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PERSPECTIVES

ULI report focuses on renewable energy



Buildings are responsible for 40 percent of global emissions, making real estate a prime target for clean energy initiatives. The Urban Land Institute (ULI) recently released a report (“Renewable Energy Strategies for Real Estate”) aimed at helping landlords recognize the benefits of renewable energy, as well as wade through the myriad of options.

 

QUICK TAKES

  • Sustainable buildings consume 29% to 50% less energy than typical buildings. They also consume 40% less water and produce 33% to 39% less carbon-dioxide emissions and 50% to 70% less solid waste. (Business Insider)

  • About 3.2% of single-family detached homes have installed solar panels. (USAFacts.org)

  • Converting the entire U.S. power grid to 100% renewable energy in the next decade is technologically and logistically attainable, and would cost an estimated $4.5 trillion, according to the energy research firm Wood Mackenzie. (YaleEnvironment360)

 

During the webinar that accompanied the roll-out of the report, several large property managers spoke about how they have implemented solar energy into their operations, and emphasized that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. For example, Prologis only uses 25%–30% of each warehouse roof for panels because their customers don’t use much energy, and there is no need to generate more than required. Others pointed out that each state has its own incentive programs, policies and sunshine, making some areas more economically feasible than others.


The residential solar market experienced its 5th consecutive record year in 2021, growing 30% over 2020 with 4.2 GW installed, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA). According to Florida’s Public Service Commission, the Sunshine State significantly outperformed the national average with a 44% increase in the number of customer-owned power generators in 2021. Despite the increase, less than 1% of Florida homes sport solar panels, meaning there is lots of room for continued growth.


One of the stumbling blocks that keeps solar from being even more popular is the inability to generate energy at night. According to an article in “Applied Physics Letter,” engineers at Stanford University are working on correcting that downside. The team is developing a solar collector that harvests electricity from the temperature difference between the solar cell and its ambient surroundings. In other words, the device makes use of the heat leaking from Earth back into space — an energy flow on the same order of magnitude as incoming solar radiation. The scientists report that their process is simple, inexpensive and “can be used as a continuous renewable power source for both day- and nighttime in off-grid locations.”