FedEx Signs 10-Year Deal for 100% Clean Energy Data Center

Read the full story in Environmental Leader.

FedEx Corp. announced it has signed a 10-year deal with Switch to serve as FedEx’s western US data center. Switch, a company that develops data center ecosystems, will deliver 2.5 MW of 100% clean power in year one, and up to 8 MW by year 10, for co-location as well as multiple telecom network services.

U.S. biomass-based diesel imports down for second consecutive year in 2018

Read the full story from the Energy Information Administration.

U.S. imports of biomass-based diesel, which include biodiesel and renewable diesel, totaled 22,000 barrels per day (b/d) in 2018, down 42% from 2017, and 64% lower than the all-time high set in 2016. Although increasing Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) targets have driven biomass-based diesel demand in recent years, imports have fallen sharply—largely because of U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) import duties imposed on foreign biodiesel volumes sourced from Argentina and Indonesia, countries which made up 60% of total U.S. imports of biomass-based diesel in 2016.

us biodiesel imports

Water and carbon footprint reduction potential of renewable energy in the United States: A policy analysis using system dynamics

Carolina Kelly, Nuri Cihat Onat, Omer Tataria (2019). “Water and carbon footprint reduction potential of renewable energy in the United States: A policy analysis using system dynamics.” Journal of Cleaner Production 25 April 2019.

Abstract: Renewable energy has gained popularity as an alternative to fossil fuels, which regularly emit large amounts of Greenhouse Gases and consume/withdraw large amounts of water, but renewable energy market penetration is still limited while fossil fuels are still the U.S.‘s dominant power source. This is due to resistance in the market, or in this case, the failure of renewable energy policies to achieve long-term environmental sustainability due to neglected external factors (economic, societal, etc.). No available literature analyzes potential sources and/or effects of this policy resistance, so this research investigates the underlying mechanisms in the renewable energy generation market by utilizing a system dynamics model.

A two-alternative Generalized Bass Model was developed to simulate the renewable energy market (specifically with respect to solar PV and wind energy), including the environmental, societal, and economic concerns associated with each of the alternatives evaluated in this study, so as to identify and address possible causes of policy resistance and its subsequent effects on environmental impacts (esp. GHG emissions and water withdrawal rates). Based on this model, three separate policy areas (solar PV investments, wind power investments, and the elimination of fossil fuel subsidies) and various combinations thereof were proposed and tested within the context of the model.

Based on the results of this study, it is highly recommended to invest as generously as possible into multiple renewable energy industries, reduce fossil fuel subsidies (in turn freeing up funding for renewable energy investments), and seek further advancement in renewable energy technologies (e.g. enhancing the useable lifetimes of wind turbines). A balanced policy have potential to increase the share of renewable’s up to roughly 40% in the U.S. by 2050, as well as 17% and 32% GHG and water withdrawal reduction potential by 2050.

Photovoltaic evaporation and distillation system for the recycling of greywater to potable water

DuBois, T., Kash, D., O’Day, C., & Welch, J. (2019). “Photovoltaic evaporation and distillation system for the recycling of greywater to potable water.” U.S. Patent Application No. US 2019 / 0106345 A1. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

Abstract: A photovoltaic evaporation and distillation system for the recycling of wastewater to potable water is disclosed herein . The system is comprised of six components that work in conjunction to produce both a source of reusable water for
indoor appliances that produce greywater ( or irrigation use ) , and potable water .


Feasible Solar Applications for Brines Disposal in Desalination Plants

Shiva Gorjian, Farid Jalili Jamshidian, Behnam Hosseinqolilou. “Feasible Solar Applications for Brines Disposal in Desalination Plants.” in Solar Desalination Technology Springer, Singapore, 2019.

Abstract: Water is a crucial ingredient for human health and one of the very few vital needs of human beings. More than 1.2 billion people around the work suffer from a deficiency of safe drinking water so that it is estimated that 14% of the global population lives in water-scarce regions by 2050. Although desalination has been used as conventional water providing technology for a long time in the Middle East and the Mediterranean, it has extensive capacities in the USA, Europe, and Australia as well.

Interest in investment in desalination sector has been extending beyond these regions of the world which are driven by water stress concerns. Even though desalination has the potential to increase the water supply in water-scarce regions, its associated adverse consequences and constraints cannot be ignored.

Brine disposal is the primary environmental consequence that should be considered and studied when installing a desalination plant. Therefore, essential steps must be taken to ensure safe and sustainable brine disposal. Implementation of a proper brine disposal method incorporated with a qualified design and construction procedure can mitigate the destructive effects of the desalination plants on the water environments and groundwater aquifers.

Using solar power as a renewable source can both imitate the environmental impacts of the conventional brine disposal methods and an increase in the evaporation rate of the solar traditional evaporation ponds. Directing the brine effluent into the solar saltworks can possibly produce salt, and therefore, the desalination plant would be zero liquid discharge (ZLD). This method requires large land areas and thus is only applicable in arid and semi-arid regions where the evaporation rates are high and the value of the land is low. Also, expensive liners are needed to avert salt seepage from the soil and the groundwater contamination. If the evaporation rate is improved, the need for the same amount of land would consequently be reduced. Enhancing the rate of evaporation would have two benefits of the flexibility to increase the amount of the brine wastewater flows out of an evaporation pond and a reduced amount of land that would be needed to achieve the same rate of evaporation.

Envisioning green solutions for reducing the ecological footprint of a university campus

Chiara Genta, Silvia Favaro, Giulia Sonetti, Caterina Barioglio, Patrizia Lombardi, (2019) “Envisioning green solutions for reducing the ecological footprint of a university campus”International Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education,

This paper aims to report strategies towards a green campus project at Politecnico di Torino University, a 33,000-students Italian higher education institution (HEI), and estimate the avoided ecological footprint (EF) of different scenarios accounted for open spaces.

A consumption-based study has been developed to analyse the current EF of the main campus site. Data were collected from different departments and administrative units to identify the measure of the pressure exerted by the campus activities on the ecosystem. Then, possible scenarios were accounted for open spaces along five different design layers: energy, water, landscape, food and mobility. Acting on the spaces by means of biophilic design and user-driven design requires complex considerations on university’s anticipated future needs and a wide-ranging evaluation of the most appropriate pathways forward according to all university stakeholders, far beyond the mere accounting of avoided EF.

A reduction of the 21 per cent of the current EF can be achieved through the solutions envisaged in the green campus project along the open space layers. Moreover, universities have the opportunity to not only improve the sustainability of their facilities but also demonstrate how the built environment can be designed to benefit both the environment and the occupants.

Research limitations/implications
The acknowledgement of predicted behavioural change effects is a question left open to further researchers on methods and indicators for social impact accounting and reporting in truly sustainable university campuses.

This is the first research that estimates the EF of an Italian HEI. The research represents also an innovative approach integrating the EF reduction scenarios in the design process of the new masterplan of open spaces, trying to identify the connection between environmental impact reduction and improvement in users’ perception.

NCR-SARE Announces 2019 Partnership Grants

NCR-SARE is pleased to announce the projects selected for funding for the 2019 Partnership Grant Program.

For the 2019 Partnership Grant Program, NCR-SARE awarded almost $566,000 to 15 projects. NCR-SARE’s Partnership Grant Program is intended to foster cooperation between agriculture professionals and small groups of farmers and ranchers to catalyze on-farm research, demonstration, and education activities related to sustainable agriculture. Those selected to receive funding included (in order by state):

  • Suzan Erem of Sustainable Iowa Land Trust (SILT) in West Branch, IA was awarded $33,365 for the project, “SILT Development and Implementation of Iowa Landowners Guide to Sustainable Food Crops.”
  • Bridget Holcomb of Women, Food, and Agriculture Network in Ames, IA was awarded $39,832 for the project, “Women Farmland Owners as Sustainability Ambassadors: Educating Farmers and other Landowners to Make Changes.”
  • Catie Gregg of Prairie Rivers Network in Champaign, IL was awarded $29,740 for the project, “Field Salad: A No-management Cover Crop to Move Practice Adoption Beyond Just the Innovator Farmer.”
  • Teresa Steckler of the University of Illinois in Simpson, IL was awarded $39,955 for the project, “Management-Associated Risk Factors and Economic Impact of Anaplasmosis in Illinois Beef Herds.”
  • Steve Swaffar of No-Till On The Plains Inc in Berryton, KS was awarded $32,187 for the project, “Alternate Weed Control Strategy in Sorghum Utilizing Companion Crops.”
  • Matthew Clark of the University of Minnesota in Saint Paul, MN was awarded $38,390 for the project, “A Comprehensive Curriculum for Cold Climate Grapevine Production: Practical Skills for the Novice and Vineyard Manager.”
  • Kitt Healy with the Organic Seed Alliance was awarded $40,000 for the project, “Building Farmer Capacity to Produce and Market Vegetable Seed in Minnesota through Seed Production Trials and Education.”
  • Jianfeng Zhou of the University of Missouri in Columbia, MO was awarded $39,913 for the project, “Develop an Efficient Fruit Handling System for Elderberries.”
  • Andrea Basche of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in Lincoln, NE was awarded $40,000 for the project, “Partnering in Conservation: Engaging Women Farmland Owners and Their Tenants in Collaborative Conservation Planning.”
  • Cody Creech of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in Scottsbluff, NE was awarded $40,000 for the project, “Incorporating Grain Sorghum in Semi-Arid Crop Rotations with Short Growing Seasons to Increase Resiliency of Cropping Systems.”
  • Bethany Johnston of Nebraska Grazing Lands Coalition in Burwell, NE was awarded $33,781 for the project, “Building the Legacy—Heartache and Triumphs from Transitioning Ranch Families.”
  • Andrew Kirk of the Ohio State University-Ashtabula ARS in Kingsville, OH was awarded $39,977 for the project, “Early Leaf Removal Strategies for Bunch Rot Reduction in Pinot Noir Clones.”
  • Hongmei Li-Byarlay of Central State University in Wilberforce, OH was awarded $40,000 for the project, “Improving the Honeybee Queen Qualities and Genetic Diversity by Transferring Selected Queen Cells.”
  • Jason Fischbach of Bayfield County UW-Extension in Washburn, WI was awarded $39,777 for the project, “Hazelnut-Finished Pork in the Upper Midwest: A New High-Value Product From A Sustainable Production System.”
  • Marie Raboin of Dane County Land Conservation in Madison, WI was awarded $39,900 for the project, “Building Sustainable Relationships Around the use of Grazing Cover Crops on Dairy and Livestock Farms in Southern Wisconsin.”

You can read descriptions of these projects online.

The focus for each of the NCR-SARE grant programs is on research and education. Funding considerations are based on how well the applicant presents the problem being addressed, the project’s relevance to sustainable agriculture in the 12-state North Central region, and how well it aligns with NCR-SARE’s goals, among other factors specific to each grant program.

NCR-SARE’s Administrative Council (AC) members decide which projects will receive SARE funds. The AC includes a diverse mix of agricultural stakeholders in the region. Council members hail from regional farms and ranches, the Cooperative Extension Service, universities, federal agencies, and nonprofits.

Since 1988, the SARE program has helped advance farming systems that are profitable, environmentally sound and good for communities through a nationwide research and education grants program. The program, part of USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, funds projects and conducts outreach designed to improve agricultural systems.

Philly names first-ever farm czar

Read the full story at Plan Philly.

Philadelphia has named city planner Ashley Richards as its first-ever urban agriculture director. Richards will direct the creation and implementation of Philadelphia’s forthcoming urban agriculture plan.

April 2019 issue of MnTAP Source looks at chemical use reduction in the food manufacturing industry

The April 2019 issue of MnTAP Source looks at ways that food manufacturers can switch from trichloroethylene to safer alternatives and other ways they can save money. The articles include:

You can find back issues of MnTAP Source back to 2001 here. They have lots of other great information on their site, including intern project reports, and information for specific industrial sectors. Find links to all of their publications here.


For low-income countries, climate action pays off by 2050

Read the full story from the International Food Policy Research Institute.

A new study shows that beyond the benefits of reduced extreme weather in the long term, global mitigation efforts would also lower oil prices in coming decades, resulting in a significant economic boon for most poorer countries.