By Joan Michelson
Note: This blog is entered into the Masdar 2015 Engage Blogging Contest, to “Describe Your City in 2030” – CLICK HERE for more information and/or to vote for this post.
Changing the infrastructure in a nation’s capital, filled with historic landmarks and powerful, entrenched political interests, as well as heightened security issues, is tricky to start with. Add in the fact that some of those powers do not embrace 2030’s requirements for energy and resource conservation, and it becomes, well, complicated. The components that could be adapted somewhat have been transportation, home power supplies and the water system.
The Silver Line to Dulles Airport and the Purple Line subways were finally shoehorned over and around this historic area, reducing motorist traffic (and related pollution), though there are always people who prefer to drive. At least hybrids and electric cars are the norm, and those of us who drive them take advantage of the preferred travel lanes, which have charging stations at select locations. I also ride the hydrogen-fueled buses to and from the subway and am grateful there are more of them.
Speaking of roadways, driving over solar panel-highways is a bit surreal, since I still worry that they’ll break from all that weight. But being able to charge while I drive (at least on roads that have them) gives me greater peace of mind about driving a 100% electric vehicle.
The utilities are (reluctantly) adapting from dominating the power infrastructure to having competition from various power sources – such as homes.
My home generates so much power from a mini-solar system and a mini-wind turbine on my roof that I’m sending more power to the grid than I’m using, and instead of an electric bill I now receive income from it. I even sell power to my neighbors. So many people have these mini-personal power systems, and “the grid” has now become a web of interconnected microgrids, with battery-enabled storage. It’s drastically reduced the threats of cyberattacks on power systems – a huge deal in the nation’s capital.
I love my decorative stained glass solar panels that replace (some) windows, and my bulbs that adapt to sunlight, using less energy on sunny days.
Office buildings like mine are power-generators, too, with an envelope of photovoltaics around it that absorbs and feeds solar power into the building’s power system. These buildings reduce their energy use by sensing where people are in the building, and adjusting the heating and cooling systems accordingly. It’s much more comfortable too.
The clever DC water people managed to install parts of a cool new water capture system that keeps rain water from hitting the sewer system directly. It redirects water entering street drains to fast, thorough purification systems, which enable the not-so-contaminated water to be recycled quickly. It also facilitates clean water in the city’s parks’ water fountains. The system forwards excess water to a holding area to be transported to water-stressed areas, even out of state. Selling the water captured and purified helps pay for the new system.
The military’s solar backpacks are available to the public now too, so laptops and cellphones can charge anytime with sunlight. Thanks, service members and the U.S. Department of Defense, for these and all the other remarkable energy innovations you’ve come up with. They are great uses of our tax dollars. Happy Holidays.
By Joan Michelson