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August 31, 2013

GreenTech Week in Review



In green technology developments this week, the smart money is on the next-generation grid, when it comes to planning for and building stronger infrastructure, safer cities, and energy efficient homes to withstand the “new normals” in weather and power distribution.

New Jersey is getting “back on track” after last year’s superstorm with the largest civilian microgrid ever commissioned in the United States. In a partnership with the Obama Administration that will make the Garden State’s infrastructure—and its transportation system, in particular—more resilient and reliable during future disasters, Governor Chris Christie has announced plans to back up the crucial Northeast Corridor route with at least 50 megawatts (MW) of dedicated power capacity.

During Hurricane Sandy, NJ Transit—the nation’s third-largest transportation system, serving nearly 900,000 passengers each day— sustained $400 million in damage; including $100 million in train cars, locomotives and equipment. Stations were flooded, debris covered what remained of the tracks, and power outages resulted in the loss of traffic control devices critical to safe operation. What’s more, the system’s reputation was damaged, because it recovered significantly more slowly than did the neighboring New York City MTA.

Now, based on a memorandum of understanding between the U.S. Department of Energy, NJ Transit and the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities, first, the needs of the transit system will be assessed and then Sandia National Laboratories will step in to help design a microgrid—similar to those that Sandia already has deployed more than 20 times for the U.S. military. A $1 million federal grant will fund the NJ TRANSITGRID program.

At the press conference in Secaucus, Christie commented, “This first-of-its-kind electrical microgrid will supply highly-reliable power during storms, and help keep our public transportation systems running during natural times of disaster, which is critical not only to our economy, but also emergency and evacuation-related activities. “

In neighboring New York State, in a sixth initiative this year intended to exploit the extraordinary technological and intellectual resources of the State University of New York (SUNY) College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering (CNSE), Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced plans to transform the landmark Kiernan Plaza in downtown Albany into the site for a Smart Cities Technology Innovation (SciTI) Center. The $3 million property—a century-old former railroad station—will be converted into a hub for “smart cities” technology companies, research, education and workforce training. Smart cities technologies include smart devices, sensors and computer chips, integrated systems, and operating software that collect and analyze data for monitoring highway conditions and improving traffic flow; protect vital infrastructure, such as bridges, data centers and utility installations; safeguard facilities, including wastewater treatment plants; and provide e-safety security in educational settings.

Since its inception in 2004, the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering of the University at Albany-SUNY has gained recognition worldwide as the first college ever dedicated to the emerging disciplines of nanoscience, nanoengineering, nanobioscience and nanoeconomics. CNSE's Albany NanoTech Complex is the most advanced research facility of its kind at any university—a more than $7.5 billion, 800,000-square-foot complex that attracts corporate partners and offers students a one-of-a-kind academic experience. More than 3,100 scientists, researchers, engineers, students, and faculty currently work at the college, from companies including IBM, Intel (News - Alert), GlobalFoundries, SEMATECH, Samsung, TSMC, Toshiba, Applied Materials, Tokyo Electron, ASML, and Lam Research.

And finally, this month, the first affordable “smart home” to achieve a HERS 0 rating—meaning, a net-zero energy efficiency rating in “real-estate speak”—and to be located in a blustery cold, dry climate, was offered for sale in Herriman, Utah, according to the developer, Garbett Homes, and the intelligent home technology and solar installation company, Vivint.

Net-zero homes have been built before in areas designated by the International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) as Climate Zone 5 (cold and dry), but have only achieved a HERS rating of 5 at best, and could not be reproduced at an affordable price point. The new non-custom, solar-powered, single-family home, called The Zero Home, not only is net-zero and smart, but it does it all on a grand scale, with five bedrooms, three-and-a-half bathrooms and a four-car garage, including a charging station for an electric vehicle—starting at $350,000.

Garbett Homes’ energy-saving features include spray foam and blown-in insulation, low-E windows, compact fluorescent lighting, super high-efficiency HVAC systems, a HEPA air filtration system, solar water heating, dual-flush toilets and low-flow faucets. Vivint Solar‘s energy array enables the Energy Star certified Zero Home to generate its own energy, offsetting most or all of a homeowner’s utility bills. That beats the average utility bill for residents in the same neighborhood as The Zero Home, which hovers at about $300 per month. The home also will be equipped with a Vivint home automation and energy management system.

With all of these built-in goodies, the Zero Home qualifies for DOE Challenge Home designation, which recognizes home builders for their leadership constructing zero-energy ready homes that are both energy efficient and include high-end finishes, improved indoor air quality, and greater durability. By meeting the program criteria, DOE Challenge Homes have achieved at least 40 percent to 50 percent more energy efficiency than a typical new home.

“It’s incredibly exciting to see the Utah building community join as a leader in green home-building,” said Sam Rashkin, chief architect of the Building Technologies Office at the U.S. Department of Energy. “The collaboration between Vivint and Garbett, which allows the consumer to purchase a truly environmentally friendly home, is a huge milestone—both for Utah and the country.”




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