Posts by — Kelly Mead

3rd Annual Bike for Peace and New Energies
by KELLY MEAD on JUNE 6, 2008 - 0 Comments in community

From June 12 through August 16, 2008 bike riders will be going from Paris to Moscow and then on to Peking. All in an effort to raise awareness that peace and facing the looming energy crisis is not just a local but international issue.
In 2006 and 2007 this ride was only from Paris to Moscow, this year it has been expanded to Peking after their success. This ride is also open to any solar electric rides as this is also a way to promote the use of alternative and renewable energies. Another of the unique aspects of this ride is that everyone is expected to pitch in and help one another. That means helping with meals, cleaning up th dishes, putting tents up, giving a helping hand to your fellow riders, etc. This event hope to pull riders from all nationalities and walks of life who all wish to promote peace and the use of renewable energies instead of the standard oil.

The stated goals of the organization are :

  • Renewable energies instead of wars for oil
  • Disarmament and social reconciliation
  • Peace policy instead of Milty violence
  • War must not be any more a means of policy
  • Create sustainable and peaceful Europe
  • Abashment of all nuclear weapons until 2020
  • Sporty meetings in the Olympic Spirit

They go in depth for each goal on the site, you can click here to take a look. This event is just an example of how the energy crisis that is looming, if not actually here, is being felt not just here in the USA but as the world as a whole. That being said the solutions we are more concerned with are those that touch us close4r to home. That is likely the case with most people, and luckily for us using alternative energy is not something only for certain demographics or locations.

What should be realized by those of us going to alternative and renewable energy, especially used on a personal scale, is that a hundred years ago that was the norm. Even in many countries around the world it still is the norm for the average person. Yes, we love our technology but technology does not mean we have to be plugged into the grid to enjoy it. Those living off the grid who love technology still can play with the same toys, though they are more responsible in making sure that phantom power is not being drained when not in use.

Looking around you right now what is plugged in but not on, what is on but not being actively used, what can be turned of because their is a free source for the same resource (lights on during the day)? These are questions you should ask yourself everytime you enter a room or walk through your home/office. You will be amazed at what you find. Habits are hard to break (like my husband still likes the lights on during the day) but they can be broken (sometimes with a frying pan). Sometimes outside reminders help, sometimes realizing the cost of the habit helps more, and sometimes you just need to have someone else to help. The real magic is being able to realize which is right for you.

Most of us adults were brought up in a consumer lifestyle from diapers on up. That is something that needs to be retrained in us. Not saying that you don’t need to buy things new or replace old things, just saying that we need to look at all stuff a valuable even if it’s first use is no longer valid to us. Always remember the saying “One Man’s Junk is Another Man’s Treasure”. That is as true today in the age of disposable everything as it was for my grandparents growing up in the Great Depression. You see all types of ideas when surfing the net of people finding interesting things to do with what most of us view as trash. RecyleCindy has a blog about bags that she has crocheted from those plastic grocery bags most people throw away or just use for holding their recyclables. She not only shows the pictures of these wonderful creations but gives the directions so others can do it themselves.

All the tings that were discussed in today’s post were to give you a sampling of the innovative things people are doing to change the way we see and respond to our world. Some are not as grand as others but with each tiny or large effort they are bringing change. So this article was to inspire all to take those little steps and be proud of what you have accomplished to whatever your bigger goal is. Changing your lifestyle is an extreme change and as such should be taken at the pace you are comfortable with and can handle. You didn’t get to where you are overnight and you won’t accomplish your goals overnight either.

Need Something To Do This Weekend?
by KELLY MEAD on JUNE 3, 2008 - 0 Comments in community

Need something to do in Los Angeles, CA this weekend then we have a deal for you. In our mailbox we found a nice little surprise (unfortunately it’s a few days old) about the third annual Dwell on Design Event. This event is a combination of a conference and exhibition that will run June 5-8, 2008. The conference is scheduled for June 5-6 while the exhibit will follow on June 7-8. This event will be the largest design show in the West.

“With 41,500 subscribers in the Los Angeles area and 10,100 newsstand readers, we knew it was the time to bring a high quality, content-based conference to Los Angeles,” said Michela O’Connor Abrams, Dwell’s Publisher and President.

There will be conference sessions led by industry innovators along with hands-on exhibits for attendees to explore both products and lifestyle demonstrations. A unique part of the exhibition will be a “pop-up” community that is made up of prefab exhibitors that hope to be seen, touched and most of all to inspire. They have partnered with the LA Mayors Office, LA Forum, ASID, ASLA, AIA, LA MOCA, GOOD Magazine and too many others to name in hopes of ensuring a great success. The event is to be held at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

Put on by Dwell Magazine and their editors it hope to provide an in-depth look at modern design, architecture and space. This is to be enhanced by perspectives of design professionals, legislators, international guest and activists. Some of the guest include award winning architect from Environa Studio (Australia), Tone Wheeler; Jenna Didler of Materials and Applications, a research center dedicated to pushing new and underused ideas for art, landscape and architecture into view; Los Angeles City Council President Eric Garcetti will also be offering a keynote address. To keep everyone entertained they will also be offering nightly events downtown at various venues. Attendees are hoped to be 12-15,000 for the exhibition. It will feature over 200 exhibitors, who will be hoping to garner those attendees attention.

“Dwell’s brand has received accolades for the past three years in San Francisco in print, online, with homes, and live with Dwell on Design” said O’Connor Abrams. “We are excited to bring the brand to life in Los Angeles, an undisputed capital of modern design”

You can register for the event by clicking here and for a free ticket to the exhibition use the code : BDODEC; for $50 off the cost of the conference use the code : GRP22SP.

Our readers have also been offered a free month of the digital version of the magazine Dwell. So even if you can’t make the convention you can see what the magazine is all about without killing trees or losing any green.

Since we’re on the East Coast there is no way we can make this exciting event but if any of you do make it drop us a line and let us know how it went. We’ll be happy to even post it if you want.

An Alliance and A Campaign
by KELLY MEAD on JUNE 2, 2008 - 0 Comments in land

logo for Alliance for climate protection

Since it’s a political year, not that every year isn’t one, we looked around to see who is taking advantage of our politticans being a little more open to listening to going green, being self-sufficient, and/or environmental issues. So of course we checked out the We Can Solve It website.

The We Can Solve It campaign is a project of the Allliance for Climate Protection. The Alliance single purpose is to get the pulic involved and active in solving the climate crisis we are facing. Yes this is the foundation that Former Vice President Al Gore started in 2006. That is not a reason to like or dislike this campaign/organization but it helps to have a big name attached ask any foundation that has celeberties as part of their organization. The idea behind this website looks like a good one. A place to find events, list or (as we did) start groups, blog about your experience or read someone’s blog, and get recent news from the organization.

The organization believes that since public awareness of the climate changes is high then so should the understanding that solutions are needed too. Unfortunately for those of us in the USA climate change (or what ever you wish to call it) has become so entrenched in people political views that getting past the politics and dealing with the reality that our climate is changing, no matter the how or why. Idealogy and sterotypes are rampt in America’s culture and that can be a good thing, who doesn’t love apple pie, but when dealing with reality it doesn’t leave much room for preconcieved ideas. Helping people beak down partisan lines and changing the issue from being politics as usual is a main goal or them.

“What has consistently been missing, however, is a massive and sustained national effort to catalyze a broad culture shift on the issue, raising the climate crisis out of a partisan framework and unlocking the potential for real solutions. Our leaders will take the bold actions needed to solve the climate crisis only when the American people demand that change.” from The Alliance for Climate Protection and the We Campaign: Fact Sheet

If they can accomplish their goals then maybe dealing with the changes in our climate will no longer be a “who/what is at fault” but a “how to deal with it”. So with that thought we added a group to their site called “Off Grid USA” and we are looking into putting together a real world club that can be a place for those of us going off the grid, green or already there to get together to discuss, share, and help one another.

Interestingly enough listening to the congressional committee on Climate Change and Alternate Energy (may not be the official name) on Cspan the other day it was noticed that the most opening statements were not about where to start looking for answers but who’s fault Republicina (Bush) or Democrat (Pelosi). It’s was amazing that with most of the congressmen expressing that they have trouble explaining how gas prices and energy cost have gotten so high to their voters they are still playing the blame game. If all they can see is that they don’t want to be blamed and not that they can actually make a difference then it’s easy to see why us as everyday Americans need to demand that enough politics as usual. If they spent even half the time and energy they have at their disposal to work on the problems we face instead of finding fault and assigning blame who knows how our country and world could be improved.

If You Can’t Be Off Grid Then Live In A SmartGridCity
by KELLY MEAD on MAY 20, 2008 - 0 Comments in off-grid-101

What is a Smart Grid City? It’s a new concept that is being built in Boulder, Colorado to make using conventional grid energy more efficient in it’s use and cost. it is probably best put by the chairman, president and CEO of Xcel Energy, Dick Kelly:

  • “We’re on our way toward building the grid of the future and making SmartGridCity a reality. This is a forward-thinking project that will transform the way we do business. In SmartGridCity, our customers will have more information, including the tools to communicate directly with us, and will choose when and how they use their energy based on price, generating resource or convenience.”

The design phase completion was announced on May 15, 2008 and that the equipment needed has been ordered and construction has already started. Since the study done by the Smart Grid Consortium and Xcel Energy to develop a scope and design to implement this change was just completed this past April. To say this is on the fast track seems to be an understatement. Though as we American’s have shown time and time again when we are fired up bu something we can do it at an extremely efficient rate. If this planned project goes as well as expected then by December 2009 the city of Boulder will be adding renewable energy to it’s power sources as well as integrating plug-in hybrid cars for it’s citizens.

The idea to use the technology we have as well and push the envelope to lower consumption of the energy we have available on the grid is a great step to helping people become more involved in their energy choices. If everyone had the information about what the cost of plugging something in or turning it on would cost in both energy and cash then questioning the need for it could become second nature to everyone. How many times do people turn on lights in the middle of the day because shades haven’t been opened yet, or charging a mobile device when it’s not empty or longer then needed, or left lights on because they would be right back, or any of hundreds of little things that because we don’t see the cost at time of use we don’t always think about it.

Hoping for this to be a success for more then the city of Boulder should be anyones hope that wishes to change the way we treat energy. If a city can be taught to conserve and use wisely as a whole then us that are working towards that on our own can benefit, too. The technology to do this will be improved, price should become more realistic for the common person, and more information about problems and solutions will be available. Of course, that’s a best case scenerio and here at The Off Grid Home that is what we all hope for.

Included below is an excerpt from the Xcel Energy May 15, 2008 press release on the schedule and phases they hope to accomplish in order to make Boulder, CO a SmartGridCity.


Phase I, which runs from March 2008 to August 2008, is the demonstration phase, and initial installations will take place to test capabilities and gauge customer reaction. Phase II, which runs from September 2008 to December 2009, will be a full deployment phase to a broader customer base. Xcel Energy and its partners will dedicate up to 115 people to SmartGridCity, to install and monitor more distribution as well as in-home equipment, and work with customers to begin using the new technology.

Phase I: March 2008 – August 2008

  • Includes full-system automation, monitoring and smart meters for the first group of SmartGridCity customers. Involves upgrades to two substations, five feeders and nearly 15,000 meters (representing both residential, commercial and light industrial customers) in Boulder.
  • Web portal will provide consumers with insight into their energy use and information for better home energy management.
  • A dedicated customer service phone number (1-877-887-3339) and e-mail address ( for SmartGridCity customers.
  • Some customers can choose to have in-home automation tools, allowing increased control over home energy use and costs.
  • By mid-August, initial capabilities should be demonstrated.

Phase II: September 2008 – December 2009

  • Complete the installation of a distribution and communication network for remaining areas within Boulder (an additional two substations, 20 feeders and smart meters for an additional 35,000 premises).
  • Expanded in-home automation installations.
  • Enable Web portal access to all SmartGridCity customers.
  • Begin initial integration of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, solar and wind co-generation sources onto the grid in Boulder.

Xcel Energy and its partners have started installing the high-speed communications network and smart grid sensing equipment necessary for deploying SmartGridCity, which will enable two-way communication between customers and the company.

The company has ordered approximately 15,000 Landis+Gyr smart meters, which will be installed by August 2008. In June, crews will begin installing them, at approximately 2,500 meters each week. The new smart meters provide detailed usage history and automated meter reading. The meter installation will be at no charge to the customer.

The potential benefits of SmartGridCity include operational savings, customer-choice energy management, better grid reliability, greater energy efficiency and conservation options, increased use of renewable energy sources and support for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and intelligent-home appliances.

Xcel Energy anticipates funding only a portion of the project, and plans to leverage other sources including government grants for the remainder of what could be up to a $100 million effort.

In December 2007, Xcel Energy established the Smart Grid Consortium, bringing together leading technologists, engineering firms, business leaders and IT experts. Consortium members include Accenture, Current Group, GridPoint, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories and Ventyx. The group will provide guidance, products and services needed to bring Xcel Energy’s smart grid vision to life.

For the full design and scope plan, and additional information on SmartGridCity, visit

Hydrogen Good For More Than Cars?
by KELLY MEAD on MAY 9, 2008 - 0 Comments in energy

Hydrogen as the fuel for our cars hasn’t quite been the magic pill it was toted as being when first introduced. That doesn’t mean that it is not still a viable and essential area that needs to be researched as a renewable energy source. There is a vision for a new hydrogen economy which “will mean a world where our pollution problems are solved and where our need for abundant and affordable energy is secure… and where concerns about dwindling resources are a thing of the past.”– Spencer Abraham, Hydrogen Energy Roadmap, November 2003.

As one of the most abundant elements in the world and even universe using hydrogen to power our way of life has great appeal. Here on Earth it is not alone but we can harvest it from a variety or resources, such as water, biomass, natural gas, oil and even coal. This means that the resources we need can be found wherever we need to produce hydrogen. Right now most, 95%, of the hydrogen used today comes from reforming natural gas. The 5% remaining is high-purity hydrogen produced from water electrolysis, which is done primarily by fossil fuel generated electricity. Though the ideal solution is to do this sustainable through a cycle that produces the hydrogen clean, efficiently, and most important in today’s economy affordably. If this can be accomplished then it can increase our energy security, reduce of greenhouse emissions, and help make the world a better place while giving us the energy we demand.

To have a sustainable production cycle for the production of hydrogen and its use is the ultimate goal. The ideal cycle would start with hydrogen would be harvested using renewable resources; an example would be the photoelectrolysis of water, where solar energy would be used to convert water into hydrogen and oxygen. Then this hydrogen is used to power a fuel cell where the hydrogen is reconnected with the oxygen to produce electricity, water and heat. In this cycle there in no pollution or greenhouse gases produced.

Renewable resources are abundant in the United States for the production of hydrogen. Since it can be made using solar, wind, biomass, etc the resource are enough to take care of the needs of the entire country. Since wide distribution of renewable resources is possible we can use a decentralized production for the hydrogen. One possibility is that in Iowa hydrogen can be a byproduct of corn ethanol production. Another is that in Massachusetts the off shore wind farms could produce the electricity needed to harvest the hydrogen. With decentralized production of hydrogen storage and delivery can be greatly reduced and in some cases eliminated.

At this time wind seems to be at the forefront for hydrogen production. As with a utility size operation the cost typically ranges from 3–7¢/kWh. Production of hydrogen is not where we need technology breakthroughs, storage and transporting is. Today’s methods for storing hydrogen under high pressure as a compressed gas, or as a liquid at cryogenic temperatures cannot meet the needs for this renewable energy to be realistic at this time. Some of the research being done to store or to make transporting by rail or road has merit to make this a viable option in the future, and if we’re lucky enough in the near future.

Get Green on Demand
by KELLY MEAD on MAY 5, 2008 - 0 Comments in community

The new programs, shows and movies that are all about green have been mentioned a few times here at The Off Grid Home. Though the times for these can have scheduling conflicts and as most channels now carrying a green/self-sufficient themed programming have it all together about once a week, That can be a plus if you can spend every night in front of the TV to catch it all, but not very practical for most of us. So seeing that the Discovery network has but their new Planet Green on demand is great for letting you catch all the new shows. Sundance also has at least one movie/documentary dealing with self-sustainability, green, and/or the environment for when you have more time to watch. These programs are a great source for learning about new products available, different building techniques, other sources of information, organizations that can help, etc. Even those of us who have our ears to the ground and eyes to the horizon on the eco-friendly and self-sustainable movements can benefit as innovation is the driving force behind it.

To see this programming becoming more accessible to the average American is great, though we do worry about it becoming the next fad of the networks. Some shows are modeled after already popular shows. Greenovate is modeled after Flip That House but with only green renovations for the flip. That can be great or it can be a sign that the networks don’t quite get what being self-sufficient and/or green is really about. There is hope that this is a way for those who don’t understand the movement or have an interest but don’t know where to start to get their feet wet. For the time being we’re opting for the hope scenario and will do everything possible to encourage that direction.

Does Your City Have Green Roofs?
by KELLY MEAD on APRIL 30, 2008 - 0 Comments in land

Having a green roof is becoming the thing to do in urban environments and Green Roofs for Healthy CIties is an organization all about that. They have also a list of top ten cities with green roofs in North America. They are:

  1. Chicago, Il
  2. Wilmington, DE
  3. Baltimore, MD
  4. Brooklyn, NY
  5. Virgina Beach, VA
  6. Royersford, PA
  7. Tronto, On
  8. Calgary, AB
  9. Washington D.C.
  10. Philadelphia, PA

Last year there was a marked increase in green roofs, 30% more were installed in North America last year. Even if that is good for all of us inhabiting this earth it is more pronounced in the cities that are making going green a priority. Chicago has ranked number one conceseqitly an with 517,633 sq feet it is clear to see that it will retaining it’s place fro a while to come. The runner up, Wilmington, De, has only 37% of the square feet at 195,600, with 3rd, Baltimore, MD, only 23% at 121,550 square feet in the green. Canada starts ranking with Toronto, 83,055 sq ft, at number 7 with Calagary, 61,720 sq ft, right behind at number 8. This list has a wide range of cities and amount of square feet gone green with the top being over 500,000 sq ft while number ten squeaks in with less then 50,000 sq ft.

This shows that green rooftops in urban areas is still in it’s infancy here in North America. From Green Roofs for Healthy Cities 3rd Annual Green Roof Market Industry Survey showed a 5% increase to 25% market growth last year for its’ corporate members. This means that our rooftops in our urban areas are becoming more beautiful, using less energy for heating and cooling, plus cleaner air and greener spaces for people living there.

“We’re particularly thrilled to see Baltimore on our list for the first time as it is the host city of our fast approaching annual international green roof conference starting April 30, 2008,” says Steven W. Peck, founder and president of Green Roofs for Healthy Cities. “We’re also pleased to see Washington, D.C. on the list again as the government of the District of Columbia is this year’s winner of an Awards of Excellence for Civic Leadership. Significant green roof implementation can save tens of millions of dollars from reduced energy, and greatly improve regional stormwater management and air quality.”

Their annual confrence will be held April 30 – May 2 in Baltimore, MD. They also offer courses throughout the year at various cities you can check schedueling and cities here. If you are going to be doing a green roof then making sure it’s done right is vital. As the additional weight of such a roof as well as the additional aspects of soil, plants, drainage, etc can be tricky knowing what your doing is important.

The beneifts to both the environment and your pocketbook make this option one to consider for both personal and commercial buildings. Maybe one day a trip to the park in the city can be as simple taking the stairs to the rooftop.

RPS Policies at State-Level examined by Berkeley Lab
by KELLY MEAD on APRIL 25, 2008 - 0 Comments in land

States with RPS PoliciesA new report was released by the U.S. Dept of Energy’s Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory (Berkley Lab) shows that renewable energy is being supported by a growing number of states. This is being done by the creation of renewable portfolio standards (RPS) which this report gives an overview of the experience with these new state-level policies. A RPS policy is one that requires retail electricity suppliers to procure a stated minimum quantity of eligible renewable energy.

“State RPS policies require utilities to buy a certain amount of renewable energy, and these programs have emerged as one of the most important drivers of renewable energy deployment in the U.S.,” states Ryan Wiser, “But, as the popularity and importance of these RPS’s have increased, so too has the need to keep up with the design, early experience, and projected impacts of these programs. Our report is designed to meet that need.” Ryan Wiser is part of Berkeley Lab’s Environmental Energy Technologies Division (EETD) and was one of two primary authors for the report.

25 states and Washignton DC have RPS policies in effect and apply to nearly 50% of the total U.S. electricity load. In 2007 four new states have non-binding goals.

The reports other primary author and member of Berkley Lab’s EETD noted “Many of these policies have been established recently and each is designed differently, As a result, the experience has been decidedly mixed.”

Key findings of the study include:

  • More than 50-percent of non-hydro renewable capacity additions in the U.S. from 1998 through 2007 occurred in states with RPS policies, and 93-percent of these additions came from wind power.
  • Existing state RPS policies, if fully achieved, would require roughly 60 GW of new renewable capacity by 2025, equivalent to 15-percent of projected electricity demand growth.
  • Solar set-asides in state RPS policies are becoming more common, and these policies have supported more than 165 MW of new solar capacity so far; a total of roughly 6,700 MW of solar capacity would be needed by 2025 to fully meet these set-asides.
  • The early-year renewable energy purchase targets in the majority of state RPS policies have been fully or almost-fully achieved, with overall average compliance at 94-percent in 2006.
  • Nonetheless, a number of states have struggled to meet even their early-year RPS targets, and many states have been reluctant to penalize non-compliance.
  • Renewable energy certificate (REC) tracking systems continue to expand, and all but four states allow unbundled RECs to count towards RPS compliance.
  • The cost of RPS policies varies by state, but in most states, these programs have, so far, increased electricity rates by one-percent or less; in several states, the renewable electricity required by RPS policies appears competitive with fossil generation

The market for renewable energy is rapidly changing and increasingly states are hoping to support this growth. “Given the major role that state RPS policies are playing, we hope that this report will help improve the next generation of these programs,” Wiser concluded.

The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy and by the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability of the U.S. Department of Energy funded Berkeley Lab’s contributions to this report.

Berkeley Lab islocated in Berkeley, California and is a U.S. Department of Energy national laboratory . It is managed by the University of California and conducts unclassified scientific research. You can visit their website at

Being Passive is a Good Thing
by KELLY MEAD on APRIL 24, 2008 - 0 Comments in energy

Using Passive Solar enrgy os a great way to design a new home or use in a remodeling project. If you have no plans for doing any major remodeling or building a new home you can still use the passive approach to help heat and cool your home.

Though using passive techniques in an exhisting home without making structure changes is definetely possibble. To use it without making major changes to your home takes watching and learning how your home reacts during the year. Our home has a great cross breeze if we keep the first window in our living room open and the one in the bath open. This is true no matter how hot and stuffy it is outside as our house juts out from the other homes and is angled just right to catch the breeze coming up the road. In the winter our sliding glass door helps to keep the dining room around 70 when the sun is shining. We have learned these things by living in our home. Though our living room has over 80% of it’s exterior wall in windows or doors, which makes us keep our east facing windows shaded till the sun passes. So now we have made changes to help keep us comfortable without using our central air or furnance as much. We introduced a low enegy window fan to boost the air flow and are looking into adding stone or tile to the dining room to help retain the heat longer after the sun goes down. In the living room we needed light dampening shades and curtains to keep the heat of the sun out during summer months. These are just examples of what you can do as you start understanding the strenths and weaknesses of your home. Making them work for you can save you big on heating and cooling cost.

To use passive solar in your home you need to understand that it is based on the principal that heat moves from warmer materials to cooler ones until there is no longer a temperature difference between the two. Using heat-movement and heat-storage mechanisms you can move heat to different parts of your home. There are five types of mechanisims you can use, they are:

  • Conduction -The way heat moves through materials by vibrating the molecules to spread the warmth. An example would be the hot cup of coffee you use to warn your hands in the winter.
  • Convection -The way heat moves through liquids and gases by being lighter then cooler so always rising, while cooler sinks. An example would be the warm water at the top of the pool while freezing in the deep end.
  • Radiation -The process of heat transferring from warm object to cooler ones. 2 types of radiation are important to passive solar design and use, they are solar and infrared radiation. Depending on properties of each object this radiation can be absorbed, reflected or transmitted.
  • Thermal capacitance – Is the ability of materials to store heat. Thermal mass is the term often heard but that is referring to the actual object storing the heat, not it’s ability.

Understanding the principals being applied to passive solar design and use is an important aspect of using this type of heating and cooling. Once the principals are understood then trying different arrangements to make them all work together and not against each other will increase their effectiveness. We will be going in depth about passive solar over the next couple articles as it touches so many different areas in your home.

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