Near Misses, Tight Squeezes And Canned Food Catastrophes: Mom’s Motorized Cart Odyssey

By Andrew Jenner

I can’t have been the only child who dreamed of commandeering one of those motorized shopping carts that sit tantalizingly unattended at grocery stores entrances. And I’m surely not the only adult who still, somewhere in his heart of childish hearts, would kill for the opportunity to go joy-riding down the frozen foods aisle, spinning donuts on the shiny waxed floor, veering madly around corners Mario Kart-style. Wouldn’t it be fun?
By age 28, though, I’d pretty much accepted that this wasn’t going to happen, that firsthand knowledge of self-propelled shopping carts will only come once I’m sufficiently withered and broken down to actually need one, that I will probably never be able to muster the necessary chutzpah and disregard for basic decency required to pull off such a stunt.
And then, a fortunate thing happened: my mother developed severe and terrible plantar fasciitis, and in September, underwent an invasive and painful foot surgery requiring many weeks of recovery – and entitling her to full operational privileges of any and all motorized shopping carts throughout the land. Continue reading “Near Misses, Tight Squeezes And Canned Food Catastrophes: Mom’s Motorized Cart Odyssey” »

Eastern Mennonite University Celebrates 104 kW Photovoltaic System

EMU President Loren Swartzendruber and Harrisonburg Mayor Kai Degner 'throw the ceremonial switch' to engage the 104.3 kilowatt solar panel array that will provide enough power to supply the total average annual electricity costs of nine homes in Harrisonburg.

Eastern Mennonite University dedicated and celebrated the largest solar photovoltaic (PV) project built so far in the state of Virginia in a public ceremony held Monday afternoon, Nov. 15, on EMU’s campus.

During the celebration in EMU’s Campus Center, about 150 members of the campus community, public officials and local neighbors saw the university’s president Loren Swartzendruber unveil the website dashboard with the flip of a switch, revealing live graphs showcasing the daily, weekly and monthly output of the solar system.

“Caring for God’s good creation is central to who we are as a Christian university,” Dr. Swartzendruber told the gathering. “Our planet does not have unlimited natural resources, and it is imperative that we utilize clean renewable energy such as solar as part of the university’s long-term commitment to creation care and environmental sustainability,” he added. Continue reading “Eastern Mennonite University Celebrates 104 kW Photovoltaic System” »

This post was submitted by Jim Bishop.

New LEED Office Building In Grottoes

Wellness Concepts Inc., Valley Leader in Green Building

Daniel and Cathie Atwell, owners of Wellness Concepts, since 1990, are building a new home for their business in Grottoes, VA. This is no ordinary building, as the Atwells, along with their contractor, Glen Stoltfus, are intent on making it the first Platinum, LEED certified building in the Central Shenandoah Valley.

LEED ( Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is a nationally accepted certification program that is a third-party verified, green building rating system. A building receives points for energy efficiency, using reclaimed materials, water conservation, indoor air quality, and waste mitigation, just to name a few.

This 18,000 square foot building has outside walls made with insulated concrete forms or ICF’s.   Continue reading “New LEED Office Building In Grottoes” »

This post was submitted by Sally Newkirk.

Virginia Biodiesel Conference Convenes in Harrisonburg

Approximately 75 people convened today at the Virginia Biodiesel Conference.  Hosted by Virginia Clean Cities, the event sought to bring together producers, users, and policy experts to discuss the state of the biodiesel industry in Virginia.  Attendees included representatives from Red Birch Energy, Reco Biodiesel, Virginia Department of Transportation, Virginia Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services, Public Policy Virginia, Virginia Soybean Association, and many more organizations.  Elected officials included Delegate Tony Wilt (26th House of Delegates District) and Harrisonburg Mayor Kai Degner, who facilitated the event in his professional position as the Fairfield Center.   Continue reading “Virginia Biodiesel Conference Convenes in Harrisonburg” »

EMU Signs Agreement to Build Va.’s Largest Solar Panel Array

Posted below is a news release from Eastern Mennonite University marking the formal announcement that the university will be proceeding with plans to install solar panels on the library roof. This effort, led by Tony Smith, the co-director of EMU’s MBA program, was first announced last spring. In April, the city council approved a rezoning to allow the construction of the project.

At the time, Smith and his colleagues hoped to install enough panels on campus to generate 1 megawatt of power. Over the summer, a number of factors prompted the university to scale back the solar project. The first phase, which began this week, will generate 104.3 kilowatts with panels on the library roof, and will still be the largest solar array in the state. The university plans a second round of construction to install panels on canopies above a parking lot, adding another 300 kilowatts of capacity. Continue reading “EMU Signs Agreement to Build Va.’s Largest Solar Panel Array” »

Two Valley Technology Companies Combine Forces

Tom Trevillian, president of McClung Companies, shakes hands with William Roy, former vice president of Immerge.

McClung Companies of Waynesboro has substantially acquired Harrisonburg-based Immerge Technologies as of August 2010.

William Roy, former Vice President of Immerge will now continue to develop and maintain websites and provide social media strategies under the name Immerge, now as a division of the McClung Companies.

Tom Trevillian, President of McClung Companies, said, “McClung is more than just a printing company. We have so much more to offer to our customers, and now our customers can receive all of their marketing services with one company they know and already trust for quality results.” Continue reading “Two Valley Technology Companies Combine Forces” »

This post was submitted by William Roy.

Best Buy Opens with Community Gifts


Hundreds gathered to be the first inside Harrisonburg's new Best Buy.

A young man named Nathan arrived at 5:45am this morning to be the first customer at Harrisonburg’s new Best Buy – and he was joined by over 150 people by the time the ribbon was cut at 9:45am.

Store manager John May, who will employ up to 100 people during the busy holiday season, gave remarks prior to the ribbon cutting.  He stressed the company’s commitment to being active corporate citizens, and promptly demonstrated it by gifting the local Boys and Girls Club $2,000 and the Harrisonburg Children’s Museum $10,000. Continue reading “Best Buy Opens with Community Gifts” »

Water Street Gets Crosswalk


Downtown Water Street was paved earlier this week, and now is getting a crosswalk connecting the sidewalk by Shank’s Bakery and the alley between Beyond and Finnegan’s, an area frequently used by pedestrians.

Note: This post and picture was prepared completely using a smartphone, in this case a Droid using the Android WordPress application.  It is an example of how community news writers might quickly add timely content to the Harrisonburg Times!  If interested, contact

Downtown Company Celebrates 5 Years In Business

Immerge Technologies celebrated its five year anniversary on May 17 – and is celebrating at Earth and Tea Cafe on Thursday June 24 from 5-7pm.   A JMU grad startup company, Immerge has grown into a highly profitable organization, providing web design and custom programming services to hundreds of clients including Harrisonburg Electric Commission and Casterbridge Tours.

Located in the Keezell Building in Downtown Harrisonburg, Immerge has also forged a strong relationship with Continue reading “Downtown Company Celebrates 5 Years In Business” »

This post was submitted by William Roy.

Hope for Replacing Fossil Fuels

On May 19, 2010, the National Academy of Sciences advised the government “to take drastic action” to slow global warming. I don’t think the technical and economic problems are insurmountable. Rather, it is the political will that is missing, mainly in the conservative camp.

It may be that many conservatives are taking some of their cues from Senator James Inhofe. After all, he is Barbara Boxer’s counterpart on the Environmental and Public Works Committee. Inhofe has openly and loudly proclaimed that global warming is a hoax. His portion of the EPW website proclaims that 700 scientists dispute the claims of the IPCC on global warming.

Inhofe claims “An abundance of new peer-reviewed studies, analyses, and data error discoveries in the last several months has prompted scientists to declare that fear of catastrophic man-made global warming “bites the dust” and the scientific underpinnings for alarm may be “falling apart.” However, the only recent article that he cites, and on which he primarily relies, is “Heat Capacity, Time Constant, and Sensitivity of Earth’s Climate System,” by Brookhaven National Lab scientist Stephen Schwartz.

I corresponded with Dr. Schwartz and it turns out that Dr. Schwartz’s paper simply said was that the sensitivity of global temperature to CO2 rise was less than claimed by the IPCC report. Further, Dr. Schwartz has now revised the paper, doubling his figure on sensitivity. Even though the revised figure is still on the low side of the IPCC range, Dr. Schwartz told me by email:

“But if we consider the consequences of increased concentrations of greenhouse gases, even for a rather low sensitivity the expected climate consequences would be anywhere from serious to severe to catastrophic.”

Serious to severe to catastrophic!  As you can see, Inhofe is playing fast and loose with the truth.

Most people turn off to the issue of global warming because they fear there is no solution. Although we will use a number of types of renewables as well as conservation and energy efficiency to meet the global warming problem, calculations using solar photovoltaic (PV) technology provide a quick and dirty way to assess the feasibility of accomplishing the task.

The total electric generating capacity of the United States is about 900 gigawatts (almost one terawatt). Eighty percent of the electrical generating capacity of the United States could be replaced by installing photovoltaics (PV) on existing rooftops (source). The cost would be about $2 trillion. If this capacity was implemented over a twenty year period, the per capita yearly cost would be $335.

Of course, we use more than just electrical power in the United States. The total annual use of energy used in the United States is 29,000 terawatt-hours, or 3.3 terawatts average power output (source).

About 85% of our power comes from fossil fuels, or 2.8 terawatts. PV generates about 10 watts per square foot, so you need 0.28 trillion square feet (280 billion square feet) of PV panels to replace all of the fossil fuel used the United States. That comes to 10,000 square miles, or 200 square miles per state. As already shown, over 1/3 of that is already available in rooftops. The cost would be about $5.6 trillion dollars, or $18,666 per person in the United States. Spread over 50 years, it would cost $373 per year per person to provide all of our energy needs with photovoltaics.

Another interesting calculation can be gotten by looking at the impact of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. This spill is expected to cost more than the Exxon Valdez oil spill ($8.5 billion), and the stock price of BP has dropped $18 billion (source). If we use a figure of $18 billion as the cost of this spill, for this amount of money one could build photovoltaic generating capacity of 9 gigawatts. Over an estimated lifetime of 50 years, the energy produced would be about 740,000 gigawatt-hours, which at a modest price $0.10 per kilowatt-hour has a value of $74 billion. The Deepwater Horizon well had the potential of 50M barrels, which at today’s oil price of $70/barrel has a value of $3.5 billion. Thus, the value of energy that could be produced by PV installations built from the cost of this spill would be 21 times the maximum value of the energy that would have been produced by the Deepwater Horizon well.

Might there be a message in that?

This post was submitted by Bishop Dansby.

Looking Back and Forth: City Lights

Nancy Bondurant Jones will be submitting a regular column to the titled “Looking Back and Forth.”

Through centuries city lights have  not only offered  brighter nights but often reflect city culture.   For example in the Smithsonian magazine for January 2010,  David Martin quoted a 14th Century homeowners association in the year 1365 regarding lighting:

Manor hath provided torches throughout the community for the convenience of all.  However, all torches must be extinguished by curfew and not reignited until the following dusk so as not to obscure viewing of God’s celestial firmament.

What a lovely reflection—though today the number of lights serve to dim sky views.  Yet lights have always been an symbol of proud growth.  Historian John Wayland gave Dec. 22, 1890, as the date electric lights were first turned on in Harrisonburg—streets unlisted:  “Globes suspended from chestnut poles of regulation size…out of the way of traffic. All to burn nightly, except when the moon is actually full and not cloudy.”
Harrisonburg had been officially designated an independent city in 1916 but it took decades later for neon signs and strings of electric lights to evoke that “city feeling.”

Yet in the mid-1930s, a dark horizon still marked rural nights.  Furthermore, as towns and cities gradually acquired more lights, a vast social gulf grew between those living in darkness with kerosene lamps their only lights while townsfolk sat blessed by electricity.

Amid the nation’s worse  financial depression, the President sought to lift Americans’ pride and to close the nation’s cultural divide.  The Rural Electrification Act was signed by Pres. Franklin Delano Roosevelt in May 1936.  Two years later, on Jan. 29, 1938, the Daily News-Record reported, “More than 97 rural homes in the western section of Rockingham Co. enjoyed electric lights and power for the first time Saturday night when 47 miles of the Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative lines were energized.”

In spite of some farmers’ fears of electric wires in their homes, on June 16, SVEC reported 118 miles had been energized the prior week for over 400 farms in West Rockingham County and Northwest Augusta Co.  By year’s end, the SVEC had served 1,825  local homes with current, and across the nation, similar growth drew farmers to praise their President.  One Tennessee,  farmer giving witness in church said: “Brothers and sisters, I want to tell you this:  The greatest thing on earth is to have the love of God in your heart—and the next greatest thing is to have electricity in your house.”

Modern Americans may agree if they ever think about it, taking electricity for granted  and complaining fiercely when a storm takes down their line. Yet they’re proudly aware that a modern “city” offers not only great conveniences, but also stylish decorative touches.  Since the 1930’s in many small towns across the nation, any Saturday night drew both country and city dwellers to greet friends, and all to marvel at neon signs and electric lights along Main Street or the passing parade of cars one way.  And electric lights were often followed by neon and fluorescent.  In 1941 Gus Julius remodeled his restaurant to full-time with fluorescent inside and neon along the street.  Newsweek magazine ran an article on this first restaurant in the nation completely lit by fluorescent lighting.

Today holiday nights still beckon those driving or strolling on Main Street.  Traffic now flows one way and  the once familiar large stores now line distant malls.

Yet current lights mark eateries, small shops and clubs  that beckon strollers along Main Street with foods, music, stylish miscellany plus art.    We even celebrate “First Fridays”  downtown for “art & music, shop & stroll, wine & dine” each month from April through October—city lights still reflecting city culture.

This post was submitted by Nancy Bondurant Jones.