APPA honors WAPA customers for service, innovation

Congratulations to the four WAPA customers who were among 18 individuals and 10 utilities to receive awards at the American Public Power Association’s National Conference in Orlando, Fla., on June 20. Lincoln Electric System You are leaving WAPA.gov. (LES), Colorado Springs Utilities, You are leaving WAPA.gov. Fort Collins Utilities You are leaving WAPA.gov. and SMUD You are leaving WAPA.gov. earned recognition for their service to the public power industry and its member-customers

Continuing to excel
LES, a Nebraska municipal utility, earned the E.F. Scattergood System Achievement Award for outstanding accomplishments that enhance public power’s national prestige, improve customer service and demonstrate an earnest, coordinated effort on the part of the system.

LES distributes the Energy Detective Kit at schools to help students and their parents save money and electricity.

LES distributes the Energy Detective Kit at schools to help students and their parents save money and electricity. (Artwork by Nebraska Energy Office)

In 2016, LES unveiled the state’s largest and first utility-scale solar array, Lincoln’s 5-megawatt (MW) community solar facility. Customers can invest in virtual solar panels, receiving credits on their bill. Improvements were also implemented to the utility’s rate structure to encourage energy efficiency and protect customers sensitive to bill fluctuation.

In the community, LES’s Energy Detective Kits teach students and their parents about saving energy, reducing water usage and lowering their household bills.

With a 99.99-percent reliability record, the utility continues to take strides to make sure its power remains dependable. Its mobile meter-reading project upgraded nearly all of the system’s 137,000 analog meters.

Supporting community
An established and evolving community safety program won the Community Service Award for Colorado Springs Utilities of Colorado. This award recognizes “good neighbor” activities that demonstrate commitment to the local community.

The community safety program, which has been a cornerstone of the municipal utility’s community involvement for 20 years, provides educational outreach in schools and at community events to audiences of all ages. Each year, almost 15,000 students, adults, contractors and first responders learn about gas and electric safety and about the safe and efficient use of utility services.

“Your Nose Knows! Natural Gas Safety,” an outreach program by Colorado Springs Utilities, teaches children about natural gas safety. Shown: Safety education presenters Ray Anderson (in blue) and Tom Hutchison (in white) and the students of Colorado Springs School District 20 Woodmen-Roberts Elementary.

“Your Nose Knows! Natural Gas Safety,” an outreach program by Colorado Springs Utilities, teaches children about natural gas safety. Shown: Safety education presenters Ray Anderson (in blue) and Tom Hutchison (in white) and the students of Colorado Springs School District 20 Woodmen-Roberts Elementary. (Photo by Colorado Springs Utilities)

Recently, Colorado Springs Utilities revised and retargeted the education program to meet specific curriculum needs in schools and incorporate more messaging that is interactive and inquiry-based. “SafetyCircuit: Electric Safety and You” uses a live electric demonstrations board to show students the safe use of electricity indoors and outdoors, and how electricity affects our daily lives. An interactive live explosion demonstration is part of “Your Nose Knows! Natural Gas Safety & You,” a program teaching students about the properties and origins of natural gas and safety practices to prevent natural gas emergencies.

Increasing residential program participation
Fort Collins Utilities in Colorado and SMUD in California were among the four utilities to receive the Energy Innovator Award for utility programs or projects that demonstrate creative energy-efficiency measures or technologies. Eligible demonstrations can either improve customer service or increase the efficiency of utility operations. Judging criteria also includes transferability and takes into account project scope in relation to utility size.

The Efficiency Works-Neighborhood pilot program attempts to overcome barriers for customer project implementation, such as time and lack of money. The pilot is the next step for the Efficiency Works-Home program.

The Fort Collins Efficiency Works-Neighborhood pilot program attempts to overcome barriers for customer project implementation, such as time and lack of money. The pilot is the next step for the Efficiency Works-Home program. (Artwork by Fort Collins Utilities)

Fort Collins Utilities was honored for its successful Efficiency Works-Neighborhood You are leaving WAPA.gov. pilot program, which tested a streamlined process for home efficiency upgrades. The streamlined process made efficiency upgrades easy for customers by offering a choice of three packages—good, better and best—each custom-made for their homes. The packages provided upfront rebates, used standardized pricing, eliminated the need to get multiple contractor bids and ensured the quality of all completed work.

Over an 18-month period, the pilot program tripled the number of customers proceeding with energy-efficiency improvements and renewable systems installation. The upgrades lead to 50 percent greater electrical use reduction, 70 percent greater natural gas use reduction and 60 percent greater greenhouse gas savings per home.

Piloting cooling efficiency
SMUD received the Energy Innovator Award for its work with the hyper-efficient Climate Wizard air conditioner. You are leaving WAPA.gov. Manufactured in Australia, the Climate Wizard has the potential to use up to 90 percent less energy to cool the same space as an equivalent refrigerated system.

SMUD tested the Climate Wizard cooling system on two commercial customers to find out if the technology could be an effective peak-shaving measure.

SMUD tested the Climate Wizard cooling system on two commercial customers to find out if the technology could be an effective peak-shaving measure. (Photo by Climate Wizard)

Replacing conventional air conditioners with these indirect evaporative heat-exchange core systems could have a huge impact on SMUD’s peak cooling load during scorching Sacramento summer days. To evaluate the Climate Wizard’s performance, SMUD installed units with two industrial customers, a data center and a tool manufacturer You are leaving WAPA.gov..

The Tri-Tools production floor is not only hot from milling, turning and cutting metals, it is also humid from using water to cool materials during cutting. Because the Climate Wizard does not add moisture to the cooled air; it keeps employees more comfortable and improves the production process while saving the business energy and money.

The challenge for the data center Datacate is to maintain a consistently low temperature to keep servers and other equipment running 24/7. This pilot project, which will continue through 2017, has allowed the data center to operate more efficiently, add more capacity and lower operating costs.

The hallmarks of public power are dedication to community, commitment to innovation and constant striving to improve service. At WAPA, we already know our customers are leaders in the industry and we are excited to see that the industry recognizes them, too.

Source: American Public Power Association, 6/21/17

Community solar garden captures innovation award for Moorhead, Minnesota

Moorhead Public Service You are leaving WAPA.gov. (MPS), based in Minnesota, recently received the Energy Innovator Award from American Public Power Association You are leaving WAPA.gov. for giving residents what they want: clean solar power.

Moorhead Public Service installed its community solar garden near its first renewable energy systems, two wind turbines.

Moorhead Public Service installed its community solar garden near its first renewable energy systems, two wind turbines. (Photo by Moorhead Public Service)

The award-winning, 40-kilowatt (kW) Capture the Sun Community Solar Garden went online in 2015, after public outreach indicated strong support for more solar options. Moorhead customers pay for the power output of one of the 144 non-rotating, photovoltaic (PV) panels that make up the array. The value of the energy generated by the panels is prorated annually in the form of bill credits to participating customers. MPS is responsible for ongoing maintenance and delivering the energy to subscribers’ homes and businesses.

“The point of the gardens is to allow people who don’t have the ability to have solar panels at their home, to help feed solar energy into the grid,” said MPS Energy Services Manager Dennis Eisenbraun. “That fits the criteria for the Energy Innovator Award very well.”

The award recognizes utility programs that demonstrate advances in the development or application of creative, energy-efficient techniques or technologies. Judges also look for programs that improve service to electric customers or projects that increase the efficiency of utility operations or resource efficiency. Transferability and project scope in relation to utility size are also considered. APPA presented the award during its annual National Conference in June in Phoenix, Arizona.

Keeping customers satisfied
Although support for clean energy—especially the home-grown kind—is strong among consumers, many homes and businesses are not in the position, literally or figuratively, to install solar. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, about three-quarters of all buildings are not suitable for a solar array due to shading, roof orientation, structural issues and other concerns.

Shared solar, however, has the potential to greatly increase consumer access to solar PV, a fact not lost on MPS customers. “We did an initial survey to gauge customer interest last year, and then held a couple of public meetings,” Eisenbraun recalled. “Finally, we sent out a mass mailing seeking a commitment to the project and there was an overwhelming positive response.”

Moorhead residents, utility employees, city officials and contractors attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Capture the Sun, Oct. 6, 2015. MPS is planning a ceremony for the second phase of the solar garden this coming October.

Moorhead residents, utility employees, city officials and contractors attended the ribbon-cutting ceremony for Capture the Sun, Oct. 6, 2015. MPS is planning a ceremony for the second phase of the solar garden this coming October. (Photo by Moorhead Public Utilities)

Capture the Sun quickly attracted more subscribers than it had panels to accommodate them. “We knew before we finished building the 2015 project that it was only going to be ‘Phase One,’” said Eisenbraun. “Between the waiting list and a second mass mailer sent earlier this year, we had enough support to go ahead with another array in 2016.”

Poised for success
The second phase of Capture the Sun will be fully subscribed when it goes online this fall. MPS is planning a public dedication, Oct. 4, during Public Power Week.

The success of the solar garden is not surprising, given that Moorhead residents are already familiar with the concept of community renewable energy development. MPS built two wind turbines, one in 1999 and another in 2001, and more than 800 customers signed up to support the Capture the Wind program with a small green power tariff on their monthly electricity bills. “Our first foray into renewable energy was a resounding success,” Eisenbraun acknowledged. “The turbines were a great public relations tool and they reached payback in just 11 years, four years ahead of schedule.”

Going local
Like the wind turbines, Capture the Sun is a distinctly local project that keeps control in the community and the economic benefits within the region. MPS self-financed the solar garden with a combination of subscriptions and funds shifted from its renewable system incentive program. “We didn’t have as many individual customers installing systems as we hoped,” explained Eisenbraun. “So instead of leaving that money on the table, we decided to use it to give our customers another option.” A very popular option, as it turned out.

Solar installers from Enterprise Sales mount PV panels on a rack. The project brought attention--and business--to the regional construction company.

Solar installers from Enterprise Sales mount PV panels on a rack. The project brought attention–and business–to the regional construction company. (Photo by Moorhead Public Service)

MPS also chose Enterprise Sales Co. You are leaving WAPA.gov. from nearby Valley City, North Dakota, to build the project. The website states that Enterprise is “more than a contractor,” but Eisenbraun was surprised to learn that the company builds solar arrays. “I was only familiar with them as grain bin builders,” he admitted. “But they came in with the best price and their project manager worked everything out to the finest detail.”

At Moorhead Public Service, bringing recognition to a local business, self-financing community renewables projects and giving customers what they want is not so much about innovation as it is about doing the right thing. “We didn’t build Capture the Sun because of any mandates,” Eisenbraun pointed out. “We did it because it was a great idea and our customers thought so, too.”

And that kind of thinking deserves an award.