Electro-Tech Expo showcases efficient technology

For the 16th year, a Western customer and an investor-owned utility are teaming up to expose energy professionals in the Upper Great Plains region to cutting-edge equipment and systems and the latest in best construction practices.

US Chamber of Commerce Senior Policy Director Heath Knakmuhs spoke at the 15th annual Electro-Technology Expo last year. The event attracts policy makers as well as experts from across the electronics, construction and utility industries.

US Chamber of Commerce Senior Policy Director Heath Knakmuhs spoke at the 15th annual Electro-Technology Expo last year. The event attracts policy makers as well as experts from across the electronics, construction and utility industries. (Photo by Black Hills Power)

The 2016 Electro-Technology Expo  You are leaving Western's site. will take place, Jan. 21, 2016, at the Ramkota Best Western Inn and Convention Center in Rapid City, South Dakota. West River Electric Association You are leaving Western's site. of Wall, South Dakota, and Black Hills Power You are leaving Western's site. of Rapid City co-sponsor this popular event. Western also supports the Expo as a co-sponsor. UGP Energy Services Representative Georganne Myers said, “It’s a great place for our customers to network and learn so much in one day, and the price is affordable.” Admission to Electro-Technology Expo is $30, which includes qualifying code hours and continuing education credits.

Something for everybody
In fact, the Electro-Technology Expo is designed specifically to bring professionals together. This year’s Keynote Speaker is Mike Eggl, senior vice president of Communications and Administration for Basin Electric Power Cooperative You are leaving Western's site.. Vendors display state-of-the-art, energy-efficiency technology on the exhibit floor where utility program managers and contractors can inspect the equipment and get answers to their questions. Industry experts conduct workshops on topics of concern to power providers, facility managers and building industry professionals.

This year’s sessions include:

  • LED street and area lighting case studies – several sessions plus vendor booths
  • Demand management systems
  • Geothermal systems
  • Energy-efficient lighting technology
  • Home weatherization
  • Sustainability incentives
  • Electrical code classes (three sessions)
  • Motors and drives
  • Heat pump system troubleshooting
  • Hydronic in-floor heating systems
  • Changes in water heater regulations
  • Utility energy-efficiency program overview

Organizers distribute surveys at the end of the event to ask attendees for suggestions on future topics. “We start working on the next Expo the day after,” said Black Hills Power Energy Services Engineer Don Martinez.

Going strong
The value of the Expo shows in its enduring popularity. Attendance has grown over the years to more than 300 in 2015. Part of the growth has to do with an explosion of energy-related technologies. “Each year, attendees can count on seeing something new,” Martinez observed. “So much is happening in the industry, it can be hard to keep up. The Expo is a one-day crash course.”

The speaker roster is drawn mainly from vendors and suppliers, who have the opportunity to reach out to potential customers. Design and construction professionals; facility energy managers; building system specialists and real estate sales representatives, appraisers and inspectors can network with one another. Utility professionals get to meet with attendees from industries that have a profound effect on energy use.

The Expo planning committee has also built relationships with the local trade schools and school of mines. “It’s a chance to familiarize students with different aspects of the energy industry and let them know what kind of careers are out there for them,” Martinez explained. “The Expo is not a job fair, but connections happen,” he added.

Spreading efficiency
Putting on an event like the Expo is a lot of work that many utilities would consider beyond their scope. For Black Hills and West River, however, the Expo is a way to educate customers about equipment and practices that can reduce utility bills and operating costs. Getting trade allies excited about more efficient products to offer their customers has an upstream effect, as well, driving eventual market transformation.

The benefits of creating a forum for sharing information about energy-efficiency technologies and practices are significant enough to get a public power utility and an investor-owned utility to work together. “It is not often you see a joint effort between a public power utility and an IOU,” acknowledged Martinez. “But customer education is an important part of every power provider’s mission.”

For more information about the 2016 Electro-Technology Expo, on either attending or exhibiting, contact Jamie Hill at 605-721-2276.

Workshop focuses on improving irrigation efficiency

Inefficient irrigation systems can be costly—to the grower, the utility and the community—so Western is co-sponsoring a workshop Nov. 18 to help agricultural customers explore resources to tackle the problem.

Lots to learn
REAP Irrigation Energy Cost Savings—From Testing Your Pumps to Financing and Completing the ProjectRedirecting to a non-government site will introduce participants to free equipment-testing programs, grants and incentives to upgrade their agricultural operations. Speakers from Nebraska Public Power DistrictRedirecting to a non-government site (NPPD) and Department of Agriculture (USDA) Rural Development will share:

  • Details on free programs support through NPPD, Western and other agencies
  • Hands-on training on pump testing and using infrared cameras to identify savings on energy-related costs, such as livestock watering, grain drying and shop energy

Best of all, the workshop is free to NPPD members and their agricultural customers. “We are excited about this workshop because it offers a unique perspective,” explained NPPD Energy Efficiency Consultant Ronald Rose. “Irrigation customers will learn about the types of projects that qualify for federal, state and local incentives, and how to design energy efficiency into their projects up front.”

Hear from experts
NPPD is a leader in managing irrigation loads and supporting agricultural customers. Over the past 40 years, connected irrigation horsepower served by NPPD has grown at an annual rate of 4.7 percent. Irrigation accounted for 99 percent of reported peak load controlled in 2010. The power wholesaler’s EnergyWise Pump Efficiency Program offers financial incentives for testing and upgrading eligible electric irrigation pumps to improve overall efficiency.

Irrigation accounted for 99 percent of NPPD's reported peak load controlled in 2010.

Irrigation accounted for 99 percent of NPPD’s reported peak load controlled in 2010.

NPPD recently partnered with a grower and vendor on an innovative pilot project, and Rose will be on hand to discuss lessons learned. The 25-kilowatt solar-powered irrigation system comprising 100 250-watt panels generated 40,000 kilowatt-hours in its first year of operation. “As far as we know, the system is the first of its kind in Nebraska,” he observed.

Visitors to NPPD’s website will find an operating-cost calculator and a status window to check on the daily irrigation control schedule. There is also information about specialized rates, incentives and applying for USDA energy grants.

USDA Rural Development provides from $22.8 to $75 million in grant funding to agricultural producers and small rural business owners interested in improving their energy efficiency or investing in renewable resource technology. The nationwide program is available to businesses in populations of 50,000 or less and to farmers and ranchers.

Veteran training provider
Clean Energy AmbassadorsRedirecting to a non-government site (CEA), which is coordinating the event, has teamed with Western on many successful workshops, including popular infrared camera training. CEA’s free Lunchtime Webinar series presents a monthly opportunity to learn about cost-effective measures and technologies that can help small electric cooperatives save their customers energy and money.

Registration is required, so don’t wait to take advantage of this training opportunity. After registering you will receive an agenda and directions to the workshop site, the NRD Conference CenterRedirecting to a non-government site in Grand Island, Nebraska. For more information about registration or the workshop, contact Emily Stark at 406-969-1040.