Solar energy is becoming increasingly cost effective and the technology is becoming more efficient. While many might suggest less seasonably affected states for solar investments, properly sited solar arrays are a viable option in Michigan. This concept is addressed in the recently released Renewable Energy: Community Guidebook:
One of the most common concerns raised when discussing the potential for solar in Michigan is whether it is viable due to rapidly fluctuating weather and seasonal conditions. Despite these climatic realities, there exists significant solar potential in Michigan. Cooler air temperatures allow for increased panel efficiency, meaning panels installed in Michigan generate more voltage per sunlight hour than those installed in traditionally “sunny” states.
A variety of programs are available to help commercial property owners add solar to their buildings. Many Michigan-based utilities have incentive programs for solar installations such as DTE’s SolarCurrents program. These programs are in addition to the 30% federal tax credit available for solar installations. Other funding mechanisms, such as Solar Aggregation programs and Community Solar programs, are developing and implemented to increase solar adoption. A partnership between Great Lakes Bay Region 5, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and Clean Energy Coalition is focusing on working with local businesses to install photovoltaic solar systems using a solar aggregation purchasing model. The Great Lakes Bay Region (GLBR) is a prime location for installation of cost-effective solar energy systems. Commercial property owners in the GLBR can participate in a Solar Bulk Purchasing Program. Leveraging the combined purchasing power of local businesses, the program offers a sliding scale pricing structure. As more and more business join the program and the total amount of kilowatts increase, all participants receive discounted rates.
If you are interested in solar and your facility is located in Arenac, Bay, Clare, Gladwin, Gratiot, Huron, Isabella, Midland, Saginaw, Sanilac or Tuscola county, please contact GLBRSolar@cec-mi.org for more information and to sign up for a free solar site assessment (limited to the first 20 customers). More information can be found at cec-mi.org/communities/programs/joinglbrsolar/.
Drivers of alternative fuel vehicles can now find alternative fuel stations using Clean Cities’ new iPhone app. The Alternative Fueling Station Locator app, now available through the App Store, allows iPhone users to select an alternative fuel and find the 20 closest stations within a 30-mile radius. Users can view the locations on a map or as a list with station addresses, phone numbers, and hours of operation.
The app draws information from Clean Cities’ Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC), which houses the most complete, up-to-date database of alternative fueling stations in the United States. The database currently contains location information for more than 15,000 alternative fueling stations throughout the country. Clean Energy Coalition runs the Clean Cities programs for Ann Arbor, Detroit and West Michigan. Through its Clean Cities initiatives, Clean Energy Coalition and its partners help to expand the alternative fueling infrastructure throughout the state of Michigan.
For more information on the Clean Cities program and other resources that may be available to you or to see if your fleet can participate in a program please contact:
Commercial buildings— retail stores, offices, schools, churches, libraries, hospitals, etc. —consumed about 19% of all energy in the United States in 2010. Reducing the amount of energy consumed by commercial buildings does more than help the environment; it also helps facility managers and property owners’ bottom line. More and more energy efficient products are entering the market everyday and the ability to have a major impact with little upfront costs is becoming the norm. Taking care of a facility’s “low hanging fruit” can seem easy, but what happens after you change a few light bulbs, are you getting the return you expected? Here are Clean Energy Coalition’s five tips to help you get started making your commercial building more energy efficient.
1. What are your goals? Making energy efficiency improvements without defined goals can lead to extra work, lack of support and extra costs. Do you want to be Net Zero or do you want to reduce your utility bills by 25%? The strategies to achieve these goals can be drastically different.
2. Get an energy audit. Goals are great, but you need a baseline to get started. An energy audit is essential to understand how a building consumes energy. Replacing the HVAC system to provide better heating and cooling without addressing insulation will not likely yield the returns you expect. An energy audit will give you the information needed to understand how a building performs, along with a complete list of changes, costs and incentives to help improve efficiency.
3. Make a Plan. Now that you have a goal and know what to do, make a plan to achieve the goal! The energy audit provides both low-cost, quick payback investments as well as higher-cost items that can be completed during other facility improvement projects. The audit will also provide some insights into occupant behavior changes that can make a big difference.
4. Funding, Funding, Funding! A host of improvements grants, rebates and incentives are available from a variety of entities — including a 30% federal tax credit on solar, rebates from local utilities and free or reduced-rate energy audits. Other options also can include revolving energy loans. Taking all of the money saved from first stage energy-efficiency improvements and then reinvesting in more energy efficiency improvements can be a great way to speed up improvement schedules and help fund other facility improvements ahead of schedule. If you want to be added to CEC’s funding notice list click here.
5. See how you are doing: measure, report and complete! Make sure to add your building to the Energy Star’s Portfolio Manager. In some cases, a building can be added during the energy audit process, but make sure to track how the building is performing as you make changes and upgrades. If you’re focusing on occupant behavior, let the everyone see how their behavior changes are contributing to the building’s reduced energy use and operating costs. This can be a great way to keep occupants engaged with energy efficiency.
These are just a few tips for getting started making your commercial building more energy efficient. If you want more help setting energy efficiency goals, need an energy audit or want to find funding, our staff can help get you moving in the right direction. For more information fill out our quick online form or contact:
Question of the Month: What are the key terms to know when discussing ethanol flexible fuel vehicles (FFVs) and their fueling infrastructure?
Answer: It is important to know how to “talk the talk” when it comes to FFVs. Becoming familiar with the terms below will help you better understand these vehicles and the associated fueling infrastructure so that you can ask the right questions and make informed decisions.
FFV: An FFV is a vehicle that has an internal combustion engine and can run on E85 (defined below), gasoline, or a mixture of the two. Except for fuel system and powertrain adjustments that allow the vehicles to run on higher ethanol blends, FFVs are virtually identical to their conventional gasoline vehicle counterparts; however, drivers can expect a slightly lower fuel economy when driving on ethanol compared to gasoline, depending on the ethanol blend.
Types of Ethanol
Ethanol can be categorized into two main types based on the feedstocks used for its production:
The following ethanol blends can be used in conventional gasoline vehicles (note model year restrictions for E15):
The following ethanol blends above E15 should only be used in FFVs due to material and compatibility issues associated with the high alcohol content of ethanol:
Low-level ethanol blends up to E10 have already been incorporated into the majority of the U.S. gasoline supply, and fueling stations that supply these blends are not required to update their fueling infrastructure. Ethanol blends above E10, however, do require specific ethanol-compatible equipment, including:
Most stations that dispense mid-level blends also have the following:
Additional information on FFVs, ethanol feedstocks, and infrastructure can be found on the AFDC Ethanol website (http://www.afdc.energy.gov/fuels/ethanol.html).
Gearing Up for NGV’s!
Compressed Natural Gas vehicles can save money and reduce emissions, but navigating equipment needs, safety requirements, and bureaucratic hurdles can be challenging. Join Clean Energy Coalition on Tuesday, November 12 for “Gearing Up for NGVs”, where speakers from ANGI, Sierra Monitor, and DTE will demystify the CNG landscape and provide actionable insight into how fleets can pursue compressed natural gas.
With the close of another fiscal year and the end of the calendar year just a few months away, a new year of energy efficiency funding is right around the corner. Funding, rebates and incentives for conducting energy audits and/or implementing energy efficiency upgrades are available for most non-profit, educational, religious, commercial and governmental facilities. Many of these funds have already been identified and submitting the necessary applications and paperwork can start now. If you are interested in potential funding opportunities to improve your facility and reduce utility costs, fill out our online form and our team will review what resource support may be available for you.
2013 was a busy year for energy audits and facility improvements. Here are a few of the businesses, religious and public entities that took advantage of funding.
KerryTown Market and Shops
Ann Arbor City Hall Larcom Building
City of Detroit – Patton Recreation Center
Vineyard Church of Ann Arbor
Program Contact Information
Friday and Saturday November 1st and 2nd
3511 Mertz Road (Southeast corner of M24 & M46 intersection) Caro, MI in Tuscola County
To celebrate the completion of its new station that features two ethanol fueling pumps, G.C. Express in Caro, Michigan will be giving away prizes during a two-day grand opening event. Don’t wait until November 1st though – patrons can begin the celebration early by visiting now to enter into prize drawings. The station features two ethanol blender pumps that dispense E30, E50 and E85 blends. G.C. Express participated in the 2012 Michigan Ethanol Infrastructure & Marketing Incentive program. Through this program, Clean Energy Coalition provided funding through the Corn Marketing Program of Michigan to support the purchase of equipment and installation costs. For more information on ethanol fuel, please visit the U.S. Dept. of Energy Alternative Fuel Data Center’s ethanol information page.
Ron Melchert is the Director of Public Works for the City of Auburn Hills, managing the city’s group that maintains a complex system of roads, grounds, facilities and utilities. Ron’s tenure at the city spans 18 years including seven years as the Director of Public Works. Early in his career, Ron was working as the city’s Public Utilities Supervisor, overseeing the operation and maintenance of the city’s water, sewage, and storm drain systems. Just eight months into the job, Ron found himself addressing a 42 inch water main break at the city. “It was a stressful and exciting time,” Ron recalls of the event. “I had to quickly learn about pressure reducing valves and make sure our staff got the training they needed.” Ron attributes this event to much of the career success he has enjoyed over the past 18 years. Now Ron oversees 43 full-time staff and 20 seasonal employees.
An interesting and perhaps unique aspect of Ron’s position ripened over the past few years when the city’s Community Development Department Director began working on an effort to prepare the community for electric vehicles. As the city worked on an ordinance to encourage developers to prepare sites for electric vehicles (conduit, signage, etc.), Ron’s team provided input on the city’s utility infrastructure, permitting processes, and other elements of public works that would need to be addressed to make the endeavor successful. Ron’s efforts did not stop at simply providing feedback and guidance for the ordinance. Because he also oversees the city’s fleet of 200 vehicles and pieces of equipment, he also worked with Chrysler Group, LLC to field test some of their prototype plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEV).
Now Ron is guiding the city through another endeavor: deploying commercially available alternative fuel vehicle technologies into the fleet. Working off direct guidance from City Council to start looking into clean energy technology and energy efficiency, Auburn Hills is now turning to propane autogas in effort to reduce fleet fuel costs and vehicle emissions. Initially, eight cruisers will be converted with plans to convert another four vehicles next year. The city expects to save approximately $45,000 in fuel costs over the life of the vehicles, seeing a payback on its investment in less than three years.
When asked why Auburn Hills is prioritizing energy efficiency and clean vehicle technologies, Ron says that the city “embraces sustainable investments that enhance customer service and continually add value to our community.”
Question of the Month: How have fleets benefited from alternative fuel use during emergency situations?
Answer: Another hurricane season is upon us. As such, we are reminded of the lessons learned from Superstorm Sandy, which made landfall near Atlantic City, New Jersey last October. Specifically, alternative fuel and advanced technology vehicles were able to provide critical services and assist in recovery efforts when conventional vehicles were taken out of service due to fuel shortages and power outages at fueling stations.
It has been reported that more than 20% of conventional fueling stations had no fuel as many as 11 days after the storm. Meanwhile, alternative fuel fleets were still operating. For example, the compressed natural gas (CNG) Atlantic City Jitney minibuses were assisting with evacuation and the Oyster Bay CNG refuse and dump trucks were helping with clean-up efforts. Because CNG infrastructure is typically fueled by an underground pipeline, these stations are not as dependent on fuel delivery trucks for their supply. Therefore, these fleets were able to jump into action and provide support during a difficult time. CNG was not the only alternative fuel used during the Superstorm Sandy aftermath. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey continued their use of biodiesel blends without fuel supply interruptions. For a video summarizing the use of alternative fuel vehicles after Superstorm Sandy, see the following MotorWeek story: http://www.afdc.energy.gov/case/1323.
Emergency situations can include natural disasters, such as hurricanes, flooding, tornados, earthquakes, and wildfires. However, they also include systems and infrastructure failures, pandemics, and physical or cyber attacks. To that end, the Valley of the Sun Clean Cities Coalition in Phoenix, Arizona is working with the Arizona Department of Emergency Management to encourage fuel diversity in an area of the country that is vulnerable to fuel shortages due to pipeline ruptures.
How can we learn from these experiences?
For additional information about the response to Superstorm Sandy and alternative fuel use in emergency situations, please refer to the Webinar on the Role of Alternative Fuel Vehicles in Emergency Preparedness (http://www1.eere.energy.gov/cleancities/toolbox/webinar_emergency_preparedness.html).
Question of the Month: What are the key terms to know when discussing electric drive vehicles and their fueling infrastructure?
It is important to know how to “talk the talk” when it comes to electric drive vehicles. Becoming familiar with the terms below will help you better understand these vehicles and the associated fueling (charging) infrastructure, so that you can ask the right questions and make informed decisions:
There are two main categories of electric drive vehicles:
Hybrid electric vehicles (HEV) are powered by an internal combustion engine or other propulsion source that runs on conventional or alternative fuel, as well as an electric motor that uses energy stored in a battery. The battery is charged through regenerative braking and by the internal combustion engine, and is not plugged in to charge. Regenerative breaking is a technology by which energy normally lost during braking is captured by the electric motor and stored in the battery for extra power during acceleration. There are two different types of HEVs:
HEVs can be designed in two different configurations:
Plug-in electric vehicles (PEV) refer to any on-road vehicle that can be charged through an external source of electricity. There are two different types of PEVs available:
Charging equipment for PEVs is known as electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE). Charging times vary based on how depleted the battery is, how much energy it holds, the type of battery, and the type of EVSE. Before exploring types of EVSE, it’s important to first understand the basics of electricity through the following terminology:
12 amps x 120V = 1440 W / 1000 = 1.44 kW
24 kWh / 1.44 kW = 16.7 hours
There are five different types of EVSE outlined in the table below.
|Category||Basic Information||Connector(s)||Charge Time|
||SAE J1772, NEMA 5-15 or NEMA 5-20||2 to 5 miles of range per hour of charging time to a light-duty PHEV or EV|
||SAE J1772||10 to 20 miles of range per hour of charging time to a light-duty PHEV or EV|
|Level 3||Pending industry consensus on definition||Undefined||Undefined|
||60 to 80 miles of range to a light-duty PHEV or EV in 20 minutes|
|Legacy “Paddle” Inductive||
||Small paddle or large paddle inductive||Varies|
||SAE J2954 (pending)||Undefined|