Smart Cities of the Future: Self-Charging Cities


Following-up to  Smart Cities of the Future: Self-Healing Construction Materials, this week’s post explores self-charging cities.

As of December 2018, 100 U.S. cities had committed and were on their way to the goal of being powered by 100 percent clean electricity. Across the globe, 1,000 smart city pilots are under construction or in their final urban planning stages, driving forward countless visions of the future incorporating solar power-generating windows, solar panel farms and renewable energy targets.

The City of West Palm Beach, which received a Gold designation from the national SolSmart program, has established a greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goal of “net zero emissions by 2050” through implementation of reduction strategies like solar energy.

Specific actions it’s has taken to achieve SolSmart Gold include:

  • Allowing solar by-right and as an accessory use in all major zones and implementing any zoning ordinance adjustments
  • Providing cross‐training of inspection and permitting staff on solar photovoltaic (PV) via in‐person or online resources
  • Conducted review of state policies related to protecting rights of property owners to install solar and solar system owners’ right to sunlight on their property
  • Installed solar capacity on local facilities, and more

As of 2016, there was 1254 kilowatts (KW) of solar energy installations community-wide. Two of these solar energy initiatives implemented downtown are:

  1. The 17 KW rooftop solar PV panel on the Waterfront Lake Pavilion to generate a portion of energy use from solar.
  2. The “solar trellis” system adjacent to the Lake Pavilion, with another 25 KW of potential solar energy.

Based on a Greenhouse Gas inventory conducted in 2013, the four sectors that emitted the most GHGs are transportation, commercial and institutional buildings, residential buildings, and solid waste.

Per the Florida Department of Environmental Protection’s 75% Recycling Goal Report, the statewide goal of 75% recycling by 2020 is unattainable unless commercial recycling is dramatically increased.

In order to achieve its net zero emissions goal, West Palm Beach has identified six strategies:

  • Building Benchmarking and Disclosure
  • Green Building Feebate
  • Solar Incentives (SolSmart)
  • Transportation Demand Management
  • Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) and Other Vehicle Standards
  • Mandatory Commercial Recycling

“Aided by plummeting costs, future cities will soon surround us with self-charging buildings, green city ecosystems, and urban residences that generate far more than they consume,” writes Abundance Insider.

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