Is your team embedding equity considerations into its carbon removal projects?

January 18, 2021 by  
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Is your team embedding equity considerations into its carbon removal projects? Gloria Oladipo Mon, 01/18/2021 – 01:15 With carbon emissions expected to rebound this year, 2021 presents another opportunity for companies to invest in climate-saving initiatives that move the corporate world closer to a net-zero future, especially carbon removal projects . While some companies already have started investing in these solutions on a larger scale, questions remain about how to conduct the process equitably. In other words, what environmental justice considerations should companies evaluate when investing in these opportunities? There’s a good reason to ask. Historically, carbon removal projects have a legacy of potentially reifying inequality; projects in the Global South become responsible for hosting said projects and their associated consequences while countries (and companies) in the Global North use these initiatives to meet their carbon reduction targets. Examples of this dynamic include projects such as a hydroelectric plant in Guatemala ( later linked to egregious human rights abuse ) and forest preservation projects in Brazil ; both offered Western companies opportunities to gain carbon offset credits, but the reality of their impact from a human rights standpoint was less understood.  Ugbaad Kozar, senior policy advisor at Carbon180, discussed these disparities and the power imbalance associated with carbon removal measures. “There’s a long history of Global South countries inheriting the burden of hosting projects that have benefited wealthier countries in reaching their climate targets,” Kozar said. “These projects can lead to inadequate payments, loss of local control over natural resources, loss of ability to use their land for other livelihood purposes.” A number of safeguards developed by NGOs can aid companies deciding whose carbon removal projects to invest in, Kozar said.  Carbon removal is still relatively nascent, which gives us a unique opportunity to shape how, where and which solutions will be deployed. For example, in 2005, the “Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and enhancement of carbon stocks” (REDD+) system was created as a social and biodiversity safeguard to make sure carbon removal efforts didn’t harm biodiversity and that its benefits were given to local communities. Elsewhere, the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance , a partnership spanning several international environmental NGOs, created “Climate, Community and Biodiversity” standards to ensure land-based projects respected community stakeholders and their cultures, and nurtured biodiversity, among other goals.   However, as argued by Holly Buck, assistant professor of environment and sustainability at the University at Buffalo, these safeguards have not been carried out without issues. REDD+ social safeguards have had mixed results ; the impact of the safeguards sometimes have been difficult to monitor and interventions made based on the safeguards had mixed results, she noted. Looking forward, that means companies have an opportunity to be even more progressive in establishing their own standards for equity considerations related to carbon removal, according to Kozar and Buck.  “Companies are even poised to play a role in having even more ambitious standards because some of those safeguards haven’t always been working out as well as intended … [companies can make] sure that theoretical co-benefits are actually delivered upon and [pay] more attention to who reaps the benefits from these projects,” Buck said.  Where to start? Before analyzing equity considerations related to their external carbon removal work, companies should first ensure they cultivate a workplace culture of justice within their organizations, Buck and Kozar said. This type of internal work is not only critical to unseeding racism in general (demonstrated as more carbon capture companies focus on making meaningful contributions to environmental justice ). Among other things, the Clean Air Task Force  also is following projects in California and Texas to determine how carbon capture technology might play a role in reducing local air pollution, with a view to releasing its research after this year to front-line communities. it’s an important first step for companies hoping to address oppression in their environmental work.   “It is so important for companies to start by looking internally and meaningfully begin anti-oppression work and diversification of the workforce. Doing so allows for opportunities to refute and rethink contextual perspectives and to understand the drivers of inequity and injustice,” Kozar said.  It is so important for companies to start by looking internally and meaningfully begin anti-oppression work and diversification of the workforce … In addition to creating equity within the workplace, companies investing in carbon removal projects must be committed to transparency about the process itself, all associated data, community involvement and an equitable distribution of resources. Carbon removal projects can be an opaque process, shrouded in litigation and inaccessible information; community members where carbon removal projects are located should be made aware of the process and included in the discussion of the project’s effects. “With industrial removal, some of the questions at the project site are: Are people happy with the industrial facility? Is it impacting them? … Are they seeing any benefit from it or just having to live next to a waste disposal site?” Buck said.   Most important, benefits need to be equitably distributed, ideally problem-solving for legacy effects of climate change that often occur in marginalized communities. For instance, a strategy of planting trees not only could address removing emissions but also help cool neighborhoods, reduce pollution, provide shade and have other benefits, an example Kozar provided.  Buck also cited the importance of government involvement to help ensure benefits are given equally. She noted how the California government helps redistribute funds from the state’s cap-and-trade program to vulnerable communities.  Overall, while the increase in companies investing in carbon removal programs signals a positive shift in more climate-friendly thinking, it’s critical to participate in these solutions in a way that centers and benefits oppressed communities, Buck and Kozar advised.  “Carbon removal is still relatively nascent, which gives us a unique opportunity to shape how, where and whi ch solutions will be deployed. As the industry emerges and scales, key players need to prioritize transparency and accountability, ensuring they do not ignore legacy pollution that harms marginalized communities,” Kozar said.  Pull Quote Carbon removal is still relatively nascent, which gives us a unique opportunity to shape how, where and which solutions will be deployed. It is so important for companies to start by looking internally and meaningfully begin anti-oppression work and diversification of the workforce … Topics Carbon Removal Social Justice Equity & Inclusion Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Climeworks’ technology captures atmospheric carbon by drawing in air and binding the CO2 using a filter. The filter is heated to release the concentrated gas, which can be used in industrial applications, such as a source of carbonization for the food and beverage industry. Courtesy of Julia Dunlop/Climeworks Close Authorship

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Is your team embedding equity considerations into its carbon removal projects?

A New Year’s resolution for Bill Gates

January 18, 2021 by  
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A New Year’s resolution for Bill Gates John Elkington Mon, 01/18/2021 – 00:45 Bill Gates has a new book in the pipeline, ” How to Avoid a Climate Disaster .” Vital reading, particularly in a year that should see Glasgow hosting the COP26 climate summit. But if I could propose one additional New Year’s resolution for Gates, it would be to send another book to all COP26 delegates: Kim Stanley Robinson’s ” The Ministry for the Future .” Sci-fi fans know Robinson as a giant in his field, but I literally stumbled across his work. I had acquired a second-hand copy of his 2017 novel “New York 2140,” coverless and so somewhat unappetizing. I was using it as a doorstop, hence the stumbles. At 600-plus pages it loomed like the Eiger, but once in I was unstoppable. Wanting more, I ordered “The Ministry of the Future,” clocking in at a more modest 564 pages. If I had to give a prize for the best writing, it would go to “New York,” but if the prize was for giving readers confidence that we can crack the climate challenge, I would choose “The Ministry.” True, some early sections read like novelized versions of an MBA course on sustainable development, but stick with it. “The Ministry” is set in the time of COP58, a world where our worst climate nightmares are materializing. Indeed, the book opens with a disaster leaving perhaps 20 million Indians dead. It’s fascinating how tomorrow interferes with today. Science fiction, if you think about it, is all about perspective. In that vein, when I was trying to creep up on companies back in the 1970s, I pictured myself using a periscope. Later, when we had breached the corporate gates, even finding our way into boardrooms, it felt as though we were putting corporations — their leaders, cultures, technologies, business models and supply chains — under the microscope. We still do that sort of work but reaching for our telescopes — to track the trajectories of entire constellations of economic actors, with an eye to spurring systemic change. Still, alongside those different lenses and optics, I have long ached for some form of kaleidoscope — a compound lens delivering more information the more it is shaken, whether by the user or by reality. Decades ago, creeping up on the future, I began to stalk sci-fi authors. I had a fascinating early exchange with John Brunner, author of “Jagged Orbit” and “Stand on Zanzibar.” When I complimented him on the dystopian vision in the second book, which seemed to be increasingly realistic, he replied, uncomfortably, that he had hoped that the terrifying vision would wake people up in time. A later thrill involved interviewing Frank Herbert back in 1983. Denis Villeneuve’s film of Herbert’s magnificent “Dune,” perhaps the best sci-fi novel I have read, is due out in October. I genuinely can’t wait. Meanwhile, one thing Herbert told me stuck in my mind: “If you’re managing and fixing, you’re locking down today, you’re not getting into tomorrow. You’re preventing tomorrow.” A linked idea that has been rattling around my brain recently features an A.I.-enabled resource pooling all key solutions proposed in sci-fi novels — to tap into the collective creativity of some of the brightest minds of all time.  That idea, in turn, had me stumbling across an experiment launched by David Brin, another of my favorite sci-fi authors since I read his novel “Earth” in 1990, when he already was talking about the possibility of bringing mammoths back from extinction. Like it or not, such ideas are bounding forward, as I learned when talking to people such as Ryan Phelan of Revive & Restore a couple of years ago. Another case of fiction teetering on the edge of science fact .  It’s fascinating how tomorrow interferes with today. For a couple of decades, William Gibson has been my favorite contemporary sci-fi author, with the impossibly distant future of his early book “Neuromancer” gradually hauling back in later novels until it eerily mutates today’s realities. Or, as Gibson famously put it in the last century, “The future’s already here — it’s just not evenly distributed.” To which I often add, “Yet.” Someone else who achieves this trick is Ramez Naam — whose “Nexus Trilogy” I strongly recommend. As it happens, I met Naam — in his role as a radical energy analyst — at a VERGE event in San Jose, California, in 2016.  Now, with China looming, I have been reading sci-fi (in translation) by such authors as Liu Cixin . It’s fascinating how as cultures rise, technologically and economically, some begin to produce world-class sci-fi. Europe did it with authors such as Jules Verne and H.G. Wells, America with everyone from Isaac Asimov to Kurt Vonnegut.  New Year’s resolutions are an attempt to shape the future. I don’t do them, but if I did one candidate for 2021 would be to pour myself heart and soul into a new Volans project, the Green Swans Observatory . The idea here is to turn every lens we have — periscopes, microscopes, telescopes — onto the emerging regenerative economy. Scanning for what’s working, what isn’t (yet) and what needs to be tried next. Once again, I’m pondering where the sci-fi kaleidoscope fits in. So I called David Brin, inspired by his TASAT database — the acronym standing for “There’s A Story About That.” The idea, the website explains, involves: “Accessing more than a hundred years of science fiction thought experiments, TASAT taps into a passionate, global community of writers, scholars, librarians and fans. We aim to curate a reading list applicable to problems and possibilities of tomorrow.” A fantastic experiment, TASAT, although when you search the database for terms that feature routinely in The Ministry for the Future they rarely show up. Yet. True, the “Dune” series of novels focuses on the regeneration of planets such as Arrakis, but can TASAT-style initiatives help us all boldly go toward a truly regenerative future? Perhaps that’s one more resolution for Gates, or for another future-oriented billionaire or foundation: to help turn TASAT into a globally accessible portal to the ever-expanding universe of sci-fi wisdom. At a time when every second business book seems to include words such as “reimagining,” “reinventing” or “resetting,” we will need all the help we can get. Pull Quote It’s fascinating how tomorrow interferes with today. Topics Innovation Leadership Books Featured Column The Elkington Report Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Credit: gatesnotes.com

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A New Year’s resolution for Bill Gates

100-year-old Buda Mill & Grain Co. has new life as a community gathering spot

October 16, 2020 by  
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Often, culture and community are so intertwined that one defines the other, as is the case with a rural town in Texas, where the residents embraced a dilapidated historic site, called the Buda Mill & Grain Co., and brought it back to life. The Buda Mill & Grain Co. was a landmark in Buda, Texas dating back to 1890, when members from the Farmers Alliance founded a cotton gin to counter the rising costs of freight and lack of control of the market system that left farmers feeling out of control. Later, following a change of hands, the site was home to the first brick gin, built in 1914, which supported the Buda Gin Company. With the fall of cotton prices in the 1930s, the company was sold again and converted into a milling company for grinding dairy feed. Grain elevators and silos were added as the business grew. Related: Heatherwick Studio updates 90-year-old grain silo in South Africa with pillowed glass windows In more recent decades, the buildings housed grain for the U.S. government and were leased out to private hobbyists. Nearly every Buda citizen from any generation has memories of working the mill or picking up grain at the complex, catching up with neighbors in the process. With this common interest, the community enlisted the help of architecture and engineering firm Cushing Terrell in nearby Austin, Texas with the goal of repurposing the existing structures while converting the site into a modern community space. The result is a compound that offers more than 27,000 square feet of retail, restaurants and community-oriented spaces for the citizens to gather like they have for the past century. The three new buildings meld with the conversion of the old in a complex made up of five structures. The largest of the buildings, nicknamed the Big’un, is a 6,000-square-foot steel-framed equipment barn that measures roughly 120 feet long by 60 feet wide. The simple aspects of the structure allowed designers to remove walls in the first bay, creating a massive covered porch that faces the main street. This area is partitioned from the rest of the building with a glass wall and future plans to incorporate retail space, a restaurant and a brewery. The historic, 3,000-square-foot brick cotton gin building was left largely intact with a focus on improving structural support and creating a small addition to the back of the building. Steel, concrete and brick were used throughout the preservation and construction to honor the original architecture. Throughout the process, some items were removed, but most were blended back into the design in another location. For example, when a load bearing wall in the cotton gin building required repair, each brick removed was labeled and reused in repairs on other sections of the building. “A number of artifacts of the buildings past were kept and repurposed like the auger system, which was converted into the mill’s entry signage,” said Alex Bingham, architect and lead designer at Cushing Terrell. Bingham stated that the biggest challenge was updating the property while maintaining the priority of maintaining the historical relevance, a goal the architects accomplished when they, “kept the rusty metal bits and framed them with black steel and glass.” The result is a center that preserves the past while paving a path forward for the community. + Cushing Terrell Photography by Peter Molick via Cushing Terrell

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LEED Gold office in Austin offers wearables to promote employee wellness

October 16, 2020 by  
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The Texas Mutual Insurance Company’s new headquarters in Austin, Texas’s Mueller Development has earned both LEED Gold and Austin Energy Green Building 4-Star certifications in recognition of the building’s energy-efficient design and focus on occupant wellness. Designed by Texan architecture firm  Studio8 Architects , the four-story office building is notable for its adherence to the “Design for Active Occupants” LEED innovation strategy to prioritize a healthy and active workplace as opposed to the traditionally sedentary office environment. Texas Mutual also provides occupants with wearable devices to track activity and employee access to an online portal for evaluating individual health scores and biometric data.  As one of the first members of the Austin Green Business Leaders group, Texas Mutual has used its headquarters as an inspiring example of the firm’s sustainable objectives. The four-story headquarters is strategically located in the LEED ND Gold-certified Mueller neighborhood, a  mixed-use  and mixed-income area that’s pedestrian and bicycle-friendly. The offices sit above ground-floor retail space — currently occupied by a restaurant and daycare facility — and a parking garage. To meet  LEED Gold  standards, architects wrapped the building with a highly insulating envelope punctuated with full-height windows and wove biophilic design elements throughout the interior. Daylight responsive LEDs and an HVAC system that draws chilled water from Austin Energy’s Mueller District Energy System help to further reduce the building’s energy footprint.  Related: SUNY New Paltz Engineering Innovation Hub achieves LEED Gold Natural materials, daylighting and greenery indoors further promote a healthy work environment. Occupant health is also targeted with ergonomic workstations with adjustable sit/stand desks, an on-site gym and a Green Housekeeping program to maintain a clean and non-toxic space. “Social spaces were sporadically placed to encourage movement across floors, a multi-story  green wall , and a courtyard and rooftop terrace with Wi-Fi connection encouraged employees to be connected to each other and to nature,” the architects said. + Studio8 Architects Images by Lars Frazer

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This new cooling technology also prevents viral spread

October 8, 2020 by  
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This new cooling technology also prevents viral spread Gloria Oladipo Thu, 10/08/2020 – 00:40 In the face of dangerous heat waves this summer, Americans have taken shelter in air-conditioned cooling centers . Normally, that would be a wise choice, but during a pandemic, indoor shelters present new risks. The same air conditioning systems that keep us cool recirculate air around us, potentially spreading the coronavirus. “Air conditioners look like they’re bringing in air from the outside because they go through the window, but it is 100 percent recirculated air,” said Forrest Meggers, an assistant professor of architecture at Princeton University. “If you had a system that could cool without being focused solely on cooling air, then you could actually open your windows.” Meggers and an international team of researchers have developed a safer way for people to beat the heat — a highly efficient cooling system that doesn’t move air around. Scientists lined door-sized panels with tiny tubes that circulate cold water. Stand next to a panel, and you can feel it drawing heat away from your body. Unlike air conditioners, these panels can be used with the window open — or even outdoors — making it possible to cool off while also getting some fresh air. This reduces the risk of spreading airborne viruses, such as the coronavirus. “If you look at what the health authorities and governments are saying, the safest place to be during this pandemic is outside,” said Adam Rysanek, an assistant professor of environmental systems at the University of British Columbia who was part of the research effort. “We’re trying to find a way to keep you cool in a heat wave with the windows wide open, because the air is fresh. It’s just that it’s hot.” Cooling panels have been around for a while, but in limited use, because scientists haven’t found a good way to deal with condensation. Like a cold can of Coke on a hot summer day, cooling panels collect drops of water, so they have to be paired with dehumidifiers indoors to stay dry. Otherwise, overhead panels might drip water on people standing underneath. Meggers and his colleagues got around this problem by developing a thin, transparent membrane that repels condensation. This is the key breakthrough behind their cooling technology. Because it stays dry, it can be used in humid conditions, even outdoors. We’re trying to find a way to keep you cool in a heat wave with the windows wide open, because the air is fresh. In air conditioners, a dehumidifier dries out the air to prevent condensation. This component uses an enormous amount of energy, around half of the total power consumed by the air conditioner, researchers said. The new membrane they developed eliminates condensation with no energy cost, making the cooling panels significantly more efficient than a typical AC unit. The research team involved scientists from the University of British Columbia, Princeton, UC Berkeley, and the Singapore-ETH Centre. They published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. “This study demonstrates that we can maintain comfortable conditions for people without cooling all the air around them,” said Zoltan Nagy, an assistant professor of civil engineering at the University of Texas who was not affiliated with the study. “Probably the most significant demonstration of this study is that humans can be provided with comfort in a very challenging thermal environment using a very efficient method.” Researchers developed their technology for use in the persistently hot, muggy climate of Singapore, where avoiding condensation would be particularly difficult. To test their design, they assembled a set of cooling panels into a small tunnel, roughly the size of a school bus. The tunnel, dubbed the “Cold Tube,” sat in a plaza in the United World College of South East Asia in Singapore. Scientists surveyed dozens of people about how they felt after walking through the tunnel. Even as the temperature neared 90 degrees F outside, most participants reported feeling comfortable in the Cold Tube. We can maintain comfortable conditions for people without cooling all the air around them. Scientists said they want to make their technology available to consumers as quickly as possible, for use in homes and offices, or outdoors. Climate change is producing more severe heat , which is driving demand for air conditioners. Researchers hope their cooling panel will offer a more energy-efficient alternative to AC units. If consumers can use less power, that will help cut down on the pollution that is driving climate change. Before they can sell the panels, researchers said they need to make them hardy enough to survive outdoors. The anti-condensation membrane is currently so thin that you could tear it with a pencil, so it must be made stronger. Scientists also need to demonstrate that the panels work efficiently indoors. Hospitals and schools in Singapore already have shown interest in the cooling system. “We know the physics works. Now we need to do one more test so we have a bit more of a commercially viable product,” Rysanek said. “It’s really about trying to get this into people’s hands as quickly as possible.” Pull Quote We’re trying to find a way to keep you cool in a heat wave with the windows wide open, because the air is fresh. We can maintain comfortable conditions for people without cooling all the air around them. Topics HVAC Nexus Media News Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off Cooling panels draw heat away from people standing nearby. Lea Ruefenach Close Authorship

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Trump administration appoints climate change deniers to NOAA

September 28, 2020 by  
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The Trump Administration is set to appoint two people who oppose the mainstream climate science to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) this month. University of Delaware professor David Legates, who has openly questioned the scientific census that human activity drives climate change, has already been named the deputy assistant of commerce for environmental observation. In previous remarks, Legates has argued that carbon emissions are beneficial to the environment. The Trump administration is also ready to appoint meteorologist Ryan Maue as the chief scientist of NOAA. Maue, who runs the site weathermodels.com, has openly criticized both the worst-case scenario climate predictions and the link between fossil fuels and extreme weather events. Speaking to the Washington Post, two NOAA officials confirmed that Maue is being considered for the above position. Related: Biden vs. Trump on environmental issues and climate change “For the second time this month, a person who misrepresents, distorts, and disagrees with climate science is being placed in a science position at NOAA,” Professor Katharine Hayhoe tweeted . Most recently, Maue has spoken out against California governor Gavin Newsom for saying the state’s record-breaking wildfires are connected to climate change. In a tweet, he insinuated that the Democrats are using the weather events to score political points. “Seems the Democrats have coordinated their efforts to use the devastating California fires as an opportunity to score political points in the upcoming election by blaming them solely on climate change (and Trump ),” Maue tweeted. The tweet has since been deleted but is available on The Washington Post . While the new appointees have argued openly against mainstream science, studies show that recent extreme weather events are linked to climate change . Unfortunately, the new appointees would greatly influence the NOAA agenda. “Normally, when people are chosen for high-profile positions relating to climate change, I’ve heard of them. I have no idea who this person is, other than I’ve seen him saying things about climate that are wrong on social media and in op-eds. I suspect that he has the one and only necessary qualification for the job: a willingness to advance the agenda of climate deniers,” tweeted Andrew Dessler , a Texas A&M climate scientist. If climate deniers are put in control of research and policymaking, chances are that much of the efforts that have been made in the past could be eroded. Via EcoWatch and The Washington Post Image via NOAA

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ASOS launches first circular fashion collection

September 28, 2020 by  
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This fall, online retailer ASOS is launching its first collection of circular fashions . A collaboration with the Centre for Sustainable Fashion , the 29 women’s, men’s and unisex styles aim to prove that eco-friendly clothing can also be chic. Circular design refers to a constant recycling loop, with no materials ending up in the landfill. Instead of waste, ASOS aims to create an endless series of new fashions. According to ASOS, each style from the autumn collection meets at least two of these three goals: designing out waste and pollution; keeping products and materials in use; and regenerating natural systems. Related: The Redress Design Award is making sustainable fashion an industry standard To create the new Fall 2020 collection, ASOS designers put together a set of goals. First was to attain a zero-waste collection, or at least to minimize waste. When possible, they chose materials that were already at least partially recycled, yet still durable. The designers also aimed for versatility, so that each garment could be styled in multiple ways. The collection also makes use of upcycling , or turning something old into something new. Using one recyclable material for the entire product, called a mono-material approach, means that at the end of each garment’s life, it will be easier to recycle. The fashions were also created with eventual ease of disassembly in mind. Some of the new collection’s items include oversized dresses, pants, blouses, shoes and denim. Black, white and lavender are some of the line’s recurring colors. The new line is a direct response to ASOS’ promise at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit in 2018 to train its designers in circular design by 2020. In the last two years, ASOS has started a training program in conjunction with the Centre for Sustainable Fashion, which is part of London College of Fashion, to educate all ASOS designers on sustainable fashion principles. + ASOS Image via ASOS

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Birds are dying mid-air possibly due to climate crisis effects

September 17, 2020 by  
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The deaths of thousands of birds in the southwestern U.S. have sparked concern from scientists. This phenomenon has been described as a national tragedy by ornithologists, who suggest that it could be related to the climate crisis. The species of birds affected include flycatchers, warblers and swallows. Bird carcasses have been spotted in numerous places, including New Mexico, Colorado, Texas, Arizona and Nebraska. According to Martha Desmond, a biology professor at New Mexico State University (NMSU), many of the cases show signs of starvation. The carcasses have little remaining fat reserves, and many of the birds appear to have nose-dived into the ground mid-flight. Related: Migratory birds triumph over Trump administration “I collected over a dozen in just a two-mile stretch in front of my house,” Desmond said. “To see this and to be picking up these carcasses and realizing how widespread this is, is personally devastating. To see this many individuals and species dying is a national tragedy.” Many of the birds belonged to a group of long-distance migrants that fly from Alaska and Canada to Central and South America. These birds travel long journeys and have to make several landings for food before they proceed. However, the recent fires across the western states might have made it difficult for the birds to follow their regular route. If the birds moved farther inland to the Chihuahuan desert, they likely struggled to find food and water, leading to starvation. At the same time, the southwestern states have experienced drier conditions than usual, which might have reduced the number of insects on which the birds could feed. Scientists have also discussed the possibility that the wildfires and their accompanying smoke may have harmed the birds’ lungs. “It could be a combination of things. It could be something that’s still completely unknown to us,” said Allison Salas, graduate student at NMSU. “The fact that we’re finding hundreds of these birds dying, just kind of falling out of the sky is extremely alarming. … The volume of carcasses that we have found has literally given me chills.” Via The Guardian Image via Florian Hahn

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Financial models that will get you that on-site microgrid

September 4, 2020 by  
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Financial models that will get you that on-site microgrid Sarah Golden Fri, 09/04/2020 – 01:30 I’ve written about my high hopes for microgrids and my disappointment at the speed of deployment (due in part to COVID-related slowdowns that stalled construction).  But don’t be confused. Like a swimming duck, a lot has been happening with microgrids under the surface. New third-party financing options for microgrids in which the energy offtaker does not own or maintain the asset — known as energy-as-a-service (EaaS) or microgrids-as-a-service (MaaS) — are making microgrids accessible to small businesses with small energy loads, according to a new report from Wood Mackenzie . While not a new structure (EaaS has been around for the better part of a decade), the research shows the market is maturing. Increasingly, financers are investing in small-scale microgrids that are less than 5 megawatts, a size better suited for on-site power generation for, say, medium to large commercial buildings or a mid-sized industrial facility.  This is kind of a big deal, as financial innovations are as important as technological innovations for clean energy technologies to proliferate. Solar is the classic example; it took off once people could get it without upfront costs.  Here are three forces that, together, finally could get you that microgrid you’ve been eyeing.  1. Microgrid portfolios are opening up new financing models Once upon a time, microgrids were bespoke and built on a project-by-project basis. That required legwork by financers to assess the technology risk and business models, which only made sense if the projects were bigger — say, 10-20 MW minimum.  Increasingly, microgrid service providers are selling a portfolio of microgrids — that is, deploying multiple microgrids with similar (if not identical) components at different locations. The homogenization of the microgrid technologies allows investors to streamline due diligence and finance the portfolio in aggregate. Examples include projects at Stop & Shop , which recently announced it will install microgrids at 40 of its grocery stores in Massachusetts using Bloom Energy fuel cells, and H-E-B , which plans to install microgrids at 45 locations in Texas through Enchanted Rock . We’re seeing customers learning what microgrids can do for them fundamentally. “The financer is basically betting that that set of controls and that technology is the same or similar across the portfolio, so they’re able to quantify and manage technology risk,” said Isaac Maze-Rothstein, microgrid analyst at Wood Mackenzie and author of the report, in a phone conversation. Just as beneficial to financers, providers can replicate their microgrid-as-a-service business model for different customers, as Enchanted Rock has done in Texas.  “For the financer, they’re evaluating a single business model across a portfolio of diverse customers,” Maze Rothstein said.  2. Standardization is driving down costs — and increasing investors’ appetite The predictability of the microgrid technologies in a portfolio makes them cheaper to site and install. While bespoke microgrids required on-site construction, the modular microgrids are essentially prefab, ready to be installed when they arrive on site.  As a result, the distributed energy resources (be they renewable, energy storage or fossil-based) are becoming the lion’s share of the capital costs for microgrids. The cost of renewable technologies has fallen precipitously in the last decade and is expected to get cheaper.  The aggregated portfolio of microgrids and lower costs are piquing investors’ interest — and not just the usual suspects, such as utilities.  “You also have infrastructure investors who have historically focused on oil and gas and midstream investments who are looking for above-market returns with the reliability of an infrastructure investment,” Maze-Rothstein said. Because the mass potential size of the new market (companies that want energy reliability, need less than 5 MW and don’t want to pay upfront costs), microgrid supermajors are partnering with investors to roll out projects. Earlier this month, for example, Schneider Electric announced a partnership with Huck Capital to serve commercial buildings. 3. Energy resilience is driving more customers to microgrid as a service model  No PR campaign could have better educated companies on the need for energy resilience than recent extreme weather events. From floods to hurricanes and wildfires, businesses are starting to understand the cost of inaction.  Enter MaaS, which promises resilience without upfront or ongoing costs, a much cheaper option than buying or renting backup generators or interrupting operations. In addition, on-site microgrids can save customers money on electric bills.  “We’re seeing customers learning what microgrids can do for them fundamentally,” Maze-Rothstein said. “Many people, if you’ve lived in California in particular and you’ve had regular power outages of various types, you start looking at resilience options.”  A study from Rocky Mountain Institute shows that businesses affected by last year’s planned power shutoffs in California would have saved money if they had bought solar plus storage outright. With microgrid-as-a-service, customers can get the resilience benefits and not even fork over the cash.  And as more companies hear about these financing options through press releases and news articles (hi!), the more common they will become.  This is in contrast to microgrids owned by the offtaker (such as utilities), which are more often driven by economics and renewable integration.  Pull Quote We’re seeing customers learning what microgrids can do for them fundamentally. Topics Energy & Climate Microgrids Featured Column Power Points Featured in featured block (1 article with image touted on the front page or elsewhere) Off Duration 0 Sponsored Article Off An aerial view of an Enchanted Rock microgrid site. Courtesy of Enchanted Rock Close Authorship

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Global warming could push air conditioning demand up 59%

August 21, 2020 by  
Filed under Business, Green

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An analysis done by Climate Central shows that demand for air conditioning in the U.S. will increase by 59% by the year 2050. According to the study, there has been a continued rise in demand for air conditioners in the U.S. and other parts of the world because of global warming. The study shows that continued greenhouse gas emissions are leading to unpredictable weather patterns in most regions. Regions that were traditionally colder are warming up, and those that are warm are getting hotter. These changes are forcing more people to use air conditioners to regulate home temperatures. The study was based on data collected from 242 U.S. cities. The data tracks down air conditioning usage via a measure known as cooling-degree days (CDD). Cooling-degree days simply refers to the difference between the accepted temperature for human comfort and the daily average temperature. The human body is expected to feel comfortable at 65°F. Any temperature below or above 65°F can lead to discomfort, hence the demand for air conditioning. If a region experiences a daily average temperature of 80°F, the CDD for that location would be 15. Related: Global warming expected to exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius Analysts behind the study have revealed that 96% of the cities in the U.S. have experienced an increase in CDD between 1970 and 2019. Some of the states that have been widely affected by high CDD include Texas, Nevada and Arizona. Higher temperatures are pushing more people to purchase air conditioners. Today, many people use some form of air conditioning to control the temperatures in their homes and offices. Sean Sublette, a meteorologist at Climate Central, said that the average person uses air conditioning to deal with higher temperatures without thinking about climate change , which is only made worse by increased reliance on air conditioners. “When our air conditioning is powered by electricity generated through fossil fuels, heat-trapping CO2 is released,” Climate Central explained. “Air conditioners emit heat back outside and can add to the heat island effect in urban areas. And if old air conditioners are not disposed of properly, they can leak chemicals that are themselves harmful heat-trapping gases.” + Climate Central Via Yale Environment 360 Image via TrioSolution1

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Global warming could push air conditioning demand up 59%

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