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Energy Explorer Fall 2016 newsletter
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Meet “Mr. Nosey”—Being Nosey Can Keep You Safe

A natural gas leak can be unsafe—that’s why it’s so important to share the following with your students and their families:

Use your senses to spot a natural gas leak as soon as it happens. Mr. Nosey is always on the lookout and so should you: 1. Smell for rotten eggs, which has a similar odor to the chemical added to natural gas; 2. Look for a hazy white cloud in the air or bubbles in a puddle or water outside; 3. Listen for hissing or blowing sounds of natural gas escaping from pipes or appliances.

If you think you’ve found a natural gas leak: Get outside immediately and call 911 and your local gas provider. DO NOT use your phone or cell phone inside the house. DO NOT turn any light switches on or off. DO NOT light any candles.

Remember… Smell Gas. Act Fast.

How to Stay Safe During a Lightning Storm

Lightning Storm

We’ve all seen lightning bolts light up the sky during a storm. Lightning is a natural occurrence that happens frequently and is usually harmless.

In fact, lightning strikes the earth 100 times each second. Almost all the time, there are no injuries or damage. But that doesn’t mean that lightning can’t be dangerous.

Lightning carries large amounts of electricity and can reach temperatures of up to 50,000° F. When you consider that boiling water is 212° F, that’s pretty hot! So it’s important to know how to stay safe during a lightning storm.

It’s very rare but people do get struck by lightning. Most of the time this happens during the summer when temperatures are higher, the air is drier, and more people are outdoors.

Lightning bolts can strike the ground up to 10 miles from the scene of a storm. Just because a storm appears to be far away, that doesn’t mean you should ignore it. If you can hear thunder, lightning could strike at any time.

What to Do During a Storm

It’s better to be safe than sorry. When the sky darkens and it looks like a storm may be approaching, stay indoors. If you hear thunder and lightning, don’t take a shower or bath, or use the telephone. Lightning can travel through electrical lines.

Sometimes a lightning storm can develop quickly while you’re outside. You might be playing sports, in a playground or just hanging out with friends. Here are some tips on what to do and what not to do if you’re caught in a storm:

  • Don’t seek shelter under a tree. Trees are usually the tallest objects in the area and they attract lighting.
  • Stay away from any type of water, such as pools, lakes and beaches. Since water is a good conductor of electricity, it attracts lightning.
  • If you can make it safely to a car, do so immediately. Automobile frames are made of metal, which is an excellent conductor of electricity. If lightning strikes the car, the current passes through the metal frame without affecting the people inside.

The chances of being struck by lightning once in your lifetime are about one in 3,000. That’s a very small number but it’s not zero. People do get hit by lightning so it’s best to prepare yourself and know what to do during a storm.

How Does Natural Gas Get to Your Home?

natural gas distribution map

If your home uses natural gas, you’re probably taking advantage of it every day. When you take a shower or feel comfortable in your room during the coldest days of winter, you’re using natural gas. When your parents cook on a gas stove or in an oven, they’re using natural gas.

You can’t see or hear it, so most people take natural gas for granted.

But did you ever wonder where the gas comes from and how it is delivered to your home? It’s an amazing and complicated journey.

How Natural Gas was Created

Natural gas is trapped underground. It was formed millions of years ago when dead fish and other sea creatures sunk to the bottom of the ocean, where they were buried under rocks.

It took a long time but the heat and pressure at the bottom of the ocean caused these sea creatures to decay and change, forming natural gas. The gas was trapped in the rocks beneath the ocean.

Over millions of years, the earth changed and some of the oceans became dry land. But all of the natural gas stayed in rock formations below the earth’s surface, where it remains today.

Drilling for Gas

In order to collect natural gas, gas companies need to use large drills that go thousands of feet underground. The drills break up the rocks surrounding the gas and then small pipelines gather the gas as it escapes.

These pipelines, which are about a foot in diameter, deliver the gas to a processing plant, where it is cleaned.

Transmission Lines

After the processing plant cleans the gas, it is channeled into another set of pipelines called transmission lines, which deliver natural gas to a local company. This company then sends the gas to local homes and businesses. It’s called a distribution company because it distributes the gas. The pipelines are about 2–3 feet in diameter.

Before the gas is sent to the distribution company, a special chemical, called mercaptan, is added. Mercaptan smells like rotten eggs or sulphur, and lets people know when the gas is leaking. If a pipeline is cracked or damaged, the gas can leak and create a dangerous situation. Adding mercaptan to the gas makes it much easier to find a leak and much safer to use.

Distribution Lines

These are the pipelines that the local gas distribution company uses to bring natural gas to your home. They can be as small as two inches in diameter.

Before you actually use natural gas, it travels from beneath the earth’s surface to a processing plant and then off to a distribution company. Many workers are involved and the gas might travel hundreds of miles along the way. In the end, we receive clean, safe natural gas that has many uses.

New Program Encourages Solar Installation

House with Solar Panels

The use of solar energy is becoming more popular every day.

That’s because solar energy does not require the burning of any type of fuel, such as oil, coal or gas. Since no fuel is burned, there are no chemicals released into the atmosphere. Solar energy is good for the environment.

If you have solar panels on the roof of your home, you produce some of your own electricity, so they can save homeowners money on their electric bills.

Cost of Solar Energy

Why doesn’t everyone use solar energy? For one thing, the equipment is expensive and it also costs money to install solar panels. In some cases, the amount of money you save is less than the cost of putting solar panels on your roof. Sometimes it actually costs more to use solar energy.

That is changing. As more people and businesses use solar power, the costs have come down and engineers have been able to design solar energy systems that produce more electricity.

It’s like telephones. It wasn’t too long ago that portable phones were big, bulky and expensive. Today, they are lightweight, much less expensive and can do many things.

New Plans

Another reason why the use of solar energy is increasing is that electric companies are working with customers to make it easier and more affordable. There are many different types of plans available. Some of them allow homeowners to rent the solar panels, instead of buying them, and this can save a lot of money.

In addition, customers who install solar panels can receive a reduction in their income taxes, which makes it even more affordable.

Many homeowners like the idea of using solar energy but don’t know how to get started or who to call.

National Grid has started a program in Rhode Island that makes it easy to get information about solar energy and find installers to do the work. The program, called SolarWise, provides a list of solar installers that have been approved. In this way, homeowners can be sure they are paying a fair price and will have the work done by reputable companies.

More Jobs

Another advantage of solar energy is that it creates jobs. In Rhode Island, there are about 10,000 people working in the renewable energy business and that number is expected to increase. By encouraging more people to install solar panels, National Grid’s SolarWise program will create many jobs.

Solar energy is a new type of business and it is growing, thanks to improved design, lower costs and programs that make it easier for customers.

Many Reasons to Respect Your Elders

Kids with Older Woman

People get old. It’s a fact of life.

Sometimes older people don’t understand some of the things that young people find very simple. Sometimes they don’t agree with what younger people say or what they do.

You probably have an older relative who doesn’t like the same music or TV shows as you.

We often think of older people as slower paced and sometimes forgetful. But regardless of our beliefs and assumptions, it’s important to show understanding and respect for our elders. Doing so can be educational and gratifying.

Here are some other reasons:

  • They have experience and wisdom to share.
    Our elders have lived through many different types of situations. If you have a problem, they have probably experienced it before and can help you get through it. If you have questions about anything, your elders either know the answer or know where to look for it.
  • It sets a good example for others.
    Respecting our elders shows that you are a loving, caring person. If you have younger brothers and sisters, this sets a good example for them. It also shows others, such as friends, relatives and those older than you, that respecting elders is the right thing to do.
  • It’s a way of thanking them.
    Many elders have unselfishly helped others just because it’s the right thing to do. They may have served in the armed forces, volunteered in the community or held a public service job, like working for the police or fire department. Think about your grandparents. They probably worked hard to make a better life for your parents, who are now doing the same for you. You can thank your grandparents by being as helpful as you can, showing love and respect.
  • It makes them feel better.
    Just saying hello, helping someone, holding a door or carrying groceries can be a big boost to an older person, or anyone for that matter. It may take a little extra effort but when you make an elderly person happy, it makes you feel good, too.
  • Old age can be a difficult time.
    The elderly often suffer from aches and pains. They can’t move around like they used to and that can be frustrating. In many cases, older people can’t do the things they love. They need your help. You’re young and full of energy so lending a hand is always appreciated.
  • Family histories can be very interesting.
    Knowing where we come from is an important part of learning who we are, and where we’re going. Grandparents, aunts, uncles and family friends all have stories to tell. These stories are not only interesting but can teach us important lessons about life.
  • Remember the Golden Rule.
    Think of how you might feel if you were in their shoes. If you were an elderly person, would you like it if someone showed interest in you and wanted to help you? Of course you would.

So the next time you see an elderly person, say “hello” and ask “how are you?” It really goes a long way. And, when you give of yourself and your time, you get more in return than you’d imagine.

National Grid

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