Behind Microsoft’s bold plan to build social equity into clean energy buying

August 6, 2020 by  
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Behind Microsoft’s bold plan to build social equity into clean energy buying Heather Clancy Thu, 08/06/2020 – 00:45 There were plenty of juicy news tidbits in Microsoft’s recent progress report about its goal to become carbon negative over the next decade. But its new goal to link at least 500 megawatts of forthcoming solar energy contracts to environmental justice considerations is bold for many reasons.  For context, the total pledge amounts to about a quarter of the capacity that Microsoft already has signed (1.9 gigawatts) in solar and wind contracts. This is the largest commitment it has made to a single portfolio investment, so it isn’t some side project. Nor is this a reaction to the nationwide protests triggered by the death of George Floyd this spring — the active planning has been under way since December.  “We spend a lot of time talking about the energy transition needed if our society is going to transition to a net-zero economy by 2050,” Microsoft’s environment chief, Lucas Joppa, told me. “Microsoft’s position is that the transition has to be an inclusive and just one.” The arrangement, with project financer, investor and developer Sol Systems , will prioritize opportunities and investments in communities “disproportionately affected by environmental challenges.” What does that mean more specifically?  The installations could be in urban neighborhoods that haven’t typically had access to economically priced clean energy resources or that historically have been disproportionately affected by pollution. But they also might be sited in rural communities that have been negatively affected by job losses triggered by the closure of fossil fuels plants or extraction operations, notes Sol Systems co-founder and CEO Yuri Horwitz. “We think it’s equally important that we engage all segments of society,” he said.  As anyone responsible for renewable energy knows, it historically has been very difficult to build metrics around the social impacts of projects. The arrangement also will prioritize buying from minority and women-owned businesses. And it will provide at least $50 million in the form of grants to support educational programs, career training, habitat restoration and initiatives that provide low-income communities with access to clean energy and energy efficiency programs. “Solar is, and should be, an economic engine for everyone,” Horwitz added. To make this work, the two companies created a framework power purchase agreement to cover individual projects as they are identified with the intention of getting them validated and approved more quickly. Among the terms: A certain portion of the revenue that’s generated will be reinvested back into the community where a solar farm is located. “You can do this at scale and at a price point that is economically doable,” Joppa said. Microsoft will use third-party evaluators to help quantify and document both the social and environmental outcomes.  Lily Donge, a former principal in the energy practice at Rocky Mountain Institute and now director of corporate innovation for communities with Groundswell, believes Microsoft’s deal with Sol Systems is a sign of things to come. “We do not know whether the community process will be equitable, transparent or consultative,” she wrote on the community solar organization’s blog. “But this is a signal that a giant tech company is willing to understand the demands of the community, under-served customers and the public at large.” As anyone responsible for renewable energy knows, it historically has been very difficult to build metrics around the social impacts of projects, but Sol Systems has been focusing on methodologies for doing so for the past 12 years — it already has about 800 MW of similar projects in its portfolio , including deals it has done for Amazon and Under Armour . The latter project was built in Maryland on land that couldn’t be used for residential development; it will contribute about $1.4 million in tax revenue to the local community. Another Sol Systems ally is Nationwide Insurance, its financing partner . This isn’t the only relationship Microsoft will use to procure energy in the future, so it will be important to watch how that consideration bleeds into other contracts. I’ll definitely be asking. You should do so, too. This article first appeared in GreenBiz’s weekly newsletter, VERGE Weekly, running Wednesdays. Subscribe  here . Follow me on Twitter: @greentechlady. Pull Quote As anyone responsible for renewable energy knows, it historically has been very difficult to build metrics around the social impacts of projects. Topics Social Justice Renewable Energy Corporate Procurement Featured Column Practical Magic Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) On Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Sol’s 196-kilowatt solar installation at Christ Church apartments, a low-to-moderate income senior living facility located on the Baltimore Harbor.  Courtesy of Sol Systems Close Authorship

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Behind Microsoft’s bold plan to build social equity into clean energy buying

Finally, a one-stop shop for researching food systems data

June 19, 2020 by  
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Finally, a one-stop shop for researching food systems data Jim Giles Fri, 06/19/2020 – 00:15 Parts of our food systems are so bewilderingly complex that attempts to answer even basic questions can result in hours of frustrated searching. If you can relate to this, I have some good news for you — not quite a fully-fledged solution, but certainly a step toward one. The genesis of this solution dates to around six years ago, when Lawrence Haddad, who leads the nonprofit Global Alliance on Improved Nutrition , was editing an article on nutrition. “The authors had so little data to go on they had to make crazy assumptions about food systems,” he recalled when we spoke this week.  Haddad and his co-editor, Jessica Fanzo of Johns Hopkins University, set about assembling the people and funding needed to fix that. Earlier this month, they unveiled the Food Systems Dashboard . “It’s very much something we built in our garages in evenings and weekends,” Haddad said. “Much to our surprise, it has gathered momentum. We now see the potential is huge.” The dashboard is a data smorgasbord that covers everything from food waste and greenhouse gas emissions to food security and agricultural productivity. In total, there are more than 170 indicators, culled from 35 sources and covering nearly every country. There are gaps in the coverage, which Haddad says the team is working to fix, but the dashboard looks likely to become a first point of call for questions about food systems.  It’s for governments and businesses — the people who make decisions about actions. Poking around it this week, for instance, I found it easy to check something I had been curious about: Are young people in the United States eating more vegetables? Sadly not. Consumption hasn’t changed much in a decade. Presumably, this is related to other data I came across in the dashboard: The quantity of vegetables available per person in the U.S. food supply has been trending slowly down over the past 20 years. Businesses also can benefit from exploratory analyses such as these, suggested Haddad. There’s data on food infrastructure, government regulations and the amount of money that families have available to spend on food, all factors that guide decisions about whether to move into an emerging market. “If this is only for researchers, we’ve failed,” Haddad said. “It’s for governments and businesses — the people who make decisions about actions.” To make the dashboard more useful, the team is working on adding subnational data for large countries and developing guides for specific types of users. The dashboard also likely will be used by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization as part of its 2021 Food Systems Summit .  If your organization has thoughts on data you’d like to see added to the dashboard, Haddad and the dashboard team invite you to drop them a line via the site’s contact form . As always, I’d also love to hear your thoughts on this project and other issues you’d like to see covered in Food Weekly. You can reach me at jg@greenbiz.com . This article was adapted from the GreenBiz Food Weekly newsletter. Sign up here to receive your own free subscription. Pull Quote It’s for governments and businesses — the people who make decisions about actions. Topics Food & Agriculture Food Systems Technology Data Featured Column Foodstuff Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Finally, a one-stop shop for researching food systems data

Finally, a one-stop shop for researching food systems data

June 19, 2020 by  
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Finally, a one-stop shop for researching food systems data Jim Giles Fri, 06/19/2020 – 00:15 Parts of our food systems are so bewilderingly complex that attempts to answer even basic questions can result in hours of frustrated searching. If you can relate to this, I have some good news for you — not quite a fully-fledged solution, but certainly a step toward one. The genesis of this solution dates to around six years ago, when Lawrence Haddad, who leads the nonprofit Global Alliance on Improved Nutrition , was editing an article on nutrition. “The authors had so little data to go on they had to make crazy assumptions about food systems,” he recalled when we spoke this week.  Haddad and his co-editor, Jessica Fanzo of Johns Hopkins University, set about assembling the people and funding needed to fix that. Earlier this month, they unveiled the Food Systems Dashboard . “It’s very much something we built in our garages in evenings and weekends,” Haddad said. “Much to our surprise, it has gathered momentum. We now see the potential is huge.” The dashboard is a data smorgasbord that covers everything from food waste and greenhouse gas emissions to food security and agricultural productivity. In total, there are more than 170 indicators, culled from 35 sources and covering nearly every country. There are gaps in the coverage, which Haddad says the team is working to fix, but the dashboard looks likely to become a first point of call for questions about food systems.  It’s for governments and businesses — the people who make decisions about actions. Poking around it this week, for instance, I found it easy to check something I had been curious about: Are young people in the United States eating more vegetables? Sadly not. Consumption hasn’t changed much in a decade. Presumably, this is related to other data I came across in the dashboard: The quantity of vegetables available per person in the U.S. food supply has been trending slowly down over the past 20 years. Businesses also can benefit from exploratory analyses such as these, suggested Haddad. There’s data on food infrastructure, government regulations and the amount of money that families have available to spend on food, all factors that guide decisions about whether to move into an emerging market. “If this is only for researchers, we’ve failed,” Haddad said. “It’s for governments and businesses — the people who make decisions about actions.” To make the dashboard more useful, the team is working on adding subnational data for large countries and developing guides for specific types of users. The dashboard also likely will be used by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization as part of its 2021 Food Systems Summit .  If your organization has thoughts on data you’d like to see added to the dashboard, Haddad and the dashboard team invite you to drop them a line via the site’s contact form . As always, I’d also love to hear your thoughts on this project and other issues you’d like to see covered in Food Weekly. You can reach me at jg@greenbiz.com . This article was adapted from the GreenBiz Food Weekly newsletter. Sign up here to receive your own free subscription. Pull Quote It’s for governments and businesses — the people who make decisions about actions. Topics Food & Agriculture Food Systems Technology Data Featured Column Foodstuff Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off

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Finally, a one-stop shop for researching food systems data

The inconvenient truths behind the ‘Planetary Health’ diet

February 6, 2019 by  
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The recently published EAT-Lancet Commission on Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems uses flawed research on health, sustainability and food systems.

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The inconvenient truths behind the ‘Planetary Health’ diet

The inconvenient truths behind the ‘Planetary Health’ diet

February 6, 2019 by  
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The recently published EAT-Lancet Commission on Healthy Diets from Sustainable Food Systems uses flawed research on health, sustainability and food systems.

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The inconvenient truths behind the ‘Planetary Health’ diet

6 themes for scaling corporate action on the SDGs

February 6, 2019 by  
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This year will be pivotal for businesses to make progress on the UN’s blueprint for peace and prosperity.

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6 themes for scaling corporate action on the SDGs

6 themes for scaling corporate action on the SDGs

February 6, 2019 by  
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This year will be pivotal for businesses to make progress on the UN’s blueprint for peace and prosperity.

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6 themes for scaling corporate action on the SDGs

10 things you need to know about the restoration economy

September 22, 2017 by  
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Preparing for climate change means building up the systems that protect our coasts and water. Some of those will be made of steel; others will be made of trees and sand.

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10 things you need to know about the restoration economy

Affordable home geothermal energy systems come to upstate New York

July 17, 2017 by  
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When you think of home renewable power systems, geothermal energy probably isn’t the first source that springs to mind. But new company Dandelion , which starts after time at Google’s moonshot factory X , aims to power houses with the clean , free source “right under our feet.” They’re offering their systems beginning in northeastern America. The Dandelion team launched their company independent of Alphabet this month, offering geothermal heating and cooling for homes. They come in and replace cooling, heating, and hot water equipment with their geothermal systems, including underground pipes and a heat pump, which gather energy from the earth. The company describes geothermal cooling and heating as the most efficient method of such climate control for the home. Related: St. Patrick’s Cathedral unveils state-of-the-art geothermal plant Affordability was one of Dandelion’s main goals. They say many homes haven’t yet adopted geothermal systems due to the hefty cost associated with setup. In contrast, Dandelion’s system costs $20,000. On their website they say they’ve partnered with a leading financing company to install the systems with zero costs upfront followed by low monthly payments. The company also designed a better drill to install the systems. In the past, geothermal systems were installed with a wide drill that was intended for water wells more than 1,000 feet into the ground. The Dandelion team designed a slender drill that can create one or two deep holes a few inches wide – with less waste. Their new drill lets them put in ground loops in under one day. Overall, putting in their geothermal systems takes two to three days. Dandelion’s heat pumps will last around 25 years, while the closed-loop piping can last for a minimum of 50. The system comes with a smart thermostat enabling homeowners to regulate the temperature inside. The team is starting with 11 counties in New York – they say regions with cold winters and hot summers are ideal for home geothermal systems. + Dandelion Via Kathy Hannun on Medium Images via Dandelion Facebook and Dandelion

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Affordable home geothermal energy systems come to upstate New York

Stunning geodesic domes from Romania can handle earthquakes up to 8.5 on the Richter scale

October 18, 2016 by  
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“Geodesic domes are extremely strong for their weight due to their omni triangulated surface that provides an inherently stable structure,” according to Remus Gall, the lead project manager at Biodomes. The company adds that their domes have “a natural resistance to external factors like earthquakes up to 8.5 on the Richter scale, winds up to 320 km/h due to the aerodynamic shape and loads up to 20 tonnes per point of structure.” Related: 5 great reasons to build a geodesic dome home Geodesic domes also boast a series of environmental benefits. “The spherical design results in highly efficient and effective air circulation in both summer and winter,” according to the company. With a lower surface area than conventional homes, domes are also “less susceptible to temperature changes,” making them cheaper to heat and cool. And because their shape mirrors the sun’s path, they benefit from significant natural lighting and solar gain throughout the day – a plus in winter. In summer, magnetic shades reduce thermal loads. These domes are incredibly versatile – they can be used as a greenhouse , an eco-home, as a recreational space, indoor pool or even an observatory. The images in the gallery depict the Pollux model which is 16-feet in diameter and 8-feet tall. For now the company is restricted to European installations, but it might be worth contacting them if you’re outside of Europe – maybe they can offer you some ideas if this is the way you want to go. + Biodome Systems SRL

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Stunning geodesic domes from Romania can handle earthquakes up to 8.5 on the Richter scale

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