Sustainable Development Update - March 2017 #4

by Allen Matkins

Sustainable Development Focus

Trump wants to cut programs that help buildings save energy. This new study says they work.

Washington Post - Mar 27 New research suggests that programs for improving energy efficiency — some of which could disappear under the Trump administration’s proposed budget — have the potential to make a big dent in our greenhouse gas output. The study, published Monday in the journal Nature Energy, finds that “green” buildings in Los Angeles alone are avoiding about 145,000 metric tons in carbon dioxide equivalents each year. Thanks to a partnership program at UCLA, Magali Delmas, a professor at UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and co-author Omar Isaac Asensio were able to access energy data from buildings throughout Los Angeles and use it to evaluate the performance of three separate energy efficiency programs: the federal Energy Department’s Better Buildings Challenge, the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star certification program (which would be eliminated under the preliminary federal budget), and the private U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, program. Their findings suggest that the efficiency programs do have an impact, at least in Los Angeles. Buildings participating in the Better Buildings Challenge used 18.69 percent less energy than nonparticipants, while Energy Star and LEED-certified buildings used 19.31 and 29.99 percent less energy, respectively.

Is net zero a dream or a reality for office buildings?

Bisnow - Mar 17 While reducing energy consumption and moving toward net zero are great in theory, a lot of these concepts rely heavily on tenant behavior and collaboration. Developers and owners can build more energy-efficient buildings, but if tenants push the plug load to the max, net zero will always be beyond reach. During a recent Bisnow event, panelists discussed how building owners can strive toward net zero and better ways to work with tenants to reach energy goals. Net zero means a building is generating as much energy as it consumes over the course of a year, said Peter Turnbull, Pacific Gas and Electric principal of commercial buildings and zero net energy program manager. To get started on a path to net zero, Turnbull said consumption needs to be brought down, which will lead to less need for renewable energy. He said setting a target, building to that target, and then monitoring what is happening in the building is a successful way for buildings to target net zero. Kilroy Realty senior vice president Sara Neff said net zero is not a realistic goal for large buildings, but they benefit from knowledge developed around net zero. Instead of trying to get individual buildings to net zero, Kilroy Realty looks at the concept holistically and tries to get net zero within its portfolio.

Google's big data calculates U.S. rooftop solar potential

Decentralized Energy - Mar 29 In an application of big-data capabilities to the decentralized energy sector, a project by Google has found that almost 80 percent of rooftops in the U.S. are suitable for solar systems. Since its inception in 2015, the company’s Project Sunroof has analyzed around 60 million buildings in all 50 states, determining overall that 79 percent have enough unshaded area to install photovoltaic (PV) panels. In sunnier states such as Hawaii, Arizona, Nevada, and New Mexico, the analysis found that over 90 percent of rooftops could support PV, while rooftops in more northerly states such as Pennsylvania, Maine, and Minnesota are only around 60 percent suitable. Among cities, Houston has the most solar potential, with an estimated 18,940 GWh of rooftop solar generation potential per year. Other sunny cities such as Los Angeles, Phoenix, and San Antonio follow in the rankings, with northern and often snow-bound (yet roof-plentiful) New York City in fifth place.

New York City surpasses 100MW solar generation milestone

Solar Industry Magazine - Mar 22 The Big Apple has hit a big milestone. New York City residents and businesses are using the power of the sun to generate more than 100 megawatts of clean, renewable power, according to utility Con Edison. The company says its customers in the city have completed 9,700 projects producing 101.2 megawatts, enough to power more than 15,000 homes. Just a decade ago, solar panels were rare in New York City, but Con Edison says the utility, Sustainable CUNY (at the City University of New York), government agencies, and other parties have encouraged residents and businesses to consider solar as a way to reduce their energy bills and protect the environment.

Port of Oakland signs sub-4 cent contract for solar power

PV Magazine - Mar 28 The Port of Oakland will soon buy 35 percent of its power from a Southern California solar plant, under a 20-year power-purchase agreement. Last week, the port’s commissioners voted to spend $8.9 million to purchase solar power from a solar farm in Lancaster. The farm will expand its capacity to account for the contract, and the expansion will go online by December 2020. According to notes from last week’s meeting, port officials said they will purchase 11,000 MWh at $39 per megawatt-hour and will re-sell the electricity through its municipal utility to tenants of the port, including Oakland International Airport and the seaport. The $39 figure is more evidence of the very low contract prices for solar which have been signed in recent years, reaching a global low of under $27/MWh in Mexico earlier this year.

New UC Merced building earns campus’ 17th LEED certification

UC Merced - Mar 23 Ten years after receiving its first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, UC Merced has earned platinum certification for Classroom and Office Building 2 (COB2). UC Merced remains the only campus in the nation with all constructed buildings being LEED certified. This marks the campus’ 17th LEED certification for new construction and its eighth platinum designation. Some of COB2’s sustainable features include: 93 percent of construction waste was diverted from landfills; 51 percent of the building materials are recycled content; the building is 43 percent more water efficient than California code requires; and energy efficiency is 46 percent greater than California code requires. 

Las Vegas officials seek state permission for light rail

Las Vegas Sun - Mar 15 Nevada state and local government officials presented a legislative plan in mid-March laying the groundwork to build a multibillion-dollar light rail system to link McCarran International Airport with the Las Vegas Strip. For two years, members of the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada have been drawing blueprints for the light rail and makeovers such as pedestrian bridges or wider sidewalks on the Strip. They're also considering high-capacity transit options to connect residential neighborhoods, college campuses, Sunrise Hospital, and shopping hubs. But they need the state's permission to fund or implement any plans. The proposal heard in the Senate Transportation Committee would give local officials new authority to seek tax hikes or federal grants to finance an expanded portfolio of major transportation developments. Senate Bill 149 would also allow them to explore new technology, including self-driving cars.


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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