How to Advance Offshore Wind and Energy Efficiency
Rising costs, energy efficiency and environmental impact demand innovations in energy generation, distribution, management and usage. UL’s team of dedicated scientists, engineers and researchers are developing New Science to make energy cleaner, more reliable, more efficient and more secure.
Measuring Offshore Wind Power
Through measurement sensor technology and the most extensive data to date, UL is collaborating with public and private stakeholders in Germany to accelerate the advancement of offshore wind power.
UL's work with the Research at Alpha Ventus (RAVE) program delivers important knowledge needed for a vision of the future—a future where large and powerful offshore wind farms and other forms of sustainable energy generation will soon deliver a substantial portion of the electricity in Germany that used to be provided by nuclear power plants. Insights and experience that we gain from this project may also facilitate a broader pursuit of offshore wind generation around the world.
On the heels of the Fukushima nuclear accident in Japan, Germany passed a historic package of laws that commits the nation to a phase-out of nuclear power by 2022. In order to realize the bold goals of this unprecedented Sustainable Energy plan, successful, environmentally responsible and economically feasible generation of offshore wind power is critical.
Onshore wind power, though an important element in an overall renewable energy plan, does not have the potential that offshore wind power presents in the North and Baltic seas. Offshore, the wind speeds are greater than on land throughout the year, and there is less turbulence. It is also not necessary to limit the size of the wind turbines. On the other hand, there are greater investment and operating costs, and the maintenance and repair are considerably more complex than on land. To further complicate the issue, since Germany’s near-shore maritime areas are almost entirely protected as nature conservation areas, only areas in the exclusive economic zone (EEZ) can be considered for offshore wind energy (i.e., beyond the 12-mile zone). This means that, in comparison with those of its European neighbors, these wind farms will be situated farther away from the coast and at greater depths, creating conditions so different from other wind farms that it requires a completely new approach to equipment, operational procedures, maintenance, measurement and reintegration of Sustainable Energy into the power grid. During the next few years, a dozen large-scale wind farms are being installed far off the coast of Germany in the North and Baltic seas. These are already earmarked to make up more than one-third of Germany’s installed wind energy output by 2020.
Advancing the Smart Grid
UL is participating in a pioneering smart grid research project, Pecan Street Demonstration, compiling the industry’s most extensive database of consumer electricity consumption practices.
With investment in grid modernization, waste in the electrical system can be reduced by 31 percent. In addition, making consumers more aware of safe electricity production and consumption as well as the impact on economic and environmental outcomes will speed up acceptance and adoption of advanced technology innovations. By focusing our New Science on emerging smart grid technologies, UL is able to appropriately document the necessary processes, standards, best practices, rules and methodologies that will serve as a blueprint for safe smart grid technology implementation.
The price of meeting the world’s energy demands is estimated at $26.3 trillion through 2030—an average of more than $1 trillion a year. Waste in the current electrical system in the U.S. costs roughly $500 billion a year. Costs from storm related outages to the U.S. economy are estimated between $20 billion and $55 billion annually, and losses from power-line damage total $150 billion a year.
A smart grid is a digitally enabled electrical grid that gathers, distributes and acts on information about the behavior of all participants (suppliers and consumers) in order to improve the efficiency, importance, reliability, economics and sustainability of electricity services. Used in tandem with smart meters, solar panels, wind turbines, inverters, energy storage devices, electric vehicles and home energy management systems, smart grids are rapidly changing the power landscape and the rules of engagement.
The Safety of Smart Appliances
UL developed and published a series of Certification Requirement Decisions for Smart Appliances, based on findings around emerging product capabilities, potential user behaviors and safety implications.
Smart appliances play a critical role in achieving the full potential of smart grid infrastructure to reduce energy use and costs and enhance the reliability of the power supply. At this early stage in the development of the smart appliance industry, when product capabilities and consumer usage patterns are evolving, it was imperative for UL to both facilitate manufacturer innovation and consumer safety. Ultimately, this will help consumers around the world reap the benefits of smart appliances.
Demand for smart-enabled or smart appliances is expected to undergo explosive growth over the next several years. Two factors are fueling these expectations. First, the proliferation of smartphones is creating marketplace demand for “smart” features, including expanded functionality and anytime, anywhere convenience. The second factor is rising energy costs, coupled with the fact that electrical appliances account for a significant portion of home energy use. Given these factors, the nascent smart appliance market is projected to expand by 394 percent over five years, surpassing $15 billion in sales globally by 2015. The U.S. is expected to constitute 36 percent of that market.
Facilitated by the build-out of smart grid infrastructure and the adoption of smart meters, smart appliances use advanced electronic and communications technologies to enable consumers to closely monitor, control and reduce energy use and costs. Six core capabilities broadly define the energy-related characteristics of smart appliances:
- Providing real-time electricity pricing information, which allows the consumer to adjust or reschedule appliance usage to reduce energy costs.
- Enabling consumers to set their own operating parameters (e.g., when and at what settings the appliance should run), facilitating usage during off-peak periods.
- Offering consumers the opportunity to take advantage of utility incentives without compromising the appliance’s critical safety functions.
- Responding to emergency power situations and helping prevent brownouts or blackouts — without compromising its operational integrity.
- Interacting with a home energy management system, which enables a consumer to conveniently monitor and manage the home’s overall energy usage.
- Facilitating the use of energy from renewable sources, such as wind or solar, by shifting demand to capitalize on favorable generation conditions.
While the first commercially available smart appliance came on the market in 2009, the smart appliance category—which holds such great promise of energy and cost savings for consumers—is still in its infancy in terms of total penetration of the consumer market. New manufacturers are entering the picture and continued advancement is in progress. Because of this, user behavior in response to new technology and functionality is largely unknown and can be very difficult to accurately predict.
As new smart appliance capabilities and other innovations are established through the application of advanced technologies, new consumer behaviors may emerge. Because of this, unforeseen product safety issues could arise that are not fully addressed in current end-product standards. Appropriately anticipating this product safety gap presented a unique situation for UL. Product safety standards must address product design and use and respond to continued advancements as they develop.
NEW CHALLENGES CALL FOR NEW SCIENCE
New Science is dedicated to mitigating risks and safeguarding innovation. Progress is an unstoppable, transformative force. New technologies, product advances and globalization are arriving one on top of another at a dizzying pace. Innovation makes us more efficient, more productive and more connected. But there is a cost, and that cost is risk. UL is currently focusing our New Science efforts around four important themes. These include: Fire Safety, Indoor Air Quality, Transaction Security and Sustainable Energy.
By Michael Svoboda, Ph.D.
Despite a journey to this moment even more treacherous than expected, Americans now have a fresh opportunity to act, decisively, on climate change.
The authors of the many new books released in just the past few months (or scheduled to be published soon) seem to have anticipated this pivotal moment.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Katy Neusteter
The Biden-Harris transition team identified COVID-19, economic recovery, racial equity and climate change as its top priorities. Rivers are the through-line linking all of them. The fact is, healthy rivers can no longer be separated into the "nice-to-have" column of environmental progress. Rivers and streams provide more than 60 percent of our drinking water — and a clear path toward public health, a strong economy, a more just society and greater resilience to the impacts of the climate crisis.
Public Health<img lazy-loadable="true" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNTUyNDY3MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MDkxMTkwNn0.pyP14Bg1WvcUvF_xUGgYVu8PS7Lu49Huzc3PXGvATi4/img.jpg?width=980" id="8e577" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1efb3445f5c445e47d5937a72343c012" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="3000" data-height="2302" />
Wild and Scenic Merced River, California. Bob Wick / BLM<p>Let's begin with COVID-19. More than <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html?name=styln-coronavirus&region=TOP_BANNER&block=storyline_menu_recirc&action=click&pgtype=LegacyCollection&impression_id=2f508610-2a87-11eb-8622-4f6c038cbd1d&variant=1_Show" target="_blank">16 million Americans</a> have contracted the coronavirus and, tragically,<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html?name=styln-coronavirus&region=TOP_BANNER&block=storyline_menu_recirc&action=click&pgtype=LegacyCollection&impression_id=2f508610-2a87-11eb-8622-4f6c038cbd1d&variant=1_Show" target="_blank"> more than</a> <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/coronavirus-us-cases.html?name=styln-coronavirus&region=TOP_BANNER&block=storyline_menu_recirc&action=click&pgtype=LegacyCollection&impression_id=2f508610-2a87-11eb-8622-4f6c038cbd1d&variant=1_Show" target="_blank">300,000 have died</a> due to the pandemic. While health officials encourage hand-washing to contain the pandemic, at least <a href="https://closethewatergap.org/" target="_blank">2 million Americans</a> are currently living without running water, indoor plumbing or wastewater treatment. Meanwhile, <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jun/23/millions-of-americans-cant-afford-water-bills-rise" target="_blank">aging water infrastructure is growing increasingly costly for utilities to maintain</a>. That cost is passed along to consumers. The upshot? <a href="https://research.msu.edu/affordable-water-in-us-reaching-a-crisis/" target="_blank">More than 13 million</a> U.S. households regularly face unaffordable water bills — and, thus, the threat of water shutoffs. Without basic access to clean water, families and entire communities are at a higher risk of <a href="https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/green/news/2020/08/05/488705/bridging-water-access-gap-covid-19-relief/" target="_blank">contracting</a> and spreading COVID-19.</p><p>We have a moral duty to ensure that everyone has access to clean water to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Last spring, <a href="https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2020/03/coronavirus-stimulus-bill-explained-bailouts-unemployment-benefits.html" target="_blank">Congress appropriated more than $4 trillion</a> to jumpstart the economy and bring millions of unemployed Americans back to work. Additional federal assistance — desperately needed — will present a historic opportunity to improve our crumbling infrastructure, which has been <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/jun/23/millions-of-americans-cant-afford-water-bills-rise" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">grossly underfunded for decades</a>.</p><p>A report by my organization, American Rivers, suggests that <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/american-rivers-website/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/09223525/ECONOMIC-ENGINES-Report-2020.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Congress must invest at least $50 billion</a> "to address the urgent water infrastructure needs associated with COVID-19," including the rising cost of water. This initial boost would allow for the replacement and maintenance of sewers, stormwater infrastructure and water supply facilities.</p>
Economic Recovery<p>Investing in water infrastructure and healthy rivers also creates jobs. Consider, for example, that <a href="https://tinyurl.com/y9p6sgnk" target="_blank">every $1 million spent on water infrastructure in the United States generates more than 15 jobs</a> throughout the economy, according to a report by the Value of Water Campaign. Similarly, <a href="https://tinyurl.com/yyvd2ksp" target="_blank">every "$1 million invested in forest and watershed restoration contracting will generate between 15.7 and 23.8 jobs,</a> depending on the work type," states a working paper released by the Ecosystem Workforce Program, University of Oregon. Healthy rivers also spur tourism and recreation, which many communities rely on for their livelihoods. According to the findings by the Outdoor Industry Association, which have been shared in our report, "Americans participating in watersports and fishing spend over <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/american-rivers-website/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/30222425/Exec-summary-ECONOMIC-ENGINES-Report-June-30-2020.pdf" target="_blank">$174 billion</a> on gear and trip related expenses. And, the outdoor watersports and fishing economy supports over <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/american-rivers-website/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/30222425/Exec-summary-ECONOMIC-ENGINES-Report-June-30-2020.pdf" target="_blank">1.5 million jobs nationwide</a>."</p><p>After the 2008 financial crisis, Congress invested in infrastructure to put Americans back to work. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act <a href="https://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/economy-a-budget/25941-clean-water-green-infrastructure-get-major-boost" target="_blank">of 2009 (ARRA) allocated $6 billion</a> for clean water and drinking water infrastructure to decrease unemployment and boost the economy. More specifically, <a href="https://www.conservationnw.org/news-updates/us-reps-push-for-millions-of-restoration-and-resilience-jobs/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">an analysis of ARRA</a> "showed conservation investments generated 15 to 33 jobs per million dollars," and more than doubled the rate of return, according to a letter written in May 2020 by 79 members of Congress, seeking greater funding for restoration and resilience jobs.</p><p>Today, when considering how to create work for the <a href="https://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/empsit.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">10.7 million</a> people who are currently unemployed, Congress should review previous stimulus investments and build on their successes by embracing major investments in water infrastructure and watershed restoration.</p>
Racial Justice<p>American Rivers also recommends that Congress dedicate <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/american-rivers-website/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/09223525/ECONOMIC-ENGINES-Report-2020.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">$500 billion for rivers and clean water over the next 10 years</a> — not just for the benefit of our environment and economy, but also to begin to address the United States' history of deeply entrenched racial injustice.</p><p>The <a href="https://www.epa.gov/npdes/sanitary-sewer-overflows-ssos" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">23,000-75,000 sewer overflows</a> that occur each year release up to <a href="https://www.americanrivers.org/2020/05/fighting-for-rivers-means-fighting-for-justice/#:~:text=There%20are%20also%2023%2C000%20to%2075%2C000%20sanitary%20sewer,to%20do%20with%20the%20mission%20of%20American%20Rivers." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">10 billion gallons of toxic sewage</a> <em>every day</em> into rivers and streams. This disproportionately impacts communities of color, because, for generations, Black, Indigenous, Latinx and other people of color have been <a href="https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/flooding-disproportionately-harms-black-neighborhoods/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">relegated</a> to live in flood-prone areas and in neighborhoods that have been intentionally burdened with a lack of development that degrades people's health and quality of life. In some communities of color, incessant flooding due to stormwater surges or <a href="https://www.ajc.com/opinion/opinion-partnering-to-better-manage-our-water/7WQ6SEAQP5E4LGQCEYY5DO334Y/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">combined sewer overflows</a> has gone unmitigated for decades.</p><p>We have historically treated people as separate from rivers and water. We can't do that anymore. Every voice — particularly those of people most directly impacted — must have a loudspeaker and be included in decision-making at the highest levels.</p><p>Accordingly, the new administration must diligently invest in projects at the community level that will improve lives in our country's most marginalized communities. We also must go further to ensure that local leaders have a seat at the decision-making table. To this end, the Biden-Harris administration should restore <a href="https://www.epa.gov/cwa-401#:~:text=Section%20401%20Certification%20The%20Clean%20Water%20Act%20%28CWA%29,the%20United%20States.%20Learn%20more%20about%20401%20certification." target="_blank">Section 401 of the Clean Water Act</a>, which was undermined by the <a href="https://earthjustice.org/news/press/2020/tribes-and-environmental-groups-sue-trump-administration-to-preserve-clean-water-protections#:~:text=Under%20Section%20401%20of%20the%20Clean%20Water%20Act%2C,seeks%20to%20undermine%20that%20authority%20in%20several%20ways%3A" target="_blank">Trump administration's 2020 regulatory changes</a>. This provision gives states and tribes the authority to decide whether major development projects, such as hydropower and oil and gas projects, move forward.</p>
Climate Resilience<p>Of course, the menacing shadow looming over it all? Climate change. <a href="https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/IFRC_wdr2020/IFRC_WDR_ExecutiveSummary_EN_Web.pdf" target="_blank">More than 100 climate-related catastrophes</a> have pummeled the Earth since the pandemic was declared last spring, including the blitzkrieg of megafires, superstorms and heat waves witnessed during the summer of 2020, directly impacting the lives of more than <a href="https://media.ifrc.org/ifrc/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/IFRC_wdr2020/IFRC_WDR_ExecutiveSummary_EN_Web.pdf" target="_blank">50 million people globally</a>.</p><p>Water and climate scientist Brad Udall often says, "<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xQhpj5G0dME" target="_blank">Climate change is water change</a>." In other words, the most obvious and dire impacts of climate change are evidenced in profound changes to our rivers and water resources. You've likely seen it where you live: Floods are more damaging and frequent. Droughts are deeper and longer. Uncertainty is destabilizing industry and lives.</p><p>By galvanizing action for healthy rivers and managing our water resources more effectively, we can insure future generations against the consequences of climate change. First, we must safeguard rivers that are still healthy and free-flowing. Second, we must protect land and property against the ravages of flooding. And finally, we must promote policies and practical solutions that take the science of climate disruption into account when planning for increased flooding, water shortage and habitat disruption.</p><p>Imagine all that rivers do for us. Most of our towns and cities have a river running through them or flowing nearby. Rivers provide clean drinking water, irrigate crops that provide our food, power our homes and businesses, provide wildlife habitat, and are the lifeblood of the places where we enjoy and explore nature, and where we play and nourish our spirits. Healthy watersheds help <a href="https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/03/1059952" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">mitigate</a> climate change, absorbing and reducing the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Healthy rivers and floodplains help communities adapt and build resilience in the face of climate change by improving flood protection and providing water supply and quality benefits. Rivers are the cornerstones of healthy, strong communities.</p><p>The more than <a href="https://archive.epa.gov/water/archive/web/html/index-17.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">3 million miles</a> of rivers and streams running across our country are a source of great strength and opportunity. When we invest in healthy rivers and clean water, we can improve our lives. When we invest in rivers, we create jobs and strengthen our economy. When we invest in rivers, we invest in our shared future.</p>
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By Jon Queally
Noted author and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben was among the first to celebrate word that the president of the European Investment Bank on Wednesday openly declared, "To put it mildly, gas is over" — an admission that squares with what climate experts and economists have been saying for years if not decades.
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