Oakland, CA: Hydrogen-Powered Buses
The local AC Transit agency, serving Oakland, Berkeley, and other East Bay cities has a fleet of 16 hydrogen-powered buses, by far the largest in the nation. The buses themselves are 40 feet long and silently glide around downtown streets, leaving the environment undisturbed and water vapor as the only emission. By contrast, diesel buses emit 130 tons of carbon dioxide per year. The first three hydrogen-powered buses were introduced in 2006 and 2007 and quickly gained acclaim for their eco-friendly operation and fuel efficiency. The fleet now accounts for more than 10,000 hours of operation, made all the more impressive by the fact that each bus is still operating using its original fuel cell. Oakland’s bus system is proving the viability of hydrogen and gaining the attention of other major cities around the country for their environmentally friendly transit system.
San Francisco, CA: Solar Panel Rooftops
San Francisco, known more for its fog than the sunlight, is leading the way with its use of solar panels. In 2004, San Francisco’s Public Utilities Commission teamed up with PowerLight Corporation to cover the convention center’s roof in solar panels. Originally scoffed by many people from San Francisco, the 60,000-square-foot expanse of solar panels can supply the entire convention center during events and more than 180 homes when the center is dark. The photovoltaic cells used in the solar panels do not need strong sunlight to produce energy. With the success of the solar panels on the convention center, city officials are fast at work installing solar panels on rooftops of municipal buildings, libraries, and even a waste-water treatment facility.
Santa Rosa, CA: Tapping Geysers for Watts
The underground steam reservoir called the Geysers, just outside of Santa Rosa, is the world’s largest geothermal installation. Drilling for steam is like drilling for oil or gas, except that the drill is sent down into a reservoir of hot steam. Pipes send the steam to central collection facilities where it powers 31 steam turbines, generating more than 850 megawatts of electricity, or enough to power about 850,000 California homes. In the 1990s, the steam fields appeared tapped out. In 1998 though, a massive city initiative allowed for the replenishment of the Geysers. Since the project’s completion, 12 million gallons of the city’s wastewater are routed back into the steam fields, which help replace conventional processes that would have released 570 million pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere per year.
New York City, NY: Underwater Turbines
New York is already one of the world’s most energy-efficient cities, but it is now looking to transform the East River into a power source. The city and state have partnered with Verdant Power to install a group of submerged turbines that the city hopes can generate enough power for 8,000 homes. The turbines are similar to wind-farms, generating electricity from kinetic energy. The tides from East River turn the rotors once every two seconds, allowing each turbine to send up to 36 kilowatts to the grid. Within a decade the city plans to have 300 turbines installed, enough to produce 10 megawatts of power. Hydropower is still a work in progress, but similar systems are being planned in the St. Lawrence River in Ontario and in Seattle’s Puget Sound.
Chicago, IL: Cogeneration plant
Fuel-burning power plants are wasteful due to the harmful emissions that are produced and the fact that they lose two thirds of the energy they generate. Chicago decided to confront the energy loss. The city has invested in cogeneration, which produces heat and electricity simultaneously while being twice as efficient as conventional fuel-burning power production. Instead of accumulated heat escaping through exhaust vents, cogeneration facilities collect the hot steam exhaust and disperse it into a network of pipes that distributes it throughout the building. The steam can be used for heating, cooking, and hot water. Cogeneration plants drastically reduce greenhouse-gas emission and produce just one third the CO2 of a coal-fired power plant. Other cities around the country are looking to develop similar cogeneration plants based on Chicago’s system.
About Bryan SchieleBryan is currently a student at Colorado State University and has years of experience writing for various newspapers and periodicals. By working with SlickWear, Bryan hopes to bring light to the issues regarding sustainability, social justice and the latest headlines concerning the green movement. Check back often to see what Bryan has to say!