Siemens awarded $6.4M by DOE to develop solar’s role in grid resilience

solar corporate funding

Siemens’ central research and development unit in the U.S., Siemens Corporate Technology (CT) US, was selected for a $6.4 million research award from the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) to advance solar energy’s role in strengthening the resilience of the U.S. electricity grid. This project will create an innovative Energy Management System that can coordinate distributed microgrids to work together. The system will utilize diverse technologies to increase grid resilience against natural disasters or cyber-attacks as well as autonomously restore power during a blackout using smart inverters.

CT US was selected as a part of the Energy Department’s effort to invest in new projects that enable grid operators to rapidly detect physical and cyber-based abnormalities in the power system and utilize solar generation to recover quickly from power outages. Siemens is one of several projects that will develop grid management technologies that show how solar energy will enhance power system resilience, especially at critical infrastructure sites. Collaborative efforts between Siemens and the DOE are expected to begin by Summer 2019.

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“Siemens technologies are helping to modernize the U.S. electric grid and develop stronger, more resilient power systems that can detect and defend against physical and cyber-threats and support smart infrastructures,” said Ulrich Muenz, Siemens CT Head of the Autonomous Systems and Control Research Group. “This project advances innovative research and development for technologies that could one day become standard across the industry to enhance and protect critical infrastructure through autonomous and resilient energy management systems.”

The Siemens CT team will be led by Ulrich Muenz and Sindhu Suresh and work with partners from DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Columbia University, Siemens Digital Grid and Holy Cross Energy to develop, validate, and demonstrate a highly innovative, three-layer Energy Management System (EMS) for Autonomous and Resilient Operation of Energy systems with RenewaAbles (AURORA).

In January 2019, CT signed an MOU with National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), to conduct integrated experiments within their respective research and development facilities to help integrate innovative power electronic devices with the electric grid, including smart inverters for solar panels, batteries, and electrical vehicles that are capable of supporting the nation’s power system.

“The increasing deployment of distributed solar resources gives grid operators like Holy Cross Energy an opportunity to rethink the design and operation of our electric power system, in ways that utilize these local assets to not only deliver value to the consumer, but also to enable and enhance the reliability and resilience of the power systems in which they are embedded. By working with Siemens and collaborators in this very important project, we will get a window into the future self-driving grid and discover the most important steps we need to take to get ourselves ready for it,” says Bryan Hannegan, CEO of Holy Cross Energy.

— Solar Builder magazine

Resilient design: the foundation of climate adaption

Alex Wilson

For those working in the field of sustainability, we understand inherently that our future is being challenged daily by climate change and environmental degradation. Every new broken temperature record, raging forest fire, or violent storm mock our efforts to mitigate the severe effects of our rapidly changing world. As cities, states, and organizations shift their focus from various mitigation efforts to resiliency efforts, many activists have become even more disheartened, interpreting this as an official loss for the climate change movement.

Alex Wilson, one of the most respected leaders in the field of climate resilience, says quite the opposite. According to this long-time green building activist, founder, and entrepreneur, resilience and mitigation go hand in hand. In other words, if we prepare our built environment to withstand uncertain climate futures, we will create an inherently sustainable system that requires drastically fewer resources.

In the following interview with Wilson, we take an inside look at his history, current projects, and future plans to make this world more resilient – and thus more sustainable.

Alex Wilson is the founder of the Resilient Design Institute in Brattleboro, Vermont, a nonprofit organization committed to advancing practical solutions that can be employed by communities, businesses, and individuals to adapt and thrive amid the accelerating social, ecological, and climatological change being experienced today. He is also the founder of BuildingGreen, Inc. in Brattleboro and executive editor of Environmental Building News. To keep up with his latest articles and musings, you can sign up for his Twitter feed.

Zach Sharpe: Tell us a little bit about your history: What got you started on climate change work? What triggered your focus on climate resilience?

Alex Wilson: There have been two significant motivations for my focus on resilience. First, following Hurricane Katrina I got involved in efforts to guide the reconstruction that was going to be happening — to make it more sustainable. Besides the flooding, we were seeing a huge area that was without power for a long time. We observed that older homes that were built to be responsive to the Gulf Coast climate, with wrap-around porches that shaded windows and floor plans that facilitated natural ventilation, maintained generally livable conditions, while newer homes, built since the advent of air conditioning, were not livable without power; they got too hot. We realized that Katrina wouldn’t be the last storm causing widespread power outages, and we thought it would make sense for new and renovated houses to maintain livable conditions in the event of extended loss of power. This formed the basis of what I was originally calling “passive survivability,” but am referring to as “resilient design.” I’ve continued to focus on this issue.

The other driver for me has been a recognition that we just aren’t making rapid enough progress in slowing global climate change. Convincing people to change the way we build to dramatically reduce fossil fuel consumption or change the way we design communities to reduce automobile dependence because “it’s the right thing to do” isn’t working. We need another motivation, and I believe resilience can be that motivation. I believe that we can get people to dramatically reduce their energy consumption of their homes because they want to keep their family safe in the event of an extended power outage or interruption in heating fuel. If we can do that, the synergistic benefit is mitigating climate change. Buildings that keep us safe are buildings that also use very little energy during normal operation.

ZS: The future of our climate is foreboding, especially as it relates to extreme weather events and abnormal weather patterns. As we enter an age with an unstable climate, what are the biggest vulnerabilities within our current system?

Wilson: There are lots of points of vulnerabilities that have their origin in climate change. More intense storms and flooding will cause more frequent and longer-lasting power outages. Drought will cause major changes in food production and availability in some parts of the country — pointing to the need in New England, for example, to become more food self-sufficient. Severe prolonged drought can also result in power outages, since 89% of U.S. power generation is with thermo-electric power plants, the vast majority of which require water to condense the steam used in steam turbines. If water levels in lakes and rivers drop too low, those power plants have to be shut down. Most people don’t realize how dependent our power system is on water.

It’s worth noting that we also face vulnerabilities that are unrelated to climate change. The tsunami that devastated parts of Japan was seismic in origin. Terrorists could target our energy infrastructure — the 3,400 power plants in the U.S., the 160,000 miles of high-voltage power distribution lines, and the 3.4 million miles of oil and gas pipelines are all points of vulnerability. Political upheaval in the Middle East could cause shortages of transportation or heating fuel. There is even concern in some circles about “coronal discharges” from the sun that could take out transformers. A report from the National Research Council in 2008 said that if a coronal discharge event as strong as one that occurred in 1859 were to happen today it could cause power outages in some places lasting many months or even years.

ZS: Nearly two months before Hurricane Sandy, you wrote an article about New York City’s (lack of) resilience. What other places – particularly cities – are the most unprepared for extreme weather?

Wilson: I believe that all low-lying coastal areas are vulnerable, especially as sea level rises and more intense storms systems — fueled by warmer ocean and Gulf of Mexico temperatures — cause storm surges. Much of the western U.S. is also highly vulnerable to drought, which I believe will prove an even greater challenge than coastal flooding in the coming decades. I cringe to think about cities like Phoenix, Las Vegas, and Denver if a series of winters with no snow pack in the mountains coincides with record summer temperatures and drought.

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ZS: You have really taken a leadership role in the resilience space, especially as it relates to green building. Please discuss how resilient design fundamentals can help homes, commercial buildings, and communities withstand harsher conditions and extreme weather events.

Green Buildings: A Bridge to a More Resilient Future

Jeremy Sigmon, LEED® AP BD+C
Director, Technical Policy
U.S. Green Building Council

I overheard a lot of scary things in the workshops and in the halls during last week’s 37th Annual Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop. The sessions I attended were worrisome, and the mere titles of some of the sessions I missed were downright frightening – like, “Community at Risk: Biodefense and Civic Action after the Anthrax Attacks,” or “What Keeps Me up at Night: Senior Hazards Researchers Reflect on Lessons (Not) Learned.” It’s a sobering conference to be sure, but it’s also extremely important to learn about the many ways that our society, economy and infrastructure are very, and increasingly vulnerable to disaster.

Where I come from, the motivation for action today is not typically driven by the threat of disaster. Instead, we’re driven by the promise of a brighter, greener future. I was uncertain about how this optimism would be received when I was invited to participate on behalf of USGBC in this conference, but I learned very quickly that emergency managers and the many minds that stay up late thinking about how to better prepare for and mitigate myriad disasters are advancing a hopeful and constructive approach to planning for a resilient future. Phew!

Build to last: Green building methods and codes can help prepare and mitigate the effects of natural disasters. Photo source: NOAA Photo Library, Flickr

As you may know, USGBC has been involved in this line of thinking for several years, after being called upon time and again to help communities rebound from disasters and build back better, stronger and greener. Resistance, preparedness, mitigation and resilience to natural hazards are at the heart of a resiliency agenda. And we know, intuitively, that a resilient future is a sustainable future.

At our panel session, we addressed a simple question, “The Future of Green Codes and Standards: Is there a Place for Disaster Resistance?” The short answer is, “Of course!”

In fact, USGBC posed a similar question last year in a joint venture with the University of Michigan to better understand how green building – and LEED in particular – already addresses some of the longer term hazards posed by a changing climate. This report is one of the first attempts to compile all research on the impacts of climate change on the built environment, and to link impacts with strategies for addressing them.

The report finds that preparedness for future climatic conditions will require greater effort in design, mitigation and adaptation given the decreasing reliability of past climate and weather data. Appendix C spends more than 150 pages detailing how LEED credits and prerequisites are, in many cases, promoting resistance to potential climate-related disasters. LEED users may think most commonly of credit awarded for development outside of known floodplains and for minimizing contributions to global climate change through energy efficiency and renewable energy. Maybe the most direct example is LEED for Homes’ “Durability Management Process,” where all projects are required to assess durability risks (with particular emphasis on moisture control, including flood risk), prio to construction, then manage those risks, and may also earn credit for third-party verification that those measures were implemented. You are encouraged to suggest ways that LEED could evolve to even better address these and other hazards by proposing a credit for the LEED Pilot Credit Library.

Codes, too, have a clear and important role to play given their well-established role of protecting the health, safety and welfare of building occupants in any compliant building from acute risks and hazards, and the insurance industry agrees. For some natural hazards, a code that applies to all buildings may be a far more logical and effective place for design and construction safeguards and other applicable mitigation strategies. Should any building be allowed to be built in an area prone to earthquakes that would crumble under even the most frequent and predictable quakes? Determining the minimum threshold of acceptable risk is what code development and adoption is all about.

There’s a reasonably good argument to incorporate some of these safeguards into the International Green Construction Code (certain measures may extend building service life, for example), but there is an equally appropriate counter argument for them to be incorporated into the base codes (these are acute life safety hazards to which all buildings should be resistant). Either way, the codes will continue to be an important vehicle to mainstream these protections in newly constructed buildings.

I had the pleasure of catching up with Mayor Dixson of tornado-ravaged Greensburg, Kan. about his community’s rebuilding efforts, in which they have committed all new public construction to LEED Platinum. Almost any building – green or not – would be damaged if a similar tornado were to strike again.

“We’re building back in a way that will ensure that this can never happen again,” Mayor Dixson told me, referring both to the deliberate focus on preventing loss of life and property in a future storm, as well as investments to reduce the carbon footprints of city facilities that will thus contribute far less to the uncertain weather patterns and events.

Discussing green buildings and resiliency with Mayor Dixson of Greensburg, Kan. at the 37th Annual Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop

Most importantly, we should be pleased that this constructive conversation on green buildings and resilience is happening, and will continue. I came away from the Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop with a renewed sense of hope because of the common ground we found between these two communities. Through research and outreach, the green building community is taking the steps to better understand the risks posed by natural hazards and to find innovative approaches to address and mitigate those risks. Communities around the country are doing great work to analyze, design, and build today in order to ensure a better, brighter, greener and stronger tomorrow. That bridge to a more resilient future requires input and action from a diverse community of perspectives to ensure that our buildings, our communities and our society end up better, brighter, stronger and greener.

Visit USGBC.org/resiliency to learn more.

Green Buildings: A Bridge to a More Resilient Future

Jeremy Sigmon, LEED® AP BD+C
Director, Technical Policy
U.S. Green Building Council

I overheard a lot of scary things in the workshops and in the halls during last week’s 37th Annual Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop. The sessions I attended were worrisome, and the mere titles of some of the sessions I missed were downright frightening – like, “Community at Risk: Biodefense and Civic Action after the Anthrax Attacks,” or “What Keeps Me up at Night: Senior Hazards Researchers Reflect on Lessons (Not) Learned.” It’s a sobering conference to be sure, but it’s also extremely important to learn about the many ways that our society, economy and infrastructure are very, and increasingly vulnerable to disaster.

Where I come from, the motivation for action today is not typically driven by the threat of disaster. Instead, we’re driven by the promise of a brighter, greener future. I was uncertain about how this optimism would be received when I was invited to participate on behalf of USGBC in this conference, but I learned very quickly that emergency managers and the many minds that stay up late thinking about how to better prepare for and mitigate myriad disasters are advancing a hopeful and constructive approach to planning for a resilient future. Phew!

Build to last: Green building methods and codes can help prepare and mitigate the effects of natural disasters. Photo source: NOAA Photo Library, Flickr

As you may know, USGBC has been involved in this line of thinking for several years, after being called upon time and again to help communities rebound from disasters and build back better, stronger and greener. Resistance, preparedness, mitigation and resilience to natural hazards are at the heart of a resiliency agenda. And we know, intuitively, that a resilient future is a sustainable future.

At our panel session, we addressed a simple question, “The Future of Green Codes and Standards: Is there a Place for Disaster Resistance?” The short answer is, “Of course!”

In fact, USGBC posed a similar question last year in a joint venture with the University of Michigan to better understand how green building – and LEED in particular – already addresses some of the longer term hazards posed by a changing climate. This report is one of the first attempts to compile all research on the impacts of climate change on the built environment, and to link impacts with strategies for addressing them.

The report finds that preparedness for future climatic conditions will require greater effort in design, mitigation and adaptation given the decreasing reliability of past climate and weather data. Appendix C spends more than 150 pages detailing how LEED credits and prerequisites are, in many cases, promoting resistance to potential climate-related disasters. LEED users may think most commonly of credit awarded for development outside of known floodplains and for minimizing contributions to global climate change through energy efficiency and renewable energy. Maybe the most direct example is LEED for Homes’ “Durability Management Process,” where all projects are required to assess durability risks (with particular emphasis on moisture control, including flood risk), prior to construction, then manage those risks, and may also earn credit for third-party verification that those measures were implemented. You are encouraged to suggest ways that LEED could evolve to even better address these and other hazards by proposing a credit for the LEED Pilot Credit Library.

Codes, too, have a clear and important role to play given their well-established role of protecting the health, safety and welfare of building occupants in any compliant building from acute risks and hazards, and the insurance industry agrees. For some natural hazards, a code that applies to all buildings may be a far more logical and effective place for design and construction safeguards and other applicable mitigation strategies. Should any building be allowed to be built in an area prone to earthquakes that would crumble under even the most frequent and predictable quakes? Determining the minimum threshold of acceptable risk is what code development and adoption is all about.

There’s a reasonably good argument to incorporate some of these safeguards into the International Green Construction Code (certain measures may extend building service life, for example), but there is an equally appropriate counter argument for them to be incorporated into the base codes (these are acute life safety hazards to which all buildings should be resistant). Either way, the codes will continue to be an important vehicle to mainstream these protections in newly constructed buildings.

I had the pleasure of catching up with Mayor Dixson of tornado-ravaged Greensburg, Kan. about his community’s rebuilding efforts, in which they have committed all new public construction to LEED Platinum. Almost any building – green or not – would be damaged if a similar tornado were to strike again.

“We’re building back in a way that will ensure that this can never happen again,” Mayor Dixson told me, referring both to the deliberate focus on preventing loss of life and property in a future storm, as well as investments to reduce the carbon footprints of city facilities that will thus contribute far less to the uncertain weather patterns and events.

Discussing green buildings and resiliency with Mayor Dixson of Greensburg, Kan. at the 37th Annual Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop

Most importantly, we should be pleased that this constructive conversation on green buildings and resilience is happening, and will continue. I came away from the Natural Hazards Research and Applications Workshop with a renewed sense of hope because of the common ground we found between these two communities. Through research and outreach, the green building community is taking the steps to better understand the risks posed by natural hazards and to find innovative approaches to address and mitigate those risks. Communities around the country are doing great work to analyze, design, and build today in order to ensure a better, brighter, greener and stronger tomorrow. That bridge to a more resilient future requires input and action from a diverse community of perspectives to ensure that our buildings, our communities and our society end up better, brighter, stronger and greener.

Visit USGBC.org/resiliency to learn more.

U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker in Ocean Springs to Present Award to Cottages at Oak Park

Cherie Ward
The Mississippi Press

This article is cross-posted from GulfLife.com.

U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker will tour the Cottages at Oak Park in downtown Ocean Springs at 2 p.m. today and presented the development team with the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED Platinum award.

It’s the organization’s highest level certification of energy efficiency and environmentally responsible construction.

Guests tour the recently finished Cottages at Oak Park
in Ocean Springs, MS during a ribbon cutting
ceremony on Thursday, August 11, 2011.
(Joshua Dahl, Correspondent)

“The Cottages at Oak Park is a great example of how to rebuild after a terrible disaster like Hurricane Katrina,” Wicker said. “These cottages are built structurally superior to a typical home, providing a safe place for residents to live and qualifying for lower insurance rates. Affordability is also enhanced by building at the cottage scale in close-in locations and with energy-efficient techniques and materials. It’s a winning combination that reduces residents’ monthly power bills and transportation costs.”

Wicker will be joined by representatives from Gov. Phil Bryant’s office, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency and the city of Ocean Springs.

Bryant said, “The need for quality, affordable housing on the Gulf Coast grew after Hurricane Katrina, and I am pleased to know that this development will not only help satisfy that need but has achieved LEED Platinum certification.”

Bill Brown, MEMA deputy director, said his agency “is very pleased how this Cottage Community came together, and we are excited to see the Cottages at Second Street in Pass Christian, the sister neighborhood to Oak Park open in a couple of weeks.”

Joe Cloyd, a member of the Cottages at Oak Park and Second Street development team, said the 2 neighborhoods, “provide examples of how a public and private partnership can work. Through this kind of partnership, residents can live in safe, green, affordable cottages and have the option to walk to surrounding businesses.”

In addition to the Cottages at Oak Park achieving LEED Platinum Certification, the neighborhood also became the first in Ocean Springs to be designated as part of the Renaissance Guild.

Kim LaRosa, President of the Gulf Coast Renaissance Corporation, said, “the Renaissance Guild is a collection of developments along the Mississippi Gulf Coast that are walkable, aesthetically superior developments built to ensure the residents have a safe, energy efficient place to live. These cottages meet and exceed the Renaissance Guild criteria.”