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Chicago Launches Solar Plan To Streamline Zoning, Permitting & Connection Process

At a recent Chicago solar event, Mayor Rahm Emanuel announced the launch of a new program, Chicago Solar Express, designed to streamline the permitting, zoning, and connection process for installing solar panels on residential and commercial properties.

The program has incorporated a new platform, the Online Interconnection and Net Metering Enrollment tool launched this month by ComEd – the Commonwealth Edison Company.

Image courtesy of solarfeeds.com.

The platform allows consumers to submit, track, and pay for applications to connect to the electric grid.

ComEd’s net metering program is available to residential and commercial customers who own or operate an on-site, eligible renewable electric generator of up to 2,000 kW that generates electricity for the consumer’s own use.

Customers are eligible who have renewable electric generators that are powered by solar electric energy (i.e., photovoltaic), wind, crops grown for electric generation, fuel cells, as well as waste processed from livestock or food. Customers using hydroelectric energy and that use microturbines powered by renewable fuels are also eligible.

ComEd added that the net metering provides customers with credit for excess energy generated.

The mayor’s office said that these reforms will slash wait times for solar permits for smaller projects from 30 days to one day, and cut fees from $375 to $275, a 25 percent reduction.

The city and its partners, including the Environmental Law and Policy Center and West Monroe Partners, developed these reforms with the assistance of a $750,000 grant received from the DOE SunShot Rooftop Solar Challenge.

The goal of the SunShot challenge was to spur cost reductions for rooftop solar energy system installations for residential and commercial properties through improving permitting, zoning, net metering, and the interconnection process.

The SunShot grant also provided additional funding for the mayor’s environmental agenda Sustainable Chicago 2015, which is a plan organized into seven sustainability categories – economic development and job creation; energy efficiency and clean energy; transportation options; water and wastewater; parks, open space, and healthy food; waste and recycling; and climate change – to create improvements for making the city more sustainable by 2015.

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Report Shows Cost Benefits of Green Buildings Including Increased Productivity of Employees

Shattering the old myth that green buildings cost too much to construct and expenses are never fully recouped, the World Green Building Council (WorldGBC) has published a report highlighting just the opposite.

Image courtesy of arabianindustry.com.

The report explores the benefits of green building construction through looking at aspects of the industry including: design and construction costs, the perception gap, operating costs, green retrofits, asset value, and workplace productivity.

Jane Henley, CEO of WorldGBC, said in an overview of the report that, “Today, green buildings can be delivered at a price comparable to (or cheaper than) conventional buildings, and investments can be recouped through operational cost savings,” and with the right design features, can create more productive workplaces.

Most of the costs in the report related to architectural design and consultant fees, as well as construction costs, referring to building structures, not site acquisition.

Actual cost premiums have been taken from a wide variety of building types, including: offices, homes, schools, warehouses, banks, supermarkets, health centers, community facilities, academic buildings, and public buildings.

The report showed that increases in upfront costs have been found to be proportional to the increased level of environmental certification, with more aspiring projects, such as those that aim for ‘zero carbon’ performance, showing a 12.5 percent increase in design and construction costs compared to a conventional building.

But for the majority of green buildings, the cost typically ranged from less than zero percent to four percent higher based on studies published within the last ten years.

In addition, the report found that higher levels of certification (such as BREEAM Very Good, LEED Silver/Gold, and Green Mark Gold/Gold Plus) were shown to range from zero percent to 10 percent higher cost, while the highest levels of BREEAM Excellent, LEED Platinum, Green Mark Platinum, and ‘zero carbon’ ranged from two percent to 12.5 percent higher cost.

The report also suggests a number of ways to reduce the construction costs of green buildings, including hiring an experienced design and construction team and using an integrated design process, which goes from the pre-design phase through post-occupancy. This involves adopting green strategies and including them in the budget from an early stage to avoid more expensive bolt-on strategies.

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Ikea Grows Sustainability Initiatives with New ‘People & Planet Positive’ Strategy

Ikea, which has been working for a number of years to increase its energy efficiency, while at the same time preserve the environment, has just released a new sustainability strategy, People & Planet Positive.

The strategy incorporates a new set of goals expected to be achieved by 2020, including converting all lighting to LED that the company expects will last for 20 years and use up to 85 percent less electricity.

Ikea also says that it’s working on “becoming energy and resource independent, which includes producing as much renewable energy as is consumed in Ikea Group stores and buildings,” including allocating $1.8 billion (€ 1.5 billion) to wind and solar projects.

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GoGreen Portland To Show Businesses How To Surge Profits With Branding & Clean Efficiencies

This year’s GoGreen Conference Portland is coming up this Thurs., Oct. 11, 2012, and has been booked with an impressive lineup of speakers and industry experts to discuss green sustainability and efficiency issues in areas of commerce including: maritime, lumber, biofuels, food, hospitals and health services, apparel, airlines, and energy.

Educational material from GoGreen Conference Portland ’08.

Legislative support will also be a big topic at the conference. Among those opening the conference will be Oregon First Lady Cylvia Hayes. She is also founder and CEO of 3EStrategies, a clean economy consulting firm, which collaborates throughout the economic spectrum with groups including builders, developers, homeowners, businesses, agencies, municipalities, job and policy development, and energy projects .

The first lady’s experience has also included serving as co-chair the Oregon Renewable Energy Working Group, which developed clean energy policies including Oregon’s Renewable Energy Standard and the Renewable Fuels Standard.

Providing knowledge, experience, and inspiration will also be lots of discussion and interactive workshops including the first in the lineup (not to be missed) called Oregon’s Business Visionaries Discuss the State of Sustainability.

The Business Visionaries opening showcase will be moderated by Duncan Wyse, president of the Oregon Business Council, and will comprise of a panel including: Bruce Daucsavage, CEO of Ochoco Lumber Co., Tyson Keever, co-founder of Sequential Pacific Biodiesel, and Dave Underriner, COO of Providence Health & Services.

The Oregon Business Council is a private non-profit, non-partisan organization that consists of chief executives from throughout Oregon’s varied industries. The organization works to focus the knowledge and resources of its members on important long-range policy issues in the state, including: education, healthcare, transportation, and public finance.

The Business Visionaries discussion will largely focus on the general state of industry in Oregon, energy issues, technology innovations, as well as projections for the future in building long-term economic viability across businesses sectors.


Reader comments and input are always welcomed!


New School To Have The Greenest University Center For Students & Faculty In New York City

University Center rendering courtesy of The New School.

Outgrowing its facilities with increased enrollments over the last few years, The New School, a progressive university in the heart of New York City, is now at the half-way point of constructing its new University Center that will be among the greenest buildings in the city, according to its the project designer, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM).

James Murtha, The New School executive vice president, commented that “Urban universities face special challenges, particularly in a space-starved city like New York. To accommodate the growth of important programs within our limited footprint, we convened with students and faculty over a period of years for a design that embraces the culture of dialogue and debate that is a New School hallmark.”

The design company said the new University Center will provide students and faculty with much needed academic and social spaces within the one building. It will encompass varied facilities including an auditorium, the main university library, lecture halls, classrooms, laboratories, a distant learning center, informal study spaces, a cafeteria, retail cafes, and a 600-bed dormitory with a fitness center.

In addition, the university says that because sustainability is one of its core values, the University Center has been designed to earn a LEED Gold certification, incorporating sustainability features including a rainwater-saving green roof for which the university received a grant from the New York City Department of Environmental Protection.

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