Sustainable Development

UK Inaugurates London Array – World’s Largest Offshore Wind Farm

On July 4, 2013, Prime Minister David Cameron, Secretary of State Edward Davey , DECC Minister Greg Barker and more than 350 other people officially inaugurated London Array, the world’s largest offshore wind farm located in the Outer Thames Estuary, 12 miles off the United Kingdom’s Essex and Kent coasts.

London Array

London Array (photo – London Array Ltd../

London Array’s first phase consists of 175 wind turbines that have a capacity of producing 630 megawatts of clean energy – enough to power 500,000 homes (two-thirds of Kent) and reduce Co2 emissions by more than 925,000 metric tons per year.

Speaking at the Turner Contemporary gallery in Margate, Kent, where the inauguration ceremony was held, Prime Minister Cameron said it was a great day for both Kent and Britain.

He said London Array was built by some of the most talented engineers, hardest workers and bravest seamen, and would provide benefits to Kent for years to come.

Turbine installation for the first phase was completed in December last year, and the last of the 3.6MW Siemens turbines was commissioned in April 2013.

The $ 2.26 billion London Array project is a joint venture undertaken by Denmark-based DONG Energy, Abu Dhabi’s Masdar and the E.ON Group. The latter is one of the largest green energy producers in the United Kingdom, with stakes in 20 wind farms and projects totaling 1,500MW of renewable capacity.

The investment has created more work and jobs for businesses all over the U.K., from cable manufacturers in Yorkshire to boat companies in Brightlingsea and wind towers from Scotland.

All told, the project’s construction required 1,000 workers on-site, and an overall total of 6,700 people from 75 different businesses and organizations were involved.

Apart from the 175 turbines spread around across a 38.6 square mile area, workers also had to lay out 280 miles of undersea cabling and build two offshore substations, in addition to a purpose-built operations base at the Port of Ramsgate.

Benj Sykes, country manager for DONG Energy’s United Kingdom Wind business, said that building London Array was a great achievement. He said that what they have learnt at London Array will help them drive down the costs of more offshore wind farms that are in the pipeline.

The planned second phase of London Array will add up to 65 turbines and further boost the project’s capacity by another 240MW, for a total of 870MW.

Eliot, Maine Celebrates Energy Independence With Solar Array

Independence Day in the Town of Eliot, Maine was preceded by energy independence celebrations as they switched on a solar array on July 3, 2013 to power local government buildings.

Solar panels being installed in Eliot, Maine

Solar panels being installed in Eliot, Maine (photo – ReVision Energy)

The 143 solar panel array atop the Eliot Department of Public Works garage was entirely financed and installed by Portland, ME-based ReVision Energy at no cost to the town.

ReVision installed the $152,845 system with no upfront costs and will be handling the maintenance.

The company has entered into a power purchase agreement (PPA) to sell electricity to the Town of Eliot at a discount of two cents below the market rate.

Apart from the environmental benefits, Eliot also expects to save $136,000 over the long-term due to reduction in electricity costs from this project.

As per the PPA with Eliot Solar, LLC (a subsidiary of ReVision Energy, LLC), the town has the option of purchasing the setup after the first six years of tax-incentivized operation by the company.

The purchase price would only be a small fraction of the installation cost, and even that would be financed with a bond issue completely paid for through energy savings.

The system installed is capable of producing a reliable supply of clean energy for the next 40 years.

The Eliot Energy Commission (EEC) had recommended ReVision and Barrington, New Hampshire-based Seacoast Energy to the Board of Selectmen. One of the reasons the selectmen chose ReVision is because Seacoast’s proposal required the town to shell out some of the costs up-front.

ReVision and many other solar installers are able to bear the upfront costs for such installations because they get tax incentives and can sell Renewable Energy Credits (RECs) associated with renewable energy production.

Sale of the renewable energy produced and the associated RECs are two different things, and the producer can sell the RECs separately to buyers who are looking to balance their carbon emissions.

This 143-panel solar array in Eliot which is now plugged into the Central Maine Power grid can provide electricity for only about ten town properties, but if it works out properly they plan to follow up with a much bigger solar generation project with 1,000 panels to power all local government offices.

UN Report – Rapid Urbanization Threatens Sustainable Development

The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) released the World Economic and Social Survey 2013 report yesterday in Geneva.

UN World Economic and Social Survey 2013

UN World Economic and Social Survey 2013 (photo –

This report, which is entirely focused this year on sustainable development challenges, says that the rapid rate of urbanization around the globe has heightened the urgency of addressing these challenges.

The DESA survey report makes the rather unsurprising accusation that the world has failed thus far in achieving sustainable development, citing the usual suspects such as rising inequality, climate change, environmental degradation and a lack of development partnerships.

As per the survey, cities will have 6.25 billion inhabitants by 2050, with developing regions alone adding 3.2 billion urban residents in the five decades leading up to 2050.

If no policy framework is established to tackle this issue now, the number of people living in slums with no water, electricity, sanitation, health care, education and other basic services will triple from the current one billion to three billion in 2050.

Specifically, the report calls for focus on three critical areas – food security, sustainable cities and energy transformation.

The overall population of the world is set to increase by 2.3 billion people by 2050, and this will require a 70 percent boost in food production. This could be a lot easier if the 32 percent annual waste of food production is reduced through better conservation and changes in consumer behavior.

At the same time, sustainable farming methods must be boosted using new technologies so that the increase in agricultural production and productivity does not add to more environmental degradation and resource consumption.

The survey stresses that development and adoption of these new technologies will require financial and business incentives including subsidies and taxes, which in turn calls for policy and regulatory reforms.

Wu Hongbo, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, said that innovative strategies and investments are required for promoting sustainable development. He said actions need to be taken now to enhance the benefits of cities.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, writing in the survey report foreword, calls the survey a valuable resource that can be used for translating the Rio+20 outcome into concrete actions.

On a side note, the report says that the United States and other developed nations are not the only ones with over-nutrition and obesity issues. In fact, a full 35 million of the world’s total of 40 million overweight children live in developing countries.

Some of these countries are therefore simultaneously fighting the vastly different health care challenges created by both over-nutrition and undernourishment, which the survey says often co-exist in the same household.

Read the full UN DESA World Economic and Social Survey 2013 – Download (pdf)

Site Selection Rankings for Top Sustainable States and Metros

The latest issue of Site Selection magazine includes their annual rankings for the top sustainable states and metros.

Solar array at state prison in California

Solar array at state prison in California (photo – CaliDGS/

California topped the state rankings, and has all three of its largest metro areas in the aforementioned top 10 list of sustainable metros.

Texas is the only other state which has more than one metro area in the rankings. The Washington, D.C. metro area is listed as the top sustainable metro.

These rankings are based on an index which takes into account the number of LEED-certified buildings, the number of corporate facilities that are involved in the process of producing green products, renewable energy usage and the policy framework being implemented for promoting its use.

The top ten states, in order of their ranking, are – California, Oregon, Washington, New York, North Carolina, Texas, Massachusetts, Iowa, Colorado and Pennsylvania.

The list of the top 10 sustainable metros, in the order of their ranking, is as follows:-

  1. Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA
  2. Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, IL-In-WI
  3. New York-Newark-Edison, NY-NJ-PA
  4. Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH
  5. Houston-Baytown-Sugarland, TX
  6. San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA
  7. Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA
  8. Phoenix-Mesa-Glendale, AZ
  9. Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX
  10. San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA

Among the many trends that Site Selection magazine explores in these rankings, the most interesting one is that the top sustainable territories seem to be moving towards smarter planning coupled with transit-oriented development.

The magazine also listed the top ten most sustainable foreign countries. This list was topped by Canada, where gaining green cachet is important to global companies in the energy industry and is reflected in their site selection process.

The magazine cites the example of Precision Drilling Corp., which moved into a building in Calgary, Alberta that has been awarded LEED Platinum certification. The company’s CEO said that sustainability was one of the factors influencing their decision-making process.

Canada was followed in the top 10 international rankings by Chile, Brazil, Spain, Germany, Sweden, Ireland, Mexico, South Korea and Turkey, listed in the order of their ranking.

Read more about these sustainability trends and the rankings at

Los Angeles Kicks Off Nation’s Largest Rooftop Solar FIT Program

Los Angeles, California has launched the largest rooftop solar Feed-in Tariff (FiT) program in the nation, under which the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) will purchase solar power from hundreds of building owners with rooftop solar installations.

LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa flips on Clean LA Solar FIT project

LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa flips on Clean LA Solar FIT project (photo – Mayor’s Office)

The LADWP FIT aims to generate 150 MW of renewable and clean solar energy – enough to power more than 43,000 homes and reduce Co2 emissions by 147 metric tons. This is the equivalent of taking 28,300 cars off the road.

This FIT program was initially proposed by the CLEAN LA Solar Coalition and the Los Angeles Business Council.

LADWP ran a 10 MW project FIT program last year as a pilot to determine market pricing and how the program needs to be structured.

LADWP got 26 applications, of which 14 were deemed to be eligible projects that the LADWP could sign a power purchase contract for.

The first FIT project completed under this demonstration program was the rooftop solar installation of Oxnard Plaza Apartments in North Hollywood.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa flipped a switch, and the building started sending to the LADWP what will amount to 142,000 kilowatt-hours of solar energy per year.

LADWP is now accepting applications for a second round of 20 MW allocation under the program starting July 8, 2013. A lottery process will select from among eligible project applications submitted in between July 8-12, 2013.

The first 20 MW round was put out earlier this year in February, and received 104 applications from within the City of Los Angeles. Of these, 60 have been selected and LADWP will sign contracts with them this summer.

LADWP General Manager Ronald O. Nichols said this was just the beginning of what they expect to be a long and beneficial public-private partnership. He said Angelenos can expect to see thousands of solar panels on rooftops throughout the city over the next few years.

Los Angeles has already started realizing the economic development benefits of this program. Solar Provider Group, which was responsible for the Oxnard Plaza installation, decided to set up their U.S. headquarters in Los Angeles. As the program develops, the company plans to create jobs for everything from solar installations to project management, finance and business development.

A University of California, Los Angeles study commissioned by the LA Business Council Institute estimated that the Clean LA Solar program would create 4,500 installation, construction, administration, design engineering and maintenance jobs in the first five years.

The UCLA study also said the program would be able to leverage $300 million in federal tax credits for businesses in Los Angeles and generate more than $500 million in private investments.

Mississippi Gets Green Circle Wood Pellet Manufacturing Facility

Green Circle Bio Energy Inc., a company which manufactures wood pellets for export to energy producers in Europe, will be setting up operations in George County, Mississippi.

Green Circle Bio Energy

Green Circle Bio Energy (photo –

Green Circle plans to invest $115 million to build a facility in George County Industrial Park in Lucedale with an annual capacity of 500,000 tons of wood pellets.

The project will initially create 126 jobs, not including construction jobs while the facility is being built. The company has plans to expand and increase the number of employees to 141.

Most of the jobs will be at the facility itself, while some of the company’s employees will be located at the Port of Pascagoula, from where the pellets will be shipped to Europe for use as a renewable source and alternative fuel for coal-fired power plants.

Green Circle is based in Cottondale, Florida, where it has what it claims is the world’s largest wood pellet manufacturing facility with a production capacity of 560,000 tons per year and the wood sourced from sustainable forests in the Southeast.

The company has been exploring expansion options since 2011, when production in Cottondale started nearing maximum capacity.

In July 2012, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection issued a draft permit approving Green Circle’s application for a revised permit, boosting their maximum allowed production capacity from 610.000 tons to 810,000 tons per year. At the same time, the company also started looking at other locations in Alabama and Mississippi for a second plant.

The new facility in George County, MS almost doubles their production capacity once it becomes operational in spring 2015.

Morten Neraas, CEO of Green Circle Bio Energy, said the industrial park was an ideal location inside a large wood basket area and close to the Port of Pascagoula. He credited the location decision to their relationship with the Port of Pascagoula and the George County Board of Supervisors.

A couple of months ago, the Mississippi legislature approved $10 million in state bond funding to build a specialized wood pellet exporting facility at terminals E and F at Bayou Casotte Harbor. Now the port has signed an agreement with George County which provides the remainder of the funding from the county and the primary user of the terminal.

George County and the Mississippi Development Authority are additionally providing support for the company’s infrastructure needs at the facility in the industrial park.

Walgreens Adding 200 Solar Installations in Six States

Deerfield, Illinois-based Walgreens (NYSE: WAG) (Nasdaq: WAG) is adding solar installations at another 200 of its stores across six states including California, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.

Solar panels at Walgreens store

Solar panels at Walgreens store (photo –

This expansion brings Walgreens’ total count of solar-powered stores to 350.

The 200 new installations will have a combined annual capacity of 13.5 million kilowatt hours, equivalent to offsetting the yearly Co2 emissions of 1,400 homes.

The solar installations for Walgreens are being handled by Chicago, IL-based solar company SoCore Energy. A couple of months back, the company had announced that the Walgreens store in Evanston, IL will be an LEED Platinum certified outlet with more than 850 rooftop panels producing solar power.

While the panels will be installed on Walgreens property and the power will be used by them, it is SoCore that will own and operate the installations. This model has been used by the two Illinois companies since 2011, when they first tested it for 53 stores in Ohio.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel commended both companies for the innovative partnership and their strong commitment to renewable energy. He said the two companies were demonstrating that environmentally friendly business is good business and that greening of cities provides real economic opportunities related to new technologies.

Menno Enters, Walgreens director of energy and sustainability, said that taking care of the environment was another way for the company to help people in the communities they serve to get well and live well. He added that Walgreens will continue to strive to be a leader in sustainability and create a happier and healthy environment for customers and the community.

Thomas Connolly, Walgreens vice president of facilities development, added that since they operate more than 8,000 stores, they believed this sustainable energy technology implementation would have a significant positive impact on the environment.

Walgreens is the nation’s largest drug store chain and generated sales last year worth $72 billion.

Walgreens is also one of the companies which have accepted the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge, under which the company has committed to a chainwide 20 percent energy reduction by 2020.

President Obama to Announce National Plan for Reducing Carbon Pollution

On Tuesday, June 25, 2013, at 1:35 p.m., President Obama will give a speech at Georgetown University in which he plans to lay out a vision for what he calls a national plan for reducing carbon pollution and combating the impacts of climate change.

The announcement was made by the White House in a youtube video released during the weekend.

In the video, the President says he’ll lay out “a national plan to reduce carbon pollution, prepare our country for the impacts of climate change, and lead global efforts to fight it.”

Coal fired power plant

Coal fired power plant (photo –

The main focus of the plan will be on new EPA regulations to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by power plants that use fossil fuels.

Power plants are responsible for 40 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions in the U.S. Coal power still accounts for 42 percent of electricity production, and utilities buy in excess of 90 percent of all the coal mined across the U.S.

States such as New York and Massachusetts that are a part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) already have mandatory market-based cap and trade systems in place, and might actually get EPA credits for emission reductions already achieved. For other states, capping the emissions of their coal plants or shutting down the plants would mean a hike in electricity prices.

The second part of the plan dealing with the impacts of climate change reportedly includes taking steps to make coastal communities more resilient (see New York’s resiliency plan), and an initiative by the Department of Agriculture to set up climate adaption hubs to help the farming sector deal with climate change.

In the video, the President also emphasized the economic benefits of tackling climate change. He said “We’ll need scientists to design new fuels, and farmers to grow them. We’ll need engineers to devise new sources of energy, and businesses to make and sell them.”

These new initiatives would have to come into effect through executive orders issued by the President without Congressional approval. They would have to be implemented by the EPA under authorization provided to the agency in the Clean Air Act (Section 111d).

This section authorizes the EPA to develop regulations for categories of sources that cause or are significant contributors to air pollution endangering public health and welfare. If the EPA issues a new federal standards and guidelines for a new polluting source under this section, individual states are then required to set their own standards and come up with a system for ensuring compliance.

NPS Report – 2.4M Jobs Generated by Federal Historic Tax Credits

Last week was the 35th anniversary of the Federal Historic Preservation Tax Incentives (FHPTI) Program. To mark the occasion, the National Park Service (NPS) released a report on the program’s achievements and its usefulness.

Former Sears Power House in Chicago, IL

Former Sears Power House in Chicago, IL (photo –

FHPTI, which is administered by the NPS, encourages private investments in projects that undertake rehabilitation and reuse of historic buildings.

Property owners get a 20 percent tax credit, provided for rehabilitation of historic properties so that they can be used for a business or income-producing purpose while still retaining the original historic structure.

Highlights from the report, summarizing the program’s effectiveness from its first project in 1977 through to FY 2012:-

- Helped attract $66 billion ($106 billion after adjusting for inflation) in private capital for rehabilitating historic buildings;

-Supported 2.4 million jobs that are higher paying and more skilled than new construction;

- Supported rehabilitation of historic properties through more than 38,000 certified projects;

- Projects supported by FHPTI have rehabilitated or created 460,000 housing units, of which 124,000 are low and moderate income units.

In FY 2012 alone, the program offered tax incentives to projects that plowed $3.5 billion into local economies, supporting around 57,000 jobs.

One of the projects highlighted in the report is the original Sears, Roebuck and Company world headquarters in Chicago, Illinois, which dates back to 1905. The 55-acre site had a number of buildings, which have gradually been developed into more than 300 housing units and a community center.

A $31 million rehabilitation project supported by FHPTI was undertaken at this site to convert the powerhouse into the Charles H. Shaw Technology and Learning Center. The classroom facilities are being used by the Henry Ford Power House Charter High School, whose enrollment grew to more than 400 high school students.

The project retained not just the historic structure, but also some of the building’s energy production technology, and added to it with new sustainable energy technology including geothermal cooling and heating. Thanks to all these efforts, the project has been awarded LEED Platinum certification.

NPS Director Jonathan B. Jarvis said that FHPTI was the nation’s most effective program promoting community revitalization and historic preservation.

Jarvis also mentions in the report foreword that while the accomplishments of the program are considerable, this is also a good time to look forward towards the more than 1.4 million buildings that are listed in the National Register of Historic Places or are a part of historic districts.

Around 20 percent of these buildings qualify as income-producing sites, and each year many of them are lost because of demolitions or fire.

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell sounded a similar note when she said that FHPTI has proven to be an extraordinary success since its inception. She said the tax incentives helped preserve the past, benefit the economy in the present, and ensure remembrance of the national heritage in the future.

Read the full NPS report on the FHPTI Program – Download (pdf)

Vermont and Quebec Announce Cross-Border Electric Charging Corridor

Quebec Premier Pauline Marois and Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin made a joint announcement of the first Vermont-Québec Electric Charging Corridor linking Burlington and Montréal.

Vermont-Quebec Electric Charging Corridor announcement

Vermont-Quebec Electric Charging Corridor announcement (photo – Governor’s Office)

The EV corridor came about as a result of an agreement between Québec-based Electric Circuit and Drive Electric Vermont to set up 20 charging stations on the route, so that drivers are assured of finding charging stations anywhere on the 139-mile drive.

The discussions were initiated at the recently held NEG-ECP (Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers), and the agreement is being touted as an example of the potential for cross-border cooperation on a host of issues.

Premier Marois said Quebec had a long partnership with Vermont filled with issues that were of common interest. He added that the EV charging network announcement was a concrete example of their shared leadership in clean energy use and sustainable development.

Gov. Shumlin said that using electricity instead of gasoline means clean transportation for the region at lower costs. The Governor added that he was pleased to join Premier Marois in making this announcement of significant progress on the Vermont-Quebec Electric Charging Corridor.

A group of stakeholders on both sides of the border is looking into more ways of improving infrastructure for electric vehicles. Apart from Quebec, Vermont, Drive Electric Vermont and The Electric Circuit, other agencies involved include Green Mountain Power and Burlington Electric.

Drive Electric Vermont is a coalition that includes policy makers, citizens and industry leaders. It was launched by the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation in partnership with Project Get Ready, the State of Vermont and other stakeholders to promote electric transportation in Vermont.

The Electric Circuit was launched in March 2012 and now includes a network of 160 EV charging stations across Quebec, set up with help and support from 34 private and institutional partners.

Burlington Electric is the City of Burlington’s electric utility provider, while Green Mountain power is an electric utility in Vermont that aims to provide affordable and clean electricity to customers.

More charging stations are expected to be added on the Burlington-Montreal route soon, and the agreement also calls for working on setting up similar EV corridors on other cross-border routes such as Magog-Sherbrooke-St. Johnsbury.

Vermont spends more than $1.1 billion per year on gasoline and diesel. If all that transport were to be fueled by electricity, it would cost only $275 million, which means annual savings of $800 million.

Electric vehicles additionally help save $1,200 or more in maintenance costs, and also provide vehicle owners with a federal tax credit worth up to $7,500 for the first EV purchase.

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