Bonnie Pfister

Washington & Jefferson College this week opens its Center for Energy Policy and Management, bringing together scientists, industry leaders, elected officials, advocates and citizens to shape policy while working to minimize environmental impact and promote economic growth.

The center will be home to the W&J Energy Security Index, a benchmark for measuring the energy security of the United States developed at the college by two faculty economists.

On Monday, April 23, the center is hosting a free summit entitled “Taking Control of Our Energy Future.” The event will feature the Allegheny Conference’s own Bill Flanagan, as well as Susan Eisenhower of the Eisenhower Institute, Newsweek‘s Eleanor Clift, former PA Secretary of Environmental Protection Kathleen McGinty, as well as discussions by several elected officials, nonprofit researchers and industry leaders.

For additional information, contact Karen Oosterhous at or 724-223-5294.

Phil Cynar

On Sunday, April 22, we marked the 42nd anniversary of Earth Day – a commemoration and a call to action to cherish the planet and reduce the impact that humans have on the environment.

Pittsburgh is a place that knows well how industry and its associated pollution can degrade air and water resources and endanger quality of life. We also know well that remediation is possible, and now Pittsburgh is a model for environmental transformation and the place where innovators are imagining and engineering sustainable solutions for 21st-century energy challenges.

Among these solutions are systems that more efficiently balance how buildings use energy, reducing – or even eliminating – unnecessary or wasteful energy consumption.

Opening its doors to the public on May 23 will be the Pittsburgh’s region’s newest “green” building:  the Center for Sustainable Landscapes (CSL) at historic Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Oakland.

Adding to the excitement of this grand opening is the fact that the CSL is an uber-green building, designed to meet the Living Building Challenge. When it opens, the CSL will be largest operational building pursuing Living Building status in the U.S. and one of the greenest buildings on the planet. The Living Building Challenge is the most advanced measure of sustainability in the built environment possible today, even surpassing the highest LEED certification.

The CSL at Phipps will be a net-zero water/energy facility, which is required for Living Building status.  This means that with regard to energy, the CSL will produce all of its own renewable energy. It will also have water independence by capturing all precipitation, managing all storm water runoff and re-using wastewater.

Living Building Challenge creator Jason McLennan was in Pittsburgh recently to talk about what this achievement at Phipps says about Pittsburgh and what it means to the region’s green building and sustainability leadership.

Watch the video below to hear his thoughts on a building designed, as he describes, to “operate as elegantly and efficiently as a flower” – which is simply eloquent, given what Phipps is all about. Happy Earth Day, Pittsburgh. You’ve come a long way and have a lot about which to be proud.

Bonnie Pfister

In honor of Earth Day this April 22, the Pittsburgh International Airport is sharing sustainability and recycling awareness information with travelers on Friday, April 20.

Photo Copyright Darrell Sapp/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

Following a 2010 energy audit of the airport, the Allegheny County Airport Authority developed an energy savings plan, with implementation underway. It includes more energy efficient lighting, escalator motors that automatically power down when not in use, upgrades to electric doors on the baggage-handling areas and a new employee parking location that eliminated the need for shuttle buses.

“The Airport Authority is dedicated to sustainable initiatives, resulting in a great reduction in environmental impacts while also enhancing efficiencies at Pittsburgh International Airport,” said authority Chairman David Minnotte.

More specifics on the airport authority’s energy savings plan:

Brighter and Greener Lighting – Pittsburgh International Airport installed new LED lighting in the parking garage. The three-story garage has 2,100 parking spaces and also houses the rental car agencies on its first floor. These lights are brighter than previous and use 73 percent less energy, a 2.16 million kilowatt-per-hour (kWh) savings annually.

Conditional Power for Escalators — Digital power conditioners have been installed on moving escalators, which regulates the amount of power supplied to the motor based on the load — power supply is increased and decreased based on the amount of people on the escalator. These power conditioners are expected to save 137,160 kWh each year.

Quicker Closing Doors and HVAC Control Upgrades — An opportunity for significant energy savings presented itself when analyzing the frequent trips of airline-operated baggage carts driving in and out of the buildings. High-speed overhead doors and baggage-handling HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) control upgrades were installed at the airside and landside terminals. A total of 22 doors were installed, which automatically open and close as vehicles enter and leave the terminals.

In addition, the HVAC system has been integrated with the high-speed doors to optimize energy efficiency by regulating the operation of heaters in the vicinity of the doors when they are in the open position during the heating season. Also, the overhead doors automatically open when the temperature reaches 60 degrees to reduce the door operating cost. This project resulted in an estimated savings of 1.8 million kWh annually.

Eliminating Employee Shuttle Buses — The employee parking lot was relocated to the former E gates adjacent to the Landside Terminal eliminating the need to bus employees back and forth to parking. The measure saves fuel, minimizes emissions and adds convenience for employees. The environmental impact is significant. The employee buses averaged 400 hours of busing per week and burned an average of 2,550 gallons of diesel fuel per month.

Other planned improvements include airside and landside terminal lighting upgrades, runway and centerline light upgrades, and HVAC control upgrades. When the energy savings project is complete, the airport authority expects to save 19.3 million kWh annually.

If you’re a fleet manager and have been considering whether a switch to natural gas powered vehicles makes sense for you, then you’re in luck. The Allegheny Conference on Community Development is making a number of resources available to help you in this decision.

Part of the Conference’s new natural gas vehicle website is a three-part savings calculator that offers fleet managers a tool to evaluate the financial case for adopting natural gas vehicles. Coupled with this is a white paper report, Encouraging Natural Gas Vehicles in Pennsylvania, which takes a look at the opportunities and challenges of using natural gas vehicles as a transportation fuel.

Key finding of the report include:

  • The ready availability of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale and other shale formations has shattered the traditional relationship between natural gas and oil prices.
  • The widening price differential, with crude oil trading at 48.8 times the price of natural gas in the last week of March 2012, can make converting to natural gas pay for itself in particular types of fleets.
  • Lack of natural gas fueling infrastructure (not enough available stations) remains the biggest hurdle.
  • Depending on their operations, natural gas vehicles may make sense for some kinds of public and commercial fleets.

If you’d like more information, check out the full report and head over to the website where additional resources and background materials are available.

For college students wondering where to head after graduation, here’s a suggestion: stay right here. That suggestion isn’t coming from a complex statistical analysis, it’s coming from me, someone who moved here right after college. We all know about Pittsburgh’s history as the place that made the steel the world needed and as the birthplace of energy. I wasn’t around for the height of that industry, but I know that it profoundly shaped the region, and its impact continues today.

Right now, throughout Oakland, a number of high traffic transit shelters are displaying posters with messages that promote the region as the new center for American energy.  It’s important to get the word out because energy is a key part of our region’s future, just as it was a major part of our history. From research and transportation logistics, to sales and public relations, interesting and unexpected opportunities now abound in the region’s energy economy.

Historically, the Pittsburgh region has always possessed a wealth of natural resources (and it still does), but today our wealth isn’t just below ground.  It’s above ground, too – embodied in the people who are imagining and creating energy’s future right here. We are a pioneer in green building and solar panel installation, and we manufacture parts and materials for windmills and panels that capture the sun’s energy. Additionally, we’re a place that walks the talk when it comes to leading a green lifestyle.  There are countless opportunities to get involved in sustainable efforts here, from neighborhood clean-ups to university-based initiatives. Pittsburgh Magazine highlighted just a few of the many businesses at the forefront of the region’s sustainable practices. Companies with a Pittsburgh presence as well as a global reach are also reconsidering how to build and operate their facilities. They are using the newest methods (or innovating their own) and incorporating more energy efficient techniques – setting up Pittsburgh as a model for the world when it comes to energy.

We’ve accomplished a lot, but there’s still much work to be done to advance energy independence in the U.S. while preserving our environment.  The work ahead of us creates countless direct and indirect opportunities in the energy sector, and that’s why Pittsburgh is extending an invitation to grads, as well as those still in school. It’s a simple invitation:  stay here and continue to help build Pittsburgh as the new center for American energy. In exchange, you’ll find amazing professional experiences and an equally amazing quality of life.

Speaking as someone who’s accepted that invitation, I’d suggest you take a second look at the energy posters around town right now, and then take a second look at Pittsburgh.

Phil Cynar

Many Pittsburghers might not realize that tucked away in the South Hills suburb of South Park is the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) – the nation’s only federal research facility devoted to carbon capture technology and a part of the region’s “energy landscape” for more than 100 years. Given the region’s 250-plus year history in coal mining, NETL’s presence is perfectly complementary and supports the region’s commitment to tapping its natural resources while doing what’s right for the environment.

In 1910, coal research began in downtown Pittsburgh with the U.S. Bureau of Mines, a predecessor to NETL. Today, NETL conducts cutting-edge research on technologies that run the gamut from alloy development to greenhouse gas mitigation. Some of that research helped the coal industry clean-up its reputation with pollution control technologies, such as scrubbers and low-NOx burners, that limit the environmental impact of using this abundant resource.

NETL recently got quite a bit of ink in a Wall Street Journal, article “Seeking New Ways to Light a Fire Under Coal.” The piece takes a look at how NETL – from Pittsburgh, the new center of American energy – is focusing on carbon capture technology in light of changes in EPA regulation on coal burning.

Learn more about NETL, one of region’s energy assets, and its work by reading the complete WSJ article here.

Also, check out the video below from a recent edition of Our Region’s Business to hear NETL’s Jared Ciferno  speak about the future of clean coal research.

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