Make community solar better with free webinar series

Oct. 22, 12 p.m.
Nov. 19, 12 p.m.
Dec. 10, 12 p.m.

The Community Solar Value Project You are leaving Western's site. (CSVP) and Clean Energy Ambassadors You are leaving Western's site. have teamed up to produce a series of free webinars and discussions on how to make community solar better.JillSolarSlide350

The series has enlisted utility leaders and key stakeholders to weigh in on different aspects of this multi-faceted challenge. Discussions will cover such topics as better solar project design and procurement, ways to address solar variability by using demand-response and storage companion measures, program design for targeted customer appeals and win-win programs for low-income communities.

Join Clean Energy Ambassadors on Thursday, Oct. 22, for How SMUD and Other Utilities are Rethinking Marketing for Community Solar. You are leaving Western's site. A long-time leader in US solar energy deployment, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District You are leaving Western's site. (SMUD) crafted many programs to reduce the economic barriers to solar energy deployment. SMUD’s Solar Shares program targets renters and homeowners who may have solar siting issues to make solar energy accessible when customer-sited generation is not an option. Learn about the innovative solutions SMUD and other utilities are creating to improve upon their past program efforts and to make the benefits of clean energy even more widely available. A question and answer session will follow the presentations.

The November 19 webinar will explore Community Solar that Makes Sense for the Utility and its Low-income Customers. Speakers will discuss projects that address challenges specific to the low income market and different approaches utilities have taken.

On Dec. 10, Holiday Review: New Tools and Resources from the Community Solar Value Project, the final webinar in the series, examines the CSVP’s progress in helping utilities and their customers to work together to speed the transition to a high-value, low-carbon utility of the future.

Recordings of two other discussions, Central Better Community Solar Procurement and Design and How Demand Response and Storage Measures Address Solar Variability and Add Value, are available online.

All webinars take place at 12 p.m., Central Time. There is no cost to participate but registration is required.

Source: Clean Energy Ambassadors, 9/30/15

Free webinar explores solar programs for small cooperatives

March 10
12-1 p.m. Central Time

Clean Energy Ambassadors’ Lunchtime Webinar Series continues with Making Solar Easy and Creating Win-­win Solar Programs You are leaving, March 10 at noon CST.CEAlogo

Warren McKenna, CEO of Farmers Electric Cooperative You are leaving (FEC) in Kalona, Iowa, will present the webinar. FEC is an innovator when it comes to renewable energy, establishing a goal of generating 15 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2025.  A number of unique programs support that goal, such as the co-op paying a premium rate to members producing energy from solar and small wind systems. FEC’s “solar garden” program offers consumers the opportunity to purchase and produce solar energy from off-site community-owned solar arrays. In 2011, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory recognized FEC as one of the top 10 utilities for customer participation in its green power project.

McKenna, who recently received the Utility CEO of the Year Award from the Solar Electric Power Association, joined FEC in 1992 and has been instrumental in implementing these award-winning programs and systems. His presentation will focus on strategies small cooperative can use to create similar programs to meet their own goals.

CEA Webinars are held from 12-1 pm Central time. Because the webinars are focused on the needs of consumer-owned utilities, the discussions can be specific, candid and informal. Visit Clean Energy Ambassadors You are leaving to register for the free event and to see the full line-up of CEA services and events. If you have any questions, please contact Emily at 406-969-1040.

Webinar prepares utilities for new climate change rules

Free webinar series help utilities save money, better serve customers

February 10, 2015
12 p.m. Central Time

Join the Clean Energy Ambassadors You are leaving (CEA) for Utilizing Smart Grid Technologies for Meeting New Climate Change RegulationsYou are leaving the first Lunchtime Webinar of the New Year. Power providers from the largest investor-owned utility to the smallest municipality are concerned about the new regulations from the Environmental Protection Agency intended to address climate change.

CEA has invited Dr. Kevin B. Jones, deputy director at Vermont Law School’s Institute for Energy and the Environment, to discuss policy-based steps cooperatives can take to proactively deal with the new regulations. Dr. Jones leads the Smart Grid Project and the Energy Clinic and is co-author of the book from Praeger, A Smarter, Greener Grid: Forging Environmental Progress through Smart Energy Policies and Technologies. Utility decision makers will not want to miss this webinar.

Register today to ensure your spot for this free event, or contact Emily Stark at 406-969-1040 if you have any questions. CEA Webinars, held from 12-1 pm CST (11 a.m.-12 p.m. MST), focus on the needs of consumer-owned utilities. Participants can expect discussions that are candid, informal and specific to their needs.


Irrigation workshop introduces water apps for growers

Western teamed up with Nebraska Public Power District  You are leaving (NPPD), the Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Energy for America Program (REAP), Clean Energy Ambassadors You are leaving and Central Platte Natural Resource District You are leaving last November to present an irrigation workshop for agriculture energy customers of NPPD members.

REAP Irrigation Energy Cost Savings: From Testing Your Pumps to Financing and Completing the Project offered an overview of load management and efficiency opportunities; the REAP program, including eligible projects and application guidelines; and a case study on a solar pumping system. Participants learned about REAP success stories and utility incentives, met equipment vendors and watched NPPD Energy Consultant Ronald Rose, Kelley Messenger of the USDA and Equipment Loan Manager Gary Hoffmann demonstrate pump testing methods.

Troy Ingram, of the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, (UNL) introduced two new mobile apps the UNL Extension program You are leaving developed to help growers manage their irrigation systems. Utilities and their agriculture customers can benefit from these easy-to-use tools, even if they were unable to attend the workshop.

Pricing water
The IrrigateCost app You are leaving models center-pivot and gated pipe irrigation systems and the most commonly used energy sources. Using information such as acres irrigated, pumping lift, system PSI, pump and pivot life, and inches applied, the app computes total irrigation cost, along with the total cost of owning and operating a system. It also breaks down costs by irrigation well, pump, gear head, pump base, diesel engine and tank and system and calculates per-acre annual cost and per-acre-inch annual cost.

IrrigateCost breaks down the total cost of owning and operating an irrigation system to help growers determine if developing land for irrigation is going to be economically feasible. (Photo by Google App Store)
IrrigateCost breaks down the total cost of owning and operating an irrigation system to help growers determine if developing land for irrigation is going to be economically feasible. (Photo by Google App Store)

Growers make a number of management decisions based on the annualized costs of owning and operating an irrigation system, starting with whether or not to develop land for irrigation. For a system to be economically feasible, the net income from increased yields due to irrigation development must exceed the additional costs of owning and operating the system over its expected life. Once development is underway, the app can help determine design choices, including selection of energy source for pumping water, the type of distribution system, and so on. Other uses for the app include:

  • Calculating a fair crop-share rental agreement
  • Knowing what to charge for watering a portion of a neighbor’s field
  • Estimating costs to pump an acre-inch of water to help you determine how many additional bushels of a crop are needed by applying one more inch of water at the end of the irrigation season

The app is available through most phone carriers’ app stores. iPod and iPad users can get IrrigateCost from the Apple iTunes store You are leaving for $1.99. In The Google App Store You are leaving offers a version of the app for Android users, also $1.99.

Pricing efficiency
IrrigatePump You are leaving helps to calculate the efficiency of a pumping plant and to determine the potential savings from upgrading the system.

Whether a pumping plant uses diesel, electricity, gasoline, natural gas or propane, chances are it is using 25 percent more energy than expected by the Nebraska Pumping Plant Performance Criteria You are leaving (NPC). A pumping plant meeting the criteria delivers the expected amount of useful work, measured as water horsepower hours, for the amount of energy consumed. The NPC is based on field tests of pumping plants, lab tests of engines and manufacturer data on three-phase electric motors.

The user enters six numbers related to pumping lift, pressure at the discharge, acre-inches of water pumped, fuel price and total fuel used. The app then calculates a pumping plant performance rating, provides an estimated cost to bring the pumping plant up to standard and the number of years for payback on the investment at various interest rates.

Both apps provide anonymous results that users can capture and email to their own devices. The cost of IrrigatePump is $1.99 through Apple, Google or phone carriers.

Ingram noted that these apps are new and have not been through a full growing season yet, but he has used them and other agriculture apps on his own farm. Crop Water, an app UNL developed for scheduling irrigation—specifically for Nebraska soils—has been particularly helpful, he added.

Farming goes high-tech
There are now apps for almost every aspect of farming and ranching, from monitoring invasive species in your area to logging machinery maintenance, and most are free or inexpensive. Utilities might consider giving agriculture customers apps that are related to energy and water management like IrrigateCost and IrrigatePump. Apps could be great small incentives and customer relationship builders.

Just remember that not all apps are created equal. Croplife magazine You are leaving suggests doing a little homework before selecting an agriculture app. Or, better yet, contact your local university extension service to find out what they recommend or offer. Farming is a tough job, and growers will appreciate anything their utilities can do to help them operate more efficiently and effectively.

[Editor’s note: Apps aren’t the only thing you can offer your ag customers. Contact Energy Services if your utility is interested in sponsoring an irrigation efficiency workshop like the one NPPD presented in Grand Island.]

Webinar explores community solar, wind projects

CEAlogoIn less than a decade, community-shared solar has gone from an idealistic dream to a viable renewables development strategy employed in some 50 communities nationwide. Utilities can choose to ignore this trend or seize the opportunity to partner with their customers and communities, while meeting their own clean energy goals. Find out What’s New in Community Solar and WindRedirecting to a non-government site on Nov. 18, a Clean Energy Ambassadors Redirecting to a non-government site (CEA) Lunchtime Webinar.

The presentation will cut through the confusion surrounding the many different paths to project development. Get an overview of emerging trends and take a closer look at a few projects, including utility-owned and third-party models, with a focus on lessons learned from prior green power and community wind programs. The webinar will also examine how community renewables can bring utilities and community members together to achieve shared goals.

CEA members will be familiar with speaker Jill Cliburn, a leader in the field of shared renewables. Her experience includes working on municipal utility and electric cooperative projects involving both solar and wind.

The free Lunchtime Webinar Series share winning strategies for energy efficiency and renewable energy development with community-owned utilities. For more information about webinars or other CEA programs, visit Clean Energy Ambassadors on the web or contact Emily Stark at 406-969-1040.

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.

Learn what controlled electric water heaters can do for your utility

Oct. 21, 2014
12-1:00 pm CDT

Balancing energy use from systems as simple as water heaters against energy generation opens all kinds of new possibilities for an affordable, clean energy future.

Explore innovative approaches to demand response, demand-side management and renewable energy storage during Clean Energy AmbassadorsRedirecting to a non-government site free October Lunchtime webinar on electric water heaters. The Surprising Benefits of Controlled Electric Water HeatersRedirecting to a non-government sitecould change the way you see the future of the electric utility industry.

Leader speaks
Gary Connett, director of member services for Great River Energy Redirecting to a non-government site(GRE), is the featured speaker. The Minnesota generation and transmission utility has been a leader in utility demand response for decades. Today, more than 200,000 households and businesses served by GRE distribution utilities participate in demand response programs. The utility controls 15 percent of its peak load, which is equivalent to 370 megawatts of capacity.

Controlled electric water heaters are a proven component of the demand-response portfolio, along with controlled air conditioners, controlled irrigation systems and other strategies. More important, GRE has learned that electric water heaters can serve as energy storage devices—like batteries—so that customers are unaffected when the utility uses new grid-interactive control technologies to fine-tune water heater load control over shorter and shorter time horizons. Anticipating load control needs a day ahead is valuable, but anticipating those needs only an hour ahead—or less!—is even better. Today’s grid-interactive controlled water heaters may even provide frequency regulation, an ancillary service that balances the minute-to-minute variations in generation resources, including wind and solar.

Balancing tool
The heat energy a water heater stores becomes, in effect, the storage medium in a battery. When the wind is blowing or the sun is shining, it is possible to “charge” this thermal storage battery. And when the electricity is needed for other purposes, the water heating elements shut off. Connett says GRE has more than a gigawatt-hour in thermal storage capacity today.

The possibilities on the horizon promise even greater integration of renewables and demand response. Some measures are suited for homes, and others for larger businesses. Connett explains, “We start to see the utility’s purpose as working with both demand-side and supply-side resources, rather than simply increasing generation to meet whatever electricity needs customers create.”

In coming years, utilities will continue to give customers the energy services they want, achieving that goal by tapping both demand-side and supply-side energy resources.

Overcoming barriers
Hurdles to success in grid-interactive water heating remain, however, the first being public perception. Until recently, well-intentioned energy-efficiency advocates dismissed electric water heating as an inappropriate use of generation resources—“like cutting butter with a chainsaw,” as Amory Lovins once put it. Pending energy-efficiency regulations on water heaters could hold the strategy back. But many clean energy advocates, including researchers affiliated with Lovins, say they are willing to take another look at electric water heating today, if it means a more reliable grid, more reliant on wind, sun and other clean, renewable resources.

The Lunchtime Webinar series highlights measures, programs and technologies public power providers serving small towns and rural areas might use to provide better service to their customers. To learn more, register for the webinar or contact Clean Energy Ambassadors.

Irrigation energy efficiency the topic of free webinar

The next Lunchtime Webinar from Clean Energy AmbassadorsRedirecting to a non-government site (CEA) will be of special interest to any utility with a significant irrigation load. Join CEA on Sept. 23 for Irrigation Energy Efficiency—Your Technical and Financing Plan to learn about measures that can be a tremendous source of water, energy and cost savings for agricultural customers and the utilities that serve them.

The webinar will offer the latest information on irrigation and livestock pump efficiency measures, including pump testing and improved system design. Presentations will cover examples from the successful irrigation efficiency program at Nebraska Public Power DistrictRedirecting to a non-government site.  A speaker from the Department of Agriculture will be on hand to offer advice on how REAP grants and loans can help achieve cost-saving improvements. You will also get details about free pump-testing resources available through Western for regional customers.

Utilities, local agencies, individual agriculture customers and those in related businesses will find this session useful.

CEA’s monthly Lunchtime Webinar series explores issues that affect consumer-owned power providers serving rural areas and small towns in the Great Plains and the West. The hour-long events generally take place on the fourth Tuesday of the month at 12 p.m. Central time. The focus is on cost-effective, easy-to-implement strategies to help utilities save money and build customer relationships. Discussions are lively and informal opportunities to share ideas with peers. Recordings of past webinars are available on the CEA website.

If you have any questions, please contact Emily Stark at 406-969-1040.

Learn how new climate regulations to effect energy programs

Monday July 22
12 p.m. CDT

Join Clean Energy AmbassadorsRedirecting to a non-government site (CEA) for a free webinar, What the New EPA Climate Regs Mean for Energy Efficiency and Renewables in Your CommunityRedirecting to a non-government site, on July 22 at noon Central Time.

This webinar is too timely to pass up! Speaker David Wooley of Keyes, Fox & Weidman, LLP, is a long-time friend of CEA who is now working nationally to facilitate win-win strategies for utilities and the communities they serve. He will share an inside look at the new EPA climate regs, focusing on how energy efficiency and renewables may offer cost-effective solutions. You have a lot of questions on this topic, so the event will include an extended Q&A session.

Register today to reserve your place.

Spend lunch hour learning with CEA Lunchtime Webinar series

March 25
Noon, CDT

The Clean Energy AmbassadorsRedirecting to a non-government site (CEA) Lunchtime Webinar series is back with How to Create Effective Trade Ally PartnershipsRedirecting to a non-government site, March 25, at 12 p.m. Central Time.  

The best-planned energy-efficiency program only works if your customers participate. This webinar features program managers from Bonneville Power Administration who will show you how enlisting trade ally partners can benefit your utility program. From free marketing to positive customer influence, these partnerships can help your energy-efficiency programs thrive.

CEA’s popular free webinar series, a valuable resource for utility program planners on a budget, has returned from hiatus. If you have participated in past events, or have just discovered CEA, you can expect to learn simple, cost-effective tips that other utilities have used to grow their energy-efficiency programs.

Recordings from past webinars are available on the nonprofit’s website. Topics included demand-side management, smart metering, low-income energy-efficiency programs, lighting and more.  

Join CEA on the third Thursday of each month for candid, informal discussions about how consumer-owned utilities can better serve their customers. Participation in the webinar is free, but registration is required.