Sustainable Development

Boston Mayor Calls For Greenovate Awards Applications to Celebrate Sustainability Leadership

Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced that applications are now being accepted for the eighth annual Greenovate Boston Awards.

Greenovate Boston Awards

Greenovate Boston Awards (photo –

The 2014 Mayor’s Greenovate Boston Awards will recognize sustainability leadership in Boston by community organizations, businesses, non-profits, institutions and residents.

The awards are meant to recognize leaders who are helping the City reach its goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020, and by 80 percent by 2050.

Specifically, applicants must highlight a recent project or practice that demonstrates leadership in one of these categories – Sustainable Food Systems, Alternative Transportation, Renewable Energy, Energy Conservation, Climate Preparedness, Behavior Change, Water Conservation, or Waste Reduction.

Last year, there were 18 winners of the Greenovate Awards, including three in the residential category, 13 in the business category, and two sustainable food leaders.

The 2013 winners included Atlantic Wharf, Boston’s first LEED Platinum certified skyscraper which uses 42 percent less energy. During construction, developer Boston Properties (NYSE: BXP) made sure that recycled material accounted for 30 percent of the total material used. A full 95 percent of the construction waste was diverted from the waste stream.

Atlantic Wharf now hosts educational tours for students, developers and professionals who look at the project as a model for sustainable development. It’s also boosting economic development and job creation in Boston, offering a waterfront mixed-use development with 1.2 million square feet of office and retail space along with urban lofts.

Mayor Walsh said the City continues to work with businesses, institutions and residents to make Boston the country’s greenest city.

Applications for the Greenovate Awards must be sent in before April 18, 2014, and the awards ceremony is scheduled to take place during the inaugural Greenovate Boston Community Summit on May 31, 2014.

Brian Swett, chief of Boston’s Environment, Energy and Open Space Cabinet, said they’re looking forward to honoring this year’s sustainability leaders and engaging future leaders at the summit.

The day-long summit will help gather feedback and input from the community for the Climate Action Plan update, which is due at the end of the year.

The summit will also include workshops, presentations by expert speakers, and a Marketplace of Ideas for showcasing local innovations, products and services.

USDA Announces Sustainable Wood Building Training Program

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced a new training program that will educate engineers, architects and builders about the benefits of advanced wood building materials.


Wood (photo –

This program will be a partnership effort involving the Wood Products Council’s non-profit WoodWorks initiative.

WoodWorks already provides technical support, resources and education for developers and professionals involved in the design and construction of modern non-residential and multi-family wood buildings.

The Forest Service is investing $1 million to support the program, and Secretary Vilsack also announced plans to hold a competition later this year in which teams will be expected to design and build wood high-rise constructions.

The USDA is putting up $1 million for this competition, and the Binational Softwood Lumber Council will pitch in with a matching $1 million. Preference will be given to applicants who source materials from domestic sustainably-managed forests and rural manufacturers.

As per industry estimates, a three to five story building constructed using emerging wood technologies and sustainably sourced wood would reduce carbon emissions equivalent to taking 550 cars off the road for a year.

The manufacturing process for wood products consumes less energy, and the carbon captured by the tree is stored for the lifetime of the structure and kept out of the atmosphere, and this may continue even after that if the wood is reclaimed and reused to make something else.

Designs based on wood also improve energy efficiency, further reducing the energy consumed for heating and cooling. Not to mention that wood as a material is cheaper and more readily available, and so is the labor force. It also cuts down on construction costs further by reducing the need for foundation capacity and minimizing construction delays.

Then there’s also the fact that increased demand for advanced wood products in the construction sector will support sustainable forestry jobs. The market for wood and related forest products supports more than one million direct jobs, many of which are in rural America.

Jennifer Cover, PE, executive director of WoodWorks, said that as advanced wood products allow the use of wood in a wider variety of buildings including high-rises, the role of forests in mitigating climate change and strengthening rural economies will grow.

These announcements were made by Sec. Vilsack and others at a workshop hosted by the White House Rural Council as part of the USDA’s three-part plan for promoting the use of wood as a green building material.

Chicago Named Earth Hour Capital of the United States

With the clock ticking down towards Earth Hour on March 29, 2014, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has named Chicago to represent the U.S. as the 2014 Earth Hour Capital.

Earth Hour City Challenge

Earth Hour City Challenge (photo – WWF)

Chicago was picked by an international jury after a year-long Earth Hour City Challenge involving 60 cities in the U.S.

The panel picked Chicago as a reward for the city’s commitment and demonstrable progress in combating climate change. Chicago is also getting a $30,000 grant to kick-start a residential solar purchase program.

Instead of just going dark with other cities around the world for that one hour at 8:30 p.m. (local time) on March 29, Chicago will also be hosting Earth Hour celebration events at notable landmarks such as the Willis Tower.

The City will encourage residents to go beyond the hour by developing a city-wide program to help homeowners install solar panels.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel sought to portray the focus on sustainability as part of an overall Chicago economic development plan. He said that fostering economic opportunity and job creation through sustainability will ensure Chicago’s long-term livability and competitiveness.

Keya Chatterjee, director of Renewable Energy and Footprint Outreach at WWF, said that Chicago’s efforts to make renewable energy accessible make it a “first city” in climate-smart policy. Chatterjee cited Chicago’s one-day turnaround policy for rooftop solar project permits as an example, along with efforts to strengthen the public transportation system.

This is the second year this challenge is being held. Last year, WWF invited cities from six countries to participate in the pilot Earth Hour City Challenge. Participating cities are asked to submit their data, actions and plans to the Carbonn Cities Climate Registry, where you can see what each of the cities is doing to develop sustainably.

Out of the 66 cities that participated last year, six were named as Earth Hour Capitals in their respective countries. San Francisco, Chicago and Cincinnati were named as finalists from the U.S., and San Francisco was ultimately named as the 2013 Earth Hour Capital of the United States. Vancouver ended up winning the title of Global Earth hour Capital.

This year, 163 cities from 14 countries participated. WWF picked 33 finalists from cities in 14 countries, and one city out of the finalists in each country was named as their sustainability leader. Chicago was named over the other two U.S. finalists Boulder and Cleveland.

Chicago and the other 13 Earth Hour Capitals will now compete for the title of Global Earth Hour Capital for 2014, to be awarded at a function on March 27 in Vancouver, Canada.

Houweling’s Tomatoes Brings Jobs and Sustainable Farming Technology to Utah

Houweling’s Tomatoes is planning to build an environment-friendly greenhouse tomato farm in Juab County, Utah.

Houweling’s Tomatoes

Houweling’s Tomatoes (photo Р

The company will invest $79 million into the project in two phases, and will create more than 280 new jobs.

Not to mention the fact that they are bringing state of the art climate control and sustainable farming technology to Utah.

The greenhouse located in Mona, UT will be heated using waste heat piped from the nearby Currant Creek Power Plant, which is a natural gas-fired power plant owned and operated by PacifiCorp Energy.

The waste Co2 from the power plant’s generators stack will also provide Co2 fertilization for the tomato crops. PacifiCorp operates as Rocky Mountain Power in Utah, and will also be providing the electricity for the greenhouse.

Casey Houweling, president and CEO of Houweling’s Tomatoes, said that as far as they know, this is the world’s first commercial scale operation to pull both waste heat and Co2 from the same power provider.

Houweling added that the project will demonstrate how a sustainable technology partnership and environment-friendly utilization of water, land, Co2 and waste heat can grow exceptional tomatoes, create jobs and diversify the economy.

The company’s operations will generate $18,160,900 in new state taxes, and the more than 280 jobs the company expects to create will add $267,891,773 in new payroll. The jobs being created will pay at least 100 percent of the prevailing Juab County average annual wage, and include health insurance.

Jeff Edwards, president and CEO of the Utah Economic Development Corporation, said that Utah’s food and agriculture sector is incredibly diverse and employs nearly 12,000 people. Edwards said Houweling’s innovative and sustainable approach to food production adds a unique component to the industry.

In order to secure the tomato farm green house, the board of directors of the Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) has approved EDTIF tax credits of up to of $4,648,270 for Houweling’s Tomatoes.

These tax credits will be provided as yearly post-performance incentives, calculated as 25.6 percent of the taxes Houweling’s operations in Utah will pay each year during the 20-year period of the agreement.

GOED Executive Director Spencer P. Eccles said Houweling’s Tomatoes, through its expansion and green practices, will have a positive impact on the rural community of Juab County.

Houweling’s Tomatoes was founded by Casey Houweling’s father, and currently has 750 employees based in Camarillo, California and Delta, British Columbia, Canada.

Houweling Nurseries Oxnard Inc. in California and Houweling Nurseries Ltd. in Canada operate autonomously, but under the Houweling family’s ownership. The Utah tomato farm will follow this model, and add one more separate legal entity to the family owned operations.

Solar, Energy Efficiency Projects Get $14M in Washington State Grants

The Washington State Department of Commerce announced more than $14 million in grants for solar and energy efficiency projects.

WA State creating green jobs

WA State creating green jobs (photo –

The grants will help create 520 jobs and enable four state agencies, 27 local governments, and five educational institutions to bring down their energy costs.

The $14,020,634 in grants announced is the first round of funding under the 2013-15 Energy Efficiency and Solar Grants program.

The 2013 Washington State Legislature appropriated $25 million for grants to state agencies, local governments and educational institutions.

The immediate aim of the program has more to do with Washington economic development, since the grants are expected to stimulate the economy, leverage additional non-state investments and create jobs.

The construction spending by the projects receiving state grants will create an estimated 520 jobs. The total cost of these projects is around $53 million, which includes the $14 million in state grants and $35 million in non-state funding.

Long-term goals of the program include reducing energy costs and promoting the solar industry in the state, including Washington-based manufacturers of solar modules and inverters.

To this end, the program is designed to provide at least $5 million for projects that use solar energy systems manufactured in Washington. Another requirement for each funding round is that at least 10 percent of the funding must go to projects in small cities and towns with populations of 5,000 or less.

The $14 million awarded through a competitive process includes $11 million for energy efficiency projects and $3 million for solar projects. These projects were chosen out of 61 applications that asked for a total of $20 million.

Here’s the full list of grant recipients. One of them is the Franklin County PUD, which has been awarded $264,413 for a joint project they are undertaking with the City of Pasco to change 1,725 street lights.

The new and more energy efficient LED lights replacing the sodium lamps will save the city $104,744 annually. The LED lights are also more durable, with an expected life of 20 years before they need to be replaced.

State Rep. Hans Dunshee, who chairs the House Capital Budget Committee, said that saving taxpayer money across Washington State is always a good thing, and saving money while creating jobs is even better. He added that this is a smart idea that will benefit the people of Washington State for decades.

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.

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