In honor of Energy Efficiency Day 2017, Freddie Adom, the Department of General Services' Energy Manager, provides a window into how his work supports energy efficiency and conservation on a daily basis.
Energy is defined simply as the ability to do work. Computers use energy to run programs for users to create documents. Light bulbs use energy to emit light that helps building occupants see their environment. HVAC systems use energy to keep us warm inside of buildings during the winter, and cool during the dog days of summer.
Energy consumption, however, comes at a cost. Energy for facilities is typically purchased through utility providers, which can be expensive, especially for larger facilities. Also, the harvesting and conversion of natural resources into useful energy comes at a cost to the environment. From excavation and deforestation to the production of greenhouse gas emissions, the need for energy has led to environmental impacts observed across the globe. The need to reduce energy consumption is evident; however the need for comfort inside the building should not be dismissed. Comfortable environments allow building occupants to perform their work without distractions, and ensure that customers have a pleasant experience.
As Energy Manager for the Department of General Services, I would like to take the opportunity on this Energy Efficiency Day 2017 to give an insight into what the department does to manage energy use -- and promote energy efficiency -- in our facilities.
Energy data is recorded and stored for every General Services'-managed facility. This includes energy use from our electricity, natural gas, and water utilities. Along with knowledge of building operations, we are able to take the data and determine the energy efficiency of the building. Entering the utility data into EnergyStar's Portfolio Manager allows us to quickly calculate the building's Energy Use Intensity (EUI), which shows the amount of energy used per square foot over the course of a year. This metric helps General Services determine which buildings to focus on in our energy reduction efforts. For our LEED-certified buildings, General Services uses the energy data to develop the department's annual High Performance Building Report. This report contains energy data for the LEED buildings and compares usage to facilities of similar size and building type.
Table 1. Energy use for the Clifford Allen Building
Over the course of time, building equipment becomes less efficient. Bolts and fan belts loosen up, filters become clogged with dirt, and valves become more difficult to open. All of these scenarios cause HVAC equipment to use more energy than normally required. If left unattended, the building energy use can increase significantly, because the HVAC system needs to work harder to get the same results. Of course, let's not forget to mention that these inefficiencies can lead to equipment failure over time. To combat this, General Services employs a practice called preventative maintenance. Building equipment, such as boilers, chillers, and air handler units, are serviced every quarter. Technicians have a checklist where they verify the condition of the equipment. Maintenance is performed on the equipment, and parts are replaced when they are identified to be in poor condition. Technicians then verify that the system as a whole and its components are operating smoothly. This practice not only keeps equipment operating efficiently, it also extends the lifetime use of the equipment, and possibly the entire facility.
Energy management is also conducted through the use of building automation systems (BAS). BAS allows the building equipment to be controlled and operated through computers. The BAS systems for over 35 General Service’s buildings are pulled in to the Center of Responsible Energy (CORE), located in the Howard Office Building. BAS controls HVAC, lighting, and generator systems for our facilities. In these programs, the desired operating conditions are set into the program, and the program operates the equipment at these settings. The settings for these systems have a strong influence on how much energy is consumed by our buildings. BAS controls activities such as the scheduling for lighting and air conditioning throughout the day, temperature settings for specific parts of the building, and keeping rooms at an appropriate humidity level. Another example would be exhaust fans turning on in the garages of fire stations in order to expel fumes when carbon monoxide levels reach a certain point. As we gain further information about a building's energy use, settings may be changed in the BAS to improve upon the facility's energy efficiency. These systems also track the performance of individual components; that way we can look into that piece of hardware before it causes further problems.
During extreme weather conditions in the summer and winter months, facilities all across TVA's electrical grid use more energy to cool and heat their buildings. In order to prevent the grid from overloading, TVA, through EnerNOC, offers facilities the opportunity to enter into their demand response program. In this program, TVA sets aside a number of hours (typically around four) and asks participants to curtail their energy use during this time period. General Services has six facilities that participate in demand response. Power consumption is reduced in these buildings without compromising comfort for occupants. Engaging in this program helps keep the TVA grid strong and resilient, especially as more and more people move into Nashville and the middle Tennessee area.
One of the most important ways to reduce the need to purchase electricity from utility providers is to have a sustainable, regenerating energy source. Fortunately, the Sun is an abundant supplier of energy and solar photovoltaic systems are a great way to harvest that energy for homes and buildings. General Services has eight facilities that feature roof-mounted solar panels. Seven of these facilities are under the Green Power Provider's agreement with TVA and NES, where the solar panels are supplying clean energy to TVA's grid. The other facility, Fire Station #19, which is under the Dispersed Power Production agreement, uses the electricity generated by its solar panels directly, and purchases the remaining need for energy from Nashville Electric Service. Depending on the time of year, 13%-16% of Fire Station #19's electricity use is provided by its solar panels.
As a team, we strive to improve our buildings and make sure that everyone (building occupants, customers, employees, and the Nashville community) is placed in the best environment. To do this, we have to take into account many factors, with energy being a key component. Thankfully, I work with a great team of people who work diligently, are very knowledgeable, and are always willing to share thoughts and opinions. No one person can do this on their own, especially with the number of buildings that we operate and manage. To manage energy effectively, takes knowledge and understanding. With our staff, I am in a great place to do so.
Freddie Adom is the Department of General Services' Energy Manager.
Would you like to enjoy the benefits of using solar energy for your home electricity needs? Have you investigated how to make the switch to clean energy, but then gave up when you had more questions than answers? This blog post will discuss the options for solar photovoltaics (PV) in Middle Tennessee.
There are many advantages to using solar to power your home. Solar power contributes to cleaner air, decreases your carbon footprint, and creates local jobs for solar installers. Solar provides a fixed energy price vs. the continual rise in electricity prices with other forms of generation. For our electricity provider, Nashville Electric Service (NES), retail rates will increase by approximately 3% beginning October 2017.
Installing solar panels on your roof may be less expensive than you think. So-called “grid parity” is reached when renewable energy, such as rooftop solar, is less than or equal to the price of purchasing fossil fuel energy. Around 20 states are currently at grid parity for residential solar. The price for installing solar has dramatically decreased over the last 10 years. As shown in Figure 1, there was a 61% reduction in the cost of residential solar PV system from 2010 to 2017. Additionally, there is a 30% federal tax credit for the cost of installing solar. This credit will decrease incrementally, with no credit for systems placed in service after January 2022.
Figure 1. Residential solar PV system cost. Data source: U.S. Solar Photovoltaic System Cost Benchmark: Q1 2017 by NREL.
Maybe you’ve researched what it would take to install solar panels on your roof. Here are some examples that you may have considered towards the feasibility of solar panels for your specific situation: Do you own your house? Does it have a south facing roof with the correct angle, or pitch? Is this roof in full sun most of the day? Do you have the money available to buy solar panels? Are you planning to stay in your house for a while? If the answer isn’t yes to all of these questions, don’t despair! Even if you are not a good candidate for rooftop solar, there are other options to allow you to harness solar energy for your electricity needs.
NES gets electricity from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and there is a new program where NES is partnering with TVA, Metro Nashville, and The Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee to construct the first community solar program in Nashville. The 2MW Music City Solar project will be located on a former landfill in North Nashville. By subscribing to the community solar project, customers can “go solar” without installing their own panels. This is ideal for renters and homeowners with shaded rooftops. Anyone with an NES electric account can sign up to purchase solar units consisting of a share of the total output of the community solar array. Construction will begin in late fall 2017 and NES will communicate the details of how to sign up to customers. Socket will help spread the message about this groundbreaking project!
Another option available to NES customers is the Green Power Switch program. By signing up and purchasing green power blocks, customers can ensure that they use renewable electricity from wind, solar and methane gas. How does this work, since electricity from renewable resources and fossil fuel sources mixes together on the electric power grid? Every unit of renewable energy that gets added to the grid generates a Renewable Energy Certificate (REC). You can purchase this REC, which ensures that you are using this unit of renewable energy. It is how we keep track of green power. Green Power Switch is TVA’s program to keep track of RECs. By purchasing green power blocks, you help the regional renewable energy market to grow, since TVA is obligated to add enough renewable energy to the grid for all the Green Power Switch customers.
It is also possible to buy RECs from other sources. Make sure the RECs that you purchase are third-party certified by an independent company such as Green-e Energy. This way, you will know that each REC is independently tracked and verified. Be mindful that purchasing RECs from sources other than TVA will support projects outside Tennessee with the benefits of the renewable energy project such as local jobs flowing to other communities.
Whether you plan to add solar panels to your roof, sign up for community solar from Music City Solar, buy renewable energy through the Green Power Switch program or buy Renewable Energy Credits, there is a way for you to benefit from clean energy. Find the way that works for you!
The American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE) has developed an initiative called “Shrink Your Dorm Print,” which aims to encourage incoming college freshmen to save money while saving the planet. To achieve this goal, the ACEEE has developed a list of steps that can be taken to ensure that you moving into a new dorm doesn’t lead to polar bears moving out of their homes. Besides checking ACEEE’s recommendations, here are some other ideas from Socket:
School supplies: You would be surprised with how many cool, usable supplies you can now find that are made from recycled materials right here in our country. Look for recycled notebooks, planners, and even pencils and rulers. If you buy your school supplies at a store near you, don’t forget to bring your own reusable bags!
Textbooks: Why buy a textbook that you will use for only a few months? Take advantage of the opportunity to rent your books for an entire semester for very reasonable prices. Check out this website that allows you to compare prices from different rental companies. Pro tip: always read reviews on the companies to ensure they are reliable.
Laundry: If you weren’t a laundry expert before arriving at college, don’t worry. Socket guarantees you’ll become one in the next four years! With laundry, there are a few important things to consider for sustainability. First, wash your clothes with cold water; your clothes will come out just as clean and you’ll save 90% of the energy consumed by your washing machine, which goes towards water heating. Second, buy eco-friendly detergents - here is a list of potential options to make it easier for you to go green while going clean. And last but not least, many of the laundry machines you will encounter in college do not have a setting for choosing different load-sizes. So make sure you pile up a good amount of stuff before running your laundry cycle. You’ll help save water, energy, money, and time!
“New” furniture: If you think you need to buy more furniture pieces than your dorm will offer you, think again! Do you really need an extra night stand, for example? If so, try to purchase a reclaimed one from a vintage shop, garage sale, or flea market near you. In this way, you’re reusing someone else’s furniture and cutting down on waste.
Personal hygiene: Nowadays, it’s easy to fine personal care product-lines that also promote the health of our environment, so you can keep yourself and our planet feeling clean and fresh. Look for environmentally-friendly shampoos, conditioners, and other body care products that are biodegradable and/or organic. There are event toothbrushes made from recycled yogurt cups! Many companies now use renewable energy and other ecologically-sound business practices, so read labels before you buy. Finally, keep your showers short and sweet; 5 minutes should get the job done.
Personal health: Maintaining your personal health and planetary health go hand-in-hand. The notorious “freshman fifteen” is real. Avoid packing on the pounds by filling your plate with fresh foods and healthy plant-based options. Also, drink lots of water from your own BPA-free reusable water bottle. Lastly, avoid driving. Instead, try walking or biking your way around campus. This way, you’ll burn calories instead of fossil fuels. Don’t have wheels? Nashville has a great bike share program called B-cycle where you can easily rent a bike from 36 stations around town.
Avoid food waste: Only take what you need. Don’t get extra food just because your meal-plan has already been paid for and you therefore feel like the food is free. In case you do end up putting more on your plate than you can handle, carry a food storage container with you so you can save the rest of your meal for later.
Coffee: College can sometimes become overwhelming and many students rely on coffee to get through the day, especially when midterms and finals come around. Although there are healthier ways to keep yourself awake than by drinking coffee, if you just love it too much, make sure you purchase a reusable coffee mug for your daily pick-me-up.
As you head to college this fall, remember Socket’s tips for shrinking your eco-footprint and staying healthy and happy. Now, hit the books!
Julie Hornsby was a 2017 summer intern through Opportunity Now with the Department of General Services, Division of Sustainability. She shares her personal story about her interest in sustainability.
I have spent most of my summer working as an intern with Socket, which has been an amazing learning experience. I am a rising senior at Vanderbilt University, where I am majoring in Civil Engineering, with a focus on environmental issues. After I graduate, I hope to work with sustainable urban planning here in the rapidly-growing Music City. With this blog post, I hope to shine light on the journey I have had so far and how my experiences have led me to where I am sitting today, in the Division of Sustainability of Metro Government’s Department of General Services. I am very grateful for the opportunity to see up-close the steps Nashville is taking to become a more environmentally-sound city. I would like to thank the Opportunity Now program for providing me with the financial resources that allowed me to stay here this summer to work with something about which I am very passionate.
At the age of 13, I watched a documentary that changed my life forever. As someone who spent the first few years of her life on a farm, living among cows, horses, and dogs, I always felt that my connection with nature ran deep in my veins. But by the age of 4, I was living in a big city, and the animals and trees that once surrounded me quickly turned into cars and concrete buildings. Life went on and although one might think I was becoming one of those “city kids,” I continued to call myself a nature-lover while having weekly debates with my mom about how caring for animals was more important than caring for people, an idea she could never understand.
In 7th grade, my school decided to take a field trip to the movie theater so we could all watch “An Inconvenient Truth”. I could never have guessed that the 1 hour and 36 minutes I spent looking at that big screen would define me for the rest of my journey on earth.
While growing up, my mom would always tell me that God puts each one of us on this planet for a reason and that every single individual has a mission they need to accomplish before they pass away. At 13 I got a glimpse of what my mission was. My eyes were finally open. Climate change was an issue that could lead to the end of nature as I knew and adored, and I was not about to let that happen.
Fast forward 5 years and I was a senior in high school sitting in one of my favorite classes ever: “Sustainable Economy and Living”. My teacher decided to bring a guest speaker to tell us some stories about his experience with tree-spiking. He talked for about 45 minutes and said many interesting things, but it was the very last part of his presentation that had the most impact on me. In an attempt to appease a group of high-schoolers who were about to embark on their college journeys in just a few months, he said we didn’t have to go around spiking trees to make an environmental statement. To make a positive difference in the world, we could start by changing just a few things in our daily lives. Specifically, he wrote 3 things on the board:
1.) Become a vegetarian
2.) Take 5-min showers
3.) Never buy new clothes again
My eyes were fixated on that board. I had been doing research on how to “go green” since watching that documentary in 7th grade and I considered myself an eco-master. I had become a vegan on my 17th birthday. I was addicted to recycling. I always brought my own reusable bags to the market. I begged my mom to buy only organic produce. My showers lasted no more than 3 minutes. I always chose to take the stairs instead of the elevator. I ensured that all of our paper products at home, including paper towels, toilet paper, printer paper, etc., were all made of 100% recycled materials. And last but not least, I had given up my allowance in exchange for my dad agreeing to switch our energy provider to Green Mountain Energy so that our home could be powered by renewables, which added an extra cost to our monthly utilities bill.
With this in mind, I could put a check next to the first two items of my speaker’s list. But never again buying new clothes?? I absolutely adored shopping for new outfits with my mom and for some reason, I had never once stopped to think about how purchasing a new t-shirt could have a negative impact on the planet of which I took such good care… or at least I thought I did.
So, after all, what was so wrong with new clothes? Well, just like everything else, manufacturing a piece of clothing requires energy, water, and other raw materials needed, such as cotton, in addition to all of the resources and pesticides that go into growing such crops. Thus, when choosing to buy clothes that are second-hand, no virgin materials have to be extracted from nature and used to produce whatever you are purchasing. Also, most of clothes today are produced abroad, in countries that tend to have poorly enforced environmental laws. In China, for example, about 18% of the country’s industrial water pollution can be traced back to textile dyeing and treatment.
Furthermore, I soon realized that purchasing second-hand clothing meant giving new life to something that would otherwise have ended up in a landfill, making thrift-store shopping the ultimate form of recycling. When I became a vegan over 5 years ago, I felt like I had taken up a full-time job as an activist, which was a wonderful feeling that made me feel like a powerful teenager at the time. Whenever I chose to replace my hamburger for a local, organic veggie burger, I was standing up for what I believed in. Adding the challenge to never again buy a new piece of clothing to my list of tasks as a self-proclaimed full-time activist made me feel that same sense of power that veganism had brought about, so soon after I got home from school the day the tree-spiker had visited my class, I announced to my family that the gifts under our Christmas trees would never again look the same as they had for 18 years – and indeed they haven’t.
The End, At Least For Now
Throughout my life, teachers always called me a perfectionist, which I soon learned was more of a warning than a compliment. Before I knew it, the “never buy new clothes again” rule grew a little out of proportion in my hands. For me, those words soon became “never buy anything new again”. And that’s just what I did! From my room furniture, to my shower-caddy, to my kitchen appliances, down to the socks on my feet, everything I purchased since that one class almost 5 years ago belonged to someone else before belonging to me.
The funny part is to see my friends and my entire family stressing over what to get me for Christmas or other special occasions. While my friend Jacquie so generously hands me down outfits she no longer uses, my aunt always writes me a letter trying to explain whatever gift she is sending me in the mail is sustainable: “Hey darling, this pair of earrings was made from wood scraps from a barn in …..”. It’s hilarious and it makes me feel very blessed to have such wonderful and supportive people around me. Although moments like this lead to a lot of laughter, they can also make me feel bad for causing so much inconvenience, but then I remind myself of what my momma taught me.
We all have a mission. If my life choices can, in the very least, influence my friends and family to think about the environmental impacts of their actions and the power we all hold as consumers, then I can believe that, at least for now, I seem to be walking the path that was drawn for me. Join me, as I try my best to replace the carbon footprint humans are known for… leaving behind only the footprints of my own bare feet walking across our natural lands.
July 5, 2017 -- Nashville, TN
Like the country music that made it famous, the city of Nashville, Tenn., has been through some changes in recent years.
Just as the “Nashville sound” of Jim Reeves and Patsy Cline gradually gave way to the more raucous and glitzy contemporary country music of Garth Brooks and Taylor Swift, so has the city itself gone from a quiet little town of less than 180,000 in 1960 to one of the fastest growing urban centers in the South, now with more than 650,000 people and an estimated 85 to 100 more arriving every day.
May 18, 2017
Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation Commissioner Bob Martineau today announced the winners of the 2017 Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Awards. Winners will be recognized for their achievements and positive impact on the state’s natural resources in an awards ceremony to be held in Nashville on June 16.
“These organizations represent the spirit and drive that make the Volunteer State great,” Haslam said. “I thank all of the winners for their individual contributions to the environment and for keeping Tennessee a beautiful state in which to live and work and to visit.”
Read more via TDEC's press release.
June 22, 2017
In 2016, Nashville’s Fire Station 19 received LEED Platinum certification. Then, in June 2017, it was awarded the 2017 Governor's Environmental Stewardship Award (GESA) in the “Building Green” category. This facility that houses the city’s first responders 24/7 has several innovative features and has set the bar for future Nashville city buildings.
Read the whole article from USGBC.
June 16, 2017
Mayor Megan Barry has issued the following statement on the selection of Metro General Services Department Fire Station #19 as winner of the 2017 Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Award in the Building Green category:
“Congratulations to the team responsible for designing, constructing and managing Metro General Services’ Fire Station #19 for earning the Governor’s Environmental Stewardship Award as a LEED Platinum facility built to the highest sustainability standards,” said Mayor Barry. “Constructing high-quality, sustainable facilities like this helps move Nashville toward our goal of being the greenest city in the Southeast, while reducing energy costs and saving taxpayer dollars.”
No holiday says “America” more than our beloved 4th of July and nothing is more associated with 4th of July than grilling and fireworks. With these essentials in mind, the Socket team would like to share a few thoughts on how to make your 4th of July not only red, white, and blue, but green as well.
Although the idea of grilling makes one feel more connected to nature, this outdoorsy activity raises a few environmental and health concerns. In the U.S., most outdoor grillers use either gas or charcoal. You might be wondering which option is better for both you and our planet. Answer: it depends on how one defines sustainability.
Let’s start with charcoal. When burning this material, a significant amount of carbon dioxide is emitted into the atmosphere, especially when compared to the burning of gas. Research conducted at Oak Ridge National Laboratory shows that “gas grills generate 5.6 pounds of carbon dioxide per hour, while charcoal grills produce 11 pounds per hour” (Slate). However, when you look at the components of charcoal, it is only the remains of natural hardwoods when burnt in the absence of oxygen. So when grilling with charcoal, you are essentially burning wood, which is considered a renewable resource if the trees hewed for the production of charcoal are replanted at a rate equivalent to how often they get cut down.
Gas, however, is not a renewable resource. Once it burns, you are unable to sequester the released carbon dioxide and place it back underground in its original form as petroleum, or at least not for millions of years.
A comprehensive study was conducted in the UK to compare the carbon footprint from gas versus charcoal grills, taking into account their entire life cycle, including production, combustion, packaging and transport, and disposal. The study’s conclusion was that gas grills are more environmentally-sound, as their carbon footprint was approximately one-third of the charcoal grills.
If upon considering both of these options, you decide to use charcoal, make sure to buy lump charcoal, as opposed to briquettes. Briquettes are made with additives including nitrate and coal dust that emit Volatile Organic Compounds and contribute to environmental and health problems. Also, less residue ash will be left behind after your grilling session with lump charcoal. Lastly, make sure your charcoal is Forest Stewardship Council-certified so that a new tree is planted whenever another one is cut down.
Finally, when meat is charred at high temperatures (as with grilling), two chemicals are produced: heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Both of these compounds have been classified as mutagenic, which means they have the ability to alter a person’s DNA. Extended exposure to HCAs and PAHs is associated with higher a risk of cancer development. Consider avoiding these chemicals altogether by trying some meatless recipes this year. Here are some tasty recipes to get you started!
Fireworks can create unforgettable experiences and excite everyone in a crowd - except for most dogs and a few people who aren’t quite fond of the loud noises they make. Socket the Dog is not a fan of the noisy light show … he much prefers eating leftover hamburgers (or veggie burgers) from the grill! However, this unique Fourth of July tradition is here to stay, so let’s take a look at it through a sustainability lens. Hint: although fireworks look beautiful while brightening up a dark sky, their sustainability record is not as bright.
What gives color to fireworks are different kinds of metal, including copper and strontium. When fireworks burst up into the sky, the air surrounding them becomes contaminated with airborne metallic particles. The particles can remain in higher-than-usual concentrations for a few days in the air and many eventually dissolve in nearby waterways. Also, most fireworks used across the nation contain a chemical called perchlorate. In the environment, perchlorate can exist either in its solid form; or, when water is present, it will quickly dissolve in it. From a health perspective, this chemical is known for preventing the human thyroid from taking up iodine. Extended exposure to perchlorate can lead to hypothyroidism, which is a disorder characterized by an individual’s thyroid gland’s inability to produce thyroid hormone in sufficient amounts. A study published by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection in 2007 shows that the perchlorate used in the firework displays near the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth ends up contaminating the waterways and soil of nearby areas.
With this in mind, don’t try to have a private firework display in your own backyard. Besides this being illegal in Nashville, it is also polluting and dangerous. So leave it to the experts, and join your fellow Tennesseans as thousands of people convene in downtown Nashville to see the Music City’s famous 4th of July fireworks show. If you are able, consider walking, carpooling, or biking to the show. Remember to bring your own water bottle so you won’t have to spend money and create waste by buying bottled water. Then, settle in, look up, and enjoy the magnificent display we are lucky to enjoy once per year!