Top Ten Highlights of Cleantech in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

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Pittsburgh is the second largest city in the state of Pennsylvania, in North Eastern United States. The city is known for its economic influence, especially its steel industry, but is also known for its robotics, financial services, technology, and health care. The city is also home to a number of major worldwide financial institutions, including Federated Investors, PNC Financial Services, and BNY Mellon. The city has also been listed by Forbes and The Economist as one of the “most livable” cities in the United States. Because of the factories, the city has been given a reputation as one of the most air-polluted cities in the United States. In an effort to turn this around, the city of Pittsburgh has been taking a number of steps to increase environmental sustainability and reduce climate change. Here are a few of the highlights of cleantech efforts throughout the city.

1 ) Pittsburgh Penguins Recycling Program. After showcasing their LEED Gold-certified hockey stadium, to further promote environmental sustainability and be known as one of the greenest NFL teams in the United States, the Pittsburgh Penguins have created a new recycling campaign focusing on getting their hockey fans to recycle bottles and cans when they attend the stadium. This campaign focuses on tailgate parties and “aims to ‘clear the zone of recyclable aluminum cans, glass containers, and plastic bottles and cups that fill Heinz Field parking lots.’ This initiative marks the first time that the NHL has collaborated with local environment organizations to spread awareness about recycling to hockey fans.”

2 ) Carnegie Mellon University Green Report Card. Every year the Sustainable Endowments Institute comes up with the Green Report Card for universities located around the United States. In 2011, Carnegie Mellon, located in Pittsburgh, scored a B on the report card. The university received top marks for its programs regarding climate change and energy, food and recycling, green building, student involvement, and transportation. For example, all new buildings on campus must meet at least the United States Green Building Council’s LEED Silver Certification standards. In another example, all students, staff, and faculty are provided with free public bus passes as well as a free shuttle service that takes individuals to locations off-campus. Both are provided in an effort to decrease the number of single drivers to the campus.

3 ) University of Pittsburgh Green Report Card. Much like Carnegie Mellon, the University of Pittsburgh was also included in the Sustainable Endowments Institute’s 2011 Green Report Card and the university received a B-. While its climate and energy grade was a bit lower (but the university did just complete its very first carbon dioxide gas emissions inventory and started making waves in 2010 to become more energy efficient), the university did receive high marks for food and recycling, green building, student involvement, and transportation. For example, over 50 percent of all employees use environmentally preferable methods for transportation, including carpooling, bicycles, and public transport. Furthermore, there are a number of active environmentally-focused student groups throughout the campus that aid in creating and funding various sustainability-related projects.

4 ) Community Ball Field Lights. In recent years, the city has purchased more than two million kilowatt hours annually to light up all the sports fields. Starting in the year 2006, Pittsburgh started converting some of the lights in community ball parks to new fixtures that were more energy efficient. The city then installed a central control system in 2007 for the ball field lights. In the first year along, this project saved approximately 101 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

5 ) Traffic Signals and Street Lights. Pittsburgh did a study and saw that the traffic signals and streetlights, when combined are responsible for 25 percent of total energy consumption in the city. To change this up, in 2008, the city installed LEDs into all traffic signals, replacing traditional bulbs. In 2009, Pittsburgh started an energy efficiency streetlight pilot project to look into saving energy and money as well as improving light quality and public safety. It was a ten month pilot program where vendors donated LED lights to the South Side of the city. The results are being utilized to create a new program to change the street lights.

6 ) Green LEED Buildings. In the last few years, Pittsburgh has passed new green building legislations that would promote the building of green LEED certified buildings throughout the city, including a requirement that all developments that are publicly-financed for more than $2 million or more than 10,000 square feet need to get a minimum of LEED Silver certification. Currently, Pittsburgh is ranked as eighth in the entire nation in regards to total number of LEED certified buildings. Currently, there are more than 35 LEED certified buildings in the city, including the very first green convention center, green university dormitory, green radio station, green public arts facility, and green financial institution in the entire nation.

7 ) Home Energy Audits. There are a number of companies throughout the city that offer home energy audits to make homes much more energy efficient and greener. One such company is Vox Energy Solutions. This company provides home energy audits to see where homes can be made more energy efficient and then provide custom designs for wind, solar, and solar thermal systems that will offer years of energy savings for all homeowners.

8 ) Pittsburgh Renewable Energy Community Project. Created by ACTION-Housing Inc, Pittsburgh Renewable Energy Community Project provides a “community-scale approach to energy efficiency and the use of renewables while creating a mixed-income housing community of approximately 120 units in Pittsburgh.” The program uses the performance goals set up by the Department of Energy and utilizes partnerships with local universities and the green building community to aid in building homes that are affordable as well as carbon-neutral.

9 ) University of Pittsburgh Center for Energy. Centered at the University of Pittsburgh is the Center for Energy. Located in the Swanson School of Engineering, this center is, according to the website, “dedicated to improving energy technology development and sustainability, including energy efficiency, advanced materials for demanding energy technologies, carbon management, and energy diversification.” A number of initiatives currently going on at the Center for Energy include carbon dioxide sequestration and conversion, new sensors for more efficient fossil fuel plans, and novel technologies for harnessing solar energy.

10 ) Pittsburgh Opera Green Initiative. Doing its part to further promote environmental sustainability throughout the city, Pittsburgh Opera started a new green initiative with the primary focus that of obtaining LEED Operations and Maintenance Certification for the Opera’s newest headquarters along the Strip District in the city. It will be the oldest building in the entire city and the very first opera company throughout the United States seeking LEED Certification.

Article by Shawn Lesser, Co-founder & Managing Partner of Atlanta-based Watershed Capital Group – an investment bank assisting sustainable fund and companies raise capital, perform acquisitions, and in other strategic financial decisions. He is also a Co-founder of the GCCA Global Cleantech Cluster Association ”The Global Voice of Cleantech”. He writes for various cleantech publications and is known as the David Letterman of Cleantech for his “Top 10″ series. He is also author of The 2012 Cleantech Directory. He can be reached at shawn@watershedcapital.com.

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Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

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