Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Verdant Power Gets Approval To Proceed With Roosevelt Island East River Turbine Project - Comprehensive Green Energy Plan For Roosevelt Island Needed Says Former RIOC Director Jonathan Kalkin

You Tube Video Of Verdant Power East River Energy Project

An update on previous posts regarding Verdant Power Roosevelt Island East River Tidal Energy project. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission announced yesterday:
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) today issued its first pilot project license for a tidal energy project located in New York City’s East River.

The project, owned by Verdant Power and known as the Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy (RITE) Project, is 1,050-kilowatts and uses the East River’s natural tidal currents to generate electricity. Turbine generator units are mounted on the riverbed and capture energy from the tidal flow. The pilot license issued to Verdant Power is for 10 years.

“Issuing a pilot license for an innovative technology is a major step in the effort to help our country meet our renewable energy goals,” FERC Chairman Jon Wellinghoff said. “FERC’s pilot process is doing what it should: allow for exploration of new renewable technologies while protecting the environment.”

FERC developed the pilot license process in 2008 to allow developers to test new hydrokinetic technologies, to determine appropriate sites for these technologies and to confirm the technologies’ environmental effects without compromising FERC’s oversight....
According to Green Tech Media:
... About ten years in the making, the Roosevelt Island Tidal Energy (RITE) project is owned by Verdant Power and looks to mount turbines on the riverbed and use tidal currents to generate about a megawatt of electricity. The project will use up to 30 of Verdant's turbines, installed in stages.

The license allows Verdant Power to build out the RITE Project and to commercially deliver the energy generated by the turbines to local customers. Earlier phases of the project involved prototype testing from 2002 to 2006 and demonstration from 2006 to 2008. During the demonstration period, Verdant operated six full-scale turbines and delivered 70 megawatt-hours of energy to two end users in 9,000 turbine-hours of operation with no fouling or damage to the turbines from debris....
The RITE two end users were the Motorgate parking garage and Gristedes supermarket.

A few days prior to yesterday's Verdant RITE Project announcement, former Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) Board Director Jonathan Kalkin shared these ideas regarding future Roosevelt Island energy usage:
Roosevelt Island needs a comprehensive green energy plan. The Island has grappled with many issues that threaten the purpose and mission of this place. Energy and how we use it is really something that we have saved for another day while some larger issues were addressed. However I believe we have reached a moment and an opportunity where we can dramatically change the lives of every resident on the Island. Long term affordable housing has been an issue on this Island since the Mitchell-Lama clock has started ticking. However, a long term affordable housing plan will not be able to overcome the reality that we heat, cool, and power our homes in an inefficient way.This is also bad for the environment and thanks to modern solutions completely unnecessary. This creates the scenario of an affordable home without affordable power. A person should not lose their home because they can’t afford their electric bill.

Currently, most buildings on Roosevelt Island use electricity to provide heat. This system uses electricity to heat a coil in your unit which then heats your apartment. At first this sounds like a good method, but it is very inefficient. In fact it is probably one of the most expensive and inefficient ways to heat your apartment. It is basically just like heating your apartment using a hair dryer. There are three major goals when using energy. First is to waste the least amount of energy to heat, light, and cool your home. The second goal is to do it in the cleanest way possible. The final goal, hopefully in pursuit of the first two goals, results in a lower utility bill. The good news is that on Roosevelt Island we have options to achieve all three goals.

We can achieve part of the first goal by producing our own energy. The hospitals on the island produce their own heat via the steam plant,

Image of Roosevelt Island Steam Plant From Michael Minn

the Octagon produces heat and electricity via a fuel cell and even Motorgate has become partially independent by using tidal energy. Most of the other buildings rely on electric heat and are at the mercy of whatever rate Con Edison charges for electricity. In the 1970’s electricity was cheap and so this may have made sense at the time. Now, electricity prices in New York are some of the most expensive in the country and having electric heat is the equivalent of taking showers with bottled water. The most efficient way to meet our energy goals would be to have a central energy source for the Island. Or, we could adopt the same method as the Octagon fuel cell and each building or set of buildings could have its own energy plant near the building.

The Octagon, A Case Study for Fuel Cells in Multi-Family Buildings from Bill Kavanagh on Vimeo.

The second way we can reduce energy waste would be to find another way to heat and cool our homes. One method that has worked in New York and in Europe is called district energy. This approach uses hot and cold water in pipes distributed throughout the building to warm and cool the apartments. This hot and cold water is generated at a centrally located plant that supplies several buildings.

The next step to achieve these goals would be to combine our heat and power production (CHP). Most power plants produce a large amount of excess heat during electricity production. Most of this heat is usually wasted, but if you distribute it throughout the island you now are producing electricity and powering your lights, perhaps running your air conditioning (if not using chilled water to do so) and heating your apartment mostly with the excess heat usually wasted in energy production.

You Tube Video on District Heating

Now this all seems very simple and will benefit both landlords and tenants and RIOC so why now and why hasn’t this come about before? Well, there are several things needed to move this forward. If we are using a distributed model where all the buildings have an energy source like the Octagon then each building can move at its own pace. However, the most efficient way would have some cooperation with RIOC and hopefully the new university that is coming to the Island. The good news is that Cornell has shown an interest in a green energy plan for the Island in their proposal and the RFP's 100 million dollar infrastructure plan talks about the natural gas and other energy changes that would be needed to sustain a world class university. This kind of infrastructure is crucial because we lack the natural gas supply to move this kind of project forward.

RIOC controls most of the land that can make this possible. The steam plant’s land is controlled by RIOC and this could be a great opportunity for RIOC to fulfill its development mission and affordable housing preservation goals at the same time. The university could simply provide the infrastructure and oversight of the project and would have to make just minor changes to its natural gas expansion plans. This energy plan could be supplemented by renewable and experimental projects (Solar, Geothermal) from the university in addition to our own like tidal energy.

Even if a university did not come to the Island, we should not ignore this opportunity. The landlords want to reduce their energy costs. Tenants need this to happen to preserve affordability. And, RIOC has the chance to fulfill its mission and purpose on the island. This is our moment to lead.
According to Fast Company Co Design, the Cornell Technion Roosevelt Island campus will have a net zero energy footprint:
... Net-zero energy would be achieved by sipping power from a 150,000-square-foot photovoltaic array (the largest in NYC, the architects say) and geothermal wells. It would also draw on passive heating and cooling strategies. “The [zig-zagging] layouts have to do with harvesting daylight and mitigating heat gain,” SOM partner Roger Duffy says. A caveat: The net-zero goal would be confined to the campus’s academic architecture. That’s because, as SOM’s Colin Koop explains, PVs aren’t efficient enough to generate adequate energy for proposed housing units and a hotel. Those structures would earn LEED Silver certification....
Proposed Cornell Energy Usage Image From Fastcodesign

The Cornell Chronicle adds:
... The campus's planned solar array will generate 1.8 megawatts at daily peak -- the largest such array in New York City. A four-acre geothermal well field -- composed of deep-earth wells -- exceeds any current geothermal heating system in New York City....

... the campus will take full advantage of power from the sun. It has been designed to face solar south, and its buildings will be situated to avoid shading each other. Electrical power from a fuel cell will further reduce the impact of the campus on the supply-limited electric grid.

The structures will be heated and cooled by a central, geothermal heat pump system, which provides heat more efficiently than boilers or electricity. Heat generated by the fuel cell will also be gleaned to supplement the non-academic campus needs, for added economy and energy savings.

The geothermal system -- an array of 400 wells spread out over four acres -- will use 500-foot deep holes to extract heat from the earth to warm buildings in the winter. During the summer, the system will transfer excess heat from inside the buildings back into the ground to provide air conditioning....
Roosevelt Island may be leading the way for clean, affordable energy.

UPDATE 6:30 PM - On the Verdant RITE project, DNA Info adds:
... Those six turbines produced energy that powered a Gristedes and a parking garage on Roosevelt Island. It has not yet been determined what the expanded grid of turbines will power, Taylor said, suggesting that some of it could power electric car stations inside Roosevelt Island's parking garages.

He also is looking forward to collaborating on research and design with faculty from Cornell University's new tech campus coming to Roosevelt Island. He's already had discussions with the school, he said.
Click here for entire DNA Info article.

UPDATE 2/2 - Roosevelt Island resident Trevre Andrews sends in this illustration of NYC Power Consumption.

According to Modi Research Group:
The map represents the total annual building energy consumption at the block level (zoom levels 11-15) and at the taxlot level (zoom levels 16-18) for New York City, and is expressed in kilowatt hours (k Wh) per square meter of land area. The data comes from a mathematical model based on statistics, not private information from utilities, to estimate the annual energy consumption values of buildings throughout the five boroughs. To see the break down of the type of energy being used, for which purpose and in what quantity, hover over or click on a block or taxlot.
Click here for the interactive map and Roosevelt Island power consumptions statistics.


Frank Farance said...

Mr. Kalkin's energy suggestions have merit (I'll explain below), but the harder problems are within the buildings themselves (necessary to solve for achieving the energy goals).

Ms. Mincheff of Roosevelt Landings (Eastwood) has explained many times that her building suffers from poor construction, so even with the complete window replacement of 1003 apartments, there are still many cold spots in the winter (and ditto for loss of cooling during the summer).  There would be a tremendous cost to insulate those apartments to achieve a *potential* (not a reality) of energy efficiency.

Island House and Rivercross have a similar facade construction (which uses asbestos).  Behind the facade is an insulator (think Styrofoam sheets).  In our engineering study in Island House, we've found the insulation has deteriorated over the past 35+ years.  One possible solution to better insulation is to fill the walls with foam, but our engineers aren't sure how effective that will be.  Other approaches are limited because of asbestos issues.  (Maybe Westview residents can inform us on their facade?)

The windows are another big area of energy efficiency because much heating/cooling is lost through them.  Island House will replace its windows post-privatization.  I've heard Rivercross has plans to replace their windows, and I'm guessing Westview will follow a path similar to Island House.  (it t sounds like Roosevelt Landings' window replacement was not a complete success.)

However, it's not just replacing windows, it's also working on the heating/cooling units that go into the windows.  Many of the sleeve-style air conditioners do a terrible job spreading the cooling around.  Ditto for the base-board heating (electric or otherwise).  Heating/cooling units with better air circulation (think Holiday Inn) or split systems, commonplace in Europe and Asia, improve efficiency.  So does a ceiling fan (but not practical in all apartments).

The next steps are the heating/cooling technologies.  Steam is available via co-generation at power plants, and steam infrastructure is an important part of NYC (steam from manholes is an authentic feature of NYC).  Unlike individual homes, high-rises have a more complicated circulation system for distribution and returns.  And these kinds of system improvements are expensive (easily over $10 million in Island House) and there needs to be a coherent long-term plan to fund this improvement.  (NYSERDA's help can only go so far.)

As for distribution, Mr. Kalkin's suggestion of a district approach is fine.  In fact, using the existing steam tunnel on the east side of the Island is straightforward, along with the plumbing to (say) the WIRE buildings.  The problem is really with the distribution within the buildings.  Of the WIRE buildings, I've heard that only Rivercross has distribution for chilled water.  (Can someone from Rivercross provide more details?)

Mr. Kalkin says "First is to waste the least amount of energy to heat, light, and cool
your home. The second goal is to do it in the cleanest way possible. The
final goal, hopefully in pursuit of the first two goals, results in a
lower utility bill.", which are all good goals.  He also says "The good news is that on Roosevelt Island we have
options to achieve all three goals", which I'm not so sure about.

Island House has paid for several energy studies to understand the energy options.  Getting a bigger gas line, changing the steam plant, and distributing
it through the existing steam tunnels are the easier parts of the problem.  The points I raise above are essential for implementing Mr. Kalkin's goals, these design/implementation details are difficult problems, but these problems are NOT solved top-down by a single organization, e.g., RIOC or Cornell.

theohiostate said...

Frank, is there anything you don't have an opinion on?

theohiostate said...

Wait... forget I asked.  You might write another long story in response.

Trevre Andrews said...

Actually you really just need one goal, and that is to reduce costs.  If something doesn't reduce the cost (including externalities, e.g., pollution) then it doesn't meet the other goals, including increasing efficiency.  To this end many of the technology innovations on the island, while interesting to some, aren't really efficient, they are just expensive experiments, and those paying for them are not really benefiting.  Examples include trying to get charging stations in motorgate, installing solar panels on the new campus, and retrofitting old buildings heating systems.  I guarantee you all of these changes cost more than they save even in the long run, thus making them inefficient.

For the money it would cost to put solar panels on the campus you could produce 10x the energy in a more southern latitude where space was not a premium.  Hardly any residents will benefit from electric charging stations.  And as Frank said, good luck retrofitting old buildings. 

There is some good news though with falling natural gas prices the cost of electricity may decrease, lowering your utility bill without you changing a thing. 

YetAnotherRIer said...

I know that you and I are on polar opposites on this but don't you think that another dimension like environmental resourcefulness is overdue to be taken into consideration? Do we have to wait for the day that a shortage of a natural resource is expressed painfully in its price? Shouldn't we have a more long term outlook?

Trevre Andrews said...

Yes a long term outlook is important, hence accounting for externalities, like the cost of rapid price increases as the supply of certian energy sources decline quickly.  Some of these are easier to predict than others. 

We also have to consider the impact this has on everyone of us economically.  I am all for protecting the environment, increased efficiency, and new technologies, but that is my choice and costs I need to bear.   If people with electric cars want charging stations in motorgate, they are welcome to pay for it, but I doubt they will, because they are extremely expensive and have low utility compare to other costs.  If Cornell thinks solar panels on RI at 41  degrees latitude in a major metropolis great, I just hope they are thinking about how that effects future tuition rates of their students who may not want to pay the extra costs for it.  I recognize implementing the next hip new green technology imposes high costs many of the people who can afford it least (through taxes or other fees or the cost of rent) and while it is a value for me I am not going to impose those costs on others unless their is a net savings.

RooseveltIslander said...

added update to post which includes NYC Energy Consumption map including Roosevelt Island

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