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New York Mayor Announces Environmental Initiatives; Full GHG Audit a First Step

Mayor Bloomberg announced his initiatives at Bloom Energy—formerly Ion America, a SORFC (solid oxide regenerative fuel cell) start-up.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced a series of initiatives advancing an ambitious environmental agenda for New York City and its municipal government.

Key components of the plan include the creation of the Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability within the Mayor’s Office of Operations; the undertaking of a major greenhouse gas inventory for City government and the City overall; the appointment of a Sustainability Advisory Board to advise the City on environmentally sound policies and practices; the appointment of a special advisor on sustainability; and the creation of a new partnership with the Earth Institute of Columbia University to provide the City with scientific research and advice on environmental and climate change-related issues.

The Mayor made the announcement during a visit with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to Bloom Energy in Sunnyvale, California, where the Mayor and Governor talked about the State of California’s sustainability initiatives. Bloom Energy—formerly Ion America—is a well-funded startup tackling the development of solid oxide regenerative fuel cells for the distributed co-generation of electricity and hydrogen.

The Office of Long-term Planning and Sustainability has a three-fold mission: to help develop a plan for the City’s long-term growth and development, as the Mayor announced in his State of the City address; to integrate sustainability goals and practices into every aspect of that plan; and to make New York City government a green organization. In addition, on an on-going basis, the Office will coordinate the City’s various efforts that contribute to a cleaner environment and make more efficient use of resources. Finally, once a long-term sustainability plan is established, the Office will be responsible for tracking, measuring, and reporting the City’s performance against the targets set in the plan.

As a first step, the City has been undertaking a greenhouse gas inventory to measure the total climate change impact of the municipal government’s operations since a key element in achieving sustainability is reducing the volume of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. The inventory seeks to measure the carbon emissions from all City government operations from electricity consumption in City buildings to the tailpipe exhaust of City-owned ambulances and the results will be released this Fall. Further, the Mayor announced the launch of an unprecedented effort to measure the entire carbon emissions of throughout the City. This much broader effort, with a target completion date within six months, will provide the first picture of the total carbon impact of everyone who lives in, works in, or visits New York City.

Gov. Schwarzenegger and Mayor Bloomberg discussed ways that California and New York could collaborate in reducing greenhouse gas emissions during a tour of the Bloom Energy facility.

NASA developed the concept of the solid oxide regenerative fuel cell (SORFC) in the 1990s. The SORFC combines electrolysis with fuel cell operation to produce hydrogen from the water by-product of the fuel cell reaction. In charge mode, the SORFC functions as an electrolyzer and regenerates reactants (e.g., hydrogen and oxygen) from stored products (e.g., water). In discharge mode, the SORFC functions as a fuel cell which generates electrical energy from reactants (e.g., hydrogen and oxygen from ambient air).

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Depiction of charge mode and recharge mode in a SORFC. Click to enlarge. Bloom Energy’s vision of the development pathway of SORFC hydrogen-electricity co-generation. Click to enlarge.




SORFCs sound like one way of "peak shaving", that is to use energy when it is abundant and create it when it is needed for peak demand. Even though pumped hydro is more efficient, this might work where the extra land is not available.


While more efficient, pumped hydro may or may not be more cost effective. Much, much less lead time is needed to assemble a reserve system envisioned by Ion Power, so, if feasible, solid-oxide, renewable fuel cells could help in shifting to a dependence upon intermittent, renewable energy such as photo voltaic, tidal and wind.

The advantage to peak load / backup turbines fired with diesel or natural gas is the relative low cost and ease to implement. To move away from a dependence upon fossil fuels, means supplanting it with something cleaner, cheaper, safer and potentially just as commonplace.

John Collins

Please see our website for in-place cleanup of contaminated soil and groundwater.

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