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High Performance School Buildings: Energy-Smart Schools That Make a Difference

December 1, 2001

Over seventy percent of U.S. schools still in use today were built before 1960, according to the General Accounting Office. In the next decade, school districts around the nation will have to replace or renovate over six thousand of these buildings, and the school's administrators will aim to construct the best possible learning environments while using limited budgets. At this EESI Congressional briefing, co-hosted by the Sustainable Buildings Industry Council, a panel of experts discussed the concept of a "whole building design" as a way to attain a high performance school building. With an integrated design, a school's various components work together as a whole system to produce an efficient and well-operating building. Another key aspect to creating a high performance building is implementing an energy management program to monitor and reduce energy use wherever possible. In recent years, many legislators, architects, engineers and school officials have begun to embrace this holistic approach to building design and function. Not only will it lower a school building's overall energy costs and environmental impact, initial studies indicate that high performance school buildings also improve student performance.

National Energy Security: Implications for National Energy Policy

October 1, 2001

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) co-hosted a Congressional briefing to examine the nation's current energy system and its vulnerabilities, as well as some of the steps and solutions to providing the nation and the economy a more secure and reliable energy system. The nation's energy system is inextricably linked to national security and economic growth. As a result of recent events, new discussions have emerged regarding power plants and energy infrastructure as potential targets for terrorist attacks. Such an attack would cause major disruptions in power generation and possibly pose great risk to human life.

Superconductivity: A Breakthrough in Electrical Technology

August 1, 2001

The Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI) sponsored a Congressional briefing on high temperature superconductivity (HTS) technologies, which promise lower costs, less pollution, more capacity and other advantages in the transmission of an electric current. All of these advantages are crucial as electricity demand increases and the present infrastructure of wires, transformers and generating plants reaches dangerous levels of obsolescence.The burgeoning energy needs of the United States are not likely to be met by simply building more transmission lines and generating plants. According to the panel of speakers, HTS power applications, which are being tested in several U.S. locations, are expensive and must prove themselves in trials, but the future of the technology is very bright. Superconductors can carry unusually large amounts of electricity without resistance energy losses. Electric power equipment using superconductors typically have double the power capacity with only half the energy losses of the same-sized conventional counterparts. This would have a major impact in reducing the eight to ten percent of power generated that is now lost before reaching the consumer. In addition, HTS has a lower pollution potential because, among other reasons, no oil is needed for transformers and underground cables.High temperature superconductivity was initially discovered in 1986, and research and development by government and private industry has been devoted to HTS for more than 12 years. It is referred to as high temperature because the cooling necessary for HTS is at the boiling point of liquid nitrogen, which is minus 323 degrees Fahrenheit. For comparison, helium, which is used medically in magnetic resistant imaging (MRI), has a boiling point of minus 452 degrees. Because helium costs about $10 for a two-liter bottle compared to liquid nitrogen costing about 25 cents for the same size bottle, it is unrealistic to contemplate helium for "real world" generation and transmission of electricity.