Thursday, 31 May 2012

One Step at a Time - DEVAP is Keeping it Simple

Tech to the Rescue! 

Comfort within the new urban environment is crucial to our perception of livability and central to enablement of active communal spaces. Buildings are the containers that, in many geographies globally, will house these spaces and communities. So when we see small advancements such as this one from the US National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) that point to 80% efficiency break-throughs for building HVAC systems - coupled with significantly noticeable improvements in perceived occupant comfort - we are enthused! 

Coupled with a productization roadmap that puts the new tech in the field rapidly, we can foresee a time where our urban shells can truly lead to sustainable, community habitation 

NREL zeroes in on super-efficient AC system for commercial buildings

Tuesday, 29 May 2012


It starts outside the Cities:

It becomes popularized:

Education is a part of the solution:

With Deep Engineering Focus:

Energy Infrastructures: Building from the Edge to the Whole

The primary enabler (IMHO) for transformation within the global energy infrastructure is the development of a managed, distributed generation/storage capability. Our reliance upon large, centralized generation and a managed transmission/distribution system is (again IMHO:) the primary driver for continuation of current policy and technology. But a realistic path toward Distributed Energy Resources (DER) will truly lead us toward a sustainable energy future. 

The discussion below, by Lux Research's Matthew Feinstein, points the way. And there may be significant momentum to be gained by looking at showcase deployments globally. 

Solar plus storage: gaining steam on both supply and demand

By Matthew Feinstein

Though previously a high-priced fantasy, storage packaged with solar on a distributed 
solar plus storage, energy storage, solar energy, distributed generation
basis is gaining momentum. From the supply side, installer/financier SolarCity is working with electric vehicle manufacturer Tesla – the two companies share a common Chairman, Elon Musk – on a distributed storage product for residential and commercial applications. To date, the companies have installed some beta systems. While still in development, the product will be a battery pack remotely monitored and controlled by SolarCity, with battery technology from Tesla.

Also on the supply side, Bosch plans to leverage its acquisition of Voltwerk Electronics from Conergy for storage products, and LG Chem expects to produce storage products for solar systems in 2013. Battery maker Saft has supplied residential storage systems for solar installations on France's island territories as part of the Millener project.

solar plus storage, energy storage, solar energy, distributed generation
On the demand side, two countries that could pilot storage integration with solar areGermany and Japan – both markets that have publicly announced a move away from nuclear power. To lower ratepayers' increasing costs due to renewables integration, it's more likely that Germany looks to stabilize solar installations at 2 GW to 4 GW annually, while increasing the share of power derived from low-cost wind – another opportunity for storage integration.

There are a number of factors that determine a market's need for storage, as detailed in Lux Research’s recent State of the Market Report "Grid Storage under the Microscope: Using Local Knowledge to Forecast Global Demand." In solar, don't simply look towards high volumes of installations – rather, storage is necessary to balance intermittency in markets with a high penetration level of solar in their overall electricity mix. Lux Research finds that emerging markets like Brazil, Chile and South Africa remain below 2% solar penetration through 2017, indicating that any storage adoption in those markets would come as a result of poor grid quality or generous incentives. A historically strong installation market pushes Germany to 15% penetration in 2017, indicating a much more pressing need for storage.

It's clear that the necessity for storage is increasing in markets that have adopted solar, particularly on the distributed generation side. However, suppliers be warned: The same price pressure that enacted – and prolonged – the solar shakeout will require low-cost battery packs, even in cases where storage can allow for smaller solar arrays optimized for building energy consumption.

Further, a major wild card is policy: In the U.S., it remains a debated issue whether storage is considered energy-generating equipment, and thus qualifies for the Investment Tax Credit (ITC). European solar feed-in tariff schemes incentivize power generated, but don't account for storage in most countries.

In any case, it's clear that storage is less of a high-priced fantasy and more of a probable reality for the solar industry as supply and demand begin making initial strides towards it.

Matthew Feinstein is a research associate for Lux Research, which provides strategic advice and on-going intelligence for emerging technologies. For more information, visit the Lux Research site.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Cities hold the Key - (and note the waste streams!) - Verge London

Speaks for itself. Those of you that could not attend Verge/London might be interested in the virtual archives of the event. 

"Mark Palmer, IBM's vice president for the public sector in Europe, shares some of Riffle’s optimism. “Today’s rapid urbanization is both a big opportunity and a challenge. It’s a big opportunity to make the planet more sustainable,” Palmer said, arguing that greater “instrumentation” -- or gathering hard data to fuel analysis and planning -- is the only route to improving matters."

Why cities hold the key -- and key challenges -- for sustainability

Published May 17, 2012
Why cities hold the key -- and key challenges -- for sustainability
Is the increasing urbanization of the world’s population a good or a bad trend from a sustainability standpoint? That was the key question debated by a panel of experts at today’s VERGE conference in London, an event organized by GreenBiz. While some saw significant grounds for optimism, others perceived a less rosy future.
“I’m definitely optimistic,” said Connor Riffle, head of cities at the Carbon Disclosure Project, a not-for-profit organization that promotes the measurement, management and sharing of environmental information. “Cities let us achieve the efficiencies we need to scale up the world.”
“It’s absolutely terrifying,” countered Anne Power, professor of social policy at the London School of Economics. “The risks are massive.”
The majority of urban population growth is in the developing world, she said, and the biggest challenges center on what she earthily described as “bugs and shit.” Can sanitation, water treatment, waste disposal and recycling keep pace with the rapid growth of cities in countries where these challenges are already neglected? “By nature I’m positive,” Power said, “but we face a lot of tough and messy work on the ground.”
Riffle, by contrast, said that current trends offer a massive opportunity for the developing world to change the balance of power by building modern cities that might be attractive on the global stage. “If you don’t compete [to attract the best people], your city will not survive,” he said.
Mark Palmer, IBM's vice president for the public sector in Europe, shares some of Riffle’s optimism. “Today’s rapid urbanization is both a big opportunity and a challenge. It’s a big opportunity to make the planet more sustainable,” Palmer said, arguing that greater “instrumentation” -- or gathering hard data to fuel analysis and planning -- is the only route to improving matters.
Click to visit the VERGE virtual event
Urban populations are more suited to this kind of measurement, he added, and the resulting insight is a necessary step for greater sustainability. “Technology accounts for 2 percent of emissions and rising, but it can help us do better with the other 98 percent,” Palmer said.
Still, Richard Jackson, head of environmental sustainability at University College London, wonders whether the use of technology will be enough. “Cities have the potential to accommodate mass growth, but the way we do things today, I worry about whether our cities can grow and adapt,” he said.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

A Texas Solution: EPA.x.ATT => 13% savings

Cool buildings, parched cities? EDF and AT&T target water savings

Published May 15, 2012
We live indoors, we work indoors, we shop indoors, we even often play sports indoors! With so much of the modern American economy taking place indoors, and population centers shifting to warmer regions, the environmental and economic impact of building cooling systems is on the rise. We often hear about the energy needed to power and cool this sprawling infrastructure.
But there's another crucial dimension that is only just starting to surface: water.
As water becomes a more expensive, and sometimes contentious, commodity in many regions like the drought-stricken southwest, managing thirsty commercial buildings is going to become an increasingly important challenge for building owners.
In most large commercial and industrial buildings, tens of thousands of gallons of water flow through a big apparatus called a cooling tower (about the size of a two-car garage, they're usually on the roof), where it evaporates out the top.
The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that commercial, residential and industrial buildings use approximately47 billion gallons of water each day. And the EPA found that a typical office building uses more than 25 percentof its water supply for cooling towers.
Now, with all that water adding up, leading-edge companies are starting to rethink these systems.Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) is teaming with information and communication technology giant AT&T (NYSE: T), which operates thousands of facilities across the country. Together, we're looking to develop operational improvements and best practices that can cut water, chemical and energy use in these cooling systems and improve overall building efficiency.
AT&T has calculated its water footprint, discovering that just 120 of its facilities accounted for nearly half the company's 3.4 billion gallons of water used in 2010. The company rolled out its Water Scorecard to pinpoint potential water-savings opportunities and trained facility managers in an effort to increase awareness and understanding of water usage. It was clear that cooling towers represented an opportunity to improve efficiency.
Together, EDF and AT&T will build on those learnings. We will evaluate facilities and operations for efficiencies, and explore more creative ways to drive water and cost savings. We will look at the whole cooling process and pursue ways to eliminate cooling tower water use by utilizing cool, outdoor air to cool indoor space where feasible.
Quick calculations suggest that improving operations in the cooling towers at AT&T's largest facilities could save millions of gallons of water per year. Adopted on a broad scale, these solutions could save billions of gallons of water annually.
For example, if operational improvements were adopted across all existing commercial office buildings and manufacturing facilities in the Dallas/Fort Worth area in Texas, the water savings could be over 12 billion gallons per year. That's equal to the water use of nearly 500,000 homes or approximately 13 percent of the water use in the region. Together, EDF and AT&T have agreed to pilot best management practices and new technology at target facilities, and we plan to share our progress as we move forward with the project. Stay tuned for more updates as we uncover opportunities to improve efficiencies at the water/energy nexus.

CIVE: A Vision

Interesting view of a path forward. Replicable and Resilient. Design elements provide cultural skinning as well sustainable operation within working distance of a large body of water. 

My view of granularity may be different, and CIVE does have residential projects more of the scale, if not the particular courtyard style, of the courtyard dwelling. There also is a distinct need for more systems detail (both infrastructure and people) for operational efficiencies. It must learn how to integrate into it's local context/environment.


Project Alpha

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Testimonial to Success

This is a good example of a community system that led to a sustainable balance in their local schools. Transportation, energy use, work/life schedules, and innovative management strategy have led to significant recovery of investment $s.

School System's 'Green Initiative' pays off

From recycling to HVAC control to bus routes, system finds ways to save energy, money

Burt Elementary Paper Recycling Program
Burt Elementary Paper Recycling Program: Burt Elementary began a paper recycling program this year as part of the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System's Going Green Initiative. Early this month, CMCSS was Green Certified by the County.
    Burt Elementary students Colton Waggoner, left, Francisco Rodriguez and Taylor Willard transfer paper to a recycle bin. / THE LEAF-CHRONICLE/GREG WILLIAMSON


    • Anyone interested in helping the school system buy recycling bins can contact Shedrich Webster by email at or by phone at 358-4219.
    CLARKSVILLE, TENN. — Every Thursday afternoon, Taylor Willard, 11, and Colton Waggoner, 12, pick up the black recycling container in the front office of Burt Elementary and collect the school’s recycled paper.
    Blue burlap bags reading “Once is not enough. Recycle” sit in each of the 25 classrooms at Burt. More than 300 students and all faculty and staff recycle the paper, and the proceeds come back to the school for supplies.
    Principal Diana Hara said recycling was previously part of the school’s culture, but it fizzled out. This year, Burt began recycling paper again as part of the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System’s Go Green Initiative.
    “It’s become embedded in us,” Hara said. “We feel it’s a natural fit with parts of our curriculum. It’s a great way to use taxpayer dollars wisely.”
    Shedrich Webster, CMCSS operations foreman, said Burt is a shining example of a school working to promote the initiative. Energy consumption there is down 15 percent from last year around the same time. Webster hopes to place a recycling bin on Burt’s campus to encourage community involvement in recycling.
    Burt is just one of the schools making strides. Earlier this month, the school system as a whole officially became Clarksville-Montgomery County Green-Certified.
    “We are pleased to see the school system continue to seek ways to minimize their environmental footprint and at the same time maximize efficiencies where possible,” said Montgomery County Mayor Carolyn Bowers in a news release.

    Saving energy, saving money

    For the past three years, the system has delved into a smart energy campaign to go green and bring all its facilities under a cost-efficient plan.
    “It started when our facilities operations (employees) went to a conference to keep up with accreditation, and there was a big push for energy maintenance programs,” said Damian Maloney, assistant manager for plant facilities. “We had a scattered approach. Some schools were doing recycling, but we had nothing systemwide. We came up with an energy policy to save money for taxpayers.”

    Friday, 4 May 2012

    It Takes Policy to Enable & Encourage Change

    We know that policy initiatives can make (or break) our march to a sustainable future. The policy framework shaping electrical services in North America are a good example - where policies focused on encouraging electricity delivery from large, centralized generation facilities have long dominated - suppressing innovation and transformation in our energy infrastructure.

    It is with great hope that we see change afoot in the area of public policy initiatives that, from the grass roots level, begin to reverse this 100+ year old framework. The following, describing new building/zoning policies in New York City clearly point the way to how we will change the future by starting from the edge of the grid - making efficient, sustainable buildings without waiting for the transformation of the grid.

    NYC Takes the Red Tape Out of Building Green

    Modifications to the city's century-old zoning law to promote energy efficient and solar-powered buildings will save residents $800 million a year.

    May 4, 2012
    New York City solar map created by the City University of New York. New York City solar map created by the City University of New York. The map shows existing solar installations in NYC and gives an estimate of solar potential for every rooftop in the five boroughs.
    The New York City Council this week adopted the country's most sweeping green building plan, approving citywide zoning regulations that encourage energy efficiency retrofits and widespread adoption of rooftop solar and wind.
    The initiative, called Zone Green, will help the city slash annual energy costs of $15 billion and achieve its goal of trimming global warming emissions by 30 percent by 2030. The city's roughly one million buildings are responsible for almost 80 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, compared to 40 percent for the national average.

    The Zone Green rules involve 10 modifications to the city's arcane and archaic zoning ordinance. The changes will make it much easier for real estate developers and property owners to upgrade buildings and generate energy from renewable sources, primarily by cutting red tape and permitting costs.  

    The city's zoning ordinance—which dictates how tall buildings can be, what they can be used for and where they can be located—was established in 1916 and was overhauled once before, in 1961.
    "Environmental concerns and green buildings were not really understood at that time," said Monika Jain, the Zone Green project manager at the Department of City Planning, in an interview.

    In recent years, that became a problem. "There were several things that the building community wanted to do that zoning [rules] were either discouraging or outright prohibiting," Jain said. Those things included installing rooftop solar systems and energy efficient air-conditioners.

    So in 2008, as part of Mayor Bloomberg's PlaNYC sustainability agenda, the city's Green Codes Task Force began identifying obstacles in the zoning ordinance that limited the ability of people to go solar and modernize buildings. Using the task force recommendations, the Department of City Planning drafted modifications.

    The rules, which took effect Monday, apply to residential and commercial buildings and industrial facilities. They follow a series of measures adopted in 2009 that require building owners to report annual energy consumption data,replace lighting systems and follow strict efficiency standards for new construction and renovations. 

    The city anticipates the new zoning changes will save residents about $800 million on energy bills each year.  Energy efficiency advocates say they could set a national precedent for overhauling antiquated zoning laws.

    "New York taking this step—and taking it in such a visible way—shows leadership and can encourage some competition among other U.S. cities to put this issue of improving codes for energy efficiency at the top of their sustainability and economic development agendas," said Eric Mackres, a senior researcher for theAmerican Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE), a nonprofit group in Washington, D.C. "Updating policy that's just outdated and is inadvertently discouraging energy efficiency and green building ... is an important step forward," Mackres said.
    Russell Unger, executive director of the Urban Green Council, the New York chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council, said he knows of at least one other city, Philadelphia, which has reworked its zoning codes to remove barriers to green building.
    But New York's modifications are the most ambitious and unique in the country, he said, and are largely the result of many years dedicated to sifting through the complex zoning rules and pinpointing very specific areas for improvements. Unger's group headed the Green Codes Task Force and developed some of the zoning changes.

    For instance, Unger said that New York is likely the first U.S. city to tweak its rules for wall thickness in order to encourage builders to insulate leaky exteriors and save energy. In the past, adding inches to thicken walls to trap heat in the winter or cold in the summer would be counted toward total floor space.

    Now, new and existing buildings can improve their "envelopes" without sacrificing space. "It's removing a barrier, but also allowing for things that weren't going to be done otherwise," Unger said.
    While the real estate industry was generally "thrilled" about the new zoning regulations, some changes met resistance from community groups, Unger said. Historical preservationists, for instance, were concerned that letting builders add insulation to outside walls would cover up historic brickwork. Some neighborhood leaders didn't want zoning rules to encourage already sky-scraping buildings to be built taller. Under the modifications, a new building that meets tough energy standards, but doesn't use all the inches permitted for wall thickness, can apply those extra inches to the building's height.

    Unger noted that while some details may continue to cause divisions, he said there's a bigger picture. "Collectively they represent an important shift" in the evolution of green building policy, he said.
    Here are some of the key changes under the Zone Green modifications:
    • Rooftop Solar Panels: Any building owner can now install solar panels, regardless of the building's height, so long as the system doesn't reach over the parapet, or the protective wall along the roof's edge. In the past, panels couldn't exceed maximum height requirements.
    • Wind Turbines: Manufacturing facilities along the New York City waterfront can now install freestanding wind turbines, while 100-foot-tall buildings can put turbines no taller than 55-feet on their rooftops. Previously, rooftop turbines were prohibited, and freestanding towers couldn't be taller than nearby buildings.
    • Green Roof Equipment: Rules for allowing energy-efficient heating and cooling units, skylights and gardens on rooftops are now less restrictive when it comes to building height and location. Further, food-producing greenhouses, once prohibited on rooftops, can go up on all commercial buildings and schools, but not on homes, apartments or hotels.
    • Sun Control Devices: Awnings or shades to block the high summer sun and let the lower winter sun naturally warm buildings are now allowed to project two and a half feet over windows on any building.
    • Energy Efficient Insulation: New buildings can add up to 16 inches in exterior wall thickness; the first half counts toward the building's total floor space, the second half doesn't. Existing buildings can add up to eight inches without any floor space penalty.