HOUSTON, April 22, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Ara Partners Group ("Ara Partners"), an industrial private equity firm that invests in companies with sustainable competitive advantages, has expanded its senior investment team through the addition of Jim Mahoney as Operating Partner and Johanna Schmidtke as Principal.  Both bring extensive operational and technical experience that closely aligns with Ara Partners' investment strategy.

"The additions of Jim and Johanna build on the deep investment, technical and operational experience at Ara Partners," said Mr. Charles Cherington, Managing Partner of Ara Partners. "Adding these experienced investors will enhance our capabilities in evaluating and executing investments, as well as in the hands-on management of our portfolio."

"Jim and Johanna complement the strong team we've built at Ara Partners," added Mr. Troy Thacker, Managing Partner of Ara Partners. "Their skills and insight will be a significant advantage as we continue to target opportunities in the industrial, chemicals and materials, and energy sectors that support the ongoing, multi-decade energy transition."

Mr. Mahoney brings over 25 years of senior executive experience at various specialty chemicals and biotechnology companies. He was previously Chief Executive Officer of Novomer Inc., Surface Logix Inc. and Prolinx Inc. Prior to his CEO roles, Mr. Mahoney held general management and senior functional positions at Dade Behring, Baxter International, and FMC Corporation. He holds an MBA from Northwestern University's J.L. Kellogg School of Management, an MMA in international economics from the University of Southern California, and a BS from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Ms. Schmidtke brings over a decade of experience in investments and innovation in the materials and energy industries. Prior to joining Ara Partners, Ms. Schmidtke was a Director at Saudi Aramco Energy Ventures ("SAEV"), the corporate venturing subsidiary of Saudi Aramco. Ms. Schmidtke also held prior roles in the advisory practice of PricewaterhouseCoopers, corporate development and strategy at First Solar, and Lux Research. Ms. Schmidtke holds a PhD in Physics from the University of Cambridge as a Gates Cambridge Scholar and a BS from the University of Arizona.

About Ara Partners Group
Ara Partners is an industrial private equity firm that invests in companies with sustainable competitive advantages employing greater resource efficiency. Ara Partners takes a thematic approach to investing within the industrial, chemical and materials, and energy sectors by seeking to build businesses that are sustainable, resource efficient, and compliant with ESG principles. For more information on Ara Partners, please visit www.arapartners.com.

Media Contacts

For Ara Partners:
Mark Semer or Cameron Njaa
Kekst CNC
+1 (212) 521-4800
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SOURCE Ara Partners

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The Keio Research Highlights website offers more details about this and other recent research being conducted by researchers at Keio University including the potential of molecular materials for high-yield solar energy conversion by Taku Hasobe and colleagues.


Measuring the charging states of atmospheric particles offers accurate data for formulating advanced models on the effects of particulates for human health

Inhalation of particulate matter is one of the top ten risks to human health according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In 2016, as many as 4.2 million people died due to the effects of particulates in the air. With these alarming statistics, it is not surprising that there have been increased calls for greater awareness and monitoring of the air for potentially deadly particulates.

"The health risks of inhaling particles less than 2.5 micrometers, so-called PM2.5, are well documented with environmental agencies monitoring particle-concentrations and issuing warnings to the public about dangerous levels of PM2.5 in the air," says environmental scientist Tomoaki Okuda, an associate professor at the Department of Applied Chemistry, Keio University. "However, recent reports indicate that singly charged particles are about six times more likely to be adsorbed into the respiratory tract than uncharged particles. So, an accurate assessment of the effect of air-borne particles on human health requires a much deeper understanding of not only the size of particles, but also their physico-chemical properties including charge and surface structure. My research is focused on determining the charging state of particles in the air, which, surprisingly, is not well understood."

Okuda and colleagues developed K-MACS (Fig. 1, Refs, [1,2]) as an inexpensive and versatile system to continuously separate and quantify the charging state of atmospheric particles ranging in size from 300 nm to 500 nm for short durations over a period of 12 months. "We studied this range of particles because they have a larger concentration in the air," says Okuda. Measurements of these particles were taken at Keio University's Yagami Campus from April 2017 to February 2018.

The two main findings were that the charging state of the atmospheric particles was different from the results of theoretical studies to-date (Fig. 2), and that the particle charging state fluctuated markedly with changing atmospheric conditions (water vapor amount and entrained air mass) due to seasonal variations [3].

"These results offer new insights into the changes of the charging state of particles," says Okuda. "They will play an important role in the accurate evaluation of the effects of atmospheric particles on human health on a global scale."

Related research conducted by Tomoaki Okuda

Okuda conducted a theoretical assessment of the performance of a parallel plate particle separator (K-MACS) instrument designed to measure the charging state of PM2.5 particles. Results yielded an optimal voltage to maximize the types of particles [2]. This research addresses the question of what happens to aerosol particles in humid conditions, such as haze. A discrete element model showed a correlation between relative humidity and the amount of water contained in the particles that were found to be charged negatively or positively [4].


1. Tomoaki Okuda, Yuma Gunji & I.W. Lenggoro, Measurement of the electrostatic charging state of individual particles in ambient aerosol using Kelvin Probe Force Microscopy, Earozoru Kenkyu 30, 190-197 (2015) | article (Japanese language only)


2. Takuto Yonemichi, Koji Fukagata, Kentaro Fujioka & Tomoaki Okuda, Numerical simulation of parallel-plate particle separator for estimation of charge distribution of PM2.5, Aerosol Science and Technology (2019).


3. Ayumi Iwata, et al., Seasonal variation in atmospheric particle electrostatic charging states determined using a parallel electrode plate device, Atmospheric Environment, 203, 62-69 (2019).


4. Yuanping He et al., Atmospheric humidity and particle charging state on agglomeration of aerosol particles, Atmospheric Environment, 197, 141-149 (2019).


Research by Taku Hasobe and colleagues: Exciton fission for high-yield solar energy conversion

Quantifying multi-exciton generation for solar energy conversion in molecular materials


In molecular materials, the absorption of one photon can result in the formation of a singlet exciton ― a state formed by an electron and a hole bound by their electrostatic attraction and with opposite spins. In a process called singlet fission, the singlet exciton splits into two triplet excitons, that is, two excitons in which the electron and hole have their spins pointing in the same direction. The triplet excitons are initially strongly correlated, but they can be separated, and the electrons they carry can then be transferred to other molecules.

This complex process is very promising for applications in solar energy conversion, because it opens up the opportunity of reaching very high power conversion efficiencies, as the absorption of a single photon results in the generation of multiple electrical charges (i.e., multi-exciton generation).

Singlet fission can happen within a single molecule in systems of two molecular units covalently linked by an organic bridge (the process in this case is called intramolecular singlet fission). This is advantageous because we can quantitatively evaluate the photophysical processes and parameters such as kinetic constants and quantum yields. Singlet fission theoretically enables the performance of the sequential photoenergy conversion process starting from the singlet state and leading to electron transfer with the radical ion pair quantum yield approaching 200%. However, the quantitative two-electron transfer process through singlet fission has yet to be reported.

Shunta Nakamura, Hayato Sakai, and Taku Hasobe of Keio University, together with colleagues from Kobe University and Tempere University of Technology (Finland) have quantitatively characterized a sequential process involving intramolecular singlet fission and intermolecular two-electron transfer by using two tetracene-based molecules linked by a biphenyl unit (Tet-BP-Tet) as the singlet fission and electron donor system, and chloranil as the electron acceptor system.

Read more



Shunta Nakamura, Hayato Sakai, Hiroki Nagashima, Yasuhiro Kobori, Nikolai V. Tkachenko, and Taku Hasobe, Quantitative Sequential Photoenergy Conversion Process from Singlet Fission to Intermolecular Two-Electron Transfers Utilizing Tetracene Dimer. ACS Energy Letters 4, 26−31 (2019).

DOI: 10.1021/acsenergylett.8b01964


Keio University

Keio Research Highlights

About Keio University

Keio University is a private, comprehensive university with six major campuses in the Greater Tokyo area along with a number of affiliated academic institutions. Keio prides itself on educational and research excellence in a wide range of fields and its state-of-the-art university hospital.

Keio was founded in 1858, and it is Japan's first modern institution of higher learning. Over the last century and a half, it has evolved into and continues to maintain its status as a leading university in Japan through its ongoing commitment to producing leaders of the future. Founder Yukichi Fukuzawa, a highly respected educator and one of the most important intellectuals of modern Japan, aspired for Keio to be a pioneer of new discoveries and contribute to society through learning.

Further information

Office of Research Development and Sponsored Projects
Keio University
2-15-45 Mita, Minato-ku, Tokyo 108-8345 Japan
E-mail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

SOURCE Keio University

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WASHINGTON, April 19, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- With Earth Day right around the corner, members of the National Association of Realtors® are doubling down on their commitment to promote environmentally friendly home features, adopt green business practices and encourage a culture of sustainability in real estate. With this in mind, NAR is releasing the REALTORS® and Sustainability 2019 Report, which found that consumer demand in real estate continues to trend eco-friendly. 

NAR 2019 Sustainability Infographic
NAR 2019 Sustainability Infographic

The report, found at www.nar.realtor/research-and-statistics/research-reports/realtors-and-sustainability, is in its third iteration and stems from NAR's Sustainability Program. It surveyed Realtors® about sustainability issues in the residential and commercial real estate markets and the preferences they are seeing in consumers in their communities. 

According to the report, 59% of respondents found that residential consumers were very or somewhat interested in sustainability. Seven in 10 residential and commercial agents and brokers reported that promoting energy efficiency in listings is either somewhat or very valuable.

"The state of the environment is important to our members and their business practices, and the report shows that sustainability impacts consumers' home buying decisions as well," said NAR President John Smaby, a second-generation Realtor® from Edina, Minnesota and broker at Edina Realty. "Realtors® remain on the cutting edge of sustainability and continue to lead the conversation about energy efficiency in real estate."

A large majority of respondents (83%) said that solar panels were available in their markets, and 36% said that solar panels increased the perceived property value. However, only 8% of those surveyed said that solar panels decreased the perceived amount of time a home spent on the market. Solar panels are most prevalent in Northeast (available in 94% of markets) and respondents in the West were the most likely to report they increase perceived property value (41%). 

Twenty-five percent of brokers indicated that tiny homes – homes that are 600 square feet or less – are available in their markets, a 2% increase from 2018. Only 13% of respondents said that wind farms were available in their markets. 

The transportation and commuting features that Realtors® stated are very or somewhat important to their clients include: easy access to highways (82%), short commute times and distance to work (81%) and walkability (51%) – the same as 2018.

Forty-one percent of respondents were aware that their Multiple Listing Service, or MLS, has green data fields, compared to only 14% that were unaware. Among those that do have green data fields, 35% of respondents use them to promote green features, 26% use to promote energy information and 14% use to promote green certifications.

Realtors® also revealed how comfortable they are answering questions about home performance and efficiency; 39% said they are comfortable or extremely comfortable. Forty percent of respondents say they are confident or extremely confident in their ability to connect clients with green lenders; only 6% responded that they are not at all confident.

When asked what they consider as the top market issues and considerations regarding sustainability, agents and brokers named understanding lending options for energy upgrades or solar panels (38%), the lack of information and materials provided to real estate professionals (32%) and improving the energy efficiency of existing housing stock (31%).

Respondents were also asked about sustainability in commercial real estate. Seventy percent of agents and brokers indicated that promoting energy efficiency in their commercial listings was very or somewhat valuable. Sixteen percent of respondents reported that their Commercial Information Exchange had green data fields and that those fields promote energy information and green features. The top building features that clients specified as very or somewhat important to their agents or brokers were utility/operation costs (81%), efficient use of lighting (67%) and indoor air quality (64%).

NAR initiated the Sustainability Program as a platform for dialogue on sustainability for Realtors®, brokers, allied trade associations, and consumers. The program's efforts focus on coordination and articulation of NAR's existing sustainability resources, while also supporting a growing area of interest for consumers, helping members to assist home buyers and sellers.

The REALTOR® Sustainability Program invited a sample of 112,035 active Realtors® to participate in an online survey pertaining to sustainability issues facing consumers and the industry, resulting in 6,047 usable responses. NAR plans to use this report to better benchmark Realtor® understanding of sustainability and create resources to help Realtors® better serve clients surrounding sustainability topics.

The National Association of Realtors® is America's largest trade association, representing more than 1.3 million members involved in all aspects of the residential and commercial real estate industries.

Information about NAR is available at www.nar.realtor. This and other news releases are posted in the "Newsroom" tab on the website.  

SOURCE National Association of Realtors

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MILWAUKEE, April 18, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- WEC Energy Group unveiled a report on the company's strategy to reduce costs to customers, preserve fuel diversity and reduce carbon emissions through changes to its generation fleet.

The report – "Pathway to a Cleaner Energy Future" – illustrates the approach WEC Energy Group is taking to reduce emissions and presents a wide-ranging analysis of factors that will help shape future decision-making.

"At this pivotal time in the energy industry, we have made it a priority to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while maintaining a reliable, resilient and cost-effective energy system for our customers," said Gale Klappa, executive chairman – WEC Energy Group.

The company's long-term strategy reflects its focus on environmental stewardship. In 2016, WEC Energy Group set a goal to reduce total carbon emissions by 40 percent, compared to 2005 levels, by the year 2030. The company is on track to meet that goal by 2023 and has announced a new goal of reducing carbon emissions by 80 percent from 2005 levels by 2050.

"When we set a goal, you can count on the fact that we have analyzed the risks, benefits and feasibility," said Kevin Fletcher, president and CEO – WEC Energy Group. "We're confident in our ability to achieve our 80 percent reduction goal, but it will require significant effort, continued improvements in technology and reshaping our generation fleet."

Report highlights

  • Emission reductions
    • By 2030, the company's goal is to reduce total carbon emissions by 40 percent. To help achieve that goal, the company projects more than 70 percent of its electricity supply will come from low-and no-carbon sources.
    • By 2050, the company's goal is to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent. To achieve that goal the company projects 100 percent of electricity supply to come from low- and no-carbon sources.
  • Investments – WEC Energy Group expects to invest more than $14 billion between 2019 and 2023, with a focus on:
    • Reshaping its generation fleet for a clean, reliable future.
    • Modernizing electric and natural gas delivery infrastructure.
    • Launching advanced metering functionality and upgrading systems and equipment.
  • Business and climate strategy – the company strives to provide the best value for customers by embracing constructive change, demonstrating personal responsibility for results, and using creative solutions to meet or exceed customers' expectations.

The report incorporates industry-specific research from the Electric Power Research Institute and global emissions scenarios used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It includes research and analyses testing the resilience of WEC Energy Group's strategy in different climate-related scenarios – including scenarios consistent with limiting a global temperature rise to less than 2 degrees Celsius.

WEC Energy Group (NYSE: WEC), based in Milwaukee, is one of the nation's premier energy companies, serving 4.5 million customers in Wisconsin, Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota.

The company's principal utilities are We Energies, Wisconsin Public Service, Peoples Gas, North Shore Gas, Michigan Gas Utilities, Minnesota Energy Resources and Upper Michigan Energy Resources. The company's other major subsidiary, We Power, designs, builds and owns electric generating plants.

WEC Energy Group (wecenergygroup.com) is a Fortune 500 company and a component of the S&P 500. The company has approximately 50,000 stockholders of record, 8,000 employees and more than $33 billion of assets.

Cautionary statement regarding forward-looking information

Certain information contained in this press release is forward-looking information based upon management's current expectations and projections that involve risks and uncertainties. Forward-looking information includes, among other things, statements concerning future carbon emissions, capital plans and expenditures, investment opportunities, corporate initiatives, the purchase of solar and wind energy, and sources and costs of fuel. Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on this forward-looking information. Forward-looking information is not a guarantee of future performance and actual results may differ materially from those set forth in the forward-looking statements.

In addition to the assumptions and other factors referred to in connection with the forward-looking information, factors that could cause the company's actual results to differ materially from those contemplated in any forward-looking information or otherwise affect the company's future results include, among others, the following: general economic conditions, including business and competitive conditions in the company's service territories; timing, resolution and impact of rate cases and negotiations, including recovery of deferred and current costs and the ability to earn a reasonable return on investment, and other regulatory decisions; political developments; energy conservation efforts; continued adoption of distributed generation by customers; the company's ability to continue to successfully integrate the operations of its subsidiaries; availability of the company's generating facilities and/or distribution systems; unanticipated changes in fuel and purchased power costs or availability; key personnel changes; varying weather conditions; continued industry consolidation; cybersecurity and terrorist threats; construction risks; equity and bond market fluctuations; the remaining uncertainty surrounding the tax legislation enacted in December 2017; federal and state legislative and regulatory changes relating to the environment, including climate change and other environmental regulations impacting generation facilities and renewable energy standards, the enforcement of these laws and regulations, changes in the interpretation of regulations or permit conditions by regulatory agencies, and the recovery of associated remediation and compliance costs; the performance of projects the company's energy infrastructure business invests in; the ability to obtain additional generating capacity at competitive prices; current and future litigation and regulatory investigations; the inability of customers, counterparties, and affiliates of the company and its subsidiaries to meet their obligations; advances in technology, and related legislation and regulation supporting the use of that technology; the value of goodwill and its possible impairment; changes in accounting standards; and other factors described under the heading "Factors Affecting Results, Liquidity, and Capital Resources" in Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations and under the headings "Cautionary Statement Regarding Forward-Looking Information" and "Risk Factors" contained in the company's Form 10-K for the year ended Dec. 31, 2018, and in subsequent reports filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The company expressly disclaims any obligation to publicly update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.

SOURCE WEC Energy Group

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CHENGDU, China, April 22, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- On April 17, a donation ceremony, titled "To illumine depopulated zone and protect Yangtze River--Tongwei Group is committed", was successfully held at the Yangtze Source Ecological Protection Station. Ten sets of photovoltaic power generator units were donated by Tongwei Group for Green River, following the last one in 2018. The charitable activity aims to provide electric power for equipment of the observatory at Bande Lake as well as support for the protection of the habitat of bar-headed geese. Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minister of Australia, and President of the Asia Society Public Institute, sent a congratulation letter for the event.

Over the past ten years, Tongwei has been forging ahead in the photovoltaic power industry. Now it has grown into an integrated photovoltaic enterprise ranging from upstream production of crystalline silicon and production of high-performance solar cell to construction and operation of terminal photovoltaic power stations. Sichuan Yongxiang Co., Ltd., a subsidiary upstream of the industrial chain, has a production capacity of 80,000 tons a year for high-purity crystalline silicon, ranking third in the world. Tongwei Solar Co., Ltd., midstream of the industrial chain, has a solar cell production capacity of 13GW. The total production is expected to exceed 20GW by the end of 2019, making it the largest solar cell enterprise in the world in terms of production and shipment for three consecutive years. At the end of the industrial Chain, Tongwei tries to combine aquiculture and photovoltaic power generation organically and vigorously promote the innovative development model that integrates fishery and photovoltaic power".

Looking ahead, Tongwei will continue to work hard and strive for the goal of building a world-class clean energy enterprise and drive the global campaign to revolutionize clean energy so as to create the most beautiful environment for future generations!

SOURCE Tongwei Group

Read more: Tongwei Group Donated PV Power Station for...

MYKOLAYIV, Ukraine, April 19, 2019 /PRNewswire/ - TIU Canada commissioned its second solar energy station today in Mykolyaiv, Ukraine.   The 13.5-megawatt station increases TIU Canada's energy portfolio to 25 megawatts, with more projects planned in the near future.  The station itself is located in Kalynivka, Mykolayiv oblast, just outside the capital of the region. The 13.575-megawatt solar facility is the second investment from the Canadian side under the Canada-Ukraine Free Trade Agreement (CUFTA), which took effect in August 2017.  Construction of the site began in September and the total amount of the investment is more than 11 million Euros

Attendees for the opening included Canadian Ambassador Roman Waschuk.  Ambassador Waschcuk said, "Clean green energy helps Ukraine secure its energy independence and powers local economic development. Canada is serious about fighting climate change so investment that helps Ukraine reduce emissions is a contribution to our collective planetary future."  Oleksandr Demchuk, the former Head of the Vitovsk Rayon State Administration and current Chief of Staff to the Governor of Mykolayiv added, "I want to thank Canada, for always being there for us, for being the first country that will lend a helping hand, and for being among the first countries that recognized Ukraine as a state."  Other guests attending the plant opening included Ukrainian pop star and advocate for renewable energy, Ruslana, Member of Parliament Andriy Vadaturskyi, and Konstantin Gura the Adviser to the State Agency on Energy Efficiency and Energy Saving of Ukraine.

The station consists of 39,348 solar panels, with 5 inverters installed to manage the power output.  The area used for the station totals 20.22 hectares. The amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) eliminated in comparison with coal fueled power stations is 18212 tons per year.


Read more: TIU Canada Announces Official Opening of Solar...

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va., April 18, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Mission Success yesterday for Indiana's NearSpace Launch Inc. (NSL) ThinSat constellations launched off the Antares NG-11 on route to International Space Station. The 60 ThinSat were developed for Virginia Space as a STEM program for middle and high schools. Over 400 students participated in the testing and delivering of experiments in orbit today. The school teams were overseen by Twiggs Space Labs.   

Co-founder of Twiggs Space Labs and Co-Inventor of the CubeSat, Bob Twiggs, states, "Our goal is to inspire future generations of engineers and scientists through innovation in the field of space." Twiggs goes further to say, "To me, this (ThinSat launch) is the most exciting day of my career." 

ThinSat is a new pioneering model for satellites that are scalable, simpler, and more affordable. Their focus is to broaden access to space for educational and space research participants.

The ThinSat comes in an array of sizes that comply with the CubeSat launcher. The 11.2 cm by 11.7 cm by 2 cm ThinSat version was the first model to launch this week. The ThinSat team choose to use EyeStar radios and Alta Devices solar technology. The NSL's EyeStar radios allow for 24/7 connectivity via Globalstar's constellation. Alta Devices solar cells provide a unique modular, lightweight, flexible form factor with high efficiency characteristics.

The ThinSat inventor and co-founder of NSL, Hank Voss states, "ThinSats will travel in a region of the atmosphere that is important to climate and space weather forecasts, but rarely studied because atmospheric drag makes it hard to keep satellites there," Voss also expressed, as an emeritus professor, he is "thankful to Virginia Space and Twiggs Space Labs for investing into the project that has a such strong STEM and research outreach."   

About NearSpace Launch, Inc.

NearSpace Launch, Inc. (NSL) based in Upland, IN. NSL has 100% mission success with over 60 systems flown in the past four years. Hank Voss & Jeff Dailey founded NSL following the successful mission of TSAT. The mission proved the effectiveness of a Globalstar radio connection for orbital radio communication. NSL manufactures and produces ThinSats, CubeSat satellites, 24/7 real-time EyeStar communication systems, and high-altitude balloons for a variety of educational, commercial, and government applications. For more information with images visit www.nearspacelaunch.com

Matthew Voss
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SOURCE NearSpace Launch Inc. (NSL)

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More than 2,300 students in grades 6–12 participated in the Lexus Eco Challenge, an educational contest that empowers students to learn about the environment and take action to improve it. A total of $500,000 in scholarships and grants is awarded to the winning student teams, their teachers, and schools each year. To learn more about the program and winners, visit: scholastic.com/lexus.

Through the first two phases of the Lexus Eco Challenge, 32 middle and high school teams were selected as finalists. Each finalist earned a $10,000 prize to be shared among the team, teacher, and school, and was invited to embark on the final challenge to reach beyond their local community to inspire environmental action. The teams communicated their innovative ideas to a wide audience in the last round, broadening the reach of their work to people outside their communities.

Lexus and Scholastic, the global children's publishing, education, and media company, reviewed the finalists' innovative submissions and selected one middle and one high school team as the 2018–19 Lexus Eco Challenge Grand Prize winners. The Grand Prize–winning teams each receive an additional $30,000, divided into a $7,000 grant for the school, a $3,000 grant for the team's teacher advisor, and $20,000 in scholarships for the students to share. Eight First Place–winning teams are awarded an additional $15,000 in grants each.

This year's high school Grand Prize–winning team is the Aquapals from Arlington High School in Lagrangeville, NY. The Aquapals and teacher advisors Tricia Muraco and Maribel Pregnall focused on utilizing aquaponic farming techniques to reduce polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).

"Our team was surprised to discover the impact of polychlorinated biphenyls on the economy of our area in the Hudson River Valley," said team member Spencer Koonin. "The lack of government pressure to clean up Superfund sites caused by PCBs and the historical loss of so many fisheries was shocking. We had to take action!" 

From their research, the students generated a 35-page manual for aquaponic farming, which they shared with local students and legislators to encourage change within the Hudson River Valley. After establishing five aquaponic systems and presenting to over 1,000 students close to home, they turned their attention abroad, collaborating with 14 farmers in eight countries.

"The most important tool at our disposal was social media," said Krishna Koka. "Through our presence on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, we were able to show our progress to farmers across the planet."

"The Lexus Eco Challenge enabled our students to see the interconnection between science and their everyday lives in the community around us," said teacher advisor Tricia Muraco. "Then it pushed them to find those connections around the country and the world. They took what they learned, became master communicators, and made political, societal, and educational impacts with everyone they met along the way."

"We learned that the plight of water contamination is shared by many around the world and that aquaponics is a solution that can help us all," said Emme Magliato. "Though we live 9,000 miles away from Rusman in Indonesia, aquaponics have now provided both our communities with new options to produce safe and sustainable food."

The Grand Prize–winning middle school team was Food Miles Matter from North Broward Preparatory School in Coconut Creek, FL. With the help of teacher advisor Hope Kennedy, the team tackled the problem of greenhouse gas emissions generated by interstate produce transport. Looking to eliminate "food miles" generated by trucked produce from the diets of their classmates, the team partnered with their school cafeteria staff to identify and grow fresh produce in the school garden, just feet from where it would be eaten!

"Our garden is very big and uses both aquaponics and aeroponics," Ryan Folic explained.

The Grand Prize—and First Place—winning teams that best addressed environmental challenges are listed below.

Final Challenge

State - City

School Name

Team Name

Project Summary

High School Grand Prize Winner

NY – Lagrangeville

Arlington High School


Utilized aquaponic farming to combat PCB pollution in local water supplies. Developed a manual for replication around the world.

High School First Prize Winners

AL – Birmingham

Hoover High School





Studied the effects of trees on particle pollution. Deployed new technologies in their community and developed a long-term environmental research program.

TX – Frisco

Lebanon Trail High School



Special STEMs

Comprised of five students from their school's Functional Academics program and five general education students, researched and advocated for strategies to reduce waste generated by agriculture.

 MO – Creve Couer

Parkway North High School



 S.U.N. (Storing Underground Nutrients)

Developed a custom biochar fertilizer to combat the negative effects of traditional products. Discovered alternative applications and uses for around the globe.  

 CO – Lafayette

Peak to Peak Charter School


Endanger Changers

Developed interactive digital games and extensive, multilingual educational materials to raise awareness for local species protection.

Middle School Grand Prize Winner

 FL – Coconut Creek

North Broward Preparatory School

Food Miles Matter

Tackled greenhouse gas emissions generated by interstate produce transport by reducing their school's food miles utilizing a community garden.

Middle School First Prize Winners

KY- Lexington

School for the Creative and Performing Arts

The Bagstreet Boys


Combated the negative impact of single-use plastic bags with an extensive community action plan.

 CA – Olivehurst

Arboga Elementary School



The Arboga Wild Fighters

Studied and educated their community on the environmental impacts of wildfires on Northern California. Became community activists when the project was interrupted by the catastrophic Fall 2018 Paradise Fire in their own backyard.

UT – Holladay

Olympus Junior High



Developed wind turbine kits from recycled plastic bottles to simultaneously reduce landfill waste and generate renewable energy. Partnered with a major solar company to manufacture and distribute their kits around their community and the world. 

NJ – Jersey City

P.S. 28 Christa McAuliffe School


C02 A.P.T

Developed a proprietary technology awaiting patent approval that actively reduces C02 and measured C02 levels in their surrounding community.


Over the past 11 years, the Lexus Eco Challenge has awarded more than $5 million in scholarships that have helped more than 33,000 middle and high school students have an impact on their communities, learn about the environment, and improve their teamwork skills.

The Lexus Eco Challenge also provides supplemental educational materials, created and distributed by Scholastic, to encourage teachers to integrate creative environmental lesson plans into their classrooms. For each year's challenge, the website has lesson plans and teacher instructions, including questions to help guide a discussion about the current challenge topic, facts about the topic, and guidelines for a specific classroom project.

The Lexus Eco Challenge is part of The Lexus Pursuit of Potential, a philanthropic initiative that generates up to $3 million in donations each year for organizations that help build, shape, and improve children's lives.

Lexus will open the 13th annual 2019–2020 Lexus Eco Challenge this fall with $500,000 in prize money for eligible students, teachers, and schools. Information on how students and teachers can participate in the "Land and Water" and/or "Air and Climate" challenges will be available this summer at scholastic.com/lexus.

Lexus' passion for brave design, imaginative technology, and exhilarating performance enables the luxury lifestyle brand to create amazing experiences for its customers. Lexus began its journey in 1989 with two luxury sedans and a commitment to pursue perfection. Since then, Lexus has developed its lineup to meet the needs of global luxury customers in more than 90 countries. In the United States, Lexus vehicles are sold through 241 dealers offering a full lineup of luxury vehicles. With six models incorporating Lexus Hybrid Drive, Lexus is the luxury hybrid leader. Lexus also offers eight F SPORT models and two F performance models. Lexus is committed to being a visionary brand that anticipates the future for luxury customers.



Alissa Moceri               

Craig Taguchi             



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Delving deep into sentiment, the global data showed the 10 best places to stay around the world, as reviewed by Expedia travelers. From boutiques with beehives and resorts with rainwater recycling, to grand urban retreats with solar cell power, many of these amazing places show that luxury and sustainability are not mutually exclusive. Additionally, Expedia highlighted the top countries with the best reviewed eco-conscious accommodations, with the USA topping the charts.

Top 10 eco-friendly stays on Expedia according to travelers

  1. Sandos Caracol Eco Resort, Mexico
  2. Nomad Hotel Roissy CDG, Paris, France 
  3. Siloso Beach Resort, Sentosa, Singapore
  4. Habitat Suites, Austin, Texas
  5. Pakasai Resort, Krabi, Thailand
  6. PARKROYAL on Pickering, Singapore
  7. The Green House, Bournemouth, UK
  8. Listel Hotel, Vancouver, Canada
  9. Hotel Verde, Cape Town, South Africa 
  10. Sherwood Queenstown, Queenstown, New Zealand

Top 10 sustainable countries around the world

  1. USA
  2. Mexico
  3. Canada
  4. Australia
  5. UK
  6. Costa Rica
  7. Thailand
  8. New Zealand
  9. France
  10. Italy

Sustainable travel is the perfect opportunity to show Mother Earth and fellow inhabitants how much you care. Ready to book your eco-friendly hotel? Just visit https://www.expedia.com/earthday or download the Expedia app, which is available to download for free on iOS in the App Store and on Android devices through Google Play.

Take a closer look: Expedia's 10 most recommended eco-friendly stays from around the world

1. Sandos Caracol Eco Resort – Playa del Carmen, Mexico 

Situated between dense jungle and the blue of the Mexican Caribbean coast, this Rainforest Alliance-certified destination is among the highest-rated by travellers for the multitude of positive impacts it offers. 

  • Extensive policies governing waste management, resource consumption and natural conservation
  • Opportunities for guests to engage in ecologically sustainable practices: eco-tours, cruelty-free animal interactions and beach meditation
  • A commitment to the community, reflected in celebrations of local indigenous culture, on-site markets that support local artisans, and local partnerships to improve area schools

2. Nomad Hotel Roissy CDG – Paris, France 

Located five minutes by car from Charles de Gaulle airport, the Nomad Hotel Roissy CDG boasts Scandinavian-inspired design, tech-enabled customisable room layouts and a mission to "to reduce the ecological impact of these buildings to a minimum, at every stage of life, from design to operation"—making it the perfect accommodation for digital nomads with green leanings.

  • Rigorous standards for creation/loss of heat and a low total annual energy consumption, supported by green (living) exterior cladding, solar panels, air handling units
  • Proactive efforts to neutralize water impact through use of rainwater collectors
  • Use of sustainable materials, including PEFC wood, carpets made from recycled fishing nets, recycled stone and glass shower units

3.  Siloso Beach Resort, Sentosa – Singapore 

Just off Singapore's south coast lies Sentosa Island, a haven whose southwest coast is the home to the Siloso Beach Resort. Steps from the sandy beaches of the South China Sea, this award-winning eco-resort has taken special care to integrate the surrounding habitat into its design by prioritising open spaces and preserving established natural features like mature trees and flowing springs. The result? A uniquely organic take on a luxurious beach resort experience.

  • 200 original trees preserved (and 450 planted) on-site; landscape pool fed by underground waters and built according to natural terrain formation
  • 72% of the resort is open-air—and activities including cycle tours, hikes and other eco-adventures
  • Operations keep ecological impacts top-of-mind, emphasising locally-sourced foods, limited use of plastics, and reduced energy consumption

4.  Habitat Suites  Austin, TX, USA 

Habitat Suites, a sustainable gem in the heart of Texas' most progressive city, boasts a 30-year track record of forward-thinking environmental stewardship. Habitat Suites has been a charter member of the Green Hotels Association since 1991—and won an Austin Green Business Leader Gold Award in 2018.

  • Widespread use of alternative energy, including solar panels, solar thermal and electric vehicle charging 
  • On-premises organic fruit and herb gardens; clean, local and organic food options
  • Use of plant-based, zero harsh chemical detergents for cleaning; bio-safe guest shampoos and detergents; hypoallergenic suites that include live potted plants and windows that open for access to fresh air

5.  Pakasai Resort – Krabi, Thailand

Spa treatments, boxing and cooking classes plus plenty of space for lounging by the pool—the Pakasai Resort delivers on everything you'd expect from a tropical Thai resort, then sweetens the deal with an impressive list of sustainability efforts. "Krabi's Greenest Resort" was the first in the area to win an ASEAN Green Hotel Award (2014). 

  • Resource conservation efforts include rainwater capture and greywater recycling, energy efficient lighting, biogas production and reduction of plastic use
  • Careful attention given to reducing carbon emissions through waste minimization program and collaboration with the local community and local organizations
  • Guests are encouraged to make their stay even greener by joining the #GreeningPakasai campaign, which incentivises visitors to make low-carbon choices around food, transportation, linen services and local activities

6.  PARKROYAL on Pickering – Singapore

With 15,000 square metres of greenery and a cutting-edge design, the PARKROYAL is equally impressive in what it does and doesn't do. This LEED-certified masterpiece saves 32.5 Olympic-sized swimming pools' worth of water annually and could power an estimated 680 households with the energy saved by its conservation efforts.

  • Highly regulated resource consumption through employment of light, motion, and rain sensors
  • Solar cells and rainwater collection mean zero-energy maintenance of the 15,000 m2 sky gardens
  • Thoughtful construction processes reduced concrete (and associated waste and energy expenditure) use by more than 80%

7.  The Green House – Bournemouth, UK 

Equally suitable for weddings, self-care weekends and romantic getaways, every detail of this eco-hotel has been designed to help guests feel great while doing good. That ethos touches every facet of The Green House, from the building's renewable energy production and Forest Stewardship certified, UK-crafted furnishings to the on-site restaurant's adherence to local sourcing and high animal welfare standards—the company car even runs on bio-fuel from the kitchen's old cooking oil!

  • The use of earth-friendly cleaning products and efforts toward energy conservation
  • Staff are trained in the ethos of sustainability and are encouraged to find new ways to improve the Green House's efforts
  • Environmental efforts extend to the exterior grounds, including bird and bat boxes (to provide a safe place for breeding) and rooftop beehives that produce honey

8.  The Listel Hotel Vancouver – Vancouver, BC, Canada

The Listel Hotel dedicates itself to both environmental responsibility and the arts. The hotel provides a location to elevate local and international artists—including a gallery dedicated to First Nations artists from the Northwest Coast—while participating in the city of Vancouver's "Corporate Climate Leader" program, setting an example for sustainable tourism efforts across the globe.

  • Responsible food practices including membership in Vancouver Aquarium's Ocean Wise sustainable seafood program and a commitment to offering local and sustainable food and wine
  • Conservation efforts including 20 solar panels, a state-of-the-art heat capture program (reducing the hotel's natural gas use by 30%) and water reduction and air quality programs
  • Adherence to a 100% Zero Waste policy since August 2011

9.  Hotel Verde Cape Town, South Africa

"Sustainable by design, stylish by nature" is the modest motto of Cape Town's Hotel Verde. The first hotel in Africa to offer 100% carbon-neutral accommodation and conferencing, the Cape Town Verde has earned an extensive list of international accolades (LEED Platinum certification and a 6-star rating from the Green Building Council of South Africa) for its extensive adherence to sustainable practices.

  • Restoration of the surrounding wetlands now supports indigenous water-wise vegetation and a healthy population of Cape honeybees—as well as an ecotrail, outdoor gym, and eco-pool for visitor use, plus on-site edible food gardens and aquaponics
  • Energy efficiencies include photovoltaic panels on the roof and north-facing facades, wind turbines, energy-generating gym equipment and geothermal heat
  • Commitment to social responsibility through sustainable procurement practices, waste management and community involvement

10.  Sherwood Queenstown Queenstown, New Zealand

Sustainability and connection with nature are behind every detail you'll encounter at the Sherwood Queenstown, a boutique hotel perched on three acres of alpine hillside overlooking Lake Wakatipu. The Sherwood operates based on the belief that "a simple respect for nature lies at the heart of any sustainable practice". The hotel's orchards and kitchen garden supply its award-winning restaurant; most rooms offer sweeping mountain or lake views, and all are outfitted with South Island wool blankets and locally-sourced beverages. Mornings start with optional yoga sessions, followed by hiking, mountain biking, skiing or snowboarding.

  • A focus on materiality selection that integrates the building with the landscape, while employing upcycled fixtures, fittings and furnishings
  • Conscious choices about energy generation—the Sherwood is one of the largest private solar installs in New Zealand and currently generates enough electricity to return surplus to the grid
  • Selection of food, wine, beer, spirits, and other consumable products that are local, natural, healthy, ethical, seasonal and sustainable in their production and use


*Top 10 lists compiled from measuring sentiment and volume of reviews from travellers globally on Expedia that mention 'sustainable' or 'eco-friendly'

About Expedia.com

Expedia.com® is one of the world's largest full service travel sites, helping millions of travelers per month easily plan and book travel. Expedia.com (https://www.expedia.com/, 1-800-EXPEDIA) aims to provide the latest technology and the widest selection of top vacation destinations, affordable airfare, hotel deals, car rentals, destination weddings, cruise deals and in-destination activities, attractions, services and travel apps.

© 2019 Expedia, Inc. All rights reserved. Expedia and the Airplane logo are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Expedia, Inc. in the U.S. and/or other countries. All other trademarks are the property of their respective owners. CST# 2029030-50. Visit our web site https://www.expedia.com/ or use our mobile app to book cheap flights and hotels.

SOURCE Expedia.com

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NEW YORK, April 18, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Hunt Capital Partners, the tax credit syndication division of Hunt Companies, Inc., announced today it will co-host the Novogradac 2019 Investing In Puerto Rico Conference. The event is May 9-10 at the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino in San Juan. The conference focuses on the strategies and practical solutions to encourage investment in affordable housing in Puerto Rico and the U.S Virgin Islands.

The agenda includes diverse topics for community development investors and others. Sessions planned are:

  • Investment and lending outlook for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Best practices for Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery funds
  • Other key subsidy programs to help development in Puerto Rico
  • Opportunity Zone, LIHTC, RAD, and NMTC Basics

"Puerto Rico has had a rough couple of years with devastating storms and economic downturns impacting the region and the overall housing market," noted Jeff Weiss, President of Hunt Capital Partners. "This conference offers investors a terrific two-day opportunity to learn how to make a significant impact in restoring affordable housing locally."

Hunt Capital Partners recently collaborated with McCormack Baron Salazar, the Puerto Rico Housing Finance Authority, and Citibank to raise more than $50 million in tax credit equity for a pair of San Juan developments known as Renaissance Square and Bayshore Villas. Completed in February 2019, the 140-unit Renaissance Square was the first development under the Puerto Rico Comprehensive Housing Plan and the island's first mixed-income development. Bayshore Villas features 174 units and an estimated completion date in Summer 2019.

"Hunt's diverse and interconnected platform offers a one-stop shop for developers and investors looking to create affordable housing," Weiss added. "We can invest, develop, and finance affordable housing anywhere. Hunt Companies offers a complete range of services spanning conventional multifamily, affordable housing, commercial real estate and infrastructure. These complementary offerings help our clients achieve tremendous efficiencies. This conference is the perfect venue to showcase our broad range of capabilities and seamless execution as we embark upon an investing strategy in the region."

For more information on the event, visit: https://www.novoco.com/events/novogradac-2019-investing-puerto-rico-conference

About Hunt Capital Partners
Hunt Capital Partners (HCP) is the syndication division of Hunt Companies, Inc. (Hunt). HCP specializes in the syndication of Federal and State Low-Income Housing, Historic and Solar Tax Credits. Since the successful launch of its first fund in the fall of 2011, HCP has raised over $1.7 billion in tax credit equity. Founded in 1947, Hunt is a privately held company that invests in businesses focused in the real estate and infrastructure markets. The activities of Hunt's affiliates and investees include investment management, mortgage banking, direct lending, loan servicing, asset management, property management, development, construction, consulting and advisory. For more information on Hunt Capital Partners, please visit www.huntcapitalpartners.com, or for Hunt Companies, please visit www.huntcompanies.com.

Brent Feigenbaum
Hunt Real Estate Capital
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Pam Flores
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SOURCE Hunt Mortgage Group

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