Better BTU is a small group of industry experts who monitor and evaluate trends in an effort to forward the development of the biomass industry. Made up primarily of engineers, project developers and businessmen, we use our connections with others in the business (consulting firms, lawyers, financiers, etc.) to bring objective and informative blog posts.
Wednesday, May 9, 2012
San Jose Sets the Emerald Standard for Green Cities
Cities across the U.S. and around the world have proclaimed
themselves as an emerging hub for the clean tech industry. But while some
mayors may have visions of biodiesel-fueled buses and green collar jobs dancing
in their heads, San Jose is leading the charge with its Green Vision plan.
Led by forward-thinking Mayor Chuck Reed, the Capital of the
Silicon Valley adopted the Green Vision, an aggressive 15-year initiative for
“economic growth, environmental sustainability and an enhanced quality of life
for its community” in Oct. 2007. With good leadership, organized planning and
focused execution, the Green Vision has been in full swing for almost five
years and is making marked improvements.
The plan revolves around 10 goals for the city:
1. Create 25,000 Clean Tech Jobs as the World Center of
2. Reduce Per Capita Energy Use by 50%
3. Receive 100% of Electrical Power from Clean, Renewable
4. Build or Retrofit 50 Million Square Feet of Green
5. Divert 100% of Waste from Landfill and Convert Waste to
6. Recycle or Beneficially Reuse 100% of our Wastewater
7. Adopt a General Plan with Measurable Standards for
8. Ensure that 100% of Public Fleet Vehicles Run on
9. Plant 10,000 New Trees and Replace 100% of Streetlights
with Smart, Zero Emission Lighting
10. Create 100 Miles of Trails Connecting with 400 Miles of
Courtesy: San Jose Green Vision
Presently, the city reports it has made the most progress on
the Zero Waste goal, diverting 71% of trash currently headed to landfills. The progress
has been a result of efforts in both upstreaming (working with manufacturers on
reducing the amount of packaging in products) and downstreaming (post-consumer
waste). The Recycle Plus program gives San Jose one of the highest recycling
rates in the nation as it diverts 293,000 tons each year from landfills. The
city estimates it sends 569,000 tons to landfills annually.
In terms of waste conversion, the San Jose Green Vision 2011
Annual Report outlines the city’s plans for 2012 to partner with Zero Waste
Energy Development and begin construction of an anaerobic digestion facility at
the former Nine Par Landfill. Next to the waste water facility, the plant will use organics pulled from commercial wet waste. Additionally, San Jose will partner with Harvest
Power to conduct a feasibility study of an ambitious gasification pilot plant which seeks to generate methane from thermal gasification suitable for use with CNG vehicles.
Both of these actions are in line with the city’s
announcement in 2009 of a $20-million deal with Green Waste Recovery, Zanker
Road Resource Management and Harvest Power. The goal is a facility that will
process 150,000 tons of waste to create 900,000 galls of biogas.
San Jose City Hall. Courtesy: SED Network.
San Jose has also taken advantage of the clean energy
credits and done a large amount of work with solar energy in an effort to
satisfy its second goal. While we’d love to see a thermal waste-to-energy
project in the city, the arduous permitting process may make that difficult.
The city has sent a message throughout the industry that it is always open to
being a demo site for any technology interested and willing to come to the
While we applaud San Jose’s
immense progress in its initiative, the real success is in the format they used
in approaching the problem. The 10th largest city in America is
using a multi-prong technological approach, educating the community and
creating jobs. Organized planning, focused execution and a desire to educate
and involve the community is the winning formula that has other cities green