Archive for November, 2010

The City of Boston was recently selected as one of 5 cities to participate in the federal government’s “Greening America’s Capitals” program. Assistance from this initiative will be used as part of a plan to revitalize City Hall Plaza in a way that fully integrates sustainable planning practices, and avoids characterizations like this. The help from EPA will make it possible for Mayor Menino to realize his plans to develop Government Center as a “green district.” In fact, prior to this selection, the Boston Redevelopment Authority was already underway with a planning initiative, the Government Center Green Growth District.


Not Very Green

Essentially, this initiative is intended to invite private-public collaboration and experimentation in creating a showcase for how to incorporate principles of Smart Growth and sustainable development in the Boston urban landscape. Ideally, this will serve as a model for determining what works and what doesn’t. Lessons learned from the pilot program can then be more easily—and cheaply—applied to other projects. Once a standard model for Boston green development is in place, it should make private green development more attractive.

Some of the program’s highlights are ambitious, for instance including “on-site power generation,” such as familiar photovoltaic arrays and windmills. However, there are plans to make future developments even more efficient and independent from the grid by investigating the use of other technologies like co-generation/combined heat and power (CHP) technology. Interestingly enough, these ideas have already met with some private-sector buy-in in Boston. For instance Double-Tree Guest Suites Boston has recently employed American DG Energy to install a 75 kW CHP system in the hotel. This is essentially a Power Purchase Agreement, though that type of arrangement has typically been used in solar generation. American DG will install and operate the system at no cost to Double-Tree, who will then agree to purchase the electricity generated. In this case, the deal is for 15 years, valued at about $1.3 million.

This should be a good omen for setting the standards of future practice.

As far as the Greening America’s Capitals program, it is the result of a partnership between several federal agencies, namely the EPA, US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the US Department of Transportation (DOT). The purpose is to facilitate greener policies for state capitals’ building and infrastructure projects.


“EPA will fund a team of designers to visit each city to produce schematics designs and exciting illustrations intended to catalyze or complement a larger planning process for the pilot neighborhood.”

So the EPA will send a team of planners—specialized in green building and green infrastructure—to analyze and assist with the creation of the Government Center Green District. The results should be very encouraging for a greener, more efficient Boston.


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As part of Boston’s Sustainable Business Leader Program, business owners in Boston, Cambridge, and Somerville are learning and developing tactics to reduce their carbon footprint.  This joint initiative by the Boston Redevelopment Authority and the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Boston seeks to promote sustainable business by focusing on energy efficiency, water conservation, waste management, pollution prevention, transportation, and sustainable management.  In Boston alone, over 30 companies have participated in individualized 6 month programs to equip their businesses for a greener tomorrow.

Columbus, OH is another city joining with local businesses to promote energy efficiency and conservation.  Through Get Green Columbus, the city is spearheading various green energy initiatives.  Recently, Columbus’s mayor announced a $1 million Columbus Green Fund to help businesses with LEED certification and to promote green redevelopment of brownfield sites.  In addition, the city’s GreenSpot program motivates local businesses to get green through recycling, water conservation, and energy audits.  By enrolling, companies receive a GreenSpot decal to hang on their store front and promote their sustainable business.

To learn more about what other cities and states are doing check out business.gov for a full list of state and local business efficiency programs.

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While there has been a great deal of controversy surrounding the Cape Wind project, solar power has found itself in a less-embattled state, especially in the city of Boston. The city’s “Solar Boston” initiative has begun work to increase the city’s solar capacity, in the hopes of making Boston a more hospitable market for that type of renewable energy.

The Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) and Boston Housing Authority (BHA) are working together to make rooftop solar more viable for low-income units.  Already, the city’s Maverick Landing, a HOPE VI redevelopment, employs solar arrays and other green building features. The City has committed to making sure that future housing developments include photovoltaic (PV) arrays on their rooftops. Through “net metering,” these units will produce solar electricity that not only powers the building they are attached to, but that also feeds power back into the grid for a profit to the PV owner.

As both a tool and an innovative public outreach technique, the Boston Redevelopment Authority has used GIS technology to create an interactive map of the city’s rooftops. The map can be accessed via the Solar Boston page of the city’s website

The map has a number of features that help identify areas of viable solar generation in Boston. First, it shows the location of all the renewable generation sites in the city, including not only solar but also wind and hydropower. (Note: Click the images to get a better view)



In fact, Northeastern’s own Curry Center is on the map as a rooftop with a PV array:


As we can see from the map, the photovoltaic array on the building has a kW rating of 18, and was installed by Ascension Technology). Interestingly, it’s the oldest PV installation in Boston. Similar information on solar, wind and hydro power for other buildings can be found by mousing over the sun icons.

The map is also capable of showing more specific information about each site. Clicking on the “Tools” menu and then the “Select Building” tool will allow a more detailed breakdown of a specific building’s solar potential. These are the Curry Center’s statistics:


A rather key piece of information, the Potential Annual Cost Savings (the Curry Center saves $59,712 from its PV array) is also included along with capacity and a sliding scale for available roof space. Thus, the user is able to easily see the amount of money that a PV array will save if installed on the building.

The “Projects” tab allows the user to view a list of all the renewable projects happening in the city, and allows sorting by neighborhood, project name, and power generation type:


The city administration’s ultimate goal is to increase Boston’s solar capacity to 25 megawatts by 2015.


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