Sustainable Development

FAA Awards $40M for New Air Transportation Center of Excellence

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced the selection of a coalition of 16 universities and 26 industry and federal partners and stakeholders for a new Air Transportation Center of Excellence (COE) for pursuing R&D on sustainable jet biofuels.

Aviation Biofuel

Aviation Biofuel (photo – blogs.anl.gov)

The team, led by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Washington State University (WSU), will be headquartered at WSU Tri-Cities in Richland, WA.

The Air Transportation COE R&D projects will be focused on coming up with ways to meet certain NextGen goals associated with the environment and sustainability.

NextGen is the Next Generation Air Transportation System Рthe FAA’s new satellite-based air traffic control system which is being phased in to replace the current ground-based system.

The research efforts for the COE team will be focused on ways to achieve the NextGen air quality, noise, energy and climate change goals. This includes new technologies for aircraft as well as sustainable alternative aviation jet fuels.

The FAA is providing $4 million per year to COE, and will do so for the entire 10-year period of the program. The rest of the funding for COE will come through a 1-1 match from industry partners.

Research projects will be undertaken by teams of scientists from the universities, each of which has environmental and aviation-related educational programs.

The FAA has previously established similar Air Transportation COEs for nine other topic areas involving a total of more than 75 universities. Research conducted by the COEs has resulted in improvements and innovations such as remote airport lighting and a reduction of 10-20 percent in approach fuel burn, among other things.

These COEs were authorized by Congress under the FAA Research, Engineering and Development Authorization Act of 1990. The act allowed the FAA to work with academia and industry partners for research in airspace and airport design and planning, aviation safety, environmental issues, and other activities that contribute towards a safer and more efficient air transportation system.

This new COE headquartered at WSU was created through language included in the FAA reauthorization bill of 2012.

Apart from WSU, other COE members from Washington included in the coalition are Boeing, Alaska Airlines, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, the Port of Seattle, Spokane International Airport, Weyerhaeuser, InnovaTek and Imperium Renewables.

Mike Bair, vice president of Marketing and Business Development for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said it was a terrific win for WSU and the Pacific Northwest, and further validates the region’s leadership in the development of sustainable aviation biofuels.

WSU President Elson S. Floyd likewise said that competing for and winning the COE reaffirms WSU and Washington State as international leaders in aviation and alternative jet fuels development.

EDA Invests $300K To Support NYC Green Building Cluster Growth

The U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) announced that the non-profit Pratt Institute in Brooklyn has been awarded $300,000 for conducting a survey to assess the production and use of green building products in New York City.

Green building materials Made in NYC

Made in NYC (photo – prattcenter.net)

The Pratt Institute will use the funding for conducting a survey of around 100 green building product manufacturers and 50 green building materials buyers in New York City.

The survey is meant to identify the gap in regional green building products supply and demand.

Pratt will use the survey data for a strategic assessment of the inefficiencies of the current manufacturing operations in the area, regional demand for innovative green building predicts, and the region’s capacity to develop these products.

The study findings will enable green building materials manufacturers and consumers to connect with each other, and identify the ways in which the latest innovations in this field can be put in front of commercial end users.

Matt Erskine, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development, said this EDA investment will help NYC’s green building materials manufacturers identify markets, and will help end-users identify these products and buy them.

This study to support growth of NYC’s green building cluster complements Pratt’s existing Spec It Green Manufacturing Initiative, which promotes the use of locally-made green building materials.

U.S. Senator for New York Kirsten Gillibrand, who has been pushing for federal funding in support of Pratt’s initiative to strengthen the City’s green building manufacturers, said this funding would help the sector and provide green manufacturers in NYC with new opportunities for expanding their business.

The Spec It Green seminar series hosted by the New York Industrial Retention Network (NYIRN) focuses on green building and the benefits of using sustainable and local building supplies from the City’s own manufacturers.

NYIRN was established in 1997 as an economic development organization for strengthening New York’s manufacturing sector and promoting sustainable development. In 2010, it was merged with the Pratt Center for Community Development.

Adam Friedman, director of the Pratt Center for Community Development, said the Spec It Green Partnership partly funded by the EDA will help in channeling millions of dollars in private construction spending to local manufacturers.

U.S. Navy Announces $30M Investment in Hawaii Energy Excelerator Program

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) of the U.S. Navy announced that it is investing an additional $30 million into Energy Excelerator, a Honolulu, Hawaii-based program that provides startup funding for innovative energy ideas.

Energy Excelerator

Energy Excelerator (photo – hawaiirenewable.com)

The Energy Excelerator program is a part of ONR’s Asia-Pacific Technology and Education Program (APTEP).

The aim of the program is to fund startups involved in projects that have a potential to be the next groundbreaking energy technologies, and assist these startups in commercializing the technologies.

The $30 million being pumped into the program by ONR will not only fund the activities of such companies, but also help them attract other partners so that energy innovation can flourish.

The 17 companies that are already part of the Energy Excelerator portfolio have together attracted $38 million in funding from other sources over the past three years.

The portfolio companies include IBiS Networks, Sopogy Inc., Pacific Biodiesel, Hawaii Gas, and OpConnect, among others. This last one, previously known as Better Place HI, used Energy Excelerator to build and demonstrate the first utility-integrated EV charging infrastructure in Hawaii.

In fact, the Portland, Oregon-based OpConnect LLC just received another $650,000 to grow its presence in Hawaii. This includes $350,000 from the Ulupono Initiative in Hawaii, along with $50,000 from Drive Oregon and another $250,000 loan from the Portland Development Commission.

OpConnect now has a network that spans 270 charging stations in four states.

Dr. Richard Carlin, director of ONR’s Sea Warfare and Weapons Department, said partnerships were vital for reaching energy goals. He said this program helps small companies move their products from the lab to the market, and ONR was supporting a forward-thinking organization that could make a significant contribution towards future energy needs.

Hawaii was uniquely suited as the base for this program and energy research because of the unmatched availability of solar, wind, bioenergy, geothermal and wave resources.

Furthermore, the population in Hawaii is keenly aware of their dependence on imported fossil fuels and need to come up with alternative energy sources. Not to mention the high cost of electricity in the state.

Every summer, Energy Excelerator opens up its applications process, with funding awards for growth-stage startups in November, followed by seed-stage funding for new startups in January.

Seed-stage startups are eligible to receive $30,000 to $100,000 to develop and execute go-to-market strategies. Growth-stage companies may be awarded grants up to $1 million in the form of reimbursable costs, subject to the costs being shared on at least a 1-1 ratio by the recipient through private investments or revenues.

Out of the hundreds of applications they get, only 13 are chosen to address the energy challenges of Hawaii and the Asia-Pacific region. Specifically, they are looking for projects related to integration of renewable energy into the grid; transportation bioenergy projects; and energy efficiency for agriculture and built environment.

Apart from the Navy’s ONR, Energy Excelerator also gets funding from the U.S. Department of Energy and from its own portfolio companies, if they are successful.

E2 Report – Top 10 States for Clean Energy Projects

A new report released just in time for Labor Day by Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2) reveals that at least 58 clean energy and clean transportation projects have been announced in the U.S. during the second quarter of 2013, and these projects could create up to 38,600 jobs.

E2 Clean Jobs report

E2 Clean Jobs report (photo – e2.org)

E2 Executive Director Judith Albert said that as Labor Day is here and the nation is focused on the economy and jobs, clean transportation and clean energy projects are creating jobs and continue to drive economic growth from one end of the nation to the other.

It’s no surprise that California led the way with 12 announced solar, wind, transportation and biofuels projects in Q2 2013 that could create more than 9,000 new jobs.

What’s new is that for the first time, Hawaii made the top 10 list of states with the most quarterly clean jobs project announcements, thanks to a $300 million initiative to upgrade government buildings such as airports, prisons, universities and waterwater treatment plants. These projects will create around 5,000 jobs.

Maryland was in third place behind Hawaii, with most of the credit going to the $2.6 billion expansion of Baltimore light-rail system’s Red Line, which is expected to reduce carbon emissions and traffic, while creating 4,200 construction jobs.

Both Missouri and Kansas also ended up on the list, thanks to the announcement of the $2 billion “Grain Belt Express Clean Line” transmission line upgrade project by Clean Line Energy Partners LLC. This project will transmit more than 3,500MW of wind energy from Missouri and Kansas to other states, and is slated to create more than 5,500 jobs during the planning, construction and operation stages.

Other states on the E2 top 10 list for the second quarter include Alaska, Illinois, Nevada, Oregon and Texas. Alaska also made this list for the first time, courtesy of a weatherization project being sponsored by the Alaska Housing Finance Corp. that is slated to create in excess of 600 jobs.

In Nevada, a 350MW solar-photovoltaic generation plant project capable of powering 105,000 homes was announced. This project will create 370 construction and permanent jobs. Another 200 jobs were created in Nevada by the opening of a new K2 Energy battery plant in Henderson.

Read the full E2 report on the Q2 2013 Clean Jobs Project Announcements – Download (pdf)

Cool Planet Investing $168M for Louisiana Bio-Refineries

Greenwood Village, Colorado-based Cool Planet Energy Systems announced plans to build three modular biomass-to-gasoline refineries in Louisiana.

Cool Planet Energy Systems

Cool Planet Energy Systems (photo – coolplanet.com)

The bio-refinery projects at the Port of Alexandria, Port of Natchitoches and another as yet undisclosed site in Louisiana will require the company to invest $168 million.

The projects will create a total of 72 direct jobs with average annual wages of $59,600, plus benefits.

Louisiana Economic Development (LED) additionally estimates that the projects will support the creation of another 422 indirect jobs, leading to overall job creation possibilities of almost 500 new jobs.

The Cool Planet projects will also support another 750 construction jobs while the refineries are being built.

Apart from the three refineries, Cool Planet plans to establish a regional office in the City of Alexandria. This commercial project will require the company to spend around $500,000 for infrastructure improvements.

Cool Planet Energy Systems CEO Howard Janzen said they chose Louisiana as the location of their first commercial refinery for multiple reasons, including a business-friendly attitude towards innovative companies such as Cool Planet. He also cited the availability of renewable feedstock supply as one of the factors.

LED began negotiating with the company last year in September. Incentives offered to Cool Planet include a $750,000 grant under the Economic Development Award Program for offsetting infrastructure costs.

The company will have access to LED FastStart for recruitment support and workforce training. They will also be eligible for additional incentives under the Louisiana Quality Jobs and Industrial Tax Exemption programs.

Natchitoches Parish President Rick Nowlin said they were excited that Cool Planet was not only creating new jobs for the local economy, but also doing it in manner that was environmentally responsible.

Cool Planet will be harvesting forest byproducts and wood waste for making gasoline at these refineries, each of which will have a production capacity of 10 million gallons of high-octane pressure gasoline compatible for use in vehicles.

The gasoline will be federally certified as renewable cellulosic gasoline made from wood chips that are sustainably harvested. The wood residue (tree bark, thinnings, branches and tops of trees) Cool Planet will use creates additional value for timber management companies and forest owners in Louisiana.

As a byproduct, the refineries will produce biochar that can go back into the soil and help maintain nutrients and water levels. This whole process reduces greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 150 percent as compared to regular gasoline.

Cool Planet has plans to develop 400 such refineries across the United States over the next decade. The company is funded by investors including Google Ventures, BP, and North Bridge Venture Partners, among others.

CUNY Consortium to Lead NYC Science and Resilience Institute

Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and NYC Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg announced progress on an agreement between the federal government and the City of New York for cooperative management of 10,000 acres of federal and city-owned parkland in and around Jamaica Bay.

Jamaica Bay

Jamaica Bay (photo – GK tramrunner229/wikimedia)

The original agreement was signed between the National Park Service (NPS) and NYC last year in July, along with the formation of a Jamaica Bay-Rockaway Parks Conservancy.

As an update on this agreement, it was announced that the City University of New York (CUNY)-led consortium has been chosen for setting up a new Science and Resilience Institute.

The Institute will be a research center focused on research for a restoration of Jamaica Bay with the intention of promoting an understanding of resilience in urban ecosystems and adjacent communities.

Secretary Jewell said that the federal government, the CUNY consortium and the City of New York will work together to develop and coordinate coastal resiliency approaches for Jamaica Bay that would serve as a model for communities all over the world that were being threatened by climate change.

CUNY Interim Chancellor William P. Kelly said that together with their partners in the consortium, CUNY would engage in a groundbreaking effort for revitalizing Jamaica Bay’s ecosystem.

The Institute will work with other academic institutions, public agencies and non-profits already engaged in research on and in Jamaica Bay. Apart from the City and NPS, the institute will develop programs in coordination with the US Army Corps of Engineers, NYC Parks, and the NYC Department of Environmental Protection.

The Institute, which is expected to be operational this fall at a temporary location within the campus of Brooklyn College, is planning to get started by hosting global and local experts for a symposium to examine the exact meaning of urban resilience and ways for achieving it.

The symposium, funded by the Rockefeller Foundation and scheduled to be held Oct 17-18, 2013, is titled “Urban Resilience in an Era of Climate Change: Global Input for Local Solutions.”

Apart from the City University of New York, the following is the list of organizations and institutions that are a part of the consortium selected to lead the Science and Resilience Institute:-

Wildlife Conservation Society

NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies

Cornell University

Earth Institute, Columbia University

Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University

Institute of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University

Stony Brook University

Stevens Institute of Technology

Mayor Bloomberg said the consortium was an all-star team of non-profits and research institutions who will be doing important work for protecting and preserving urban ecosystems from development and the impact of climate change.

New York Launches $19M Truck Voucher Incentive Program

New York State has launched a $19 million program to promote sales of commercial electric-powered and alternative-fuel vehicles.

New York Truck Voucher Incentive Program

NY Truck Voucher Incentive Program (photo – truck-vip.ny.gov)

The New York Truck Voucher Incentive Program (NYT-VIP) will provide vendors with vouchers to reduce customer purchase costs of electric and alternative-fuel trucks and diesel emission control devices (DECDs).

NYT-VIP is a “first-come, first-served” program that includes three separate funds administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

One fund is the New York State Electric Vehicle – Voucher Incentive Fund (NYSEV-VIF), vouchers for which are available now. This is a $9 million fund which provides voucher incentives for battery powered all-electric vehicles (EVs) that can be classified under Class 3 to Class 8 private and public fleet vehicles.

Vehicles must be registered, garaged and operated at least 70 percent of the time in one of the 30 NYS counties that do not meet National Ambient Air Quality Standards. NYSEV-VIF will provide vouchers to vendors covering 80 percent of the incremental cost, up to a maximum of $60,000 per EV.

The second fund is the New York City Alternative Fuel Vehicle – Voucher Incentive Fund (NYCAFV- VIF). This is a $6 million fund for purchase of alternative fuel vehicles in NYC, including EVs, hybrids, CNG vehicles and CNG engine conversions.  The rest of the criteria are about the same, except that the vehicle is limited to NYC’s five boroughs, and the voucher covers a maximum of $40,000 per vehicle.

The third fund is the New York City Diesel Emission Reduction – Voucher Incentive Fund (NYCDER-VIF). This is a $4 million fund that provides vouchers for DECDs. The criteria are the same as NYCAFV- VIF, except that this fund covers the full cost of the DECD purchase and installation.

The alternative fuels voucher programs for NYC will become available later this month, and the DECD voucher program is set to begin next month.

Francis J. Murray Jr., president and CEO, NYSERDA, said that New York State is lessening its dependence on foreign petroleum by promoting energy-efficient transportation and electric trucks, and by incentivizing businesses and municipalities to embrace eco-friendly transportation technologies.

Pasadena, California-based CALSTART, a non-profit that promotes growth of clean transportation technology, is helping NYSERDA manage NYT-VIP.

John Boesel, President and CEO of CALSTART, said they were excited about the opportunity for partnering with NYSERDA, the City of New York and NYS DOT to make this program a success.

NYT-VIP is inviting OEMs, vehicle technology vendors, leased vehicle operators and fleet owners to participate in the program. Find out more at truck-vip.ny.gov.

Maryland’s GHG Reduction Plan to Support 37,000 Jobs

Maryland has released a Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act Plan which outlines specific programs to achieve a 25 percent statewide reduction in GHG emissions by 2020.

Maryland Climate Change Summit

Maryland Climate Change Summit (photo – MD Governor’s Office)

The “Plan” was released at a climate change summit hosted last week by MD Governor Martin O’Malley and well attended by government officials, environmental advocates, scientists, business leaders and community activities.

Most of the components outlined in the Plan are programs that are already in the process of being implemented. Even so, putting it all together as a long-term framework will help the state bolster these programs over the next seven years with policy changes and new technologies.

Together, the initiatives included in the plan will account for GHG emissions reductions of 55 million metric tons.

The state will see $1.6 billion in economic benefits from the Plan, which is expected to support 37,000 jobs and have a positive impact on public health.

One of the key components of the plan is the Maryland Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard (RPS), which has fueled demand for renewable energy generation by requiring power producers to source 18 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

Another initiative, EmPOWER Maryland, is pushing for energy efficiency to cut peak load and energy consumption by 15 percent. A “Zero Waste” program pushes for reducing GHG emissions from landfills by hiking the recycling requirement for government managed solid waste to 60 percent by 2020.

Maryland is a part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which is a joint cap-and-trade initiative launched by Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states to control industrial emissions. GHG emissions from vehicles are being reduced through the Maryland Clean Cars Program.

Governor O’Malley said that as severe weather events continued to grow in impact and size along with elongated trends of poor air quality, the costs of inaction grows exponentially. He said Maryland was moving forward with action taken to create green jobs while protecting public health, air, water and land.

Maryland, which has a 3,000-mile coastline, is highly vulnerable to climate change. Rising sea levels and storm intensity will have devastating economic and environmental impacts on Chesapeake Bay.

Don Boesch, president of the Center for Environmental Science at the University of Maryland, said that significant emissions reductions would have to be made over the next few decades to avoid some of the worst consequences of climate change, and Maryland has an opportunity here and a responsibility to lead.

Read the full Maryland Greenhouse Gas Reduction Act Plan – Download (pdf)

NYSE Joins UN’s Sustainable Stock Exchanges Program

NYSE Euronext (NYX), the company that owns the New York Stock Exchange, announced that it was joining the United Nations Sustainable Stock Exchanges (SSE) program.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at SSE NYSE Euronext event

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at SSE NYSE Euronext event (photo – un.org)

The SSE initiative was created in 2009 to enable stock exchanges to work together with companies, investors and regulators to enhance transparency on social, environmental and corporate governance issues.

The group aims to encourage responsible and long-term investment policies, and now includes eight exchange groups including both NASDAQ OMX and NYSE Euronext.

The inclusion of NYSE Euronext in this group takes the SSE initiative to a whole new level. Not only is it the world’s largest stock exchange, but is also the only exchange that has managed to achieve carbon neutral status for the last three years running.

NYSE Euronext was created in April 2007 after the merger of NYSE Group, Inc. with Dutch company Euronext N.V.

Duncan L. Niederauer, CEO of NYSE Euronext, said they were proud to join the SSE initiative and partner with others in their industry and the UN to support best practices in transparency and corporate governance related to sustainability.

Niederauer added that NYSE Euronext leads by example by running the business in an environmentally responsible fashion, and would leverage the unique power of the NYSE Euronext community and their platform to empower collaboration and learning in the broader corporate sector.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon rang the closing bell on Wall St yesterday to mark the occasion, following an event hosted in New York by NYSE Euronext that brought together sustainability professionals, academics, senior executives from NYSE-listed companies, leaders from the UN and representatives from some of the world’s leading non-profits.

Mr. Ban said that the addition of the world’s largest stock exchange to SSE was a significant step forward and signaled the relevance and importance of sustainability to private sector companies from all over the world.

He said the private sector plays a central role in providing solutions for the most pressing needs in the world, and investments must be sustainable – not just in terms of delivering financial value, but also in environmental, developmental and social terms.

Mr. Ban said that investors are embracing sustainability because they realize that developmental challenges such as poverty and climate change are long-term risks that threaten businesses and stability.

He thanked NYSE Euronext for joining the SSE initiative, and urged other stock exchanges around the world to do the same.

Environment America Report – Top 12 Solar States

The Environment America Research & Policy Center released a report that highlights what other states can learn from the top 12 solar states.

Top 12 solar states

Top 12 solar states (photo – environmentamerica.org)

The 12 states that make the list based on per capita cumulative solar capacity include Arizona, California, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina and Vermont.

The report makes use of previously published data from the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), so it’s not exactly breaking news. What’s interesting is the analysis of each state’s policies that help promote solar installations, and what’s common among the policies implemented by these 12 states.

The report’s apt title is “Lighting the Way: What We Can Learn from America’s Top 12 Solar States.”

These 12 states together comprise only 28 percent of the U.S. population and 21 percent of the total electricity consumption. However, they account for 87 percent of the photovoltaic capacity installed last year, and 85 percent of all the cumulative installed solar energy so far.

Highlights from the report’s policy analysis:-

- Strong net metering policies that allow consumers to offset utility bills with solar power generated onsite have been implemented by 11 of the 12 states;

- Renewable electricity standards that require utilities to include at least a minimum amount of power from renewable sources are in place in 11 of the 12 states;

- State interconnection policies that facilitate connection of solar energy systems to the grid are in place in 10 of the 12 states; and

- Property assessed clean energy (PACE) financing, third-party power purchase agreements and other creative financing options are available for solar installations in a majority of the 12 states.

The report authors say that plenty of sunshine doesn’t make a state a solar leader. What’s important, they say, is the degree to which local and state governments in these states have created effective public policy that helps the solar industry develop by pushing home owners and businesses to go solar.

Delaware Governor Jack Markell said encouraging solar power was the right thing to do for the economy and the environment. Delaware was ranked fifth for its per capita solar installations last year, and seventh in terms of its cumulative solar installations.

To date, 50 MW of solar capacity is connected to the grid in Delaware, fueled by a 25 fold rise in solar installations since 2008, which in turn has been a result of aggressive policies and initiatives such as the Green Energy Fund, Sustainable Energy Utility auctions for SRECs (solar renewable energy credits), and the Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards.

Dale Davis, president of the Delaware Solar Energy Coalition, said that their solar success was a result of cooperation between the administration, state legislators, utilities, the solar industry, solar energy system owners and the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC).

Read the full Environment America report on the top 12 solar states – Download (pdf)

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