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Sustainability: Cities and technology vendors must lead by example

Delta Electronics’ M.S. Huang urges cities and technology vendors to practise what they preach for a more sustainable future.

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M.S. Huang, President, Delta Electronics (Americas), says his company is on a mission “to provide innovative, clean and energy-efficient solutions for a better tomorrow”. These include HVAC solutions, telecom and data centre technologies, renewable energy products and EV chargers.

 

Delta’s own buildings, including its Americas headquarters, incorporate many of these technologies and last year the latter achieved net zero energy building status, with its solar energy generation surpassing consumption.

 

Huang believes this approach of leading by example is key to greater adoption. We asked him more in this Q&A.

 

In cities, where do you see the biggest potential to make a difference with sustainability?

 

We see the greatest potential in buildings and transportation.

 

According to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), buildings make up one-third of global energy demand. The large majority of buildings today are energy-inefficient and, therefore, we must improve them. This is being achieved through the implementation of renewable energy systems, energy storage, building automation, LED lighting, and even smart surveillance that works in harmony to make the building more sustainable, more comfortable and, even more secure.


These changes are being prompted by a more environmentally- and data-conscious population and driven by city leaders, who realise the importance of smart solutions to improve many of today’s urban challenges, from energy costs to pollution and even security.

It’s at this level that we are seeing the most aggressive and innovative developments worldwide. For example, the city of Los Angeles recently announced its commitment to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.

However, there’s more involved than simply declaring intent. Achieving these ambitious goals requires collaboration across the public and private sector and a clear plan of attack heavily reliant on feasibility studies, data collection and analysis, and incentivisation.

 

In LA, part of the initiative will involve a comprehensive solar incentive programme for residents and businesses. In addition, the city must take the time to understand how they are currently using data in order to identify areas for improvement and track progress.

Furthermore, it falls upon the public sector to lead the way by example through implementing changes, such as improved lighting and building management systems, across their own buildings and public spaces.

 

What are the opportunities in transportation?

 

The transportation sector accounts for 23 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions each year, and e-mobility is becoming a global megatrend, transforming vehicle infrastructure worldwide. For e-mobility to be successful in cities, EV charging needs to be ubiquitous, reliable, user-friendly, convenient and, in most cases, fast!

We were recently awarded $3.5 million in funding from the US Department of Energy to advance our EV fast charging technology. This financing will enable us to further develop and validate our charging technology, which will increase charging power from the current home and office charging standard of 7 kW to as much as 400 kW, bringing EV charging time from 8 hours to 15 minutes or less. This is an exciting opportunity, which will have huge implications for the future of smart cities and the adoption of electric vehicles.

 

As you’ll see with the city of LA, in addition to incentivising EV adoption by residents, they are also exploring ways to bring EV technology to public vehicles, such as trash trucks, street sweepers and buses.

 

What are the challenges to cities adopting these technologies on a bigger scale?

 

Cities require stronger strategic planning, higher operational agility and closer mutual cooperation between themselves to achieve their green goals. Stronger strategic planning would help cities formulate roadmaps for the infrastructure implementation and execution of policies that could enable substantial energy savings, such as rooftop PV installation targets, incentives for e-mobility and LED lighting in streets and buildings.

 

Higher operational agility would help cities structure and secure financing schemes for the adoption of low-carbon technologies, as well as realise faster replacement of outdated streetlights and building luminaires.

Also, we believe cities should increase their efforts to openly promote their experience in achieving their green goals and plans so that other underperforming cities can learn from them.

 

While much of the burden to effect change falls on the cities and residents themselves, there are several ways that technology manufacturers can help. Prioritising energy savings and data analytics features will be critical as this movement continues to take hold. Additionally, creating technologies that are modular or cloud-based, which can be easily swapped out or updated to avoid obsolescence, will be key. City officials are faced with this difficult task on a tight budget. As such, they will be hesitant to implement technologies that may become outdated in a few years’ time. Solutions providers must keep pace with technological developments, while making it easy and cost-effective for cities to do so, as well.

 

Delta implements its own technologies within its facilities. What have you achieved/learned?

 

The company is committed to adopting green building designs for all future plants and office buildings, in addition to those the company has donated to schools and businesses abroad. Currently, the company has more than 10 green offices and facilities worldwide, with plans for further expansion across the US, Mexico and Brazil.

We believe strongly in the importance of educating the market and serving as an example and we have been promoting the Delta Green Building concept since 2006. To date, we have created 26 green buildings around the world. Some of these structures are academic institutions that further educate next generations about the benefits of renewable energy, LED lighting, etc., and our own Americas headquarters, based in Fremont, Calif., is an example of net-zero design that incorporates many of our own products, such as building automation solutions, ground source heat pump systems, smart LED lighting and PV systems.

This showcase smart building includes a large solar PV system capable of generating more than 1.0 million kWh of electricity annually. It has also achieved up to 50 percent annual electricity savings (when compared with traditional luminaires) with outdoor and indoor LED lighting systems; lowered the power usage effectiveness (PUE) of the facility’s data centre to around 1.37; and installed a ground source heat pump system that reduces the energy consumption of the HVAC system by up to 60 percent annually. In addition, the facility saves water through a rainwater harvesting system that can provide up to two months’ irrigation resources for the building’s green areas and for toilets.

Delta's Americas headquarters in Fremont, California
Delta's Americas headquarters in Fremont, California

In addition to constructing our own buildings by green standards, we have donated several green buildings, including the NCKU Magic School, noted as the greenest building in the world by The Guardian, and the Min Chuan elementary school, which we helped rebuild after Typhoon Morakot in Taiwan. The latter saved 74 percent energy in 2016, as compared to conventional school buildings of the same size.

 

Among the lessons we hope these facilities teach is to share your advances with the world, so we can learn from each other’s mistakes, build on each other’s successes and, ultimately, advance as a global community.

 

Additionally, we want to emphasise that, while city managers play a key role, private entities must do their part in education and practising what they preach. We must serve as the example to demonstrate the effectiveness of our technologies, in order to encourage adoption and understand how and where we can improve.

 

We devote much of our efforts toward R&D, which is largely informed by how our technologies are performing in real-time across our corporate offices and manufacturing facilities. This ensures we’re bringing the best to our customers.

 

What’s next in sustainable technology?

 

We see smart technologies advancing toward predictive solutions that can interpret data and make changes automatically, as well as fully networked solutions.

Looking ahead, all the components of our cities – EV chargers, lighting systems and the buildings themselves – will communicate with one another, working toward a common goal.

 

 

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