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February 17, 2012 > Firm tests green tech in historic neighborhood

Firm tests green tech in historic neighborhood

By Lynn Olanoff, The (Easton) Express-Times
Submitted By AP Wire Service

BETHLEHEM, Pa. (AP), Jan 14 - In a trio of century-old buildings, a Bethlehem company is going to experiment with some of the newest green technologies.

The Stone House Group for more than a decade has been in the business of advising schools and other companies on energy efficiency. Now, the company is going to put its practice to use in three historic buildings it owns in the Five Points area.

The company aims to create a zero-carbon neighborhood where its buildings produce no greenhouse gas emissions and manufacture all of its needs on site.

``When we looked at what we do and recommend, we knew with a little energy and creativity we knew we could do it here,'' said Larry Eighmy, Stone House's founder and managing principal.

The first part of Stone House's plan goes into action this week. On Saturday, the company will mount a 20-foot-wide solar collector on the roof of the 101-year-old landmark flatiron building at the corner of Broadway and West Fourth Street.

Atop the parking deck next door, the company will install an array of solar panels later this year. And at two adjacent buildings in the 400 block of Wyandotte Street, the group will install a system to convert the planned gastropub's fryer oil into reusable energy to heat, cool and power the two buildings.

The solar collector at the flatiron building has been designed by another Bethlehem company, CEWA Technologies. The company got its start in April 2009 through Ben Franklin Tech Ventures, and the Stone House project will be CEWA's first test of its new technology, company President and CEO J. Paul Eisenhuth said.

The company's dish-shaped solar collector is cheaper and lighter than standard solar panels but can produce as much energy, Eisenhuth said. CEWA's collector costs about $15,000 to $20,000 compared to about $200,000 for an array of solar panels that produce the same amount of energy, he said.

There are currently government tax rebates available for solar panels, but there's no guarantee they will always by available, Eisenhuth said. CEWA - which stands for Clean Energy and Water for All - hopes its solar collector can be an affordable alternative energy sources for businesses, he said.

``If this comes together, it could revolutionize the solar industry,'' said Laura Eppler, Ben Franklin's marketing director.

The Stone House Group is installing traditional solar panels atop its Broadway parking garage to add to its alternative energy production and compare their productivity to that of the CEWA solar collector, Eighmy said.

``This is our laboratory,'' he said.

The company owns the entire 6-story, 30,000-square-foot flatiron building, which comes with a 48-year-old oil burner and a $65,000 annual energy bill, Eighmy said. Retrofitting 100-year-old buildings to make them energy efficient is far more expensive than constructing new green technology buildings, but it fits into the environmental goal of revitalizing urban neighborhoods where people can walk or use public transportation, he said.

Creating such a community also is part of Stone House Group's zero-carbon neighborhood. The proposed gastropub at 409 and 411 Wyandotte St. will include three apartments, and the company hopes to build new housing in the neighborhood to provide homes for possibly 100 people, Eighmy said. The company is hoping to get the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program's highest certification and to do so requires a carbon footprint reduction through projects such as live-work neighborhoods, said Michael Ozenich, a Stone House senior associate.

Stone House also believes its zero-carbon neighborhood can help revitalize the Five Points area, Eighmy said. Bethlehem officials highly praised the company's plans on Wyandotte Street, where two rundown buildings will be renovated, and the flatiron building has significantly increased its occupancy since The Stone House Group bought it seven years ago.

``We have a chance to make an impact in an area of Bethlehem the city thinks is important,'' Eighmy said.

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Online:

http://bit.ly/wjBUZ9

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Information from: The Express-Times, http://www.lehighvalleylive.com

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