DOE offers funding to pilot tribal technical assistance

Deadline: April 14, 2016

Update: Slides from the March I informational webinar are available online. Download to learn about eligibility requirements and essential details of the application process.

Up to $7 million in funding is available to Indian tribes and Alaska Native Villages to develop a Technical Assistance Energy Providers Network. This pilot project by the Department of Energy Office of Indian Energy is intended to train regional energy experts to provide the tribes with technical energy assistance and informational resources.

As part of these inter-tribal regional programs, the energy experts would:

  1. Coordinate energy solutions among participating Indian tribes (including Alaska Native villages) within the region;
  2. Deliver technical assistance to participating tribes within the region;
  3. Build the human capacity of participating tribes by providing information to tribal leaders and staff through workshops or webinars;
  4. Serve as an information clearinghouse for participating Indian tribes;
  5. Network with regional and national energy organizations;
  6. Advise DOE’s Office of Indian Energy on the energy goals and needs within their region; and
  7. Enhance DOE’s technical assistance network across Indian Country.

Applications are due April 14, 2016, and must be submitted through EERE Exchange, DOE’s online application portal.

Source: DOE Office of Indian Energy, 2/15/16

City of Palo Alto Utilities tests smart streetlights along El Camino Real

City seeking feedback on solar project

This fully integrated smart solar streetlight, one of nine along El Camino Real in Palo Alto, California, produces energy equivalent to power two streetlights. The city is asking residents to give their opinions on the streetlights in an online survey.

This fully integrated smart solar streetlight, one of nine along El Camino Real in Palo Alto, California, produces energy equivalent to power two streetlights. The city is asking residents to give their opinions on the project in an online survey.

El Camino Real, a historic road that runs nearly the full length of California’s coastline, is making history again for its role in a six-month pilot project being conducted by the City of Palo Alto Utilities You are leaving (CPAU). In partnership with energy technology provider Petra SystemsYou are leaving CPAU recently installed a string of nine smart solar streetlights along “The Royal Road.”

The installation is testing the potential to generate renewable energy on streetlight poles. Solar photovoltaic, or PV, modules placed high on the poles capture the sun’s energy and send it to the city’s electric grid. The technology could help transform ordinary streetlights into a network of distributed solar power generating assets.

Taking community’s pulse
The PV-fitted streetlights are located along a well-trafficked mile of El Camino Real. Interpretive signs in the area educate passers-by about the technology. “The pilot project area runs right by Stanford University, as well as soccer fields and parks, so residents will see what we are doing and be able to form an opinion about it,” noted CPAU Communications Manager Catherine Elvert. “We are encouraging community members to provide feedback through an online survey.”

The survey asks questions about residents’ support for CPAU increasing the use of solar power, and allows them to express concerns about aesthetics, light quality and other issues. “The customer response to these modules can help us gauge how aggressively to pursue this type of local generation,” Elvert added.

CPAU is engaged in several local solar initiatives as part of its ongoing commitment to invest in clean energy resources.

Innovating through partnership
Through its Program for Emerging Technologies, the municipal utility is able to “test drive” systems that may improve operations, create jobs and boost the sustainability of CPAU’s generation portfolio. Launched in 2012, the program seeks out and nurtures creative products and services that manage and better use electricity, gas, water and fiber optic services.

Partnering with high-tech companies keeps the cost of innovation down. The El Camino Solar Test project will increase Palo Alto’s renewable energy production at no cost to the city. Petra Systems offered CPAU the solar modules to evaluate their performance over the six-month pilot duration. The nine units are estimated to have a total nameplate capacity of about 2.25 kilowatts, with each solar module expected to produce 374 kilowatt-hours per year. That electricity is enough to power the equivalent of two streetlights, making the LED, or light-emitting diode, streetlights net producers of electricity.

Improving service, lowering costs
Project Manager Lindsay Joye pointed out that generation is just a small part of smart solar technology performance. “The technology goes well beyond self-powering to give the city greater control of its streetlight assets,” she said.

The modules are equipped with an LED light controller that allows the city to remotely turn streetlights on or off. The brightness of individual lights or groups of lights can be adjusted to accommodate the traffic levels in different neighborhoods, as well. On a citywide scale, the dimming function can provide even deeper energy savings from the already-efficient LED lamps, Joye noted.

The system offers additional features that can streamline maintenance and enhance public safety. The controller can flicker specific lights to help direct emergency response personnel when needed, and can notify the city immediately of a malfunctioning light, including the failure type and exact location. Elvert said, “If the city decides to expand the project, high-traffic roads and expressways would be good candidates for installations. With the smart-grid and remote control capabilities, there would be less need to put our crews in harm’s way.”

Calling Minnesota utilities to participate in CARD pilot project

The Minnesota Department of Commerce is seeking utilities with convenience store customers to participate in a pilot project funded by its Conservation Applied Research and Development (CARD) grant Redirecting to a non-government site. The CARD grant program identifies new technologies, strategies and program approaches that help utilities to achieve the annual state energy conservation goal of 1.5 percent. 

The Convenience Store Energy Efficiency CARD grant pilot project focuses on optimizing the performance of existing equipment, lighting, motors, air infiltration and controls, rather than major equipment replacements. Any convenience store with older equipment could benefit from this pilot project.

Michaels Energy Redirecting to a non-government site received the first award in March 2012, and has completed audits on four primary sites. The audits showed opportunities to reduce annual operating costs by 15 to 17 percent per site. The results are being used to develop a template for delivering services in another 46 Minnesota convenience stores. So far, only 20 additional sites have signed on to the project, so the end date for the grant has been extended.

Please contact Ralph Dickinson of Michaels Energy at 651-900-4710 if you have Minnesota convenience store customers that could participate in this pilot. Pilot sites served by municipal utilities are particularly sought, as the grant specifically aims to help municipals stretch limited resources and address a customer type that can be difficult to impact.

Virginia pilot program offers lower rates for electric vehicle charging

Dominion Virginia Power recently introduced a program that gives electric vehicle owners a rate break if they charge their cars overnight.

The Richmond Electric Vehicle Initiative, as the pilot program is called, offers utility customers two options to charge their vehicles:

  • Under the vehicle-only option, the power company installs a second meter in the customer’s home that measures the energy used only for recharging the vehicle. The cost for the meter is $2.90 a month. An overnight charge, good for about 40 miles, would cost the customer about 54 cents.
  • The whole-house option offers a lower rate for all household electricity use overnight, including recharging vehicles. Dominion Virginia Power will replace the customer’s meter with one that records energy use in 30-minute intervals, allowing the utility to apply pricing rates at specific time periods. This option would charge the vehicle for 51 cents in the summer and 61 cents in the winter under the second.

Using Dominion Virginia Power’s standard residential rate of 11 cents per kWh, the cost of an overnight charge is about $1.10. The special rates will help offset the higher cost of purchasing electric vehicles, which begin at $30,000.

Each rate option is limited to 750 people, and each participant will have to stay enrolled in the program for a minimum of one year. So far, 17 customers have signed up for the program.

The program runs through Nov. 30, 2014. Each year the pilot is in effect, the utility will submit an annual report to the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) that details the number of program participants, an assessment of the feasibility and implications on the public interest of continuing the program, and other relevant information.

The initiative received a $429,051 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to help develop a local network of charging stations for electric vehicles. Partners in the program include the utility, Virginia Clean Cities, the Richmond Regional Planning District Commission and J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College.

The program is designed to test whether the rate structure will motivate people to charge their vehicles during overnight off-peak hours. It could also help balance the growing demands of electric vehicles on the grid, and promote the building of charging stations.  

What is your utility doing to get ready for electric vehicles? Are you ready for the challenges and opportunities the technology presents to power providers? Tell us in the comments section.