Earth Day was officially recognized in 1970 when U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson proposed the creation of the holiday in order to call attention to the need for national environmental regulations.
Twenty million Americans demonstrated across the country in favor of the Senator’s proposal, and Congress officially authorized the creation of a new federal agency to tackle environmental issues: the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Today, Earth Day is celebrated around the world as millions of people get involved in their communities and spread awareness for the environmental movement and the fight against climate change.
The theme for this years’ Earth Day, “Invest in our Planet”, couldn’t be timelier. The health of our planet is dependent on businesses and governments working together to decarbonize their operations and preserve our Earth’s natural resources.
At Vicinity, we’re proud to be working with our customers, communities, and local government to decarbonize all our operations around the country.
The path to net zero carbon
This year, our team has made significant progress in our commitment to sustainabilty and decarbonization. To achieve net zero carbon emissions across our operations by 2050, we have begun making critical changes at our central facilities in Boston, Massachusetts, with our other locations to follow.
With the help of eSteam™, we are now able to offer renewable thermal energy to our customers. This innovative carbon-free product is designed to rapidly decarbonize the highest source of emissions in major cities: commercial buildings.
To begin offering eSteam™, we are installing electric boilers, industrial-scale heat pumps, and thermal storage at our central facilities. This year, these plans have become a reality.
Kicking off our electrification plans
Our first electric asset will enter service in late 2024, when we will procure electricity from renewable, carbon-free energy sources such as wind, solar, and hydro to generate eSteam™.
In 2022, our team successfully deconstructed a steam turbine at our Kendall, MA facility. This turbine utilized natural gas, and a 42 MW electric boiler will be installed in its place. The electric boiler will enter service in 2024, allowing our customers to utilize carbon-free electrified steam to heat and cool their buildings.
How will this work? We will purchase wholesale carbon-free power from the grid, import the power to our facility through a co-located electric substation, and convert the power into steam in this electric boiler.
An electric boiler uses electricity to turn water into high-pressure steam. Water is injected across two opposingly charged plates and, as the water strikes the opposingly charged plate, the water completes the electrical circuit and is instantaneously heated into steam. The result will be the generation and distribution of electrified steam—renewable thermal energy.
Boston Mayor Michelle Wu helped commemorate the deconstruction of the steam turbine in November 2022. “It is clear that the work of ensuring our planet remains livable is going to require all of us: every level of government, business, and community,” she noted.
The first business to utilize eSteam™ is Boston-based developer IQHQ, whose like-minded focus on sustainability made our partnership a great fit.
Their development at 109 Brookline Avenue will be completely powered by carbon-free eSteam™, making the office and laboratory space one of Boston’s first carbon-neutral buildings.
IQHQ is also utilizing eSteam™ at its Fenway Center development, a mixed-use campus that will include nearly 1 million square feet of commercial office and lab space. This expansion into the Fenway neighborhood paves the way for more building owners and property managers to leverage eSteam™ for building decarbonization in Boston.
Partnering with MAN Energy on industrial-scale heat pumps
This April, we took another step in our plans to electrify by partnering with Augsburg-Germany based MAN Energy Solutions to develop low-temperature source heat pump systems.
Rather than utilize natural gas, we will work with MAN to install an industrial-scale heat pump complex at our Kendall facility by 2026. Drawing inspiration from success stories in Europe, heat pumps will allow us to extract energy from the Charles River and use it to preheat water for our new electric boiler, improving the overall efficiency of the system.
From there, the water will be returned to the Charles River at a lower temperature so as to not damage the river’s ecosystems.
Over the next few years, our other district energy systems in Philadelphia and Kansas City, for example, will employ similar technologies to achieve net zero carbon emissions and offer eSteam™ to our customers.
Vicinity Energy teams commemorate Earth Day
This year, Vicinity’s teams around the country took action to improve the environment and spread awareness of the environmental movement throughout Earth Week, leading up to Earth Day on April 22.
From cleaning up natural spaces to labelling stormwater drains, our employees take pride in caring for the land around our facilities and bettering our communities for everyone.
Boston and Cambridge
Stormwater drain marking
Our Boston and Cambridge team partnered with the Department of Public Works to label 100 storm drains around our Kendall facility in Kendall Square, Cambridge. The team labelled storm drains with a no dumping sign to help make the drains more visible and to remind people not to discharge hazardous materials, waste, or other pollution into these structures as they flow directly into the Charles River.
Built Environment Plus Scavenger Hunt
Several teams from Vicinity’s Boston and Cambridge locations participated in the Built Environment+ Sustainability Scavenger Hunt. They explored sustainable practices in the built environment and completed daily missions around our offices and their homes.
Stormwater drain marking
Our Philadelphia team used a map from the water department to lay down stormwater inlet medallions at over 60 drains indicating that they lead to the Schuylkill River. This initiative plays a part in preventing water pollution and illegal dumping in our community.
Schuylkill River trail clean up
Our Philadelphia team worked with our neighbors PECO and the Schuylkill River Development Corp to clean up a section of the Schuylkill River trail behind our Philadelphia facility. The group collected more than 20 bags of waste and debris and disposed of it properly.
The Vicinity Philadelphia team hosted a table at Naturepalooza, an annual Earth Day celebration hosted by the Schuylkill Center for Environmental Education. Our environmental craft experiment station used natural materials to make paint, including carrots, grass, and red cabbage.
We also brought along our Carbon Capture cornhole game to teach everyone about the importance of trees, and everyone who played got an organic lollipop.
Our Baltimore team constructed a new pollinator garden at our facility, and planted some native wildflower seeds and a native tree. They also installed some bird feeders and an insect feeder to help the new garden thrive!
OKC River clean up
Our Oklahoma City team recently participated in a joint cleanup event hosted by OG+E Energy Group, along with a total of 80 participants from the OKC area. They picked up trash along the Oklahoma River that flows within a mile of our facility.