INFRASTRUCTURAL ECOLOGY AS A PLANNING PARADIGM: TWO CASE STUDIES
Free (open access)
Volume 13 (2018), Issue 2
187 - 196
HILLARY BROWN, FAIA
Moving beyond conventional mono-sectoral planning and management of urban systems, ‘infrastructural ecology’ advances a multi-objective, holistic design approach. Planned integration across the sectors of energy, water, sanitation and waste allows for reciprocal exchanges across two or more systems, leveraging synergies and providing multiple co-benefits. By reducing overall throughput of matter, eliminating wastes and avoiding carbon-intensive technologies, this paradigm offers a model for critical services provision for the next 2 billion people in emerging economies – both those moving to cities and particularly those who remain in rural poverty. Two exemplary cases, one in India, another in Brazil, reveal the efficacy of renewable power produced by cooperative, cross-sector initiatives. The first, Omnigrid Micropower Co., Pvt., Ltd. (OMC) realized a workable bottom line for solar-powered generation that serves some of India’s poorest, rural citizens when combined with the power demand from the telecommunications sector. OMC’s remote small to mid-size solar power plants today serve nearby telecom tower base stations and deliver community energy needs through mini-grids and adapted power equipment that eliminates expensive wiring for household service. These installations not only electrify villages, they provide permanent jobs. In the second case, Itaipu Binacional, the entity behind the world’s largest generator of renewable power, the 8-km (5-mi)-wide 14 GW Itaipu hydro-electric dam, had sustained degradation of water quality in its reservoir from the area’s agricultural waste. It partnered with farmers to develop an Agroenergy Condominium that used distributed biodigesters to process the waste from local corn production and farmer’s herds, producing biogas sufficient to energize 2,200 households while yielding high quality fertilizer. The Agroenergy Condominium and OMC’s cross-sector solution are both examples of strategic investments addressing energy poverty, improving quality of life, and increasing economic productivity while keeping carbon contributions level.
biogas, hydropower, infrastructure, microgrid, photovoltaics, solar energy, waste