Modeling Sustainability

Sandia aims to lead in the transformation toward a sustainable, carbon-neutral environment while increasing mission effectiveness, resource reliability, and resource security.  

For Sandia, sustainability means making balanced environmental, social, and economic decisions about developing, operating, and maintaining its sites to meet the human and mission needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations. Our Laboratories are part of a larger community; the impacts of sustainable development on our sites extend beyond the physical boundaries. To that end, Sandia is actively engaged in finding and implementing innovative, sustainable solutions for its sites and the nation. Learn more about our commitment to environmental responsibility.  

As part of our climate security efforts, Sandia will model the way forward in site sustainability. We are developing plans to achieve net-zero emissions at the Sandia Albuquerque and Sandia Livermore sites, including decarbonizing our energy supply, reducing mission-critical emissions, and incorporating sustainability into building renovations. 

Net-Zero at Sandia

“Net zero” can have several definitions. For example, a net-zero energy building combines energy efficiency and renewable energy generation to consume only as much energy as can be produced onsite through renewable resources over a specified time period. On the other hand, a net-zero emissions building refers to the balance between the amount of greenhouse gases produced and the amount removed from the atmosphere. Executive Order (EO) 14057: Catalyzing Clean Energy Industries and Jobs through Federal Sustainability directs the Federal Government to achieve net-zero emissions buildings by 2045 and net-zero emissions operations by 2050.
The Federal Greenhouse Gas Accounting and Reporting Guidance defines the different types of emissions and how to calculate them. According to this document:
  • Scope 1 emissions result from generating electricity, heat or steam from sources owned and controlled by the agency. This includes stationary combustion, mobile combustion, fugitive emissions and industrial process emissions.
  • Scope 2 emissions are indirect emissions associated with the consumption of purchased or acquired electricity, steam, heating or cooling.
  • Scope 3 emissions are indirect emissions not covered by scope 1 or scope 2. They occur as a consequence of agency activities but originate from sources not controlled by the agency.

Executive Order (EO) 14057 outlines an ambitious path to achieve net-zero emissions across Federal operations by 2050. In support of this path, each agency is required to develop a strategic plan to address the following goals:

  • 100 percent carbon pollution-free electricity on a net annual basis by 2030, including 50 percent 4/7 carbon pollution-free electricity;
  • 100 percent zero-emission vehicle acquisitions by 2035, including 100 percent zero-emission light-duty vehicle acquisitions by 2027;
  • a net-zero emissions building portfolio by 2045, including a 50 percent emissions reduction by 2032;
  • a 65 percent reduction in scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions, as defined by the Federal Greenhouse Gas Accounting and Reporting Guidance, from Federal operations by 2030 from 2008 levels;
  • net-zero emissions from Federal procurement, including a Buy Clean policy to promote use of construction materials with lower embodied emissions;
  • climate resilient infrastructure and operations; and
  • a climate- and sustainability-focused Federal workforce.

Sandia’s executive management offices and larger laboratory complex are located on Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Covering over 26 square miles and 6.9 million gross square feet of buildings, the site serves more than 13,000 employees. Scope 1 emissions account for almost half of the greenhouse gas emissions and another 40% are considered scope 2 emissions.

Sandia Albuquerque Emissions by Source in 2020

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For the Albuquerque site, we are developing a strategy to achieve net-zero emissions by 2045. Our current focus is identifying strategies for reducing scope 1 and 2 emissions. Almost 40% of the scope 1 emissions are fugitive emissions related to our R&D efforts. The most common fugitive emission at Sandia is SF6, a greenhouse gas used in electrical insultation that has a global warming potential 22,000 times greater than carbon dioxide. Strategies for mitigating the release of this potent greenhouse gas are currently being studied and implemented.

In an effort to decarbonize our energy supply, Sandia is partnering with Kirtland Air Force Base (KAFB), the Federal Aviation Administration, and the City of Albuquerque to explore siting for a large concentrating solar power plant to provide resilient energy to both Sandia and KAFB.

Sandia opened our second main site in California’s Livermore Valley in 1956. From a small group of employees, the Livermore site has grown to 1,600 employees and 71 facilities across 410 contiguous acres. Infrastructure at this site is shared in part with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.

Sandia Livermore Emissions by Source in 2021

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Sandia is developing a vision to achieve net-zero emissions at the Livermore, California site by 2040. The vision has four main components:

  1. Reduce energy consumption through energy conservation measures for existing facilities, efficient space and master planning, and new facility design standards
  2. Improve system efficiency using district energy and geothermal
  3. Optimize renewable energy with solar photovoltaic cells and wind power
  4. A climate and sustainability-focused California workforce

Integrating renewable energy into a Sandia Livermore microgrid with energy storage, local generation, and utility sources will provide climate resilient infrastructure to meet mission deliverables.

To achieve net-zero emissions and resiliency at our Livermore site, Sandia will draw on diverse technologies, many of which contain capabilities derived from Sandia R&D, including:

  • Resilient microgrid design and operation to ensure power to critical services during electric grid disruptions (e.g., earthquakes, cyberattacks)
  • Interoperability of distributed energy resources (solar PV, batteries, etc.) with controllable loads (heating and cooling, electric vehicle charging, etc.), including cybersecurity considerations
  • Energy storage materials, sizing, and controls to enable safe, resilient, and efficient operations
  • Characterization, modeling, and performance assessments of new and emerging renewable energy technologies

Sandia Albuquerque

Robin Jones

Sandia Livermore

Howard Royer