Tag: Sustainability

Tesla Energy, Brookfield, and Dacra Create the First Tesla Solar Neighborhood in Austin

The installation of solar panels on a residential roof at the first Tesla Solar neighborhood, located in East Austin, photo courtesy of Brookfield Residential

Not only is Tesla building a $1.1 billion Gigafactory in Austin to make trucks and other vehicles, but Tesla Energy is also creating a solar-powered local neighborhood.

Last week, Tesla Energy announced the first Tesla Solar neighborhood called SunHouse at Easton Park, 12 miles east of downtown Austin. Tesla is working with Brookfield Asset Management and Dacra.

“Neighborhood solar installations across all housing types will reshape how people live,” Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, said in a news statement. “The feedback we get from the solar and battery products used in the community will impact how we develop and launch new products.”

Installation of Tesla V3 solar roof tiles and Powerwall 2 battery storage began in June at select homes in the SunHouse community on land in Brookfield Residential’s Easton Park master-planned residential community.

The houses, being built by various homebuilders, start in the low $300,000s and go up from there.

“This initiative brings together multiple parts of our organization with innovative and forward-thinking partners that share a commitment to advance the development of sustainable communities,” Brian Kingston, CEO of Brookfield’s Real Estate business. “As consumers increasingly seek out energy security alongside sustainable places to live, combining Tesla’s solar technology together with Brookfield’s real estate and renewables development capabilities will help us meet demand for environmentally responsible communities of the future.”

“Our goal is to establish that fully sustainable neighborhoods are not only viable, but the best practical and economical choice,” Craig Robins, CEO of Dacra, said in a news release. “Together with Brookfield and Tesla, we are trying to change the world by creating technology-driven, energy-independent communities that make the world a better place.”

The master-planned community of homes seeks to become an energy-neutral, sustainable community and a model for the design and construction of sustainable large-scale housing projects around the world. The community also expects to produce enough energy to supply daily needs and reduce the daily demand on the electric grid. They will also have backup power and they will have the ability to sell excess energy back to the energy grid.

Tesla Solar will provide ongoing oversight of the homes’ energy systems, and Brookfield’s renewable power business will integrate a community-wide solar program to serve broader public use needs and surrounding neighborhoods. Brookfield Residential will also incorporate a suite of technology features, including electric vehicle charging stations in each home and throughout the community.

The City of Austin and Travis County have both announced commitments to sustainable development.

“The City of Austin is excited for the arrival of these affordable options to housing powered by renewable energy,” Mayor Steve Adler said in a news release. “I am excited for the Tesla, Brookfield, and Dacra partnership’s approach to sustainable energy and housing as an example of the out-of-box thinking that continues to make our community a beacon of innovation for the rest of the country and world.”

Going Green is Good for Dell and the Environment

Reporter with Silicon Hills News

David Lear, executive director of corporate sustainability at Dell, courtesy photo

David Lear, executive director of corporate sustainability at Dell, courtesy photo

It turns out going green is good for Dell and not just in a feel good way.

The company not only has greatly reduced its impact on the environment through recycling and cutting carbon emissions in the last decade, but it has generated profits in the process.

Actor and Filmmaker Adrian Grenier, who serves as Dell’s first Social Good Advocate, said he only agreed to do the job if Dell pledged to do real work with measurable results.

“But also, to be realistic, we’re all business people, as an entrepreneur myself, we don’t want to be Pollyanna about it,” Grenier said. “We want to make sure that we are making money as well as doing good.”

Adrian Grenier, photo courtesy of Dell

Adrian Grenier, photo courtesy of Dell

Grenier spoke Wednesday morning with Dell Chief Marketing Officer Karen Quintos during the keynote presentation at Dell World 2015 at the Austin Convention Center.

Dell has taken 30 million plus pounds of packaging out of the waste stream and also saved more than $50 million in the process, Grenier said.

“To me that’s a win-win not only for the bottom line but also creating human value as well,” he said.

In fact, Dell has a list of 21 goals focused on improvements for the environment, communities and people by 2020, said David Lear, executive director of corporate sustainability at Dell. He sat down for an interview with Silicon Hills News during Dell World to talk about the company’s focus on reducing its impact on the environment.

Last Monday, Lear was at the White House in Washington, D.C. to sign the American Business Act on Climate Pledge. Dell and 80 other companies, including its acquisition target: EMC Corp., have signed the pledge to take action on climate change.

The companies have agreed to reduce emissions by as much as 50 percent, reduce water usage by as much as 80 percent, achieve zero waste-to-landfill, purchase 100 percent renewable energy and pursue zero net deforestation in supply chains.

Those initiatives were already underway at Dell, Lear said. In fact, Dell’s headquarters in Round Rock operates on 100 percent renewable energy. And throughout its company, Dell plans to meet 50 percent of its energy needs through alternative energy sources by 2020. Dell has already hit the 40 percent mark, Lear said.

But Dell wasn’t always as focused on being green as it is now.

In 2003, environmental groups targeted Dell at its annual shareholder meeting in Austin and at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas for its lack of recycling efforts. But instead of ignoring their complaints, Dell invited them to its company headquarters to talk about how it could change, Lear said. Michael Dell had meetings with the environmental activists and took many of their suggestions to heart and changed the company’s business practices as a result. Today, even as a private company, Michael Dell still regularly meets with environmental groups and activists to learn about ways to improve operations, Lear said.

Dell is now the world’s largest technology recycler with programs in 78 countries. The company is more than 71 percent of the way to its goal of recovering two billion pounds of used electronics by 2020.

“I think one of the biggest things we did is instead of shying away from some of the interest groups we invited them in,” Lear said. “That’s really been our theme for a long time.”

The environmental groups are generally a bellwether of the future, Lear said.

“So much of what these interest groups have to say is how we plan our future,” he said.

For example, last year, Dell introduced closed loop recycling. It partnered with Underwriters Lab to get certification on 34 products globally made from recycled plastics. So far, the company has collected 4.2 million pounds of plastics that it has recycled back into new Dell products.

A lot of recycling innovation has come from the way Dell packages its computers, Lear said. The company also partners with startup companies to find innovative solutions to packaging problems.

“Dell is willing to try new things and experiment a little bit to test out a new product,” Lear said. “We partner with small entrepreneurs to prove out there is an industry there for them.”

Dell is now doing a pilot program with Newlight Technologies’ AirCarbon to make plastic bags for its notebook computers made from carbon-captured methane gas-based plastics. The startup essentially turns air pollution into plastics.

“Their waste material could become a primary material for a lot of our plastics,” Lear said.

Wheat straw, which is treated, combined with recycled fibers and turned into boxes for Dell, courtesy photo.

Wheat straw, which is treated, combined with recycled fibers and turned into boxes for Dell, courtesy photo.

Dell is also using wheat straw in many of its cardboard boxes for notebooks being shipped from China. The wheat straw is waste material resulting from the harvesting of wheat. In the past, Chinese farmers burned the straw to get rid of it. Now, instead, Dell picks it up and takes it to a plant for processing. The waste is broken down, treated and mixed with other recycled fibers to create new cardboard boxes. The practice not only relies on recycled materials, but also saves tons of carbon emissions from being emitted into China’s air annually from burning the wheat straw, Lear said.

Wheat straw packaging has reduced our environmental impact, created jobs and it’s cheaper than cardboard, Lear said. Dell has also replaced the foam inserts in its packages with bamboo and mushroom-based products.

Dell demonstrates that social good and sustainability can be profitable practices for any business, Lear said.

“Dell has a passion for making a difference and leaving a legacy,” Lear said.

Editor’s note: Dell has provided sponsorship of Silicon Hills News.

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