharge the way that most lithium-ion batteries do. Instead, it could be refilled with more of the solution to continue to generate energy. This would not only lead to less waste, but the low cost of sugar compared to toxic metals used in lithium-ion would result in a cost as low as one-tenth that of the current batteries used.

The new batteries have over 10 times the energy density of lithium-ion, the study shows, and can last as much as two times longer than lithium-ion batteries weighing the same amount.

No need to start looking for sugar batteries on store shelves, though, as Zhang expects, it will take at least three years for them to be produced and ready for use.

No worries. When it’s ready , the cannabis community is too.

Blinded by the Light
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by Skyler Cannabaceae

RJ Harrington Jr. is like thousands of other Coloradans. Years ago, he and his family made a large investment in rooftop solar power. At the time, Xcel Energy provided the full retail credit for the power that Harrington’s home provided to the “grid” for redistribution. This was the rate on which he based his investment strategy.

But now the Colorado utility company says his investment is worth much less than he thought, and is losing value more quickly than he imagined. “To reduce … that investment really makes an impact,” Harrington said.

Here’s the dilemma: Excel now claims that the power generated by rooftop solar panels is worth about half of the value of energy generated by other means, particularly its power plants.

Harrington believes that the benefits of his solar panel system are being miscalculated by Xcel. Things like deferred expenses were not taken into account. Even so, when is a volt not a volt?

“The benefits from a homeowner’s point of view are that I am providing power to my neighbors,” Harrington said. He disputes the idea that he is not paying his fair share because, in addition to providing power in the form of “green electrons,” he also saves Xcel the costs of maintaining and replacing their equipment as often.

“[Excel] can defer maintenance to generation stations, they can delay purchasing new generation … we have made investments in generation that help to delay the investments in generation that they have to make.”

Xcel Energy doesn’t think that solar power provides enough benefit for the cost. Citing a study it commissioned, Xcel decided that the rate at which Colorado homeowners and small businesses are credited for the solar energy they provide is more than double what the usable energy they provide is worth. Whether that’s true or not, the utility doesn’t want to cover the difference.

In July of last year, Xcel proposed a change to their current plan with the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (PUC). “Netmetering,” as the solar energy practice at issue is known, is a policy required of each state by the federal Energy Policy Act of 2005. Xcel gives a credit on the electric bills of homeowners and small businesses that install solar panel systems on their roofs, which in turn send energy to the utility company’s grid for redistribution.

In addition to being a homeowner and investor, Harrington is executive director of Clean Action Energy, one of the groups which organized a rally in December and presented a petition to Xcel’s Colorado Headquarters. A press release issued by Vote Solar Initiative the same day states that the there were 300 protestors to present the petition, which was signed by 30,000 solar proponents.

The petition requested that Xcel withdraw its proposal saying that, “Your proposal significantly undervalues rooftop solar power at the expense of your own customers.” This appears to have done little to change the utility’s plans, to the chagrin of solar energy supporters.

“With the prices that they’ve proposed, it basically cuts the benefit in half,” Harrington said. “Right now, we expect our solar system and our investment in that solar system to be completely paid off within about seven years.” Excel’s cut in the rate will double that time to 14 years.

Activists for solar energy are not pleased with Xcel’s sudden devaluation of rooftop panels. “Coloradans feel strongly that we need to increase energy self-reliance, clean our air and fight climate disruption,” said Margaret McCall, energy associate at Environment Colorado. “We should make it more affordable for Coloradans to harness sunshine,” instead of rolling back the programs that work.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE), Colorado ranks 18th out of the 50 states in terms of renewable energy produced at 1.4 percent. The most recent statistics produced by the Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy office in 2011 show that Colorado is a standout in more than one area. It generates 5.76 percent of America’s solar power and 4.33 percent of the country’s power from wind.

The DoE’s Energy Information Administration has projected that power consumption in the state will be 43 percent higher in 2030 than it is today. With Colorado ranking 27th in electric consumption, but seventh in average annual increase from 1980-2010, the battle for who produces that electricity and how it is generated means more than ever.

In Colorado, coal accounts for 62.7 percent of all energy, followed by natural gas at 27.4 percent. Wind is 5.8 percent, hydro is 4.1 and solar is less than one percent, according to statistics from the Institute of Energy Research.





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