Conditions inside a swine barn can be tough on lighting fixtures. (Photo by Virginia Cooperative Extension via Creative Commons)
Over the past few years, LED fixtures have taken over streetlights in cities and towns across the country. Next up: American agriculture, especially Midwestern hog-confinement operations.
In Washington County, Iowa, the bullseye of hog production in the state, LEDs “are coming on, and increasing in popularity exponentially,” said Jason Prochaska, owner of Sitler’s Supplies. Since his business began selling a combined LED fixture and bulb about 18 months ago, Prochaska said, “We’ve been doing a ton of projects. We’ve probably sold close to 10,000.”
And hog-confinement buildings, which are seemingly under perpetual construction in this part of the world, use a lot of electricity. According to Prochaska, a typical “finishing” building, where hogs spend the last few months of their lives, might have between 40 and 150 lights that would be turned on for 10 to 12 hours a day.
Kansas City was able to save energy use at its 30-story City Hall by changing the timing of heating and cooling. (Photo by Yudha P. Sunandar via Creative Commons)
When cooled air is being pushed into an empty room in Kansas City’s health department or City Hall, odds are good that word will quickly reach the people who oversee such matters – and that they’ll get it stopped in short order.
This city government’s got ESP – the Enterprise Sustainability Platform, a digital system for keeping very close tabs on energy use. It’s one of the most important tools that enabled Kansas City to slash energy use in four of its larger city buildings by an average of 29 percent between 2010 and 2013. Now, the city is aiming to bring those strategies and savings to other large structures in town.
With a federal Department of Energy grant awarded to 10 cities nationwide, the city is angling to get other large property-owning institutions in town to start measuring, or “benchmarking,” their energy use – the first step towards cutting energy use.
“We’re hoping to drastically increase the amount of utility-consumption information disclosure,” said Robert Rives, the city’s facilities manager. “It’s been commonly found that when people begin to look at utility consumption not just as a cost of doing business, but start looking at the data and seeing how much they can save by making operational changes, it puts it more in the forefront of their minds that this is a cost where there is savings available.”
(image via C2ES, click to go to original version)
Compared to other regions of the country, the upper Midwest is one of the pacesetters nationwide for reducing energy use.
As a result, according to new calculations, the states clustered around the Great Lakes will be relatively well-positioned to meet the carbon standards now being developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and state governments.
The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions recently published a map with calculations of how much each state reduced its electricity use in 2012 as a result of efficiency measures, and how that stacks up against the efficiency goal proposed as part of the EPA’s developing new limits on emissions of carbon dioxide.
Kansas City is the largest municipality in Missouri’s PACE district, the smallest is a town of 430. (Photo by Jim Nix via Creative Commons)
Four years after Missouri passed a law allowing Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE), the state is on the verge of launching the first few projects.
“It’s been a long birthing process,” said Nathan Nickolaus, who is on the board of directors of the Missouri Clean Energy District, which administers the program.
As in many of the 31 states that have passed PACE laws allowing municipalities to create a PACE lending program for clean-energy projects, cities in Missouri concluded that they weren’t up to the task of creating a PACE program. Only 25 of those states actually have lending programs in place.
One regional government entity in Missouri considered developing a PACE program, then abandoned the idea because it would have to hire a dedicated staff member to get it done. The city of Springfield also looked into it, but local officials “didn’t feel they had the staff,” according to David Pickerill, executive director of the Missouri Clean Energy District. “It turned out it had to be statewide.”
(Image via MyMeter)
As utilities seek to cut energy use, one of the tactics they’re employing is encouraging customers to modify their habits.
And while data is limited on how effective these so-called “behavior” programs are, some recent reports show promising results.
Four rural electric co-ops in Minnesota, for instance, were able to reduce demand in 2013 between 1.8 and 2.8 percent using MyMeter — a program that gives utility customers more detailed information about their energy use.
While the results trended slightly higher than those of two other carefully-evaluated programs in Massachusetts, their importance goes beyond that. More significant, according to an expert in behavioral energy-saving programs, is the fact that the report adds to the very limited reliable data about the effectiveness of behavioral strategies.
Luther College in Iowa wants to invest in combined heat and power, but says it’s utility’s policies make it cost-prohibitive. (Photo by Justin Berndt via Creative Commons)
An Iowa college that wants to cut its energy consumption says its utility’s rate policies are holding it back.
“We are interested in combined heat and power to save money, and because we want to reduce our carbon footprint,” said Jim Martin-Schramm, a religion professor at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, who also serves as the college’s interim director of the Center for Sustainable Communities. “Right now it’s not a real option.”
The college has looked at the feasibility of a 1.4 MW gas turbine that would generate more than half of the electricity used on the campus each year. It’s projected that the system could also heat the campus through combined heat and power, also known as cogeneration. Martin-Schramm said the system most likely would use either natural gas or gas produced at a nearby landfill.
However, according to the college administration’s math, the fee that their local electricity provider, Alliant Energy, would charge them for sporadic use of grid power — also known as the “standby rate” — is simply too high for the project to be viable.
Bill Satek surveys combined heat and power operations for U.S. Steel. (Photo by Kari Lydersen)
PORTAGE, Indiana — “Feel this pipe,” says Bill Satek, laying a hand on a thick curved pipe inside Portside Energy’s plant on the grounds of the U.S. Steel Midwest mill on the shore of Lake Michigan. The metal is cool. A few feet away is a pipe that looks identical but is almost painfully hot to the touch.
“That’s the beauty of Portside,” says Satek. “That’s what makes this project awesome.”
The difference in temperature represents a significant savings in natural gas used to power the steel mill’s operations, cutting costs for U.S. Steel and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It is part of a larger combined heat and power (CHP) operation that Portside Energy runs on contract for U.S. Steel, harnessing waste heat and using top-notch efficiency measures to provide electricity, steam and hot water for the mill.
FirstEnergy’s Davis-Besse nuclear plant on the shore of Lake Erie. (Photo by Jeff Reutter via Creative Commons)
Two Ohio utilities are pursuing state and federal regulatory actions to help make their coal and nuclear plants more competitive.
FirstEnergy has filed a complaint asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to void May’s capacity auction by grid operator PJM Interconnection to the extent that it includes demand response. Demand response satisfies electricity needs at peak periods as a result of certain users agreeing to temporary cutbacks.
Meanwhile, American Electric Power (AEP) is asking the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) to let it charge consumers for some of the costs for certain coal-fired power plants.
If they succeed, the utilities could get more money for power plants that presumably could not otherwise compete as well against other resources in the electric capacity market.
Koda Energy, a combined heat and power plant in Shakopee, Minnesota, runs on biomass. (Craig Lassig for Midwest Energy News)
Sean Casten and his father, Tom Casten, could be called the country’s family dynasty of combined heat and power.
CHP, also known as cogeneration, is the under-appreciated practice of capturing and using waste heat from power generation to make clean electricity and steam, greatly increasing efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Sean Casten is president and CEO of Recycled Energy Development LLC (RED), an Illinois firm that constructs and runs CHP operations for industrial partners. RED’s chairman is Tom Casten, who has more than three decades under his belt in waste energy recovery.
RED’s most prominent current project is transforming the 125 MW utility complex at Kodak’s Eastman Business Park in Rochester, New York, which provides power and heat to more than 40 tenants and owners. RED is turning the century-old coal-fired station, which already includes co-generation with waste heat, into a highly efficient gas-fired CHP plant.
(Photo by Carlos Lowry via Creative Commons)
While energy-saving efforts have been keeping costs down for Ohio ratepayers, a legislative “freeze” to the state’s efficiency standard raises questions about whether that will continue, particularly with new EPA carbon regulations on the horizon.
The capacity portion of Ohioans’ electric bills will go up for June 2017 through May 2018 as a result of May’s auction by grid operator PJM Interconnection. If it weren’t for energy efficiency, though, experts say the closing price of $120 per megawatt-day (MW-day) for Ohio and various other parts of PJM’s territory would have been even higher.
Last week’s passage of Ohio Senate Bill 310 raises doubts about how much energy efficiency can help Ohio consumers in future auctions.