September 3, 2014
"In the U.S., Solar Energy Has More Than Doubled Since Last Year"
"Why Hospitals CEOs Are Thinking About the A/C Bill"
"Green Thumbs Up"
"There's a Big Leak in America's Water Tower"
"Funding-Strapped Feds Search for Someone to Run the 'Internet of Cars'"
"NMSU Researches Ultra-High Performance Concrete Bridge Girders"
"Officials: Legislation Should Help With Construction of Roadways"
Legislation & Regulation
"Industry Seeks to Reinstate RCRA Gasification Waiver, Citing Precedent"
"U.N. Draft Report Lists Unchecked Emissions’ Risks"
In the U.S., Solar Energy Has More Than Doubled Since Last Year
Smithsonian (08/14) Schultz, Colin
A new report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration finds that solar voltaic energy production remains a small portion of over all renewable energy production in the U.S., but is growing rapidly. After years of negligible growth, solar voltaic power generation nearly doubled in the U.S. over the course of four years: from 5,600,000 megawatt-hours between June 2012 and June 13 to 12,000,000 megawatt-hours between June 2013 and June 2014. This growth is the most dramatic of any renewable power sector over the last decade after wind power. Wind power now comes in second after hydro electric power in renewable power generation. Non-hydroelectric renewable power accounts for 7.3 percent of U.S. electric generation, while hydroelectric renewable energy accounts for 7 percent. A previous analysis of says that more than half of new energy infrastructure built in the U.S. in the coming years will be renewable.
Why Hospitals CEOs Are Thinking About the A/C Bill
Crain's Chicago Business (08/25/14) Wang, Andrew L.
Hospital executives are increasingly focusing on energy efficiency as they look to cut costs. Annual energy costs for large hospital systems can be tens of millions of dollars. Hospitals -- which are among the most resource-intensive commercial buildings -- operate continuously and use energy for everything from lights to surgical robots, with stringent requirements for temperature, humidity, and air quality. A 2003 U.S. Energy Information Administration survey, the most recent data available, indicates that inpatient facilities represented 3 percent of square footage among all U.S. commercial buildings but accounted for 8 percent of energy consumption. More than 40 percent of hospital electricity usage is for lighting, federal data shows.
While simple steps -- such as turning off unnecessary lights -- may be the first move, the next step would be upgrades that can automate behavioral changes, such as motion sensors to turn off lights in unused areas. Still, with high price tags for equipment and upgrades, efficiency efforts may have to compete with other projects at a health system for funding. In the Chicago area, NorthShore University HealthSystem is renovating its operating rooms so they will use less electricity. Swedish Covenant Hospital, meanwhile, is using structural beams that channel chilled water to cool its new outpatient building and LED lighting in the garage.
Green Thumbs Up
WaterWorld (08/01/14) Vol. 30, No. 8, P. 22 Atkinson, William
Floodwater control and stormwater management are of particular interest in Pennsylvania, according to Center for Sustainable Communities (CSC) Director Jeffrey Featherstone. He notes Philadelphia is undertaking a green infrastructure initiative to address its combined sewer overflow (CSO) problem, and in conjunction with EPA and the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has proposed an alternative to traditional graywater solutions, in which a less costly green infrastructure is implemented to capture the first inch of runoff. The city also has deployed a stormwater fee framework that accounts for commercial users. "It replaces the previous approach of assessing stormwater fees based on water meter usage," Featherstone says. He also says CSC will supply oversight and expertise for numerous restoration projects in five watersheds in the Philadelphia region. "Nearly all stream segments in these watersheds have been designated as impaired by the Pennsylvania DEP—primarily due to stormwater runoff," Featherstone observes. The state DEP's Ron Furlan notes green infrastructure requires a rethinking of past stormwater management, "with a focus on prevention rather than dealing with the onslaught afterwards." Furlan offers examples such as projects undertaken by the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission to construct stormwater retention structures along roadways so that water does not end up in creeks. He also praises Lancaster's CSO reduction efforts, such as a project at Brandon Park where basketball courts have porous pavement, in addition to rain gardens, retention basins, detention basins, and so on.
There's a Big Leak in America's Water Tower
NPR Online (08/27/14) Joyce, Christopher
Climate change is altering America's water supplies, with drier summers, water sources becoming used up earlier than ever, and even flash flooding. More than two dozen glaciers in Glacier National Park have shrunk and some snowfields have vanished. It is unclear what effect this is having on wildlife, though scientists are attempting to answer that question. "In only a few decades, we're going to lose all the glaciers here," says Fagre, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geographical Survey. "And they've been persistent on the landscape here for 7,000 years—so suddenly you are having a profound change in just a few decades, and that's very difficult for many organisms to adapt to."
Funding-Strapped Feds Search for Someone to Run the 'Internet of Cars'
Automotive News (08/25/14) Nelson, Gabe
Both the government and automakers have gotten behind the development of vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communications technology, and while both are actively promoting V2V, there are questions about their willingness to assume responsibility for the network infrastructure that would underpin the technology. The Department of Transportation estimates that just two features of V2V technology could prevent half a million crashes and save more than 1,000 lives annually. However, a recent report from the agency expresses skepticism that the federal government will step up to cover the estimated $60 million a year it would take to maintain the V2V network, citing the "current fiscal environment." The report suggests several entities that might be able to assume responsibility for the network, including automakers, telecom companies, security companies, and industry groups. However, maintaining and securing the network would be a highly technical job such entities might be unprepared for, and will likely also entail as-yet unknown liability risks related to car accidents involving V2V. Thilo Koslowski, an analyst with Gartner Inc., suspects that a major tech company like Goolge might be a better option: with both the know- how and the money, Google or similar companies would also be interested in potential commercial uses for the data carried by the V2V network.
NMSU Researches Ultra-High Performance Concrete Bridge Girders
Las Cruces Sun-News (New Mexico) (08/24/14) Sullivan, Kristen
Researchers at New Mexico State University are testing ultra-high performance concrete bridge girders to aid in the development of bridge design procedures for the state of New Mexico that could lead to a variety of improvements to the state's infrastructure. The concrete offers significantly improved comprehensive strengths, a very dense microstructure, and steel fibers that dramatically improve post-cracking strength. These improved properties allow for the design of bridges with much longer lifespans, compared to bridges made with normal strength concrete. The prestressed UHPC bridge girders were designed to be stronger and more durable than average concrete, and were designed using primarily local products to help drive down project costs. While normal concrete bridges are designed to last about 50 years, UHPC bridges have been estimated to have design lives of up to 150 years. UHPC is significantly stronger than normal concrete, with strengths exceeding 22,000 pounds per square inch. The compression strength of normal concrete ranges from 4,000 to 6,000 psi. There currently are not any bridge design specifications for concrete of this strength in the United States. The New Mexico State University researchers hope that through large-scale tests they will be able to present data that will aid in the development of new specifications for the design of UHPC bridges.
Officials: Legislation Should Help With Construction of Roadways
Bluefield Daily Telegraph (W.Va.) (08/27/14) Owens, Charles
Legislation authorizing new public-private partnerships in West Virginia should help with the construction of both the Coalfields Expressway and the King Coal Highway, according to officials. New rules allow state government and the private sector to collaborate on projects. In a joint statement, West Virginia Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin, Transportation Secretary Paul Mattox and U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., announced plans to advertise for requests for qualifications on the 3.3 mile section of the Coalfields Expressway, which will connect the city of Mullens to existing sections of the Coalfields Expressway already under construction in Raleigh and Wyoming counties. "This is great news for southern West Virginia and people across the state," says Tomblin. "A solid infrastructure helps provide our communities with additional economic development opportunities, and the public-private partnership concept is a great example of how state government and the private sector can work together to improve the quality of life for our residents. I appreciate the contributions of all involved in making this request for qualifications announcement possible." King Coal Highway Authority Executive Director Mike Mitchem says the new rules will offer another avenue to build highways in West Virginia.
Legislation & Regulation
Industry Seeks to Reinstate RCRA Gasification Waiver, Citing Precedent
Clean Air Report (08/28/2014)
The American Petroleum Institute and Gasification Technologies Council want the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to reverse a recent ruling vacating the Environmental Protection Agency's gasification exclusion rule. The industry says that the decision in the case of Sierra Club et al. v. EPA conflicts with a 1987 ruling that established the bounds of the agency's regulatory authority under the Resource Conservation & Recovery Act. The 2008 gasification exclusion rule excludes some fuel created from the gasification of hazardous waste from the mandates of the RCRA.
U.N. Draft Report Lists Unchecked Emissions’ Risks
New York Times (08/26/14) Gillis, Justin
A United Nations draft report states that runaway growth in greenhouse gas emissions is bulldozing political efforts to deal with the problem, increasing the risk of "severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts" over the coming decades. Global warming has already reduced grain production by several percentage points, according to the report, and the problem could worsen if emissions continue to go unchecked. Higher seas, long heat waves, heavy rain, and other climate extremes are being felt around the word due to human-produced emissions, according to the draft. Such problems are likely to intensify unless greenhouse gases are brought under control. "Human influence has been detected in warming of the atmosphere and the ocean, in changes in the global water cycle, in reduction in snow and ice, and in global mean-sea-level rise; and it is extremely likely to have been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century," the draft report states. "The risk of abrupt and irreversible change increases as the magnitude of the warming increases." the report did find that efforts to counter climate charge are gaining momentum at the regional and local levels in many countries, particularly in the United States where Congress is paralyzed and the federal government has largely ceded leadership on climate change to states like California, Massachusetts, and New York.
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