Sustainable Development

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 epa.gov.

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 – energy.gov)

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 lbl.gov)

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)

Wyoming Governor Proposes Test Center for Carbon Research

Wyoming Governor Matt Mead is proposing a public-private partnership between the State of Wyoming and private partners to invest in a research center for developing and testing new uses for carbon captured from coal-fired power plants.

CO2 Carbon Capture

CO2 Carbon Capture (photo – lbl.gov)

Gov. Mead proposes to have the State allocate $15 million for covering the capital costs of the center and to facilitate University of Wyoming research at the center.

The goal of the center would be to develop new markets for carbon in addition to the enhanced oil recovery that is already being done.

Wyoming has the largest coal mines in the U.S. and provides 40 percent of the nation’s coal, which is in turn responsible for 37 percent of all the electricity generated. Wyoming’s coal is sent to 34 states, and many do not have enhanced oil projects in place.

As carbon capture technology advances, there will be more Co2 captured than can be used for enhanced oil projects.

Gov. Mead said in a statement that Wyoming and many private companies have invested significantly in research on carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), and he now wants to advance the conversation and try to add value to Co2, which he said has significant potential as a resource.

The Governor said he is asking the Legislature to look at the idea of the State joining with utilities, power plants and other private companies to build a test center. He said it would essentially be a laboratory for a select group of scientists to experiment with uses of carbon.

Gov. Mead said he believes this research would be best suited to occur in a location that incorporates real world conditions – as in the heart of coal country.

The State of Wyoming is also engaging the Westminster, CO-based non-profit Tri-State Generation and Transmission Association to be a part of this project. Tri-State is looking to establish a $10 million Tri-State Carbon X Prize for the best research on capture and use of Co2 emitted from coal-fired power plants.

The contest will cost Tri-State a lot more than the $10 million in prize money, since they will also have to finance the costs of holding the competition. Wyoming is suggesting that the proposed test center could be used by researchers and competitors seeking the Tri-State prize.

Davos World Economic Forum Focuses on Sustainable Development

The 2014 World Economic Forum (WEF) will be held in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland from Jan 22-25, 2014.

Davos World Economic Forum

Photo – World Economic Forum/swiss-image.ch

The theme for this year Р“The Reshaping of the World: Consequences for Society, Politics and Business,” has a heavy focus on sustainable development.

Davos typically attracts a lot of attention every year because of the star power of the large number of world leaders and personalities the WEF attracts.

The WEF program this year also has a lot of time set aside for sustainability issues and trends. One session on the “The Reshaping of Globalization” will look at it from three angles including regulatory reforms, regionalism and the sustainability imperative.

Another one on the “Future of Extractives” looks at how the resource industry can drive growth despite rising concerns about environmental deprivation and scarcity. A climate change session looks at the environmental, social and economic impact of a four degree celsius change in temperature.

Another session on “Rethinking our Sustainable Future” will feature experts in urban design, advanced manufacturing and climate science debating and discussing how technology, science and design are moving us towards a utopian world.

One session has three “Young Global Leaders” giving short talks about building smart eco-cities. Participants will learn about building a city from scratch, running a sustainable city, and about green energy and entrepreneurship.

Attendees at a session called “The DNA of Sustainable Business” will find out what it takes to be a high-performance, environmentally sustainable company. Another one looks at the “Civic Role of Business” to find out how the private sector helps stabilize societies undergoing economic transitions.

A session developed in partnership with the Associated Press looks at carrying the post-2015 development goals from vision to action, with a focus on ending extreme poverty, transforming economies with inclusive growth and jobs, and putting sustainable development at the core.

The point persons for the United States at Davos are likely to be EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew.

Administrator McCarthy will discuss the steps the U.S. is taking to reduce carbon pollution, and the potential market opportunities, job creation and innovation that climate change action can trigger. Secretary Lew will meet with international counterparts and discuss economic developments and policies to boost U.S. and global growth.

Pew Report – U.S. Military’s Clean Energy Power Surge

A new report released by The Pew Charitable Trusts examines how the U.S. military is making use of innovative financing and private sector capabilities to install advanced energy systems.

Pew report on military clean energy projects

Pew report on military clean energy projects (photo – pewtrusts.org)

The report, titled “Power Surge,” says the deployment of energy technologies is accelerating across the Department of Defense operated military installations.

As per the study, the number of energy efficiency and savings projects at military installations doubled from 630 in FY 2010 to 1,339 in FY 2012. During the same period, the number of renewable energy projects increased from 454 to 700.

Phyllis Cuttino, who directs Pew’s project on national security, energy, and climate, said these improvements were possible even as the Pentagon’s budget is shrinking because the armed forces are harnessing private-sector expertise and resources.

The Department of Defense has 550,000 buildings and structures that add up to an estimated 2.3 billion square feet. The annual energy bill for lighting, heating and cooling, computers, communications and other advanced equipment operation works out to $4 billion.

In order to comply with laws enacted by Congress, the DOD is required to look for three percent worth of annual reductions in facility energy intensity (energy used per gross square foot). They also need to ensure that 25 percent of their energy production or procurement is from renewable sources by 2025.

The Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps have therefore initiated various measures and policies to ensure clean energy installations continue to progress. This includes widespread use of third-party financing where the project developer bears the costs and takes responsibility for maintenance.

The military bears little or no upfront costs for the project, and gets power from a clean energy source at a lower rate than before. The developer gets a long-term power purchase agreement (PPA), and is able to generate additional revenues by selling Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs).

The Pew report says an estimated 80 percent of future Defense Department renewable energy projects will be financed in this way through PPAs with private developers.

Cuttino added that this is a win-win-win proposition where the military gets better energy infrastructure, taxpayer dollars are saved, and the clean energy industry is finding new market opportunities.

The Pentagon had 384 megawatts of installed renewable energy capacity as of mid-2013. By the end of 2018, this could increase more than five-fold to 2.1 GW. This would put the military on track to meet its target of 3 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2025 – equivalent to power for 750,000 homes.

Read the full Pew “Power Surge” report – Download (pdf)

Stonehill College Installing Solar Field With 9000 Panels

Stonehill College in Easton, Massachusetts is installing a 15-acre solar field with 9,000 panels that will make it the single largest college campus solar installation in New England, and the 11th largest nationwide.

Stonehill College solar project in Easton, MA

Stonehill College solar project in Easton, MA (photo – stonehill.edu)

The 2.7 MW solar project is being built on an unused parcel of farm land near the main campus, and is expected to be completed shortly.

Once operational, the project will fulfill around 20 percent of Stonehill’s electricity usage.

The project is expected to help the college save $185,000 annually, adding up to an estimated $3.2 million over the duration of the 15-year power purchase agreement (PPA) the college has signed with New Jersey-based Marina Energy.

Marina Energy, which owns the solar project, is leasing the land from Stonehill. Marina will be getting federal tax incentives as a renewable power generator, and will also be able to sell Solar Renewable Energy Certificates (SRECs) to buyers.

All the electricity generated will be sold to Stonehill at a discounted rate that will enable the College to save $3.2 million during the 15-year contract period.

Steve Poniatowicz, senior vice president and chief operating officer of Marina Energy, said they credit Stonehill for its forward-thinking strategies, which he said will put the College in a strong position to lead others in New England towards a more sustainable future.

Stonehill is a Catholic non-profit liberal arts college. Rev. James Lies, C.S.C., the College’s vice president for mission, says the solar field is an extension of their Catholic commitment to care for creation and sustainability.

The solar farm is part of the college’s “Stonehill Goes Green” initiative. Another project undertaken as a part of this initiative was retrofits to the buildings with installation of energy-efficient lighting controlled by motion-sensors.

They have phased out bottled water usage, and created a farm which produces organic fruits and vegetables which are used by local food banks and soup kitchens.

The college has also implemented water conservation practices, along with composting of cafeteria waste, car-sharing through Zip Car, and single-stream recycling. They hand out Green Kits to new students encouraging them to adopt a sustainable lifestyle.

Dominion Kicks Off Commercial Operations at CT Renewable Energy Facilities

Dominion (NYSE: D) has begun commercial operations at two new renewable energy facilities in Connecticut that will together produce power for about 20,000 homes.

Dominion Fuel Cell facility in Bridgeport, CT

Dominion Fuel Cell facility in Bridgeport, CT (photo – dom.com)

The Dominion Bridgeport Fuel Cell facility located in Bridgeport, CT cleanly converts natural gas into electricity.

The Dominion Somers Solar Center located in Somers, CT generates power from 23,150 solar panels.

Dominion Generation CEO David A. Christian said these two facilities add 20 MW of renewable energy to Dominion’s existing 2,100 MW of carbon-free power in Connecticut that flows from the Millstone Power Station. He said these stations are generating clean and reliable electricity for Connecticut.

The Bridgeport Fuel Cell facility will produce 14.9 MW of clean energy, which will be sold to Connecticut Light & Power under a long-term PPA (power purchase agreement).

The facility will be operated and maintained by FuelCell Energy Inc. (FCE) under a services contract with Dominion. Apart from the five stationary fuel cell power plants, FCE is also using an organic rankine turbine at the facility to convert waste heat given off by the fuel cells into additional electricity.

The Bridgeport Fuel Cell facility was established under the state’s Project 150 program, with support provided by the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA).

Project 150 aims to increase the installed renewable energy capacity in Connecticut by at least 150 MW. CEFIA is the first full-scale clean energy finance authority in the nation that leverages public and private funds to drive investment into clean energy projects and scale up clean energy capacity in Connecticut.

The Somers Solar Center was built by Kyocera (NYSE: KYO) and San Francisco-based clean energy company CleanPath. Dominion acquired the project in Oct 2013.

At that time, Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy said in a statement that continued support of one of the largest solar installations in the state by Dominion will ensure an overall commitment to closing the gap between the cost of renewable energy and power generated from fossil fuels.

The Somers Solar Center project with 23,150 solar panels created around 80 construction jobs at the peak of the installation period. It will produce about 5 MW of power, also to be sold under a PPA to Connecticut Light & Power.

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