When many people think of New York City, beyond the crowds their image of the city is the lights. Soon, the night skyline will be much whiter because all 250,000 street lights are being switched to LEDs in the biggest retrofit project in the nation.
The switch-over is part of PlaNYC, the city’s climate change mitigation plan. PlaNYC requires the city to cut emissions from government operations 30% by 2017.
Started in 2009 as a pilot, the retrofit is now rolling out across NYC with a completion date of 2017. LEDs already light key corridors, such as FDR Drive – the highway along its east side – and paths that wind through Central Park. They even adorn the city’s bridges.
The $76.5 million project is expected to save $6 million a year in energy costs and $8 million a year on maintenance costs (LEDs last for up to 20 years).
It is the first project to receive funding from the city’s ACE Program (Accelerated Conservation and Efficiency Initiative). The $100 million competitive program launched this fall to expedite government projects that cut greenhouse gas emissions. It funds programs that can be quickly implemented on efficiency and clean heating. It awarded $10 million toward the lighting retrofit.
“Using LEDs for street lighting is more than just a bright idea, it’s a necessity for sustainable cities to operate more efficiently while also delivering clearer, better quality light for New Yorkers,” says Transportation Commissioner Sadik-Khan.
NYC was the first large American city to use LED traffic signals, converting lights at all 12,700 intersections – they now use 81% less energy. Even the iconic ball that drops at New Year’s is filled with LEDs.
Boston and Los Angeles both recently finished their own city-wide lighting retrofits.
It’s estimated that the 35 million streetlights in the US consume about 1% of all electricity. If every city followed their lead, that would eliminate the need for 2.5 coal plants a year, notes former President Clinton.
Although clear, bright LEDs make city streets safer, not everyone likes their look. They are too bright they say, reminding them of floodlights. While there are soft light versions for use in homes, we wonder why they can’t be applied to street lights.
Last year, the Department of Energy conducted a lifecycle analysis of LEDs and found while they have significantly lower environmental impact than incandescents, they only have a slight edge over compact fluorescents.
How many technologies does it take to change a city’s light bulbs? That’s a question being addressed, more or less, around the world as major metropolitan areas retrofit their street lights, traffic signals and signage with higher-efficiency bulbs and technologies, notably LEDs. Such efforts are often part of a larger project to modernize and digitize much of the information around energy use — the so-called smart grid — making it easier to control and optimize it.
For a city, lighting can be a “gateway drug” to a larger smart-grid implementation. A smart grid is a complex puzzle of utilities, buildings, cities, vehicles and devices using electricity — not to mention the transmission and distribution lines that distribute it. Throw in the so-called Internet of things — billions of computer-addressable objects and devices — and you’ve created a complex system.
Like all such systems, they can be powerful tools or an unwieldy mess. Creating the former, and doing so profitably, will be one of the great business opportunities of the 21st century.
Much of that action is happening inside cities, which are spawning grounds for a wide range of technologies designed to optimize city services while reducing their citizens’ energy use and carbon footprints. Many of these technologies are nascent, continually improving in both price and performance. For cities, figuring out which technologies to deploy — and when, and from which vendors — is a complicated and sometimes confounding question.
But sometimes it all comes together. Consider the case of Silver Spring Networks and the city of Paris. The Silicon Valley-based company develops equipment that creates wireless mesh networks and transmits real-time energy consumption data between meters, consumers and utilities.
Paris, for its part, is known as the City of Light. Can these two partners — an iconic city and a technology upstart — find success?
At GreenBiz’s Convergence Paris event last month, I met up with Sterling Hughes, Senior Director of Advanced Technology at Silver Spring. Hughes heads up development for new market initiatives, including its international and smart cities businesses. At Convergence Paris, Hughes participated on a panel on “future cities.”
Earlier this year, Silver Spring was selected to participate in a streetlight and traffic signal management project for Paris, part of the city’s efforts to reduce its public lighting energy consumption by 30 percent over 10 years. The project in which Silver Spring is participating is the first part of a multistep process to manage a complex array of thousands of streetlights, streetlight control boxes, traffic signal control boxes, and other elements of Paris’ public lighting and traffic control infrastructure. It’s also part of an effort to upgrade Paris’ electricity grid and turn Paris into a “smart city.”
Lighting first. Smart grid later
Doing the latter requires first doing the former. That is: A city can cost-justify a citywide rollout of the wireless network it needs for a smart grid because light poles are pretty much everywhere.
“Smart cities is a very broad term, but for us it starts with a network throughout the city for all of the city services. It then enables people to build software applications on top of that,” Hughes told me. Those additional applications can be used to improve a range of city services, from electricity delivery to traffic control.
Retrofitting street lighting with efficient LED bulbs makes sense beyond the reduced electricity costs, though those can be considerable: New York City expects a 35 percent reduction in lighting energy costs when its citywide retrofit is completed in 2019. That’s lower than other cities report, however. According to Hughes, energy savings from LED street lighting is more typically around 65 percent.
There are also maintenance cost savings — primarily, the labor it takes to replace bulbs when they are no longer effective. (Unlike other light sources, LEDs usually don’t “burn out”; instead, they get progressively dimmer over time, referred to as “lumen depreciation.”) Good-quality white LEDs in well-designed fixtures are expected to have a useful life of 30,000 to 50,000 hours or longer. In comparison, a typical incandescent lamp lasts about 1,000 hours; a comparable CFL lasts 8,000 to 10,000 hours. The cost of replacing a single streetlight bulb — sending a crew out with a bucket truck, sometimes having to close lanes or roadways — can be hundreds of dollars, many times the cost of the bulb itself.
“There are a few applications that pay for themselves,” says Hughes. “One is smart parking” — which typically results in higher revenue from parking meters. “The other is smart street lights.”
The difference with street lights, says Hughes, is that “you get much more ubiquity across the city so you’re able to have that network infrastructure. It basically finances the rollout of a network across your city. If you implement LEDs and you choose a network that can support multiple applications, every additional device you choose is going to be way cheaper.” The alternative to a wireless network, says Hughes, is to dig trenches to install fiber optics throughout the city.
In the case of Paris, there are actually two separate projects, each attached to different city budgets. One has to do with LED traffic lights, enabling them to be not just more energy efficient, but also digitally networked in order to improve traffic flow. The other is for street lights, providing operational savings from energy as well as detecting that a street light is out (or degrading) without physically inspecting it.
Europe’s drive for smart lighting
Much of this kind of work is playing out in Europe first. “Europe has a few more drivers for smart lighting,” explains Hughes. “One is there’s roughly double as many lights in Europe as there are in the United States, even though the U.S. is much larger. The engineering standards on roadway lighting here in Europe much more specific.”
One key metric is pole-spacing on roads — the distance from one light pole to the next in order to have sufficient illumination on roadways. “In Europe there’s a very well-defined classification and system of roads that is defined by the CIE [International Commission on Illumination], which is a standardization body for lighting. Not only do they define what the pole spacing is in order to have enough light on the road, they also define the traffic conditions and the light on the road based upon the traffic conditions.”
Hughes explains: “Road classifications are based on their traffic — the number of cars per minute or per hour. Based upon that it’s either called a highway, a thoroughfare, or a pedestrian roadway. The way dimming schemes work is, essentially, if the highway at 2 a.m. has only the traffic of a pedestrian roadway, you can de-rate the road to a pedestrian roadway in terms of your lighting level, which means you can reduce the light level by 50 percent, and therefore save a bunch of energy in the middle of the night.”
Equivalent standards don’t yet exist in the United States.
And then there are the societal benefits of smarter, more energy-efficient city lighting. “The light from LEDs is massively better,” says Hughes. “I didn’t really think they were anything that special before I started looking at street lights, but the light from LEDs can actually demonstrably reduce crime. In Los Angeles, it’s reduced crime by 15 percent. In Chattanooga, certain public parks have gone from three or four gang incidents a week to none.”
Suffice to say, such societal benefits need to be part of the calculation for cities investing in smart lighting systems. We know how to put monetary values to social benefit, from reduced law enforcement needs to higher property values and resulting property tax revenues, not to mention resident safety and satisfaction. They are as important as the reduced energy and maintenance costs.
“Cities don’t quantify the societal benefit,” Hughes acknowledges. “That’s one of the things you learn right away. There’s always some societal benefit that never gets captured.”
US software giant Microsoft launched a new initiative called CityNext to spur innovation and encourage leaders to create sustainable cities at its annual Worldwide Partner Conference in the US city of Houston on Wednesday.
Laura Ipsen, vice president of Microsoft’s Worldwide Public Sector, announced the initiative in her keynote at the Toyota Center in downtown Houston. The initiative leverages Microsoft’s vast Partner Network and the company’s technology solutions like Windows Azure and other devices and apps.
“Working with our vast Microsoft Partner Network, we can scale solutions and services to do ‘new with less,’ enabling cities to better compete in the global marketplace, drive citizen engagement, and foster economic, social and environmental sustainability,” Ipsen said.
Through CityNext, Microsoft will work with city leaders and focus on eight core functions: energy and water; buildings, planning and infrastructure; transportation; public safety and justice; tourism, recreation and culture; education; health and social services; government administration.
Nine places have already embarked on the initiative including southern China’s Hainan province and Zhengzhou in the central province of Henan, according to Sandy Gupta, national technology officer with Microsoft China.
CityNext empowers cities to make the most of existing investments and find the right combination of solutions, applications and programs to transform their cities.
Navigant Research forecasts that the smart city technology market will grow from the reported US$6.1 billion last year to US$20.2 billion in 2020, generating a total revenue of US$117.3 billion over the next seven years.
Located 30km from South Korea’s capital of Seoul, Suwon is one of the fast-growing Asian cities battling with mounting urban challenges associated with climate change, including road nightmares.
But the city is determined to bid farewell to bottle-neck traffics and congestion, as well as the energy and pollution problems associated with urban transportation. This September, Suwon will host the EcoMobility World Festival with ICLEI and UN-Habitat.
Held in Suwon, South Korea from 1 to 30 September 2013, the EcoMobility World Festival 2013 offers a peek into the ecomobile city of the future by transforming an urban neighborhood into a people-oriented environment.
By designating one of the most crowded neighborhoods Haenggung-dong as a car-free zone for an entire month, where the world’s most cutting edge sustainable vehicles will also be showcased, the city will demonstrate to cities worldwide that alternative – eco-friendly, healthy and resource-efficient – means of transportation and lifestyle are possible in the age where climate change and its impacts are becoming more visible and relevant to the urban population.
To transform the car-centered neighborhood into a more people-friendly one, works have already been done to regenerate the city old town. For example, more trees have been planted and footpaths were widened to create more space for pedestrians. During the Festival, these usually crowded streets will also see ecomobile vehicles running on designated lanes, while all kinds of cultural activities, concerts, street art, bike and film shows will take place in other parts of the Festival area.
Describing the Festival as a meaningful attempt to create an “alternative urban transportation system that does not rely on fossil fuel in an era of oil depletion”, Yeom Tae-Young, Mayor of Suwon City, is calling his fellow citizens to change their mindsets and help create a greener and more sustainable community by adopting an ecomobile lifestyle – but also to cities worldwide, where heavy traffics are happening daily and costing commuters a huge amount of time and financial costs, not to mention the environmental costs that we have already been paying for decades.
Nice, the Mediterranean seaside resort and France’s fifth largest city, is embarking on a year-long smart city proof-of-concept. It’s partnering with Cisco and several companies involved with sustainable urban development through an alliance called Think Global.
The project, “Connected Boulevard,” is testing multiple applications such as smart parking, waste disposal, lighting efficiency and environmental monitoring. All of them build on information generated by approximately 200 wireless connected devices and sensors deployed along the 800-yard-long Boulevard Victor Hugo.
“The goal is to define new applications, usages and business models,” said Olivier Seznec, chief technology officer for Cisco France.
In particular, the municipal government seeks to document specific ways in which these applications — and others not yet defined — may generate cost savings or new revenue for this city of about 550,000 inhabitants. That information is necessary to help justify a deeper investment.
“If we are not able to come out with a sound business model, it would be difficult to finance this,” Seznec said.
“For Nice to continue welcoming millions more visitors and companies while ensuring a high quality of life, using Internet intelligence is key,” Nice Mayor Christian Estrosi said during a media tour of the project in late June. “Many more things are going to get connected between people, with and between objects, creating valuable interactions and processes including that of public administration. Our ability as a city to harness this data is crucial to understanding what’s going on in real-time and to enhance a multitude of services for city-dwellers.”
For example, tests of smart parking services help visitors and residents find available spaces more quickly. Early results suggest that these could reduce traffic congestion by up to 30 percent, generate new revenue and reduce air pollution.
By calibrating the streetlights to mirror pedestrian and traffic activity or accommodate changing weather conditions such as fog, the city could cut electricity related to lighting between 20 percent and 80 percent.
Nice also could introduce location-based services, pointing to comfort zones where visitors or citizens might find sunshine or shade, depending on their personal preference or health needs, Seznec said. “The city owns and hosts the data, and decides what it wants to expose in a service,” he said.
According to the information provided by Cisco and other partners with Nice, the technology that will enable these services requires four specific layers:
Layer 1: Context-aware sensors and mobile devices (such as smartphones or tablet computers) connected with wireless mesh technologies
Layer 2: A distributed data capture, storage and analytics platform, Cisco Connected Mobile Experiences
Layer 3: Open-standard application programming interfaces that allow developers to create services and applications and use the data
Layer 4: The applications
The network and sensors were deployed by Cisco and Think Global, which includes several technology companies focused on smart city projects. Among those involved in that collaboration are Citelum, a lighting and energy management technology company; Egis, a sustainable urban development company; Urbiotica, which has developed a platform called the City Operating System; and Sude.
Other application developers involved in the pilot project include weather applications developer Meteosim, geographic information systems provider Mappy, data center integrator and service provider NextiraOne and translation service developer GeekGaps.
During the next few months, the Nice experiment may be expanded to include other sorts of sensors, such as those tracking wind speeds, Senzec said. Other cities are being targeted for similar solutions, but no specific plans are in place, he said.
If you are interested in the energy performance of buildings, you now have an easy place to turn to: the Buildings Performance Database. Launched this week by the U.S. Department of Energy, it makes information on 60,000 residential and commercial buildings free to the public.
It enables people to perform statistical analysis on anonymous data from tens of thousands of commercial and residential buildings from across the country.
Users can compare performance trends among similar buildings to identify and prioritize cost-saving energy efficiency improvements and assess the range of likely savings from these improvements.
In addition to where the building is located, you’ll find its age, size, function, electricity and fuel consumption, equipment information and operational characteristics.
Commercial and residential buildings consume roughly 70 percent of U.S. electricity production consumption in the nation.
Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and Building Energy Inc. developed the database.
Perhaps some of the data comes from the eight cities that now require building owners to disclose their energy (and sometimes water) use each year: Boston; New York City;San Francisco; Seattle; Minneapolis; Austin, Texas; Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. They also require disclosure of greenhouse gas emissions.
Zayed Future Energy Prize, the world’s leading award for innovation in renewable energy and sustainability, presented a workshop in Sweden this week. The seminar took place on the sidelines of the Global Sustainable Cities Network (GSCN) meetings in Stockholm this week.
Dr Nawal Al-Hosany, Director of the Zayed Future Energy Prize, led the discussion with representatives of 10 Swedish cleantech companies on the role and importance of SMEs in the renewable energy sector. Highlighting the Prize’s capacity to catalyze and fund innovation and growth in clean energy and sustainability practices, Dr Al-Hosany offered a virtual walk-through of the submission process for the Prize.”SMEs play a critical role in the cleantech sector. In most countries, SMEs represent a majority of the industry and are significant drivers of energy innovation and contributors to overall economic growth through employment,” said Dr Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, Director General of the Zayed Future Energy Prize. However, the funds involved in research and development of new technology could constrain SMEs. Here, the Prize plays a key role in recognizing and funding companies that are engaged in developing the solutions for energy access and addressing climate change.
“Our previous winners have witnessed the transformational effect of the Prize. We would like to encourage SMEs in Europe and across the world to join forces with us and participate in the Prize,” continued Dr Al Jaber.
“The Prize underscores the commitment by the leadership of the UAE to finding the solutions needed to solve the energy challenge. Inspired by the legacy of our founding father, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the Prize has the power to bring together and catalyze participants from all over the world – corporations, individuals and schools – for a common cause,” added Dr Al Jaber.
Previous winners of the Prize from Europe include Vestas, Denmark (Large Corporation, 2011); Schneider Electric, France (Large Corporation 2012); Carbon Disclosure Project, United Kingdom (SME 2012); Siemens, Germany (Large Corporation 2013); and the Okehampton School, United Kingdom (Global High Schools 2013).
In her capacity as Director of Sustainability at Masdar, Dr Al-Hosany also participated in a roundtable at the Global Sustainable Cities Network (GSCN) meeting. A component of the United Nation’s Clean Energy Ministerial, the GSCN seeks to provide an open knowledge-sharing platform for groundbreaking sustainable city initiatives throughout the world. Masdar City, the UAE‘s emerging clean-tech cluster and test-bed for renewable energy and sustainable technologies is the Secretariat to the GSCN. Current members of the Network include the UAE, China, Finland, Sweden and Denmark.
The Zayed Future Energy Prize is a $4m annual fund awarded to companies, schools and individuals that have made significant contributions to the future of energy, sustainability and climate change. In five years, the Prize has recognized 21 innovators and impacted communities worldwide.
Submissions for the sixth edition of the Prize will close on 5 August, 2013. Winners will be announced at the Zayed Future Energy Prize awards ceremony scheduled for 20 January, 2014 as part of the annual Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week.
Qatar‘s vision and mission to become the regional capital of green building is becoming a reality with the recent launch of the Global Sustainability Assessment System (GSAS) by the Gulf Organization for Research and Development (GORD).
Described as the ‘world’s most comprehensive’ sustainability rating system for the built environment, the new GSAS version includes the world’s first railroad projects assessment system and the Middle East’s first sustainable parks and public space assessment system.
Systems to assess urban planning, health facilities, sports facilities, green buildings project management system GSAS gate, training programs for professionals in the real estate sector and launch of GSAS computer-based tests around the world are among the new features.
GSAS Version 2.0 has upgraded the system to handle – through a scientific approach – the technical challenges involved in air conditioning open stadiums, using conventional methods as well as renewable energy, in line with the FIFA 2022 requirements.
Yet another distinctive feature in the new version is “GSAS Publication Series,” which provides all scientific references and technical information on amazon.com as well as international publishing houses to facilitate easy access to information and support Gord’s globalization goals. Information released by Gord on the occasion of the launch of GSAS Version 2.0 also indicate that Qatar has emerged as one of the most advanced countries in terms of applying sustainability criteria to real estate projects in cities.
The sustainable cities’ area in Qatar amounts to more than 500 million square feet, the largest in the Middle East. These cities include Lusail, the Ministry of Interior’s Lekhwiya City and Barwa City. In terms of major developments, there is a total area of 12mn sq ft covered, including Doha Festival City, Bin Tawar Mall and North Gate.
Separate and standalone buildings, that are applying GSAS criteria, include more than 300 new projects, with a total area of 30mn sq ft and comprising commercial towers, schools, medical centers, mosques and towers.
The new version of GSAS will be able to handle projects outside Qatar. Various institutions and individuals in Jordan have been certified in this regard recently after completing the relevant training.
The system is set for modification soon in order to be in line with Jordan’s climate and environmental requirements, before the application of GSAS.
The second version of GSAS will introduce several training programs in various disciplines for engineers, technicians and professionals with courses held for mechanical, energy, electric, architecture, construction, environment engineering and project management, in addition to others.
In order to offer GSAS professional tests across the world, Gord has entered into a partnership with Prometric for developing a testing platform that enables computer based delivery of exams through more than 300 centers in over 100 countries. The Qatar Financial Center’s Academy is the approved testing centre in Qatar.
Gord, a non-profit subsidiary of Qatari Diar Real Estate Investment Company, is a government organization located at the Qatar Science & Technology Park.
eCommerce, Digital Strategists Now Hosting Sustainability Program
Greener Cities just announced its new alliance with MentorNet, a leading provider of online commerce and marketing services. The two companies will build the most comprehensive database and network in the world as a resource for sustainable cities.
Denver-based MentorNet is now hosting the online portal and developing the architecture for the new global exchange. MentorNet also is handling all online campaigns, including search engine optimization and social media.
“This is an important new partnership for many reasons,” said Rich Benvin, president and CEO of MentorNet. “We pride ourselves in being a sustainable business and we are proud to align ourselves with an international program that celebrates and promotes sustainable cities.”
MentorNet also committed to using energy-saving servers and software to minimize the carbon footprint of this program. It will continue updating as possible to stay on the cutting edge of best practices and performance.