Video: Solar Power

Hilltown Spring Festival is Solar Powered!

Sun and Solar Store to Power Hilltown Spring Festival

Solar powered music at the Hilltown Spring Festival on Saturday, May 14th! (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

This year’s Hilltown Spring Festival again has the goal of sustainability woven throughout—from the children’s activities, to the composting and trash recycling, all the way to folk/blues/percussion rhythms, and alt-jazz that will emanate from the Festival’s three music stages. “It takes plenty of energy to get the Festival off the ground and we wanted to make that energy sustainable too,” says festival organizer Laine W., “This year we’re thrilled to have sustainable energy broadcasting all of the music from our 18 performances — powered by the solar electric and battery system donated by Claire Chang and John Ward, owners of The Solar Store of Greenfield.”

So, when festival goers enjoy the rhythms of Gaia Roots or the three-part harmonies of the Boxcar Lilies, or the kids gather around the stage to sing a chorus with The Nield, Sarah Pirtle or Ben Rudnick & Friends, those notes and tunes will be carried back to the Festival audience using the planet’s own powerhouse, the sun.  Read the rest of this entry »

Families as Biocitizens on the Westfield River

Kurt Heidinger, Executive Director of Biocitizen School of Westhampton, MA writes:

Identifying a sample of benthic macro invertebrates (water bugs) taken from the Westfield River in West Chesterfield, MA. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

How many times have you looked at a river thinking, how beautiful—and pulled out your camera to capture the swells of whitewater, a striking blue heron, or blazing maple tree in the autumn overhanging its banks?

A river is not just beautiful, though; it’s alive, and those who witness this life, this bios, never look at or appreciate a river the same way again. Based out of Westhampton, MA, the Biocitizen School has been training volunteers to see and understand the bios that a river is, by teaching them how to do Rapid Bioassessments. We net the benthic macro invertebrates (underwater bugs) and, by inventorying them, we can quickly assess how alive the river is.

Kurt helps kids sort through a sample that included stonefly nymphs. Stoneflies give an abundance of food to trout, feeding the Bald Eagles on the river. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Stonefly nymphs are a bug we want to catch. They are a primary food source for brook trout and, like trout, require clear, clean, cold oxygen-rich water. If there is too much nitrogen or potassium (from fertilizer run off) in the water, algae will bloom and suck the oxygen out of the river. You won’t find many stonefly nymphs—and therefore trout.

By doing a Rapid Bioassessment, you can monitor a river that is dear to you, year after year, to ensure that it’s healthy—and stays that way. Once you have been trained (this year), you can conduct the assessment yourself (next year); Biocitizen collects and sends your bug inventory to DEP, where it is checked and logged, becoming part of the public historical record. Such records are invaluable for scientific research and land-use decision-making.

Families inventoried their samples, giving proof that the oxygen-rich water was of exceptional quality! (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

I had the pleasure of training a few families on the Westfield river this past weekend, just downstream from the RT 143 bridge in West Chesterfield, MA. One of my favorite moments occurred at the end, after we had identified our last worm species and had the proof we needed to judge the water of “exceptional quality.” “We have bald eagles on the Westfield,” I was told; “They fly up and down the river: must have a five foot wingspans, seem almost as big as a person!” Yes. All of us lucky families have big beautiful eagles living near us. Because the water is oxygen rich, there’s an abundance of stoneflies, which gives us an abundance of trout which the eagles find yummy: enough fish so they can nest and raise their families here too!

Find out more about Biocitizens and how your family can get involved with Rapid Bioassessment, visit

Learn How Solar Power Can Save Your Family Money

Solar Power Seminar: Homeowners to Learn How Solar Power Is Cheaper than Utilities

Sun Puppet - Riverfest in Shelburne Falls, MA

Solar powered sun puppet. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Alteris Renewables and GREEN Northampton will host a free public seminar on solar energy for homeowners in the Pioneer Valley on July 7pm at the Media Education Foundation (60 Masonic St.) in Northampton. The seminar will explain how solar works and is cost competitive with electricity supplied by utilities for the first time. Homeowners are encouraged to register for the seminar by calling 800-955-1548 or via email

The seminar will focus on the affordability of solar energy in the Pioneer Valley. Through its partnership with California-based SunRun, Alteris Renewables is turning home solar into a monthly service, like cable or phone service, for residents of the Pioneer Valley and others in Massachusetts. With this new program, upfront costs plummet from $30,000 to as little as $1,000 for customers to be able to install solar electric systems on their homes. Customers will enjoy immediate savings with locked-in rates for the next 18 years – a valuable protection from future electric rate increases. They can also make a good return on their initial investment.

Experts have long projected that solar electricity would eventually be on par with electricity from the traditional electric utility. Now that cross-over point has been reached for Massachusetts homeowners. Electricity rates in Massachusetts have nearly doubled over the last 20 years. If these trends continue, a typical customer could recover their upfront payment in as little as two years and see an after-tax return on their investment of as much as 60% or more.


GREEN Northampton is a 501(c)3 non-profit whose mission is to foster community bonds and promote environmentally sustainable, low-energy and healthy lifestyles neighborhood by neighborhood in Northampton in response to climate change and resource depletion.

Kids Can Learn About Wind, Solar & Other Renewables

Kids Can Learn About Wind, Solar & Other Renewables

Children as young as 5 can earn a beautiful, free Clean Green Power Champion patch and a certificate for learning about clean energy through the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association’s self-guided Clean Green Power project.

Families, educators and youth groups can empower kids to do something about global warming and other problems associated with burning fossil fuels by taking the first step in learning about it and following up with a project of their own.

Part of the program involves interviewing someone using clean energy such as solar, wind or geothermal, with several options for site visits found at where a guide with all the project information can also be downloaded. The glossaries, links and other resources offered on the site and in the guide would be of value to adults and youth alike.

Older kids, 10 and up, can also gain a solid introduction to wind energy through the Wind Wisdom program, which involves completing a series of activities with a lot of room for choices.

Read the rest of this entry »

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