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Sustainable Development Update
March 10, 2017

Sustainable Development Focus

Microsoft tests deep-sea data centers for energy-efficient cooling, security

Construction Dive - Mar 1 Microsoft researchers have developed undersea data centers that cool electronics more efficiently by transferring waste heat into the ocean using internal and external heat exchangers, according to IEEE Spectrum. Dielectric liquids, phase-change materials, high-pressure helium gas, and supercritical carbon dioxide were passed over in favor of a simple water radiator system contained within steel pods that can be tethered to or built directly on the sea floor. Challenges to commercial deployment include minimizing biofouling to heat exchangers from barnacles and other marine sea life and developing remote and autonomous repair capabilities to deal with physical hardware failures.

Amazon to mount solar panels on 50 facilities by 2020

Commercial Property Executive - Mar 6 Amazon has announced the launch of a clean energy initiative that calls for the installation of solar panels on 50 fulfillment and sortation centers around the world by 2020. The Seattle-based company will kick off the endeavor by peppering the rooftops of more than 15 U.S. facilities in 2017. The initial stage of the solar installation program will cover—literally—properties in California, New Jersey, Maryland, Nevada, and Delaware, allowing for the production of up to 41 megawatts of power at the facilities. Contingent upon such factors as the particular property and time of year among them, the installations could provide as much as 80 percent of a center’s annual energy demands.

California lawmakers eye construction material carbon ‘pollution’ disclosure

Concrete Products - Feb 27 Billed as the first measure of its kind in the U.S., the Buy Clean California Act would require Golden State agencies to evaluate the greenhouse gas emissions of cement, steel, asphalt, and other products specified for infrastructure work. AB 262 calls for a) California to develop a formula to comparatively assess emissions associated with designated building or construction material production; b) agencies to strive to purchase materials with the lowest emissions, regardless of production origin; and c) infrastructure project bidders to complete a standard form stating cumulative greenhouse gas emissions in materials’ production. California steel producers have joined forces with clean air advocates and labor unions to support the “Buy Clean” mandate, according to Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Oakland), AB 262 sponsor.

New York expands programs for public school district solar installations

Energy Collective - Mar 3 The New York Power Authority (NYPA) announced last week that they will be expanding the K-Solar Initiative, which assists New York school districts in installing solar systems. The program will add two new solar developers and already has 25 districts with signed PPAs and 380 districts interested in participating. The K-Solar Initiative, a first-of-its-kind program, was launched in January 2014 to support the expansion of solar within New York public schools. The program is offered to all 700 school districts in New York with over 50% already interested in participating. As part of the program, NYPA acts as an energy advisor to the schools, providing technical assistance and consultation on volume pricing discounts and state incentives. 

California regulators worry they’re not prepared for energy-use surge from legal marijuana growing

Greentech Media - Mar 2 With the passage of California’s Proposition 64 in November 2016, recreational use of marijuana in the state is now legal. So does that mean new pot-growing farms, which often use power-hungry lights and cooling systems inside sprawling warehouses, will start plugging into the power grid and boost electricity use all over the state? The marijuana industry is severely lacking in important data, best practices, transparency, research, and education surrounding energy use, according to a group of marijuana growers, utility executives, and industry advocates that convened for a workshop organized by the California Public Utilities Commission last week. Some utilities in other states have faced blackouts and blown transformers in regions where too many indoor farms have overloaded the grid. The black hole of information partly has to do with the illicit nature of the industry, which has been illegal in the U.S., and most states, for decades.

Verdant Detroit: Can 'agrihoods' revitalize urban centers?

Green Biz - Feb 28 Urban agrihoods could provide much-needed food, employment, and green space to cities trying to rebuild. That’s the idea behind the Michigan Urban Farming Initiative’s (MUFI) two-acre farm and agrihood-in-development in Detroit’s North End neighborhood. Billed as the "first sustainable urban agrihood" in the U.S., MUFI’s current agricultural campus includes a two-acre farm, orchard, and children’s garden. Since 2012, it has distributed over 50,000 pounds of produce to local residents, nonprofits, and businesses.

Community choice energy coming to Silicon Valley in April

San Jose Mercury News - Feb 24 Residents and businesses in a number of South Bay communities have started to receive notices in the mail informing them of their automatic enrollment in a new program that will deliver renewable energy starting in April by way of PG&E. The objective of the program, started by a nonprofit called Silicon Valley Clean Energy (SVCE), is to offer cleaner electricity to residents, businesses, and municipal facilities at a cheaper rate than PG&E. SVCE is considered a community choice energy agency, which is a system adopted into law in various states, including California. The law allows cities, counties, and some special districts to purchase and/or generate electricity for residents and businesses within their jurisdiction and have it delivered through PG&E’s transmission and distribution system.

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