Posts Tagged ‘faa’

Environmental Smackdown – Aviation v. High Speed Rail

Monday, February 14th, 2011

by Mary Ellen Eagan

I’m inspired by a few recent events to pontificate on this subject; those events are:  (1) Joe Biden’s recent remarks on high speed rail (HSR) in the US, (2) Greg Principato’s response, and (3) a recent session at the TRB Annual Meeting: “Environmental Tradeoffs of Aviation and High Speed Rail”.

First, let me be clear:  I do not think that one mode of transportation is “better” than another.  In fact, I’m quite sure that we have a need for both and our focus should be on complementarity, not competition.  That said, high speed rail advocates in the U.S. are making statements that unequivocally claim that high speed rail is “better for the environment”.  But let’s check the facts, as far as I’ve gathered them (admittedly, a somewhat cursory review):

  • Capacity:  Matt Coogan and others have prepared a comprehensive case study of the impact of high speed rail on aviation capacity in ACRP 31:  Innovative Approaches to Addressing Aviation Capacity Issues in Coastal Mega-regions.  They conclude that while introduction of Acela Amtrak service between Boston and New York has reduced passenger traffic by about 1/3, the number of flights between the two cities has dropped by only about six percent – shuttle operators have just adapted by substituting smaller aircraft on those routes to meet the schedule demand.
  • Noise:  Noise assessments for aviation and high speed rail both rely on Day Night Average Sound Level, but the similarities end there.  The FRA’s HSR Guidance Manual determines impact on noise sensitive communities by comparing project levels to existing noise levels to determine two categories of impact (moderate and severe), while the FAA’s Order 1050.1E determines impact by identifying noise-sensitive land uses that are projected to experience an increase in noise of 1.5 dB or more in those areas already exceeding DNL 65.  To make matters even more complicated, people appear to respond differently to aircraft noise than rail noise (they are more annoyed by it); on the other hand, if the rail vehicle in question is moving fast enough to cause startle (i.e., HSR), it’s not clear whether annoyance reaction is more like aircraft than rail.  Ruth Mazer and I gave a presentation at TRB comparing aviation and HSR in the Boston-New York Acela corridor, using both the FRA methodology and the FAA’s Integrated Noise Model.  We estimated that the number of people exposed to Sound Exposure Levels (SELs) from aircraft flying BOS-NYC high enough to cause speech disturbance (85 dB) ranges from 1,000 to 1,500 (depending on runway, flight path, aircraft type, and airport); whereas the number of people exposed to the same level on the BOS-NYC route is 12,000.  On the other hand, there are close to 30 shuttle flights per day in each direction and only 10 trainsets.  Is it better to expose the same 1,000 people to excessive noise 60 times per day or twelve times as many people only 20 times per day? 
Source: EU Position Paper On Dose Response Relationships Between Transportation Noise And Annoyance, 2002

Source: EU Position Paper On Dose Response Relationships Between Transportation Noise And Annoyance, 2002: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/noise/pdf/noise_expert_network.pdf

  • Air Quality:  Mikhail Chester from UC Berkeley also gave a presentation at TRB entitled, “Life-Cycle Assessment of High Speed Rail:  Total Environmental Accounting”, in which he compared the total air quality outputs from automobiles, aviation, and HSR.  LCA includes not just the operation and maintenance of the vehicles, but the infrastructure development and energy production.  Two interesting figures are presented below, which demonstrate that although emissions per passenger kilometer traveled (PKT) is highly dependent on vehicle loading, HSR consistently produces less CO2 than aviation only when it is assumed that the HSR uses “clean” fuel, and is not a clear “winner” over aviation when comparing NOx.  More detail on Mikhail’s research is here.
Lifecycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Source: Mikhail Chester, 2011

Lifecycle NOx Emissions, Source: Mikhail Chester, 2011

 

Lifecycle NOx Emissions, Source: Mikhail Chester, 2011

Lifecycle Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Source: Mikhail Chester, 2011

I look forward to your responses, and to seeing some real data – especially noise – on this subject.

Celebrating Four Decades of Service: Congratulations LaVerne Reid!

Thursday, December 16th, 2010

by Mary Ellen Eagan

I recently attended the “Rewirement Party” for LaVerne F. Reid, who will be concluding her 40 years of federal service on December 31st.  I have not known LaVerne long (compared with her career), but have gotten to know her since she’s been with the New England Region of FAA’s Airports Division, and have found that I am more impressed with each interaction.  LaVerne is one of those amazing people who make me feel humble in their presence.

The thing that struck me most at LaVerne’s “rewirement” was the absolute sincerity with which every person who spoke said that LaVerne had touched their lives.  Her positive “get-it-done” attitude, respect for the dignity of each person she contacts, and sheer humanity bring out the best in those around her.

Two other real-life heroes I’ve met are Paul Farmer – founder of Partners in Health and the subject of Tracy Kidder’s book, Mountains Beyond Mountains; and Greg Mortensen – founder of Pennies for Peace and author of Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace, One School At A Time.  Both have amazing life stories and amazing books.  At the risk of going all religious on you this close to Christmas, I’ll say that LaVerne, Paul, and Greg are the kinds of Christians that I think Jesus intended us to be.

Best of luck LaVerne in the next phase of your life – I’m sure it will be rewarding for you and those around you!

”]Shovel bearers including Mayor James Ruberto, Laverne Reid of the FAA and U.S. Rep. John W. Olver break ground at Pittsfield Municipal Airport. [Source: iBerkshires 2010]

Solar Guide for Airports Released

Monday, December 6th, 2010

by Steve Barrett

I am very happy to tell you that the FAA has formally released the “Technical Guidance for Evaluating Selected Solar Technologies on Airports”, also known as the Solar Guide.  The Solar Guide is the FAA’s central reference for solar development projects.  For airports interested in exploring solar opportunities, the Guide provides information on appropriate siting, required approvals, and options for funding.  For FAA staff, it provides guidance on technical reviews of issues like glare and radar interference and what type of information may be appropriate to address those concerns. 

Over the past six months,I worked with Dr. Jake Plante from the FAA’s Airport Planning and Environmental Division to draft the Guide.  Phil DeVita and Bob Miller provided critical research and review to make sure the Guide was up to HMMH’s professional standards of quality.  Several other members of HMMH’s technical and communications staff also contributed to the final product.   I think you will find the Solar Guide to be a very easy to read document that will facilitate better communications between aviation and energy groups with a mutual interest in developing solar, as well as enhancing and streamlining the regulatory review and approval of future airport solar projects.

Solar Power International Conference

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

by Phil DeVita

Steve Barrett and I just returned from the 2010 Solar Power International (SPI) Conference in Los Angeles.  This is the premier international solar conference where developers, manufacturers, investors, suppliers and installers gather to discuss all things solar.    HMMH attended the conference promoting our recent siting feasibility efforts at Palm Beach International Airport along with assisting FAA in developing the forthcoming “Technical Guidance for Evaluating Selected Solar Technologies at Airports”.  The guidance document will serve as the central reference for evaluating solar projects at airports and explores the potential benefits and costs of developing solar energy at these sites.

The conference was an international event with an estimated attendance of over 24,000 people, the highest attendance ever for SPI.   The industry is celebrating the rapid growth in the US solar market highlighting successes such as job growth, lower photovoltaic panel costs, state renewable energy mandates, and increased power installments.  Mr. Rhone Resch, President of the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) highlighted some additional statistics including:

  • 93,000 solar jobs in the US;
  • projecting a 26% increase in 2011; and
  • US solar revenue growth of 37% last year

Even with these impressive statistics, there are some unknowns moving forward which could put a slight haze on the sunny outlook.  The industry is hoping for the renewal of the investment tax credit and would greatly benefit from a national renewable energy standard and carbon tax or cap and trade program. Unfortunately, with the current state of politics in Washington, some of these incentives may not be addressed for a while.  However, even with some of the challenges, the solar industry still looks very bright.  Mr. Resch sees continued strong growth in the coming years and has challenged the industry with an aggressive goal of 10 gigawatts of installation (commercial and residential) by 2015!

Other keynote speakers included Biz Stone, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, James Carville and Mary Matalin.  Some of the highlights are as follows:

Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter spoke about how the company was founded and his initial vision of Twitter as a social network to keep people informed and up to date.  He spoke about Twitter’s evolving role from social networking into the business marketing arena to its most recent uses in providing up to date information during catastrophic events such as the earthquake in Haiti and the Chilean miners’ crisis.  He spoke of how Twitter will continue to evolve beyond its current applications.  There is a lot of synergy between Twitter and the solar industry in that both are in their infancy and continuing to evolve and adapt to market demands.

Secretary Ken Salazar gave a presentation of the status of renewable energy projects on federal lands and the commitment of the Department of the Interior (DOI) towards renewable energy projects in the future.  He highlighted the first offshore lease agreement awarded to the Cape Wind project off the coast of Massachusetts along with DOI’s recent commitment to 2,000 renewable energy projects including solar, geothermal, wind and solar thermal projects on federal lands. He also signed the Record of Decision at the conference for the 60 MW Silver State North Solar Project in Nevada which is the first ever solar project approved on federal land.  The Secretary also spoke about the 24 solar energy zones which were identified by DOI as areas for future solar development.  The identification of the solar energy zones will provide an efficient process for permitting and siting responsible solar projects on federal land.  Secretary Salazar did highlight some obstacles that still remain such as transmission and siting new transmission lines on public land. He did indicate that the agency has removed some of the regulatory uncertainty since he came into office and feels the implementation of the Fast Track Process along with the solar energy zones should provide some regulatory certainty to developers.

The final day of the conference provided an entertaining exchange between Democrat James Carville and Republican Mary Matalin on their perspectives on the mid term election and the renewable energy market.  They do not agree too much on politics but they do agree that renewable energy, including solar makes good economic sense.  They both agreed the renewable energy market is very viable and could help the economy come out this recession by continuing to grow the market sector and provide jobs.

What I took away from the conference was that the solar market looks very bright and is one of the few market sectors expected to experience growth in the commercial and residential sector.  With all the gloomy statistics about the economy presented on television and in the newspapers, it was refreshing to be part of an energetic market sector with hope and optimism.

That’s about it from Los Angeles; see you next year in Dallas, TX.

Report from ACI-NA Annual Conference and Pre-conference Workshops

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010

by Mary Ellen Eagan

I’m still collecting my thoughts from nearly a week in Pittsburgh at ACI-NA’s 19th Annual Conference and Exhibit.  Here are the highlights:

GRILogo

I attended the GRI Workshop on Friday, September 24th (that would be the workshop that preceded the pre-conference seminar).  For those of you unfamiliar with the Global Reporting Initiative, it is an international framework for reporting on sustainability initiatives.  Four North American airports (Denver International, Portland International, San Diego International, and Toronto Pearson International) have participated over the last two years in the development of a Draft Airport Operator Sector Supplement (AOSS).  As the name implies, the AOSS is meant to provide additional airport-specific sustainability information that is not already provided through the G3 Sustainability Guidelines, which is the cornerstone of the GRI Sustainability Reporting Framework.  One obvious example is aircraft noise.  Here is a description of the proposed new performance indicator for airports to report on noise exposure:

  • 2.1 Identify the index most widely used in your country or at your airport to calculate the number and percentage change of people residing in areas affected by noise. Where no indicator exists, report using the Day Night Level (DNL), showing the number of people exposed to (55 and) 65 DNL. Where the metric covers a 24 hour period, information on noise during the night-time period can be expressed using a default Leq metric for an 8 hour period. The reporter must define the 8 hour period although flexibility is provided to set the start time to reflect cultural differences (for example, some reporters may regard night as being 22.00 to 06.00, while others may think 23.00 to 07.00 is more appropriate to local circumstances). 
  • 2.2 Specify the metric and the time period adopted and the thresholds applied for calculating exposure. To aid comparability between airports, the reporting threshold chosen should reflect the onset of significant annoyance.
  •  2.3 Report the number and percentage change of people residing in areas affected by noise. If metrics exist to calculate the number and percentage change of people residing in areas affected by noise for both day and night periods, please report information for both.

I’m still trying to interpret this recommendation, but my guess is that U.S. airports will be fine to simply report on the number of people exposed to DNL 65 dB and higher.  What’s not clear is whether airports should also report on the number of people exposed to DNL 55 dB and higher (not a common practice for most US airports).  This is an even more complicated question when you consider the statement that “the reporting threshold chosen should reflect the onset of significant annoyance” in the context of current ISO and other efforts to update the Schultz Curve.

Environmental Affairs Seminar

The Environmental Affairs Seminar was a two-day whirlwind of updates on a range of environmental issues facing airports:

Presentations from the seminar will be posted on the ACI-NA website shortly.

Then the conference began.

The annual conference is generally pretty light on substance (a good thing, after three days of intense meetings), but I did enjoy two sessions in particular:

Nick Bilton, Source: ACI-NA

Nick Bilton, Source: ACI-NA

  • Nick Bilton, lead technology writer for the New York Times Bits Blog gave an engaging keynote address on the use of technology and communication, with a particular emphasis on social networking.  I learned about foursquare, and though I don’t have enough of a social life to take advantage, I can see that it offers potential for airports.  He also showed an amazing video on instantaneous information flow, as illustrated by the death of Michael Jackson.
  • Deb Meehan of SH&E also gave an entertaining update on state of the airline industry.  She emphasized her belief that airline profits in the last 18 months have come at the expense of the traveling public – especially in terms of comfort – and that we should look for airlines to start competing on service.

 Looking forward to next year in San Diego!