Market Intelligence

Green & Sustainable Construction

Renewable Energy & Distributed Generation Technologies

Renewable energy is truly the best source of power for all of our project needs. Nonrenewable energy forms, such as fossil fuels, are not sustainable over the long term. Each type of renewable energy outlined below has advantages and challenges, including initial installation expense. However, appropriate application of these technologies can be economically advantageous over the long run, as major corporations and homeowners alike are discovering in their facilities and homes..


Distributed Generation & Cogeneration

Distributed generation is a technology that is used to create the power required for a facility at the point of use. Cogeneration is a form of distributed generation. In cogeneration systems, the system produces power at the point of use and also uses the waste heat generated by the process for other purposes within a facility. In green design, we strive to minimize waste and effectively use as much of a process as possible.


Photovoltaic Systems (PV)

Photovoltaic systems produce DC power, which can easily be converted to AC through an inverter. You may also want to consider PPA (Power Purchase Agreement) which is a financial arrangement in which a third party invests in your facility by installing solar panels , on space they lease, and selling you the power.


Wind Power

Wind turbines are being constructed throughout the world at an impressive rate, as utility and other private and public companies and organizations invest in a long-term, reliable energy source that is not subject to dramatic price increases or shortages caused by civil unrest, political changes, or the economy. Although small wind energy systems can be constructed to reduce a customer’s electricity bill, wind turbines are more often built by utility companies, private corporations, or government entities.


Stand-alone wind systems can offer power in areas that are far from the nearest utility grid. Wind systems can also be connected to utility grids provided they meet certain criteria. Factors such as wind resource maps, local terrain, size of the property, and local zoning codes determine the suitability of a wind system for a particular location. These systems generate AC power, which is then converted to DC, and back to AC to regulate the voltage. The technologies continue to change and vertical axis turbines, horizontal axis turbines, and many other new innovations continue to arise. Do your homework, keeping in mind that for commercial facilities, it is most prudent to know your wind patterns and durations before you make any decisions.


Wind energy systems involve a significant initial investment, but are competitive with conventional energy sources over time. The life cycle cost analysis will include factors such as the type of system, wind resource at the site, electricity costs, and how the wind system will be used. The increasing volume production of wind system equipment is expected to continue driving overall costs down.


Not without its controversies (including aesthetics and danger to birds), wind power offers tremendous potential for renewable energy, provided it is managed correctly. This includes measures such as proper site assessments before constructing wind turbines and avoiding high-risk areas such as breeding grounds, flyways, and habitats for endangered species. With wind power suppliers increasingly working together with environmental organizations like the Audubon Society, there is great potential to take advantage of this endlessly renewable energy source.


Water Power (Hydroelectric)

Hydroelectric power is obtained from the potential energy of water. It may use dammed or kinetic water, which drives a water turbine and a generator. These systems supply both public utilities and private commercial companies.


Hydroelectric systems generate AC or DC power. They require a minimum of 3' of steady head (height between the water source and its outflow) to be buildable. Like wind turbine systems, permitting is often the biggest issue with hydroelectric power.



Exerpted from Green Building: Project Planning & Cost Estimating, available through RSMeans.

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This article is an excerpt from the book Green Building: Project Planning & Estimating which can be purchased through the RSMeans Bookstore.

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