Island nations are at particular risk from climate change, for fairly obvious reasons: Rising sea levels could obliterate whole nations over the next century. Many of them, particularly in the Caribbean, rely on diesel-powered gird electricity that must be imported at great expense- some countries pay up to $.55 per kWh (compared to NYC, where electricity rates generally stay at least a few cents under $.25/kWh).
The Carbon War Room (CWR) and the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) thought that it might be possible to do better by harnessing investors, environmental consultants and island governments to broker commitments and create plans to switch from diesel to renewable power.
Earlier this month at Necker Island, CWR and RMI held a summit to announce that six islands have agreed to sign on. The Ten Island Challenge proposes signing up ten island nations before the end of 2014; currently, St. Lucia, the British Virgin Islands (BVI), Colombia, Dominica, Saint Kitts & Nevis and Turks & Caicos have made commitments (Aruba has already committed as well). Future endeavors under consideration include hospitals, schools, sustainable hotels and sustainable agriculture, as well as grid and distributed electricity projects. Sir Richard Branson, who co-founded the Carbon War Room, has offered Necker, his private island, as a test site for renewable technology.
The potential for renewables in the Caribbean is impressive. With average wind speeds of 16 knots and great offshore wind assets, plenty of sun (obviously) and even geothermal options for some islands, there is a wealth of clean, domestic energy that has barely begun to be exploited.
Solar One spoke with Bill Browning, co-founder of Terrapin Bright Green (and one of our Board members), who was at the Necker Island Summit, and here are some of the projects under consideration that he told us about:
Desalination plant and sustainable agriculture hub in the BVI
Sustainable fisheries tied to renewable energy systems
Solar photovoltaic power plants and wind farms
Distributed and grid-tied electricity generation
In addition, some governments are particularly interested in sustainable construction and energy security. About $300 million dollars has been committed so far to begin this very ambitious switch. Since many year-round Caribbean residents do not have access to reliable electricity, switching to renewables and investing boldly in sustainability could be an enormous game-changer for the entire region. As goes the Caribbean, so goes the planet? Stay tuned…
New York State has moved up the ranks into the top five states creating solar jobs in the US. Last year we were still in the top 10, but how much sweeter is the top 5?
The Solar Foundation has created this great interactive map that shows 2013 solar job growth by state for the whole company. And while New York is still lagging behind CA, AZ, NJ and MA, we’re coming up! And we beat Texas!
Last year, Solar One’s Education department applied for and received a grant from the Toshiba America Foundation to fund four School Greening Projects at three Green Design Lab Schools: John Ericsson MS 126 in Brooklyn, the Urban Assembly Institute of Math … Continue reading →
On January 8 in Albany, Gov. Andrew Cuomo delivered his 2014 State of the State address. While the broadcast version of the address focused on tax relief, affordable housing and airport renovations, the print version of the address has a section with some very welcome and ambitious plans for energy independence for New York- not by focusing on hydraulic fracturing (more commonly known as fracking) but by increasing the amount of decentralized electricity generation. In other words, community solar, where neighbors band together to buy or lease systems together, lowering their initial costs and creating a neighborhood microgrid that can help restore power during blackouts and superstorms.
The relevant section on solar begins on page 70, and here’s a sample of what’s in store for community solar in NY in 2014:
“As the next phase of NY-SUN, Governor Cuomo will establish Community Solar NY: a comprehensive community solar package to address these issues and make solar energy available to all New Yorkers that want it. This initiative will include “K-Solar,” a program to provide incentives, financing, and technical assistance to school administrators interested in reducing energy costs and creating healthier environments for students through on-site solar installations.”
The K-Solar program sounds like a perfect complement to the Green Design Lab. And of course, Solar One launched its first community solar initiative in 2013, called Solarize Brooklyn. And while this project is now in the design and installation phase, please check back to find out where we’ll be Solarizing next. You can read all about it here!
In 2012, 25.7 million people traveled through LaGuardia airport, many of them to or from other points in the city. We’re justifiably reknowned for our lack of private cars compared with the rest of the country, and while we have a public transportation system that’s the envy of the world, it’s a bit inelegant when it comes to getting to and from the airports. And we’ve all waited in long lines after a long flight to try and catch a cab- us and 200 other single riders. It’s expensive, it’s inefficient, it’s resource-intensive…there must be a better way!
And now there is: Bandwagon is a rideshare app that helps riders save money by carpooling via car service or taxi with another rider going in the same direction, or to the same destination. All you have to do is sign up and start sharing!
You can also take advantage of Bandwagon’s HOP Lane at the airport. The HOP Lane is a high-occupancy taxi lane that works with the taxis already in the line as well as the line manager to match you with another customer going to a destination near yours or along your route. The HOP lane saves time, money AND energy- a pretty cool triple bottom line after a holiday’s worth of eating, drinking and socializing.
The Big Apple knows how to do big. Freshkills Park in Staten Island, formerly the world’s largest landfill, is slowly but surely being transformed into New York City’s largest park. It will provide reaction and aesthetic value, but the new park will also become the city’s largest solar farm.
47 of Freshkills Park’s 2,200 acres are slated for solarization, as the land has been leased for 20 years by SunEdison, a California based solar power plant operator and energy provider. When the installation is complete,the electricity from SunEdison’s panels will channel into the city’s ConEdison electrical grid, and the site has the potential to generate 10 megawatts of power, or the amount needed to power around 2,000 homes. Freshkills Park also has the capacity to boost New York City’s renewable energy generation by a whopping 50%.
The Staten Island based park and facility is scheduled to begin solar panel installation in 2015, with a fully operational plant by 2016. It represents major urban environmental efforts by Mayor Bloomberg, who stated at the park in November that Freshkills would be “the largest solar power installation ever developed within the five boroughs.” He reflected on the past twelve years progress, notably wetlands and vegetation restoration, in addition to a number of recreational parks and soccer fields that border the site’s perimeter.
Bloomberg proudly stated that “Freshkills, once a daily dumping ground, will become a showcase of urban renewable and sustainability.” The conversion of the park will bring the City’s total parklands to 30,000 acres- truly astonishing when you take into consideration that the area is larger than the city of San Francisco.
While New York is taking great strides to adopt green energy, the Mayor cautions, “if we are serious about meeting New York City’s tremendous energy needs from renewable sources, we need the State and Federal governments, as well as our utility partners and others in the private sector to work with us to make solar and other renewable energies easier to develop, install, and access the energy grid.”
Imagine generating renewable energy and yielding crops simultaneously. This multitasking miracle has been achieved recently in Japan, where “Solar Sharing” gained a foothold after the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries lifted the ban on PV solar system installations on agricultural lands.
The concept was developed in 2004 by Japanese agricultural machinery engineer Akira Nagashima, after he discovered a crucial photosynthetic clue. Nagashima noted that plants have a light saturation point at which increased amounts of sunlight does not aid the plant’s photosynthesis process, giving agricultural lands somewhat of a surplus of unused sunlight.
To exploit this surplus, He created an easily portable PV to take advantage of the dual productivity of farming lands. Restrictions exist, however; it is explicitly specified that the generation of solar power can detract no more than 20% of the crop cultivation due to PV installation. Subsequently, farmers must submit annual reports to show that their shared land cultivation does not drop below a rate of 80%. The PV system that Nagashima created is remarkably sturdy: it has weathered earthquakes and winds even without concrete footings.
The Japanese hope that “solar sharing can re-activate the declining farming sector,” which has taken a hit due to low farming revenues and an aging farming population. Combining solar and crop production is expected to coax more workers into farming, especially younger family members or those who wish to move back to the countryside.
Remarkably, Japan could be run on 7 million acres of solar shared farmland- and it currently has over 11 million acres available for dual production. This is enormous for the Japanese, who are still scrambling to recover from the losses obtained from the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Daiichi power plant nuclear crisis. Yet they note that substantial benefits for the United States could be gleaned from the technology, as well. Farms raising livestock could use the PV systems to provide shade for the animals and for grassy grazing lands, minimizing irrigation efforts and costs. The United States also is home to 914 million acres of farmland, despite an 8% decline in the past twenty years. It seems that these amber waves of grain have a bit more to yield than just wheat.
The adoption of solar sharing, both in Japan and in the United States, could have enormous impacts on national and global consumption of renewable energy, and on revitalizing a declining sector that was once wholly reliant on sunlight.
American colleges and universities have long been facilitators of social and political change. That they should lead the crusade on widespread renewable energy usage is no surprise, given the increasingly ‘green’ mentality of the current generation.
Colby’s Biomass Facility
Maine’s Colby College achieved complete carbon neutrality two years earlier than it was scheduled to. In 2003 the institution adopted 100% renewable energy, replaced fuel oil with wood heat and hot water, improved the energy efficiency of buildings (and implemented LEED standards for new construction), and installed geothermal systems to heat and cool newer construction projects. Two other colleges are carbon neutral: Green Mountain College (Poultney, Vermont), and College of the Atlantic (Bar Harbor, Maine).
In just Pennsylvania, eight colleges have already signed on to purchase alternative energy sources, and are responsible for decreasing carbon emissions equal to those from 70,233 cars. Other schools in other regions have followed suit, such as Goshen College in Indiana, which is powering its campus with 100% renewable energy.
California’s Butte-Glenn Community College has gone grid positive
Colleges are not only consuming renewable energy, but also making remarkable findings about how renewable energy could transform the American power grid. A recent study by the University of Delaware found that renewable energy such as solar and wind could comprise 99.9% of large power grids by the year 2030. There is concern that intermittent power sources like wind and solar will be harder to manage, but the study shows that it is possible to have a prospering power grid even with these intermittent sources. The study was based off of the PJM regional grid that services the northeast and mid-Atlantic region, and could mean bad news for fossil fuel companies.
While small towns and cities are approaching the adoption of renewable energy with varying degrees of trepidation and determination, US colleges and universities are proving to be green trailblazers as many assume a sustainable mindset and a completely renewable grid.
Solar One’s training lab is going to continue offering Urban Green’s GPRO Operations and Maintenance Essentials course and certificate into the fall. Classes will be held on December 18th and 19th, with the certificate exam on December 20th. Solar One can also provide private GPRO training for groups at your office.
Whether you are a superintendent, building maintainer, or property or facility manager, GPRO will help you make informed decisions about how to operate your buildings efficiently and safely. Going green not only results in energy savings, but will also reduce your heating and electricity costs, make tenant living and working environments healthier, and reduce the impact on the environment.
The GPRO Operations & Maintenance Essentials certificate course, which includes GPRO Fundamentals of Building Green, is designed for professionals who work in a wide range of medium to large-scale multi-family and commercial buildings.
Gain the critical awareness to transition from conventional to sustainable operations. The course begins with an overview of sustainability and green building and then focuses on building operations and maintenance practices such as: using building metrics to improve performance, improving the building envelope, reducing water use, employing strategies for more efficient and cost effective heating and cooling systems, minimizing energy use through energy efficient lighting, maintaining indoor air quality, and understanding NYC energy auditing and retro-commissioning requirements.