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Two Washington DC Universities Combine For Country's Largest Non-Utility Solar Energy Purchase
Two universities in the nation's capital have made the largest non-utility solar energy purchase in the U.S.
George Washington and American universities on Monday announced their joint Capital Partners Solar Project, a 20-year agreement to reduce the carbon footprints of the two universities and the George Washington University Hospital. At 52 megawatts (MW), it is the largest solar photovoltaic project east of the Mississippi River.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
"We'll be directly sourcing our electricity from three solar energy sites," George Washington University President Steven Knapp told the Associated Press. "We're not just buying certificates for renewable energy. We're actually directly sourcing from renewable energy. The impact of that is pretty huge."
The solar power will fuel more than half of the electricity needs for George Washington and American universities and more than one-third of GWU’s hospital's needs when it is operational in late 2015.
The energy will come from Duke Energy Renewables and avoid about 60,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide when compared to conventional electricity. The project is enough to power more than 8,000 homes, while its carbon reduction equates to taking 12,500 cars off the road.
Designed by Customer First Renewables, the project is a way for the universities to meet goals within their climate action plans at no additional cost. Solar power generated at panel sites in North Carolina will move through a North Carolina grid, into Washington DC's regional grid.
“American University is firmly on its way to achieving carbon neutrality by 2020,” AU President Neil Kerwin said. “We are home to the largest combined solar array in the District, are resolved to growing green power through our purchase of renewable energy certificates and are now a partner to the largest non-utility solar energy purchase in the United States.”
In 2012, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognized American University as one of four universities across the country helping to advance the development of the country’s voluntary green power market through purchase of renewable energy certificates. The college has 10 green roofs and is also one of three universities in the world using the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED Volume certification program. New buildings there are LEED Gold certified, and 25 existing buildings are also tracked for LEED.
George Washington University was the first in D.C. to sign the American College and University President’s Climate Commitment, agreeing to reduce its total carbon footprint by 40 percent by 2025. The university also has four green roofs, eight LEED-certified buildings, with six more targeting certification.
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Last week, the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers' Association (JUNPALMA) promised to enter into an agreement for sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil production. The promise was secured by the U.S. based National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in collaboration with the local government, growers and the independent conservation organization Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo.
The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.
"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.
The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.
"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."
The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.
"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."
Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.
Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.
That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.
Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.
If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.
"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."
To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.
"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."
Leaked documents show that Jair Bolsonaro's government intends to use the Brazilian president's hate speech to isolate minorities living in the Amazon region. The PowerPoint slides, which democraciaAbierta has seen, also reveal plans to implement predatory projects that could have a devastating environmental impact.
Last week we received positive news on the border wall's imminent construction in an Arizona wildlife refuge. The Trump administration delayed construction of the wall through about 60 miles of federal wildlife preserves.