Fort Bliss Plans to Create Largest, 10 SQ Mile Solar Farm

Ron_tudor_with_test_panels We don’t need no stinkin’ coal!  Fort Bliss is right on the money with their visionary plan to build a 1-gigawatt (yes, that’s what the article says), 10 square mile solar farm at Fort Bliss by 2010.  That’s a big solar farm, and supposedly, the largest solar farm in existence is the 12-megawatt one in Germany.  Various projects and technology development will continue under a partnership between Fort Bliss and the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California.  The new technology, including a controller than can extract energy even on overcast days, should cut the cost of solar energy in half. 

U.S. Representative Silvestre Reyes (D-Texas) says the coal plants may not be necessary if the solar technology lives up to expectations.  The plan is to start powering Fort Bliss, and later, energy can be pumped into the national power grid to be exported nationwide.  In January 2007, post engineers will begin installing a 1.5 megawatt system.  After that, the project should explode with 20 megawatts in 2007, 40 megawatts in 2008, and 1 gigawatt in 2009. 

Interesting Applications:
"The new technology, which has been in development for about three years, is already charging the battery packs of soldiers in the 18th Airborne Corps and the 75th Ranger Regiment in Iraq and Afghanistan, Tudor said. That equipment includes hood-mounted Humvee panels that also can charge the vehicle’s battery, pack-mounted systems that charge batteries as a soldier walks, and tent-mounted systems that can provide power for a heated sleeping pad and to charge other batteries." via El Paso Times.  See also KVIA News Report

Skyscraper Sunday: Hunt Consolidated Office Tower Going LEED Green?

Rendering_1 About one year ago yesterday, Hunt Consolidated Inc. broke ground on a new office tower, which borders on Akard Street and Woodall Rogers Freeway.  You’ve probably seen it, it has massive cement beams curving on its northerly face.  The building is being developed by Woodbine Development Corporation, which is partially owned somehow in the Hunt Consolidated Empire.  I heard from a friend (hearsay, I know) that Chairman Ray Hunt, or some other c-level executive, was asked at a luncheon whether the building was going to be green and he equivocated saying something like, "Well, we’re not going to build green just to build green, but we’ll do it if there are tangible economic reasons to do it."

Rendering2_1 I did some research and it looks like Hunt Consolidated Office Tower is registered with the USGBC as LEED-CI v2.0, otherwise know as the green ratings standard for commercial interiors.  If my understanding is correct, that building is to be 100% owner-occupied, so Hunt is going green inside?  Not sure.  Here’s what I know.  It will be a $120 million, 400,000 square foot, 15 story building.  Gensler, which is #2 in the US for having the largest number of LEED Accredited Professionals, will be doing the interiors.  So they have the know-how to go green on the inside.  The entire structure was designed by Dallas-based Beck Group and the general contractor is Austin Commercial.  Looks like it may be going green, but if the decision is still in the air, here’s my two cents:  what’s more economic incentive to build green than a $6.3 million tax abatement over 10 years?  That abatement should cover the 1% premium (if that) required to go green.   

Green Office: The Sustainable Liege Desk

Chestnut_desk In the last "Green Office" segment here on Jetson Green, I talked about the merits of investing in a Think chair from Steelcase for your office.  Need a desk?  Some of you may shut down purely at the price tag ($2,200), but there’s a price premium for style + sustainability.  You can find the Liege Desk, designed by Jeffrey Bernett + Nicholas Dodziuk, exclusively at Design Within Reach.  The desk uses sustainable chestnut or oak veneers and the stainless steel is finish-free.  The wood varnish is non-toxic and low in volatile organic compounds.  Measuring H 30" x W 60" x D 30", the Liege Desk accommodates storage that can be placed on the right or left, depending on your orientation.  It’s a pretty good looking desk solution and would definitely go well with the Think chair.  Via Collin Dunn at Treehugger

Storage_image Cross_bars_1 Stainless_steel

Case for State + Local Renewable Energy Rebates: Solar Umbrella House (2006)

Project_house Green Wombat reports that the Governator was pumping up California’s commitment to create 3,000 megawatts of new solar-produced, clean energy by 2017.  Think about that.  We’re talking about governmental support for empowering and supporting residents to generate their own energy.  Relatedly, the Solar Umbrella House is a modern + green example of what can happen when home owners take advantage of the governmental benefits of clean energy subsidization.  It was an AIA/COTE Top Ten Green Project in 2006, by architect Pugh + Scarpa.  What more can I say than that the Solar Umbrella House looks good and sunlight provides 95% of the electricity (less than $300 /year in energy bills). 

In addition to being designed passively to optimize the balance of sun and shade, the home has 89 amorphous photovoltaic panels that are connected to the grid with a net meter provided by the city of Los Angeles.  The house is decked out with energy-efficient everything.  Indoor air quality is perpetually monitored.  The design is LEED-H (v2) consistent.  Certified wood, recycled materials + salvaged materials were used all over the place. 

COSTS:
The photovoltaic system, solar hot-water system, thermally broken glazing, and energy efficient appliances cost about $39,000.  Not cheap, but that’s where rebates come in.  To pay for the solar panels, there was a $18,600 rebate from the City Department of Water and Power and a $4,000 rebate from the federal government.  After applying the rebates, the payback on this investment becomes 12 years, and the solar panel warranty lasts for 25 years.  Not bad. 

Books_and_stairs Bedroom_1 Back_yard

So what’s the big deal?  If your city isn’t on board with clean energy, there isn’t a 12 year payback and you continue to buy electricity created from dirty coal plants (unless it’s a green provider).  Which is better?  Option A) independent, site-generated electricity that pays for itself after 12 years + is warrantied for 25 years + creates lower electricity bills or B) no site-generated electricity + persistently increasing electricity bills + dirty air.  This is common sense, get your state and local governments to support renewable energy so that you can create a better living environment for your family.  If you do it like the Solar Umbrella House, you can do it in green style!

Lifetime Cost Case Analysis: Energy-Efficient, LED-based Commercial Signage

Lightmark_led_1 If you haven’t noticed, commercial enterprises use lots of neon in their signage.  I drove around the neighborhood and found a few gas stations and a Sonic Drive-in with neons wrapped around the structure.  You can tell because the neon lighting breaks at the nodes.  Well, LEDs, while still a nascent lighting technology, have the potential to become the future signage lighting behemoth, if building owners can catch on to their benefits.  To get to that point, however, the stars will need to align so that the key decision maker does a costing analysis incorporating the operational benefits, in addition to the sticker price (initial costs). 

LED Technology Benefits:
LEDs have energy savings of up to 80% over neon lighting.  In addition to the energy savings, LEDs differ in size and electronic control.  Point blank, with LEDs, there’s reduced maintenance, reduced energy consumption, better light quality output, safer + lower voltage requirements, and low temperature performance.  They last longer, too.  There’s no gap in the illumination like there is with the neon.  And with a technology like LightMark, the units are variable so you use just the right amount for the project. 

Lightmark_mcdonalds Lightscript_tsutayabig Arco_lightmark

Costing + Payback:
LEDs pay for themselves in about 2-3 years.  When a decision maker is comparing neons (or some other light source) and LEDs, it’s important to make sure that the comparison is apples-to-apples.  Use a "lifetime cost of ownership" analysis:  (1) initial purchase price + (2) initial installation costs + (3) lifetime energy usage + (4) lifetime maintenance charges.  I’d suggest two more external considerations, which aren’t factored into the lifetime cost of ownership.  First, consider the extent of liability (i.e., if neons tend to flame up at gas stations more than LEDs, there’s a tangible savings benefit [note - this may or may not be true]).  Second, consider the tax implications (i.e., state, local, or federal government offers tax credits/deductions for LED use, etc.). 

A few companies that have been incorporating this new technology include Arco, A&W, BP, McDonald’s, KalTire (Canada), Tsutaya (Japan), and Petro-Canada.  What it takes, however, is a paradigm shift from initial cost, or sticker price, to lifetime cost, and if owners aren’t making the change, the contractor should speak up and create value for the customer. 

Extra Links:
BP Case Study [TIR Systems]
LightMark + LightScript 
Energy-Efficient, LED-Based Signage [Grant Harlow - Buildings.com]

Starwood Capital Group Announces New Green Hotel: 1 Hotel + Residences

Starwood_capital_group Early last spring, I was looking into the faces of 45 bored students, giving my 4 minute business plan pitch for a trendy, green hotel concept geared specifically for young professionals ages 20-40.  I had it all laid out:  kiosk integration for mundane tasks, high customer service, green shuttle service, LEED certified hotel construction interior and exterior, teamwork style cleaning, paperless everything, free internet, slightly smaller rooms with mega-style, modern art + photographs, etc.  People were like, "I don’t know if that will work."  "What’s wrong with the Hilton or La Quinta."  Well, it looks like my instincts were right:  Starwood Capital Group announced plans to launch a new brand, "1" Hotel and Residences, as a luxury, eco-friendly global hotel brand.  The first hotels will be in Seattle (late 2008), Mammoth Lakes, Scottsdale, and Fort Lauderdale (in order of opening).   

Let’s face it, the entire industry will head this direction because hotels are levered to the cost of energy in two ways:  (1)  people travel less as transportation energy costs rise and (2) hotel’s profit margin is squeezed by the energy costs of running a building.  Up until now, most hotels haven’t really attacked this problem by looking at the entirety of the situation:  by building green hotel buildings!  So trend-setting hoteliers like Starwood are going to make money because they are operationally smart.  I’m excited about this green development.  After the initial locations, "1" will expand to New York, Los Angeles, + Washington D.C., soon thereafter.

Sustainability:
The hotels will be LEED certified in and out.  Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) will act as environmental advisor for the brand.  Each "1" location will donate 1% of its revenues to local environmental organizations.  The first four hotels, and most of the hotels, will be new construction, but Paris will be a renovation.  "1" emphasizes air and light, offering a fresh, invigorating, and alternative way to travel.  Inundated with the "richness, beauty and variety of colors, textures and materials," guests and residents (sounds like a multi-use platform) may not realize the myriad of ways that their building is stepping lightly on the earth.

Good Links:
++Starwood Plans Green Hotels [South Florida Business Journal]
++Starwood + Sternlicht Unveil Groundbreaking ’1′ Hotel Concept [Press Release]
++Starwood Capital Group [Official Website]

Popular Topics on Jetson Green