Long road leads to solar success for Southern Ute tribe

Tenacity paid off for the Southern Ute Indian Tribe on July 24, when they dedicated their newly commissioned and fully operational Oxford Solar Project on the Southern Ute Indian Reservation in Ignacio, Colorado.

The Southern Ute Tribe built their solar array on the mostly unusable Oxford Tract near a substation and just three miles from the tribal building campus.

The Southern Ute Tribe built their solar array on the mostly unusable Oxford Tract near a substation and just three miles from the tribal building campus. (Photo by the Southern Ute Indian Tribe)

The years it took to develop the 1.3-megawatt (MW), ground-mounted solar photovoltaic (PV) system ultimately ensured that the project was a winner for all involved. The array will reduce operating costs for the tribe by offsetting about 15 percent of the energy used by 10 tribal buildings. The siting of the project repurposes more than 10 acres of tribal land that was mostly unusable due to naturally occurring selenium contamination. The Oxford Tract, as the land parcel is called, has strong solar resources, is located near two substations and does not have any endangered or threatened species on it. La Plata Electric AssociationYou are leaving WAPA.gov. which is purchasing the power and providing the grid connection, counts the electricity toward its goal of 20 percent local generation by 2020.

Slow start gathers steam
The Southern Ute Tribe first began to explore the idea of building a PV system in 2006 as a way of diversifying its business interests, and launched the Southern Ute Alternative Energy LLC (SUAE) in 2008. As a for-profit business, the SUAE evaluated solar PV development opportunities on tribal lands from a business perspective. For several years, alternative energy projects remained stubbornly out of reach, too costly for SUAE to pursue.

The turning point came in 2011 when the tribe performed a new feasibility study to look at potential sites and business models. James Jensen, who had recently joined the SUAE staff, recalled that the study was very thorough. “We were open to projects either on or off of tribal land,” he said. “If it was on tribal land, what was the best location? We evaluated environmental factors like whether the land was arable or disturbed or in a floodplain.”

The study also considered the proximity of transmission and substations to potential sites and did economic modeling on hypothetical projects. “We came out of the process with a comprehensive understanding of what would make a successful solar project,” said Jensen.

The findings determined that the Oxford Tract was the most suitable location for a utility-scale solar development, and that a grant was needed to make the project economical.

JumpSTARTing project
Southern Ute Grant Specialist Jody Rosier began working with Jensen on the grant application to submit to the Department of Energy (DOE). Financial help wasn’t the only thing DOE had to offer the tribe, however.

Just as important, Rosier recalled, was the tribe’s participation in the Strategic Technical Assistance Response Team (START) Program. START, a program of the DOE Office of Indian Energy, provides technical assistance to help Native American tribes complete renewable energy and energy efficiency projects. “START analyzed and validated the findings of the feasibility study,” Rosier recalled, “and helped the tribe to establish a relationship with DOE.”

The program also helped the tribe determine the siting of the project near substations belonging to LPEA. “Initially, the project was planned as a ‘virtual metering’ situation, where any kilowatt-hours being generated would offset kilowatt-hours the tribe was using,” explained LPEA Engineering Manager Ron Meier. “Siting the array near a substation was key to making physics work. It really simplified the development process for them.”

Beyond that, Meier added, the purchase power agreement was pretty straightforward. With a budget of $3 million co-funded by the tribe and a $1.5 million grant from the DOE, it was time to start building.

Ready, set, install!
SUAE issued a request for proposals at the end of 2014 for an 800-kW system. It was around that time that the solar industry saw a significant drop in the price of panels. “We were pleasantly surprised when the bids came back to find that we could afford to build a somewhat larger project,” said Jensen.

The tribe chose Boulder, Colorado-based Namaste Solar to design the project for the tribe and install the tracking panels. Jody Rosier noted that tracking technology is becoming more common in new solar installations. “Panels that follow the sun across the sky generate more electricity and that improves a project’s economics,” she said.

The long process that culminated in the July 24 celebration provided the Southern Ute tribe with a thorough education in solar development. Jensen observed that the most important lesson they learned might be to keep the first project simple. He pointed to the selection of a site that did not require an environmental impact study as one factor that kept the project from getting too financially and legally complicated.

Although grants that require matching funds may put projects beyond a tribe’s reach, Rosier encourages tribes that are interested in developing renewable energy systems to investigate available grants. “Grants that require matching funds may not work for tribes,” she warned. “But once the renewable system is up and running, it provides years of sustainable electricity and needs little maintenance.” 

Source: Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs, 7/25/17

Check out Direct Current podcast from DOE

The Department of Energy recently launched Direct Current, a monthly podcast that seeks to present the human side of everything electricity.directcurrent350

Hosts Matt Dozier and Allison Lantero explore such topics as the electric grid, the “soft” costs of solar power, fighting climate change on a bicycle and what happens when a hurricane knocks out the power to whole cities. Fans of National Public Radio will recognize the friendly, conversational style of storytelling. The first episode even parodies This American Life with a skit called This American Lightbulb. The host is named—what else?—Ira Fiberglass.

The September installment, “The Future of Cool,” looks at how new air-conditioning technologies—personal robots!—will keep us comfortable, lower energy costs and fight climate change.

Most episodes clock in at around 20 to 25 minutes and offer a great starting point for classroom discussions. You can subscribe to Direct Current through iTunes or another podcatcher. Also, by subscribing to Energy.gov Updates, you will receive a notice when a new episode is available.

Source: Department of Energy, 9/1/16

DOE announces $25M to accelerate integration of solar into grid

Informational webinar
May 19
12 -2 p.m. Mountain Time

Utilities, solar companies and software developers working on solar energy grid integration solutions will welcome a May 2 funding opportunity announcement (FOA) from the Department of Energy. The DOE program called Enabling Extreme Real-Time Grid Integration of Solar Energy, or ENERGISE, announced that it is making $25 million available for research to modernize the national grid. Energise-graphic350

The amount of solar power installed in the U.S. has increased 23-fold in the last seven years, from 1.2 gigawatts in 2008 to an estimated 27.4 gigawatts in 2015, with one million systems now in operation. A key challenge to furthering solar deployment is the ability to integrate distributed generation sources like rooftop solar panels into the grid while balancing that generation with traditional utility generation. This FOA aims to support companies working to meet that challenge while keeping reliable and cost-effective power flowing.

ENERGISE specifically seeks to develop software and hardware platforms for utility distribution system planning and operations that integrate sensing, communication and data analytics. These hardware and software solutions will help utilities manage solar and other distributed energy resources on the grid and will be data-driven, easily scaled-up from prototypes and capable of real-time monitoring and control.

Funds are being offered for projects addressing two topic areas:

  • Topic Area 1 covers near-term projects to develop commercially ready, scalable distribution system planning and real-time grid operation solutions compatible with existing grid infrastructure to enable the addition of solar at 50 percent of the peak distribution load by 2020. A one-year field demonstration with utility partners is required.
  • Topic Area 2 covers projects that tackle the long-term challenge of developing transformative and highly scalable technologies compatible with advanced grid infrastructure to enable solar at 100 percent of the peak distribution load by 2030. DOE will require a large-scale simulation to demonstrate performance and scalability.

DOE’s SunShot Initiative will oversee the projects funded by this opportunity. The program expects to make 10 to 15 awards altogether. Awards for Topic Area 1 will likely range between $500,000 and $4,000,000 each. For Topic Area 2, DOE anticipates making awards of between $500,000 and $2,000,000 each.

The Solar Energy Technologies Office is hosting an informational webinar You are leaving WAPA.gov. on May 19, 12 to 2 p.m. Mountain Time. All applicants must submit a brief concept paper by June 17. Full applications are due by Aug. 26, 2016.

See the Energy Department news release.

Source: DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, 5/2/16

Around the web: DOE Better Buildings Initiative

Improving the efficiency of America’s building stock would save billions of dollars in energy costs, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and create thousands of jobs. To capture – and replicate – those positive gains in energy efficiency, the Department of Energy launched the Better Buildings Initiative, a partnership of public and private sector organizations across the country.
BBwebinar350
The initiative focuses its strategies within four interrelated key areas to drive change and investment in energy efficiency:

  • Developing innovative, replicable solutions with market leaders
  • Making energy efficiency investment easier
  • Developing a skilled clean energy workforce
  • Leading by example in federal government

Many ways to build better
Building owners in the commercial, educational, industrial, residential and state and local government sectors can get involved in the initiative through a variety of pathways:

  • The cornerstone Better Building Challenge calls on the leadership of companies, universities, school districts, housing developers and state and local government to commit to reducing the energy used across their building portfolios by 20 percent or more over 10 years.
  • The Better Building Accelerators demonstrate specific innovative policies and approaches, which upon successful demonstration, will accelerate investment in energy efficiency.
  • The Better Buildings Summit, May 9-11 in Washington, D.C., brings partners together to showcase solutions and exchange best practices.
  • The Better Buildings Alliance connects members in different market sectors with DOE’s research and technical experts to develop and deploy innovative, cost-effective, energy-saving solutions that lead to better technologies, more profitable businesses and healthier, more comfortable facilities.
  • The Better Buildings Workforce Guidelines provide a national platform for developing high-quality, nationally recognized training and certification programs that are consistent and scalable across the energy-efficiency industry.
  • The annual Better Buildings Case Competition engages the next generation of engineers, entrepreneurs and policymakers to develop creative solutions to real-world energy efficiency barriers for businesses and other organizations across the marketplace. After taking a year off for planning, the competition is back in 2016.

Partner-specific resources
Industrial partners can participate in the Better Plants program that has saved about 457 trillion British thermal units and $2.4 billion cumulatively in energy costs to date. Facilities may also pursue Superior Energy Performance Certification, by implementing an energy management system that meets the ISO 50001 Standard You are leaving Western's site. and demonstrates improved energy performance.

Resources dedicated to residential partners include the online Solution Center, Home Energy Score and  the Zero-energy Ready Home designation to promote high-performance housing. Utility residential program managers will find many tools in these pages to help homeowners control their energy use.

The Better Building Residential Network is available to state and local government partners, as well as residential partners. The membership, which includes utilities, analyzes energy-efficiency programs and shares best practices with the goal of increasing the number of energy-efficient homes. Join their weekly peer exchange calls to discuss such topics as smart homes, the power of messaging, emerging trends in residential efficiency and residential property-assessed clean energy financing.

Get involved
Buildings use close to half of the energy consumed in the United States, so a more efficient building stock can help utilities meet environmental regulations and load management goals. Learn more about  becoming a Better Building Partner or sign up for interactive webinars that explore cost-effective ways to integrate energy savings into their daily building operations. Keep up to date on the latest partner activities and solutions by signing up for Better Buildings communications.

Around the web: Cool summer electricity bills with Energy Saver infographic

We are now officially in the dog days of summer with all its attendant peaks and calls about high electric bills.AroundTheWeb

Maybe you have already sent out our Cooling Tip Sheet bill stuffer, but repetition is the secret to education. Everything You Need to Know About Home Cooling, an infographic from the Department of Energy (DOE), offers another simple and effective way to remind your customers that they can take control of their energy use, even when it is hot, hot, hot.

The infographic starts off with the sobering truth about cooling. Air conditioners use about 5 percent of all the electricity produced in the U.S., and homeowners spend more than $11 billion a year to beat the heat. That sets the stage for the hopeful news that customers can save 20 to 50 percent on home cooling. (Hint: It involves upgrading to a high-efficiency air conditioner, a helpful factoid if your utility just happens to offer an incentive program.)

In addition to advice on efficiency and maintenance, the infographic covers different options for cooling, along with the costs, pros and cons of each type of equipment. There is also a brief explanation of how an air conditioner works and some tips for troubleshooting.

This slide from DOE Energy Saver would make a great handout at your next customer event. (Art by DOE Energy Saver)

This slide from DOE Energy Saver would make a great handout at your next customer event. (Art by DOE Energy Saver)

Energy Saver, DOE’s program to help consumers reduce their carbon footprint, created the infographic as well as a series of slides, available to download. Print the whole series for visuals and handouts at customer meetings and outreach events.

While you are visiting the Energy Saver website, check out other tips and materials you can share with customers. It is always the right season to educate your customers on how to save some cash while improving their comfort. And to help your member services representatives keep their cool throughout the year.

Source: DOE Energy Saver

Catching up on industry news

Welcome to 2015, a time to start fresh and explore new territory. Whether that means launching or updating efficiency programs, seeking out more education or bringing attention to your successes, here are some news items to help you on your way.

Efficiency increases in 2014
Watch for new appliance efficiency standards from the Department of Energy. In 2014, DOE issued a total of 10 new or updated standards, including commercial refrigeration, electric motors, external power supplies, furnace fans, metal halide lamps, wall-unit air conditioners and walk-in coolers. Altogether, these 10 standards will help reduce carbon dioxide emissions by more than 435 million metric tons and save American families and businesses $78 billion in electricity bills through 2030.

Source: Appliance Standards Awareness Project 1/16/15

Regulations matter
According to the Edison Foundation Institute for Electric Innovation (IEI), fixed-cost recovery mechanisms play a significant role in supporting electric efficiency. The 2014 IEI report Redirecting to a non-government site found that investment in energy efficiency depends on state policies that allow utilities to pursue efficiency as a sustainable business as well as state mandates for energy efficiency.

Fixed-cost recovery mechanisms, such as decoupling and lost revenue adjustment, help a utility recover the marginal revenue associated with fixed operating costs. Utilities appear to be more willing to invest in programs to reduce energy use if state regulations allow them to recoup their losses.

The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy (ACEEE) bolsters the IEI report, with nine of the top 10 states on its 2014 State Energy Efficiency Scorecard Redirecting to a non-government site having a fixed-cost recovery mechanism.

Source: SmartWatt Energy News, 1/15/15

Dive into hot water
Drought will continue to be a major concern in 2015, so events that focus on water use may well become the hot ticket. The ACEEE Hot Water Forum Redirecting to a non-government site (HWF) is now in its sixth year of gathering experts to discuss making water hot, distributing it with low losses, and employing efficient fixtures and practices. Professionals from manufacturing; distribution (plumbing); electricity, gas and water utilities; government; and the research communities will meet in Nashville, Tennessee, Feb. 22-24 to learn from each other and build momentum for market transformation.

The conference emphasizes both the technical efficiency potential and the policy implications of service hot water technology and practices, and how people use hot water. In recent years, key topics have included:

  • Standards and rating methods
  • Grid-interactive electric water heating
  • All about heat pump water heaters
  • The latest in innovative technologies
  • Efforts to improve residential water heating efficiency
  • An international perspective on water heating

Utilities still have a great deal to learn about the water-energy nexus  and its potential for cost and resource savings.

Since 2008, this conference has provided a venue for all members of the hot water community to collaborate and share new ideas.

Source: American Council for and Energy Efficient Economy, 1/17/15

Learn something new
If professional development is on your list of resolutions, check out the pre-conference training sessions that kick off the National Conference of the Association for Energy Services ProfessionalsRedirecting to a non-government site (AESP) in Orlando, Florida, Feb. 9-12.

The sessions include:

  • Behavior Change and Energy Efficiency Programs
  • Intro to the Principles of EM&V (Evaluation, Measurement and Verification)
  • Leadership Training for Exceptional Team Performance

The fee for each course is $545, and continuing education units will be available. You don’t have to attend the conference to take advantage of the workshops, but AESP events are always great for networking and expanding your horizons.

Source: Association for Energy Services Professionals, 1/14/15

Get recognition
Submit your successful peak load and demand response management programs, initiatives and achievements for the 12th annual PLMA Awards Redirecting to a non-government site. The Peak Load Management Alliance (PLMA) is accepting nominations through March 2 for the following categories:

  • Program Pacesetter – recognizes outstanding programs that effectively support and deliver peak load management
  • Technology Pioneer – recognizes innovative applications of technology with demonstrated potential to scale
  • Outstanding Thought Leader – recognizes the impact of projects, outreach campaigns and individual contributions that have the potential to shape the industry’s future

You don’t have to be a PLMA member to nominate a program, and self-nominations are appropriate. One or more awards will be presented in each category with sub-categories for Utilities, Regulators, Independent System Operator/Regional Transmission Operator, Aggregator, Marketer, Consumer, Solutions Provider, Manufacturer, Individual, Organization or Project.

The awards will be presented at the 16th PLMA Spring Conference Redirecting to a non-government site, April 28-29, 2015, in Tucson, Arizona.

If you are interested in joining PLMA, the nonprofit now offers membership in three tiers. Utilities and other program providers may now join as associate, advising or sustaining members. Membership offers access to networking events and training, and the opportunity to participate in committees and working groups at various levels.

PLMA provides resources and advocacy for organizations involved in demand response initiatives, recently announced a change to its membership structure.

Source: Peak Load Management Alliance, 1/16/15

Energy Services is always on the lookout for information to help our customers cope with the challenges of delivering power in a changing industry. Feel free to share news items about events, programs, policies and technology that your utility finds useful.

Nominations open for 2014 Wind Cooperative of the Year Award

It is once again time to honor electric cooperatives for their leadership in developing the fastest growing form of generation in the U.S. The National Rural Electric Cooperative AssociationRedirecting to a non-government site (NRECA) has called for nominations for the 2014 Wind Cooperative of the Year Award. All NRECA member cooperatives are eligible to apply, and may nominate themselves or another system. There is no cost to enter.

Sponsored by the Department of Energy in partnership with the NRECA, the annual award recognizes electric cooperatives for commitment to bringing the benefits of wind energy to their customers. Past winners include:

  • Old Dominion Electric Cooperative
  • Rural Electric Convenience Cooperative
  • Iowa Lakes Cooperative
  • Minnkota Power Cooperative
  • Kodiak Electric Association
  • Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative
  • Alaska Village Electric Cooperative
  • Associated Electric Cooperative
  • Illinois Rural Electric Cooperative
  • Western Farmers Electric Cooperative
  • Holy Cross Energy
  • Basin Electric Power Cooperative
  • Great River Energy
  • East River Electric Power Cooperative
  • Golden Valley Electric Association

A panel of expert judges from across the electric power and renewable energy industries will evaluate nominations for:

  • Corporate leadership
  • Innovative marketing
  • Benefits to customers
  • Project creativity

The 2014 winners will receive their awards at the NRECA TechAdvantage ConferenceRedirecting to a non-government site in Orlando, Florida, Feb. 23 to 26, 2015.

To nominate a cooperative, download the nomination form and complete the second page, which must be used as a template for all nominations. Your nomination should explain how the cooperative demonstrated corporate leadership with wind power. The description may also include innovative marketing or customer education associated with nominees’ wind power program, how ratepayers benefited from the project and creative solutions to barriers the cooperative faced in securing wind power. Brevity is a virtue—judges may penalize responses that exceed 1000 words.

Submit the completed forms, along with relevant graphics or innovative marketing material, to:

Randy Manion
Desert Southwest Region
Western Area Power Administration
PO Box 6457
Phoenix, AZ 85005-6457
720-201-3285

All nominations are due by close of business Jan. 5, 2015.

For additional information, contact Renewables Program Manager Randy Manion at 720-201-3285.

Better Buildings Challenge drives greater efficiency in U.S. data centers

better_buildings_challenge_headerA group of data center owners and operators has committed to reduce their energy use by at least 20 percent over the next decade through the Better Buildings Challenge. According to the Energy Department, data centers consumed about 100 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity in the U.S. last year, a number that is expected to grow.

In the first year, partners will share their results, report on the associated energy and cost savings, and develop an energy-metering plan, showcase project and implementation model. The Energy Department will make each company’s data available on the Better Buildings Challenge website.

The 19 new partners joining the Better Buildings Challenge include four national laboratories—Argonne National Laboratory, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Los Alamos National Laboratory and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. The Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Defense and Social Security Administration are among the federal agencies participating in the Challenge. Private industry partners include CoreSite Realty Corporation, eBay Inc., and Staples. These organizations are pledging to improve the efficiency of data centers, which altogether currently consume more than 90 megawatts of power.

As the data management and storage industry continues to grow, improving the energy efficiency of the buildings and operations will be critical to reducing the nation’s carbon footprint. The Better Buildings Challenge supports the goal of doubling American energy productivity by 2030 by working with building owners across the business, industrial, residential, government and education sectors.

Currently, more than 200 Challenge partners have committed to improving the energy intensity of their building portfolios by at least 20 percent over 10 years. The program also provides a forum for matching partners and allies to enhance collaboration and problem solving in energy efficiency. Across the country, Better Buildings Challenge partners have completed upgrades to more than 9,000 facilities with 2,100 buildings improving efficiency by least 20 percent, and another 4,500 by at least 10 percent, compared to their baseline years.

Upcoming deadlines

Announcing the Advanced RTU Campaign

Older, inefficient commercial HVAC rooftop unit (RTU) air conditioning systems can significantly add to a building’s energy costs, and these Energy Hogs are everywhere.  Luckily, several high-efficiency options are available for replacing or retrofitting RTUs that can save money and energy, make your building more comfortable and help the environment. 

The Advanced RTU Campaign (ARC) encourages commercial building owners and operators to evaluate their stock of RTUs and replace older units with high-efficiency ones. Retrofitting newer RTUs with advanced controls can improve their performance as well.  The campaign is a collaboration between ASHRAE, the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), the Department of Energy (DOE) Better Buildings Alliance and several supporting organizations to help speed widespread adoption of these efficient solutions.  Read more about ARC and to join.

ARC provides building owners and operators with information and expertise to lower facility operating costs while maintaining or improving building occupant comfort.  To join the campaign, make a pledge to evaluate opportunities for incredible savings. Participants will be able to:

  • Leverage campaign resources and technical expertise in evaluating savings opportunities
  • Stay informed on innovative RTU technologies and resources produced through the campaign
  • Gain recognition, achievement awards and participate in case studies (pending submitting documentation of implementing a replacement or retrofit)

Organizations that promote high-efficiency RTU technology and best practices (utilities, manufacturers, contractors, etc.) can also join the campaign as supporters.  Supporters are organizations that promote resources, equipment or incentives for replacements and retrofits.  They can be a part of the campaign to help recruit their members or customers to join the campaign and take advantage of its resources.