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Archive for December, 2010

To meet growing demand for alternative energy, Boston recently instituted the Wind Energy Zoning Provision Article 88, which established zoning regulations and standards for the construction of wind energy facilities in the city.  Now, Boston is looking to construct a wind turbine project on Moon Island that would power 800 homes in Boston and Quincy.  In June, Boston received a $400,000 grant from the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center to help fund the project.

Just across the bay from Moon Island, wind turbines have been helping to power the town of Hull for over 20 years.  In 1985, Hull constructed a 40kW wind turbine on the grounds of Hull High School.  It is estimated that the turbine saved the town $70,000 before it was damaged beyond repair by a wind storm in 1997.  In 2001, as part of a joint initiative by the local group Citizen Advocates for Renewal Energy, UMass Amherst’s Renewable Energy Research Laboratory, and Hull Municipal Light Plant, the town constructed a new 660kW wind turbine at the high school (seen right).  Then in 2006, the town completed the installation of a 1.8 megawatt wind turbine.

Presently, Hull’s turbines satisfy 10% of its entire energy needs, but the town continues to look for options to expand its green energy.  Since 2007, the construction of a 15 megawatt offshore wind farm has been under consideration.  Also, this past August an analyst from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute began research on Hull’s waterways for the feasibility of underwater turbines, but no projects are currently underway.

In addition to industrial turbines,  more options are being developed for localities and individuals looking to include wind in their energy portfolios at a smaller scale.  Several companies are producing smaller, quieter, and sleeker wind turbines designed to work in dense urban environments. For instance, the Eddy GT, a new 1 kW vertical axis turbine developed by Urban Green Energy, is only 2.7 meters tall and designed to fit on an urban rooftop.  Australia-based EcoWhispher Turbines is currently developing a 20 kW turbine that is touted to have “near silent operation.”  According to EcoWhishper, this turbine features a horizontal axis design with 30 blades and is well-equipped for office buildings, commercial sites, and apartments.  Finally, famous designer Philippe Starck (seen left) entered the micro-wind turbine arena with his design of a 400w & 1kW turbine, made by Pramac, an Italian producer of power generation equipment.  With options like these, wind energy is increasingly becoming viable at all sizes.

 

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I recently attended A View from the Top: Sustainable Roofs in Boston, a seminar organized by the Boston Redevelopment Authority (BRA) at the Federal Reserve Bank. The event featured a showcase of green-roof and solar companies and several presentations on creating an environment to support more roof greening in Boston.

Galen Nelson, Green Tech Business Manager at the BRA, and Jim Hunt, Boston’s Chief of Environmental and Energy Services, spoke of the city’s efforts to promote sustainable roofing. Since incorporating LEED standards into its building codes, Boston has seen a 500% increase in its solar capacity. The City has also created a solar permitting guide to instruct developers on every stage of the process for building and installing a solar array on their property. Hunt announced that the Mayor has filed an ordinance with the Boston City Council that will reduce permitting costs for new PV units by a whopping 60%.

Moving on to other green rooftop tech, a representative from Carlisle SynTec explained the benefits of vegetative roof technology to the audience. It can reduce cooling costs by 7-35%, heating costs by 5-10%, doubles the roof life expectancy (the roof is completely shielded from UV ray damage and insulated against dramatic temperature changes). In addition, environmental benefits include a reduced heat island effect, noise reduction of 40db for inside the building, purification of storm water through the garden’s growth medium, reduction of airborne particles, and it even keeps the temperature within 5 degrees of ambient. If there are solar panels on the roof, the consistency of this temperature helps improve their efficiency as well.

The garden is actually synthetic, made with several layers of insulation and permeable materials that can hold water and nutrients and let plants grow.

Such roof gardens are already in some Boston locations. The Seaport Hotel’s is quite impressive:

And the Yawkey Center for Cancer Care at Massachusetts General Hospital will provide a rooftop healing garden to help aid patient convalescence, in addition to all the benefits of a rooftop garden as described above.

Also present was the firm Nexamp, a solar PV installer, highlighting its tech and some local businesses who have shown leadership in PV installation. In particular, they pointed out Boston Sand and Gravel, which boasts a 110 kW PV system on its premises:

 

New England Solar Hot Water was also there, demonstrating its solar-heating technology. The equipment is essentially a plumbing system, holding water that is heated by the sun and then used to heat the home to which it is attached. While this may feel somewhat more mundane compared to PV cells, it boasts a 50% system efficiency in how it uses the sun’s rays. PV efficiency is still in the teens.

 

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On September 30, the Boston Redevelopment Authority began accepting applications for the Green Triple Decker Program, which will provide grants of up to $27,000 to Boston triple decker owners looking to complete energy efficient renovations.  Like Renew Boston, the Green Triple Decker Program looks to promote energy efficiency in people’s homes.  However, the program’s approach is unique because it targets a specific segment of Boston’s population.  In less than 3 weeks, the first stage of the application process was suspended due to a flood of interested applicants.

Across the country, many cities are expanding green retrofits programs. Last month, Milwaukee launched Milwaukee Energy Efficiency (Me2), which enables residents to pay for efficiency upgrades through savings on their monthly electric bills.  In April, the federal government awarded $20 million to Milwaukee and its partner cities of Madison and Racine to promote Me2 and the state program We2.  This grant bolstered $100 million in private investment.  To create jobs, Me2 requires that 40% of work hours performed on projects by each contractor in a 6-month period be performed by currently unemployed or underemployed residents of Milwaukee.  So, Me2 seeks not only to promote energy efficiency, but also local employment.

The Broadgate Tower owned by BBP participant British Land.

Like Boston, London is targeting a specific segment of its population to promote energy efficiency.  Because commercial buildings are responsible for nearly 1/3 of London’s total emissions, the city is focusing on this sector to achieve its goal of reducing its carbon emissions by 60% before 2025.  London’s Better Buildings Partnership (BPP) and Green500 are encouraging the city’s largest commercial property and business owners to reduce carbon emissions in their buildings.  The main tool of BBP is green leases, which are formal agreements between landowners & tenants that create contractual obligations to promote sustainability.  The leases work best for multi-occupant buildings in which tenants cannot control energy and water usage without landlord intervention.  A toolkit details how owners and tenants can work together to monitor energy and water usage to determine best strategies for reducing usage and to make decisions on replacing equipment, or adjusting settings.  In place for one year, the program has fourteen of London’s largest landowners participating, which represents over 15% of London’s total commercial property.

Created by the London Development Authority, Green500 is a mentorship program that provides companies individualized green actions plans, financial savings estimates, and implementation assistance.  London’s mayor gives annual performance awards to those companies that best achieve their goals.   To date, Green500 is reported to have saved 476,103 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

For more information about the Green Triple Decker Program and other green initiatives in Boston, visit the Boston Redevelopment Authority’s blog GREENTECHBOSTON.ORG.  As the overwhelming interest in the Green Triple Decker Program shows, a great approach for expanding Boston’s green initiatives may be to tailor programs to specific groups.  The question is, what other groups should green programs be designed for?

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