The many faces of energy resilience

August 17, 2020 by  
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The many faces of energy resilience Michelle Moore Mon, 08/17/2020 – 00:30 This series explores how clean energy can deliver on finance and corporate social and governance goals alongside climate and environmental benefits. “Resilience” is a powerful word in 2020. Fires, floods, pestilence, pandemic — I don’t know about you all, but I was raised in a fundamentalist Southern Baptist Church and my Revelations bingo card is just about full. Thinking about the idea of resilience as it relates to equity and energy systems merely as the ability to keep the lights on, however, is missing a powerful opportunity to right the scales of justice. Large corporate energy buyers and utilities, in particular, hold the opportunity to build better and make things right. On resilience The term “resilience” can be applied to a vast array of natural, built and social systems and refers to the ability to recover function following a significant, potentially unpredictable disruption. As it relates to energy, moving away from long transmission lines and centralized power plants burning extracted, polluting fuels and towards a distributed system that combines local energy storage with renewables improves resilience — consistent with the principles of biomimicry. That’s the vision. But how is that vision valued? Resilient energy systems combining renewables, microgrids and energy storage are being deployed by corporations and other institutions that can assign an economic value to resilience as a service, by residential customers who can afford it and by utilities that benefit from the resulting infrastructure and other cost reductions. If we define the value of resilience in such narrow economic terms, however, we will build a clean energy dystopia. But we can choose a better way. Do justice Our energy systems, like most legacy systems, are infused with racial injustices that do particular harm to Black communities, families and individuals because many of our laws and institutions were designed for that purpose. Systems produce outcomes according to the values on which they are founded, and the outcomes are clear. As the NAACP has highlighted , 68 percent of Black and African-American individuals live within 30 miles of a coal plant and are twice as likely to die from asthma than white Americans. Only 1.1 percent of those employed in the energy industry are Black, while Black households comprise more than half of those paying 10 percent or more of their entire income to keep the lights on. Moreover, Black and Latino households pay almost three times as much for energy as higher income and white households.  If we define the value of resilience in such narrow economic terms, we will build a clean energy dystopia. But we can choose a better way. Just because you didn’t write the rules that made things so broken doesn’t absolve you of accountability to fix them. As my colleague Chandra Farley, Just Energy Director with Partnership for Southern Equity, has pointedly noted, Black people, communities of color and low-income communities are resilient because they have endured hundreds of years of systemic racism and disinvestment. Recognizing this, every decision maker leading an energy storage project can choose to do justice by understanding the value of resilience as encompassing more than the money. Here are four examples of how to begin. Communities can define their own resilient energy futures , anchored by colleges and universities. In service to the Atlanta University Center Consortium , Groundswell is supporting the design and development of an innovative Resilience Hub that celebrates the leadership of Atlanta’s historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Partnership for Southern Equity is on the team to ensure that the voice and vision of the surrounding neighborhoods, among the most energy-burdened in the city, are the priority. Enabled through NREL’s Solar Energy Innovation Network, this project is tackling how to deploy community-led energy resilience in a regulated, utility-driven energy market. Large corporate energy buyers can share resilience as a service to the communities surrounding their facilities and installations. Doing so in a way that aligns with local community needs and values requires building relationships with local communities and listening to and meeting their needs. John Kliem, formerly the head of the U.S. Navy’s Resilient Energy Program Office, oversaw an early example of this approach in collaboration with the Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative in Hawaii. The resulting solar-plus-storage facility, recognized b y a 2019 U.S. Department of Energy award, improves energy security for the local Naval facility while supporting local goals. Kliem, who now leads federal energy strategy for Johnson Controls, also has identified co-location of energy storage facilities to share resilience with critical infrastructure such as hospitals and municipal water pumping stations as opportunities. Cities, municipalities and other jurisdictions can use their planning authority to embed community-driven resilience at the building level. The city of Baltimore is helping to lead the way. Funded through a Maryland Energy Administration Grant, Baltimore is working with Groundswell and energy storage innovators A.F. Mensah to identify and develop up to 20 local Resilience Hubs across the city that will host solar and energy storage installations and provide refuge for local community members in case of extreme weather or other events. Importantly, funded collaborations such as this support critical place-based R&D into optimal approaches to financing larger scale deployment while navigating local, state and regional regulations that impact siting, interconnection and access to revenue opportunities such as selling stored power back to the grid at peak.   Rural electric cooperatives are demonstrating how utilities can deploy energy storage that reduces electric costs for their member customers. Curtis Wynn, CEO of the Roanoke Electric Cooperative and president of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, is studying offering energy storage as a service to industrial customers and sharing the resulting cost reductions from reducing peak demand with his residential customers, who are largely low- and moderate-income households. Using smart hot water heaters for energy storage offers similar potential benefits to lower income customers, which is just one of the innovative ideas being advanced by the Beneficial Electrification League . Towards regeneration Building energy resilience can do more than keep the lights on for those who can pay for it. Resilience can be reparative, and the resulting investments can support the regeneration of communities that have been held back by institutionalized systems of oppression. We have a corporate as well as an individual responsibility to do justice. We are called to advocate for and share what we have with others so that everyone is treated equally and with dignity, and it’s the privilege of our generation to be alive at a time when we can make things right. Pull Quote If we define the value of resilience in such narrow economic terms, we will build a clean energy dystopia. But we can choose a better way. Topics Energy & Climate Social Justice Community Resilience Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off GreenBiz photocollage, via Shutterstock

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The many faces of energy resilience

Did Project Drawdown miss a crucial climate solution?

March 23, 2018 by  
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Sustainable investing may be a better way to tackle climate change than switching to renewable energy.

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Did Project Drawdown miss a crucial climate solution?

3 problems that water abundance brings to coastal communities

March 23, 2018 by  
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And two things are missing in the face of rising seas and warmer oceans.

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3 problems that water abundance brings to coastal communities

Is a carbon tax on consumption the happy medium we’ve been looking for?

February 14, 2017 by  
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Here’s a better way to regulate carbon — and change the tired environment-versus-economy debate.

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Is a carbon tax on consumption the happy medium we’ve been looking for?

MIT researchers discover silk holds the key to vastly improved filtration

July 21, 2016 by  
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MIT and Tufts University researchers found silk is good for more than clothes, cool furniture , or bulletproof vests . They found a way to extract tiny silk building blocks, called nanofibrils, that vastly improve filtration techniques. Others attempted to extract these nanofibers in the past, but largely failed, and the researchers detailed their process to success in a paper published recently in the journal Nano Letters . These nanofibrils can be made into ” advanced filtration membranes ,” according to the researchers. In their paper, the scientists explained their four-step process, which involved exfoliating the silk, extracting nanofibrils via ultrasonic waves, and vacuum filtration. They utilized silk fibers made by domesticated silkworms. Related: Groundbreaking affordable, paper-thin filter removes viruses from water The new membranes are not only more effective for filtration, they’re more environmentally friendly. Used filters biodegrade, resulting in ” no lasting impact ,” according to MIT . The nanofibrils membranes are less expensive too: one piece costs between five and 51 cents, while a comparable piece of commercial membrane costs $1.20. The new membranes are very flexible and don’t dissolve in water, crucial for effective water filtration. The nanofibrils are also ” negatively charged at neutral pH ” which means they can snare positively charged molecules. MIT postdoc student Shengjie Ling said , “There has been a renewed focus recently on developing these types of ultrathin filtration membranes…The challenge has always been to create these new ultrathin and low-cost devices while retaining mechanical strength and good separation performance. Cast silk fibroin membranes aren’t an option, because they do not have porous structure and dissolve in water if not pretreated. We knew there had to be a better way.” The new membranes were designed in a collaboration between several different departments; material scientists and civil, computational, and biomedical engineers all worked together on the research. The new membranes could be used in research, food manufacturing, and to filter water . Via MIT News Images via the MIT/Tufts University researchers and Ed Schipul on Flickr

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MIT researchers discover silk holds the key to vastly improved filtration

Adorable ‘Grand Beedapest Hotel’ creates an urban home for bees

July 21, 2016 by  
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Tea company Taylors of Harrogate teamed up with Kew Gardens to design the Grand Beedapest Hotel , a luxury bee hotel à la Wes Anderson. Through their enchanting design, Taylors aims to raise awareness about bee population decline and inspire people to grow bee-friendly flowers and herbs such as lavender, geraniums, and sage. Bees are largely responsible for the fruits that help flavor Taylors tea , but pesticides, pollution, and habitat loss have all contributed to bee decline. According to one study, the same amount of bees live in cities as in rural areas , so Taylors decided to fight against habitat loss and illustrate how cities can actually help urban-dwelling bees thrive. Their quirky Grand Beedapest Hotel features a swimming pool with mint leaves, restaurant with roses and pollen, and a luxury suite with a rhubarb sugar water bath. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocs0taaZ8m0 + The Story of Bees Images via screenshot

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Adorable ‘Grand Beedapest Hotel’ creates an urban home for bees

Make 2015 your most organized year ever with these smart upcycled household items

January 21, 2015 by  
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Trying to get your house organized for the new year can cost a pretty penny, what with buying new bins, racks, baskets, etc. But there’s a better way to clean out your home without cleaning out your wallet – upcycling! All of your seasonal clothing, bulky kitchen supplies, and any stray bits and bobs can be efficiently stored and organized using repurposed or upcycled household items. To get your creative gears grinding, take a look at HomeTalk’s clipboard of Upcycled Clutter Busters for clever organizing ideas using upcycled household items. Whether you’re trying to corral your kitchen clutter, make some sense of your closet, or bring order to your desk, these ideas will help you find the perfect unassuming empty container to turn into beautiful, functional storage! + Upcycled Clutter Busters Permalink | Add to del.icio.us | digg Post tags: clutter busters , DIY , diy home ideas , home ideas , home organization , hometalk , organized home , upcycled organization

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Make 2015 your most organized year ever with these smart upcycled household items

What if a 10-year-old designed a city?

March 26, 2013 by  
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Crossing the street can be dangerous for a child — at least, until she comes up with a better way.

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What if a 10-year-old designed a city?

Scientists Use Lightning Blasts To Recycle Concrete Debris into New Building Materials

December 13, 2012 by  
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Photo via Shutterstock Waste doesn’t always look like discarded soda bottles or piles of unwanted newspaper. Humans are constantly altering their environments to serve a new purpose or accommodate a new need. We tear down, erect, and renovate buildings constantly, and the result is millions of tons of building rubble. Until recently, the only way to recycle concrete waste was to smash it up and use it as a base layer for roads. Now, researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics have developed a better way: use lightning to break separate concrete debris into its most basic, and reuseable, parts. Concrete is extremely versatile, which is why it’s the world’s most popular building material. Created by mixing cement, water and aggregate, and a mixture of stone particles such as gravel or limestone grit in various sizes, concrete is cheap and easy to use. Unfortunately these positive aspects have a big, dirty downside. According to the Fraunhofer Institute, “the production of one ton of burned cement clinker of limestone and clay releases 650 to 700 kilograms of carbon dioxide.” This means that every year 8 to 15 percent of global CO2 production is attributable to concrete manufacturing. The key to recycling concrete, and curbing some of these harmful carbon emissions , is efficiently reducing concrete rubble into ingredients that can then be mixed into new concrete. The process developed by the Fraunhofer researchers uses electrodynamic fragmentation, very short pulses (less than 500 nanoseconds) of induced lightning, to separate gravel from cement materials in concrete. When the lightning strikes the concrete debris, it runs along the path of least resistance which is the boundaries between the components, i.e. between the gravel and the cement stone. The initially generated impulses, the pre-discharges, first weaken the material mechanically. “The pre-discharge which reaches the counter-electrode in our fragmentation plant at first, then causes an electrical breakdown,” explains Volker Thome from the Fraunhofer Institute for Building Physics IBP at the Concrete Technology Group in Holzkirchen. ”At this instant a plasma channel is formed in the concrete which grows within a thousandth of a second, like a pressure wave from the inside outwards.” The force of the explosion quickly and efficiently breaks down concrete in a fraction of the time it would take for traditional methods. The researchers have set a goal of 20 tons per hour which they say could be reached in just two years’ time. +Fraunhofer Institute via Ecogeek

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Scientists Use Lightning Blasts To Recycle Concrete Debris into New Building Materials

SOM’s Shimmering White Cube for the LA Federal Courthouse Wins Award

December 13, 2012 by  
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The new Los Angeles Federal Courthouse will be designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill , and it will feature state-of-the-art sustainable design. Announced just this week, the US General Services Administration awarded the contract for the new project on Broadway street to the SF office of SOM. Although details are skant, the shimmering white cube will provide 550,000 square feet of space with updated security compared to the current Spring Street facility. The GSA , which is in charge of the process, is also looking for proposals to renovate the existing courthouse and use the sale of the building to finance construction. SOM competed against Yazdani Studio and Gruen Associates with Hensel Phelps; Brooks + Scarpa and HMC Architects with McCarthy; and NBBJ with Mortensen to land the award to design and build LA’s new federal courthouse. To be located on a currently empty site at 107 S. Broadway, the project will contain 550,000 square feet of new courtrooms, and provide space for active and senior judges of the U.S. District Court, Central District of California, and U.S. Marshals Service. The project will be a sustainable, cost-effective, state-of-the-art court facility that includes security upgrades that are not available in the current 312 North Spring Street courthouse. “GSA is committed to reducing the federal government’s real estate footprint by making more efficient use of our current properties and getting rid of outdated facilities that no longer meet our needs,” said GSA Acting Administrator Dan Tangherlini. “The agency is taking a new approach to property disposals by working with the private sector to exchange outdated properties for the construction of new sustainable facilities.” Construction is expected to begin in late 2013 and should be completed by 2016. The GSA hopes to revamp the old facilities and sell it to help finance the new project and they are currently accepting proposals for this renovation. + SOM Images Courtesy of GSA

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SOM’s Shimmering White Cube for the LA Federal Courthouse Wins Award

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