'World's First' Solar-Powered Indoor Farm Coming to Philadelphia
Metropolis Farms, which operates out of a warehouse in South Philly, has switched on its massive 100,000 sq. foot rooftop array, according to a company blog post. The system's 2,003 solar panels generates more than half a megawatt of energy to entirely power an indoor vertical farm being built on the floor underneath.
The "world's first completely solar-powered indoor farm" will grow the equivalent of 660 outdoor acres' worth of crops annually after planting starts in November, the company announced.
"Before starting this project, the fourth floor of this building was only growing pigeons," the blog post said. "But now, using our innovative technology that can uniquely grow everything, this solar powered indoor farm will be growing fresh tomatoes, strawberries, lettuce, herbs, broccoli, and other crops for local Philadelphians."
"We feel this inherently demonstrates the wonder of this new industry we're helping create, the industry of indoor farming."
Compared to traditional farming, indoor vertical farms are touted for their considerable savings in water (because it just circulates via pumps), pesticide-use, space, food-transportation miles, as well as the ability to grow food year-round thanks to artificial lighting.
Critics, however, say that the growth lights and water pumps are too energy-intensive and prohibitively expensive to operate.
But Metropolis Farms contends that its new solar rooftop "will provide a sufficient amount of energy to power the farm below."
"The truth is, like any technology, indoor farming is constantly improving upon itself," the company points out. The farm has achieved further energy efficiencies through "innovative lighting (not LEDs), BTU management systems, and other means to dramatically reduce the amount of energy our farms are using."
The company adds it is "on the cusp of a breakthrough in a technology that will reduce our energy usage even further" and will be demonstrating the advancement at this year's Indoor Ag-Con in Philadelphia.
"We got into vertical farming to help the planet and local communities. And that mission includes a commitment to using renewable energy when and where appropriate to reduce our carbon footprint as much as possible," Metropolis Farms says.
"We hope others will follow our lead and start building farms of the future, so communities everywhere can benefit from having a quality local food source that grows crops responsibly."
By Simon Montlake
For more than a decade, Susan Jane Brown has been battling to stop a natural gas pipeline and export terminal from being built in the backcountry of Oregon. As an attorney at the nonprofit Western Environmental Law Center, she has repeatedly argued that the project's environmental, social, and health costs are too high.
All that was before this month's deadly wildfires in Oregon shrouded the skies above her home office in Portland. "It puts a fine point on it. These fossil fuel projects are contributing to global climate change," she says.
Moderates Feeling the Heat<p>If elected, Mr. Biden has vowed to stop new drilling for oil and gas on federal land and in federal waters and to rejoin the 2015 Paris climate accord that President Donald Trump gave notice of quitting. He would reinstate Obama-era regulations of greenhouse gas emissions, including methane, the largest component of natural gas.</p><p>The Biden climate platform also states that all federal infrastructure investments and federal permits would need to be assessed for their climate impacts. Analysts say such a test could impede future LNG plants and pipelines, though not those that already have federal approval. </p><p>Climate change activists who pushed for that language say much depends on who would have oversight of federal agencies that regulate the industry. Some are wary of Biden's reliance on advice from Obama-era officials, including former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, who is now on the board of Southern Company, a utility, and a former Obama environmental aide, Heather Zichal, who has served on the board of Cheniere Energy, an LNG exporter. </p>
The Push for U.S. Fuel Exports<p>As vice president, Biden was part of an administration that pushed hard for global climate action while also promoting U.S. oil and gas exports to its allies and trading partners. As fracking boomed, Obama ended a 40-year ban on crude oil exports. In Europe, LNG was touted both as an alternative to coal and as strategic competition with Russian pipelines.</p><p>That much, at least, continued with President Trump. Under Energy Secretary Rick Perry, the agency referred to liquified U.S. hydrocarbons as "<a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2019/05/29/us/freedom-gas-energy-department.html" target="_blank">freedom gas</a>."</p><p>Mr. Trump has also championed the interests of coal, oil, and gas while denigrating the findings of government climate scientists. He rejected the Paris accord as unfair to the U.S. and detrimental to its economy, but has offered no alternative path to emissions cuts. </p><p>Still, Trump's foreign policy has not always served the LNG industry: Tariffs on foreign steel drove up pipeline costs, and a trade war with China stayed the hand of Chinese LNG importers wary of reliance on U.S. suppliers. </p><p>Even his regulatory rollbacks could be a double-edged sword. By relaxing curbs last month on methane leaks, the U.S. has ceded ground to European regulators who are drafting emissions standards that LNG producers are watching closely. "That's a precursor of fights that will be fought in all the rest of the developed world," says Mr. Hutchison. </p><p>Indeed, some oil-and-gas exporters had urged the Trump administration not to abandon the tougher rules, since they undercut their claim to offer a cleaner-burning way of producing heat and electricity. "U.S. LNG is not going to be able to compete in a world that's focused on methane emissions and intensity," says Erin Blanton, a senior research scholar at the Center on Global Energy Policy at Columbia University. </p>
Stepping on the Gas<p>In July, the Department of Energy issued an export license to Jordan Cove's developer, Canada's Pembina Pipeline Corp. In a statement, Energy Secretary Dan Brouillette said the project would provide "reliable, affordable, and cleaner-burning natural gas to our allies around the world."</p><p>As a West Coast terminal, Jordan Cove offers a faster route to Asia where its capacity of 7.8 million tons of LNG a year could serve to heat more than 15 million homes. At its peak, its construction would also create 6,000 jobs, the company says, in a stagnant corner of Oregon.</p><p>But the project still lacks multiple local and state permits, and its biggest asset – a Pacific port – has become its biggest handicap, says Ms. Blanton. "They are putting infrastructure in a state where there's no political support for the pipeline or the terminal, unlike in Louisiana or Texas," she says. </p><p>Ms. Brown, the environmental lawyer, says she wants to see Jordan Cove buried, not just mothballed until natural gas prices recover. But she knows that it's only one among many LNG projects and that others will likely get built, even if Biden is elected in November, despite growing evidence of the harm caused by methane emissions. </p>
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