The Chicago City Council last weekpassed the 2022 Chicago Energy Transformation Code, which requires that new buildings are constructed in alignment with stronger energy efficiency and electrification standards to advance decarbonization. Most changes will apply to new building permit applications starting Nov. 1.
Changes include requirements related to energy-efficient lighting; designing certain commercial building roofs to support future solar panel installations; constructing residential buildings with infrastructure that enablesa future switch to electric-powered appliances; and incentives for smart HVAC and water appliances that integrate with the power grid to reduce demand during peak use.
Housing a growing population in homes made out of wood instead of conventional steel and concrete could avoid more than 100 billion tons of emissions of the greenhouse gas CO2 until 2100, a new study by the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research shows. These are about 10 percent of the remaining carbon budget for the 2°C climate target. Besides the harvest from natural forests, newly established timber plantations are required for supplying construction wood. While this does not interfere with food production, a loss of biodiversity may occur if not carefully managed, according to the scientists. The study is the first to analyze the impacts of a large-scale transition to timber cities on land use, land-use change emissions, and long-term carbon storage in harvested wood products.
What is a “carbon sink,” and how can it help us fight climate change? Carbon sinks act like sponges that soak up more carbon from the atmosphere than they release. We define the process by which we remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as “carbon sequestration.” The most effective carbon sinks use our natural systems (i.e., forests, wetlands, agricultural lands and coastal ecosystems), but buildings also play an essential role. To achieve net-zero by 2040, we need to consider carbon sinks as a means to amplify our efforts to reduce emissions, and we need to measure the efficacy of carbon sinks because good data supports meaningful policy and design.
Electrekspoke with Dan Gayer, JD, CPA, a senior manager in the tax practice at Baker Newman Noyes, about how homeowners can claim tax credits and rebates as they work to achieve energy efficiency and lower their energy bills.
Use this map from ENERGY STAR to find out if your utility offers rebates on the purchase of efficient commercial building equipment that falls outside the scope of ENERGY STAR certification. Illinois companies can also visit the ComEd, Ameren, and MidAmerican Energy websites directly to see their offerings.
Use ENERGY STAR’s Rebate Finder to identify nearby rebates and special offers for ENERGY STAR certified products.
This report presents the outcome of research in geothermal energy, specifically geothermal exchange, conducted by geologists, hydrogeologists, and engineers at the Illinois State Geological Survey and Illinois Water Resources Center in partnership with engineering faculty and students in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign (U of I), who are members of the newly-formed Illinois Geothermal Coalition. This effort brought together a multi-disciplinary and multiorganizational team of scientists and engineers who are focused on advancing the application of geothermal energy technologies for district heating and cooling systems that allow energy end users to meet net carbon neutrality, renewable energy, and grid resilience goals.
The research specifically supported the design and operation of a shallow geothermal exchange system for the U of I and its private partners at the Campus Instructional Facility (CIF) that just recently came online in April 2021. As academic campuses aggressively pursue renewable and sustainable energy sources to reduce their carbon footprints and enhance operational resiliency, geothermal energy has increasingly garnered more interest and is considered an uninterruptible source of heating and cooling, offering greater dependability in supplying a constant energy load with the least impact on the energy grid. Geothermal energy is very attractive because of its long-term environmental and economic benefits, especially since heating, cooling, and dehumidification systems in buildings are the largest emitters of greenhouse gases (GHG) and are estimated to consume more than 40% of the nation’s electricity.
At the U of I, the administration and students are pursuing an aggressive strategy to obtain a sustainable campus environment and become carbon neutral by eliminating or offsetting GHG emissions as soon as possible, and no later than 2050. At the CIF, the goal is to exceed the per-building metrics proposed in the 2020 Illinois Climate Action Plan (iCAP) by connecting the geothermal exchange system with radiant heating and cooling as part of an energy-efficient design that is expected to save ~2,839 million Btu (MMBtu) of energy per year and reduce GHG emissions by >70% compared to similarsized buildings. Nearly 65% of that energy load (~135 tons of heating and cooling capacity) will be supplied by the geothermal exchange system.
Unlike in western regions of the U.S. where hot fluids and steam in volcanic rocks are used to generate electricity or for direct heating, in the Midwest region geothermal energy systems typically use thermal exchange technologies that take advantage of the thermal energy stored in the Earth’s subsurface (typically within the upper 100–150 m [~330–500 ft]). Using geothermal heat pumps, refrigerant fluid or water is circulated through boreholes allowing heat to be absorbed or released to the ground (e.g., Lund 2002). The geothermal exchange system takes advantage of the constant ground temperature throughout the year below depths of ~10 m (~33 feet). The ground temperature below this depth is not impacted by seasonal changes in atmospheric conditions, and thus ground-based heating and cooling systems run more efficiently. Furthermore, geographic areas such as the U.S. Midwest region have a consistently variable climate (e.g., cold winters and hot summers), which can maximize the benefits offered by utilizing the natural thermal energy from the ground.
Summer is in full swing in the U.S., and people are turning up their air conditioners to beat the heat. But the hydrofluorocarbon refrigerants in these and other cooling devices are potent greenhouse gases and major drivers of climate change. Today, scientists report a prototype device that could someday replace existing “A/Cs.” It’s much more environmentally friendly and uses solid refrigerants to efficiently cool a space.