SmartFlower Solar

1. Sustainability Problem: Energy

It is evident that current fossil fuel consumption levels are harming the environment and human health. The use of fossil fuels can lead to land degradation, water pollution, and air pollution. In fact, in 2019 alone, over 5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide was emitted into the air in the United States. Nearly 12.6 million Americans are exposed to toxic levels of air pollution from active oil and gas wells daily. Furthermore, climate change impacts have become more severe over the last few decades, as a result of the increased consumption of fossil fuels. It is crucial for the well-being of our planet and its inhabitants that countries lean away from fossil fuel dependency and increase renewable energy use.

2. Sustainable Technology: SmartFlower Solar System

The SmartFlower solar panel is a ground-based system that is arguably more efficient and better designed than standard solar rooftop systems. The SmartFlower panel is a self-sustaining system that can avoid certain limitations that are found are rooftop systems. Specifically, the SmartFlower can be installed in any location that has sufficient exposure to sun, whereas rooftop systems are constrained by availability of space and roof type.

  • The SmartFlower includes a dual axis tracker, which means that the panels can follow the sun throughout the day, in order to maximize energy production. Engineers from the company suggest that the SmartFlower can produce 40% more daily energy than standard rooftop systems.
  • The SmartFlower is designed using 12 petals, that open up as the sun begins to come out at the beginning of the day and close when the sun sets. Brushes are added to the back of each panel, so that at the end of each day, the system cleans itself.
  • Another advantage of the SmartFlower system is its ease of set-up and take-down. According to the company, the system only takes 2-3 hours to be installed/uninstalled.
  • Unfortunately, the SmartFlower system is more expensive than a standard solar panel system; the SmartFlower solar panel system ranges in price from $25,000 to $30,000. There is a range in price because the company sells two different systems, one with a battery to store solar energy (SmartFlower +Plus), and the base version (SmartFlower).

“SmartFlower Solar Review: The True Cost of a Solar Flower” (https://www.solar.com/learn/smartflower-solar-comprehensive-review/), Solar.com

3. Stakeholders:

  • Solar Project Developers
  • Utility Companies
  • Community Residents/solar enthusiasts
  • Oil and gas companies

4. Technology Implementation:

1. As a company, SmartFlower must work to increase its marketing campaign within the solar industry. This is a relatively new technology that needs as much recognition as possible, thus the company must invest in its marketing effort to maximize sales.

2. The SmartFlower company must work to reduce its prices, in order to become an appealing alternative option for solar buyers.

3. The company must work on its battery technology. Increasing the efficiency of battery storage within the SmartFlower system would significantly increase interests of buyers. The current battery storage of this technology is limited and can be considered insufficient for larger buildings.  

Sources:

https://www.nrdc.org/stories/fossil-fuels-dirty-facts

https://www.usgs.gov/faqs/how-much-carbon-dioxide-does-united-states-and-world-emit-each-year-energy-sources?qt-news_science_products=0#qt-news_science_products

Hydrogen-Powered Planes

1. Sustainability Problem:

Commercial aviation before the COVID-19 pandemic made up around 2.5% of total global carbon dioxide emissions. Even though the aviation industry has seen significant decreases in carbon dioxide emissions since the mid-90s, the industry has also witnessed an overwhelmingly large amount of new passengers within the past few decades. By 2050, the industry is predicted to transport around 10 billion passengers a year. A zero carbon future is on the horizon for many countries and companies around the world, however, certain industries will undoubtedly struggle more than others to become net-zero. Aviation is at the forefront of industries that create a large carbon footprint, but look nearly impossible to electrify, especially in the near future.

2. Sustainable Technology: ZeroAvia (HyFlyer 1)

ZeroAvia, a startup from California, has designed a commercial-scale plane that runs on hydrogen. Recently, a six-seater Piper M-Class plane completed its first voyage in the UK, making it the first passenger hydrogen fuel cell-powered plane to take flight. The company retrofits existing planes with its hydrogen-electric technology, which will speed up the timeline of scaling the systems. The company has its own airport (Cranfield Airport) in the UK, and works with the European Marine Energy Center to develop the new technology. The airport is a completely self-sufficient hydrogen airport, with its own liquid hydrogen storage facilities, refueling trucks, and electrolysis-based hydrogen generator.

  • Hydrogen has an incredible amount of energy per unit of mass; experts believe that it is three times more powerful than conventional jet fuel, and over 100 times more powerful than lithium-ion batteries.
  • Fortunately for the environment, clean water is the only waste product from using hydrogen as an energy source. It can be used in two different power applications; hydrogen can be used to power a fuel cell, in order to produce electricity (which is what ZeroAvia has used), or it can be directly combusted for motive power.
  • The UK government is working with ZeroAvia to develop a hydrogen-electric (fuel cell) powertrain, that will be capable of carrying 20 passengers nearly 400 nautical miles. ZeroAvia’s CEO expects that the company will meet this goal by 2023, and will be able to carry 80 passengers 500 nautical miles by 2026.
  • A challenge in using hydrogen within the aviation industry is its high expense. Experts at McKinsey believe liquid hydrogen will remain at least twice as expensive as fossil fuels within the next couple of decades. Additionally, the energy density of liquid hydrogen is about a quarter of that of jet fuel. This means that the same amount of energy requires a tank four times the size of that found on a traditional plane.
  • Airbus is another company that is investing significant funds into hydrogen-powered aviation. In 2020, the company announced their ZeroE program, which will use hydrogen-fueled propulsion systems in future aircrafts. Airbus has plans to build three concept planes by 2030, all of which are expected to hold 100 to 200 passengers, and reach a distance of around 1,000 nautical miles.
  • Airbus plans to use a hydrogen-hybrid in all of their planes. The company will use gas-turbine engines, which burn liquid hydrogen as its fuel source, but will also be able to generate electricity through hydrogen fuel cells.

“A record-breaking commercial-scale hydrogen plane has taken off in the UK, with more set to join it soon. How far can such planes go in cutting the aviation industry’s emissions?” https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20210401-the-worlds-first-commercial-hydrogen-plane), BBC: Future Planet

3. Stakeholders:

  • Local residents
  • Airline companies
  • Oil and gas companies
  • Utility companies
  • Travelers

4. Technology Implementation:

1. ZeroAvia must work to gain investors to help fund the development of future design and building plans.

2. The company should continue to test different hydrogen-powered propulsion systems, and add additional weight to each flight, in order to test for lift capabilities and stress on the powertrain.

3. ZeroAvia should work to advertise their technology. From increasing the marketability of the company, they will gain public support and growing interest by investors, community members, and other companies.

Sources:

https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20210401-the-worlds-first-commercial-hydrogen-plane

https://www.airbus.com/newsroom/press-releases/en/2020/09/airbus-reveals-new-zeroemission-concept-aircraft.html

https://www.cnn.com/travel/article/zeroavia-zero-emission-hydrogen-planes-spc-intl/index.html

Chemical Recycling of Plastics

1. Sustainability Problem: Waste/Recycling

Only 9% of all plastic waste produced since 1950 has been recycled, and unfortunately, the remaining plastics have ended up either in landfills, incineration systems, or left in the environment. Plastics are a major environmental problem because they can be become infinitely smaller over time, but never fully breakdown. Additionally, plastics are particularly harmful to the environment because of the chemicals they are made from; the toxins can harm wildlife and lead to further global warming.

2. Sustainable Technology: BioCellection- Accelerated Thermal Oxidative Decomposition

A California recycling tech startup has discovered a chemical process of breaking down polyethylene (PE) waste. The chemical process transforms the plastics into high market value chemicals that can be used in the manufacturing of new products. The process itself is called: Accelerated Thermal Oxidative Decomposition (ATOD). The company claims that ATOD is different from other chemical processes because it requires lower temperatures, generates less oil waste, requires less steps, and minimizes toxic waste and carbon emissions.

  • BioCellection uses a chemical process of breaking bonds between molecules through oxidation, in order to extract the resulting organic acids, such as glutaric acid, succinic acid, and adipic acid. These acids are considered intermediate chemicals, which can be used in “high-performance” materials in the manufacturing of electronics, cars, clothing, and more.
  • For every ton of plastic waste chemically processed, around $2,500 worth of “high performance virgin-quality” chemicals can be produced; each ton of plastic waste processed can prevent nearly 20 tons of carbon dioxide from being emitted.
  • Breaking down the low-grade PE takes around 6 hours, and the system uses temperatures of around 200 degrees Celcius. BioCellection claims that the process uses the same amount of energy needed to power a TV screen.
  • Chemical recycling is an alternative to the traditional mechanical recycling. Since there are billions of tons of plastic waste around the world, the process used by BioCellection may have the ability to help reduce global fossil fuel consumption within supply chains.
  • The ATOD process helps brands meet ambitious sustainability goals concerning supply chain management, and increase the marketability of the company. Furthermore, the by-product of the chemical breakdown offers manufacturers  high-quality chemicals for a cheaper price.

*BioCellection recently became Novoloop, in an effort to expand the company’s product design and capabilities.

“BioCellection uses chemistry in plastic recycling” (https://www.livingcircular.veolia.com/en/industry/biocellection-uses-chemistry-plastic-recycling), Living Circular

3. Stakeholders:

  • Residents
  • City governments
  • Manufacturing companies
  • Waste management companies  
  • Wildlife services

4. Technology Implementation:

1. The first step is for BioCellection to build relationships with local waste management companies, in order to extract plastic waste from collection bins.

2. The company should also communicate with manufacturing companies that would be responsible for purchasing and using the chemical products that BioCellection produces.

3. BioCellection/Novoloop should perform annual environmental impact assessments, in order to continuously evaluate the environmental implications of the ATOD process.

Sources:

https://www.livingcircular.veolia.com/en/industry/biocellection-uses-chemistry-plastic-recycling

https://www.waste360.com/recycling/biocellections-chemical-recycling-process-backed-greenwaste-recovery-and-city-san-jos

https://www.novoloop.com/

Floatovoltaics in NY state

1. Sustainability Problem: Energy

As the American population has steadily increased over the past century, so too has the country’s energy demand. In 2020, NY State declared its goal of achieving 70% renewable energy by 2030, making the state a leader in the country’s effort to decarbonize the electricity sector. Even though solar panel technology is well-established, relatively cheap, and an easy energy source to implement, it requires a significant amount of land. Unfortunately, land in NY state is scarce and is highly valuable among local communities. One megawatt of energy requires six to ten acres of land; NY aims to incorporate 6,000 MW of solar energy by 2025 (which requires anywhere from 36,000 to 60,000 acres of land).

2. Sustainable Technology: Floatovoltaics

Floating solar panels have been adopted in several countries around the world since the technology was first developed in Japan in 2007. New incentives for this type of technology are being introduced into the electricity sector, due to high population density and land availability. The majority of floating solar panel arrays use traditional panels that sit on floating platforms or pontoons, and are anchored to the lake floor or nearby shore. Floating solar panels are designed to withstand heavy winds and waves that may change its alignment with the sun.

  • Land-based solar panel developments typically require extensive infrastructure in order to connect to the electricity grid, however, since lakes are oftentimes near hydroelectric facilities, floating solar panel arrays do not require infrastructure for interconnection.
  • Floating solar panels can increase the efficiency of energy capture. Performance of solar panels typically decreases as temperatures increase, however, since floating solar panels sit on a water source, the water cools the solar equipment, and thus means that the panels can produce electricity at higher efficiencies in higher temperature environments.
  • Floating solar panels can also decrease water evaporation in local water sources, which minimizes the impacts of drought. The panels can decrease evaporation through reducing solar irradiation and wind effects on the surface water. Decreasing water evaporation allows local hydroelectric plants to operate at higher capacity (studies suggest that it may increase energy capacity by 76%). Additionally, the shade that the panels offer can decrease the growth of algae blooms in drinking water sources, which minimizes human health impacts.
  • NY state generates more electricity from hydro facilities than any state east of the Rocky Mountains. The state’s large hydroelectric power system makes it an ideal location to host the development of large-scale floating solar panel arrays.

“Floatovoltaics: How Floating Solar Panels Could Work in NY” (http://www.cornellpolicyreview.com/floatovoltaics-how-floating-solar-panels-could-work-in-ny/), Cornell Policy Review

3. Stakeholders:

  • Solar Project Developers
  • Utility Companies
  • Community Residents
  • Farmers
  • Fisherman
  • Real-estate developers

4. Technology Implementation:

1. In order to ensure the guaranteed support of local communities, solar project developers must regularly communicate with members and organizations of communities located in regions that have the potential to host floating solar projects.

2. The solar project developer must also establish a strong relationship with either the local hydroelectric facility manager, or a utility company (if no hydro plant is located within the area).

3. An environmental impact assessment must be performed before construction, in order to ensure that communities and their environments will not be harmed by the solar project.

Sources:

http://www.cornellpolicyreview.com/floatovoltaics-how-floating-solar-panels-could-work-in-ny/

https://www.epa.gov/energy/about-us-electricity-system-and-its-impact-environment

Electrification of the MTA’s bus system

bc2927, Ben Carroll

  1. Sustainability Problem:

Today, 28% of total greenhouse gas emissions come from the transportation sector, and over a quarter of all fine particles originate from road traffic. Public health concerns and environmental degradation are directly correlated to the use of fossil fuels within the transportation sector, and these impacts are drastically intensified within city environments.

2. Sustainable Technology: Electric Busses (Xcelsior CHARGE)

Zero-emissions busses (ZEBs) are a critical technology in combating both climate change and health threats associated with poor air quality in urban environments. As populations in cities across the world increase, it is vital that fossil fuel consumption decreases. As part of the MTA’s $1.1 billion 2020-2024 Capital Plan, the agency has purchased 500 all-electric busses, in order to help reach its goal of an all-electric fleet by 2040.

  • In 2020, the MTA’s bus fleet of 5,800 busses burned over 37.5 million gallons of fuel; this cost the agency around $55 million in 2020 alone. Unfortunately, as of today, the MTA bus fleet consists of only 25 all-electric vehicles.
  • In alignment with President Biden’s promise to cut greenhouse gas emissions, the MTA will begin only buying all-electric busses by 2028, and will use a minimal amount of fossil fuel in their fleet by 2040.
  • New Flyer of America Inc. is responsible for providing the MTA with the majority of the newly purchased electric busses. In 2020, the company provided the MTA with 15 all-electric articulated busses, 16 depot chargers, and one mobile charging unit. In April 2021, the MTA purchased an additional 45 all-electric busses from New Flyer.
  • The busses built by New Flyer are 60 feet long and are called Xcelsior CHARGE. They each contain heavy-duty lithium-ion batteries that are built to meet the demands of the NYC population. Additionally, New Flyer partners with XALT Energy to help improve battery technology and manufacturing of all busses.
  • The all-electric busses will hold a 466kWh batteries, which have an expected range of 50 to 90 miles; the range may depend on weather, number of passengers, operating speed, and street grade. The MTA continuously tracks battery usage, in order to determine areas of improvement and ways to increase efficiency of the technology. The MTA hopes to eventually run its busses on continuous 12 hour routes, without the need for charging.
  • Additionally, the MTA plans to have built 8 of the designated 28 charging depots by 2024. The agency has set a goal of completing the construction of three charging depots a year, until 2040.
  • “NY: MTA plans to only buy electric buses come 2028 as officials map greener future for NYC Transit” (https://www.masstransitmag.com/bus/vehicles/hybrid-hydrogen-electric-vehicles/news/21220212/ny-mta-plans-to-only-buy-electric-buses-come-2028-as-officials-map-greener-future-for-nyc-transit), Mass Transit

3. Stakeholders:

  • NYC Residents
  • MTA
  • Tourists
  • NYC government
  • Real-estate developers

4. Technology Implementation:

  1. The MTA must keep track of their newly purchased all-electric busses and the social/environmental/economic implications of this technology. The monitoring of purchased busses will determine the pitfalls of the technology, which can be used for future development.
  2. Identify neighborhoods that rely most on public transit and work with local leaders and organizations to create an implementation plan for this technology.
  3. Create a long-term partnership with a manufacturing company, responsible for the design and build of all electric busses.

Sources:

https://www.masstransitmag.com/bus/vehicles/hybrid-hydrogen-electric-vehicles/news/21220212/ny-mta-plans-to-only-buy-electric-buses-come-2028-as-officials-map-greener-future-for-nyc-transit

https://www.masstransitmag.com/bus/vehicles/hybrid-hydrogen-electric-vehicles/press-release/21123533/mta-new-york-city-transit-mta-deploys-newest-allelectric-articulated-bus-fleet-to-harlem

https://www.metro-magazine.com/10112379/all-electric-articulated-buses-hit-new-york-city-streets?force-desktop-view=1

https://www.sierraclub.org/articles/2019/02/for-us-transit-agencies-future-for-buses-electric

https://www.newflyer.com/2019/03/new-york-city-adds-to-its-zero-emission-fleet-with-an-award-to-new-flyer-for-15-low-floor-60-foot-xcelsior-charge-battery-electric-transit-buses/