Roofing & Cladding: Seeing you from above

A roof over one’s head, is a nice way of feeling protected. But for the well-heeled, it’s the kind of roof that matters. Very often, one does not spend time thinking about the home’s roof, and that’s a good thing. The only time a roof gets one’s attention is when it’s damaged or leaking. And while a roof’s main objective is to protect and weatherproof the house, don’t underestimate the impact roofing can have on the style and appearance of your home.

The roofing industry in India has witnessed a paradigm shift over the last few years. The main reasons for focused consideration for roofing could be attributed to the growing industrial applications and consumers in general being dissatisfied with existing conventional options. Both cases demand value from roofing investments. This has given an impetus for various roofing materials, especially metal roofing, due to the many virtues it offers to the end customer. The apartment culture has certainly taken over the residential market in major cities of India, but there are several minor/remote pockets that thrive on constructing individual homes.

Mahendra Pingle.

Mahendra Pingle, deputy general manager – market development, Tata BlueScope Steel, says, “In Himachal Pradesh, most of our segments are ruled by residential applications. Our colour coated steel perfectly suits the hilly rugged terrains of the North as well as North East, withstanding the rigours of high winds, snow, hail and torrential rains. The same is the case with extreme weather temperature such as Tamil Nadu and Central India, where people prefer our roofing solutions due to its thermal efficiency. The sectors we primarily focus on are industrial, infrastructure, warehouse, institutional and commercial. From metro stations, airports, manufacturing facilities to schools, colleges and resorts, our roofing solutions are most preferred by architects looking for design flexibility, low maintenance, durability and speed of construction.”

For the company, major potential is in industrial and warehouse sector where metal cladding is preferred covering around 80% of the market share within roofing industry including walling, rainwater goods and accessories, façade, ceiling and liner panel applications. It has been servicing to all progressive sectors in India for more than over two decades by supplying quality roof and wall cladding products and solutions with world class installation practices and will continue to tap newer, diverse markets for the coated steel industry.

Over the top

Today, people are spoilt for choice and there’s a wide variety of roofing materials available. They’re all suitable for both new construction and re-roofing of existing homes. The type of roof one chooses will depend on several factors, including the home’s architectural style and one’s personal preference and budget. Where one lives should also be considered since certain types of roofs are more prevalent in certain regions of the country. For example, clay tile roofs are popular in the southeast and southwest, but not very common in the northeast or Midwest regions.

The global roofing materials market size is expected to reach $151.2 billion by 2027, registering a CAGR of 3% over the forecast period. Increasing product application in residential and commercial construction activities is projected to drive the growth.

Rising focus on construction of green, energy-efficient buildings leads to an increased demand for roofing materials. Furthermore, the durability associated with the variety of roofing materials such as asphalt shingles, metal roofs, and concrete and clay tiles is expected to have a positive impact on the market growth over the forecast period.

A wide variety of roofing materials is available, depending on the aesthetic, structural, and economic requirements of consumers. Over the past few years, roofing structures have emerged as an architectural trademark, which along with being eco-friendly, are also visually attractive, reasonably priced, and structurally sound.

Wienerberger AG, the Euro 3.3-bn global player in the construction sector, has announced an investment of Rs 30 crore in its Kunigal factory in Karnataka. Monnanda Appaiah, MD, Wienerberger India, says, “This announcement comes on the our 200th anniversary and 10th anniversary of our operations in India. The investment will be directed towards upgradation and implementation of new equipment in the factory, converting natural gas as a fuel, and launching of new building solutions. Globally, the company boasts of building over 180,000 houses, covering 290,000 roofs, laying 745,000 km pipes, and paving 17,000,000 m2 surfaces in 2018 alone.”

Monnanda Appaiah.

The market is characterised by a long-term relationship between customers and manufacturers and high brand loyalty. Major industry participants are focusing on enhancing their market share by expanding their product portfolio and focusing on improving product quality.

Consumers today are moving away from conventional choices and opting for modern, value driven roofing solutions. New technologies that promise faster construction, enable ease of installation, are well insulated – sound and thermally, are durable and fulfil green credentials norms, have wooed customers. “With green movement gaining enormous attention, solar compatible roofs are the next big trend. Further boosting sustainability are the green roof construction technologies. These roofing systems have multiple layers where the topmost layer is the green layer comprising of plants that helps save energy consumption due to its insulating properties. There is a new trend emerging of bio-solar roofs are also gaining popularity that combines green vegetation along with solar panels on rooftops. While thermal efficiency is an important consideration, it can also be achieved through innovative paint system with infra-red reflective inorganic pigments used in production of pre-panted roofing materials. Tata BlueScope Steel’s COLORBOND steel has THERMATECH solar reflectance technology, incorporated in its paint system, that helps reduce temperature inside the building by up to 5 degree Celsius, especially in hot climatic zones. Our roofing systems are lead free and can be used for rain water harvesting,” adds Pingle.

Making things new

Another trend is that of double-skin roof, using double layers with gap between them; working as an insulation layer that prevents heat transfer. This helps reduce heat influx inside the building. Cool roof ponds and cool pools with water bodies on top of the roof are also emerging techniques to reduce heat transfers inside the structures. Skylight roofs are very popular for natural lighting, drastically reducing the thermal load inside the building.

Metal profiles are mostly available in trapezoidal and sinusoidal shapes which are either fixed using fasteners/screws or by using clips which are concealed where external roof does not need to be punctured. These are also known as standing seam profiles that offer complete leakproofness. It is also supplied in single ridge to eaves.

The concealed fixed cladding are either locking profiles or standing seam profiles. All these claddings are compatible with solar panel installations.

Pingle says, “Standing seam and locking type profile offer leak-proof properties. The solar panels are fixed using specially designed clamps (as per profile shape) and does not require to make punctures to the roof for fixing them, making it a fully secured system offering great weather tightness. The solar panels are fixed on the trapezoidal roof profile by using solar batten or clamps. Using the right fastener with EPDM washer along with proper tightening, makes trapezoidal roof watertight. For better solar power generation, the solar panel needs to be fixed at a particular angle/slope – in slopped roof it can directly fixed on roof sheeting, but in case roof slope that is almost flat, it can be adjusted using additional supporting structure. LYSAGHT profiles made from ZINCALUME steel/ COLORBOND steel are compatible with solar panels. For all LYSAGHT profiles, we have developed special clamps that is available and can be supplied along with cladding.

In fact, now a days, for a heritage look, clay and cement tiles are used in many parts of India. But asbestos sheeting is banned in most of the countries and India as well due to its carcinogenic property. Advance and innovative Al-Zn alloy coated ZINCALUME steel metal roofing is a popular choice since many years due to its benefits over other inter-material. Pre-painted COLORBOND steel is considered to be best material for roofing for all types of buildings due to its long term aesthetics and excellent heat reflectivity (in-built THERMATECH technology). In roofing materials category, ZINCALUME steel and COLORBOND steel are GreenPro certified products, which are first of its kind, certified by IGBC.

Typically, one can experience a temperature reduction by up to 6 degree C over ordinary colour coated material. Though aluminium roofing is sold in the market, no doubt, it provides excellent corrosion protection as aluminium forms oxide gives barrier type protection (corrosion product) but it is prone to severe pitting and crevice corrosion in severe environmental condition. Aluminium roof is expensive than steel roofing, higher acoustic value, low strength (prone to have dents), aesthetics issue – oil canning at the valley, may not be preferred option for trapezoidal sheeting. It may be good for standing seam (concealed fixed roofing) built-up double skin roofing system. High tensile fabric is not popular but is being used typically for stadiums and parking sheds due to its flexibility in design. However it has several drawbacks. Green roofs are gaining popularity due to the global churn towards sustainable living. Roofing covered with plants can improve the air quality, reduce water runoff and insulate the building roof to reduce urban heat islands.

Is Waste to Energy Set to Increase in the Coming Years?

There are currently 71 waste to energy (WTE) plants in the United States. WTE plants only account for 0.4% of total electricity generation, although there is great potential to increase this percentage in the future.

Emily Folk | Conservation Folks

There are currently 71 waste to energy (WTE) plants in the United States. Another term for waste to energy is bioenergy. Energy is generated by burning waste at high temperatures, which produces electricity. WTE plants only account for 0.4% of total electricity generation, although there is great potential to increase this percentage in the future.

The implementation of more WTE plants also depends on the cost of energy in the coming years, as well as alternative waste management processes. More countries are looking for solutions to dispose of waste, with global limits being placed on exporting recycling. WTE plants offer a possible solution.

Current electricity levels account for about 20% of total energy expenditures. Waste to energy plants produce electricity by heating waste to high levels to generate energy. The electricity produced by these plants can fulfill the demands of 2 million homes. Utilizing waste to energy plants is not only a solution for waste management but also a valuable energy resource.

 

Is It Renewable?

Waste management exists in a hierarchical system. The first level is waste prevention, meaning that the first step in handling waste is creating less of it. This measure is followed by recycling, energy recovery, treatment and landfill disposal. One criticism of WTE is that it minimizes the incentive to recycle. However, according to a recent study, countries in the EU that have the most WTE plants also have the highest recycling rates.

If WTE plants keep waste out of the landfill and generate energy, are they a renewable resource? This is the main question in an ongoing discussion regarding how to define waste to energy. One significant factor in the future potential of the waste to energy industry is whether it can be considered a renewable resource. Because WTE plants do have a significant carbon footprint, there is an ongoing discussion as to whether they are truly renewable.

The impact of WTE plants is hard to quantify. On one hand, they have a significant carbon footprint. On the other, they offset methane emissions from landfills. While waste incinerators do release significant amounts of CO2, it is important to view these numbers in comparison with those of fossil fuel plants. WTE plants are also improving their technology over time and looking to reduce air pollution.

 

Waste to Energy Today

Between 2018 and 2026, research estimates that the waste to energy industry will see a 70% growth rate in the global market.

One popular opinion is that while WTE technology may be renewable, it is not clean. Health concerns over air pollution caused by WTE plants are a real concern. Particulates, nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide are just a few of the chemicals that can cause serious health problems for neighboring populations. The Baltimore city council passed legislation requiring air monitoring at its WTE facility.

However, new policies may also help the growth of the waste to the energy market. With an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, WTE plants may have less of a negative impact on the surrounding environment in the coming years. Additionally, policy changes may assist the expansion of waste to energy as other power sources become less available.

 

Innovations in WTE Technology

Waste to energy technology is evolving in its processes. Now that energy generation is more of a focus than trash reduction, innovative technology is making these plants more energy-efficient. It is also reducing the carbon footprint often associated with burning waste. There is a deliberate effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by advancing the energy recovery process.

One thing that waste to energy plants have on their side is the push for municipalities to become more self-sustainable. With technological and design innovations, there is the potential for the industry to do more than provide power.

For example, there is research on combining water treatment facilities with WTE plants. As urban areas advocate for self-reliance, WTE plants may provide the opportunity to contribute to a more circular economy.

 

The Future of Waste to Energy

The potential expansion of the waste to energy market depends heavily on external factors. For example, waste management around the globe is still looking for recycling alternatives after China decided to limit imports in 2018.

Other factors include the relatively low price of electricity in the United States, the availability of cheap natural gas, and the lack of policy regarding landfills.

With countries looking to decrease their dependence on fossil fuels, there is great potential in the renewable energy sector. While not as widely discussed as a renewable energy resource, waste to energy is considered renewable. With factors such as population growth and rising consumption levels, there is potential for the waste to energy market to increase in the next few years.

Waste to energy plants today are far more advanced than the trash incinerators of the past. Considering the innovative technology and design that is taking place in the waste management industry, it is very likely that waste to energy will become more widely utilized in the future.

The content opinions in this article are the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of AltEnergyMag


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Eco Living – Channel3000.com – WISC

Eco Living Opener

Eco-friendly is Often Budget-Friendly

Homes that are eco-friendly are often budget-friendly as well. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, some of the most popular “green” money savers are Energy Star appliances, CFL and LED lighting, and low-emittance windows. For further savings, consider an energy-efficient air conditioner, a tankless water heater or a reflective roof that absorbs less heat from the sun in the summer.

Conserving water is another smart move for both the Earth and your wallet. Low-flow showerheads, faucets and toilets are just the tip of the iceberg. You can also invest in barrels that divert rainwater to your garden or “smart” sprinklers you can control with an app.

If you’re building a sustainable home from scratch, design it strategically. Passive solar design minimizes energy use by considering the home’s location, climate and materials. For instance, a new home powered by solar energy would incorporate plenty of south-facing windows.

Whether you’re interested in building a new home or adding sustainable features to an existing home, UW Credit Union can help you turn your vision into a reality. A construction loan could be a good fit if you’re building, while a home equity line of credit (HELOC) can give an older abode the latest and greatest green features.

“Whether you have a brand-new home or a historic one, a HELOC can help you make eco-friendly updates over time, in
a way that works for your schedule and budget,” Josh Fetting, UW Credit Union’s consumer lending sales manager said. “We make it extra budget-friendly by offering discounted rates for the first year and interest-only payment options.”

Plus, as a three-time recipient of the Wisconsin Sustainable Business Council’s Green Master designation, UW Credit Union demonstrates its dedication to sustainability with energy-efficient lighting, water-conserving appliances, a composting program and more. Some branches even use geothermal heating, another green feature to consider for your home.

Victory Homes

Comfortable and Confident

It’s the customers who are driving the decision to build eco-friendly homes, David Roembke, vice president of sales
at Victory Homes of Wisconsin said.

From energy-efficient space planning and solar panels to electric vehicle charging stations, Victory Homes is dedicated to designing custom luxury homes that satisfy each client’s individual style and values?—?including environmentally responsible building practices. One trend that’s growing in popularity: smaller homes with a high-end finish.

“We’re flexible enough to give customers what they’re looking for and what matters to them, including sustainability,” Roembke said.

Victory Homes has served the Milwaukee area since 2003 and expanded to bring its expertise to Madison and beyond. Victory Homes guides clients through their entire build, including interior design selection, pricing, contracts and approvals.

“Our entire process — our designs, transparency and attention to detail — sets us apart,” Roembke said. “We want to make sure our customers are comfortable and confident in their home-building decisions.”

The Impact of Energy Efficiency

At Ganser Co., a family-owned business of four generations, it’s all about building connections with customers and watching their remodeling dreams come true. But within that process, there are many different choices that both the customer and company must make.

For example, what types of materials should be used for a certain project, and why?

“Energy efficiency is vitally important to help reduce the carbon footprint of your home,” said owner Travis Ganser. “That is why at Ganser Co. we provide Energy Star Rated products.”

Ganser Co

In fact, Ganser Co. has a wide selection of eco-friendly options for many areas of your home. To help reduce your energy consumption, there are Infinity Fiberglass Replacement Windows and Patio Doors, which outperform and outlast many other options. Ganser Co., a GAF Certified Master Elite, also offers the latest technology in roofing with an Energy Star Certified roofing system to keep your home energy efficient.

While Ganser Co. offers products and services that help to keep your energy bills low, it also offers LP SmartSide siding, sustainably made from wood particles and fibers that work overtime to make sure you don’t have to deal with rot, fungus and termites.

“Eco living is being part of the environment, and we’re blessed to live in one of the most beautiful states in our country,” Ganser said. “We’re interested in building things that complement our surroundings and tie into the majesty that Wisconsin has to offer. We want to offer solutions to help keep that beauty for generations to come.”

Ganser Co. values not only the environment and the individual material choices its customers want to make, but also its place here in Madison.

“We’re so grateful for the opportunity to serve the Madison area,” Ganser said. “Every project, no matter how big or small, is an incredible honor. We want to thank Madison for giving us the ability to work in an industry that we love.”

Dons Home Furniture

Locally Made Furniture

Find your design. That’s the motto at Don’s Home Furniture, one of the largest Amish furniture stores in the country.

At Don’s Home Furniture, it isn’t just about finding something in a showroom that a customer likes; it’s about working with each customer to bring their unique vision to life.

“We get to design furniture, work with our Amish craftsman as the piece is created and see the finished product,” co-owner Blaine Neupert said. “We have traditional pieces but also midcentury modern and classic designs in a variety of wood species and stains that are perfect for creating unique pieces.”

Every piece at Don’s Home Furniture is American-made, meaning you’re guaranteed a quality piece of furniture that’s built to last. By selling only American-made pieces, Don’s Home Furniture is proud to support other small businesses, believing that “shop small” isn’t a cause, but an action.

“We hand-select the many Amish shops whose work ethic, craftsmanship and attention to detail are impeccable,” said Neupert. “Our products do not come in a box but are delivered to us, and then on to you, blanket-wrapped. This furniture is built to last for generations.”

As one of Madison’s best furniture stores, Don’s Home Furniture and its “So many great memories are made every day in our homes,” co-owner Tina Neupert said. “For us to know that so many people in South Central Wisconsin feel we are the best place for them to find furniture so they can enjoy these memories?—?it’s just really an honor for us.”

Clean and Bright

If you’ve lived in your home for a few years, there’s a good chance it has been through some wear and tear. Siding gets dirty, windows get marked up and your deck or patio has probably seen better days. While some people don’t see this as a pressing issue, continual damage to your house is exponentially pricey.

Clear Vision, an exterior cleaning company specializing in pressure-washing services, understands this. By valuing customer satisfaction over all else, they treat customers’ homes like their own, turning back the clock on
your house until it looks brand-new.

“When we transform something from looking old and dingy back to clean and bright, it is the most satisfying part of working in this industry,” owner Kyle Ballweg said. “Whether it is a deck or patio, siding, concrete surfaces or a fence, seeing that before and after fuels us.”

Clear Vison

Part of the reason Clear Vision is such a successful company is that Ballweg puts his employees first, empowering them to do what needs to be done to take care of each and every customer.

“I didn’t set out to be considered one of Madison’s best businesses; it happened naturally through my focus on delivering a great customer experience by hiring great people,” he said. “I am a huge advocate of being a leader that empowers their team and treats them exactly the way I want them to treat our customers.”

Ballweg’s hard work has paid off, as Clear Vision continues to provide high-quality services from a talented team that cares deeply about its customers.

“I hope people appreciate that we really just want to help them maintain their home,” Ballweg said. “Cleaning the windows and pressure-washing the concrete, patio or the siding takes up precious family time. If we can give them time back to do the things they want to do — that’s what we’re all about.”

Great Value to Conscious Choices

All Comfort Services has been a family-owned business in the Madison area for nearly 50 years — and it’s had plenty of time to learn its customers’ interests.

“We are very attuned to our environment,” president Kendall Richards said. “We offer environmentally friendly and sustainable solutions to our customers.”

All Comfort Service

In every division, including plumbing, heating, cooling and electrical, the company offers energy-efficient products.

All Comfort Services installs the highest-efficiency gas furnaces and air conditioners on the market, Richards said. It installs low-flow toilets, electric vehicle outlets and tankless water heaters, which are roughly 30% more efficient than normal heaters.

Even during its community service projects the company tries to leave a small carbon footprint. The free Swedish dishcloths it hands out during the Susan G. Komen South Central Wisconsin MORE THAN PINK Walk are made of biodegradable materials and water-based ink.

“When we can make environmentally conscious choices and still give our customers great value, we will do it at every opportunity,” Richards said. 

Colgate-Palmolive Company Earns 10th Consecutive ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year Award

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Mar 31, 2020–

Colgate-Palmolive Company today received a 2020 ENERGY STAR ® Partner of the Year Award for Sustained Excellence for its continued leadership and superior contributions to ENERGY STAR. This marks the 10th year that Colgate has been recognized as a leader in energy efficient practices and 8th year receiving the sustained excellence designation.

Guided by the Company’s overarching sustainability goals, the Global Energy Reduction Team leads the technical implementation of Colgate’s energy strategy within its manufacturing sites across the world. In the past year, the team has also achieved measurable changes in several ways, including:

  • In Burlington, New Jersey, implementing solar panels at the manufacturing plant as part of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for Zero Energy Carbon. These panels are responsible for 33% of the plant’s energy and electricity needs.
  • In China, replacing over one hundred high-energy motors with low-energy motors on manufacturing equipment.
  • In Mexico, substituting general service pumps with high-efficiency pumps.

Colgate’s factories also participate in “Energy Treasure Hunts,” three-day events that encourage participants to uncover causes of energy waste and find opportunities for improvement. Since implementing the program in 2012, Colgate has completed 34 Energy Treasure Hunts and identified 1,962 energy reduction solutions with an estimated energy savings of 349,754 MWh and 121,824 MT of CO2.

“Energy management and the use of renewable energy sources are two of the building blocks of Colgate’s greater sustainability strategy,” said Ann Tracy, Chief Sustainability Officer. “As we continue to make great strides toward our 2025 sustainability goals, we are proud to be recognized by ENERGY STAR® for our commitment to reducing emissions and eliminating energy waste.”

Colgate continues to make a concerted effort to mitigate the negative impact of climate change by relying on energy efficiency, supporting the development of low-carbon renewable energy supply, and reducing emissions throughout its value chain. In the last year, Colgate has been recognized by the Dow Jones Sustainability Indices as the top performing company in the Household Products category, received a U.S. Green Building Council Leadership Award, and was also named to EPA’s Green Power Partnership National Top 100. Additional details about Colgate’s energy management and investment practices can be found in the Sustainability section of Colgate’s website. For ongoing updates regarding Colgate’s sustainability progress and accomplishments, follow Colgate on LinkedIn.

About ENERGY STAR:

ENERGY STAR ® is the government-backed symbol for energy efficiency, providing simple, credible, and unbiased information that consumers and businesses rely on to make well-informed decisions. Thousands of industrial, commercial, utility, state, and local organizations—including more than 40 percent of the Fortune 500 companies—rely on their partnership with EPA to deliver cost-saving energy efficiency solutions. Since 1992, ENERGY STAR and its thousands of partners helped American families and businesses save more than 4 trillion kilowatt-hours of electricity and achieve over 3.5 billion metric tons of greenhouse gas reductions. In 2018 alone, ENERGY STAR and its partners helped Americans avoid nearly $35 billion in energy costs. More background information about ENERGY STAR can be found at: energystar.gov/about and energystar.gov/numbers.

About Colgate-Palmolive Company:

Colgate-Palmolive is a leading global consumer products company, focused on Oral Care, Personal Care, Home Care and Pet Nutrition. With more than 34,000 people and its products sold in over 200 countries and territories, Colgate is known for household names such as Colgate, Palmolive, elmex, Tom’s of Maine, hello, Sorriso, Speed Stick, Lady Speed Stick, Softsoap, Irish Spring, Protex, Sanex, Filorga, eltaMD, PCA Skin, Ajax, Axion, Fabuloso, Soupline and Suavitel, as well as Hill’s Science Diet and Hill’s Prescription Diet. The Company is also recognized for its leadership and innovation in promoting environmental sustainability and community wellbeing, including its achievements in saving water, reducing waste, promoting recyclability and improving the oral health of children through its Bright Smiles, Bright Futures program, which has reached more than one billion children since 1991. For more information about Colgate’s global business and how the Company is building a future to smile about, visit http://www.colgatepalmolive.com. -CL

View source version on businesswire.com:https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20200331005538/en/

CONTACT: Robert Goodfellow

Colgate-Palmolive Company

646-277-1218

KEYWORD: NEW YORK UNITED STATES NORTH AMERICA

INDUSTRY KEYWORD: RETAIL HEALTH OTHER RETAIL ENVIRONMENT ALTERNATIVE ENERGY ENERGY DENTAL

SOURCE: Colgate-Palmolive Company

Copyright Business Wire 2020.

PUB: 03/31/2020 10:10 AM/DISC: 03/31/2020 10:10 AM

http://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20200331005538/en

What is an Ecolodge? 21 Top Eco Resorts and Eco Hotels Around the World

The environment will thank you for choosing to stay at these ecolodges.

As consumers contemplate the negative effects travel has on the environment, greener alternatives are steadily growing in popularity. This is especially evident in the hospitality industry, where ecolodges, or accommodations designed to have a minimal impact on their natural surroundings, are popping up across the world. Many ecolodges employ local workers, provide environmental education programs and give back to their local communities. While some ecolodges are located in remote destinations, there are also many eco-friendly resorts and hotels in urban areas. From New York City to Singapore, Amsterdam to Sydney, travelers from all around the globe can use this guide to make smarter lodging choices and in turn preserve the environment for travelers of the future.

El Monte Sagrado Living Resort Spa: Taos, New Mexico

Taos, New Mexico, has a rich natural landscape, which is integrated into the design of the town’s five-star ecolodge, El Monte Sagrado Living Resort and Spa. The hotel’s infrastructure incorporates recycled water, plants, fish and rocks into a self-sustaining environment, which not only gives the resort a natural aesthetic but helps reclaim rain and wastewater. The guest rooms — which start at $149 a night — are built from stone and incorporate globally inspired designs with Egyptian, Balinese, Tibetan and Native American-inspired decor. Meanwhile, the spa utilizes organic products and treatments traditional to the native tribes in the area. Guests can also spend time in the hotel’s biolariums, which are on-site greenhouses filled with vegetation and flowers.

Post Ranch Inn: Big Sur, California

The Post Ranch Inn perfectly melts into the cliffs and coastline of Big Sur, California. Constructed out of sustainable materials, guest rooms seem to balance over the Pacific Ocean and are equipped with indoor/outdoor space, glass walls and wood-burning fireplaces. The hotel grounds act as a habitat for the California red-legged frog, Smith’s blue butterfly and other endangered species; the land also provides ingredients used in meals at the on-site restaurant. Guests can explore the area with guided hiking tours, educational bird-watching experiences and outdoor yoga classes, or they can take one of the hotel’s hybrid Lexus vehicles to visit other nearby destinations. However, a stay here won’t come cheap: Nightly room rates average more than $1,000.

The Ranch at Laguna Beach: Laguna Beach, California

At The Ranch at Laguna Beach, almost nothing is wasted: Empty glass bottles are turned into sand for the golf course, wastewater is reclaimed to fortify the hotel grass, excess food is donated to local food pantries and unused soap is given a second life at Clean the World, an organization that distributes soap and hygiene products to impoverished people. The hotel also sponsors an educational camping program for underprivileged youth. In addition to its multitude of sustainable initiatives, The Ranch at Laguna Beach also offers luxury suites, a boutique spa and top-notch restaurants all nestled into a canyon by the sea. Room rates start at around $300, but can climb to $1,000 in peak season.

The Stanford Inn by the Sea: Mendocino, California

When you arrive at the Stanford Inn by the Sea, you’ll immediately feel welcomed into the Stanford family, who opened the ecolodge in 1980 to inspire and educate guests about themselves and their environment. The resort offers gardening lessons, meditation sessions, herbal medicine practices and cooking classes with a focus on vegetarian and vegan food. What’s more, the property is speckled with organic gardens that supply the ingredients for the on-site eatery, Ravens Restaurant. With an on-site spa, biking trails, wildlife tours and miles of river to canoe, guests will have plenty of ways to keep busy at the Stanford Inn. Room rates start around $350.

1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge: New York City

A stay at 1 Hotel Brooklyn Bridge will not only afford you sweeping views of the waterfront and Manhattan skyline, but it’ll also give you peace of mind knowing you’re keeping your carbon footprint small. Designed with nature in mind, the hotel offers fresh produce at its lobby farm stand and houses a multitude of plants in its common areas. Each guest room features pieces made from reclaimed wood and offers plenty of natural light, as well as organic sheets and timed shower heads to reduce water waste. Not to mention, the majority of the hotel’s furniture and art is made by local artisans. Room rates can range from $400 to around $1,500 per night.

The Brown Palace Hotel and Spa, Autograph Collection: Denver, Colorado

Sustainability is woven through every aspect of The Brown Palace Hotel and Spa experience: Guests pick up biodegradable key cards at the front desk, order from recycled menus at the restaurant and shower with locally produced soaps under low-flow shower heads. At the spa, treatments use honey made by the five bee colonies living on the hotel rooftop, and in the kitchen, meals are made with ingredients from the tower garden while leftovers are composted. Previous visitors not only compliment this hotel’s eco-friendly nature but they also rave about the hotel’s downtown Denver location, historic structure, elegant bars and afternoon tea offerings. Guest rooms start at $278 per night.

The Green House: Bournemouth, England

The Green House proves an eco-friendly stay doesn’t have to be expensive. Situated on the southern coast of England, about 100 miles southwest of London, The Green House maintains strict sustainability standards, and its room rates start at just $117. Guests can rest easy in sustainable beds and enjoy fresh seafood and local ingredients from the surrounding town of Bournemouth. This 32-room hotel boasts upcycled furniture, locally woven carpets and wallpaper made from vegetable ink. What’s more, the hotel features an on-site community vegetable garden and supports environmental initiatives at surrounding schools.

Eagles Palace: Halkidiki, Greece

Eagles Palace was built to preserve the lush wildlife, crystal-clear ocean and pristine beaches that surround it. Some of the luxury hotel’s eco-friendly initiatives include the use of low-energy lightbulbs, filtered pool water and waste separation practices. However, Eagles Palace staff members also illustrate the property’s dedication to the land through larger scale projects, including clean-up projects alongside local elementary schools and on-site olive oil production, which eliminates the carbon footprint that comes with shipping this highly sought-after ingredient. The hotel operates seasonally and room rates start around $175.

Conscious Hotel Vondelpark: Amsterdam

Conscious Hotel Vondelpark defines its sustainability efforts as “eco-sexy.” From top — the roof is a sanctuary for wildlife and honeybees — to bottom, the hotel maintains a variety of eco-conscious practices. All energy is sourced from windmills, and water-saving faucets ensure the hotel uses up to 50% less water than traditional hotels. Guests can enjoy organic food on-site and the hotel offers bike rentals for seeing the city. The front desk also provides sustainable toothbrushes and reusable water bottles to guests in need. After a day exploring Amsterdam, lodgers can lounge on the hotel’s repurposed furniture and sleep in the property’s biodegradable beds. A stay at this ecolodge comes in at about $250 per night.

Bucuti Tara Beach Resort: Oranjestad, Aruba

At first glance, Bucuti Tara Beach Resort seems like a typical luxury getaway with a spa, a pool, beach access and fine dining restaurants. However, upon closer examination, travelers will find this resort caters not only to its guests but also to its environment. A certified CarbonNeutral hotel and a member of the Green Globe program, the resort reduces its environmental impact by using solar energy for heat, reclaimed water for landscaping and eco-friendly paper for its marketing products. The hotel also has the lowest per-room electricity usage in the country. Not to mention, Bucuti Tara Beach Resort sponsors various animal welfare groups on the island. The nightly room rates, which start around $400, also include a locally sourced breakfast each morning.

Hermitage Bay: Antigua Barbuda

Hermitage Bay is the ideal getaway for anyone who wants to immerse themselves in nature and enjoy the plethora of resources Antigua has to offer. The staff, most of whom are hired from the surrounding area to promote the island’s economic growth, are trained in environmental responsibility. The hotel’s hillside and beachfront suites are constructed from sustainably farmed wood and were built in such a way that the vegetation, particularly the coastal mangroves, remain untouched. Meanwhile, cooking classes, farm tours, fishing and scuba diving lessons engage visitors with the island’s natural wonders. However, these perks come with a price tag: room rates start around $1,000 a night.

Pacuare Jungle Lodge: Turrialba, Costa Rica

Whether you’re looking for an adventurous trip or a relaxing getaway in the jungle, the Pacuare Lodge, situated on the banks of the Pacuare River in central Costa Rica, is a great environmentally friendly option. Rather than cutting down any trees to build the lodge, the Pacuare team sourced wood from a local reforestation project to construct the bungalows; the roof of each bungalow was crafted in traditional style by local Indians. The lodge employs workers from the surrounding villages, uses local ingredients for meals and operates solely on turbine-generated electricity. Additionally, the team purchased reservation land to keep it from being cleared and consistently donates supplies to local elementary schools. While a stay costs upward of $900 per night, the revenue from bookings goes toward helping maintain sustainable practices.

Cristalino Lodge: Alta Floresta, Costa Rica

Due to its location on a reserve in the Amazon rainforest — one of the most ecologically rich places on the planet — the Cristalino Lodge puts special emphasis on conservation and environmental welfare. Designed as an ecotourism destination, the lodge offers tours and excursions for visitors to learn about the many birds, monkeys and other native animals. The lodge operates programs, such as the Amazon School, where students can visit to learn about the forest through immersion courses. Naturally ventilated accommodations, open fireplaces, Brazilian cuisine and a floating deck with hammocks add to the lodge’s charm. On average, visitors can expect to pay $375 per person per night.

Kagga Kamma Nature Reserve: Cederberg, South Africa

A stay at Kagga Kamma Nature Reserve brings visitors as close as possible to the unique wildlife of South Africa. Reptile education classes help guests learn about native species, while rock art tours teach participants about the ancient civilizations that once inhabited the area. Explore the surrounding land during one of the lodge’s nature drives, quad bike adventures or hikes. And if you can’t get enough of the fresh air and unspoiled nature, opt for an open-air suite, where you can fall asleep under the starry sky. The lodge recycles water wherever possible and operates on an eco-friendly hybrid energy system for which it earned a RCI Green Award. Nightly rates, which are calculated per person rather than per room, start around $200.

Chobe Bakwena Lodge: Botswana

The Chobe Bakwena Lodge is a group of luxurious chalets made from simple materials, such as sand, grass and sustainably sourced wood. The accommodations’ circular shape help maintain comfortable temperatures without using energy; all electricity is solar powered. The lodge supports local businesses by featuring handmade decor and furniture throughout its interiors. Travelers will appreciate the lodge’s location inside Chobe National Park and are sure to be awed by the presence of hippos and elephants who frequently roam near the lodge. Chobe Bakwena offers bike tours, village walks and other activities to help guests learn about their surroundings. Rates vary but travelers can contact the ecolodge directly to learn more.

Wildlife Retreat at Taronga: Sydney

Australia is known for its unique plants and animals, and the Wildlife Retreat at Taronga is the perfect place for travelers to see why. Located just 7 miles northeast of downtown Sydney, this eco retreat sits in the Taronga Zoo wildlife sanctuary and allows guests to interact with and learn about native species. Visitors can find peace in knowing the money from every stay goes to supporting animal conservation and education efforts throughout the country. Additionally, the posh hotel complies with sustainable building standards using tactics, such as recycled water, solar power and low-energy appliances. A one-night stay can cost around $200.

ParkRoyal on Pickering, Singapore: Singapore

ParkRoyal on Pickering, Singapore, has been setting sustainability standards for the hospitality industry since its opening in 2013. Built as a “hotel within a garden,” this luxurious oasis in Singapore‘s city center is adorned in greenery both inside and outside. All of the gardens, plants and waterfalls combined would equate to more than double the hotel’s land area. The hotel’s open-air hallways cut down on energy usage and promote ventilation. Additionally, guest rooms — which cost around $250 per night — utilize water and lighting sensors to preserve energy, while the restaurants offer a “No Meat, No Problem” plant-based menu. These sustainable initiatives and more earned the ParkRoyal the World’s Leading Green City Hotel 2019 award.

Six Senses Con Dao: Con Dao, Vietnam

The pristine private beach is undoubtedly the highlight of this Vietnamese island resort, not only because of its beauty but also because hotel guests and the native wildlife — specifically the sea turtles — can happily coexist there. Each year, the resort staff helps care for and safely release baby sea turtles into the wild, and invites guests to participate as well. To further protect the wildlife, the beaches and hotel grounds are kept plastic-free. To aid in this initiative, each guest receives a glass reusable water bottle upon arrival. Lodgers are also invited to participate in the hotel’s weekly English classes where they can help local community members improve their language skills. Nightly rates start around $650.

Casa de las Olas: Tulum, Mexico

A LEED Platinum certified property near the picturesque town of Tulum, Casa de las Olas is thoughtfully designed. The property’s location helps maximize coastal breezes for air circulation, and the rooms use solar power for energy. All food is sourced from local family farms, and any kitchen waste is composted on-site. The lodge sits near the entrance of a 1.3 million-acre biosphere reserve, making it ideal for anyone seeking a tranquil getaway filled with natural beauty. Not to mention, there are spa treatments and yoga classes available daily. Stays start around $300 per night.

Mas Salagros EcoResort: Vallromanes, Spain

Just more than 10 miles north of Barcelona sits Mas Salagros EcoResort, a luxury lodge built on the plot of a 15th-century farm. Because of the property’s fruitful land and location on a nature reserve, the founders of Mas Salagros decided to make their hotel as sustainable as possible. Adhering to Europe’s high standards of ecological building, they have achieved their goal by utilizing sustainable materials, energy-efficient power and advanced waste management processes to minimize the hotel’s effect on the environment. Hiking, organic cooking classes with the on-site chef and eco-friendly thermal baths are just some of the activities visitors can enjoy at Mas Salagros. Not to mention, the hotel is affordable: Nightly room rates start around $130.

ION Adventure Hotel: Reykjavik, Iceland

Just a short drive from Reykjavik, the ION Adventure Hotel nearly blends into its volcanic surroundings. Built with sustainable materials and large windows that provide unobstructed views of the picturesque land and the northern lights, this hotel is ideal for anyone who wants to get in touch with nature. The neighboring Hengill volcano acts as a geothermal energy source to bring electricity and hot water to guests. Inside, furniture is made from rocks, reclaimed wood and recycled materials. (The sinks are even made of recycled tires.) Guests can enjoy local food, herbal bath amenities and access to tours with local guides who are experts on the land. Expect to pay $250 or more per night.

More from U.S. News

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What is an Ecolodge? 21 Top Eco Resorts and Eco Hotels Around the World originally appeared on usnews.com

Renewable energy and 100% clean power targets: The missing puzzle piece

Across the country, dozens of cities and states have passed laws or resolutions targeting 100 percent carbon-free electricity — most recently 20 communities in Utah and the state of Virginia.

But is it even possible to power a modern economy with a carbon-free grid? And if so, what are the best energy sources and technologies for getting there?

These questions have been the source of raging debate among energy wonks for many years but have moved closer to mainstream political discourse since the introduction of the Green New Deal. (For a brief introduction to the terms and players involved in the debate over 100 percent clean electricity, see here and here.)

Now there is a growing list of jurisdictions that face stringent emissions targets in years ahead and urgently need to figure out answers. We’ll discuss the most notable such jurisdiction, California, and a cool new(ish) technology that it may help it reach its 100 percent target, in a moment.

First, though, let’s look at the problem to be solved, the dilemma that comes with an energy grid run mostly on renewable sources of energy.

Renewable energy needs dispatchable generation and long-term storage

The core issue is variability. Whereas fossil fuel power plants can be turned up or down to meet demand (they are “dispatchable,” in the lingo), the big sources of renewable energy — sun, wind, and water (hydropower) — cannot. They come and go on nature’s schedule. Sun disappears each night and on cloudy days. Wind and precipitation vary daily and seasonally. All three show longer-term variations over years and decades.

All these variations in supply cannot be controlled by power grid managers, so they must be accommodated.

To some extent, sun, wind, and water balance one another out; where it is not sunny, it is often windy. With a good national transmission system, renewables could supply up to 60, maybe 80 percent of electricity in the US, but after that, things get expensive and something else is needed to fill the gaps.

california’s duck curve.

The “duck curve” of demand created by renewable energy on the grid.
CAISO

But what? Coal plants emit carbon, so they can’t be part of a clean grid. Nuclear plants are not very good at gap-filling — they are big, relatively slow, and expensive to ramp up and down. (Though nuclear proponents argue they are better than they’re given credit for.)

In practice, most places in the US with high penetrations of renewable energy (like California) fill the gaps with natural gas plants, which are smaller and more nimble than coal or nuclear plants. But natural gas is a fossil fuel, and if its emissions are not captured and buried, it can’t be part of a net-zero-carbon grid either.

Is there a carbon-free way to fill the gaps? This is where the debate comes in. Some renewable energy advocates argue that the gaps can be filled with energy storage, what at least at the moment mainly means batteries. But getting to 100 means covering for any foreseeable seasonal or even decadal dip in renewable sources, which means a lot of batteries. Without some other, cheaper form of energy storage, which can hold more energy for longer, that gets expensive.

Some people take this to mean that 100 percent clean electricity can’t be done. Some use it to argue that small nuclear plants will be necessary. Some argue that coal or natural gas plants should stay online, with their emissions captured and buried, or that biomass electricity generation (which can conceivably be carbon-negative) should scale up.

And that’s where the debate typically gets stuck. But there’s a new(ish) energy technology on the scene these days that promises a neat and satisfying resolution to the variability dilemma. It’s called power-to-gas, or PtG.

A new study argues that PtG could help California, and by implication other jurisdictions aiming for clean grids, reach ambitious clean energy targets without spiking electricity costs. If that’s true — and to some extent, whether it is true depends on policy choices made in coming years — it could make the 100 percent target safer, luring other jurisdictions to jump on board.

Let’s take a look at PtG, what it is and how it could help.

Natural gas storage and pipelines.

Natural gas storage and pipelines.
Shutterstock

Renewable energy can make its own dispatchable generation and long-term storage

Remember the dilemma at the heart of renewable energy: variability. As a place like California puts more solar and wind power onto the grid, the grid begins experiencing more short- and long-term swings — more gaps that must be filled by energy resources that are dispatchable.

Ideally, what a renewables-heavy grid needs is a source (or carrier) of energy that can sit idle for long periods but jump in at a moment’s notice to supplement a flagging supply of sun or wind. A clean grid needs backup energy that can be stored for long durations, in large quantities, but can be quickly available.

There is one technology that perfectly fits that bill: natural gas, i.e., methane.

Methane is itself an extremely stable form of stored energy. Unlike the chemical energy stored in lithium-ion modules, which leaks over time, natural gas can be stored indefinitely. The system of natural gas storage reservoirs and pipelines in the US is thus akin to a giant, distributed battery. And natural gas power plants are (to continue the electricity metaphor) the inverters that convert the stored energy into useful electricity.

A sprawling battery with enormous capacity that can produce electricity at a moment’s notice: That’s perfect for renewable energy. Except for the whole carbon-emissions thing.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a carbon-neutral form of gas, so that California could make use of its massive gas “battery” to back up renewable energy without adding any carbon to the atmosphere?

That’s where PtG comes in.

Fossil fuels are hydrocarbons, and hydrocarbons are just hydrogen and carbon. If you can gather hydrogen and carbon dioxide separately, you can combine them through “methanation” to produce synthetic natural gas.

The carbon intensity of the synthetic gas depends on where the hydrogen and carbon dioxide come from.

Currently, most hydrogen is produced through steam reforming of natural gas, which is energy- and carbon-intensive. But it can also be produced through electrolysis, which uses electricity (ideally generated by wind and solar) and a catalyst to free hydrogen directly from water. About 4 percent of current hydrogen is made through electrolysis. Nuclear power plants can also be used to make hydrogen — it’s one avenue being discussed to give existing nuclear plants stable markets and enable them to stay running — but that’s not happening yet at any scale.

The carbon dioxide can be dug up from natural reservoirs, but digging carbon out of the earth is hardly carbon-neutral. CO2 can also be captured from the waste streams of industrial facilities and power plants, or captured from the ambient air itself through direct air capture (DAC).

direct air capture (DAC) of carbon dioxide

A direct air capture (DAC) plant.
Carbon Engineering

If the hydrogen comes from hydrolysis powered by renewable energy or nuclear power, and if the carbon dioxide is captured from waste streams or the ambient air, then the synthetic methane produced is carbon-neutral. Carbon is pulled out of the air and returned to the air when the methane is burned — no net gain or loss.

And the process is driven, ultimately, by renewable energy. It is a way for renewables to create their own long-term energy storage and dispatchable generation, their own backup, which they can leverage to ratchet up and grow further.

If PtG takes off, there are many ways the resultant gas could be used — heavy industry, residential heating, and transportation will probably be first in line — but let’s focus here on what it could do for the electricity system.

PtG reduces the cost of an all-renewables electricity system

The global energy services company Wärtsilä, headquartered in Helsinki, Finland, recently released a white paper arguing that California could reach its ambitious goals for the electricity sector — 60 percent renewable energy by 2030, 100 percent carbon-neutral by 2045 — more quickly and cheaply through PtG.

Using the same Plexos energy simulation software used by California regulators, Wärtsilä modeled three scenarios for the future of the state’s grid.

The first is the state’s current plan, as reflected in its integrated resource planning (IRP) process through 2030 and then using “high electrification” projections through 2045. This scenario relies heavily on solar, wind, hydro, and batteries. Notably, the current plan does not reach full carbon neutrality by 2045 (more details on that later).

The second is the “optimal path.” In the early years, it builds out solar, wind, and batteries somewhat faster than the current scenario, but post-2030, it relies more heavily than the current plan on thermal plants, i.e., plants that burn stuff to generate electricity. It retires existing natural gas plats more slowly, keeping the more flexible ones open, and it builds out a lot of small, fast natural gas power plants. All these natural gas plants are converted to synthetic methane when it is available from 2030 forward. The optimal path reaches full carbon neutrality by 2045.

The third scenario is an extension of the first; it is the current plan on steroids. Relying purely on renewables and batteries, it banishes all thermal plants from the grid and reaches total carbon neutrality by 2045.

Spoiler: the second scenario, as its name would suggest, wins. The use of PtG makes the 100 percent target cheaper and reduces more carbon emissions along the way.

Using a small number of PtG plants avoids the need for a whole bunch of extra renewables

California’s current scenario relies on overbuilding renewables, which requires a lot of land for all those solar and wind farms. That is no small thing, as California, like all states, is beset with NIMBYs and bureaucracies that make siting and building renewable energy plants endlessly difficult.

By using a small number of natural gas plants (eventually burning synthetic methane) to fill the gaps rather than overbuilding renewables, the optimal scenario requires less total built capacity: 237 gigawatts in 2045, versus the current plan’s 263.

ca capacity

Wärtsilä

By reducing the amount of solar capacity needed, the optimal scenario reduces the new land needed by a third, from 900 square miles to 600. That represents hundreds of NIMBY battles avoided and hundreds of new grid hookups that won’t need to be approved.

The optimal scenario also reduces costs relative to the current scenario. In 2045, the current scenario would result in a levelized cost of electricity of $51 per megawatt-hour; in the optimal scenario, it’s $50. That’s not a huge gap, but over the years it adds up to an almost $8 billion cumulative difference.

ca power cost

Yearly costs.
Wärtsilä

One other benefit of keeping a few gas plants around is that they reduce the amount of wind and solar power that must be “curtailed,” i.e., wasted. First, they reduce the need for overbuilding. Second, PtG can serve as a load for all that excess renewable energy. When wind and solar are producing more power than the state can consume — a more and more common occurrence as they expand — all the surplus power can be channeled into making synthetic methane.

From 2020 to 2045, the optimal scenario makes use of over 500 terawatt-hours of power that would have been wasted in the current scenario.

CA curtailment

Curtailment.
Wärtsilä

So the optimal scenario seems somewhat more efficient and cleaner that the current scenario. But here’s the most revealing part.

Getting to 100 percent without dispatchable thermal plants is hella expensive

Recall that the current scenario does not quite get to full carbon neutrality by 2045. California law requires that all power bought and sold in the state be carbon-neutral by 2045. But there are also transmission losses. An average of about 8 percent of energy is lost as it is carried around the state, so for customers to receive 100 MW, a utility must generate 108 MW.

That extra 8 percent does not have to be carbon-neutral. The state’s current plan envisions it being supplied by natural gas plants, leaving California about 4 or 5 percent carbon-positive. That’s why, overall, the optimal scenario, which reaches true carbon-neutrality by 2045, reduces 124 million tons more CO2 than the current path.

ca emissions

Carbon emissions.
Wärtsilä

This raises the question: What would it take to boost the current scenario so that it did get all the way to net-zero carbon?

That’s what the third scenario is about. It models a California electricity system with no thermal power plants at all, relying entirely on renewables and batteries. The results are pretty eye-popping. It’s technically possible, but damn is it expensive.

If the current scenario relies on overbuilding solar, the third scenario relies on overbuilding batteries. Really overbuilding them. Check out how much capacity would have to be installed through 2045.

ca capacity

Wärtsilä

This is what critics have been saying: If all you have to work with is renewable energy and batteries, filling that final gap from 95 to 100 percent carbon-neutral requires installing tons and tons of batteries. You need enough battery capacity to cover even the most unlikely, once-a-decade extended shortfall of wind and sun, but most of the time, in ordinary circumstances, most of that capacity won’t be used — the battery “capacity factor,” or frequency of use, falls to 3 percent by 2045 in the third scenario. Energy assets that spend most of their time sitting there, unused, make for dismal economics.

Recall that the optimal scenario would have California electricity at $50/MWh in 2045. In the third scenario, it would be $128/MWh, well more than double. Installing all those batteries is expensive.

PtG is still fairly speculative, but it sure looks like it could help

Power-to-gas is a rapidly developing and endlessly interesting area. It’s been around for a long time — various forms of synthetic gas (“syngas”) date back 180 years; it was popular during World War II when gasoline became expensive — but the carbon-neutral versions developing today, explicitly designed as tools for decarbonization, are relatively new.

There have been lots of PtG studies and pilot projects, especially in the EU, but the pieces have not come together for it to start scaling up in earnest.

The Wärtsilä modeling uses performance and cost numbers for PtG drawn from the renewable fuels group at the Lappeenranta University of Technology in Finland, but it’s worth emphasizing that all such numbers are somewhat speculative. The ultimate costs of PtG depend on the costs of direct air capture of CO2, the costs of green hydrogen, and the costs of renewable energy itself. The first two, in particular, are under furious development and difficult to predict.

It’s also worth noting that there is a school of thought that says the extra step of converting hydrogen into methane isn’t worth it — that instead, hydrogen should be stored and combusted in power plants directly, without the intermediary syngas step. “My prejudice is that, in the long-term, switching to hydrogen will be easier and make more economic sense,” Tom Brown, leader of the energy modeling group at the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, told me, “and we should limit methane to sustainable biogas resources.”

There is already a network of hydrogen pipelines, worldwide and in the US, and natural gas pipelines can be converted to carry hydrogen. Germany, for instance, is planning for a nationwide hydrogen network:

And companies like GE are already investing in gas turbines that can run on either methane or hydrogen. Given that only a comparative handful of thermal plants are required to stabilize renewable energy, perhaps they should just burn the green hydrogen directly. (“Hydrogen was not considered as a direct fuel source,” the Wärtsilä folks told me, “because there is no way to estimate the cost of hydrogen infrastructure needed.”)

It’s too early in the game to predict which “firm” (always available) resource will prove to be the best carbon-free complement to renewable energy. It could be syngas or hydrogen, small nuclear, advanced geothermal, biomass with CCS, natural gas plants using the Allam cycle to capture their emissions, or some mix.

What Wärtsilä has convincingly shown, as echoed in previous academic research, is that some firm resource will be necessary, or at least extremely helpful, to get to a fully carbon-neutral electricity system. A renewables-heavy grid needs backup resources that are always available and can be quickly turned on or off, up or down, as needed. For now, batteries can’t store enough energy or hold it long enough to serve as sole backup for a large system like California’s — at least not without breaking the bank.

Other firm and flexible resources are needed to complement renewables and batteries. The grid doesn’t necessarily need a ton (look how small the orange “flexibility” bar is on the graph above), but having even a small amount ends up avoiding the need for tons of overbuilt capacity.

It’s difficult to know at this stage which firm, low-carbon resources will be cheapest when they become more necessary post-2030. It is worth researching and developing every form that has even a plausible chance of success. Different ones may prove to be more or less competitive in different geographic areas.

But hydrogen and hydrogen-based fuels like synthetic methane are my favorites, the ones I believe warrant the most intense research, development, and deployment. For the most part, that’s based on expert research and current developments in the field, but I will confess that at least some part of it is, for lack of a better word, aesthetic.

There is just something satisfying about the thought that, to make electricity in the 21st century — a century to which electricity will be absolutely central — we no longer need to dig anything up or cut anything down. We don’t need fossils, we don’t need plants, we just need the wind, sun, and water. Insofar as a system based on renewable energy needs firm resources, it can make its own, through green hydrogen or PtG. It is a closed loop, based on Earth’s present-day energy budget, with zero net carbon emissions and radically less air pollution.

power to gas system

Wärtsilä

Wärtsilä’s study should, at the very least, awaken California legislators and regulators to crucial role that green hydrogen and/or PtG could play in holding down the costs of a fully carbon-neutral electricity system. If hydrogen and hydrogen fuels are to play that role, they need aggressive policy support to accelerate their progress down the cost curve.

To begin with, Wärtsilä suggests allowing sustainably sourced PtG to qualify as renewable fuel, and power generated from it as renewable energy, under California law. And it recommends that the only new thermal generation permitted be small (under 100MW) and nimble, able to start or stop quickly multiple times a day, while consuming no water. These and what remain of existing natural gas plants could be converted to synthetic methane when it becomes available; by 2045, when the state hopes to be carbon-neutral, only synthetic methane (and perhaps some biomethane) would remain in the pipeline system.

Meanwhile, to support hydrogen and hydrogen fuels, the federal government should plow money into RD, pilot projects, and deployment subsidies; institute market-pull policies like a national renewable fuel standard (RFS); and support their growth through government procurement.

The puzzle of a carbon-neutral power grid has been missing a puzzle piece, a firm resource that can reliably and cost-effectively back up large amounts of renewable energy. Power-to-gas just might fit.

Community-scale solar projects taking root as financing makes more sense

Community-scale solar projects taking root as financing makes more sense

According to Variety, singer Luis Fonsi’s hit ‘Despacito’ broke a new digital record when it surpassed 5 billion views on YouTube, becoming the first video in the platform’s history to hit that milestone, writes Abbot Moffat.

As interesting as that may be for pop culture enthusiasts, it holds another very interesting fact for those following data center trends. According to Fortune.com, ‘Despacito’ views burned as much energy as 40,000 US homes use in a year because “every search, click, or streamed video sets several servers to work – a Google search for ‘Despacito’ activates servers in six to eight data centers around the world – consuming very real energy resources”.

The video for Luis Fonsi’s hit ‘Despacito’

Forty thousand US households may not sound like much when compared with the 128.58 million households tallied byStatista for the 2019 US count. However, to put it into a data center context, energy consumed by 40,000 households per year is also equivalent to Netflixs total energy consumption of 451,000 MWhs in 2019. The global rollout of 5G networks will only exacerbate the amount of videos watched and power consumed. 

Although cloud data centers such as Google and Facebook have made great progress in optimizing their energy use, if the energy consumed by streaming over 5 billion ‘Despacito’ videos is any indication of what is coming , we need a more efficient means to produce, store, and dispatch power, or the carbon footprint will be more of a deep, embedded tire tread. 

Scorching solar prices cool
It’s a fact: Cheaper and more powerful handheld devices coupled with Smart Cities and a global broadband cellular network causing millions of servers to churn, will wreak havoc on power supplies and infrastructure. 

Coal-fired power plants find new uses as data centres
Facebook data centre to be powered by 107 MW solar park

Slashdot writes that Anders Andrae, a researcher at Huawei Technologies Sweden, says he expects the world’s data centers will devour up to 651 TWh of electricity in the next year. His calculations, published in the International Journal of Green Technology, cited by CBC, suggest data centers could more than double their power demands over the next decade.

Andrae projects computing will gobble up 11 per cent of global energy by 2030 and cloud-based services will represent a sizable proportion of that. “This will become completely unsustainable by 2040,” he says.

A world of unsustainable energy is indeed an unhappy place; we must turn towards renewable energy sources if we are to avoid this unfortunate circumstance. However, even a renewable energy source in such abundance as the sun has had its challenges when providing a means of alternative energy—it was too expensive.

The US government attempted to help with its Energy Policy Act of 2005 to combat growing energy problems by providing tax incentives and loan guarantees for energy production of various types, but it still had little impact due to the high cost of solar panels.  

Iceland utility in renewable PPA for data centre

The cost of solar panels has been steadily dropping.  According to a blog published by The Solar Nerd, the price of solar energy has dropped by an incredible amount. Back in 1977, the price of solar photovoltaic cells was $77 for just one watt of power. As of the blog’s January 16, 2020 posting, The Solar Nerd says it’s now around 13 cents per watt, or about 600 times less. The blog goes on to say that the cost has generally been following Swanson’s Law, which states that the price of solar drops by 20 per cent for every doubling of shipped product.

Inside a data centre

Because of new financing models, recent changes in state legislation, and the drop in solar panel pricing, community-scale solar projects are beginning to financially make sense. In June 2019, Concho Valley Electric Cooperative (CVEC), announced The Agnes Project, its first community solar power plant, a new 1 MW AC solar plant serving 7155 Members in 10 Texas counties. And California’s Department of Community Services and Development has launched the Community Solar Pilot Program, designed to expand access to renewable energy for low-income households unable to participate in existing low-income solar PV programs.

These solar panel advancements are fine for feeding power into the grid from 10 am to 2 pm, but for peak usage time, their large-scale utility value wanes. The solar projects need a cost-effective method of storing energy as well. 

Batteries’ blistering performance
Improvements in lithium-ion technology, plus the extended Investment Tax Credit (originally established by the Energy Policy Act of 2005), has transformed battery storage into a notable contender for utilities burning coal, natural gas, or diesel fuel. And becoming a much-needed complement to utility-scale solar installations is the new Tesla Megapack and its competitors from companies like BYD and Fluence.

Feature: What’s fuelling our data?

According to Tesla’s July 2019 blog, Introducing Megapack: Utility-Scale Energy Storage, the company has built and installed the world’s largest lithium-ion battery in Hornsdale, South Australia, using Tesla Powerpack batteries. The blog goes on to say that the facility saved nearly $40m in its first year and helped to stabilize and balance the region’s unreliable grid. This was the genesis behind a new battery product specifically for utility-scale projects called the Megapack, which comes from the factory fully assembled with up to 3 MWh of storage and 1.5 MW of inverter capacity.

Rubicon Professional Services (RPS), a builder and upgrader of mission-critical facilities around the world, has experience with installing this kind of battery storage system, as well as Tesla’s aggressive pricing, and sees the company putting a lot of downward pressure on pricing across the board as customers and investors get more comfortable with utility-scale battery storage.

In addition, with the adoption of large-scale storage combined with solar, the batteries can supply power for peak usages times into the 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. time zone, as opposed to peaker plants firing-up diesel generators during this time frame—batteries can respond immediately with zero pollution created. 

Don’t try this at home
When it comes to deploying solar panels tied into Tesla’s Megapack batteries, professionals are required—many utility companies do not have experience with this new power source yet, and there is often a gap in the utility inspectors’ knowledge. When commercial solar rooftop installations were taking off, inspectors would come out with residential experience to inspect commercial operations. There’s a big difference between inspecting a 14-panel residential system and a 10,000 panel commercial system.

There is a similar knowledge gap happening with battery storage systems. Even though these systems are ultimately tied into the grid, many installations are not owned by the utility, but by a private investor or a development company. Inspectors who are used to evaluating heavy industrial equipment, such as chillers and rooftop electrical equipment, may not be that familiar with this new technology.

The installation, inspection and commissioning process requires the assistance of an organization trained in these new technologies, such as Rubicon Professional Services. Inspectors are more familiar with methods of tying into the switchgear, the way the electricians are wiring their disconnects. When they see these areas are done well, they have a greater confidence that this consistency is carried over to the new elements they may not be familiar with. 

There are new and more efficient methods of producing and distributing power to keep those servers feeding our favorite applications and unceasing media consumption. These new energy sources allow utilities to curb the use of diesel generators and coal-power plants to augment peak performance consumption with renewable energy sources.

The promise of a “kinder” more efficient power source must, in part, be fulfilled by qualified installation professionals working with industry inspectors in order to harness, contain and disperse a more eco-friendly version of Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla’s dream. 

About the author: Abbot Moffat is Senior Program Manager, Business Development Manager for Rubicon Professional Services which provides an innovative alternative for constructing or upgrading data centers, telecom sites, and other critical facilities, and providing Engineering, Procurement Construction (EPC) services for renewable energy, battery storage, and distributed generation projects.

Canada’s Cielo spots location for future waste-to-fuel facility

March 25 (Renewables Now) – Canada’s Cielo Waste Solutions Corp (CNSX:CMC) informed on Tuesday that its joint-venture (JV) partner had found a suitable location for their facility that will be designed to convert waste into renewable fuels.

The JV partner, Renewable U Medicine Hat Inc, has secured an agreement in principle to purchase 80 acres (32.4 hectares) of land in Cypress County in Canada’s Alberta province. The land is situated within the 50-kilometre (31.1 miles) radius of the town of Medicine Hat, specifically around 3 kilometres of the town, just as the partners wanted.

Renewable U Medicine Hat has also informed Cielo that is has funding in place to close the purchase and sale agreement, subject to numerous conditions, before or on July 1, 2020, the waste-to-fuel company said.

The planned facility will be engineered to grind multiple waste feedstocks and convert them into renewable fuels that can be blended into conventional highway transportation, marine and aviation fuels.

Initial production output is seen at 32.7 million litres of renewable fuels per year on 65,000 tonnes/year of feedstock. The partners contemplate to keep the facility running for 341 days a year.

Cielo expects the construction phase to employ around 50 to 70 people. Once the production starts, the facility will provide some 25 full-time jobs, the company said.

Here comes the sun: Taking the temperature of the Malaysian solar power industry

As a country near the equator, Malaysia has sunshine to spare.

While most may dislike the heat, savvy homeowners are harnessing the power of the sun by installing solar panels to turn sunlight into electricity.

The country’s Sustainable Energy Development Authority (Seda) CEO Dr Sanjayan Velautham estimated that some 4.1 million buildings in Malaysia could still accommodate solar panels.

And they could collectively generate about 24-gigawatt peak (GWp) of electricity, he said last month at the launch of BuySolar, an eCommerce service provider for solar panel installations.

Watt peak refers to the maximum amount of energy harnessed by a solar panel in an hour during optimum sunlight conditions.

The heat is on

Seda’s goals include supporting the government’s aspiration in achieving 20% renewable energy in the “national power mix” by 2025.

The agency manages programmes that allow customers with renewable energy sources like solar panels to sell excess energy to national electric utility company Tenaga Nasional Bhd (TNB).

Previously, Seda offered the Feed-in Tariff (FiT) programme, which has since been replaced by Net Energy Metering (NEM).

Under the NEM programme, energy produced by the solar panels is first utilised for the house and the excess is “sold” as credit on a one-on-one offset basis.

Under the NEM programme, energy produced by the solar panels is first utilised for the house and the excess is “sold” as credit on a one-on-one offset basis. — BloombergUnder the NEM programme, energy produced by the solar panels is first utilised for the house and the excess is “sold” as credit on a one-on-one offset basis. — Bloomberg

Basically, if a customer is purchasing energy at 21sen per kilowatt (KW), the energy generated is sold back at the same rate.

However, unlike FiT where energy is sold for actual money, the energy sold through NEM earns homeowners credit that can be used to offset their electricity bill.

When more energy is generated than consumed, the extra credit will be kept for up to 24 months.

The extra credit will be used whenever the user incurs a charge due to consuming electricity beyond what’s generated by the solar panels.

In the case of FiT, customers sign a Renewable Power Purchase Agreement (RPPA) with TNB when installing their panels to sell energy at a fixed price.

They will receive a bill just like any other user, which must be paid in full, as the energy generated by the panels will be paid to the customer separately.

According to the former Energy, Science, Technology, Environment and Climate Change Ministry, the uptake of NEM has grown steadily, which resulted in 102 megawatts (MW) generated last year, compared to only 27.8MW produced between 2016 and 2018.

The target for NEM this year is for consumers and businesses, including malls, warehouses and industrial players that run solar farms, to generate 300MW.

Powering up businesses

One company that serves both consumers and the commercial sector is Plus Solar Systems Sdn Bhd.

Plus Solar had pivoted into building solar farms for investors, that looked to generate and sell electricity to TNB. — Plus SolarPlus Solar had pivoted into building solar farms for investors, that looked to generate and sell electricity to TNB. — Plus Solar

Its CEO Ko Chuan Zhen said the company had installed over 700 systems at residential properties, back when the FiT programme was still on.

The older programme proved to be attractive to homeowners, as it allowed them to recover their investment in solar panels within a few years and generate a profit after that.

NEM, on the other hand, only allows the public to save on energy costs, but it doesn’t allow them to profit from the programme, resulting in a longer period to recover cost.

The change in programme also reflects the government’s move to encourage larger companies which consumed more energy to adopt solar power.

Plus Solar pivoted towards the commercial sector in 2016, coinciding with the introduction of NEM.

Ko said Plus Solar Systems had installed over 700 systems at residential properties, back when the FiT programme was still on. — Plus SolarKo said Plus Solar Systems had installed over 700 systems at residential properties, back when the FiT programme was still on. — Plus Solar

Ko pointed out that two tax benefits in particular made it an attractive option to companies – Green Investment Tax Incentives and Capital Allowance – each giving a tax deduction of up to 24% of the installation costs.

This resulted in solar panel systems costing nearly 50% less for businesses to purchase and install, he added.

This approach was more effective at making the industry grow organically among big businesses, as it offered larger savings upfront, while FiT was great for kick-starting the solar movement among consumers.

“Tax aside, electricity is always the top three costs for companies, along with manpower and raw materials,” he said, adding that after a system pays for itself through cost savings, a company could enjoy many years of free electricity.

Climate change

Ray Go Solar EPC Sdn Bhd CEO Datuk Ray Tan Boon Teck said his company focuses solely on commercial installations, as systems for small houses are relatively more expensive due to lack of volume.

As there are no incentives to sell off the extra power, homeowners no longer installed a large solar panel system, as they only needed enough power to offset their usage.

“It’s not as good for individuals without the ability to sell back energy, and it would probably take eight years, versus six years or fewer with FiT to recover cost,” he said.

This changed the philosophy of adopting solar panel systems from “making money” to “saving money”.

And there is still a lot of interest in solar panels, as homeowners are buying them in a bid to become eco-friendly, said Tan, adding it’s more of a personal choice to go green.

Ray Go Solar EPC focusses on rooftop solar panel system installations, for larger commercial players that often have extensive unused space on their buildings like warehouses or factories. — Ray Go SolarRay Go Solar EPC focusses on rooftop solar panel system installations, for larger commercial players that often have extensive unused space on their buildings like warehouses or factories. — Ray Go Solar

“I believe in a bright future, as everyone is going greener in the face of climate issues. If we don’t do something now, the world will be gone.

“One of the easier ways to help save the planet is through renewable energy,” he said, adding that he had installed solar panels for his own house, albeit while FiT was still in place.

Financing solar

SOLS Energy Sdn Bhd CEO T. Raj Ridvan Singh agreed, saying solar panels would help Malaysians play an active role in fighting climate change by allowing them to opt out of electricity generated by fossil fuel.

However, the prohibitive cost of installing them is still an issue for the average consumer, as not many would want to spend RM20,000 to RM40,000 upfront, even if it meant cost savings later, which could be substantial if the price of electricity goes up.

T. Raj believes more financial instruments need to be made available to the public to make solar panels systems affordable. — Sols EnergyT. Raj believes more financial instruments need to be made available to the public to make solar panels systems affordable. — Sols Energy

“This is where financial institutions play a role: Malaysia is very credit driven, we take loans for everything.

“If you look at Germany and California, the market for solar only ‘exploded’ after they made financial instruments available,” he said.

Local banks too have committed to encouraging investment into green initiatives though primarily focused on businesses, he added.

For consumers, the banks mostly relied on existing financial services like credit cards and personal loans, he said.

Sols Energy employs and trains orang asli youth to work on its solar panel installation projects, which are primarily for the residential consumer market. — Sols EnergySols Energy employs and trains orang asli youth to work on its solar panel installation projects, which are primarily for the residential consumer market. — Sols Energy

This could add a lot of cost to them due to higher interest rates or shorter repayment periods, so there is a need for specific credit programmes to aid and encourage consumers to buy into solar, he added.

“And yet loans for cars are very affordable, though cars are depreciating assets that don’t bring any long term value to consumers.

“Why not offer something for solar panels that benefits users and the environment?” he said.

He suggested introducing a loan with a lower monthly repayment, possibly closer to the amount customers would save via solar power.

For instance, if a customer is saving RM300 a month on electricity bill, he or she wouldn’t feel the pinch if the monthly repayment was also close to that amount.

Another player that wants to make solar panel systems more accessible is BuySolar, an online marketplace for solar solutions.

Speaking at the launch of the service back in February, its CEO Luke Sebastian said sourcing for reliable solar panel installers and finding the right financing option was challenging for Malaysians due to the complexity of the process.

“The BuySolar platform serves to consolidate all the processes, which includes buying, installing, and servicing the panels, making it a one-stop solution,” he claimed.

Its website also has a dashboard where customers can see the energy the system is generating.