Map Monitors Emissions Down to the Building Level

Policymakers have a new useful environmental engineering tool to help reduce carbon emissions. High-resolution software developed by Arizona State University allows researchers to map carbon emissions at a by-the-building level.

The US is the largest producer of carbon emissions in the world. According to the World Bank, in 2008 the US produced almost 5.5 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, nearly one-quarter of the global total. Since 2008, however, carbon emissions in the US have fallen to the lowest point in 20 years. This may be attributed to the economic slump following the financial crisis but may also be because of the increasing emphasis on reducing the country’s environmental impact.

Although the country has made progress, it remains a major polluter. The research team at ASU believes the problem can be attributed to an inability to pinpoint the biggest sources of emissions in a clear and understandable manner. To address this, they developed a program that incorporates huge amounts of emissions data from local air pollution reports and businesses around a city and combines this with projections of emissions from buildings and daily road traffic.

So far, scientists have applied this new tool to the city of Indianapolis, and work is ongoing for Los Angeles and Phoenix. They hope to ultimately map the CO2 emissions in all major cities across the US. The project is part of a larger effort that combines information about emissions with ground- and satellite-based measurements of atmospheric CO2. In December, NASA will launch the Orbital Carbon Observatory satellite.

Independently verified emissions mapping may provide more direct cost-effective data for legislators to act upon and could help overcome current barriers to the US joining the Kyoto Protocols, an international climate change treaty.


City of Santa Fe Selected to Join Western Adaptation Alliance

Officials Attend National Academy on Climate Change Adaptation

Last month at the Urban Sustainability Directors Network annual meeting, Santa Fe became the newest inducted member of the Western Adaptation Alliance (WAA), a network of cities in the Front Range, Intermountain and Desert Southwest developed to collaborate on climate adaptation strategies.

Shortly after the induction, a team of Santa Fe city and county representatives attended the Climate Leadership Academy on Adaptation and Resilience in Portland, Ore. The academy was hosted by the Institute for Sustainable Communities, an organization that arranges issue-specific training for community leaders. The team consisted of Mayor David Coss, City Councilor Carmichael Dominguez, County Commissioner Kathy Holian, Environmental Services Director Cindy Padilla and Sustainable Santa Fe Programs Manager Katherine Mortimer,.

The heat, fires and drought Santa Feans have been experiencing this decade help us all focus on the need for communities and individuals to make sure we are responsive to climate change,” said Mayor Coss.

Santa Fe, one of 12 cities selected to attend the conference, was the only city to have elected officials among its representation. Mayor Coss, Councilor Dominguez and Commissioner Holian participated in a panel discussion on how to approach officials with a diverse set of priorities about the effects of climate change. Conference participants also discussed creating a resiliency plan. Because climate change affects the type, severity and frequency of natural events, it can be addressed in a similar manner to emergency-preparedness planning, using projections of those future events.

The Santa Fe team returned with several commitments to action. These include developing a city-county preparation strategy guided by projections of likely area climate changes, working with the WAA to coordinate and leverage the resources of the larger region to be better prepared for the effects of climate change and to develop an outreach plan to keep citizens informed of climate-change mitigation and preparation strategies.


Lucky Corridor” Project Approved

After five years of work towards approval, a planned $350 million 93-mile 1,100-megawatt transmission line in northern New Mexico has received the go-ahead from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to start negotiating with customers, including wind farms, solar farms and gas-fired electrical plants. The “Lucky Corridor” intends to connect to PNM’s major transmission line in Española, and will charge a service fee for carrying the power.

A consortium of farmers and ranchers in northern NM provided the startup financing for the project. Some of the ranchers will allow the line to pass through their land; others expect to build their own solar or wind farms. Contractors are currently working out a number of legal and permitting issues. Construction could start in late 2014.


Federal Solar Plan for the West Approved

Last month Interior Secretary Ken Salazar and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid announced approval of a plan that sets aside 285,000 acres of public land for the development of utility-scale solar power plants in six western states, including New Mexico. The government’s 17 “solar energy zones” are intended to discourage land speculation, reduce permitting costs and speed up the approval process for renewable energy development. Most of the zones are in Southern California, are close to transmission lines, and have “relatively low conflict with biological, cultural and historic resources.” The plan excludes 79 million acres of federal land as inappropriate for development and another 19 million acres as “variance” areas to be decided on a case-by-case basis.

The Obama administration has authorized 18 large-scale solar projects on federal land, as well as 7 wind farms and 8 geothermal plants. They are projected to provide power for more than 3.5 million homes.


Senior Cohousing Community Launches Solar Powered Electric Car Sharing

Sand River Cohousing, a 28-unit, low-to-moderate income, 55+ community off of Cerrillos Road in Santa Fe, is intent on reducing their carbon footprint. As the community is green-built, their home energy use is very low. Some residents have installed grid-tied solar photovoltaic (PV) systems on their roofs to further reduce and offset their carbon output. But, they wondered, what more could they do?

After heating and cooling of buildings, the next highest carbon output is from transportation. For the Sand River residents, that means cars. So, Sand River (formerly called ElderGrace) developed an plan to eventually reduce their community’s driving footprint.

On October 18, with Sen. Jeff Bingaman in attendance, Sand River held a ribbon-cutting to celebrate the completion of the first stage of their innovative plan to drive electric vehicles (EVs) offset by solar electricity generated on-site. With the help of solar proponent Dan Baker and a third-party investor group who will receive tax breaks and renewable energy credits from PNM, Sand River installed a 5.52 kW grid-tied, PV system from Positive Energy. The electricity produced will power the community’s Common House and provide enough electricity to power three or four EVs.

The second step of this plan includes putting in place organizational structures involved in group ownership of cars and developing the practice of car sharing. Sand River registered an LLC so that a small fleet will be jointly owned by a group of residents. Some of the cars will be gas powered (including hybrids) for longer trips; some will be all-electric for trips around town. How can people get over their dependence on “my personal car?” The idea of car sharing is a definite challenge for older individuals, but the community is experimenting with ‘virtual’ car sharing and working out projected schedules of use.

The third step will be to acquire the cars. As a group of individuals, many with fixed incomes, they cannot simply buy three or four EVs. However, they are working on the idea that someone (an EV manufacturer or dealer, a foundation interested in showing how carbon footprints can be reduced without disrupting lives, or even some individual with money to spare) will help them out. When the plan is fully implemented, the community expects to be able to provide a powerful teaching tool for other communities who wish to move towards a more sustainable way of life. For more information, contact: Pauline Sargent: 505.467.8274 or




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