Upper Great Plains taps South Sioux City for Administrator’s Award

WAPA Administrator Mark Gabriel will present WAPA’s prestigious Administrator’s Award to South Sioux City, Nebraska, You are leaving WAPA.gov. Oct. 18 at the Delta Hotels in South Sioux City.  The presentation is part of 2017 National Bioenergy Day, You are leaving WAPA.gov. an event that will be attended by local, state and federal officials and high-ranking industry representatives. Gabriel will also deliver the keynote address, “The Importance of Renewable Energy Diversification,” at Bioenergy Day. The event will also include a tour of the new Green Star Energy You are leaving WAPA.gov. gasifier power plant.

Despite its small size—a population just over 13,000—South Sioux City has consistently delivered innovation along with affordable, reliable power year after year, warranting the honor the award confers on a WAPA customer. But these accomplishments feel almost secondary to the vision that made them happen. South Sioux City is well known among its peers and many other WAPA customers for being exceptionally forward thinking and tenacious at finding and leveraging win-win partnerships.

Leading in renewables
South Sioux City is pursuing clean, low-carbon electricity with a unique mix of projects.

A 2.3-megawatt (MW) photovoltaic array is only the latest example of the town’s efforts to reduce its carbon footprint. The 21-acre solar park began operation in January and generates the equivalent of 5 percent of the city’s total electricity needs. South Sioux City also recently selected a firm to build 15 MW of new wind power and signed an agreement to begin receiving generation from it in 2018. Both the wind and the solar projects are public-private partnerships.

South Sioux City’s Solar Park: 2.3-megawatt array (1,200 panels) located on a 21-acre solar park south of the city, alongside C Avenue. The array generates enough energy to provide 5 percent of South Sioux City’s electrical needs.

South Sioux City’s Solar Park: 2.3-megawatt array (1,200 panels) located on a 21-acre solar park south of the city, alongside C Avenue. The array generates enough energy to provide 5 percent of South Sioux City’s electrical needs. (Photo by Nebraskans for Solar)

In a region where agriculture and related businesses are the leading industries, biomass represents an energy resource that South Sioux City has captured through different projects. Three major food processing plants divert animal, grain and other wastes to an anaerobic digester that extracts methane from the stream and feeds it into the natural gas pipeline. The nearby Siouxland Ethanol Plant You are leaving WAPA.gov. displaces up to 9 percent of its natural gas needs for ethanol production with landfill gas from the LP Gill landfill.

The Scenic Park campground was the site of a pilot program in 2015, using a gasifier woody biomass system to generate 50 kilowatts of electricity from wood waste from storm damage. The unit was so successful that South Sioux City entered into an agreement with Green Star Energy to build a 3-MW gasifier. The new power plant will take city and industrial waste wood and dead and dying trees destined for the landfill and convert it into electricity.

Another potential project with Green Star Energy shows that South Sioux City has not lost sight of the tried-and-true renewable resources. The partners are seeking funding to build an innovative hydropower generator along the Missouri River that flows through the south end of the city. The run-of-river turbine design resembles a boat dock, would be safe for fish and aquatic animals and could produce enough electricity to save South Sioux City about $450 each day.

Conserve, reduce, manage
Energy innovation in South Sioux City is not limited to developing new resources. Planning and wise use are just as important to creating a cleaner, sustainable energy supply.

When peak demand needs to be curtailed, the city takes a two-pronged approach. First, a major industrial load voluntarily ramps down its demand by 11 percent to save not only its own energy costs but the energy costs for the city as a whole. On the residential side, the municipal utility has placed demand meters into service to control peak demand from air conditioner use. Both strategies have helped the community to contain electric costs.

South Sioux City has performed energy audits on all city buildings and facilities, and made improvements to systems such as lighting and heating and cooling, to save energy.

South Sioux City has performed energy audits on all city buildings and facilities, and made improvements to systems such as lighting and heating and cooling, to save energy. (Photo by Ammodramus)

The municipal utility has performed energy audits on all city buildings and facilities to identify energy-saving opportunities. Improvements included adding variable speed drives, converting street and signal lighting to LED and installing LED office lighting. Energy-efficient heating and cooling measures and practices have also been implemented in city buildings.

To address the need for backup support and electric demand relief during peak times, the city is designing a 5-MW, state-of-the-art natural gas-powered generating station. Excess generation from the unit will be offered to the Southwest Power Pool You are leaving WAPA.gov. markets.

Practicing stewardship
South Sioux City was the first city in Nebraska to implement a paperless city council. In addition to reducing environmental impacts, the approach simplifies the archiving of council activities and makes it easier for the public to access more information. A voice-activated council chamber video recording system allows citizens to access live and archived meetings.

Tree health and sustainability are important to South Sioux City, which has qualified for the Arbor Day Foundation’s You are leaving WAPA.gov. Tree City USA designation for 25 years and earned the Growth Award for 10 years. For the past eight years, the city has planted one new tree for every 30 residents.

Residents enjoy the city’s two community gardens and the more than 200 fruit trees the city planted in 2014. The orchard is part of a facility designed in partnership with the University of Nebraska – Lincoln to provide storage and opportunities for youth outdoor learning activities. The new building is the first compressed laminated timber structure in Nebraska. Ash tree planks salvaged from emerald ash borer kill and milled by the Nebraska Forest Service side the building. The project received the 2017 Community Enhancement Award from the Arbor Day Foundation.

South Sioux City’s extensive trail network earned the first “Bicycle Friendly Community Award” in Nebraska in 2006, and hosts many rides, runs and other events throughout the year.

South Sioux City’s extensive trail network earned the first “Bicycle Friendly Community Award” in Nebraska in 2006, and hosts many rides, runs and other events throughout the year. (Photo by South Sioux City)

Quality of life is part of environmental health too, and South Sioux City actively promotes healthy lifestyles. The city’s extensive network of developed trails earned the first “Bicycle Friendly Community Award” in Nebraska in 2006. The trail system connects to 60 miles of trails in four cities and three states, and hosts many rides, runs and other events throughout the year.

Partners make it happen
Innovation doesn’t occur in a vacuum and partnership is as critical to South Sioux City’s efforts as vision is. City Administrator Lance Hedquist acknowledges that the city’s success with energy efficiency and renewable energy projects results from the support and trust of the mayor, council and staff who share his passion to make the city a great place to live and work.

South Sioux City’s collective approach to innovation, partnerships, governance and trust would be impressive in a city many times its size. In a small municipality, it deserves recognition: WAPA is proud to honor South Sioux City with the Administrator’s Award.

Tribal Energy Webinar Series returns with focus on partnerships

WAPA is pleased to once again sponsor the Tribal Energy Webinar Series with the Department of Energy Office of Indian Energy Policy and Programs (IE). The series begins Feb. 22 at 11 a.m. MT with Indian Energy: Looking Back and Moving Forward.

“Expanding Tribal Energy Development through Partnerships” is the theme for the 2017 series of 11 webinars. Tribal leaders and staff, as well as anyone interested in working in Indian Country, can participate in the free events. The series supports fiscally responsible energy business and economic development decision-making and promotes information exchange with the 565 federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native sovereign nations, bands, villages and communities.

As national concerns about energy sufficiency and security have risen, American Indians and Alaska Natives have recognized the potential economic and self-determination benefits of energy resource development on their lands. Tribal lands consist of more than 56 million acres, or 2.3 percent of all land throughout the U.S. An estimated 17.1 million acres hold existing and potential fossil energy and mineral resources and about 5 percent of the country’s technically feasible renewable energy resource potential. Tribes with minimal fossil energy, mineral resources or renewable energy potential could benefit from other energy options, such as energy efficiency, demand-side technologies and collaborative supply arrangements.

Comprehensive agenda
Now in its fifth year, the Tribal Energy Webinar Series continues to meet critically important educational needs for tribal communities. Attendees will discover tools and resources for developing and implementing tribal energy plans, programs and projects. Webinars will provide case histories and business strategies tribes can use to expand their energy options and develop sustainable local economies.

The webinars are scheduled February through December on the last Wednesday of the month at 11 a.m. MT. Topics include:

  • Feb. 22 – Indian Energy: Looking Back and Moving Forward You are leaving WAPA.gov. 
    The first webinar in the series provides an overview of Indian energy in the U.S. and the mission of the IE office. Speakers will cover past successes, future plans and how to add value and streamline government procedures for tribes interested in energy development and self-determination.
  • March 29 – Federal and State Policy Impacts to Tribal Energy Partnerships You are leaving WAPA.gov. 
    Developing energy resources through partnerships is complex and can affect both tribal and non-tribal communities. Learn about state and federal requirements that could impact energy projects on tribal lands depending on the type of project, location, size and other considerations.
  • April 26 – Spending Energy Dollars Wisely You are leaving WAPA.gov. 
    Presentations will explore strategies, tools and technical assistance opportunities to develop a deliberate approach to maximizing energy dollars. Tribal guest speakers will share their successes and lessons learned in pursuing, developing and implementing strategic approaches to wise energy investments.
  • May 31 – What Energy Project is Right for my Tribe? You are leaving WAPA.gov. 
    Learn how to identify appropriate energy projects, from a small renewable generator for a single residence or building to a utility-scale project requiring transmission interconnection and a purchase power agreement. The pros and cons of ownership and leasing, differences among various renewable and conventional technologies and potential project barriers will be covered.
  • June 28 – Tribal Project Partnerships You are leaving WAPA.gov. 
    Hear about successful partnerships and how the successes can be replicated throughout the U.S. This webinar will be of particular interest to tribal nations and energy industry professionals interested in expanding their energy resource options and increasing economic development and self-determination.
  • July 26 – Powering Your Community with Tribal Energy You are leaving WAPA.gov. 
    Speakers will address the steps to developing a 1- to 2-megawatt energy project on tribally owned or controlled property to serve the energy needs of the tribal community.
  • Aug. 30 – University Resources for Tribal Partnerships You are leaving WAPA.gov. 
    Explore how relationships between universities and tribal nations can foster greater economic development, self-determination and energy independence for the tribes. Speakers will talk about successful university programs and initiatives on energy and the environment that are valuable resources to tribes.
  • Sept. 27 – Fundamentals of Organized Energy Markets for Tribes You are leaving WAPA.gov. 
    Find out how the expansion of establishments such as the Southwest Power Pool and the California Independent System Operator is will create opportunities for those looking for more energy resource options or to buy and sell energy resources, especially on tribal lands.
  • Oct. 25 – Tribes Working Together You are leaving WAPA.gov. 
    Generation and transmission and joint-action agencies offer business models for jointly owning, procuring and building new transmission and power generation projects Learn about these and other partnership opportunities that can support tribal energy independence and self-determination on tribal lands.
  • Nov. 29 – Partnerships for Utilities and Tribes Initiative You are leaving WAPA.gov. 
    This webinar introduces a new initiative to facilitate stronger and improved relationships between tribes and the utilities or energy companies that serve them. Another possible benefit of this effort is improved employment of tribal members in utility and energy sector jobs.

Register today
Be a part of expanding energy self-determination among our country’s American Indians and Alaska Natives by registering for any or all webinars. There is no charge to attend, but registration is required. Attendees must have internet access, computer compatibility with GoToWebinar software You are leaving WAPA.gov. (free download) and a phone line. Recordings of the 2016 webinar series and archived recordings  from past years are available to download.

DOE funding available for projects to improve electric grid

The Energy Department announced on Feb. 7 that it is offering up to $7 million in funding to advance the design of technologies that help communities become more adaptive and prepared for power outages caused by severe weather and other events.

Microgrids are localized grids that are normally connected to the existing electric grid but can disconnect to operate autonomously, manage and control the flow of electricity and help mitigate grid disturbances. These distributed systems are able to cost-effectively integrate storage and distributed generation such as renewable energy, while also supporting demand management programs.

The Microgrid Research, Development and System Design funding opportunity will help communities to take an innovative and comprehensive approach to microgrid design and implementation. Technology developers and providers must partner with communities and utilities to design microgrid systems of up to 10 megawatts, which is enough to power a small community. Systems that protect critical infrastructure, such as hospitals and water treatment plants, will also receive favorable consideration.

For more details on the Microgrid Research, Development, and System Design FOA, visit Grants.gov and FedConnect.net. Use reference number DE-FOA-0000997. The FOA includes information about cost-sharing requirements for government-industry cooperation. The deadline for submitting applications is April 28, 2014.

Collaboration produces results in Roaring Fork Valley

Aspen Utilities Energy-efficiency Manager Jeff Rice eschewed the usual slide show on the Roaring Fork Valley Utility Collaborative to share his presentation with partners. Jason Haber of the nonprofit Community Office for Resource Efficiency (CORE) and Rob Morey of the nonprofit Clean Energy Economy for the Region (CLEER) in Carbondale, Colo., joined Rice on stage to discuss the value of teamwork.

The Collaborative comprises utilities that serve the Roaring Fork Valley in the central Rocky Mountains—the municipal utilities of Aspen and Glenwood Springs, Holy Cross Energy, SourceGas and Xcel—as well as the two nonprofits. Rice explained that by working together, the utilities are able to provide a level of programming and services far beyond their individual resources. “If one of us doesn’t have the expertise, equipment or rebate a customer needs, someone else does,” he said.

Where funding is concerned, teaming up has created a larger pool. The utilities receive funding individually from sources such as Energy Star Partners, but leverage their funds to offer stronger incentives, or build larger projects. For example, working together on a solar thermal/photovoltaic installation on a senior housing facility, CLEEN and CORE were able to install a system that met 20 percent instead of 10 percent of the building’s load.

Aspen and Holy Cross teamed up with CORE to apply for Recovery Act funding. The nonprofit, which has funded renewable and energy-efficiency projects, and provided consumer education and policy recommendations to Pitkin County for 16 years, is administering the grants for the utilities.  “It frees me up to take care of my customers, instead of spending time on paperwork,” said Rice.

The advantages are not all financial, either. When Aspen set out to develop a program to improve the efficiency of existing buildings, Rice turned to Holy Cross and SourceGas to make sure he wasn’t duplicating any efforts. Borrowing from the two utilities’ established programs, Aspen has completed 91 home energy audits this year and has a dozen more scheduled. Local auditing and retrofit contractors have enjoyed an increase in business as a result.

Recently, the Roaring Fork Utility Collaborative successfully applied for a grant from the Small Commercial Efficiency Initiative, offered by the Colorado Governor’s Energy Office. They are now in the process of devising a program to deliver greater efficiency to small businesses. You can be sure it will benefit the entire Roaring Fork Valley.