Region Forward Blog

Sustainable suburbs solar power boom in Germany and transit innovation (passes the US by)

Feb 24, 2012


Building a sustainable suburb

Diana Lind has a piece in Next American City that’s getting a lot of attention this week. In the piece she argues that it’s not constructive to blame the housing crisis on the suburban housing boom which predated it. Whether we like it or not Lind argues that suburban sprawl is simply a reality and that it’s much more proactive to try to improve such places and make them more sustainable (and learn from past mistakes in future development).

The prolific Kaid Benfield from NRDC has one suggestion for a place we may turn for ideas for making a sustainable suburb: Plessis-Robinson a suburb of Paris. And before you go dismissing it as something that’ll work in France but not in the US think again: Americans including suburban Americans want walkability and mixed-use development.

Solar power boom in Germany

Get this: The demand for solar power in Germany is so strong that the state is cutting subsidies to the industry to prevent the market from overheating. In 2011 the government predicted new capacity to increase by somewhere between 2500 – 3500 megawatts. Instead new capacity more than doubled that forecast and increased by about 7500 megawatts.

While the effects of the subsidy cut on solar panel manufacturers are unclear the fact that clean renewable solar power is taking on more and more of the energy demand in Western Europe’s most populous country is great news.

Dearth of transit innovation in the US?

Smithsonian Magazine is asking why the United States is sitting back and allowing transit innovation to bloom around the world and not getting in on the action. Citing the growth of high-speed rail in China (while the US can’t seem to muster the political will for even obvious high-speed corridors) and the development of personal rapid transit (PRT) in London South Korea and India as two key examples the magazine deplores the lack of innovation in American transit.

For background: we’ve written about the need for the US to invest in high-speed rail several times on this blog and we’ve also commented on the practicality of PRT.

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