California Gov. Jerry Brown signed two bills into law dramatically expanding the state’s plans to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions while also providing increased oversight of that effort by elected officials.
The first public trial of Solar Roadways will soon debut in Missouri, and two European agencies are also testing this type of futuristic technology, which begs the question: Are solar roads closer to reality than we think?
From the sidewalk, the Whole Foods building on upper Market Street looks like any other sleek new development. Essentially, for every square foot intended for solar energy, there would have to be 2 square feet of green space — the idea being that at that calculation the two options would cost roughly the same. Broadly speaking, they include water retention and drainage systems, a waterproofing membrane and plants. An October 2013 study by the urban think tank SPUR on the benefits of green roofs identifies their benefits: reduced storm water runoff, food production through community gardens, improved air quality, better views and an increase in habitat that improves biodiversity. A June 2016 study by the consulting firm ARUP Group that looked at the costs and benefits of green roofs in San Francisco concluded that “owners tend to bear all costs for living roofs, even though the community receives many of the benefits.” Without the use of incentives and other policy investments, the report said, “San Francisco is unlikely to see as rapid an increase in living roof areas as would be preferred for community benefits.” Germany has had a green roof industry for 40 years, according to the SPUR report, with 70 cities there offering “direct financial incentives” and 150 cities requiring green roofs on new construction. Chicago had a three-year grant program that offered a subsidy of $5,000 per project, in an effort to cool the city during the summer. Bottom line, said Barry Hooper, a green building specialist with the city’s Department of the Environment: “One thing that doesn’t make sense anymore is just wasting that space.”
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