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‘Plug and Play’ Solar Finds Markets in Nebraska and Ohio

first_img‘Plug and Play’ Solar Finds Markets in Nebraska and Ohio FacebookTwitterLinkedInEmailPrint分享Midwest Energy News:Utility customers in Ohio and Nebraska are among those taking advantage of a new and simpler technique for connecting solar arrays and other renewable energy systems to the grid.ConnectDER, as it’s known, generally eliminates the need to enter a home and it greatly reduces the amount of electrical work required.“It allows you to inject the solar on the customer side of the meter prior to getting into the home,” said Michael Shonka, a solar installer who has put the new equipment in a half-dozen homes in the Omaha area. “This means we can cut out $1,000 to $2,000 worth of cost in the system because you don’t need electricians to go through foundations trying to get to the service panel, and you don’t need to rearrange the panel.”Some people know it as “plug and play” solar.The ConnectDER “collar” plugs into the meter socket, typically on the outside of the house, and then the meter plugs into the ConnectDER, meaning that the solar panels’ inverter connects directly with the meter without having to go through the household service panel.In Nebraska, the Omaha Public Power District approved the equipment this past summer, and the Lincoln Electric System is now evaluating it. In Ohio, utilities in Tipp City, Yellow Springs and Westerville permit the new technology, as do about a dozen other utilities from Vermont to California and Hawaii.Shonka said he is “always looking for innovations in the industry,” and heard about ConnectDER at an industry meeting.“I recognized this as being a problem because every time I went to do an installation, I ran into issues with how to make the electrical connection.” The last few feet of wiring, he said, “are very expensive. You have to get through foundations, run wire in conduit through the inside of the house, rearrange the circuit-breaker box.”Marketing the product is time-consuming, said ConnectDER’s product manager, Jon Knauer, because, “Each new market that we want to sell it into requires utility approval. Over time that gets easier, because once we have a couple utilities sign off, the others tend to follow along. We’re still in the phase of opening up new markets.”He’s hopeful that in the Midwest, with its numerous municipal utilities and rural electric cooperatives, the technology may spread more rapidly than in other regions.Smaller non-profit utilities “make decisions fairly quickly. The (Omaha Public Power District) approved it in a month or two, which isn’t very long. And there are a lot of statewide municipal or co-op associations that you can take the product to and say, ‘This group of utilities similar to you are doing this, and maybe you should think about doing the same.’”More: New connection technology is cutting cost of solar installationlast_img read more

Shades of Grey

first_imgFilm festivals have become major spectacles of our times. They affect the business, culture and commerce of films. As central occasions to embrace cinema, they thrive on the hunger of cinema-lovers to nurture their tastes and passion for films. By some accounts, there are 7,000 film festivals around the world, in virtually every corner, from Bedouin tents to the glossy beaches of the French Riviera, from your own neighborhood to major cities on all continents.   I AmThe festivals influence the shaping of cultural identities, well beyond their role in forging connections between the filmmaking, marketing and finance communities. To some, that function of community building is as much a mirage as the goal of nurturing the love of cinema is overshadowed by the crass commercialism that parades at these spectacles. And yet, as major global phenomenon film festivals serve many functions: they shape how communities come together, how they reassert themselves and how they connect to their own heritage. For communities in diaspora, those attempting to find home away from home, film festivals offer spaces, opportunities for revelry, patronage of their own artists and moments of communion. This function is not unlike that served by religious or traditional festivals, which remind us who we are even in the midst of a life that rarely connects to traditional elements. Thus, in India, a film festival in Kerala celebrates films from around the world, but it also brings together the local film crowd in the name of cinema. There are film festivals in New Delhi and Mumbai, but also in Gauhati and Kanpur. Nearly every IIT (Indian Institute of Technology) has a cultural festival in which films play a major part.  Robot/Endhiran Outside India, much like other diasporic communities around the world, we have film festivals in New York, Houston, Chicago, Los Angeles, etc. dedicated to films from India. This ought to be a curious development. How in the age of the cheap DVDs available in grocery stores, the large repertoire of Indian films at Netflix, the ease of online streaming services and cable/satellite channels, can we still have film festivals that prompt us to get out of our homes and onto the streets for a couple of dozen films in the midst of a work week? The Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA), held from April 12-17, in Hollywood, just a few blocks from the tourist attractions of the Kodak Theater and the walk of fame had all the trimmings of film festivals — the red carpet, award, etc. It featured films you are not likely to find in your neighborhood Indian grocery store. That is the first distinguishing feature of this festival. Bollywood cinema did not figure into the festival, except in a strategic way. There was plentiful of it outside the event. A festival of Bollywood films would mean a lot less in this already crowded world of that cinema. For the most part, IFFLA is about independent cinema.   Ganesh Boy WonderThis commitment to cinema that is different from the usual fare is a strategic contribution this film festival makes to our understanding of ourselves. Programming is at the heart of the identity of a film festival. Here, the programmers, six of them, each assigned to a separate category, from shorts to documentary to feature films, provide a direction to the festival that appears to be a strategic compromise between the need to highlight talented works outside the mainstream — “India-centric” films produced by North American as well as diasporic filmmakers — and the desire to attract a broader audience to what has become a major event for the Indian community on the West Coast. Thus, there is Bollywood by Night, a series of screenings late at night, past 9 p.m., showcasing the recent favorites from the native film making industry that has become a global phenomenon. Rajnikanth’s megabuster Robot/Endhiran festival had attendees wait in long lines and forced the organizers to add extra screenings. Kiran Rao-Amir Khan’s Dhobi Ghat/Mumbai Diaries and Maneesh Sharma’s Band Baaja Baaraat/The Wedding Planner in the Bollywood by Night program brought out second generation Indians, who also made a party out of the night. Two very rich programs of short films showcased a diverse selection of films from India, film students in the U.S., as well as filmmakers from Pakistan and Canada. The broad palette suggested that programming is a strategy rather than a clear commitment to themes.  That Girl in Yellow BootsThe festival was a stage for remarkable documentary works: Phil Cox’s The Bengali Detective, Sonali Gulati’s I Am, Sweta Vohra’s Pink Chaddis, Kim Longinotto’s Pink Saris, Srinivas Krishna’s Ganesh Boy Wonder and Bill Bowles and Kenny Meehan’s Big in Bollywood. Together, the films demonstrated a mature growth of the documentary form.The festival’s core focus was represented by films like Murali Nair’s Laadli Laila (Virgin Goat), Anurag Kashyap’s That Girl in Yellow Boots, Aparna Sen’s An Unfinished Letter, Nila Madhab Panda’s I Am Kalam, Vikramaditya Motwane’s Udaan and Onir’s I Am. By the time the final screening of Disney’s Zokkomon arrived, the festival had captured the diversity of the overseas Indian community, reflecting its abiding interest in knowing more about India, while exploring the talents, background and the realities back home and here. Christina Marouda, executive director and the founder of IFFLA, said in an interview that the intent of the festival was to provide exposure to films “that needed a platform.”Marouda sees this festival as establishing its own “niche,” and broadening its appeal in the South Asian community. Indeed, the program included a perceptive and thoughtful short film by a Pakistani filmmaker, Iram Parveen Bilal, titled Poshak/Façade that captured the search of the inner self in the midst of a culture that demanded everything from an artist.   The Bengali DetectiveIFFLA, which Marouda claims is the “premier” Indian film festival in the U.S., maintains a strongly cosmopolitan outlook with feet firmly grounded in films from and about India. Marouda herself is a Greek immigrant, arriving in this country some 11 years ago, steering this festival for the past nine years. The other organizers of the festival are a multi-cultural bunch too; revealing how the centrality of the Indian films is nurtured and promoted by others in one of the major cities in the U.S. Marouda said the festival received nearly 400 film submissions this year, of which just 30 were included in the program. She said the festival gives “confidence that there is good quality film making in India,” the audience looks forward to the event each year and is “aided by a community-family of organizers” that is passionate about its mission. The festival’s deft programming and strategies marks it as an event that is situated in one world while speaking for many. Indian Americans aren’t all wedded to Bollywood and neither is India all about Bollywood. The diasporic community of Indians has been a vibrant component of world cinema. From Mira Nair to Gurinder Chadha and Deepa Mehta, there is a sizeable body of work by filmmakers outside of India, with their roots firmly in their home culture and their intersections with other cultures. It is by now a truism to say that there isn’t just one image of India (shining or otherwise!), but multiple images. We don’t know of any other diaspora as vibrant in cinema. In addition, Indian culture continues to form the center of artistic, cultural and political concern of filmmakers, diasporic or otherwise. IFFLA is a testimony that the community hungers for filmmakers outside Bollywood, despite all the glamor and money the industry attracts.   I Am KalamThe audience for the event included the party-crowd that headed for frankies, dosas and biryanis from the trucks parked on Sunset Boulevard in the evenings. There is something about eating a heavy meal at that late hour, particularly outside the movie theater, that ought to remind one of home. The festival organizers kept alive a loyalty through Twitter and Facebook, with posts and updates about goings-about and last minute recommendations and impulses. A soundstage outside the theater kept the hum on music and dance. Inside, stars like Gulshan Grover and Anupam Kher hobnobbed with up and coming filmmakers. For the media and for the stars themselves, there is the red carpet on the opening and closing nights. An event on this scale and of this nature is always a mixed bag. One of the common laments in festival circles is that these festivals rarely focus on the filmgoer. Instead, the festivals have become marketing and finance extravaganzas and platforms to launch films. For an “ethnic” film festival held in the filmmaking capital of the world, it is hard to resist these temptations.  Dhobi Ghat/ Mumbai Diaries Executive Director Marouda said that IFFLA has launched a film fund to “discover” and support talent with funding for their projects. It isn’t clear if this will instill a certain aesthetic that is diasporic or committed to the concerns of the community abroad. Many of the directors were introduced as “alumni” of IFFLA (Vikramaditya Motwane — Udaan and Geeta Malik — Troublemaker). If 400 filmmakers knocked on IFFLA’s door, it is clear that the choice in programming influenced the kind of films accepted here. The community needs to see this as a sign of possibilities to support good cinema that is not all song and dance and fights and bloody or sexual fantasies. The divide between the sensible or good cinema — the kind supported by film festivals and mainstream cinema — couldn’t be clearer in an encounter during a seminar organized as part of the event. Gulshan Grover, star of many Bollywood films and now in Nila Madhab Panda’s I Am Kalam, rose from the audience to ask questions of panelists that included Abhay Kumar, Nisha Ganatra and Vikramaditya Motwane. While Grover didn’t forget to emphasize his “generosity” in supporting an “alternative” film like I Am Kalam, he asked if the independent filmmakers always dream of casting a famous star in their films. His other question went further. He suggested, nonchalantly, that independent filmmakers usually have only one film in them and then burn out.   Peepli LiveIt is hard to read the minds of the filmmakers who work by raising their own funds and making their own way in the industry. The panelists, successful and brilliant in their own work, seemed hesitant to answer his questions. It was an instructive moment. It is alarming that those who have found a way to make money in mainstream cinema harbor some distaste for art that does not correspond to their own and that good work must be pursued without much support for hiring scriptwriters or cinematographers, let alone publicity machinery to promote their films. They are not looking for glamor, because that isn’t the end for the creative world. They may have more in them, but they get exhausted begging and struggling for a place in a noisy world of ruthless competition. The questions reflect, unwittingly or otherwise, a filter through which the mainstream film industry looks at filmmakers who make meaningful films, pitifully and patronizingly at the same time. The final closing night featured a world premier of Zokkomon, a live-action Disney production that boasts the first superhero based in India. The film is about to be released in India and IFFLA was the prime venue to introduce it to the overseas Indian audience. Needless to say, the house was packed for the screening. The movie features a child superhero who acquires powers that are a cross between Iron Man and Batman, mentored by a wizard with a revenge to settle against a local bad man. The film opens in a Disney-like amusement park, with a song-and-dance routine that demonstrated how perfect the marriage between Bollywood and Hollywood has become. It was hard to discern they were two different, separate worlds.  Band Baaja Baraat/ The Wedding Planner The film offers villains and side characters that belong to both soils at the same time, blending one into another. There’s that kicking-the-behind capacity of the superhero and the swift, dramatic resolution of evil deeds to assure us that we are watching a symbiosis of the two worlds. But that was the least disturbing feature of the evening and the film will no doubt do very well. The alarming aspect came in the introductory remarks by Jason Reed, executive vice president and general manager of Walt Disney Studios International Productions who announced that Disney would soon launch a new brand this summer called Disney World Cinema. Of course, Disney will do what Disney does best. But the idea that Disney will now produce films from around the world, reproducing heroes and formulas that have been established in the West and then market their own stories to people of different cultures is abnormal. No one can accuse Disney of being subtle. But the ease with which we subscribe to this idea and take pride in the claim that we are the first in making a native-planted superhero suggests that we have become so drunk by the attractions of the marketplace that native voices, independent expressions are likely to be drowned further by this coming juggernaut. The very term “Disney World Cinema” was chilling enough to warn us that cinema is about to go the same way as “world music,” catering and molding to the taste of the large markets in the West, suffocating original and native voices. It is hard to overstate the glee in Anupam Kher’s presence after the screening (he performs a dual role in the film, the hero’s mentor and the bad guy — the uncle of the child who becomes Zokkomon). It was equally hard to observe the wave of disappointment, one would guess, in the hearts of the many filmmakers in the audience, who had made meaningful films with such struggle.  Related Itemslast_img read more

South Africa Expects 100,000 Indian Tourists in 2018

first_imgWith the growing number of Indians looking at foreign travel, more and more countries are trying to attract outbound tourists from the country. The latest in line is South Africa, which hopes that more than 1 lakh Indian visitors would travel to the country by the end of 2018.To make the destination more attractive to Indians, the country is being promoted as a destination for numerous activities that are suitable for all age groups. South Africa Tourism is organizing roadshows in Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru, Delhi and Ahmedabad this month to popularize the destination among Indians.“We have observed that Indians are fond of activities, even on a leisure trip. So this year we are focusing on promoting activities here, which are suitable for all age groups,” Alpa Jani of South Africa Tourism told PTI.“We want to offer an affordable, value for money destinations in our country so that we can get more visitors,” Hanneli Slabber, regional general manager, Asia, Middle East, South African tourism said during a media interaction at Bengaluru, the Deccan Herald reported. “We have some interesting offers, which includes no extra pay for the internal travel in South Africa. Even the ATM machines do not charge extra. If at all there is an extra charge, it must be from the banks here.”Most Indians visiting South Africa are families (multi-generation), honeymooners, millennials and participants in MICE (meetings, incentives, conventions, and events). India is the eighth largest source market for foreign tourist arrivals in the country, the top five being the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, Netherlands and France.Most Indians traveling between January and September 2017 visited South Africa for MICE (32.8 per cent) while 26.8 per cent were there for leisure holidays. There were 16.4 per cent business travelers, while VFR (visiting family and relatives) comprised 16 per cent of the total visitors from India, according to South Africa Tourism. There was an increase of 35 per cent in the number of millennial Indians traveling to South Africa during the first quarter, and it rose to 46 per cent in the second quarter.“This is encouraging in the light of the overall challenges faced by the Indian tourism industry which was recovering from the effects of demonetization and GST. In addition to visitor arrival numbers, in-destination spends remained stable while length of stay by Indians saw a positive spike,” she said.South Africa, which has a significant Indian population, is also battling issues like corruption at the highest levels, and a serious water crisis, especially in big cities like Cape Town.Among the travelers from India, 37 per cent came from Mumbai, white 22 per cent belonged to Delhi. The number comprised 11 per cent Gujaratis, 8 per cent Bangaloreans and 7 per cent Bengalis.During January-November 2017, 89,882 Indians visited South Africa, while the number was 95,377 in 2016. Related ItemsSouth AfricaTourismlast_img read more