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.

Upcoming deadlines

Hunt for project funding easier with Energy Services

Money—where to get it, how best to spend it, where to find more—is a topic very much on people’s minds, whether their needs are personal or strictly business. Utilities face those same questions, but unlike individuals and other organizations, they can ask Energy Services for guidance. A large part of our service is networking with state and federal agencies, trade associations and nonprofits to track down funding opportunities Western customers can use to launch programs or upgrade facilities.

Makeover time
Take the city of White, S.D.Redirecting to a non-government site, for example, and its 40-year-old community center. “We would like to get rid of the paneling, remodel the kitchen and reconfigure the office space,” explained Finance Officer Melanie Haber.

The city of White, S.D., is investigating grants available for upgrading its community center. Municipalities have many options for funding energy-efficiency retrofits to public buildings, but sometimes it is necessary to think outside the box. (Photo by the City of White, S.D.)
The city of White, S.D., is investigating grants available for upgrading its community center. Municipalities have many options for funding energy-efficiency retrofits to public buildings, but sometimes it is necessary to think outside the box. (Photo by the City of White, S.D.)

She added that the fluorescent lighting throughout the building is poor quality, especially in the big hall where most events are held. Replacing the five furnaces heating the multi-use facility with one central system and zoned controls could help to reduce operating costs and improve comfort. In short, “It needs a complete update, inside and out,” Haber admitted.

Only the beginning
The community center project is still in the planning stages, so Haber has only done preliminary research into funding sources. “We can’t apply for a grant until we have specifics about what we want to do to the building and what that is likely to cost,” she said.

Heartland Consumers Power DistrictRedirecting to a non-government site, the city’s wholesale cooperative, offers incentives for commercial lighting upgrades, heating and cooling system retrofits and efficient appliances. The systems that would be installed in the community center would be subject to Heartland’s as-yet-unpublished 2014 rebate menu, however.

The South Dakota Office of Economic DevelopmentRedirecting to a non-government site might also be a source of low-interest loans for the project, Haber noted. “We have reached out to the regional office, but again, we don’t know what programs the project might be eligible for until we have more details,” she said.

No stone unturned
In addition to investigating loan and rebate programs, Haber also contacted Marsha Thomas, Western’s Upper Great Plains Energy Services representative for more ideas about potential funding sources. Thomas, in turn, decided to “crowdsource” Haber’s question with other Energy Services staff. “The great thing about having an Energy Services representative in each region is that we all bring a different background and perspective to the job,” said Thomas. “Any one of us can tap that collective experience to find answers for our customers.”

Energy Services Manager Ron Horstman observed that Haber is off to a solid start in her search for funding. “Check with your generation and transmission provider first,” he advised. “They understand your load in the context of the community and local climate, and they have a vested interest in helping their members manage their demand.”

Here are some other recommendations municipalities might consider for securing funding:

  1. Assemble a list of stakeholders on the project and brainstorm with them to come up with a list of potential sources. Your colleagues and neighbors may surprise you with their resourcefulness and innovative thinking.
  2. If the city participates in the American Public Power Association (APPA) Demonstration of Energy & Efficiency DevelopmentsRedirecting to a non-government site (DEED) program, it may be eligible for a DEED scholarship or grant. Contact APPA for more information and eligibility requirements.
  3. Don’t stop with your state’s economic development office. Check with the state energy office, parks and recreation department, education department and public health office to learn about their grant opportunities. Projects that address the goals of more than one state (or federal) agency often have a better chance of receiving funding.
  4. County governments also offer economic development grants or loans, or serve as pass-through agencies for federal monies. Private businesses and nonprofit agencies frequently collaborate with counties to set up revolving loan funds for projects that benefit communities.
  5. Inquire with your local and state chamber of commerce about grant opportunities they may offer or be aware of.
  6. Hire a grant writer. This professional knows how to speak the language of funders and how to highlight the facets of the project that appeal to them. Grant writers who specialize in a specific field or type of project also keep up with the funding agencies and opportunities pertaining to their specialties.
  7. Seek donations from individuals or service clubs in the community. Supporting energy efficiency in public buildings today can help keep taxes and fees down tomorrow. Donating also gives residents ownership in the success of the project and a feeling of civic pride.

Ultimately, more projects are hobbled by a lack of imagination than a lack of funding, Horstman insisted. “Make the effort to think outside the box, and you may discover financing options that would never have occurred to you otherwise,” he said. “You may even improve on the efficiency and functionality of your original plan if you stay open to creative thinking.”

Good luck!
Energy Services wishes White, S.D., and all our customers the best of luck in developing the modern, efficient facilities their communities need to remain vibrant and healthy. More than that, we are always sharing ideas to accomplish that goal through our website, blog and our representatives.

Most of all, we urge you, our customers, to share your experiences with each other. Contact your peers directly through Energy Services Bulletin stories, send them to the editor or give us your two cents’ worth in the comments below.

DEED program seeks applications for grants and scholarships

The American Public Power Association Redirecting to a non-government site is inviting members of its Demonstration of Energy & Efficiency Developments (DEED) program to apply for as much as $125,000 in funding for innovative utility projects. The application deadline for DEED grants and scholarships is Feb. 15, 2014.

Utilities can use DEED grant money for projects that increase efficiency and reduce costs; or to investigate new technologies, offer new services, or improve processes and practices to better serve customers.

DEED members also may apply for a $4,000 scholarship to have a student work at their utility. Utilities may apply without designating a specific student.

For more information, contact the DEED program or see the DEED funding opportunities page.

DOE offers funding for consumer energy management projects

Utilities, local governments and communities are eligible to apply for $8 million in funding to create programs that empower consumers to better manage their electricity use through greater access to their own electricity consumption data.

The Department of Energy is providing the funding as part of the administration’s goals to promote a clean energy future. “Providing consumers with easy access to their own consumption data is another important step in helping Americans make more informed decisions about their electricity consumption and become more energy-efficient,” said Energy Secretary Steven Chu. “As a result, we will see more innovation by entrepreneurs and other third-party providers as they develop valuable applications and services for the consumer.” 

New smart grid technologies are generating unprecedented amounts of electricity use data that could give homes and businesses more control over their electricity choices.  However, consumers need convenient and user-friendly tools and software products that help them readily understand the data, and realize the full capabilities of the smart grid. 

The “Smart Grid Data Access” Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) addresses the major steps communities need to take to better leverage their smart grid assets on behalf of consumers: creating policies that give consumers and authorized third-parties (such as app developers) access to customer data; and demonstrating the value of these apps and services across communities.

See the FOA at and for additional information, including cost-sharing requirements for government-industry cooperation. The deadline for submitting applications is March 2, 2012.

USDA grants fund renewable, energy-efficiency projects in Western territory

More than 180 agricultural producers and rural small businesses in Western’s 15-state territory received grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help them reduce their energy use.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced on Aug. 17 the awarding of funds through USDA’s Rural Energy for America Program (REAP) totaling more than $11.6 million and covering all 50 states. “These investments enable our farmers, ranchers and rural small business owners to develop renewable energy systems and make energy-efficiency improvements that will save them thousands of dollars in energy costs each year,” said Vilsack.

Award funding  is contingent on the recipient meeting the conditions of the grant agreement. Grants can finance up to 25 percent of a project’s cost, not to exceed $500,000 for renewables or $250,000 for efficiency. Eligible projects include energy-saving equipment, systems or improvements, energy audits and renewable energy development assistance. Applicants must be project owners located in a rural area, and the project must be technically feasible. An example is the Simpsons Brothers Greenhouses in Ovid, Mich., which received an $18,000 grant to make energy-efficiency improvements, such as installing greenhouse energy curtains designed to reduce energy consumption by 42 percent.

State, tribal or local government agencies; higher education institutions; rural electric cooperatives or public power utilities are eligible to apply for REAP grants. Utilities may also bring the benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy into their communities and strengthen customer relations by helping consumers apply. Farmers, ranchers and small business owners may need energy audits or other types of technical assistance to improve their chances of receiving funding.

If your utility assisted a customer with applying for a REAP grant, share your experience with Energy Services. If you would like more information on the Rural Energy for America Program, contact your Rural Development state program office. Download the list of this year’s REAP awardees to see what kind of projects are receiving funding.

Smart grid education grants available

American Public Power Association is offering 50 DOE-funded tuition slots for a series of three online courses for electric power industry workers on clean energy solutions and smart grid deployment. The grants are available to the first 50 individuals who register.

Intended to be an overview, Renewable Energy Sources and the Smart Grid was developed by the Energy Providers Coalition for Education in cooperation with the Center for Adult Education and Learning. The webinar series explores:

  • Electricity production from various forms of renewable energy as well as the function, operation and vision of the smart grid
  • Renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, ocean, biomass and geothermal
  • A high-level look at smart grid challenges, benefits, technology needs and the vital role of the consumer

Students who successfully complete this 10-hour, self-study course offered by Bismarck State College’s National Energy Center of Excellence will earn one continuing education unit. To register, please contact Laura Alden at 303-804-4671.