Pittsburgh’s Commitment to Sustainability Driving Development of Innovative Solutions to Stormwater, Energy Use, and Shale Development Challenges

May 30, 2017

Pittsburgh’s commitment to a sustainable future is driving the development of innovative solutions and new, green technologies that address the challenges of reducing energy usage, addressing stormwater issues caused by aging and inadequate infrastructure, and reducing the environmental impacts of shale gas development.

These efforts and more are captured in detail at PittsburghGreenStory.com, a new resource providing the latest news, data, stories, people and places driving Pittsburgh’s continuing green evolution.

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· Like many older cities served by aging infrastructure, Pittsburgh is challenged by combined stormwater runoff-and subsequent spillage into its three rivers. In response, the City of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA) have released the Citywide Green First Plan, which outlines how Pittsburgh intends to use innovative, cost-effective and green infrastructure approaches to manage stormwater, mitigating local street flooding and sewer backups caused by heavy rainstorms. The proposed management practices will include solutions such as rain gardens, tree plantings, water detention basins, stream restoration, and pervious pavement that mimics natural processes to slow and capture rainwater.

· Pittsburgh startup WindStax builds scalable, vertical axis wind turbines that can operate in urban environments. WindStax manufactures the largest vertical turbines in the U.S., requiring wind speeds as low as five miles. Windstax has pioneered linkages to microgrids and batteries to store energy, using their ZeroFirst™ technology to allow customers to transition between alternative energy sources, smooth supply and demand cycles, and still have public power as a fallback. WindStax turbines are portable, avian-friendly and silent.

· With Pennsylvania at the heart of the shale development boom, Epiphany Water Solutions has developed a process to treat produced water at natural gas drilling sites, reducing the need to transport produced water, which contains high levels of salts as well as trace amounts of metals. The Epiphany distillation process leaves the water cleaner than tap water so that it can be safely returned to the environment. The crystallized salt and material that remains after distillation can also have beneficial uses, resulting in waste reduction of up to 97 percent of the original produced water volume. Epiphany’s solution drastically reduces transportation costs and air emissions.

· Thar Energy, LLC has developed the next generation of sustainable geothermal heating and cooling solutions that offer enhanced energy efficiency and a reduced environmental footprint. Thar Energy differs from other commercial geothermal systems in that its technology uses an established natural refrigerant, recycled carbon dioxide (also known as R744), and its system uses a simpler, more efficient, direct exchange geothermal design. Additionally, carbon dioxide properties allow for the design of significantly smaller diameter tubing capable of being installed in smaller diameter boreholes. Reducing borehole diameter is central to reducing upfront installation costs that have historically hampered the adoption of geothermal technology. The use of recycled carbon dioxide as a refrigerant makes Thar Energy’s system the most sustainable HVAC system available.

· Pittsburgh leads North America in urban properties committed to 50 percent reduction in CO2 emissions, energy and water by the year 2030, as established by 2030 Districts. The Pittsburgh 2030 District’s newly released 2016 Progress Report details how property partners cut $19 million in 2016 energy costs by implementing innovations in lighting, heating, cooling, and ventilation, totaling $53 million in savings since initial reporting. Participants increased total energy avoided 13 percent from last year alone, saving 982 million kBtu — or the equivalent CO2 emissions of driving a car 271 million miles. With 491 participating properties, Pittsburgh leads all 17 established 2030 Districts in committed square footage (including Seattle, San Francisco, and Toronto). The 2030 District initiative also prompted Pittsburgh to become one of 23 cities mandating utility disclosure from nonresidential properties.

Log on to pittsburghgreenstory.com for more on these and other emerging stories, as well as connections to Pittsburgh’s green instigators, expert sources, and video and photography assets. Or, contact us at [email protected]. Story leads are updated regularly.

Pittsburgh Green Story is a collaborative and growing partnership of organizations who are champions of Pittsburgh’s legacy, current, and future green story; it is a project of Green Building Alliance and is funded by the Richard King Mellon Foundation. 

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