3 Cities Disrupting the Local Electricity Market With Innovative Renewable Energy Projects
Many U.S. cities have taken the lead on sustainability efforts, particularly when it comes to adopting renewable energy. Already, at least 13 U.S. cities—including San Diego; San Francisco; Burlington, Vermont; and Aspen, Colorado—have committed to 100 percent clean energy.
Other American cities, though not generating all their electricity from renewables, have innovative projects that could soon become widely adopted and transform our energy system.
Here are three cities leading the way:
1. Brooklyn, New York
The Brooklyn Microgrid, a project of TransActive Grid, is developing a community microgrid in the Gowanus and Park Slope neighborhoods of Brooklyn that has the potential to disrupt the local energy market.
"Community microgrids are a new approach for grid operations that achieve a sustainable, secure, and cost-effective energy system by providing long-term, locally generated power security prioritized for the community," the startup explained. "Microgrids have the ability to separate from the larger electric grid during extreme weather events or other emergencies, providing the backbone for resilient, sustainable and more efficient energy production of the future."
The first version of the project connects solar energy producers with their neighbors who want to buy renewable energy. And the benefits are manyfold, according to TransActive Grid Co-founder Joseph Lubin.
“This whole concept benefits the area you live in," Lubin told Treehugger. "By buying energy locally, rather than from a national entity, the money goes back into the pockets of people in the community. We’ll install the transactive platform which pretty much runs itself, whereby energy is automatically priced based on things consumers care about.
"It’s pretty hands off—as we think that will suit consumers best—but in future we plan to enable people to set preferences to maximize savings, do good in the community and potentially sell energy cheaper to lower-income residents."
Watch TransActive Grid's video for more information on the technology behind their microgrid:
2. Austin, Texas
Research and development firm Pecan Street Inc. is developing a smart grid research project that began in Austin’s Robert Mueller mixed-use development and has since expanded across Texas and into California and Colorado.
The organization created an "Energy Internet Demonstration" at the 711-acre Robert Mueller community. Some of the project's smart grid technologies include home energy monitoring systems, a smart meter research network, energy management gateways, distributed generation, electric vehicles with Level 2 charge systems and smart thermostats.
The neighborhood has nearly 13,000 residents, 4 million square feet of office and retail space, more than 5,700 homes and 140 acres of public open space. The neighborhood is designed to be walkable and transit-oriented.
Every home has been designed to meet the standards of at least a 3-star energy rating by Austin Energy, according to the video below. And several residents have rooftop solar panels, electrical vehicles, and smart water and gas meters.
"Through the use of Pecan Street’s home energy monitoring systems, customers can view their energy use in real-time at the device level, set and track utility bill budgets, have software manage electricity use of individual appliances and sell energy back to the grid," Pecan Street explained. "Cars connected to the grid can be powered with solar energy and help level load, and utilities can store power and deliver it when needed."
Watch Green City Realty's video to learn more about Austin's smart-grid community:
3. Boston, Massachusetts
Boston-based Yeloha is a peer to peer solar sharing company that allows anyone to go solar. The concept allows people to invest in solar even if they rent, don't have a rooftop suitable for solar panels or cannot afford the upfront cost.
Customers can sign up for the service as a “sun host” or a “sun partner.” Sun hosts are for homeowners who have a suitable roof for solar but can’t afford panels. Yeloha will install the panels for free in exchange for access to the solar power the panels create. Sun hosts will also get about a third of the electricity created by the panels, all for free. This translates to lower monthly power bills for the homeowner.
The remaining power goes to the sun partners, who are customers that want to go solar but don’t have a proper roof or don’t own their home. Sun partners can buy as many solar credits as they’d like from Yehola at a price that’s less than what they’d normally pay to their local utility.
Sun hosts can also assign their electricity to specific partners, and sun partners can choose who hosts their power. The savings work out to about 10 percent less than the utility’s prices for a year’s worth of energy.
It's currently only available in Massachusetts, but Yeloha is in the process of expanding to New York and Vermont, and has plans to expand to other states too.
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By Harry Kretchmer
By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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