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Greentech Media
Developers of the 800-MW Vineyard Wind offshore wind project in Massachusetts, set to be the first commercial scale renewable energy venture in the U.S., say they are committed to push through on its $2.8 billion in construction despite a sudden Trump Administration permitting setback.

The project, originally set to gain its critical environmental impact statement this summer so it could start construction by year-end to enable use of a federal tax incentive, now must do extensive additional studies before work can start, based on new mandates from the U.S. Interior Dept.

The department's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which leads the federal government project review, told the developer—a joint venture of Copenhagen Investment Partners and Avengrid Renewables—on Aug. 9 that it was expanding its analysis of Vineyard Wind to take into account the cumulative effects of other offshore wind projects that have been awarded power purchase agreements as well as state procurements of offshore wind generation that are expected to be awarded.

The agency said it expects a greater buildout of offshore wind capacity than was analyzed in the draft EIS for the project.

BOEM said stakeholders and cooperating agencies requested a more robust cumulative analysis.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service said it does not concur with BOEM's decisions related to distance between its 84 planned turbines and their alignment because of claimed hazard to commercial fishing, said Michael Pentony, NOAA’s regional administrator. They currently are to spaced 0.75 nautical miles apart and aligned in a northwest-southeast orientatio. NOAA wants them further apart and aligned in an east-west direction “to minimize impacts to fishing operations.”

Lobbyists for the commercial fishing industry asked for a more comprehensive study that would show how the buildout of various proposed wind farms in the region—including New England, New York and New Jersey—would affect its operations.

“We are disappointed not to deliver the project on the timeline we had anticipated,” Lars Pedersen, CEO of Vineyard Wind said in a statement.

More than 50 design, construction and other companies have either been awarded project development contracts or were bidding on them.

Vineyard has not received any specific requirements for the expanded analysis from BOEM, but the company said the timing of such a study could not be completed within its timeline to begin construction before 2020.

Incentive credits for renewable energy projects, which have provided a 30% federal tax break for the last several years and factor in Vineyard Wind's financial framework, are set to expire this year.

Three bills now are pending in Congress to extend the credit for from five to eight years, with some observers speculating that the extension could be included in tax extenders legislatlon that passed the House Ways and Means Committee but whose passage this year depends on an uncertain level of bipartisan cooperation, says an Aug. 1 GreenTech Media report.
Global Wind Energy Council
In a first big push toward an ambitious state goal to procure 9,000 MW of renewable energy by 2035, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced on July 18 the award of its first projects for offshore wind—a total of 1,700 MW—to the U.S. unit of Norwegian developer Equinor, formerly the state-owned energy firm Statoil, and a joint venture of Danish wind giant Ørsted and New England utility firm Eversource Energy.

Both projects are expected to cost at least $3 billion each to develop, with the project awards expected since mid-June.

Cuomo said it is the largest single state award for offshore wind in the U.S. and is set to generate 1,600 jobs and a $3.2-billion economic boost, which includes port and other infrastructure upgrades in several state locations, including Albany, Brooklyn, Staten Island and Long Island, as well as new training and supply chain development investments.

The projects will each be built under a union project labor agreement and await negotiation of a 25 -year offshore wind renewable energy certificate with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA).

Equinor will build a project of 816 MW, a significant boost for the European firm's U.S. market ambitions. The firm says it will build 60 to 80 wind turbines, each about 10MW, with a total investment of $3 billion. The project is set to be operational by 2024, the company says; it did not specify the name of the turbine provider.

Equinor secured an 80,000-acre lease area in the New York Bight for its project.

Ørsted's project will total 880 MW, to include an unspecified number turbines of about 8MW each to be built by Siemens Gamesa. Construction is planned to start in 2021, with the wind farm operational in 2022.

The firm said its offshore wind build-out in New York now will total 1,000 MW, with another previously awarded project off the coast of Long Island.

Ørsted last month also won New Jersey's highly touted first offshore wind project award, which totaled 1,100 MW.

NYSERDA Chairman Richard Kaufman told an offshore wind industry conference in April that the state's 18 received bids from four project developers is a U.S. record.

KRJ Architecture
The US Green Building Council has recognized the Missouri Alternative and Renewable Energy Technology (MARET) Center at Crowder College as a LEED Platinum facility. The building, which itself acts as a hands-on training tool for student learning, is one of very few LEED Platinum buildings that produces more energy than it consumes, making it “net-positive.”

This efficiency was achieved through significant modeling, planning and research by KRJ Planning & Research, who utilized renewable energy sources (solar heat, wind, biomass, solar electric), together with an exceptionally well-planned and constructed building envelope with an internal energy distribution system. Daylighting is utilized throughout the entire facility, keeping use of electric lighting to a minimum. Solar cells on the roof produce energy, as does a wind turbine on the site. HVAC is provided through geothermal means, in addition to hydronic heating and cooling that utilizes roof-mounted solar collectors. The building is cooled by groundwater alone. Even rainwater from the roof is collected and reused for plantings surrounding the facility.

The building is utilized by the college as a teaching facility to demonstrate how energy can be collected, stored and distributed, so accessibility to the facility’s mechanical systems was paramount for educational purposes. Likewise, the facility was organized to allow ease of building system modifications, allowing students to run energy use experiments. Finally, the facility was built with modular construction, allowing students and building prefabricators to participate and learn with these systems. Overall, the entire facility is an incubator for student and industry learning.

Of key interest to instructors and students alike, is how a facility in the Midwest, with high temperature extremes and high humidity levels, can be so comfortable and energy efficient year-round. Students involved in STEM projects, those interested in renewable energy businesses, and those seeking training and certification in alternative energy processes are all drawn to the facility.

“When we conceived of the idea to build a facility that would itself be used in teaching energy efficiency, we knew we needed to work with an architectural planning group that went well beyond the norm,” said Dr. Kent Farnsworth, former President of Crowder College. “We had worked with KRJ Architects in the past, and they had recently formed an innovative planning group to allow the types of in-depth planning and research that we required for this project.”

The 10,000-square-foot building was conceived in 2003, built in 2011-2012, and has been utilized as a teaching facility by Crowder College for several years. The facility itself has been tested, improved and modified, allowing students to take full advantage of cutting edge technology. Awarding of the LEED Platinum certification came in 2018, after the college renewed their interest in securing the USGBC certification.

David Kromm of KRJ Planning & Research stated, “we were thrilled to be selected to plan and develop this outstanding facility for Crowder College, and are honored that our work is being used as a teaching model for tomorrow’s leaders. The MARET Center is a great example of how innovation can lead to an efficient, functional, delightful and culturally meaningful facility.”

In addition to being used as a teaching facility, the MARET Center also houses a small business incubator.
Earthship Media
An earthship is an accommodation with low environmental impact. The design of an earthship incorporates natural and recycled materials in the architecture and decor. It is built with conservation of natural resources in mind so that it produces its own water, electricity and food. Most earthships reuse discarded tires, cans and bottles for wall construction, and mud is common for wall plaster and floors. The energy savings through self-heating and cooling properties are remarkable. Most earthships rely on solar and wind energy as well as rain and snow harvesting for water needs.

The Phoenix Earthship is a prime example, located completely off the grid with its own garden. Available as a short-term rental through Airbnb, the Phoenix sleeps up to eight people in the 5,300-square-foot structure near Tres Piedras, New Mexico, so you can try out earthship living. Like most homes, the Phoenix has three bedrooms, two bathrooms, a large kitchen and a living room, and then there’s a jungle — inside.

The architectural and decorative details are incomparable with the building creating its own microclimate. That means plants and animals thrive in a space that is basically a greenhouse surrounded by the dry, sage-brush covered mesa surrounding it. The greenhouse and jungle areas feature a fish pond, birds, turtles, a food garden, banana trees and even a chicken coop that can provide fresh eggs during your stay.

The water process functions as a semi-closed unit, beginning with water runoff collection. After use, gray water feeds into the indoor plants that both drink and filter it, where it is stored and then pumped to the toilets as needed. From the toilet, the water heads to a traditional sewer where overflow is consumed by outdoor plants.

The entire structure looks like it was carved out of a hillside, with rounded walls and alcoves making up each space. Natural glass, clay, wood and rock can be found in every nook and cranny. Dubbed a “work of sustainable art,” the Phoenix Earthship provides plenty of opportunities to enjoy the actual nature outside the glass with a fire pit and seating, views of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and spaces for unparalleled stargazing.

In contrast to the remote feel and off-grid design, the Phoenix provides solar-powered modern amenities such as Wi-Fi, television and a cozy indoor fireplace with a water fountain feature.
Courtesy of OxBlue/Wright Runstad & Co.
First guidance on the sophisticated structural engineering method coming soon

Help is on the way for structural engineers driving toward improving the efficiency, reliability and resilience of buildings through performance-based wind design. And though it could take a decade or more for PBWD to become mainstream for practitioners, the authors of the first two PBWD documents, both debuting this year, are hailing them as milestones.

“PBWD provides the opportunity to engineer unique structural systems for buildings with atypical shapes or aerodynamic characteristics that do not fit the constraints of the prescriptive code-based wind-force resisting systems,” said Donald R. Scott, a senior principal at PCS Structural Solutions, at Structures Congress 2019. The conference, organized by the Structural Engineering Institute (SEI) of the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) and held April 24-27 in Orlando, drew 1,058 registrants.

Scott is the principal investigator leading the team of 14 structural experts writing the Prestandard for Performance-Based Wind Design, the first document ever produced to aid in PBWD. Five peer reviewers are currently pouring over the final draft. The ASCE/SEI document, underwritten by a $150,000 grant from the Charles Pankow Foundation, will be available on the Pankow foundation and ASCE/SEI websites for free download by the end of July.

The publication is intended as a precursor to a PBWD standard that would eventually be incorporated into the model building code—giving designers a code-approved alternative to the prescriptive, or cookbook, provisions of the code.

Tall Buildings

Following quickly on the heels of the prestandard, the ASCE/SEI task committee on design and performance of tall buildings for wind is writing its own consensus document. Also a first of its kind, Design and Performance of Tall Buildings for Wind, written by eight experts, assembles best practices for the design of high-rises to achieve specified performance targets under wind demands. It represents a consensus among design firms, wind engineers and academia.

The publication describes aspects of wind design and performance that many codes do not specify, according to Preetam Biswas, an associate director of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and chair of the task committee. The writers of the manual and the prestandard are coordinating their work, he said.

The draft of the manual is 95% complete and expected out in digital form by the end of the year. A print version should be available at Structures Congress 2020, April 5 to 8 in St. Louis.

Momentum is Building

Momentum is building for all types of performance-based design, which is a sophisticated engineering approach that relies on advanced analytic and design methods to enable engineers to reliably predict behavior of a structure when it is subjected to any defined loads, whether wind, seismic or fire.

The only way to get approval for a PBWD is to go through the alternate means and methods provision of the code. Few want to do this because building officials, unfamiliar with PBWD, are reluctant to approve the designs. In addition, a PBWD will require peer review. That translates to a longer and potentially murkier approvals process, which gives many building owners pause.

PBD in any form “requires specialized expertise or knowledge,” said Ronald O. Hamburger, a senior principal at Simpson Gumpertz & Heger and the father of the 20-year-old performance-based seismic design (PBSD) approach for building retrofits. “It is not for everyone,” he added.

Potential Advantages
Engineers agree that for PBWD to proliferate, there is much work to be done educating not only engineers but architects, developers, other stakeholders and especially code officials as to the potential advantages—and risks—associated with the approach. The guidelines are intended to help establish prudent means of practice and provide some protection, in terms of legal liability, for the predicted performance, said those involved.

Benefits of PBWD will be abundantly clear to many practitioners and owners, yet others may need to be convinced, chorused the authors of both documents. For starters, owners and designers need to be taught that the performance of designs produced by following the prescriptive requirements of the building code may not be sufficient, said Scott.

“Many project stakeholders believe that if their b
CHRISTOPHER FURLONG/GETTY IMAGES
ON JUNE 1, the Pilgrim nuclear plant in Massachusetts will shut down, a victim of rising costs and a technology that is struggling to remain economically viable in the United States. But the electricity generated by the aging nuclear station soon will be replaced by another carbon-free source: a fleet of 84 offshore wind turbines rising nearly 650 feet above the ocean's surface.

The developers of the Vineyard Wind project say their turbines—anchored about 14 miles south of Martha’s Vineyard—will generate 800 megawatts of electricity once they start spinning sometime in 2022. That’s equivalent to the output of a large coal-fired power plant and more than Pilgrim’s 640 megawatts.

“Offshore wind has arrived,” says Erich Stephens, chief development officer for Vineyard Wind, a developer based in New Bedford, Massachusetts, that is backed by Danish and Spanish wind energy firms. He explains that the costs have fallen enough to make developers take it seriously. “Not only is wind power less expensive, but you can place the turbines in deeper water, and do it less expensively than before.”

Last week, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities awarded Vineyard Wind a 20-year contract to provide electricity at 8.9 cents per kilowatt-hour. That's about a third the cost of other renewables (such as Canadian hydropower), and it's estimated that ratepayers will save $1.3 billion in energy costs over the life of the deal.

Can offshore wind pick up the slack from Pilgrim and other fading nukes? Its proponents think so, as long they can respond to concerns about potential harm to fisheries and marine life, as well as successfully connect to the existing power grid on land. Wind power is nothing new in the US, with 56,000 turbines in 41 states, Guam, and Puerto Rico producing a total of 96,433 MW nationwide. But wind farms located offshore, where wind blows stead and strong, unobstructed by buildings or mountains, have yet to start cranking.
Civil + Structural Engineer
The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) released its Annual Energy Outlook 2019 (AEO2019), including a Reference case and six side cases designed to examine the robustness of key assumptions. The AEO2019 Reference case projects significant continued development of U.S. shale and tight oil and natural gas resources, as well as continued growth in use of renewable resources.

The AEO2019 Reference case projects that in 2020, for the first time in almost 70 years, the United States will export more energy than it imports, and will remain a net energy exporter through 2050. U.S. energy export growth is driven largely by petroleum exports including crude oil and products, and by additional liquefied natural gas exports. These trends have become clearly established, and the Reference case shows them continuing for the next few years, and then slowing and stabilizing.

“The United States has become the largest producer of crude oil in the world, and growth in domestic oil, natural gas, and renewable energy production is quickly establishing the United States as a strong global energy producer for the foreseeable future” said EIA Administrator Linda Capuano. “For example, the United States produced almost 11 million barrels per day of crude oil in 2018, exceeding our previous 1970 record of 9.6 million barrels.”

EIA’s Reference case also highlights the impact of sustained low natural gas prices and declining costs of renewables on the electricity generation fuel mix. Natural gas will maintain its leading share of electricity generation and continue to grow, increasing from 34% in 2018 to 39% in 2050. The renewables share, including hydro, also increases from 18% in 2018 to 31% in 2050, driven largely by growth in wind and solar generation.

“The AEO highlights the increasing role of renewable energy in the U.S. generation mix” said EIA Administrator Linda Capuano. “Solar and wind generation are driving much of the growth. In fact, our Reference case projects that renewables will grow to become a larger share of U.S. electric generation than nuclear and coal in less than a decade.”
Inhabitat
Global carbon emissions may be on the rise and poised to reach an all-time high this year, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t positive climate news to talk about. If you are looking for some uplifting stories about the environment as we close out 2018 and head into the new year, here are six reasons to be hopeful in spite of climate change.

Plant-based meat

The carbon dioxide produced from burning fossil fuels is still the main greenhouse gas, but methane and nitrous oxide are more potent, and the levels are rising. Livestock farming is the main source of methane and nitrous oxide, and because the world loves meat and dairy, these gases are a huge factor in the battle against climate change. Simply put, if we don’t radically curb our meat consumption, we can’t beat global warming.

People all over the world are switching to vegetarian, vegan and flexitarian diets, and that is a step in the right direction. Bill Gates has invested in two plant-based burger companies that make food from plants that looks and tastes like meat. Major companies like Tyson, Danone and Nestle are also investing in plant-based products that have a tiny carbon footprint, so the market will continue to grow and offer a wide variety of plant-based foods.

The renewable energy revolution

Renewable energy is quickly becoming the new normal. Thanks to the cost of solar panels and wind turbines plummeting over the last decade, renewables are now cheaper than coal. There are already systems in place to shift from gas and oil to renewables.

Companies all over the world are committing to renewable energy, and now more than half of the new capacity for generating electricity is renewable.

Many parts of the world are already installing the cheapest electricity available. Last year, there was so much wind power in Germany that customers got free electricity.

Even in the U.S., despite President Trump’s rollback of key climate legislation, there has been $30 billion invested in renewable energy sources.