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In PEI Blog

By Larry

Adrienne Johnson Receives 2017 USGBC Leadership Award

On 15, Dec 2017 | No Comments | In PEI Blog | By Larry

USGBC Leadership Award

Adrienne Johnson (right) and fellow project manager Morgan Abbett at the 2017 GreenBuild Leadership Awards ceremony

Adrienne Johnson, a Sustainability and Innovation Project Engineer at PEI, is a recipient of the prestigious 2017 Leadership Awards, presented by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The awards are an annual recognition of the outstanding individuals and organizations at the forefront of the green building movement.

“Adrienne has proven her dedication to ensuring that healthy green buildings are accessible to all people, especially our most vulnerable populations, and it is only fitting that we honor her with this well-deserved recognition,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, President and CEO of USGBC and GBCI. She “has shown superb leadership in her community as an advocate for the green building movement and has inspired all of us to continue the charge forward in creating sustainable, healthy and connected communities through the built environment.”

Adrienne was a project manager for the Parkwood Tech Centre (PTC) Project, which is this year’s recipient of the Malcolm Lewis IMPACT! Award. A partnership between an all-female team of Stanford engineers and the South African education nonprofit, Bottomup, the PTC started as a way for the disadvantaged population in the Parkwood community of Cape Town, South Africa, to access computers and educational courses, especially for children. Adrienne helped lead the team who designed, fundraised for, and rebuilt the crumbling and unhealthy existing building. The new Parkwood Tech Centre not only connects the Parkwood community to new opportunities, it is a Net Positive Energy building that generates enough electricity to power all of Parkwood Primary School. The award included an $8,000 prize — the largest sum in its history — that will go directly to funding laptops and other technology infrastructure needs at the new center.

“It is an honor to work with Adrienne,” said CEO and Founder of Point Energy Innovations, Peter Rumsey. “I knew Malcolm when he was alive, and he was a champion of improving people’s lives through sustainable use of energy and design of buildings. Building a net positive energy technology education center for disadvantaged kids in South Africa is exactly what would have made Malcolm jump for joy.”

The award recipients were honored at the 2017 USGBC Leadership Awards Luncheon at the Greenbuild International Conference & Expo on November 9, 2017 in Boston.

The U.S. Green Building Council is committed to a prosperous and sustainable future through cost-efficient and energy-saving green buildings. USGBC works toward its mission of market transformation through its LEED green building program, robust educational offerings, an international network of local community leaders, the annual Greenbuild International Conference & Expo, the Center for Green Schools and advocacy in support of public policy that encourages and enables green buildings and communities. For more information, visit and connect on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

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In PEI Blog

By Molly

What Should We Do about PV Waste?

On 12, Dec 2016 | No Comments | In PEI Blog | By Molly

By Rubi Rodriguez Mendoza

PV panels at RSF

(Photo: Dennis Schroeder/NREL)

Solar has grown at unprecedented rates since the early 2000s. Global PV installed capacity reached 222 GW at the end of 2015, yet it is still expected to rise to 4,500 GW by 2050. In the U.S., the current PV installed capacity is 27 GW and it is forecast to reach 600GW by 2050, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency. This is great for consumers and for the environment. However, everything we manufacture does generate waste, even PV. PV panels are very durable, with few moving parts, so they last a long time, 30 years or more, according to SolarCity. But the growth in the PV industry will increase PV waste in the next 20-30 years in the world. The good news is that most PV components can be recycled. Recycling of PV panels is just taking off in the US, but Europe has set standards and best practices the US can also adopt.

Overview of global PV panel waste

Overview of global PV panel waste projections, 2016-2050 (IRENA)
(click to enlarge)

How Components are Recycled

Photovoltaic panels consist of layers of glass, encapsulant EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate), silicon wafers and metallic conductors connected to a junction box. These components are mechanically and chemically separated during the recycling process and returned to manufacturers for incorporation into new products. You can read a detailed description of the recycling process here.

PV recycling steps 
Europe & US Regulations

The extent to which the PV panels are recycled is closely tied with regulations that foster environmental practices in the solar industry. For instance PV Cycle, a European non-profit organization founded in 2007, works closely with governments and companies in the private sector to establish PV waste management strategies and legal compliance for companies and waste producers. PV Cycle partners with industries and governments to reduce the environmental impact of end-life PV panels and to require recycling to be the responsibility of producers. Currently, it is collaborating with manufacturing companies to adopt a design-for-recycling mindset so that PVs are easier and cheaper to recycle.

By contrast, the U.S. is just starting to develop policies and regulations for PV recycling. In October of 2015, California updated its Photovoltaic Panel Collection and Recycling Act of 2014 to require that “a PV panel producer shall establish and operate a take-back program for the collection, transportation, recovery, and environmentally sound recycling of end-of-life PV panels.” There may come a day when recycling PV panels will be enough of an economic opportunity, as new infrastructure for waste management emerges, that it won’t be so dependent on regulations, according to a report by IRENA.
Recycling Opportunities for the Future

Given that cumulative end-of-life PV waste volume in the U.S. is expected to grow from 6,500 tons at the end of 2016 to 7.5 to 10 million tons by 2050, a big opportunity for growth of the PV recycling market exists. For instance, First Solar, one of the few U.S.-based companies to do PV recycling, could likely benefit from this trend by creating more recycling sites in the country or increasing the recycling capacity of its sites.

Cumulative waste volumes for PV panels in 2050

Cumulative waste volumes of top five countries for end-of-life PV panels in 2050 (IRENA)
(click to enlarge)

Countries that foresee growth in their PV markets need to develop policies and markets to address the environmental impact of future PV waste volume. Programs like PV Cycle and regulations such as the California Recycling Act are a good foundation to make necessary improvements. PV waste management will absolutely be a challenge in the coming years. Therefore we need to find synergy between the different parties involved in the PV market, including science, technology, business and policy, in order to reduce the negative environmental impact of end-of-life PV panels.

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In PEI Blog

By Peter

Going Green in the Black

On 20, May 2016 | No Comments | In PEI Blog | By Peter

By Peter Rumsey

1400 Page Mill

In California, solar panels can supply electricity to a building at a rate equal to or below, sometimes significantly below, what the utility charges for electricity. But why would a developer invest in putting photovoltaic (PV) on a building when it’s the tenants who pay for the energy? This “split incentive” arrangement installing solar panels helps reduce the tenant’s operating costs but gives no benefit to the owner has hindered the development of solar buildings, net-zero and near-net-zero office buildings.

A few exceptional developers have discovered creative ways of recovering the costs of installing solar. Real estate developer Jim Gaither realized potential tenants within the Stanford Research Park in Palo Alto value a green building, and he made a strategic decision early on to pursue solar on the development of a 90,000-square-foot office he began in 2013. He looked at a variety of creative options for financing solar and decided that rather than purchase PV, he would lease it from a solar provider. He then arranged for his tenant to pay for electricity at a set rate as part of the lease agreement. This is a success story for solar—the developer made a small profit, and the tenants got renewable energy at the same cost as utility energy.

There are many additional options for recovering the cost of PV. The PV-generated energy can be included in the rent as part of a full-service lease. We have also seen developers charge a fixed monthly per-square-foot energy cost that is slightly lower than typical tenant monthly energy bills.  These arrangements are not without their legal complexities. But tenants are eager to use renewable generated energy that is priced close to what they would have otherwise paid.

For an upcoming panel session at GreenerBuilder on June 16 in San Leandro, I’ve invited developer Jim Gaither and real estate and construction attorney Michael Polentz of Manatt to join me in a discussion about strategies for developers around costs and the legal ramifications of solar. Bring your questions about how to add solar to your projects and recover your costs or make a profit.

This post first appeared on the USGBC-Northern California Blog

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