Tag: Renewables

Smithtown, N.Y. Adopts Model Geothermal Energy Code

Apr 13 – McClatchy-Tribune Content Agency, LLC – Brian Heaton Government Technology

Smithtown, N.Y., is the first town on Long Island to adopt a model code for the installation and use of geothermal energy systems.

Developed by the Suffolk County Planning Commission, the geothermal rules outline building standards and requirements for those wanting to adopt the underground-based green energy option. Smithtown Town board members adopted the policy 4-0 on March 19.

Geothermal energy siphons below ground temperatures of the Earth to heat and cool homes and other structures. Three types of geothermal systems are addressed in the code — closed loop, where plastic pipe exchanges heat with the ground with water or a water and chemical mixture; open loop, which uses water wells; and a direct exchange, which uses buried copper tubing to conduct energy with the ground using a refrigerant.

In an interview with Government Technology, David Calone, chairman of the Suffolk County Planning Commission, said the geothermal model code took about seven months to fully develop. The commission partnered with the Long Island Geothermal Energy Organization (LI-GEO) to draft the rules, which were published last November.

The commission used the template from other green energy codes as a template for geothermal, but environmental issues were a concern. Calone explained that the biggest issue in geothermal is the use of chemicals in the pipes. While the chemicals are self-contained, the commission restricted the use of several kinds of liquids that would be potentially harmful to groundwater.

Suffolk County’s primary water supply is three aquifers on Long Island.

The geothermal code follows on the heels of the commission’s model codes on solar and wind energy, which have either been adopted or are being considered across the New York state. Solar installations have exploded in recent years following the county’s model code introduction and Calone hopes a similar trend will happen with geothermal.

Cost may be a problem, however. Residential geothermal systems are expensive, averaging about $30,000 depending on the size needed, according to a local utility. But rebates from the local power company and the government may help make geothermal more feasible for Long Islanders.

“Right now, our local utility, like many utilities, incentivizes solar and wind — not geothermal,” Calone said. “However, they’ve stated their intentions to do so, so this is a situation where we can get a little ahead of the curve.”

Looking ahead, Calone said he expects other towns in Suffolk County will follow in Smithtown’s footsteps and adopt the commission’s geothermal planning code. He noted that the Town of Brookhaven is “there and ready to pass it,” while Riverhead, Islip and Huntington are all looking into the issue.

“They had some little things they are thinking about from an inspection perspective, but they’re very interested in doing it,” he said.

Brian Heaton — Senior Writer

Brian Heaton is a senior writer for Government Technology. He primarily covers technology legislation and IT policy issues. Brian started his journalism career in 1998, covering sports and fitness for two trade publications based in Long Island, N.Y.



Efficiency and Renewables on the Menu for McDonald’s

Not many people associate fast food with clean energy. But that’s exactly what one of the largest quick-service restaurants in the world is exploring. RMI recently completed a net-zero-energy study forMcDonald’s, which explores how to offset the energy consumption of an entire restaurant with renewable energy.

Working alongside the net-zero-energy visionaries at New Buildings Institute (NBI) and kitchen equipment experts at Fisher-Nickel, Inc., RMI looked critically at the technical and financial feasibility of achieving net-zero energy for a McDonald’s restaurant. The study builds on previous work performed by a group of Duke University graduate students (with support from RMI), in tandem with prior energy-efficiency studies and LEED designs developed by McDonald’s.

To achieve net-zero energy (NZE), a McDonald’s restaurant must offset its energy consumption with on-site renewable energy generation on an annual basis. Restaurants have a high energy density (a lot of energy used within a small physical footprint), which makes them challenging candidates for net-zero energy. High energy density requires a costly solar system, making energy efficiency critical to reaching net-zero energy on a standard site with reasonable first costs. The study reveals a number of energy-efficiency opportunities throughout the building, and more thoroughly examines kitchen equipment, which is the most significant building energy end-use in a McDonald’s restaurant.


So what is the minimum amount of energy required to cook a burger? A side of fries? What about the energy used to keep your drink cold? Based on the study, kitchen equipment represents the greatest opportunity for energy savings, as it can consume more than 50 percent of the energy in a new McDonald’s restaurant. By considering the minimum amount of energy required to cook each menu item and comparing this with actual kitchen equipment energy consumption, the RMI team uncovered both near-term and future kitchen equipment upgrades that can cut kitchen energy use in half. The team’s analysis uncovers opportunities to reduce idle energy consumption (equipment energy consumption when food items are not being cooked) and increase overall kitchen equipment efficiency without substantially changing McDonald’s operations.

McDonald’s has been driving its kitchen equipment suppliers to improve energy efficiency for years, and the company currently encourages the use of low-oil-volume fryers and custom exhaust hoods that make ventilation more efficient (which also reduces heating and cooling loads). However, more opportunity exists—both in the kitchen and throughout the building. With the results of this study, the McDonald’s team can work with key equipment suppliers to focus on improving the most energy-intensive pieces of equipment and combining pieces of equipment where practical.


In considering net-zero energy, the team did not focus on burger production alone. The menu has other items, and the building has other needs, such as keeping its customers and employees comfortable. The team took an integrative, whole-systems approach to understanding the ways that building systems interact, and leveraging the interactions between building systems.

While the kitchen may be the primary energy consumer, other building systems, including HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning), play a key role in achieving net-zero energy. HVAC energy consumption is very closely tied to kitchen equipment energy consumption. Not only does the kitchen equipment heat its surroundings, but the cooking process requires mechanical ventilation to maintain indoor air quality. The use of targeted ventilation strategies, paired with solar thermal, geothermal, and waste heat loops, could save up to 90–95 percent of HVAC system energy in a NZE store. The team’s strategy also consolidates HVAC and refrigeration equipment and uses advanced control strategies wherever possible to reduce equipment capital costs while reducing system energy consumption.

Building lighting systems are another key area of focus for this study. The study shows up to a 60-percent reduction in lighting energy consumption is possible while also decreasing lighting system capital costs. Improved system design can produce the same light levels as a traditional lighting design using fewer fixtures. Falling LED prices, increasing LED efficiency, and targeted lighting system designs (including natural lighting with skylights) enable this level of energy reduction.

The team uncovered a number of solutions related to the HVAC, lighting, and refrigeration systems, in addition to building envelope, kitchen equipment, and other building load improvements. Where possible, system efficiencies were improved, passive strategies were used, equipment was combined, and waste heat was recovered. Energy efficiency solutions were assessed (using equipment-specific analysis and whole-building energy modeling), prioritized, and packaged into a recommended net-zero energy solution.


The net-zero energy solution recommended to McDonald’s is an all-electric restaurant that would achieve 60 percent energy savings and 90 percent energy cost savings. A 300 kW on-site solar PV system, installed primarily over the parking areas, would provide the energy needed to reach net-zero energy within the footprint of a typical McDonald’s site. The restaurant would offer the same menu and operating hours, and when the sun isn’t shining, it would draw electricity from the utility. While the recommended scenario includes some kitchen technologies that require further development, a separate scenario shows that net-zero energy is achievable today with available technologies at a significant incremental cost.
One of the team’s recommendations is for McDonald’s to pilot an innovative “integrated thermal loop,” that joins solar thermal collectors, waste heat capture, and a geothermal heat pump together to efficiently deliver the space heating, space cooling, and service hot water required by the restaurant. This loop, while similar to those used in net-zero-energy buildings such as the Walgreen’s net-zero-energy retail store, could be expanded in the future to include key pieces of kitchen equipment.


“The net-zero-energy study has become the North Star that will continue to guide our efforts to improve the energy efficiency of our new and existing restaurants,” says Roy Buchert, Global Energy Director for McDonald’s. McDonald’s is likely to leverage this net-zero-energy study to drive further efficiency in new and existing McDonald’s restaurants where it makes business sense. For these restaurants, it is important to leverage existing upgrade opportunities, including equipment swap-outs and interior remodels, to reduce first costs and prevent any disruptions to operations. Many efficiency upgrades include simple, non-invasive changes that could be implemented with minimal disruption.

Building upon the net-zero-energy study, McDonald’s plans to prioritize the findings over time to map alongside its business objectives, and has identified the following steps.

  • Explore recommended energy-efficiency strategies, including research and development to further improve kitchen equipment efficiency, in order to reduce overall NZE costs
  • Potentially design and build a pilot NZE restaurant in the future to act as a “learning lab” to test and validate new technologies
  • Identify one or more vendors to design, deliver, and maintain large solar installations on standard McDonald’s sites, while securing incentives and financing as necessary
  • Engage with the restaurant industry and suppliers as appropriate to help drive future improvements

RMI believes McDonald’s can leverage this study to change the way that we think about energy. Developing the first net-zero-energy quick-service restaurant and driving deeper savings within existing restaurants can spur radical changes and transform the quick-service restaurant industry’s approach to energy. As the largest U.S. and global presence in this industry by revenue, McDonald’s has the power to drive equipment improvements, influence other key players in the industry, and deliver hundreds of millions of dollars in energy savings across the industry each year.


Image courtesy of Bikeworldtravel / Shutterstock.com

Even at $10/barrel, oil can’t match solar on cost

By Giles Parkinson on 2 March 2015: Renew Economy

One of the biggest banks in the Middle East and the oil-rich Gulf countries says that fossil fuels can no longer compete with solar technologies on price, and says the vast bulk of the $US48 trillion needed to meet global power demand over the next two decades will come from renewables.

The report from the National Bank of Abu Dhabi says that while oil and gas has underpinned almost all energy investments until now, future investment will be almost entirely in renewable energy sources.

The report is important because the Gulf region, the Middle East and north Africa will need to add another 170GW of electricity in the next decade, and the major financiers recognise that the cheapest and most effective way to go is through solar and wind. It also highlights how even the biggest financial institutions in the Gulf are thinking about how to deploy their capital in the future.

“Cost is no longer a reason not to proceed with renewables,” the 80-page NBAD report says. It says the most recent solar tender showed that even at $10/barrel for oil, and $5/mmbtu for gas, solar is still a cheaper option.

The bank says intermittency of wind and solar is not an issue, notes that fossil fuels resources are finite and becoming increasing hard to reach, notes that governments want local supplies and want to disconnect from the volatility of the oil price, and says policy frameworks are seeking to decarbonise economies in response to climate and pollution concerns.

Remember, this is coming from a leading bank in the oil-rich Gulf, the most emissions-intensive countries in the world, and where energy demand is rising so quickly it risks overwhelming domestic production, turning states such as Kuwait and UAE into importers of energy rather than exporters. Hence the local push into solar, so that the Gulf states can keep more gas or oil for export.

The thinking is consistent with broader trends within the Gulf. Last month, Saudi Arabia said that the end of the oil era was already on the horizon.

The NBAD report, prepared in conjunction with Masdar, the Abu Dhabi government’s renewable energy arm, The University of Cambridge and PwC, says the Gulf has a real opportunity to lead the world in renewables, deploying its considering financial weight, and by exporting its technology know-how.

It notes that solar PV and onshore wind power have achieved grid parity in many areas, particularly those in need of energy additions, and will be at parity in 80 per cent of world markets within two years.

In some instances, the price of renewables are remarkably low. “The latest solar PV project tendered in Dubai returned a low bid that set a new global benchmark and is competitive with oil at US$10/barrel and gas at US$5/MMBtu.”

This refers to the 200MW solar tender won by Saudi firm ACWA Power, a $23 billion energy major, which bid $US0.0584/kWh (5.84c/kwh), without subsidies, which is the lowest in the world to date.

This is already one third below the cost of gas-fired generation and ACWA believes costs will continue to fall. Much of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states rely exclusively on oil (34 per cent) or gas generation for their electricity.

Given that the Gulf countries are expected to increase their energy demand three-fold over the next 15 years, or 170GW, the NBAD report notes:

“As Government and utilities are driven to bring new generation capacity on stream, this new reality presents a significant opportunity to make savings, reduce fuel cost risks, achieve climate ambitions and, at the same time, keep more oil and gas available for export.

“This could herald an era of increased focus on solar PV as the future generation technology of choice to tackle the challenge of how best to meet current daytime peaks in demand. Once this has been done, there is the potential for exporting this expertise to neighbouring countries and along the West-East Corridor more broadly.”

The report highlights many longer term investment opportunities, particularly storage technologies and concentrated solar power. It says these technologies are currently running behind solar PV and on-shore wind in the maturity curve but are rapidly catching up. “They can already be seen to be following a similar path towards proven deployment and operation, reliability and falling costs,” it notes.

(Indeed, ACWA Power said much the same thing in January, highlighting the fact that solar tower with storage technology was falling in price, and combined with solar PV would soon be challenging “baseload” fossil fuels on costs.

As for intermittency, the age-old argument against renewables, the report says intermittency and variability are not an issue. “There has been an historic concern that renewables are an unreliable option, because the wind blows only intermittently and the sun does not shine all the time, but that is proving to be less of an issue,” it says.

In the Gulf region, it says, demand peaks tend to occur in the middle of the day, and grids “can now easily cope” with at least 40 per cent of renewable input before requiring modifications. And gas is an ideal complement to deal with the intermittency where it occurs.

“Furthermore, developments in storage technologies are progressing rapidly, and in the next few years utility-scale solutions will be deployed that further minimise concern around what was until recently seen as a major inhibitor to the uptake of renewable generation.

Even without the remarkable price achieved at the Dubai auction by ACWA Power, the report notes that wind and solar are cheaper options in the Middle East at any oil price above $US-20 to $US30 a barrel.

Even against existing oil-fired generation that have been more than half depreciated, new solar is a cheaper option at any price above $US45/barrel. Fully depreciated oil generators can no longer compete against new solar at prices above $US60/barrel.

The report also notes that energy efficiency is becoming an increasingly obvious investment, with five-year returns in many investments.

via Even at $10/barrel, oil can’t match solar on cost : Renew Economy.