I recently had the privilege to travel to Colombia with Engineers Without Borders to assess the needs and resources for an irrigation project for family farms. Colombia is very well suited for coffee and sugar cane, but the dry season is too harsh for more sensitive plants like basil, lettuce, spinach, and peppers. For this, farmers need drip irrigation, water catchment, water reservoir, and water diversion. Our group’s goal is to develop an affordable, sustainable, and replicable design as a pilot project for ten farmers in central Colombia. We are working with Food 4 Farmers, an international non-governmental organization (NGO), Nueva Realidad, a Bogota based NGO, and Nuevo Futuro, the local coffee cooperative. We knew what our goal was before we started, but we had no idea what to expect from the trip. Here are our impressions of the country with which our team returned.
According to various studies, the United States is beating its energy reduction and renewable energy production goals beyond any federal predications. Total energy consumption in 2016 was 17% lower than expected, wind power production was 79% higher, and solar production was 383% higher than the United States Department of Energy predicted in a February 2007 report, as stated in the October 5, 2017 Statista Portal. In addition, a 2017 U.S. Energy and Employment Report finds that 45% of the 1.9 million workers in the Electric Power Generation and Fuels technologies are in the low-carbon emission generation technologies (renewables, nuclear, and advanced/low emission natural gas).
Although electronically commutated motors (ECMs) are specified in efficient buildings, and energy efficiency programs provide incentives for their installation, I only had a cursory understanding of the difference between this technology and traditional shaded pole or permanent split capacitor type motors. What makes ECMs more efficient?
Office building cooling energy in the United States accounts for 7.4% of this country’s total commercial energy consumption, and chillers alone provide 31.9% of this space cooling. (The largest provider of space cooling is packaged rooftop units, which account for over 51%.) So, when an improved technology is proven to be successful, it’s worth the time to explore its merits. And so, it is with magnetic bearing centrifugal chillers.
I recently read an article about an emerging business model, Energy-as-a-Service (EaaS), which is a deviation from traditional power purchase agreements (PPAs) and Energy Management services. In its basic form, “energy as a service” is the idea that an outside service company guarantees a building’s future energy costs. If the building uses more energy than predicted, the service company is responsible for the difference. But if the building uses less energy than contracted, the service company profits. From the building owner’s perspective, it’s a way to manage overhead electricity costs that fluctuate by time-of-day rates and demand peaks, and fossil fuel costs that fluctuate throughout the year. For the service company, it is a way to be creative in energy supply and management, and an incentive for efficiency improvement.
Topics: Energy Efficiency
With the growth of the Internet and our undeniable dependence on electronic data, comes the reality that data centers are estimated to consume 1.5% of the total world power – and this continues to rise rapidly. Large data centers are certainly the drivers behind these numbers, but most small companies have server rooms or small data centers that, collectively, contribute to a significant portion of this country’s costs and environmental footprint. Outside the IT opportunities of virtualization and server consolidation, there are few things the facilities department and management of a business can do to reduce this overhead and environmental cost. But as with many things, if we all do a small part it will end up making a big difference.
Topics: Energy Efficiency
I fell asleep to a TED Talk while visiting New York City the other night, but a startling statement brought me back to consciousness. New studies predict the oceans could rise by close to two meters (more than six feet) by the end of the century. That’s double original estimates and only 83 years from now - in our kids’ or at least our grandkids’ lifetimes!
For more than a decade, Vermont has been contributing energy efficiency to the New England electricity grid in the Forward Capacity Market (FCM). As a consumer, whether business or residential customer, we think of efficiency improvements as a personal gain, reducing our overhead costs, improving our building’s performance and helping our own pocketbook. Seldom do we think about the impact of energy efficiency on the electric grid, where it actually has a trickle-up impact of our actions onto the bigger picture. But energy efficiency is part of the “supply” for the grid, just like oil, natural gas, solar and other sources. Ben Fowler’s post last month showed a graph of the Generation Fuel Mix of the Philadelphia electric utility. What that doesn’t show is how much is taken off the grid by energy efficiency projects. States take this unrequired energy into account in planning of future energy and infrastructure needs. This has led to avoiding building or expanding substations, transmission lines, and power plants.
Topics: Energy Efficiency
Chilled beams have been common in European building HVAC systems for decades, but they are just getting popular in the U.S. These units fit in a drop ceiling or can be hung flush to the ceiling and contain a chilled/hot water coil and, in the case of active beams, a duct bringing in ventilation air.
Vermont is a small, hilly state in the northeast corner of the US, and is often claimed to be the “second cloudiest” state in the nation (a subjective statistic). Although our state has been adopting solar in leaps and bounds, there is a debate over whether solar is an applicable technology in our state and, nationally, if solar should be subsidized now that the production costs have decreased dramatically. I decided to research the history of subsidies and production costs of various fuels to determine if solar deserves to be an incentivized fuel source for electric generation.
Image via Wikipedia.