The sweltering summer shows no signs of slowing down both in temperatures and headlines. We’ve compiled some of our favorite blogs covering many aspects of the heat wave including price spikes, future forecasts, the impact of air conditioning, boosts in solar, and even historic cooling methods. Check ’em out!
California Powers 6 Million Homes With Solar Energy, Slays Record
Believe it or not this heat wave is having at least one positive effect. Huffington Post reports that California solar panels hit a new record for electricity produced, 8,030 megawatts to be exact. And that’s just for large solar plants. Read the full article on Huffington Post here.
The Global Environmental Impact of Air Conditioning is Big and Will Get Even Bigger
The world loves air conditioning. And now, more than ever before, people can afford to have one or several units in their homes. But what does this mean for the global demand for electricity to power those air conditioners? Quartz explores this question in depth. Read the full article here.
New York City Electricity Spot Price Spikes by 1,000%
The heat wave is not confined to outdoor temperatures. A particularly hot streak took its toll on the New York City electricity spot price per megawatt hour which reached $1,042, up from the average price of $94. Electricity bills were not directly affected but the price jump is definitely something to keep an eye on. Read more here.
How Houses Were Cooled Before Air Conditioning
Air conditioning is a relatively modern invention but heat has always been a problem. How did people deal with it before electricity? Curbed goes way back to explain some of the more creative ways to beat the heat. Read the full article here.
Get Used to These Extreme Summer Heat Waves
We’re already on track to surpass the record breaking temperatures of 2015 and scientists says unless we reduce our fossil fuel consumption, we’re looking at the new normal. “If we continue with business-as-usual burning of fossil fuels, and warm the planet by [3 degrees Celsius] by the end of this century, then what we today call ‘extreme heat’ we will instead call ‘mid-summer'”. Read the full article on Huffington Post.
Today’s interconnected, tech-enabled world has unleashed a powerful wave of optimization in most sectors of the economy. However, much of the energy and building operations infrastructure, particularly in the multifamily realm, is still ripe for innovation. In 2015, it’s hard to believe that some utilities still get away with employing human meter readers and sending bills by fax, but we see it every day!
The energy management landscape is primed for technology disruption. Who are our favorite companies doing just that? Read on for our list of companies to watch as the energy industry embarks on an age of transformation.
LogCheck‘s app connects maintenance staff to upper management more efficiently than ever before. The digital logbook modernizes the way maintenance staff run buildings on a daily basis by allowing them to create and maintain records, review historical data and easily share that information with building management, bringing operations and maintenance into the 21st century.
Geli, short for Growing Energy Labs, Inc. provides software and business solutions to design, integrate, network and economically operate energy storage and microgrid systems. At its core, the Geli Energy Operating System (EOS) is a software platform that brings together energy storage, distributed generation, EV charging and building controls as part of the Internet of Energy. Their EOS can even make decisions on when and how to run different energy assets. For example, based on the current price of power and energy, Geli’s software automatically makes decisions on when to sell energy back to the grid, to ensure you’re getting the best possible value.
Enertiv is a new breed of electricity monitoring company. Their software platform allows you to see real-time energy performance and provides actionable insights. Using a combination of proprietary meters and sensors, as well as by integrating with existing building systems, Enertiv makes real-time energy consumption in buildings 100% transparent down to the equipment level and provides round-the-clock access to fine-grained data. By helping owners, operators, occupants, etc. visualize and digest their consumption, Enertiv empowers change in an unprecedented way.
Urjanet addresses a fundamental market need for quick and easy access to uniform utility data. By providing an automated data feed of detailed and structured utility data to energy service and software providers, Urjanet eliminates manual energy data collection and cleansing for these companies and allows them to focus their time and resources on analysis and action. It’s hard to underestimate the value of reliable, structured utility data, especially when you realize that there are 35,000 different utility companies worldwide, each with their own utility bill format!
These are just a few of our favorites, who are yours? Tell us in the comments section below!
We at Bright Power read the news of Tesla’s Powerwall with unbelievable excitement. For years, energy efficiency has been treated as either an obligation or a lofty goal, both of which has made it difficult to adopt for consumers and businesses, but it seems we’re at a turning point. Like Nest did for the thermostat, the Powerwall makes batteries sexy, cool, desirable. The reason this product will succeed is at least in part because people will want it. That’s something the efficiency market hasn’t seen and it’s something we need. The mass production of renewable technology means we are finally at a point where efficiency meets desire.
Getting the public on board is a necessary hurdle which must be crossed in order to reach the decision-making building owners who often block out the energy company ‘noise’ because it’s complicated, it’s confusing and there’s just so much of it.
Luckily, the necessary pieces to make this a sound business decision are already in place. Like the Powerwall, Bright Power’s Resilient Power Hub deploys batteries, but combines them with solar photovoltaics (PV) and combined-heat-and-power (CHP) to provide instantaneous, long-term backup power. And it pays for itself over time! The Resilient Power Hub was designed for small businesses as a part of the RISE:NYC competition (which we won, by the way) but it’s scalable to multifamily and commercial buildings where waste is big and opportunity is bigger. Bigger fish, here we come.
Can you remember what was going on in your life exactly one year ago? I sure can because the energy markets were nuts. At this time last year, we were in the middle of a winter that brought historically cold temperatures, incredibly high natural gas consumption, and record high energy prices. The result was record low amounts of natural gas in storage. Low storage levels – a storage deficit – leads to high prices and high volatility. We reasonably expected that storage levels would recover slowly over a 36 month period, as would price volatility. This prediction was blindsided by a mild summer with low electric demand (requiring less natural gas-fired generation) and unexpected, record-setting natural gas production. Natural gas prices gradually declined until a large sell-off in late December led to natural gas prices falling off a cliff to a new, lower trading range (see Chart One).
Economics 101 tells you that with a storage deficit, we see an increase in prices while a surplus causes prices to decrease. The two charts below show historic and forecasted storage levels. The lower portion of each chart – the red bars – shows the relative deficit and surplus levels. The reversal of market conditions is evident by looking at the regions circled in red. In March 2014, storage deficits were expected to continue well into 2016, but by January 2015, storage deficits were erased and are expected to continue that way for quite some time, even showing a slight surplus by November 2015.
The unforeseen improvement in storage levels has reduced natural gas prices from the high of approximately $5.00 per dekatherm (DTH) to the current low of $2.65/DTH (50% decrease). On the electric side, we have seen accounts that received 12 month fixed-price offers of $0.12 per kilowatt hour (KWH) in April 2014 receiving the same contracts at a rate of $0.085/KWH. The past year has perfectly demonstrated the impact that natural gas storage has on energy prices. The question is no longer how did we get here, it’s where are we going?
Dan Levin, VP Energy Markets
But it should be!
Luxury, low-income, high-rise, low-rise, pre-war, modern, condominium, or coop – regardless of borough or building type, there is something we New Yorkers have in common: we are all deprived of fresh air!
I’m not saying that fresh air is an endangered species in NYC, nor am I trying to portray those scenes from Total Recall where anyone who steps outside turns into this guy. In fact, as part of the City’s Greener, Greater Buildings Plan, New York progressed by leaps and bounds with respect to overall air quality (Thanks, Bloomberg!). What I’m talking about here is indoor air quality (IAQ).
Based upon this engineer’s experience, more than 95% of all buildings – at least those which possess mechanical ventilation – are not properly ventilated. This is caused by simple physics: air, just as all other gases, will take the path of least resistance. No matter how large a fan you put on that shaft, air will always want to travel from the upper floor registers and leakage areas before it will travel from that farthest register (i.e., typically those on the first three floors). As a result, most buildings as a whole are grossly over-ventilated while tenant spaces on the lower floors, such as kitchens and bathrooms, are not ventilated at all. Not only is this a major health and safety concern, but it is (technically) illegal.
If you live in a multi-dwelling building, you have the right to proper ventilation. What gives you this right? Well, it’s the combination of the following three policies:
- New York City Building Code
- New York City Mechanical Code
- And most importantly, the Multiple Dwelling Law (MDL), which is usually the most stringent.
The solution is simple – balance the ventilation system! In the majority of cases, balancing can be accomplished with a basic 3-step process:
- Clean the shaft/duct – remove all dirt, debris, and grease
- Seal the shaft/duct – now that the shaft is clean, repair the shaft and seal all leaks
- Test, adjust, and balance (TAB) the system – this is an iterative process which begins with the installation of constant airflow regulators (otherwise known as CARs) within each register followed by flow testing and fan adjustments (increase or decrease speed)
However, in order to be successful, owners must treat the situation like any other substantial alteration: HAVE IT PROFESSIONALLY DESIGNED AND MONITORED!
Remember: no matter what your contractor tells you, this work DOES require permitting, and per NYC Building Code, a balancing report for close out! This means that any design/filing should come standard with these requirements in addition to performance specifications.
It’s time to start getting your buildings ready to look and feel good…for the rest of their lives.
I don’t know about you but every January I tell myself things are going to be different this year. The new year inspires us to set goals for healthy living, financial success and lasting relationships. In fact, there is an entire industry of resources and technologies focused on making our goals easily attainable. Running your building is no different.
We look at thousands of buildings across the country each year and hear the same problems. Even worse, we see the same short-term solutions implemented year after year. If tenants are complaining about their apartment being too cold, crank up the boiler. If the hallway lights are dim and they keep burning out, replace them with the same light bulb. Every year we end up paying more and more for electricity, gas and water because the approach to energy management just isn’t evolving anywhere near as quickly as consumption is growing. However our dependency on energy, and the price we pay for it continues to climb.
Just because your building was built in the 1900’s doesn’t mean you have to operate it that way. Energy was less expensive when these buildings were built and conservation was not a goal or a necessity. Times have changed! This year, it’s time to bring your building into the 21st Century. There are simple ways to start managing energy that will help you provide your tenants with a healthier space to live and work, reduce your operating expenses and keep happy tenants in your building for years to come.
The first step is to measure your usage. Whether you are trying to lose weight or earn more money, knowing where you stand is crucial to success. This will also help you understand how your building uses energy and where you should focus your time, money and effort. This is a fundamental metric that is imperative to evaluating and recognizing your success.
Now it’s time to make some changes! But like any resolution, start small and build up throughout the year. Here’s a simple change that can produce big results: upgrade your lights. Most of the buildings we see still have incandescent lighting, which is the same technology that Thomas Edison invented…in the 1800s. Even fluorescent lamps are outdated; you can typically achieve a 40%-50% energy reduction by switching to LEDs. By leapfrogging straight to LEDs, you can quickly reduce operating costs, maintenance costs and will usually increase light levels, making your building safer.
Lastly, and here is the most important part, you have to watch the results – good or bad! Proper energy management can’t be done by installing new devices alone because set it and forget it doesn’t work. You think losing ten pounds is tough until you realize what you have to do to keep it off. Your building’s energy health is as much a journey that needs monitoring as your own.
To bring your building into the 21st Century, the most important advice to follow is to be strategic. Working with a personal trainer is effective because it means having a long-term plan and someone who can hold you accountable. Set goals for your building or your portfolio and work with a strategic partner that will help you achieve what you set out to do. You don’t need to stick to old tactics just because your building is old. New, strategic approaches to operating will help create healthier, more profitable and longer-lasting buildings. So let your building’s six pack fly free this summer. Start now to make 2015 the year you finally see results, because with buildings, it’s beach season all year long!
Domestic energy sources have been subsidized in the U.S. for almost as long as we’ve been an independent nation, dating all the way back to 1789 when our new leaders first implemented a tax on the sale of British coal. Today, the debate surrounding federal support for the energy industry is as contentious as ever. The months leading up to Congress’s passing of the Fiscal Year 2015 Omnibus Appropriations Bills have been filled with an excess of rhetoric, half-truths, and whole-lies regarding the different ways that our government supports the energy sector. Instead of adding more fuel to the fire, here we will present empirical data detailing where and how much our government subsidizes energy and the future implications of federal support of the renewable energy sector.
The table below is the result of a study that analyzed the distribution of subsidies among the many ways in which the federal government has supported energy development for the entire industry from 1950-2010. The study estimated that federal support for the energy industry over that 60-year time period totaled over $837 billion (in 2010 dollars). Their findings show that the coal, oil, nuclear, and gas industries have been the major beneficiaries, having received close to 80% ($666.5B) of federal subsidies since 1950; while hydro, renewables and geothermal comprise the remaining 20% ($170.7B).
While these numbers seem to tell us that government energy subsidies heavily favor fossil fuel production, things start to look differently when we dig a little deeper. When we take into account the amount of energy that is actually being generated relative to the amount of subsidization received, renewables in the U.S. technically receive 25 times the subsidy that fossil fuels do. In the United States in 2010, in order to generate a billion BTUs of energy, the renewable industry received $1,724, while the fossil fuel industry received just $68.72. To that end, it would appear that renewables are more federally-favored than we thought. Considering the fact that we are comparing markets that are in completely different states of maturity, the future of the renewable sector may be more dependent in its ability to match the fossil fuel industry’s infrastructure, rather than federal subsidization.
Even still, federal support of the renewable energy sector is working. The cost of renewable energy has dropped dramatically since the 1970s, especially over the last 5 years, as we are now buying solar and wind energy for prices lower than coal. As for future policy, the road ahead looks positive but it would be a mistake to expect drastic reform in the ways that we subsidize our energy in the near term. One thing is for certain; the U.S. has an opportunity to deliver reliable, affordable, and environmentally friendly energy that we can’t afford to miss.
We applaud the thrust of David Bench’s November 10 article on ArchDaily.com “The Other ‘Green Way’: Why Can’t New York Build More Quality Affordable Housing?”, but take issue with some of his conclusions. Via Verde has been a smashing success in delivering high quality affordable housing that’s also remarkably sustainable, and New York should be building more quality affordable housing like it. But the fact that more could be done shouldn’t blind us to the quality affordable housing development going on around us. Bench opens with, “Two years after the completion of Grimshaw and Dattner’s acclaimed Via Verde (“Green Way”), no successors have even been proposed for this supposed model for the design and construction of new affordable housing.” Not so!
For those of you who think nothing innovative has been happening in quality and sustainable affordable housing, keep reading. Sustainable affordable housing is on the rise even as rental apartment construction in New York City hit a 27 year high last week. One needs to look no further than the La Central development on the Bronxchester site literally next door to Via Verde. La Central is a 985 unit, 5 building complex that is 100% affordable. Developed by Hudson, BRP, The Kretchmer Companies, and Common Ground with FXFowle and MHG as architects, La Central will draw upon many of the celebrated features of Via Verde including a green roof and photovoltaic (PV) array over 5 times the size of Via Verde’s. La Central pushes innovation further by incorporating the PV array into a resilient microgrid complete with batteries and cogeneration – all of which pays for itself and enhances the economics of the development while providing tangible electrical and HVAC services to residents in the event of an outage. The courtyard and rooftop landscape design by Future Green Studio stands to continue the ribbon of landscaped attractive outdoor space that began at Via Verde. Not convinced?
La Central is far from the only innovator – Bright Power’s roster of projects includes affordable housing projects pursuing the Passive House Standard, which typically reduces energy use by 80% when compared to typical code-minimum developments. Via Verde and Dumont Green, two icons of energy efficiency of the past decade on which Bright Power worked, comparatively saved 30% and 26% respectively. Or look to Essex Crossing, a mega development currently under design located in the heart of New York’s Lower East Side that will include 1000 units of housing, of which 50% is affordable. Essex Crossing won an Affordable Green Communities award at Greenbuild 2014 in recognition of the 9-building neighborhood development’s groundbreaking achievements in establishing a vibrant and equitable neighborhood, and is projected to be 20-30% more energy efficient than the typical building under today’s codes. These are just a few of the dozens of projects Skye Gruen, our Director of New Construction & Sustainability, and her team here at Bright Power are actively working on in an effort to to improve the quality and sustainability of new affordable housing development.
While high quality and sustainable building qualities is seeping into the fabric of New York’s affordable housing development, building better affordable housing is just the beginning. The key to sustainable buildings isn’t just building them right – it’s about tracking their energy use from the start and proactively managing them throughout their lifecycle, too. We disagree with David Bench – sustainable, affordable housing is getting built. The real challenge – a challenge Bright Power is tackling now – is how to make sure today’s cutting-edge buildings continue to perform after construction wraps.
Bright’s Sam Weisenberg teaches maintenance staff in the field
Streamlined building operations and maintenance means fewer surprises – the bad kind of surprises – the ones that cost time, money and resources. The last thing you want is to find yourself paying out of pocket for a steam pipe burst on Christmas Eve, only to realize it could’ve been avoided. These things happen! Well, Bright Power and Stewards of Affordable Housing for the Future (SAHF) believe that they happen a lot less with an operations and maintenance staff that knows what to look for.
In May 2013, SAHF and its members launched the Big Reach initiative with the goal of reducing portfolio-wide energy and water use by 20% by 2020 – a goal they see as an important step to reaching the ultimate goal ofaffordable housing preservation. This initiative, paired with the Better Buildings Challenge, strengthened their commitment to achieving and maintaining energy and water efficiency throughout their portfolio. They soon realized that streamlined operations and maintenance was a key strategy for achieving these goals, and Bright Power was happy to help them pursue them.
Bright Power partnered with SAHF to develop a Mutlifamily Energy and Water Management Toolkitwhich includes practical, free resources for O&M such as checklists, references and tip sheets. We’re also collaborating on a series of nation-wide trainings for SAHF members on energy- and water-efficient operations and maintenance. Each city will host Bright Power’s trainers and local O&M professionals for a two day session that includes lectures in the classroom and hands-on experience in the field.
So far this month, SAHF and Bright Power have held trainings in Washington, DC and Boston. Trainings were attended by staff from Homes for America, the National Housing Trust, Preservation of Affordable Housing(POAH), The Community Builders and Volunteers of America. The DC training was held on-site at a National Housing Trust property, the St. Dennis Apartments. Attendees walked through the site with Bright Power trainers Mark Pando and Jon Braman, identifying energy and water savings opportunities in the property before delving into a curriculum focused on small HVAC maintenance. In Boston, POAH’s historic Kenmore Abbey hosted a training focused on central heating.
Attendees shared insights into their processes for dealing with maintenance headaches at their site and learned about the many ways their work affects energy and water savings. The curriculum deals not only with maintaining specific systems like heating, DHW, HVAC lighting and water, but also the communication practices and tracking systems that get to the core of O&M, preventing problems before they arise and making sure they’re quickly solved if and when they do come up.
Take a look at some of the topics covered:
Building maintenance staff are on the front lines of energy and water efficiency. They have the power to make their buildings run like a well-oiled machine or let things fall apart. They have to take care of tenants, manage vendors, respond to their bosses, make sure buildings pass inspections for HUD, etc. It’s a tough job! We’re focused on empowering them with skills and knowledge to keep them in the driver’s seat when it comes to energy and water use in their buildings. With a more managed, proactive approach at the building level, SAHF is well on their way to hitting their energy and water goals across their portfolio.
Bright Power is extremely proud to have worked with L+M Development Partners on the Arverne View (previously Ocean Village) revitalization project. See the video below for an in depth look at the amazing journey.