Dallas Goes ‘All-In’ On Green Buildings With Mandatory Regulations

by Silvio Marcacci

Dallas skyline image via Shutterstock
Dallas skyline image via Shutterstock

Looks like America has a new contender for “Greenest City” – at least when it comes to green buildings – and it’s probably not where you’d expect.

Dallas, Texas implemented mandatory minimum green building regulations on October 1st in an aggressive effort to cut citywide power and water consumption en route to its goal of carbon neutrality by 2030.

The regulations are the final step in a five-year implementation of the Dallas Green Building Construction Ordinance, cover all new residential and commercial buildings, and create a comprehensive green building standard across the city.

Green Building Tackles Energy, Water, Building Waste

All new construction projects proposed in Dallas must now meet minimum certification requirements from one of three established standards: Green Built Texas, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), or the International Green Construction Code (IGCC).

Since drought is such an important issue in Texas, the new regulations focus on water preservation – especially when it comes to single-family homes. At least 70% of the built area for homes (excluding areas under a roof) must be permeable or capture water runoff, homes must use drip irrigation for bedding areas of landscaping, and must include high-efficiency fixtures.

Commercial buildings are also expected to do their part, with a 20% water use reduction goal, restrictions on outdoor lighting to prevent light pollution, and cool roof or green roofs requirement to cut urban heat island effects.

The construction process is also getting a lot greener with requirements to divert a 50% minimum percentage of waste material is from landfills as well as source 45% of building components from recycled, recyclable, bio-based, or local materials. In addition, developers will have to attend training classes and pass a certification exam to receive green builder certification.

While the new regulations may be comprehensive, green buildings aren’t new to Dallas. The city is already home to over 140 LEED-certified buildings, including 23 LEED-certified municipal government facilities, has 59 million square feet of Energy Star-certified buildings, and Texas placed second with over 36 million square feet of LEED-certified buildings in the US Green Building Council’s 2012 state rankings.

Green Business Too?

But even though green building will help improve Dallas’ environment, the new regulations could also help boost the regional economy. Green building is expected to top $248 billion in revenue nationwide by 2016, and the green home-building market could be worth $114 billion by 2016.

Considering Texas now has the third-largest concentration of LEED professionals in America and building asset values rise when builders make sustainable investments, Dallas’ green building mandate isn’t just an environmentally friendly move – it might just be an incredibly savvy green business push, too.

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This article, Dallas Goes All-In On Green Building With Mandatory Regulations, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Silvio Marcacci Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate-focused public relations company based in Washington, D.C.

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NREL Software Could Cut Commercial Building Energy Audit Costs 75%

by Silvio Marcacci

simuwatt tablet display image via NREL
simuwatt tablet display image via NREL

These days, there’s an app for pretty much everything. From gaming to home energy management, tasks are done on handheld devices through the cloud. So why are energy audits still stuck on clipboards and pencils?

Good news – by next year, commercial building energy audits will finally join the 21st century thanks to the simuwatt Energy Auditor, a new tablet-based software package developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and software company concept3D that could cut audit costs by up to 75%

It may seem like insignificant news, but simuwatt could streamline this laborious process through computer modeling, find new ways to boost energy efficiency, and save commercial buildings millions of dollars every year.

Make Energy Audits More Efficient To Make Buildings More Efficient

Commercial buildings in America represent 7% of the world’s total energy consumption and use roughly $134 billion in electricity to power all those computers, heating and ventilation systems, and lights.

All that power means commercial buildings are huge targets for increased energy efficiency, but until now the process of finding the right upgrades for each building has been inefficient, with audits for many buildings often costing more than potential savings from energy improvements.

Enter simuwatt. Energy auditors will now be able to perform audits on mobile tablets and upload results into cloud-based servers for advanced energy modeling results and recommendations in almost real time. “Its software-guided workflow allows customers to double their audit capacity,” said Oliver Davis, CEO of concept3D. “More audits mean more retrofit work, more revenue, and more efficient buildings.”

Combining The Best Of NREL & DOE Technology

The software seems like a no-brainer, but it’s the result of NREL combining several ideas already in use across federal government facilities. NREL has traditionally conducted audits for the Defense Department, State Department, and National Park Service, and simuwatt combines the best results of years of practice.

For instance, the Department of Energy’s EnergyPlus tool is integrated to run simulations that determine energy flow, while NREL’s OpenStudio combines with concept3D’s geometry capture software to create a detailed 3D model of each building as auditors walk through it to analyze energy savings from potential improvements.

A user could pose the question: “Does it make economic sense to retrofit windows in this building?” The response from simuwatt Energy Auditor might be something like “Yes, if it is more than three stories high and at least 40 years old and if you use these kinds of windows.” If that’s not in the budget, then the user can change one parameter and see what difference it makes for the bottom line.

The software can also help lower solar soft costs through features like assessing the capacity of a roof for adding solar panels or perform additional time-saving tasks like calculating the value of replacing lighting fixtures all in one program, instead of farming work out to multiple contractors.

simuwatt energy audit
simuwatt energy audit image via NREL

Defense Department Testing Before Full Launch

NREL will now test the software in real-world settings by using it to audit 18 buildings across 6 Defense Department bases in Colorado, Texas, California, South Carolina, and Florida.

Once those results are in, analysts will have a better sense of simuwatt’s potential to make auditing and commercial businesses more efficient. and will release the software to the energy auditing industry. “The hope is that by lowering costs, you can not only get deeper savings but also get into more buildings,” said Andrew Parker of NREL.

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This article, NREL Software Could Cut Commercial Building Energy Audit Costs 75%, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Silvio Marcacci Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate-focused public relations company based in Washington, D.C.

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Texas Cranks Up $7 Billion CREZ Wind Power Project

by Tina Casey

Texas wind farm
Wind Farm courtesy of Pattern Energy.

If you think Texas wind power is a big deal, you ain’t see nothing yet. The state is just weeks away from pushing the start button on 3,600 miles of new transmission lines that will bring 18,500 megawatts of wind power from sparsely populated West Texas to urban centers including Dallas, Fort Worth and Austin. Called CREZ for Competitive Renewable Energy Zone, the new lines will make Texas the runaway leader in wind transmission.

Ironically, some of that energy will also go to speed the development of fossil fuel production in parts of Texas, particularly from shale formations. But now that we got the buzz kill out of the way, let’s take a look at how CREZ is already spurring new investment in Texas wind farms.

The Panhandle Wind Farm and CREZ

In an epic piece of timing, the $7 billion CREZ project will come on line just as energy companies are racing to start construction on new wind farms before the federal production tax credit for wind power expires.

As reported by our friends over at Fuel Fix, one of the first companies to take advantage of  both the CREZ project and the tax credit is Pattern Energy Group, which just broke ground on its new 218 megawatt Panhandle Wind Farm in Carson County.

Going into the ground will be 1.85-MW turbines by GE, putting about 200 people to work during the construction phase. Once the wind farm is completed, it will generate enough energy for about 60,000 homes and keep about a dozen people at work in permanent positions.

Where to put all that wind energy?

Before the usual suspects get started on the old “wind power is unreliable” thing, let’s note for the record that this is Texas. Not only is it the site of the nation’s biggest wind energy transmission project, it is also the site of the biggest wind energy storage project in the US. The 36 megawatt facility, owned by Duke Energy, is hooked up to the company’s Notrees Wind Farm (and yes, the project received Recovery Act Funding, so we built that!).

Between its wind resources, transmission lines and energy storage potential, Texas is happily sitting atop a wind power trifecta, at least until the aforementioned federal tax credit for wind power expires, which it will do at the end of this year unless Congress decides to extend it.

Speaking of that, now that Texas Senator Ted Cruz has demonstrated a unique ability to grab the spotlight and hold it, we’re interested to learn more about his position on federal support for wind power projects in his home state. Nothing much turned up on line, so if anybody out there has some information drop us a note in the comment thread.

Follow me on Twitter and Google+.

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This article, Texas Cranks Up $7 Billion CREZ Wind Power Project, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

About the Author

Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.


Read more at http://cleantechnica.com/2013/10/18/texas-wind-power-gets-boost-from-new-crez-lines/#qo8lP5qUwO04kKQI.99

Obtaining 25% Of Energy From Renewables Would Save Billions

by AWEA

Originally published on the American Wind Energy Association website
By Michael Goggin

The Western U.S. could reap huge benefits in pollution savings and reduced spending on fossil fuels by installing more wind and solar power plants, according to a comprehensive new analysis released today by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). The study found that obtaining 25 percent of electricity in the Western U.S. from renewable energy will reduce carbon dioxide pollution by up to 34 percent and save $7 billion annually in fossil fuel costs.

The NREL report also conclusively puts to rest the fossil fuel industry myth that wind energy’s pollution savings are smaller than expected because fossil-fired power plants run at lower efficiency when wind is generating electricity. Even at the very high level of renewable energy use examined in the report, the impact on the efficiency of fossil-fired power plants was found to be “negligible,” reducing the carbon emissions reduction benefits of wind and solar by only 0.2 percent, so that on net wind and solar produced 99.8 percent of the expected emissions savings.

A chief reason for the study’s findings is that electric utility system operators can reliably and efficiently integrate wind and solar energy using the same tools they have used for more than a century to accommodate large swings in electricity demand as well as abrupt failures at conventional power plants. Dozens of studies have demonstrated that wind and solar energy only slightly add to total power system variability, and that most changes in wind and solar output are cancelled out by much larger opposite changes in supply and demand. System operators in the Midwest and Texas have each been able to integrate more than 10,000 megawatts of wind energy with only very small increases in their need for operating reserves.

As shown above, the study found that one megawatt-hour of wind energy, the amount produced by a typical wind turbine approximately every 90 minutes, saves 1190 pounds of carbon dioxide pollution on average, equivalent to the amount produced by a cross-country drive in a fuel-efficient car. As indicated below, the negative impact on the efficiency of fossil-fired power plants reduced those carbon dioxide savings by only 2.4 pounds, the amount produced by a typical drive to the grocery store.

Some representatives for competing energy sources have spent years propagating the myth that wind energy’s emissions savings are less than expected, despite having no peer-reviewed analysis to support their claims and being contradicted by all independent grid operator data and analysis. It is simple economics and science that wind energy directly displaces the output of the most expensive power plant, which is almost always the least efficient fossil-fired power plant

Some advocates for competing energy sources have even called for an analysis based on real-world data from emission monitors at power plants. With today’s study they got it, though they may not like the results. It is now impossible for anti-clean energy advocates to continue sticking their heads in the sand denying the reality of wind’s environmental benefits.

Today’s study used real-world hourly emissions data from nearly every power plant in the Western U.S. and was reviewed by 55 experts including representatives from eight utilities. The analysis of wind’s impact on fossil-fired power plants was largely conducted by engineers at Intertek who specialize in optimizing the operation of power plants for utility clients.

Today’s study also produced an interesting result with regard to the cost of cycling conventional power plants. For two of the three natural gas price scenarios analyzed, wind and solar energy (shown below as HiMix) actually reduced the total costs associated with cycling conventional power plants, and in the other scenario those costs only amounted to 0.5 percent to about 2 percent of the $7 billion in annual fuel cost savings produced by wind and solar energy. In addition, previous work by NREL and others has demonstrated that the addition of any new low-marginal-cost energy source, whether a new nuclear, coal, or wind plant, would lead to the same result of additional cycling at existing power plants.

NREL’s report is available here.

Photo Credit: David K. Clarke

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This article, Obtaining 25% Of Energy From Renewables Would Save Billions, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

AWEA The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) is the voice of wind energy in the U.S., promoting renewable energy to power a cleaner, stronger America. Keep up with all the latest wind industry news at: http://www.aweablog.org/blog/

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US Adds 976MW new Solar PV Capacity In 2Q as California Sets Record

by Silvio Marcacci — Special to JBS News

The US solar photovoltaic (PV) industry just keeps shining, with rising demand across the country pushing installed capacity in second quarter (2Q) 2013 up 24% compared to first quarter (1Q) 2013.

America added 976 megawatts (MW) of new solar PV capacity just in 2Q 2013 alone, according to the NPD Solarbuzz North America PV Markets Quarterly report.

Solar PV demand is expected to continue growing through 2013, but roughly 75% of this new capacity is concentrated in just five states – evidence of the impact smart state policy can have on renewable energy.

US solar PV 2Q 2013 capacity additions by state
US solar PV 2Q 2013 capacity additions chart via NPD Solarbuzz.

Solar PV Demand Growing Fast

The 976MW of new solar PV capacity installed across the country in 2Q could power US solar markets toward a supercharged 2013. 2Q’s installed capacity was 24% higher than 1Q’s 788MW. Utilities led the way with 59% of all projects, and 72% were ground-mounted systems concentrated mainly in several large-scale projects across the Western US.

NPD Solarbuzz predicts solar PV demand will grow 14% to 1.04GW in third quarter (3Q) 2013 en route to an 17% annual increase in PV demand across the US compared to 2012, for a total of 4.22GW new annual installed capacity.

That’s an impressive amount, no doubt, but the best may still be yet to come. An estimated 44GW of commercial and utility projects are in the development pipeline, including 2,300 projects of 50 kilowatts and higher — with more than half of those on commercial locations. At this rate, NPD Solarbuzz predicts the US will be home to 20% of total global solar PV demand within five years.

Growth Concentrated In Just A Few States

But even though the American solar industry’s outlook is brighter than ever, the resulting growth is shining squarely on just a handful of states. California represented a whopping 53% of all 2Q solar PV capacity addition, reaffirming its position as the epicenter of the US clean tech market.”

“California alone reached 521MW, which is a new record for PV added by any state in the US for a three-month period,” said Finlay Colvile of NPD Solarbuzz. “California has added 1.6GW in the past 12 months, with a further 1.1GW forecast for the second half of the year.”

North Carolina, which has fought against efforts to roll back the state renewable energy standard, ranked second with 8% of all 2Q additions. 285MW of new solar PV capacity will come online in the state over 2013, an 80% increase compared to 2012, and demand is forecast to grow an additional 30% in 2014.

New Jersey, which recently became the third state to pass 1GW installed solar, followed close behind at 7%. Arizona and Texas rounded out the top five at 6% and 4% respectively, while eight other states combined for 28% of all remaining solar PV capacity additions.

How Hot Will Solar PV’s Future Get?

The NPD Solarbuzz report once again illuminates the economic and environmental benefits that renewables can create when governments set and maintain progressive policies. America’s solar surge has already pushed it into the ultra-exclusive 10GW installed solar PV club, and it’s helping power green jobs growth across the country.

Falling costs have been the main driver of demand, but state incentives and regulations have remained a steadying hand and dictated where growth has occurred. Consumers could save $20 billion annually by 2050 if solar continues to grow, and every single state in America has the potential to generate more electricity from solar energy than it uses in a single year. Here’s hoping more states will see the light.

This article, US Adds 976MW New Solar PV Capacity In 2Q As California Sets Record, is syndicated from Clean Technica and is posted here with permission.

About the Author

Silvio Marcacci Silvio is Principal at Marcacci Communications, a full-service clean energy and climate-focused public relations company based in Washington, D.C.

 

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