In Phoenix, each year we ask, “Can it get any hotter?”
Yes. Yes, it can.
Right now, the city of Phoenix is in the midst of a heat-related public health crisis declared by former mayor Greg Stanton. We haven’t done enough to safeguard those who due to illness, age, circumstance, or accident suffer heat stroke or worse.
There has been a steady increase in articles on heat intensity in the news, the word “temperature” has been searched a steadily increasing amount in the time since google started recording its search terms in 2004.
When you’re running a business in an environment like Phoenix, Arizona, it can be hard to find a balance between keeping building occupants cool, especially in the summertime. As a state, we have evolved from insulating our buildings with adobe clay and saguaro cacti to the beloved air conditioner. Long gone are the days of having to reside along the salt river in order to stay cool, even in Arizona, with over 100 days of over 100-degree-weather every year.
Are we facing just another buzzword phenomenon, or are “smart cities” truly a step forward in the right direction to improve urban planning?
This blog is in response to the Phoenix Business Journal (PBJ) article, “Burn notice: Climate change threatens Phoenix” written by Mike Sunnucks.
Untenable, unsustainable and unlivable – these despairing words are the opening to a bleak prediction of Arizona’s economic growth and climate change.
As a city, Phoenix has faced increasing temperatures that are 7.4 degrees above normal, a hike in heat-related health impacts and deaths, rapid population growth that’s gone from 375,000 in 1950 to 4.6 million people today, and policymakers who deny climate change as an issue.
For every problem, there’s an opportunity for change, innovation, and growth. Even with the economic, political and environmental issues, “Arizona is in a unique position to turn a potentially disastrous situation into viable opportunities,” Ketan Patel, CEO of Naya Energy.
It might be the serial entrepreneur or eternal optimist talking, but Ketan sees “the rising temperatures in Maricopa County as an incredible opportunity for innovation.” Threatening climate change could “promote new approaches on how we, as a community, pursue solar, energy demand, wind, storage and cooling efficiencies. Many of these issues require a level of innovation and collaboration that are just not required elsewhere in the world today. However, what we make of our reality today, will be the global reality for tomorrow.”
This presents Arizona with a unique opportunity; to lead the world in energy innovation, testing, and validation.
The Demand Impact of Solar Energy in Arizona
During the summers in Phoenix, temperatures can reach above 100˚F after dark. This increases the need for residents and businesses to blast their air cooling systems nonstop, day and night. However, in the future “R-22 will be removed from manufacturing as a coolant, this means that less efficient alternatives will be used. This presents new problems of efficiency and pressure for HVAC systems that will have to be solved.”
Wouldn’t it be better to use Arizona as the testing grounds to develop and test the boundary conditions of new innovative technologies, as compared to Southern California, where solar demands are dramatically lower after dark?
As noted in the PBJ article, “the biggest challenge is the Phoenix economy still is driven by growth.” In fact, the U.S. Census Bureau found Maricopa County to be the fastest-growing county in the nation – with 222 people added per day in 2016.
If we are to meet Arizona’s growing energy needs, Ketan insists “we collaborate and think beyond the conventional limitations of a down-stream grid. Concepts like Virtual Power Plants and distributed energy generation and usage must become part of the dialog.”
Energy storage is going to become an increasing necessity as we use alternative power to meet growing energy needs. The current Lithium-ion battery option doesn’t work in high-heat environments, as it reduces its battery life and efficiency. “This is another reason why Arizona would be incredibly important for this revolution, it is a problem that we will have to overcome,” stresses Ketan.
Arizona’s strained energy usage and increased temperatures pose a unique competitive advantage in building energy-related innovations and technologies.
Articles like “Burn notice: Climate change threatens Phoenix” combat the common perception that everything is fine. But after we understand the problem, what are we going to do about it?
“I, for one, look forward to the challenge of meeting our energy needs in a high-heat intensity environment, and by doing so, leading the world in energy innovation.”
Written by Charlotte Oliva, Marketing Team and quoted by Ketan Patel, CEO of Naya Energy.