Sustainable Development

CCA Model Helps Illinois Towns Transition to 100% Renewable Electricity

A new report published by the Go Clean Go Local Coalition says that there are 91 Illinois towns and cities that are 100 percent powered by renewable electricity.

Illinois renewable electricity  report

Illinois renewable electricity report

These 91 communities collectively representing more than 1.7 million individuals have all managed to switch to clean power while saving ratepayers millions of dollars.

The report, titled “Leading from the Middle – How Illinois Communities Unleashed Renewable Energy,” explains that all 91 communities made good use of a local energy model called Community Choice Aggregation (CCA).

CCA, also known as municipal aggregation, was approved by Illinois in 2009 to enable communities to pool the electric purchasing power of residents and businesses.

More than 75 percent of Illinois towns have approved referendums under which residents authorized their municipal government to procure electric supply services. The municipality then negotiates electricity contracts with utilities, leveraging their aggregated buying capacity and Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) to lower rates and demand power from clean and renewable sources.

The report also includes specific case studies, including that of Oak Park, a Chicago suburb famed for its history of innovation and as the home of Frank Lloyd Wright and Ernest Hemingway.

In 2010, after years of heat waves and flooding, the city began to address resiliency issues to protect themselves from extreme weather events. As part of the solution, Oak Park switched to 100 percent renewable electricity through CCA, becoming the first American city to be fully powered through renewable sources.

K.C. Doyle, Oak Park’s Sustainability Manager, is quoted in the report as saying that they saw municipal aggregation as not just being about the best price, but also about responding to the idea of preparing for climate change and a smart community future.

Oak Park’s pioneering efforts led to 90 other communities in Illinois adopting the same model to achieve 100 percent renewable electricity for their residents, and it’s looking good now for spreading faster throughout Illinois and beyond.

Oak Park has won awards for their efforts from institutions such as the U.S. Conference of Mayors and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The Go Clean Go Local Coalition is comprised of the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC), World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Sierra Club, and the Illinois Solar Energy Association (ISEA).

They assist municipalities in choosing power sources that are clean and local to replace power coming in from out of state through long-distance transmission lines, in the process helping Illinois economic development efforts and creating jobs for local communities.

Keya Chatterjee, director of renewable energy and footprint outreach at WWF, said that without fanfare, 91 local governments in Illinois have decided that renewable electricity is the best option. Chatterjee said no one knew this was happening, and doubts that anyone would have guessed.

Illinois Tops USGBC LEED Green Building Rankings

The U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) has released its 2013 rankings of the top 10 states for LEED, their globally used and recognized green building rating system.

USGBC top 10 states for LEED

USGBC top 10 states for LEED (source –

The per capita list is topped by Illinois, which racked up 171 commercial and institutional LEED certifications in 2013.

These projects together account for 29,415,284 square feet of space, which works out to 2.29 square feet of LEED certified space added per resident in the state.

Illinois Governor Pat Quinn said in a statement that both the public and private sectors in Illinois recognize that long-term investments in 21st century infrastructure should be done in ways that reduce energy consumption and protect the environment.

Brian Imus, executive director of the USGBC Illinois Chapter, said the state’s ranking was a result of a robust network of businesses committed to sustainability working together with elected officials who understand the benefits of green building.

Illinois was followed on the list by Maryland, which racked up 119 LEED commercial and institutional certifications in 2013 that together added 12,696,429 square feet of green building space, or 2.20 square feet per resident in Maryland.

Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley issued a statement in which he says that over the last seven years in Maryland, they have been committed to developing and implementing environmentally smart building practices because green development saves money and is good for the environment.

Mary Pulcinella, executive director of the USGBC Maryland Chapter, said that it’s rewarding to make the top 10 list, but being recognized is not the end goal. Pulcinella said they hope to see more widespread implementation of green building practices and look forward to innovative ideas coming from inspired entrepreneurs and industry leaders.

USGBC’s top 10 states for LEED list is based on the per capita green space added by commercial and institutional projects that were awarded LEED certifications in 2013.

If you go by the sheer number of LEED certifications, California is by far the top state with 595 projects certified in 2013, followed by New York which garnered 259 certifications. Funnily enough, California and New York were tied in fifth place on the per capita list with each adding 1.95 square feet of certified green space per resident.

Rick Fedrizzi, president, CEO and founding chair, USGBC, said the top 10 states for LEED list is a continuing indicator of the widespread recognition of the national imperative to create healthier and high-performing buildings that are better for the environment and for the people who use them every day.

Fedrizzi added that green buildings continue to provide for jobs at every professional level and skill set from carpenters to architects.

Clean Line Seeks Tax Incentives for Renewable Energy Converter Station

The Economic Development Growth Engine for Memphis & Shelby County (EDGE) is holding a board meeting during which the board will consider approving a PILOT tax agreement with Houston-based Plains and Eastern Clean Line LLC.

Plains & Eastern Clean Line

Plains & Eastern Clean Line (photo –

Clean Line is considering setting up a $259 million renewable energy converter station near Millington in Shelby County, Tennessee, or at an alternate site in Tipton County.

The converter station will be at one end of a 700 mile, 600 kilovolt direct current electric transmission line.

The line will bring renewable power from the Panhandle of Oklahoma all the way to the converter station in Tennessee, which will convert the DC power to AC and tie it into the Tennessee Valley Authority network.

If it gets all the approvals, construction will start on the project in 2016 and is expected to be completed in two years.

Once the converter station is built and the entire project is operational, the facility will deliver more than 3,500 megawatts of renewable energy to the mid-South and southeastern United States via the TVA network.

According to the company, the whole project is estimated to create more than 5,000 construction jobs and over 500 permanent jobs maintaining the transmission line.

The converter station project in Shelby County will create 16 jobs at average annual wages of $56,875. The project will also support the creation of another 24 indirect jobs, adding up to a total of 40 jobs.

The company will invest $9.6 million on transmission lines, in addition to $1.248 million for acquiring 208 acres of land for the converter station, and another $10 million to build the 30,000-square-foot facility. The remaining $239 million is for the converter equipment at the facility.

The company is asking for an 11-year PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) agreement that amounts to a tax abatement of 41 percent on all of the above, including the transmission lines, facility and the equipment.

The project will still generate $36.22 million in new tax revenue for Shelby County over the 11-year period at $3.19 million per year. After that, the county will get the full $5.4 million in annual taxes from the project.

The EDGE board meeting to consider the PILOT agreement with Plains and Eastern Clean Line is scheduled to be held on Feb 19, 2014.

Sustainable DC Innovation Challenge Grant Winners Awarded $2.35M

District of Columbia Mayor Vincent C. Gray announced $2.35 million in grants for seven innovative projects under the Sustainable DC Innovation Challenge program.

DC Mayor Vincent Gray announcing  Sustainable DC Innovation Challenge grant awards

DC Mayor Vincent Gray announcing Sustainable DC Innovation Challenge grant awards (photo –

This is a competitive grant program, now in its second year, that rewards forward-thinking sustainability initiatives by DC government agencies.

This year, the seven grants went to four organizations:-

Office of the State Superintendent of Education – OSSE was awarded $330,000 to help them build an outdoor classroom at the Hardy Middle School/Fillmore Arts Center.

The classroom will be used to provide hands-on environmental and health education to students by demonstrating everything from stormwater management to urban agriculture, renewable energy and native species planting.

University of the District of Columbia – UDC is getting $519,500 for establishing and managing at least three aquaponic projects to breed fish and provide entrepreneurship and job skills training for low- and semi-skilled DC residents.

UDC is additionally getting $280,000 to set up a business incubator kitchen that will provide education about food and nutrition, in addition to job skills and entrepreneurship training.

A third grant of $121,500 awarded to UDC will be used for building a native plant nursery to grow plants for habitat restoration projects. This nursery will also be used for education and green jobs training.

District Department of Transportation – DDOT is getting $400,000 to reduce stormwater runoff in the streets surrounding Oxon Run Park by installing rain gardens and other stormwater-management features.

Department of Parks and Recreation – DPR is getting $200,000 to rebuild two old greenhouses to provide healthy food for the two communities in Wards Four and Seven where these greenhouses are located. This will be a cooperative project where DPR will work with non-profit organizations to provide hands-on training in urban agriculture.

DPR is also getting another $492,000 to install a splash park that will capture and make use of rainwater, which will also help irrigate adjacent playing fields.

Mayor Gray said in a statement that the Sustainable DC Innovation Challenge grants demonstrate that a dollar invested in sustainability can return multiple benefits for the city. Mayor Gray said these projects would help educate the next generation, increase access to healthy foods, protect natural resources, and expand job training and business opportunities.

US Energy Dept Announces $30M Funding for ARPA-E Projects

At an event at the University of Texas-Austin, U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz will announce $30 million in funding for 12 ARPA-E projects that are working on developing transformational hybrid solar energy technologies.



These are all projects that will advance solar energy beyond the existing Photovoltaic (PV) and CSP technologies and drive reliable, low-cost solar energy deployment.

The funding for the 12 projects is being provided under ARPA-E’s FOCUS (Full-Spectrum Optimized Conversion and Utilization of Sunlight) program.

Projects funded under the FOCUS program work on developing advanced solar converters that convert sunlight into electricity for direct use, and also store the heat for later use.

One of the most innovative projects out of this lot is a Massachusetts Institute of Technology project, which is getting $3.42 million to develop a unique design for a hybrid solar converter with a thermal absorber and a solar cell in a layered stack.

The stacked design allows focused sunlight to heat liquid inside optically transparent thermal insulation, while allowing the light spectrum that is easily converted into electricity to pass through to the solar cells. This design allows low-cost solar electricity to be flexibly dispatched when it is most needed.

A second MIT project is getting $594,329 to develop a dish-shaped receiver with a color-selective filter that will split sunlight into two components. One will be immediately converted into electricity using solar cells, while the other one goes to a thermal receiver that will store it as heat.

Another hybrid solar converter being developed by Camas, Washington-based Sharp Labs of America is getting $4 million. It could enable utilities to generate and provide low-cost electricity on demand from solar energy sources.

A project by Niles, Illinois-based MicroLink Devices is getting $3.6 million to develop high-efficiency solar cells that can operate at temperatures as high as 750°F. Used in combination with hybrid solar converters, they can extract and provide much more energy from sunlight than is possible now.

You can see the full list of all 12 projects being funded on the ARPA-E website (pdf).

Secretary Moniz said the Energy Dept is working across the industry to help the country’s top scientists, entrepreneurs and engineers being new solar innovations to market faster.

ARPA-E stands for Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy, and was established in 2009 to seek out transformational breakthrough technologies that show technical promise, but are too early to attract private sector investment.

Secretary Moniz said these 12 ARPA-E projects being funded are exactly the type of innovative technologies needed to keep breaking through barriers and advancing lower cost, highly efficient solar power.

EPA to Honor Winners of National Award for Smart Growth Achievement

At an awards ceremony scheduled to be held at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency headquarters in Washington, D.C. on Feb 5, 2014, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy will recognize the 2013 winners of the National Award for Smart Growth Achievement.

EPA National Award for Smart Growth Achievement

EPA National Award for Smart Growth Achievement

The award recognizes and supports communities that are using innovative development strategies and policies that strengthen their economies and provide housing and transportation choices while protecting the environment.

The winning projects for 2013 in five categories were chosen out of 77 applications sent in by 31 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico.

The winners are as follows:-

Overall Excellence in Smart Growth РAtlanta BeltLine Eastside Trail and Historic Fourth Ward Park project in Atlanta, Georgia – This redevelopment of what was once a contaminated rail corridor into a connected park with multi-use trails is fueling economic development, affordable housing and community engagement in 45 neighborhoods in the City of Atlanta.

Corridor/Neighborhood Revitalization РHistoric Millwork District and Washington Neighborhood project in Dubuque, Iowa – The conversion of the historic but vacant mill district into a mixed-use neighborhood connected it to an adjacent residential neighborhood and to the downtown.

Policies, Programs, and Plans РGO TO 2040 project in Metropolitan Chicago, Illinois – The GO TO 2040 project is a seven-county regional economic development plan that brings together a wide number of local partners, linking their individual plans to a broad regional vision for growth through technical assistance and tools.

Built Projects – La Valentina project in Sacramento, California – La Valentina is a mixed-use apartment building on a former brownfield site adjacent to a light-rail station. It is transforming what was once a purely industrial neighborhood and is giving residents transportation options.

Plazas, Parks, and Public Places РCharles City Riverfront Park in Charles City, Iowa – Built on a flood plain, this multi-facility park is connected to the city’s downtown and adjacent low-income housing, and has become the recreational heart of Charles City, in addition to bringing economic benefits.

Two honorable mentions were given to the Lower Eastside Action Plan in Detroit, MI and the Via Verde energy-efficient building project in The Bronx, NY.

The National Award for Smart Growth Achievement was created by the EPA in 2002. Since then, EPA has received 886 applications from all 50 states, D.C. and Puerto Rico.

The award ceremony featuring Administrator McCarthy and representatives from the communities that are award recipients will also feature a video presentation from each of the winning projects.¬†You can read more about the National Award for Smart Growth Achievement and see the video presentations created by this year’s winning projects¬†at

Smart Grid Projects Get $4.3M in NY State Funding

New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced $4.3 million in funding for smart grid projects seeking to develop or research techniques to make New York’s electric grid more efficient and resilient.

Smart Grid

Smart Grid (photo –

Funding for the projects is being provided through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, under NYSERDA’s Smart Grid Program.

Applicants were invited to submit proposals for projects that enhance the efficiency, reliability, quality and overall performance of the electric power delivery system in the state.

They were also required to demonstrate the statewide public benefit of their project while quantifying the energy, economic and environmental impacts.

Gov. Cuomo said in a statement that that the major storms in the past few years have taught us the importance of improving the performance of utilities and strengthening the resiliency of the electric grid of the future.

For example, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) will work with the New York Power Authority (NYPA), Con Edison and Clarkson University for testing a new class of power-line coating that reduces storm- and ice-related damage.

A total of $1 million has been awarded for such statewide projects by EPRI, Georgia Tech Research Corp. and EnerNex LLC. Georgia Tech is working on projects to develop grid resiliency measurement techniques during severe weather.

Other awards went to region-specific projects such as $500,000 for NYPA’s collaboration with Hydro-Quebec in the Mid-Hudson region to study the use of grid control devices to improve grid management and reliability.

In NYC, Con Edison is getting $663,000 for working with the NYU-Center for Urban Science and Progress, NYU-Poly, and Smarter Grid Solutions Inc. on technologies and techniques to develop microgrid applications in the New York metro area that can operate in parallel with the grid or independently during a power outage.

Similarly, in Western NY, EPRI is getting $335,000 for working with the National Grid, University of Buffalo and the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus to study the feasibility of a microgrid for the City of Buffalo.

In the Southern Tier, Bigwood Systems Inc. is getting $90,000 to work with New York State Electric and Gas and develop a software tool that will help utilities reduce the cost of interconnection studies for integrating distributed energy sources such as solar power to the electric grid.

NYSERDA Chairman Richard Kauffman said that these technologically advanced projects will further the state’s efforts to modernize the electric grid and reduce the cost of delivering power in New York State. Kauffman said that by fostering innovative projects today, the state is helping New Yorkers meet their energy and resiliency needs of tomorrow.

City Energy Project Brings 10 Cities Together to Cut Building Emissions

Mayors of ten major U.S. cities are participating in an initiative called the City Energy Project (CEP) to boost energy efficiency of their buildings and lower their combined energy bills by nearly $1 billion annually.

Building energy consumption breakup

Building energy consumption breakup (graph from

CEP is an initiative from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and the Institute for Market Transformation, and is designed to create healthier and more prosperous American cities.

The 10 cities that are CEP’s first participants are РAtlanta, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Orlando, Philadelphia and Salt Lake City.

The initiative is funded through partnerships with Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, and The Kresge Foundation. CEP will help each of the cities create plans for boosting energy efficiency of their building.

Buildings are the largest source of carbon emissions in the U.S., accounting for around 40 percent of all emissions. The percentage of emissions attributed to buildings in cities is even higher, and is more than half in most cities and sometimes as high as 75 percent.

The energy efficiency measures undertaken as a result of the CEP initiative will cut five to seven million tons of carbon emissions annually – equivalent to taking 1-1.5 million passenger vehicles off the road every year, or equivalent to the electricity used by around 700,000 to 1,000,000 American homes annually.

Laurie Kerr, director of the City Energy Project at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said that in the face of a changing climate and increasingly extreme weather, these city leaders know they cannot wait for the federal or state government to make them more resilient and sustainable – they are taking action now.

Cliff Majersik, executive director of the Institute for Market Transformation, said CEP will give city leaders and the real estate industry the support they need to make building better, improving the lives of millions of city residents.

The City of Atlanta, Georgia estimates that by improving building energy efficiency, they can save as much as $146 million annually and cut 1.1 million tons of carbon emissions (equivalent to the carbon footprint of 55,000 homes every year).

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said that while their focus has been on larger buildings over 50,000 square feet, programs such as CEP and the Better Buildings Energy Data Accelerator program will give them the tools needed to establish a baseline and create targeted strategies for reducing energy use in all buildings.

Blu Homes Relocates Corporate HQ to California

Blu Homes, Inc., a leading provider of premium prefab homes, announced that it is relocating the company’s corporate headquarters to Mare Island in Vallejo, California.

Blu Homes factory in historic Building 680 on Mare Island, CA

Blu Homes factory in historic Building 680 on Mare Island, CA

Blu, which has until now been headquartered in Waltham, MA, will be moving to a new headquarters in a historic building at 1245 Nimitz on Mare Island.

The building, known as Building 680, had a major role in the rebuilding of America‚Äôs¬†Pacific Fleet after Pearl Harbor. It was at the heart of the¬†Mare Island Naval Shipyard’s shipbuilding and repair works during WWII.

The 1940 building is also an architectural gem and a part of the Mare Island Historic District. It was used as a machine ship until the mid-1990s, and has since been dormant until Blu Homes took it up in 2012 for a factory.

Blu CEO Bill Haney said that two decades after closing down, this elegant building now centers a new vision for premium home building and green manufacturing in America. He credited the tremendous work by Lennar’s Mare Island team in cleaning up and repositioning the landmark for the innovation economy.

Jason Keadjian, spokesperson for Lennar Mare Island, said Vallejo has always been a place where hardworking people and creative ideas have come together to build great things. He said Blu Homes is continuing that tradition on Mare Island, and they were proud to have the company as a major part of the growing business community.

Haney added that they began with the facility on Mare Island two years ago with 20 factory employees, but with this move they will now have more than 260 engineers, craftspeople, architects and professionals for project management, product development and the business side of the company.

Until this consolidation announcement, Blu Homes’ operations were widely dispersed, with their headquarters in Massachusetts, factory on Mare Island and offices in San Francisco.

Blu Homes COO Woody Bell said that by moving the headquarters to Mare Island and bringing all their business units under one roof, they will be able to increase collaboration and enhance innovation.

On Jan 27, the company also broke ground on a design center on Mare Island, preceded by a groundbreaking for another design center a couple of weeks ago in Los Angeles. Blu Homes is planning to set five more design homes in select cities across the U.S. this year and the next.

Blu Homes was founded in 2008 by Bill Haney, and the prefab homes they produce are built to be LEED certifiable using sustainably sourced raw materials such as recycled steel and reclaimed wood, and the homes are equipped with energy-efficient appliances. The Blu factory on Mare Island is a zero-landfill facility.

For home owners, there is a 70 percent average energy savings difference between a Blu Home and an ordinary stick built home.

National Solar Jobs Census – Solar Jobs Grow to 142,698

Washington, D.C.-based non-profit The Solar Foundation (TSF) has released its fourth annual National Solar Jobs Census, which shows that 23,682 new solar industry jobs were created in the United States in 2013.

TSF National Solar Jobs Census

TSF National Solar Jobs Census

That’s a 19.1 percent increase over the previous year, bringing the solar industry’s total employment in 2013 to 142,698.

The solar industry has grown by 53 percent in the last four years, adding nearly 50,000 jobs.

Andrea Luecke, executive director and president of The Solar Foundation, said that the solar industry’s job-creating power is clear. Luecke said that for the fourth year running, solar jobs remain well-paid and attract highly skilled workers, and the industry’s growth is putting people back to work and helping local economies.

The report is based on data collected from 2,081 solar firms by TSF and BW Research Partnership, with support provided by the George Washington University Solar Institute.

Solar workers, as defined by TSF for the purposes of this census, are workers who spend at least 50 percent of their time supporting solar-related activities. As per the report, around 91 percent of the workers who met this definition spent 100 percent of their time working on solar.

The 19.1 percent growth in employment logged in between Sept 2012 and Nov 2012 is 10 times faster than the national growth rate of 1.9 percent during this period. The report says solar employers expect to continue growing at 15.6 percent over the next 12 months and add another 22,240 jobs during this period.

GW Solar Institute Director Amit Ronen said they expect the solar industry will continue to generate robust job growth for at least the next decade.

As per the report, solar companies are saying that costs savings are the main drivers behind their clients’ decisions to go solar, with a full 51.4 percent of customers reporting that they went solar to save money. Another 22.9 percent did so because the costs are now competitive with utility rates.

Former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, who is now director of the Center for the New Energy Economy at Colorado State University, said that in Colorado and across the country, when the right policies are in place to create long-term market certainty, the solar industry continues to add jobs to the economy.

U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said in a statement that this is an exciting time for the solar industry in the U.S., made even more clear by the latest industry job figures.

Secretary Moniz added that to support a growing workforce and a new generation of clean energy leaders, the Energy Department is providing training and education opportunities for engineers, students and utility workers, as well as supporting projects across the country to ensure America’s continued leadership in clean energy innovation.

Read the full TSF National Solar Jobs Census – Download (pdf)

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40  Scroll to top