A list of external and internal media coverage on the Danish Cleantech Hub.

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World Water Day 2019 – The Future of Water in New York

April 8, 2019 / Posted by adminadmin / Climate adaptation, New York, Urban water

NY Blue Tech, New York’s first international and interdisciplinary water sector network, operates on the mission to help meet the challenges for the water sector in New York through knowledge-sharing.

The annual global World Water Day serves as an excellent occasion to leverage the multi-stakeholder scope of the NY Blue Tech network by convening experts, stakeholders and public decision makers for a day of discussing water sector challenges and opportunities in New York. This year, we decided to center the discussions around how to meet the water challenges through P3s and cross-disciplinary collaboration. A successful water event in Westchester earlier this year teed up the importance of rethinking P3 collaboration within the water sector. Hence, World Water Day symposium provided a unique platform to continue this discussion in a wider New York State setting “New York can benefit greatly from international collaboration on how to manage and implement cross-disciplinary collaboration. As two global frontrunners, Denmark and the Netherlands have successfully innovated the water sector through public-private partnerships. Being able to convene the entire New York water sector to discuss key issues like this is exactly why we co-founded NY Blue Tech in 2017”, said Klaus Lehn Christensen, Director, Danish Cleantech Hub and Co-founder of NY Blue Tech Network.

The first section of the half-day symposium took form as panel debates, where more than 18 speakers where given the opportunity to enlighten the attendees on how they actively focus on improving New York’s water sector by considering P3 collaboration and by applying an integrated water management approach, which recognizes the connection between upstream and downstream water assets. Among the high-level speakers where Josh Mendes, Technical Advisor, DHI Group, a Danish company that serves the US market with innovative technology for asset management and modelling within the water sector: “It is essential that we view the water cycle through a holistic lense. As we strive to future-proof our cities in the face of climate change and increasing density, we have to recognize that energy net-neutrality at our waste water resource plants is connected to how we manage for example stormwater further upstream”, said Josh Mendes, Technical Advisor, DHI Group.

The following break-out sessions proved the immense engagement from New Yorker stakeholders in discussing how we accommodate for future water challenges, and lot least how we finance implementation of long-term solutions.

NY Blue Tech’s 2019 World Water day symposium shed light on the complexity of the public-private partnerships needed to finance the badly needed water infrastructure upgrades in New York, and the US in general. And specifically, it brought together a diverse group of stakeholders together, who collectively identified existing technology and financial tools which are ready for deployment, if stakeholders are willing to take on risk and act.

Read more about NY Blue Tech and how to become a member here

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NYC-Copenhagen Collaboration on Cloudburst Management to be Extended – and Expanded!

September 28, 2018 / Posted by adminadmin / Climate adaptation, New York, Urban planning, Urban water

New York’s Next Nickname: The Big Sponge?

New York City has its nicknames: the Empire City, Fun City, the city that never sleeps. Now, because of a partnership between New York and Copenhagen, another might join the list: Sponge City.

New York, city officials said, needs to do better at dealing with weather phenomena that are becoming more common — cloudbursts, which are especially intense rainstorms that dump enormous amounts of water in a short time. Climate change means cloudbursts are likely to happen more frequently.

So officials have spent three years studying how Copenhagen coped with heavy storm water runoff after a deluge in 2011. A Danish official called it a thousand-year weather event.

The storm drenched Copenhagen with six inches of rain in two hours. Afterward, officials considered ways of making the city more absorbent with design changes, like planting grass to replace asphalt (because asphalt does not absorb rainwater) or lowering playgrounds and basketball courts so they hold water in a storm.

Then in 2012, Hurricane Sandy flooded 51 square miles in New York, about 17 percent of the city’s total land mass, according to city statistics.

When New York officials learned that Copenhagen had developed a master plan to deal with storms and runoff, the two very different cities formed a partnership. Copenhagen’s population is less than 10 percent of New York’s, and Copenhagen covers far less land than do the five boroughs.

“Yours is much, much bigger, but the principle is the same,” said Lykke Leonardsen, a Copenhagen official involved in the partnership. “The idea of creating a new type of infrastructure for the management of storm water is a way of making sure that you do not experience an unwanted flood from sewer water and storm water, because then you’re not just talking about a nuisance but a health issue.”

Officials from both cities decided they needed open space that can, in effect, absorb water like sponges, or at least slow runoff gushing through populated areas during or after a storm. Finding such spaces is a tall order in urban areas, but “sponges” help to keep water out of the sewer system when sewers are overwhelmed in a storm.

“The obvious thing is, why don’t you build bigger sewers,” Vincent Sapienza, the commissioner of New York’s Department of Environmental Protection, said in an interview. “One is, they cost a fabulous amount of money to do, and two, on many residential streets, there’s no room for bigger sewers.”

Ms. Leonardsen said Copenhagen’s experience showed that turning to green infrastructure and solutions like sponge areas had economic advantages.“We found that instead of digging down in underground reservoirs and expanding the sewer system,” she said, “this was much cheaper.”

After the 2011 cloudburst, Copenhagen began 300 projects to drive storm water away from populated areas and manage flooding better. “Copenhagen showed you can take it a step further by creating spaces where you can store larger volumes of water,” said Alan Cohn, a managing director in the environmental agency’s Bureau of Environmental Planning and Analysis.

Adding green space or replacing asphalt with grass could increase the spongelike properties of a neighborhood. And when sewers are overwhelmed by a rainwater runoff, he said, the goal should be “flooding by design” — that is, designing the landscape so water goes where it can be stored temporarily if it cannot be absorbed into the ground.

Designing a basketball court like an amphitheater, with steps leading down, could accomplish that.

On an appropriately recent rainy day, officials from the two cities, along with environmental experts and officials from other cities, gathered at the Center for Architecture in Greenwich Village for a discussion of what could be accomplished through international collaboration.

Susanne DesRoches, a deputy director of the Mayor’s Office of Recovery and Resiliency, said the project with Copenhagen had been “a huge success.” Mr. Sapienza said the partnership would continue and expand to include other cities.

Other officials said it was important to share ideas because each city tends to formulate plans in its own way.

“There’s no cookbook for how to make cities resilient,” Ms. Leonardsen said. “It’s new for us, and we all have to figure it out.”

In 2016, the second year of the partnership, New York began a cloudburst study in southeastern Queens, where storm water drains into Jamaica Bay. Now in the planning stages is a pilot program at the South Jamaica Houses, a public-housing project that dates to when Fiorello H. La Guardia was mayor.

A second pilot-project area is in St. Albans, Queens, which also sustains heavy flooding.

Southeastern Queens is shaped somewhat like a bowl and sits at a low elevation with inadequate sewer infrastructure, officials said, so the city is committing $1.9 billion to reduce flooding and improve street conditions there. The money will go to 45 infrastructure projects to be completed over the next 10 years.

Cynthia Rosenzweig, co-chairwoman of the New York City Panel on Climate Change and a professor at Barnard College, said municipalities across the country needed to think bigger.

“In Europe, they take a larger approach,” she said. “Here, we take a jack-o’-lantern approach,” concentrating on limited projects that are the equivalent of the eyes or the mouth on a Halloween pumpkin. “We need to scale up to the neighborhood level and beyond.”

Read the article on the successful  NYC-Copenhagen collaboration in The New York Times.

Copenhagen-New York Collaboration Leads to Cloudburst Management Being Included in NYC Resilience Plan

The ongoing knowledge exchange between New York City and Copenhagen has lead to a 3-year official collaboration on Climate Adaptation and Cloudburst Management, with Danish Cleantech Hub as local facilitator in NYC.

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Fighting Water with Water

September 21, 2018 / Posted by adminadmin / Climate adaptation, New York, Urban water

A feasibility study, prepared by Danish Cleantech Hub in New York, helped kick off a US journey for the Danish company Environment Solutions, which specializes in flood control barriers.

In the wake of the damages caused by Superstorm Sandy in 2012, along with prospect of severe future flood events and the costs of repair, New York City has taken a proactive approach to climate adaptation, putting flood mitigation and resiliency high on the political agenda. Protecting critical infrastructure from flooding, such as tunnels, roads and railroads, are among the top priorities. Long Island Railroad is a strong case. Comprised of over 700 miles of tracks, Long Island Rail Road is North America’s busiest commuter railroad, and thus a critical infrastructural vein in the City of New York.

Through their partnership with Danish Cleantech Hub, Environment Solutions identified Long Island Rail Road as a potential. public client, and through a strong U.S. contributor, Flood Control Barriers LLC, Environment Solutions was in the right position to win the contract: “Environment Solutions is very excited to be awarded the first public contract in a North American megacity such as New York,, and it truly underpins Denmark as a frontrunner within sustainable flood protection solutions”, says Anders Philipsen, CEO of Environment Solutions.

With the contract Long Island Rail Road aims to prevent critical underground rail tunnels from flooding. Environment Solutions and their distributor will also be responsible for deployment training of railroad personnel.

Read the article here

The Case for Resiliency in Municipal Water

June 6, 2018 / Posted by adminadmin / New York, Urban planning, Urban water

In New York, maintaining municipal water assets has gained added significance in recent years with the high ambitions set forth by OneNYC — a comprehensive, multi-faceted strategy for the city’s development. Here, attention to water infrastructure is a prominent feature, identified within several of the strategy’s visions and subordinate initiatives.

These plans — perhaps most notably a net-zero energy target for the city’s 14 wastewater treatment plants by 2050 — position New York as a national leader in water solutions. Catalyzing evolution in New York’s water scene, the various goals are driving stakeholders to explore novel technologies for more efficient, sustainable water treatment and supply.

The net-zero goal, for instance, has led NYC’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to develop energy conservation measures across all 14 of the city’s WWTPs, including evaluation of opportunities for solar photovoltaic (PV) installations.

By the end of December 2017, construction had begun on a 12 MW cogeneration system at the North River Wastewater Treatment Plant. And at the Newtown Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, waste-to-energy technology has been deployed as part of a codigestion demonstration project ramping up to process 250 tons food waste per day by June 2019, from 60 tons per day achieved in 2017.

“DEP is simultaneously meeting the ambitious OneNYC energy reduction goals and new energy-intensive water/wastewater quality regulatory mandates, while integrating and not sacrificing state-of-good-repair needs,” said Tara Deighan, DEP deputy press secretary, describing the utility provider as “becoming a progressive leader in sustainable operations and resource recovery, seeking the best investments for environmental and social solutions.”

There’s a “robust capital program” financing the aspirations too: N.Y. Governor Andrew Cuomo has made funding of blue infrastructure a priority, with $2.5 billion pledged for 2017-2018 alone.

Still, there is another aspect to the evolution of New York’s water scene, one characterized less by state-of-the-art technology and more by its approach to planning water assets.

Arcadis, a leading engineering firm heavily involved in NYC’s urban development scene, is contributing in no small part to this. “With changing climates, the new normal can be pretty extreme, and with the associated risks urban spaces must be designed to address these circumstances in a proactive, rather than reactive, manner,” said Edgar Westerhof, flood risk and resilience lead at Arcadis.

“Resiliency is about developing assets with an eye towards the future and recognizing how multiple urban systems are connected. It involves raising the bar wherever possible and assuring we’re building for this new normal while safeguarding asset functions of the past.”

A textbook example of Arcadis’s application of this systems-­based mindset is evidenced in its development of the Big U and Waterfront Resiliency Plan of Manhattan, which after much anticipation is slated to break ground on an initial 2.5-mile stretch of sea level defense around lower Manhattan later this year.

Alongside private actors embracing the new ways, so too are public bodies. DEP’s Office of Integrated Water Management is taking an active role in responding to these new circumstances. Leading the office is Alan Cohn, who told WaterWorld: “Resilience involves optimizing the system to absorb shocks more readily. Anything we can do to reduce demand on the system whilst optimizing our resources makes us more resilient to otherwise harmful events.”

Cohn explained that the office’s twofold focus prioritizes demand management (including water conservation) and climate resiliency: “We see the two as very much intertwined, as demand management is a central tool in our climate resilience toolbox when it comes to drinking water supply and sewage.”

Since New York operates a majority combined sewer system, water asset resiliency hinges upon recognition of relationships between combined sewer overflow, stormwater management and water quality.

A prime example of the value of this mindset in action presents itself in the increasingly critical context of tackling New York’s susceptibility to extreme rainfall, or ‘cloudburst’ events. Such events can overwhelm sewers and associated infrastructure, and create localized flooding. With the potential consequences as severe as they are, the circumstances prompted the DEP’s Cloudburst Resiliency Planning Study to assess risks and management strategies, and develop new solutions.

“With Cloudburst we recognized we cannot just upgrade infrastructure and build bigger pipes. Even if we did, there would always be a larger storm above the design standard,” said Cohn.

He continued: “The new perspective is that this isn’t a DEP problem but an issue we need to collectively understand and solve as a city. City agencies with property, streets or parks, need to ask how we can use groundwater management to address flooding and reduce discharge from sewers to harbor.”

Inspired by a program of cloudburst mitigation undertaken in Copenhagen, Denmark — and working with the city under a three-year MoU on cloudburst management that commenced in 2015 — DEP is applying a resiliency lens to address the threat.

Although not at the same scale as in Copenhagen, DEP has multiple cloudburst pilot projects underway. Here, in place of traditional engineering measures to manage stormwater runoff, investment is made in public spaces and so-called blue-green infrastructure. Examples include permeable pavement, rain gardens, and stormwater green streets — assets that can absorb high volumes of water in order to reduce damage to and stress on traditional assets where water would otherwise go.

Remarking on Arcadis’s experiences with similar infrastructure in Pittsburgh, Westerhof said: “We’ve seen that rather than large pumps and extended sewers to prevent flooding or handle water, success is possible through large-scale green infrastructure implementation and holistic solutions.”

Within a DEP demand management program, Cohn explained that incentives for retrofitting building plumbing geared towards reducing loads on sewer system and simultaneously saving on potable water is another kind of solution in play.

These novel solutions can necessitate interagency partnering and carry challenges of their own, but they bring positive consequences across all sorts of metrics high on the city’s political, social and environmental agendas.

“Assessing water supply savings, we’ve been able to quantify reductions in flow to individual WWTPs and consequent reduction in energy consumption for treatment, both before coming through pipes from reservoirs and energy used at WWTPs for treatment. There’s a clear environmental impact,” said Cohn, highlighting that this water-energy link hasn’t always been made explicit. With the aid of Water-Energy Nexus tools developed by DEP, however, it provides a compelling account of holistic approaches.

A DEP Water-Energy Nexus study that quantified benefits associated with four of DEP’s programs during 2015 — green infrastructure, water demand management and conservation, wetland restoration and water supply forestland protection — reports:

• 687 million gallons per year (MGY) of stormwater input to NYC’s 14 WWTPs was avoided via green infrastructure;

• 528 MGY of reduced water demand and associated wastewater treatment via conserving fixtures;

• 133 MGY of reduced water demand via repairs to leaking water mains.

Associated with the programs, the study calculated an estimated reduction in total emissions for 2015 of 178,000 metric tons (MT) of CO2 (which is equivalent to removing approximately 53,000 passenger cars from the road).

Urban green spaces provide recreation areas that align with much needed passive protection of urban watersheds. Image courtesy BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group.


It’s against this backdrop of a progressive water sector that NY Blue Tech has been established. A public-private partnership, NY Blue Tech was co-founded last year by the Danish Cleantech Hub in concert with DEP, NYC Economic Development Corporation, Columbia University, and the Dutch Consulate. Touted as New York State’s first interdisciplinary and international water think-tank, its ethos echoes the city’s ambitions of instilling sustainability and resiliency into its water systems.

One of the co-founders of NY Blue Tech is Klaus Lehn Christensen, project director at Danish Cleantech Hub, a public-private partnership based in NYC working to accelerate cleantech solution sharing between Denmark and New York.

“We saw a need for a forum in which public, private, and academic stakeholders could convene and collaborate around emerging technology and solutions, particularly ones relevant to wastewater and stormwater management,” Christensen said of the network’s founding.

In February 2018, NY Blue Tech hosted its first mini-­conference. Examining the future of water in New York, it brought together the Commissioner of New York City’s public water utility, the Danish water-engineering consultancy DHI Group, the Regional Plan Association and Dutch ONE Architecture.

Such interdisciplinary activities — exploring the intersection of business, politics and civil society — are precisely the kind needed for the multi-sectoral resiliency approach. As Westerhof explained: “The transition we’re seeing towards collaborative planning and collaborative water management relies on people from various agencies coming together — people from public and private sectors, politics and economics, water treatment, parks, infrastructure and so on.”

“But it also requires confidence from local leaders to look towards other places where solutions have been successful before. The Copenhagen MoU is a great example of creating an agenda for collaboration,” he added.

It’s a sentiment shared by NY Blue Tech and Lehn Christensen, who said: “There’s a growing recognition for the value of integrated water management in New York and consequently there’s opportunity for the city to be adopting and adapting European models where these practices have matured somewhat already.”

To facilitate this, NY Blue Tech aims to support knowledge transfer of, for example, Danish water-tech solutions, channeling in proven solutions and expertise. “Introducing world-leading Danish water technology in a New York context is a great asset for the tech transfer and partnership aspirations of the NY Blue Tech network,” said Lehn Christensen.

Cohn, who has been involved in NY Blue Tech since its days on the drawing board, is enthusiastic for the platform created by the think tank, saying: “Showcasing examples from other cities and across the world where innovative solutions have been implemented is inspirational. Connecting people from multiple city agencies together, it becomes an occasion to discuss challenges, experiences and ideas when we simply wouldn’t have done so otherwise. It’s been exciting and I look forward to more to come.”

Artist rendering highlights coastal flooding initiatives featured within the BIG U project. Image courtesy BIG-Bjarke Ingels Group.

Cohn noted that whether it’s multiple agencies, departments or varied stakeholders from disparate industries, there can oftentimes be a disconnect between people seeking solutions to new and emerging problems and the groups with solutions. It’s an ubiquitous issue, but one NY Blue Tech aims to address. In particular, it’s pitched to facilitate the kind of public-private partnerships thought to lend themselves to a resiliency approach.

Describing the scale of challenges faced by water stakeholders amidst the new normal, Westerhof commented: “Solutions should and need to be a shared responsibility, with collaboration between public and private. But I’m confident [that] methodologies, tools, and financial models are evolving rapidly to include this collaborative thinking and planning.”

While cities throughout the U.S. are beginning to adopt systems-based resiliency approaches, it seems New York is getting ahead of the curve.

“We all agree that we’re facing challenges of our lifetimes when it comes to protecting a city like New York. But we’re seeing the city adopting new approaches and implementing things in an impressive way,” said Westerhof. “It’s not just talk, and a lot has been accomplished in the last five years. New York is definitely leading the charge.”

About the Author: William Steel is a freelance reporter covering renewable energy, water and cleantech industries.

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Solving the Blue Infrastructure Crisis

March 27, 2018 / Posted by adminadmin / New York, Urban planning, Urban water

On UN World Water Day together with the NY Blue Tech network and AECOM, Danish Cleantech Hub convened water infrastructure experts from the US and Europe for a trans-Atlantic half-day conference to share findings and best practices.

When addressing innovative funding models, critics assert that public-private partnerships enrich investors at taxpayers’ expense, are more expensive and less accountable, lead to public bailouts and do little to help rural areas. Proponents, on the other hand, say private financing is the only way to make up for the vicious circle of underinvestment in infrastructure, which causes delays and cost overruns.

As context for the overall US infrastructure crisis, The American Society of Civil Engineers grades the nation’s infrastructure a “D+,” estimating that the United States needs to invest $3.6 trillion by 2020. Yet, the US spends just 1.6 percent of its GDP on for example transportation infrastructure, compared to between 5-9 percent by most other developed nations in Europe and Asia.

Most water infrastructure facilities in the US were built in the early-to mid-20th century, and are nearing the end of their useful life. As a water supply example, 62,700 of the country’s 90,000 dams, or 69.3 percent, were constructed before 1970. The panelists included key corporate water industry players such as AECOM, Arcadis, Poseidon Water, as well as NYC’s Economic Development Corporation and Dutch non-profit Water Alliance

In his opening keynote, Chris Ward, Executive Vice President, Metro NYC Chief Executive at AECOM emphasized that “intrusion in nature comes with a price”. This hints at the fact that many of our current water-related infrastructure problems are caused by man’s interference in natural cycles, and that it is impossible to restore nature to what it was. Instead, we should aim at “reintegrate, or mimic, nature in our water-based infrastructure design” to make it future-proof. One example could be toadapt urban planning to pre-existing watersheds, which otherwise can flood urban development if ill-designed. With that, Mr. Ward also touched upon the theme of World Water Day 2018 – naturebased solutions as key for boosting resilience in our management of water resources.

The animated discussion in the panels delved into different innovative partnership approaches to financing, designing, building and operating water infrastructure. While the specialists agreed that there is not one silver bullet model for public-private financing of infrastructure, there was strong sentiment that the public sector needs a reality check in terms of assessing the actual risks cities are facing. In a US context, it was also stressed that local government partnerships with the private sector won’t be enough, hinting at lacking federal funding, as President Trump’s “$1.5 trillion infrastructure investment plan over the next decade” has yet to materialize.

Climate change is seen as a risk factor increases the urgency for acting now in order to future-proof critical water infrastructure assets – especially for coastal cities. Focusing on coastal flooding, the panelists argued for city government’s need to recognize that preventive adaptation measure most often are cheaper than recovery costs. Arcadis emphasized Boston as a timely example, having been flooded three times in the past year alone. On that note, the panelists agreed that we generally have to start valuing water as one of the most critical assets that it is. That natural disasters have a way of releasing financing and policy consensus was another key take-away provided by the panelists. When explaining why New York City rates as one of the frontrunner cities in the US when it comes to storm water resilience and wastewater management, there is no doubt that Hurricane Sandy in  3 2012 caused a bold, accelerated commitment to resilience that wouldn’t otherwise have happened. Rather than waiting for the next disaster, though, the panel agreed that many more public-private financing partnerships are needed to counter the actual critical infrastructure failure risks we are facing.

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Copenhagen and New York Discuss Community Engagement for Cloudburst Collaboration

March 17, 2018 / Posted by adminadmin / New York, Urban planning, Urban water

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Danish Water Tech Eyes the US Market

February 2, 2018 / Posted by adminadmin / New York, Urban water

In an effort to channel these industry-leading technologies into global market opportunities, the Confederation of Danish Industry recently released a global water analysis.

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Danish Cleantech Hub to Talk at Affairs Global Vision | Urban Action series

June 12, 2017 / Posted by adminadmin / Climate adaptation, New York, Urban water

As the only international partner, DCH was invited as an example on how NYC is collaborating internationally on climate adaptation through public-private partnerships. Speaking on the topic of “Addressing Climate Change Through Urban Infrastructure: Water Management as a Model”, DCH spoke on the ongoing collaboration between the City of Copenhagen and NYC on Cloudburst Management and the integration of blue and green infrastructure in the urban landscape.

The backdrop for the event was the one-year anniversary of NYC’s climate adaptation / development plan, OneNYC, and how the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals are being translated and embraced by cities and nations, with a specific focus on public-private partnerships as a key driver.