Energy giant NRG is breaking ground on something they’re calling the company’s new “Ultra-Green” headquarters in New Jersey today, and while the building is loaded with green goodies, we’re much more interested in the company’s overall transition to a more sustainable energy future. NRG is using the occasion of the groundbreaking to announce that it intends to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions by 90 percent — yes, 90, by 2050, with an interim goal of 50 percent by 2030.
That’s particularly ambitious coming from NRG’s 2014 baseline emissions, which already clock in at 40 percent less than its 2005 emissions thanks partly to its recent forays into clean energy technology (you can see why NRG is a frequent topic over here at CleanTechnica).
The NRG Ultra-Green Headquarters
Leah Seligmann, NRG’s Chief Sustainability Officer, took some time out to share a few thoughts with us earlier this week so we’re going to share that with you.
But first, did you know that the headquarters of that “other” energy giant, Koch Industries, was one of only five buildings in the entire state of Kansas to qualify for a 2008 Energy Star energy efficiency award?
That sounds really great but those of you who follow Koch Industries are probably thinking that it all goes downhill from there, and by and large you are right.
With that in mind, let’s take a quick look at NRG’s Ultra-Green headquarters.
The NRG Ultra-Green Headquarters
We have a thing for reclaiming brownfields and other pre-developed sites for new construction, but aside from that the Ultra-Green Headquarters is designed as a showcase and best practices model for the energy consumer of the future.
NRG’s transition status comes in right up front, since the building is not designed to function exclusively on renewable energy (it has a dual fuel combined heat and power system for heating and cooling). However, the site includes two solar fields that provide for part of its electricity consumption. When the solar fields come up short, an agreement with our friends over at Green Mountain Energy provides the building with with 100 percent renewable grid-supplied electricity.
Other highlights include rainwater harvesting and more than 50 EV charging stations with a vehicle-to-grid system enabling the vehicle batteries to “backfeed” power to the site when needed.
About That 90 Percent Goal…
Those of you familiar with NRG probably know what direction the company is heading in to get to that 90 percent goal.
Among its clean tech ventures, NRG is going mano a mano with Tesla Motors for bragging rights to the EV fast-charging market, it is the developer of Ivanpah (the world’s largest concentrating solar power plant, located in the Mojave desert), and it jumped out of the starting gate to get in on the Interior Department’s lease program for Atlantic coast offshore wind energy.
Realistically speaking, new clean tech is only part of NRG’s strategy. In our conversation, Seligmann explained that NRG is also focusing on carbon capture from a bottom line perspective. Newer coal fired power plants will still be operating for decades given the average lifespan of 40+ years, so creating new value out of waste carbon is part of the business model.
On the main, though, NRG is looking at an energy future that relies heavily on fuel diversity and consumer interaction, with solar, wind, distributed energy generation, and energy storage playing key roles.
Seligmann had a lot of other interesting insights to share in terms of clean energy branding and energy consumer choice, but we’ll save that for another time.
Update: You can catch a livestream of the groundbreaking ceremony here at 1:00 p.m. today EST.