Communities Make Public Power Strides
Around the country, public power utilities large and small are making impressive advances in smart grid technology, sustainable energy, and other innovative programs. Read on to meet these resourceful communities.
Orlando, Florida (2/11)
Walt Disney World's Epcot Center was designed as the "city of tomorrow," but tomorrow has already arrived elsewhere in Orlando. Local power provider OUC (called The Reliable One by locals), teamed up with the Orlando Science Center to put a 31-kilowatt solar array atop the museum's CineDome. The system puts out enough energy to power a few homes and will save the museum a significant sum during its estimated 25-year lifespan. More importantly, it will serve as a demonstration project to inspire other Floridians to pursue solar power generation.
Nebraska Public Power District (3/11)
In Nebraska, where public power is a way of life, the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) wants to increase renewable energy use to cover at least 10 percent of its customers' needs by 2020. By the end of 2012, the provider will be nearly halfway there.
NPPD owns and operates its own wind energy facility and also buys wind power from other providers. The organization is lining up more sources of wind power in pursuit of its renewable goal.
Payson, Utah (4/11)
At a time when some cities are turning off streetlights to save money, a group of Utah public power communities is keeping the lights on by replacing them with super-efficient LED fixtures. Hundreds of fixtures are slated for upgrades, thanks to a federal grant that is helping pay the bill. So far, the savings have added up. The community of Payson is upgrading 130 of its 550 streetlights and expects to save $4,000 a year in energy costs. The LEDs last far longer than conventional lights, also saving on the cost of replacements and the manpower required to replace burned-out bulbs.
Next: North Carolina
North Carolina Public Power (5/11)
Knowledge is power, so knowledge about power must be, well, powerful. That's why North Carolina Public Power backers including ElectriCities are trying to get the word out about energy efficiency. A series of videos about energy efficiency is designed to help affiliated utilities educate their customers about reducing costs and conserving energy. The videos can be viewed at North Carolina Public Power's YouTube channel, www.youtube.com/user/NCPublicPower.
Next: San Antonio
CPS Energy, San Antonio (6/11)
The New Year is here, and with it the perennial resolution to eat less. CPS Energy in San Antonio is resolving to consume less, too - electricity, that is. The goal is to save 58 megawatts in 2011, part of the utility's Save for Tomorrow Energy Plan (STEP), which aims to slash consumption by the equivalent of a whole power plant by 2020. It's ambitious, but the utility and its customers proved it feasible last year when they shattered a 45-megawatt goal by saving 76 megawatts. They accomplished it with everything from increased insulation to more efficient appliances and the installation of solar generation and hot water systems.
Kirkwood, Missouri (7/11)
Kirkwood, a St. Louis suburb, has been around for generations, which means it's shaded by lots of big, old trees. While the backdrop is beautiful, it also means lots of downed limbs after storms, and lots of work for tree trimmers. It also represents a large supply of wood waste to fuel a proposed biomass power plant. The Kirkwood Green project will convert wood waste into a synthetic gas that will be burned cleanly to generate electricity. The facility could produce enough power to serve 5,000 homes, reducing the city's reliance on coal-fueled electricity. The city is already improving its efficiency by purchasing power from Missouri wind farms.
City Utilities of Springfield, Missouri (8/11)
In Missouri, City Utilities of Springfield is helping business customers see the light. That's why the public power provider is doling out rebates for those who replace old lighting fixtures with new 25- to 28-watt T8 lamps and electronic ballasts. The program offers commercial customers up to $5,000 per year for pursuing the upgrades. The new lights use less energy and emit less heat, but also generate more light than the fixtures they typically replace.
Next: South Carolina
Santee Cooper, South Carolina (9/11)
Santee Cooper, South Carolina's state-owned electric and water utility and largest power producer, is helping its business customers trim their power usage. Its Reduce the Use program blends business initiatives and rebates targeted at the state's biggest power users. The program is first focusing on four key areas: lighting, HVAC, building envelope, and commercial refrigeration. Businesses that participate can earn rebates worth thousands of dollars - before they even start saving on their electric bills.
That's a smart way to cut costs - and emissions.
Sacramento Municipal Utility District (10/11)
"Smart metering" is the way of the future for utilities. Cutting-edge smart meters give commercial power users optimal control over power consumption by providing detailed usage information and options for improving efficiency and slashing costs. The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) is installing these state-of-the-art meters in all homes and businesses. It expects to replace all of these meters by the end of this year. With each new meter installed, users will discover energy savings, reduced costs, and greater reliability. In the future, smart meters will be able to communicate with programmable appliances, such as air conditioners, to let users break down power costs by item.