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Vauban in Freiburg, Germany

A sustainable town: Vauban, Germany | leading the world in plus-energy green buildings |


Vauban – A Plus-Energy Community

Vauban is an exemplary sustainable town, the greenest town in Europe. A “zero-emission” district in Freiburg, Germany, most energy for buildings in Vauban is sourced from rooftop solar panels.

Energy for Vauban is also supplied by a local municipal bio-natural gas cogeneration plant. Vauban’s electricity is supplied by renewable energy sources, and district heating for Vauban is supplied by their cogeneration plant.

Buildings in Vauban are either passive energy buildings (ultra energy efficient buildings that consume roughly as much energy as they produce), or plus-energy buildings (producing even more energy than they consume). Homes in the Sun Ship (Das Sonnenschiff) are entirely plus-energy buildings. Residents in plus-energy homes in Vauban simply sell excess energy generated by their home or building back to the municipality (for use in other homes in the community), resulting in lower electricity bills.


Vauban’s Urban Planning

Urban planning helped to create a city layout that lends itself to cycling as the primary mode of transit. Vauban’s urban plan is connected streets throughout the town (forming a fused grid), plenty of pedestrian and bike paths, as well as designated lanes for mass transit (filtered permeability). 

Vauban’s streets have minimal parking spaces, with roads designed instead for pedestrians, cyclists, and mass transit. Most Vauban residents don’t own a car, choosing instead to use the tram, cycle, or simply walk. Vauban is not completely emissions-free, as cars are actually allowed (if you pay at least $23,000 USD for a parking spot on the outskirts of town). 

The urban planning strategies of filtered permeability and fused grid were implemented in the design of the municipality of Vauban. Residents primarily live in co-op buildings, such as the Sun Ship.



Vauban
Vauban’s urban planning layout


The radical culture of Vauban has roots in its dramatic history. Ironically, Vauban was a military town through WWII and into the early ’90s. When the military left, the vacant buildings were inhabited by squatters. These people eventually organized Forum Vauban, organizing a revolutionary eco-community. Today, Vauban is modern, beautiful, and represents the very cutting edge of sustainable living.



And, here are the rankings for Green City Times top 10 greenest cities in the world>>>

 

The TOP 10 greenest cities in the world (as determined by Green City Times):

  1. Reykjavik, Iceland  
  2. Vaxjo, Sweden  
  3. Freiburg, Germany 
  4. Vancouver, Canada  
  5. Copenhagen, Denmark  
  6. London, UK 
  7. Curitiba, Brazil 
  8. Portland, Oregon, US 
  9. San Diego, California, US 
  10. Oslo, Norway 
Categories
Energy Efficiency GCT featured articles Renewable Energy

Sustainable Energy Infrastructure

Clean Energy Transition – GREEN Infrastructure


Updating Infrastructure for Developing Renewable Energy in Cities

People-centered smart cities are cropping up worldwide. They only account for 2% of the world’s landmass but are home to most of its population, energy use, and economic activity. 

Cities are adopting modern clean energy technologies to become smarter, and one crucial aspect is renewable energy. Renewables can empower smart cities and help them reach goals they set for themselves. Citizens and the city benefit (as well as the planet’s climate and environment) from using green energy, such as wind and solar, as well as from the multitude of recent sustainable technology innovations currently available.

It’s no secret that relying on fossil fuels is unsustainable — that’s why almost 200 of the world’s countries have joined the Paris Accord intending to limit global warming and reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). 

Here’s how infrastructure will play a crucial role in developing renewable energy in cities, and hopefully in securing the planet’s future –


U.S. Government Aid in the Shift to Renewable Energy

As cities become larger and smarter, the amount of energy they use increases. As a result, governments are stepping in to provide incentives and funding to municipalities looking to shift to renewable energy. Cities are making a shift to all forms of clean energy technology in multiple economic sectors – energy, buildings, transportation, water, etc… – all types of infrastructure.

For example, President Biden’s sustainable infrastructure and social spending plan – the Build Back Better (BBB) plan – originally included $174 billion in spending to focus on the electric vehicle (EV) market, yet another clean energy sector experiencing rapid growth. [The bill actually passed by Congress in 2021 contained a small portion of this funding – see below].

The BBB plan also originally included tax credits to consumers for purchases of EVs, investment in electric school buses, investment in EV charging infrastructure, investment to retool factories and boost the domestic supply of EVs, and more… Additionally, the original BBB plan proposed $100 billion to modernize the country’s electric grid and modernize energy infrastructure across the country.

If the U.S. signs even a scaled-down version of the BBB into law, it would be considered one of the largest federal efforts to curb GHGs. 

However, the BBB plan is ambitious and represents challenging legislation to advance. A small slice of the BBB (roughly 15-20% of the original BBB plan) passed through Congress and was signed by President Biden (in November 2021). This legislation – the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) does include funding for modern infrastructure needs. Although at a much lower funding level than the original BBB proposed, the IIJA invests $550 billion in new spending over five years to bolster the nation’s infrastructure, public mass transit, broadband, water, energy, environmental concerns, EV charging infrastructure, and electric & low-emission school buses.

The IIJA also includes investments in the modernization of U.S. energy grids, clean energy technologies, clean energy infrastructure, and hundreds of billions in additional investments in sustainability this decade. See this link for a full list of IIJA’s investment priorities in transportation infrastructure, water infrastructure, broadband, energy, and environmental concerns). 


Cities worldwide do have some government support in their transition to renewable energy in some cases. In fact, globally, more than 1 billion people live in areas with renewable energy targets or policies. However, there also needs to be more private investment to help build sustainable infrastructure. 


How Cities Can Assess Energy Demand

Cities must first address their current energy usage before implementing renewable power to improve their infrastructure. 

The Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) has many online tools that local and state governments can leverage to better understand their energy consumption. For example, cities can access data that breaks down power usage by:

  • GHGs
  • Electricity and natural gas consumption/expenditures
  • Residential and commercial building stock
  • Fuel consumption, vehicle miles traveled, and registration by fuel type
  • Renewable energy procurement options

The data plays a significant role in helping cities determine their energy usage and shows what areas of consumption need to be reduced. This will lead to government agencies making more strategic decisions regarding renewable implementation. 

Once cities understand their energy usage and the benefits of renewables, they can then focus on planning implementation to make infrastructure more efficient, sustainable, and reliable. 


Updating Crucial Infrastructure Components

What are the crucial components of infrastructure that need to be updated to achieve higher levels of sustainability? Not all of the priority investments of the IIJA are in clean energy infrastructure – for example, large investments in the IIJA are dedicated to repairing roads and bridges (conventional infrastructure). However, the IIJA also invests $7.5 billion for EV charging infrastructure, $2.5 billion for electric school buses, and $2.5 billion for low-emission school buses.

Here is a brief list of just a few vital infrastructure items (some of which are investments in the IIJA law, some of which are in the original BBB plan, as well as a couple of novel ideas for sustainable investment) –

Electric Grid

In the next few years, cities will have to update the power grid to prepare for a net-zero future. Strengthening and modernizing the electric grid means cities will face fewer disruptions. Increasing resiliency has to be a top priority for cities across the country. 

Here are some of the ways the electric grid can improve over time and with proper funding:

  • Employing microgrids to strengthen resilience
  • Recording demand response from grid customers
  • Enacting smart metering
  • Updating grid hardware
  • Using grid energy storage devices

Water Systems

Water and power are intimately connected, but what role does water play in power generation? It generates energy because it’s used by thermoelectric power plants and refining and processing fossil fuels. Plants and refineries use large quantities of water to operate. For this reason, and for the benefit of public health, sustainable purification systems can help lessen these large water footprints.

Cities will have to invest in efficient water infrastructure to reach sustainability initiatives throughout all socioeconomic sectors, so that all of society benefits.

(Novel sustainable energy infrastructure ideas for -) Highways

State and local highway departments have many responsibilities, from plowing roads during snowstorms to taking on major repairs or replacement projects. A significant amount of electricity is needed to power them efficiently. Think about the roadway signs, lights, rest stops, and maintenance buildings. All these factors increase energy consumption. 

Some state departments of transportation (DOTs) have implemented solar in highway rights-of-way (ROW) to offset electricity costs and consumption. Additionally, the Federal Highway Administration has supported the move for state agencies to adopt renewable energy to power highways. Improving roadways will be crucial when developing renewable energy in cities.


Moving Toward a Sustainable Future

Cities must carefully plan the implementation of renewable energy sources to be more sustainable. The most important factor to consider is updating infrastructure. 

Cities, states, and federal government agencies must work together to update the various aspects of infrastructure that will make cities more sustainable. It will certainly be interesting to see how municipalities use their resources to transition to renewables to sustain current and future demands.



Article by Jane Marsh

Author bio:

Jane works as an environmental and energy writer. She is also the founder and editor-in-chief of

Environment.co



 

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All Posts Climate Change Green City Times green city Net Zero Sustainability News

COP21 – good news for the planet

Paris Climate Accord, and New Net Zero Targets |


NDCs and Net Zero Pledges

At COP21, commonly referred to as the Paris Climate Accord, nations sent representatives to pledge greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) reduction targets (also known as Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs). At the annual Conference of the Parties (COP) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), national dignitaries & diplomats from every UNFCCC member nation convene to assess and calibrate their NDCs.

The first concrete NDCs by UNFCCC member nations were made at the COP21 in Paris 2015, and have since evolved with the latest scientific guidance from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC); ideally to the most ambitious GHG reduction pledge a nation can possibly make – a carbon neutrality pledge (net zero GHGs).

In order to FULLY participate in the Paris Climate Accord, EVERY member nation to the UNFCCC must submit Intended Nationally Determined Contributions of GHG reduction pledges for their country;. These pledges must be approved by the UNFCCC, and then pledges turn into official Nationally Determined Contributions.

NDCs are encouraged by the UN to get increasingly ambitious each time they are submitted; and especially every 5 years, when every UNFCCC member is required to submit revised NDCs. Based on the latest scientific guidance from the IPCC, now many nations have net zero (carbon neutrality) targets in addition to their NDC.

As climate science has evolved over the last few years, GHG reduction targets have become more ambitious; and this is reflected in ambitious targets such as the European Union’s pledge to cut carbon emissions to 55% of 1990 levels by 2030; on its way to net zero by 2050. President Biden has pledged that the United States will have 100% carbon free energy on its electric grids by 2035; on its path to net zero.

Many developed nations, including the EU group of countries, the US, the UK, other European nations & Japan, have set ambitious targets to reach net zero GHG emissions by 2050; China has set their net zero target date at 2060.

The Paris Climate Accord is not legally binding, so actual binding NDCs must originate from national, state, and regional, governments (when not put forward by a national government, but rather by state or regional governments; these commitments are simply referred to as GHG reduction pledges, or carbon reduction pledges).

In the case of the EU,  NDC targets and net zero targets are codified into law by legislation that is passed by the European Commission. Several European governments have also independently passed ambitious climate legislation including NDCs and net zero targets.

The United States federal government has the executive commitment of President Biden to ambitious climate pledges (as of 2021), but Congress hasn’t yet passed legislation committing to NDCs or a net zero target like the EU (as well as several European nations independently).

However, individual states (such as California and several others) have passed GHG reduction targets and net zero targets state-wide; through State Congresses as binding legislation. It is expected that all NDC and net zero commitments that the Chinese national government makes, will be codified into legally binding law in China. In fact, over 100 countries worldwide have joined an alliance aiming for net zero emissions by 2050

China has set its net zero target for 2060; and soon thereafter, the US committed to net zero by 2050 (historically, China & the US are the 2 biggest emitters of GHGs); and both of these net zero commitments followed the earlier European carbon neutrality pledges. China set their net zero target in September 2020; while the US net zero pledge was made by President Biden upon taking office, in January 2021.

These net zero pledges represent ambitious goals to keep global warming well below 2°C (that’s 2°C rise above pre-industrial global temperature averages), and ideally to 1.5°C this century; making good on the latest IPCC climate targets. Here is a map from BloombergNEF with countries’ various degrees of progress to net zero:

Map of Global Net-Zero Progress from BloombergNEF

COP21 – The Paris Climate Accord

On December 12, 2015, high-level representatives from 197 nations, including many presidents and prime ministers, agreed to try to hold global warming “well below” 2 °C above pre-industrial temperatures. Clean and renewable energy targets, energy efficiency technologies for nations and industries, concerted efforts in green building, and sustainable mass transit; are among many means the UNFCC advises nations to invest in to help create a more sustainable planet. On November 4, 2016, the agreement took full effect (once nations representing a majority of the planet’s GHG emissions signed the agreement).

Unfortunately, the truth is that, even if the original Paris Climate Accord is carried out by every nation, and to the letter, global temperatures will still be on course to rise by around 2.7-3.1°C by the end of the century. Thus, the need for more ambitious GHG reduction pledges; ideally national commitments to net zero emissions, are necessary. Every world nation (with a few exceptions), UNFCC members, originally signed the agreement, and 190 have ratified and pledged NDCs.



The Breakthrough Energy Coalition

Breakthrough – The Paris Climate Accord did produce lasting positive momentum for global action on climate change. Arguably, the best news of the entire COP21 came on Day 1 of COP21, with the announcement of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition (breakthroughenergy.com). The Breakthrough Energy Coalition, known as Breakthrough Energy Ventures (BEV), is a group of more than 20 billionaires started by Bill Gates (including Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Mark Zuckerberg {CEO of Facebook}, and others), who have organized to invest substantial sums in innovative clean energy.

The Coalition wouldn’t be able to fund and meet all of its goals without the most important international commitment by governments to invest in clean energy to date; Mission Innovation. Mission Innovation (mission-innovation.net) is a group of 20 countries including the U.S., Brazil, China, Japan, Germany, France, Saudi Arabia, and South Korea; who have pledged to double government investment in clean energy innovation and to be transparent about its clean energy research and development efforts. In a statement from BEV, the importance of both groups is highlighted –

“THE WORLD NEEDS WIDELY AVAILABLE ENERGY that is reliable, affordable and does not produce carbon. The only way to accomplish that goal is by developing new tools to power the world. That innovation will result from a dramatically scaled up public research pipeline linked to truly patient, flexible investments committed to developing the technologies that will create a new energy mix. The Breakthrough Energy Coalition is working together with a growing group of visionary countries who are significantly increasing their public research pipeline through the Mission Innovation initiative to make that future a reality.”   – quote from The Breakthrough Energy Coalition


The High Ambition Coalition

The High Ambition Coalition (HAC) is a group of over 40 developing countries formed by UNFCCC members determined to create an equitable distribution of responsibility for ambitious climate action, and a fair distribution of UN clean energy resources; fairer distribution among poorer nations and richer, developed, industrialized nations. The HAC initially included smaller, poorer nations such as the Marshall Islands, the nation that originally formed the HAC.

“The Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) formed the High Ambition Coalition in run-up negotiations at the UNFCCC to the Paris Agreement in 2015, helping to secure key elements of the deal, including the 1.5°C temperature goal, the net zero global emissions pathway by the second half of the century, and a five-year cycle for updating mitigation contributions.

Since then, the HAC has worked to realize the promises of the Paris Agreement it came together to deliver. The work has accelerated and expanded in scope, driving forward ambitious global climate action. And the science has only become clearer since Paris, underscoring the imperative of keeping global temperature increase to 1.5°C if we are to avert the most severe impacts of climate change.”   quote from – highambitioncoalition.org/work

Main contributions by the HAC include the ambitious target of 1.5°C, and the 5-year cycle for UNFCC members to submit revised pledges. COP26 in Glasgow is the first such mandatory revision of nationally determined contributions to GHG reduction, as 2015 was a low-profile virtual meeting due to COVID-19.

The European Union is the highest-profile, and richest, group of nations to join the HAC. The HAC consists mostly of developing nations; such as Mexico, Argentina, Costa Rica, and Ethiopia; and smaller, developing island-nations such as Jamaica and Fiji. With Canada joining the HAC in September 2020, the HAC is comprised of over 40 nations; but the focus of the coalition remains equity for developing nations in the Paris Climate Accord’s future dealings.

Historically, since larger, richer nations have profited from industrialization at the expense of the global climate; the responsibility for climate change is greater for developed nations, and these nations should bear more of the financial burden stemming from the global transition from fossil fuels to clean energy.



Current Climate Policies Projection

How are current climate policies worldwide, current GHG reduction targets (nationally determined contributions), going to actually reduce global GHGs as world nations try to achieve net zero GHGs (carbon neutrality) in order to stop global warming? This chart, from Climate Action Tracker (CAT), models current climate policy outcomes, as well as optimistic net zero targets, to 2100>>>

Current climate policies vs. optimistic net zero targets – CAT

Below are some major resources for more information on the COP21:

COP21 Paris – breakdown of the event

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All Posts GCT featured articles Green City Times green city Renewable Energy Sustainability News

Renewable Energy – Breakthroughs in Wind Energy

Latest trends in global wind turbine technology


Onshore Wind Farms – Cheap and Clean Energy |

Onshore wind farms now provide the least expensive form of energy, renewable or non-renewable, once the wind farm is fully constructed and operational. Among energy sources used to power a municipal grid, wind farms also have the lowest greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs), and the lowest carbon footprint, of ANY energy source (given the complete lifecycle of the energy source).


Recent breakthroughs in wind turbines

Investment of research & development in wind turbines has recently made wind turbines more efficient, helped to drive down costs due to technological advancements of new wind turbines, and helped to put wind energy on a stronger footing to out-compete coal and natural gas. Breakthroughs in wind technology include the production of increasingly larger wind turbines.

Turbines are increasingly made from stronger, lighter composite materials such as carbon fiber or composite materials. New wind turbines are being produced with an increased use of strong, light, corrosion-resistant composite materials for wind turbine blade, tower, and foundation structure construction.

Recent developments in wind turbines include such technological advancements as lasers pinpointing the direction of the wind. Lasers are used so that turbine blades can optimize their productive capacity by automatically adjusting their position. Here’s a brief summary of recent wind turbine optimizations:

As towers get taller, turbine blades get longer, which helps catch more wind. By turning to lighter, stronger materials, such as carbon fiber or advanced fabrics (the same composite materials used for next-generation aircraft), turbines can spin and generate power at lower speeds.

Today’s turbines have sensors and precision controllers, which constantly tweak the blade position to optimize the use of the wind energy and provide information to wind farm operators. The orientation of each turbine blade is continuously adjusted as well. Intelligent controllers expose more of the blade to capture the most wind…

Improvements in weather forecasting are also increasing the output from wind farms. Accurate wind forecasts can increase the power dispatch…by having a better grip on the wind’s intermittent nature.”   FROM –  windenergy.org.nz/improvements-in-technology


Modern Wind Turbines – Bigger and Better

Advancements in blade design of new wind turbine blades optimize performance by maximizing energy production capacity, optimizing the flow of wind turbine blades, and decreasing drag. Many new wind turbines on the global market are also manufactured with an increased length of wind turbine blades.

New wind turbines also have increased power generating capacity, compared to wind turbines produced last decade. GE recently unveiled a 12 MW offshore wind turbine (now being developed as 12,13, or even 14 MW units)- the Haliade-X. The Haliade-X is being developed for use in new European offshore wind farm projects, and offshore wind farms in the US as well.


How Do New Wind Turbines Address the Intermittency Issue?

Two types of technologies in particular address intermittency of wind; as well as energy storage concerns, factors which have held wind back in the past. Industrial smart systems in new, advanced tech wind farms send data to wind farm operators, allowing operators to predict wind strength, times of stronger wind activity, and wind direction. With these smart systems, turbine operators can program optimal position for turbines based on the forecasted wind speed, time, and direction.

In addition, renewable energy storage technologies store excess electricity when more energy is produced by the wind than what is needed. Energy storage is needed with wind farm in order to feed energy back into the grid when the wind slows down, or the wind stops blowing for a time.


Here is a snippet from Bloomberg Green on the new GE Haliade-X wind turbine, as well as other large wind turbines now in development-

“Since GE debuted its own 12-megawatt Haliade-X turbine in March 2018, the machine has racked up numerous orders, including for the world’s biggest offshore wind farm that will be built off the coast of England [specifically for Dogger Bank C, the 1.2GW third phase of the 3.6GW Dogger Bank Wind Farm), and cut into the business that’s been dominated by Siemens Gamesa and to a lesser extent by MHI Vestas Offshore Wind A/S.

The Siemens Gamesa [14-megawatt] turbine, which the company’s calling SG 14-222 DD, will be ready for a prototype in 2021 and commercially available in 2024. With the new machine cutting off GE’s claim on the world’s biggest windmill, Siemens Gamesa will be well positioned to solidify its position as the market leader.”   FROM –  bloomberg.com/battle-over-world-s-biggest-wind-turbine-is-heating-up



Related wind energy articles>>>

windpowerengineering.com/new-advances-in-wind-turbine-components

bbc.com/is-wind-powers-future-in-deep-water

nesgt.com/what-does-the-future-of-wind-turbine-technology-look-like-for-engineers


Please also see:

Amazon wind farms


London Array – paving the way for efficient offshore wind energy farms


Anholt Offshore Wind Farm — Denmark’s most powerful source of renewable energy


The Block Island Wind Farm – America’s 1st operational offshore wind farm


carbon farming carbon footprint carbon neutral carbon neutrality carbon pricing carbon tax clean energy Clean Power Plan climate change climate solutions cogeneration Conference of the Parties cover crops e-bikes electric vehicles energy energy efficiency energy star Freiburg global warming green building greenhouse gas emissions hydrogen hydrogen fuel cells Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change LEED nationally determined contributions net zero greenhouse gas emissions nuclear energy Paris Climate Accord recycling renewable energy reverse osmosis smart grid smart meter solar sources of renewable energy sustainability sustainable agriculture sustainable mass transit United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change urban planning waste-to-energy waste management zero-waste

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All Posts Climate Change Green City Times green city Net Zero

Shortfall in International GHG Reduction Pledges

Shortfall in International NDCs |


Is the World Going to Meet its Climate Targets?

There is a substantial shortfall between GHG emission reduction pledges that almost 200 countries have made, and global climate reality. Worldwide, almost 200 countries have set climate targets – independently, and internationally all member-nations of the UNFCCC* have recommended targets.

The international pledges are known as nationally determined contributions (NDCs)  – and can be compared to UN recommendations. The international NDCs made at the Paris Climate Accord represent a problematic shortfall compared to the reality of what greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) the planet has in store for its future. [*UNFCCC is the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change]

At the same time, there is also a genuine, continuing effort by the world’s countries to try to limit global temperature rise to below 2° Celsius average global temperature increase (above pre-industrial era global temperature averages) by the end of this century. 2° C is the number that represents saving the planet from the worst effects of climate change.

The UNFCCC advises all world governments that a reduction in global GHGs (NDCs) by 7.6% annually for the next decade is required to meet the ambitious 1.5°C Paris target (see below).



What Measures are Needed to Reach Climate Targets?

In order to prevent the most damaging effects of climate change, the international community has pledged (both in the COP21 at Paris, and in subsequent years) to increase the use of such sustainability technologies like renewable energy and energy efficiency measures; while simultaneously decreasing fossil fuel use, in order to mitigate GHGs…emissions which lead to global temperature rise.

The idea is to keep global temperature rise to well under 2°C (compared to historical values, usually mid-19th century) by the end of this century. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) advises that world nations must increase ambition/ investment in clean & renewable energy, energy efficiency, clean transportation, and green building, in order to keep global warming well below 2°C this century. **The ambitious recommended IPCC limit to global warming is for the world to stay to no more than 1.5°C temperature rise above pre-industrial average global temperatures this century. Global average temperatures are already over 1° increase; using scientifically accepted metrics of measuring global temperature rise to assess the last 150-170 years; thus 1.5° is rapidly approaching.


Global Warming Reality vs. Paris Pledges

The reality is that the average global temperature rise will likely be significantly greater than what was promised at Paris – barring concerted, ambitious climate action by the international community. A 4.1-4.8°C degrees rise in average global temperatures would result if the world simply maintains the status quo. The world is thankfully not simply going to maintain the status quo in reality. This is evidenced by progressive net zero targets by the US and China (among many other nations), and best exemplified by ambitious climate action by the EU and especially Northern European countries.

The Paris pledges, as well as actions by nations, industries, and private investors, after COP21, demonstrate a genuine global effort. This global effort to reach climate goals involves the research, development, and effective use of sustainable low- or zero-emissions technologies and measures. Of course, this is great, but global temperature rise is still projected to be over the global temperature goals committed to in Paris.

In other words, a 2+°C change over the acceptable 2°C limit by the end of this century will result even if all pledges by all countries are actually met. Even in this somewhat positive scenario (and in the realistic best-case scenarios), as of now, there is still a shortfall – this NYTimes interactive piece clearly illustrates this problem — for the original 2015 NYTimes interactive click>>> http://tinyurl.com/gct333

If all nearly 200 nations keep all of their promises from COP21, global temperature rise will be limited to just 0.035°C (0.063°F) annually (best case). Even if every government on the planet that participated in COP21 keeps every Paris promise, reduces GHG emissions as promised, and shifts no emissions to other countries; and also keeps these emission reductions going throughout the rest of the century – the average projected global temperature rise will be kept to just 3°C (5.4°F) by the year 2100.

United States Future Climate Ambition

Obama’s Clean Power Plan, his moratorium on drilling for oil in the Atlantic, the U.S.’s 3-year moratorium on building coal mines on federal land represented progress on climate goals that was, and still is, the best hope for America to do its part. Now that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are the new United States President and Vice President; and Democrats are in charge of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, the United States will rejoin the international community focused on climate action. Progressive action on climate will be legislated and, in some cases, mandated, both nationally and state-by-state.

First and foremost, this means rejoining the Paris Climate Accord; and working to achieve the latest global decarbonization goals of the International Panel on Climate Change. Relevant U.S Environmental, Energy, and Climate executive administration agencies are now focused on action for sustainability agendas.

The United States government is also poised to invest substantially in clean energy infrastructure, clean energy job development, environmental protections, and in many other significant sustainable climate, energy, environmental, and economic/job growth US sectors. For a complete list of the latest GCT recommended US climate priorities, including ambitious priorities such as carbon neutrality for the U.S. by 2050 – please see – Permanent ban on new coal mines and other sustainability priorities for the United States.

The Rest of The World

China looking to shut down older coal power plants is a very positive sign. Promising signs include the global increased development and use of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies. Energy transition progress is also seen in substantial increases in electric vehicles in Northern European nations, Asia, and much of the both the developed and developing world. Europe has been leading the way on ambitious climate action for many years.

European nations are independently setting ambitious net zero goals of 2050 (or even sooner in a couple cases). The European Union passed legislation that also targets net zero GHG emissions by 2050,. Even before President Biden announced a net zero by 2050 target for the United States, China set a net zero target of 2060.

However, optimism, in the face of the undeniable math of GHG reduction targets, reality, and the true effort it will take to reach ambitious climate goals, such as carbon neutrality by 2050; clearly tells us more needs to be done.



Green City Times is a resource on sustainability, urban planning, renewable energy, sustainable mass transportation, energy efficiency and green building. Find facts on renewable energy including: hydroelectric (from dams, mills, waves, currents and tides), solar, wind, geothermal, biomass (and biofuel). Also get info. about everything from recycling to clean coal…Green City Times also features articles on the latest sustainability technology. 

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Breakthroughs in Solar Photovoltaic (PV) and Solar Thermal Technology

SHINING Future of Solar


Solar – the most abundant renewable energy on the planet |

Recently there have been dramatic breakthroughs in solar energy that will help advance the mainstream use of photovoltaic (PV) technology. Here is a guide on top solar companies as well as in-depth explanations of various solar projects. This guide offers different recommendations depending on what solar services are needed (comparing cost, customer satisfaction data, and technology).

Recent technological advancements are bringing solar PV down to a more affordable cost. In the case of utility-scale PV (solar farms), solar energy is at an even lower cost: cheaper when compared to fossil fuel energy (given an ideal location for the solar farm).

Breakthroughs in solar are not limited to PV, there are also breakthroughs in solar thermal technologies (CSP towers, solar parabolics, solar water heaters). Solar is the most abundant energy source available on the planet and is steadily dropping in cost while rising in efficiency.

A key development that will enable the widespread use of solar is the production of cells using less expensive, and readily available materials. Silicon has traditionally been the preferred material for PV, however, cadmium telluride, among other PV cell materials, is now also used to produce PV cells as flexible thin-film cells or brittle crystalline structures. These materials are used to produce highly efficient, low-cost cells with far fewer raw materials needed.

Advanced solar PV technology, along with nano PV, is found in utility-scale thin-film solar farms, as well as most modern solar PV farms, rooftop PV, and solar arrays of every size.

Nano solar cell

Nano PV

Nano PV cells result in much more compact, thinner, more efficient solar panels. Nanotechnologies in PV with from 4 to 7 times (or more) the efficiency of standard photovoltaic cells are in the R&D phase today, with limited commercial availability. 

However, there are nano and alternative material PV cells with substantially higher efficiency than the traditional standard in the solar market (double to triple the efficiency of common solar cells that have typically had up to 19% efficiency). 

The solar arrays now being produced could be exponentially improved with the development, refinement, and implementation of nanotechnology. For more information on materials used to make modern solar cells, please see Renewable Energy: Solar.


Solar Thermal |

In addition to advancements in traditional photovoltaic technology, there have been exponential advancements in the field of solar thermal energy. Instead of simply converting energy from the sun into electricity as with PV, solar thermal technology uses energy from the sun to heat water, molten salt, or another working fluid. That heated liquid produces steam, which drives a generator to create electricity. Solar thermal represents an advancement in solar energy with 4 to 5 times the power density of PV.

Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System

CSP

Concentrated solar power (CSP) systems are examples of large-scale solar thermal projects. CSP solar tower generators consist of a central solar energy collector positioned on a tower (solar power tower) and used to concentrate solar energy in order to heat a working fluid. The concentrated solar power is beamed solar power tower from thousands of mirrors (heliostats). Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System is a good example of a successful large-scale CSP tower operation. Some of the most promising new projects in the world of solar power are in CSP.

solar dish, solar trough, and CSP tower

Solar Parabolics

Another type of solar thermal energy system is a parabolic solar installation. Solar parabolic systems consist of solar dishes and troughs; and are used as grid-scale energy generators, as well as for large-scale energy storage. Additionally, other solar thermal technologies have found great use in the emerging field of thermal energy storage (see Science Direct link). See this link for a detailed description of the various types of solar thermal systems touched on in this article, and more on solar thermal storage using molten salt; as well as more on solar water heating systems – sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/solar-thermal-storage


Solar water heaters

Another commercially successful application of solar power is the solar-powered water heater. Solar-powered water heaters are mandatory in most new residential buildings and homes in the country of Israel, and now, in the state of Hawaii. Some of the other new applications of solar thermal energy include power generation and solar space heating, as well as solar water heating; in industrial buildings, schools, hospitals, and even in remotely situated buildings.


Both types of solar energy (PV and solar thermal) will continue to steadily lessen in cost as technological advancements are made. However, photovoltaic is projected to remain ahead of thermal in terms of cost of production and utilization. Solar thermal does have a couple of advantages that compensate for the higher cost. Solar thermal energy is produced consistently throughout the day, not relying on weather conditions. as the turbine will run on natural gas if there is no sun for an extended period of time. Solar thermal units fit easily with power storage systems and will continue to produce energy at night, using energy harnessed during the day.


Dropping cost of solar

This chart illustrates the future trend of dropping costs for solar, to a level much lower than fossil fuel energy. Solar energy is already cheaper than all fossil fuel energy for utility-scale thin-film solar PV farms in many locations ideal for solar.

 

At the end of 2019, solar produced just over 2% of global electricity. The chart above tells us that after two more doublings, when 2,400 GW of solar are producing roughly 8% of current electricity demand, solar costs (of the most recently built built & operational projects) will have dropped in half from today’s levels. In the sunny parts of the world with low costs of capital, labor, and land, we could routinely be seeing unsubsidized solar in the 1-2 cent range. In California (typical of the green line) we could be seeing unsubsidized solar at 2.5 cents per kwh. In northern Europe, we could be seeing utility scale solar routinely priced at 4-5 US cents per kwh.  FROM  –  rameznaam.com/solars-future-is-insanely-cheap-2020


Related links on solar energy:

understandingnano.com/solarcells

grist.org/solar-power/harnessing-the-suns-energy-for-water-and-space-heating

Here’s a snippet from a BBC article titled A breakthrough approaches for solar power about the rising efficiency of solar cells, and growing use of solar worldwide>>>

“Today’s average commercial solar panel converts 17-19% of the light energy hitting it to electricity. This is up from 12% just 10 years ago. But what if we could boost this to 30%? More efficient solar cells mean we could get much more than today’s 2.4% of global electricity supply from the sun.

Solar is already the world’s fastest growing energy technology. Ten years ago, there were only 20 gigawatts of installed solar capacity globally – one gigawatt being roughly the output of a single large power station. By the end of last year, the world’s installed solar power had jumped to about 600 gigawatts.”   FROM –  bbc.com/May2020

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Economy vs. the Environment

GREEN, Healthy Environment = GREEN, Healthy Economy


Economic growth does not have to come at the expense of the environment. Sustainable technologies (such as renewable energy, energy efficiency, sustainable mass transit, electric vehicles) are also extremely beneficial to the economy. For example, the renewable energy industry employs over 500,000 people in the United States. The coal industry is responsible for under 90,000 jobs in the US. In addition, the cost of renewable energy, like solar and wind, is lower than coal (especially when looking at the levelized cost of energy), as depicted in this chart:

(chart from: wind-and-solar-are-our-cheapest-electricity-generation-sources-now; and also see: lazards-levelized-cost-of-energy)


GREEN Growth

A good example of eco-environmental sustainable growth can be seen clearly at the national level. Economic growth is beneficial and necessary for both industrialized and developing nations; as modernization (cities, national infrastructure, vital services, etc…) significantly improves the quality of peoples’ lives.

Unfortunately, most global economic growth historically has only been possible with the exploitation of natural resources. Historically, this exploitation of natural resources has been in land (as in exploitation of forests. wilderness), water (e.g. oceans, rivers, lakes), and especially fossil fuels (gas, coal, and oil for energy, oil/ petrochemicals for manufacturing).

Today, this exploitation of natural resources is no longer necessary to achieve growth; sustainable technologies are abundant, efficient, and affordable (such as renewable energyenergy efficiency technologies, sustainable mass transitelectric vehicles, etc…).

The global sustainability movement best represents the current global modernization movement; as evidenced by increased global investment in, and increased innovation of, clean energy technologies. In addition to the lower cost of, and increased efficiency of, clean energy technologies, the clean energy is the fastest growing segment of the US economy for job growth.


Please see: Renewable Energy JOBS are UP; and RE cost is down


Efficiency of sustainable technologies

Modern, 21st-century sustainability technologies are simply more energy-efficient and cost-efficient than their 20th-century fossil-fuel-intensive counterparts; as evidenced by hybrid and electric vehicles (EVs). EVs and hybrids get greater MPGs with greater fuel efficiency; providing much more savings (and responsible environmental safety as well), than all transportation options relying on more polluting vehicles running only on internal combustion engines (ICE vehicles).

EVs generate much less CO2 and other GHGs than ICE vehicles; especially when EVs are charged with electricity from a municipal grid powered with low-carbon energy sources. There’s also savings on maintenance costs, in addition to savings on fuel and much lower emissions, with EVs and hybrids compared to ICE vehicles (even when an EV is more expensive to purchase than a similar ICE vehicle); as illustrated in this chart comparing the total cost of ownership for a Chrysler Pacifica plug-in hybrid (PHEV) vs. ICE equivalent minivan:

PHEV vs ICE vehicle – total cost of ownership


The significantly greater long-term, sustained economic benefits of, and opportunities provided by, modern, sustainable technologies are true for every technology that uses clean energy instead of dirty fossil fuels. The economy grows more as companies’ carbon footprints are reduced, fewer natural resources are used, the environment is treated with care; and more efficient products, as well as sustainable jobs, are developed.

Economic growth only TRULY happens (long-term) with sustainable technologies, which promote both economic growth AND environmental protections. If the economy has boom cycles due to environmental deregulations which allow coal, oil, gas, and petrochemical companies to avoid best environmental practices – how is that not counter-productive and a negative strategy overall?


Economic costs of unsustainable energy

Let’s say one person in the community gets wealthy due to loosening regulations on fossil fuel development, while another deals with damage due to the same deregulation. For example, in the case of a mishap in fracking or drilling when there are deregs allowing for booming fossil fuel business, but also causing destruction due to lax environmental standards. This is seen in: us-oklahoma-drilling-blast/five-missing-after-oklahoma-oil-and-gas-drilling-site-explosion.

The costs (negative externalities; costs to public health and the environment) of damage due to fossil fuels are increasing; costs of repair, cost of clean-up for environmental pollution, and/ or medical costs due deregulation & increased pollution (not to mention loss of life and personal injury in fossil fuel development and production), global warming, less clean water, air, land etc…

These costs associated ONLY with fossil fuels and NOT with renewable energy, increase when environmental deregulations continue to be given to what should be highly regulated fossil fuel industries. The federal, state, and private resources required to deal with the many problems associated with the deregulated fossil fuel industry offset any short-term economic gains. With clean energy and energy efficiency job growth and economic investment there is sustained long-term growth, without the abundance of negative externalities that come with fossil fuels.


Sustainable economic growth

Isn’t it a better idea to focus on a sustainable social business growth model vs. analyzing adjusted gains due to continual subsidies to fossil fuel companies; and deregulating industry to help fossil fuel intensive companies in the stock market? 10% of the richest Americans own 84% of all stocks in the stock market.  A much better indicator of economic health is the job market, and, in fact: jobs in clean energy are up to 10 times higher than jobs in fossil fuel industries.

For example, take this chart which compares US jobs in solar (& wind energy) v. jobs in fossil fuels (& nuclear):


Job opportunity is much more focused on the clean energy sector than fossil fuels- see: The United States green economy now employs 10 times more people than the fossil fuel industry



An article from the Earth Institute of Columbia University looks at the need for combining the ideas of environmental sustainability and economic growth. Here, the author specifically examines the economic opportunities created with environmental regulations>>>

“There are political and business leaders who do not care if economic growth causes environmental damage and there are environmental advocates who do not believe you can have economic growth without causing environmental damage. In a New York Times piece on the climate and economics discussions at Davos, Mark Landler and Somini Sengupta reported that:

Critics pointed to a contradiction that they said the corporate world had been unable to resolve: how to assuage the appetite for economic growth, based on gross domestic product, with the urgent need to check carbon emissions. “It’s truly a contradiction,” said Johan Rockström, director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research. “It’s difficult to see if the current G.D.P.-based model of economic growth can go hand-in-hand with rapid cutting of emissions,” he said.”

I find this dialogue a little amazing since it completely ignores the history of America’s success in decoupling the growth of GDP and the growth of environmental pollution. This fact of American environmental and economic life began around 1980, a decade after the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and continues today. It’s really quite simple: with public policies ranging from command-and-control regulations to direct and indirect government subsidies, businesses and governments developed and applied technologies that reduced pollution while allowing continued economic growth…

Environmental protection itself contributes to economic growth.”     FROM –  blogs.ei.columbia.edu/economic-growth-environmental-sustainability

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Carbon tax – a levy on pollution whose time has come

Defining effective carbon taxes

A carbon tax is a levy in countries and regions on: fossil fuel power plants, oil refineries, and/or industries, and/or companies; that use fossil fuels (tax applies directly), or on those that consume energy-intensive goods and services that depend on fossil fuel energy generation (the tax applies indirectly); and emit carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) in the process. An indirect consequence of carbon taxes may ultimately be higher prices for energy and gasoline/ diesel. The relationship between a carbon tax and higher energy prices is arbitrary, as it’s up the the fossil fuel company whether to raise prices for the end-use consumer, take financial losses as a result of the tax, or use more renewable energy and energy efficiency measures to lower CO2 output and thus lower the applicable carbon tax. A carbon tax puts a price on carbon for (at least some of) the cost to humanity and the planet of the use of fossil fuels. The cost of carbon dioxide emissions produced with the burning of fossil fuels is also known as the social cost of carbon. Carbon-intensive industries that could be in carbon tax systems include: fossil fuel power plants (always in carbon tax systems), and/ or industries and companies such as fossil fuel intensive product manufacturing companies, and/ or cement and steel manufacturing, and/or transportation sectors that rely on fossil fuel energy.

This cost cannot be tabulated in exact terms, for it’s the accumulated cost of the damages of the burning of fossil fuels to the environment, damages from climate change, damages to human health, and related costs (negative externalities) of the use of fossil fuels that can only be estimated. The carbon tax itself can be seen as an added fee on the production and distribution of fossil fuels,. The government sets a price per ton on carbon, and then that translates into a tax on oil, coal, and natural gas. This does usually mean higher prices for the end-use consumer for things like gas and electricity, due to higher costs for production and distribution of fossil fuels, and fossil fuel-intensive products and services; in the case of top-down industry carbon taxes.

Businesses and utilities who face a carbon tax then have the incentive to invest more in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and other GHG reducing technologies (such as carbon capture); to try and lower their applicable carbon taxes. Another option would be for companies facing a carbon tax to maintain the market price for their goods and services set prior to implementation of the tax, and absorb the cost of the tax. Yet another option, and along with companies’ making an effort to produce cleaner energy, this is a commonly implemented option; higher prices due to carbon taxes may result in higher prices to end-consumers (the carbon tax simply gets passed on to the consumer, allowing the company to keep profits from lowering). Individual consumers then have the incentive to reduce consumption of fossil fuels and fossil fuel-intensive products subject to carbon taxes, switch to electric vehicles and renewable energy (thus avoiding higher prices stemming from the carbon tax), and increase their energy efficiency habits. Revenue from carbon taxes can, in some cases, go to energy efficiency measures, sustainable transportation, renewable energy, and other clean energy projects.

The revenue from carbon taxes can also simply be distributed or refunded to the public through tax rebates or payroll tax reductions (revenue-neutral carbon taxes). With revenue-neutral carbon taxes, higher energy prices may be offset by tax dividend refunds, or tax cuts, of roughly similar value. Carbon tax revenue can be distributed, at least in part (if not completely), as: personal income or business income tax cuts, rebates, tax credits, payroll tax cuts, a “carbon dividend” in the form of a monthly, quarterly, bi-annual, or annual refund; or carbon tax revenue can be used to reduce taxes for the public and businesses in other sectors of the national economy. Carbon tax revenue is sometimes both invested in clean energy projects and given back to the public as refunds.

The principle of mitigating negative externalities (the damage caused by fossil fuels), and having the relative costs of pollution paid for, is the primary purpose of the carbon tax. Who bears the ultimate burden of the tax is a hypothetical question that has a couple of answers. Unless the carbon tax is specifically aimed at consumers, businesses that produce and distribute fossil fuels should at least consider bearing the brunt of the tax. However, in practice, individuals may ultimately end up paying more for gas and on the utility bill, among other fossil fuel related goods and services; instead of the fossil fuel-intensive companies in industries subject to carbon taxes, that haven’t already fully embraced renewable energy and/ or energy efficiency.

A carbon tax is enacted with the goal of lowering greenhouse gas emissions. Sustainable public transit, energy efficiency products, renewable energy, and GHG reduction technologies such as carbon capture and storage, become even greater alternatives as fossil fuel use is penalized; and clean energy is made relatively cheaper. One other benefit of carbon taxes, besides the revenue generated for the public good, and the incentives to reduce fossil fuel consumption and increase clean energy efforts; is the increased attractiveness of the cost of renewable energy, which is made cheaper than fossil fuels.

Carbon taxes worldwide

Denmark, Finland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, British Colombia, Canada, and the UK (among other countries and localities) have all successfully implemented a partial carbon tax on some industries, as well as some fossil-fuel-intensive goods and services. Thus far, these countries have not being able to implement a broad, universal carbon tax. Generally, reports of lower greenhouse gas emissions follow the passage of a carbon tax (to the tune of 2-3% annually in most cases). The province of British Columbia, Canada, has reported drops of around 5% annually of greenhouse gas emissions due to its aggressive carbon tax policies.

This is a global map of carbon tax and cap-and-trade systems that are existing and planned for implementation:


carbon markets worldwide


Please also see:

Putting a price on carbon