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Project Review: 2014 CESA award-winning installations, Part II


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In Part I of this feature, we looked at three of the eight installations recognized by judges on the 2014 CESA Award panel. This installment focuses on the remaining five installations.

 

In Part I of this feature, we looked at three of the eight installations recognized by judges on the 2014 CESA Award panel. This installment focuses on the remaining five installations.
 
The projects covered in Part II of this feature are as follows:
  • The Energy Trust of Oregon for the City of Gresham Wastewater Treatment Plant
  • The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center for the Massachusetts Clean Energy Internship Program
  • The New Mexico Energy Conservation and Management Division for the Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit
  • The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) for its CHP Acceleration Program
  • The Sacramento Municipal Utility District for SMUD’s Community Renewable Energy Deployment Program
“These award winners illustrate the tremendous creativity and commitment being shown by state agencies across the country in implementing clean energy,” said Warren Leon, executive director of CESA. “With eight very different programs highlighting diverse technologies including solar PV, wind, energy storage, hydropower, anaerobic digesters, microgrids, and combined heat and power, the 2014 State Leadership in Clean Energy award winners demonstrate that clean energy can create jobs, clean up the environment, and benefit local economies. These are programs to emulate.”
 
 
Project #4: Energy Trust of Oregon
 
Technical and financial assistance from Energy Trust of Oregon and the Oregon Department of Energy — combined with the determined efforts of the City of Gresham Wastewater Treatment Plant’s energy management team — is making this water resource recovery facility the first in the Pacific Northwest to achieve net-zero energy consumption from a combination of renewable energy production and energy-efficiency investments. By early 2015, the facility will produce all of its electricity from onsite renewable power using: two co-generation engines fueled by biogas; increased production of biogas from the co-digestion of fats, oils and grease; and a 420-kilowatt solar electric system.
 
Through the visionary and sustained efforts of its energy management team and technical and financial assistance from Energy Trust and the Oregon Department of Energy, the City of Gresham Wastewater Treatment Plant implemented a highly successful program to achieve its aggressive goals to reduce its need for electricity from the electricity grid. By early 2015, the facility will generate from renewable sources as much electricity as it needs to operate the plant. It is using two 395-kilowatt co-generation engines fueled by biogas, increased production of biogas from the co-digestion of fats, oils and grease (FOG), and a 420-kilowattground mount solar electric system.
 
As the soon-to-be first net-zero energy treatment plant in the Pacific Northwest, Gresham is setting a high standard for environmental sustainability. Over a 10-year period, Energy Trust has supported the City of Gresham with technical assistance, project development support, and cash incentives that lowered energy-efficiency project costs and the above-market costs of the two co-generation systems and the solar electric system at the wastewater treatment plant.
 
Through these projects, Energy Trust is helping to keep energy costs low and adding clean power to the generation mix for the benefit of all utility customers. Importantly, by gathering lessons learned and accomplishments from Gresham’s experience, Energy Trust is able to provide improved support to help other municipalities, and project developers are able to craft feasible and financially sound renewable energy projects. The City of Gresham started implementing renewable energy for heat and electricity in 1990 through the combustion of biogas produced from the anaerobic digestion of wastewater sludge. As the volume of wastewater treated at the plant increased, biogas production increased as well.
 
This presented Gresham with the opportunity to expand its 250-kilowatt co-generation system. In 2005, with financial support from Energy Trust, the facility replaced the aged co-generation set and expanded generation nameplate capacity to 395 kilowatts. The expansion of the co-generation engine helped build the energy management team’s confidence and created momentum to explore new renewable generation and efficiency opportunities. Further steps to achieve net-zero energy demand were the installation of a solar electric system, the addition of a FOG receiving and processing facility, and a 2014 decision to double co-generation capacity.

Additional critical steps included implementing, in 2010, an energy management team that met monthly, integration of a chapter on Energy Independence Projects in the plant’s 2011 Master Plan, and an Energy Efficiency Study that led to the 2012 installation of highly efficient aeration basin turbo blowers and new digester linear motion mixers.
 
Increasing clean energy and reducing costs.Wastewater treatment facilities are very energy intensive. In the case of Gresham, the facility requires approximately 5,550 megawatt hours of electricity per year. Through a net metering and interconnection agreement with Portland General Electric (PGE), the solar and biogas fueled systems will be managed to achieve net-zero energy demand. Co-generation from biogas will produce about 5,100 MWh per year while the solar array, which became operational in 2010, will generate another 450 MWh of renewable electricity.
 
From the generation of renewable electricity from biogas alone, about 72,000 Renewable Energy Certificates will be created from 2005 through 2028 and retired for the benefit of PGE customers. Overall, the renewable energy and energy efficiency projects installed at the plant since 2005 cost $8.39 million, including $890,000 for the FOG Phase 1 receiving station installed in 2012; and $3.2 million for the 395-kW co-generation engine expansion and FOG receiving station expansion in 2014. Energy Trust and the Oregon Department of Energy funded 38% of the total project costs.
 
The FOG station also has profound operation and maintenance benefits for the City. Diverting fats, oils, and grease at their source (e.g., restaurant, food processor) before they get flushed into the wastewater collection system avoids significant collection system cleanout costs. Further, waste hauling companies are currently delivering about 8,000 gallons of FOG to the facility each day with plans to receive 15,000 gallons per day with the expanded facility, saving money through shorter hauling distances for disposal. The tipping fees the haulers pay provide the City of Gresham with a significant annual revenue stream of about $250,000. The production of electricity from Gresham’s renewable energy projects is helping keep ratepayer costs low, advancing the plant’s environmental sustainability, and making the facility immune from possible future retail power price increases.
 
Gresham has demonstrated that water resource recovery facilities may have significant potential to adopt technological innovations to reduce or eliminate net energy use and, for some facilities, become net exporters of renewable energy.
 
Lessons Learned. The City of Gresham’s renewable energy success is providing valuable lessons, which can be shared with other water resource recovery facilities throughout Oregon and across the nation to show that they, too, may have the capacity to generate renewable energy while providing significant benefits to the environment and their ratepayers. Generation of renewable energy at wastewater treatment plants is nothing new. However, only a few facilities in the country have been successful in reaching net-zero energy generation. The opportunity for increased co-digestion and co-generation at water resource recovery facilities in Oregon is significant. For that reason, Energy Trust and the Oregon Department of Energy are highlighting the Gresham plant project in an anaerobic digestion case study and are encouraging other municipalities in Oregon and industry leaders to use it as a model.
 
Judges’ Comments. “The City of Gresham Wastewater Treatment Plant project demonstrates leadership, long-term commitment, and clean energy innovation. The combination of using biogas from the wastewater treatment process, additional biogas from fats, oils and grease, and solar electricity to achieve net-zero energy demand is novel and impressive. It is a model that should be considered for replication in other municipalities.”
 
Project #5: Massachusetts Clean Energy Center
 
The Massachusetts Clean Energy Internship Program, created and managed by the Massachusetts
Clean Energy Center (MassCEC), provides valuable support to Massachusetts’ growing clean energy economy. By connecting Massachusetts students and recent graduates with paid internships at clean energy companies across the state, MassCEC is helping to ensure that there is a steady stream of prepared, talented, and experienced workers ready to meet the growing market demand.
 
The clean energy industry in Massachusetts is experiencing significant growth. MassCEC’s 2014 Clean Energy Industry Report notes that MA clean energy jobs grew by 10.5 per cent from 2013. Massachusetts has more than 88,000 clean energy workers and nearly 6,000 clean energy firms. This growing market sector presents both an opportunity and a challenge. In order for industry growth to continue, businesses need to be able to hire new workers — something that requires both the capital to afford those workers and a skilled labor pool from which to draw.
 
The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center saw the need to connect prospective employers and new clean energy start-ups with skilled entrants into the workforce. The Massachusetts Clean Energy Internship Program has matched two key resources: a growing population of environmentally conscious college students and a growing clean energy sector in search of skilled workers.
 
Through the Massachusetts Clean Energy Internship Program, MassCEC provides paid internships for which students can apply. To be eligible, participating students must either be enrolled at a higher education institution in Massachusetts, a permanent Massachusetts resident attending an out-of-state institution, or recently graduated within the previous year. Students and recent graduates gain valuable workforce experience through their internships and build connections in the Massachusetts clean energy industry. Note: Businesses that participate in the internship program are reimbursed up to $12 an hour for the intern’s labor. This is a significant benefit for companies, especially for start-ups that would not otherwise be able to afford new interns or employees.
 
The impacts of the Massachusetts Clean Energy Internship Program are long-term. By helping clean energy companies grow and by training workers entering the field, MassCEC is helping to prepare the next generation of clean energy leaders and ensuring future market growth.
 
The success of the program is due to a smart and simple concept: linking one of Massachusetts’ largest and strongest populations, the higher education sector, with one of its fastest growing industries, the clean energy sector. After MassCEC’s initial work to launch the initiative, the program has developed considerable momentum, because people in the two sectors have a strong interest in promoting it widely. MassCEC now only has to put continued funding and provide modest administrative work to keep the program going strong.
 
Additional benefits of the Internship Program have included increased exposure for Massachusetts-based clean energy companies as well as alleviating stubbornly high unemployment among college students, especially during the summer months. Due to heavy interest from both applicants and employers, the program has expanded from a summer-only internship, to a year-round program, offering part-time positions in the fall and spring, and full-time positions in the summer.
 
To participate in the program, students — both undergraduates and graduate students — submit a resume, official or unofficial transcript, and proof of residency (if applicable) into an online database. This information is viewed by participating employers, who select the individuals most likely to meet their workforce needs. Since its creation, the program has placed 952 interns at 228 companies. More than 50 interns have gained permanent positions at their host companies, while many others have found positions elsewhere in the state clean energy industry.
 
A model for other states.The Massachusetts Clean Energy Internship Program could be replicated in other states at any scale: state-wide or regional, technology specific or all-inclusive. Primary components needed for replication are funding for reimbursements, a population of interested college students, and interested clean energy companies.
 
Since an agency or organization hosting the program is simply serving to facilitate the selection process,
very little logistical work is required to administer a similar program once sufficient protocols have been established. As the application process continues to evolve and take on a more digital component, it will also require far less administration on the part of the host entity in the future.
 
Judges’ Comments. “Massachusetts’ commitment to growing its clean energy sector is exemplified in this internship program.Developing a skilled workforce for the future is an important issue to address. Both the clean energy industry and the student interns are well-served by this program. Other states could adopt similar programs to develop their clean energy workforce.”
 
 
Project #6: State of New Mexico, Energy Conservation and Management Division (ECMD), Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department

New Mexico’s total renewable generation capacity is now over 1 million kilowatts. This huge milestone for renewable energy in New Mexico would have not been realized so soon without the Renewable Energy Production Tax Credit (REPTC). The program supports utility-scale wind, biomass, and solar projects by providing a refundable 10-year tax credit against the corporate income tax of 1 cent per kilowatt-hour for wind or biomass, and between 1.5–4 cents per kWh for solar. This innovative program involved collaboration between utilities, industry, and state government. It has resulted in long-term economic and societal benefits, leveraged private investment, and increased renewable energy deployment.
 
ECMD develops and implements effective clean energy programs — renewable energy, energy efficiency, alternative fuels, and safe transportation of radioactive waste — to promote environmental and economic sustainability and to protect public health and safety for New Mexico’s citizens. In 2003, ECMD began implementing the REPTC.
 
How the REPTC works: For wind and biomass, the credit is $0.01 per kilowatt hour and applies to up to 400,000,000 kWh for each certified generator in each of ten consecutive tax years. The statewide cap of the credit for wind and biomass is 2,000,000,000 kWh of production per year. For solar, the credit ranges between $0.015 and $0.04 per kWh (an average of $0.027/kWh) and applies to the first 200,000,000 kWh for each certified generator in ten consecutive tax years. The statewide cap of the credit for solar is 500,000,000 kWh. Since October 2007, the REPTC has been a refundable tax credit and can be allocated at any time to a new owner of the renewable energy generation project. To qualify, the energy generator must have a capacity of at least 1 MW that is installed before January 2018.
 
The ECMD began this effort by developing “investment-grade” wind maps for the state using an international firm whose reputation was acceptable to investment bankers. With this data, wind developers and investors became more comfortable in developing projects. Projects were advanced by at least three years because developers had reliable data at an early stage with which to base decisions.
 
The additional New Mexico 10-year production tax credit made wind and solar attractive investments. Since the inception of REPTC, 10 wind and 21 solar projects have been completed, leading to 2,246,000,000 kWh in annual energy production. There are now 794 MW of wind and 232 MW of solar operating in New Mexico. These projects created approximately $2 billion in construction activity over the past ten years. A waiting list for the tax credit includes another 677 MW of wind and 65.5 MW of solar. The existence of REPTC has also made it easier for electric utilities in the state to cost-effectively meet the targets in the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS).
 
The New Mexico State Land Trust receives direct revenue from leasing public lands to wind, solar and geothermal power plants. The projects qualify for the tax credit for ten years, but continue to produce renewable energy far beyond the 10-year incentive, as state land leases are commonly up to 30 years in length. Lease revenue for the next 38 years from renewable energy and transmission projects is projected to be $574 million.
 
Renewable energy projects are also leasing private land. This has become an important supplemental income source for a number of ranchers. Land leases, construction jobs and permanent maintenance positions are additional ways that renewable energy farms are supporting rural communities. A wind turbine typically generates about $20,000 in annual income to farmers and ranchers. PV systems also generate income to the land owners.
 
Maximum tax liability for the state each year for the wind/biomass and solar tax credits combined is $33,500,000. In contrast, as noted above, the revenue for the next 38 years from renewable energy and transmission projects for state-owned land leases is projected to be $574 million, which spread relatively equally over that time frame will be $15 million per year, and will continue for an estimated 28 years beyond the 10-year tax incentive.
 
Without this tax incentive New Mexico would possibly have a small amount of wind energy, but it would in no way been able to create the substantial land lease revenue it has now with many, large-scale wind farms throughout the state. Creating the REPTC was New Mexico’s planned approach to make the state RPS acceptable to all stakeholders. In turn, this tax incentive leveraged private investment to benefit New Mexico. Since the REPTC was instated in 2003, several other states have examined the NM REPTC as a model for creating their own programs. This program could be modified to fit the needs and limits of other states.
 
Judges’ Comments.The State of New Mexico’s program identified its renewable energy resources and potential sources of revenue to create an incentive program that has long-term benefits. By providing developers with reliable investment-grade data in state wind maps, and with its collaboration with state lawmakers, the ECMD program has enabled rapid development of renewable energy projects by utilities and private investors.”
 
Project #7: New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA)
 
The NYSERDA CHP Acceleration Program is structured to drive market transformation by endorsing commercially-available, pre-engineered/pre-packaged modular combined-heat-and-power (CHP) products as plug-and-play appliances and provide all of the ease and assurances that conveys. The program explores whether a standard-offer, prescriptive program can effectively accelerate the adoption of the complex and expensive measure of clean and efficient CHP. NYSERDA aims for this program to be a model for multi-state standardization, which could be a real game-changer for the CHP marketplace.
 
Since 1975, NYSERDA has worked to advance innovative energy solutions in ways that improve New York’s economy and environment. In 2012, drawing from years of experience with CHP programs,
NYSERDA launched the CHP Acceleration Program, which focuses on modular CHP from 50 kW to 1.3 MW (NYSERDA also has a companion program for CHP systems larger than 1.3 MW).
 
CHP systems are able to capture waste heat from commercial and industrial-scale electrical or mechanical power generation and use it to provide heat and power for multifamily, commercial, institutional, and industrial sites or local communities. The CHP marketplace in New York has traditionally been very fragmented and compartmentalized. To address this issue, NYSERDA has coordinated with utilities to vet and approve commercially available pre-engineered and pre-packaged CHP units, and to identify approved vendors for the modules.
 
The program was launched in 2012 with a list of pre-approved modules consisting of 36 systems offered by eight vendors, and has recently been expanded to 141 systems offered by 13 vendors. NYSERDA vets the quality, reliability, durability, and integrated consistency/harmony of the specific CHP modules, which builds customer confidence, increases standardization, minimizes custom engineering, lowers acquisition costs and leads to quicker decision-making. A project developer or design team can then select from a menu an appropriate module package that matches a potential installation site.
 
The program’s strategy of identifying and selecting equipment vendors of the modules also provides multiple benefits. The system vendor is responsible for resolution of all issues pertaining to the purchase, installation, maintenance and performance of each system. They become an integral part of the design team early in the design process, thereby reducing the likelihood of incompatible or sub-optimal designs and allowing the vendors to be the repository for lessons learned regarding their equipment. The program provides transparency that allows customers to compare prices from different vendors and also enables vendors to offer firm pricing that takes into account financial support offered by NYSERDA.
 
Addressing market barriers to CHP deployment.NYSERDA’s CHP Acceleration Program is addressing the system of CHP purchasing in New York, making it more streamlined, cost-efficient, and effective, while providing benefits to both customers and vendors. The $60 million program budget is expected to leverage $90 million in private capital and reduce peak electric load by 37.5 MW. The program offers support for installation of approved modules, support services, technical assistance, system performance data collection, and other activities.
 
The CHP Acceleration Program will further the public policy goals of increased grid reliability and resiliency. All projects must have the ability to run in parallel with the utility grid to save energy and reduce energy costs on an everyday basis, and must also have the ability to run independently during a grid outage to provide power to priority loads at the site. Additional financial support is offered for CHP systems installed to support critical infrastructure, such as facilities of refuge.
 
Although only halfway through the program, results are already very positive. There is much greater participation in this CHP Acceleration Program than in NYSERDA’s previous CHP programs, and CHP systems are being deployed much faster. In the first 18 months of the program, 29 project applications were received. Twelve of those projects already have equipment on-site; one project was temporarily paused by a proposer, but has since restarted. It’s also worth noting that the program has experienced zero attrition.
 
Judges’ Comments.This program is an excellent way to encourage more CHP projects. By creating standards for modules and tracking system performance, NYSERDA will give potential customers confidence. By promoting CHP as a plug-and-play technology and as a resilient power solution, the program has developed a model that deserves recognition and emulation.”
 
Project #8: Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD)
 
SMUD’s Community Renewable Energy Deployment (CRED) program developed four innovative local renewable energy projects, providing up to 5.6 MW of additional clean energy generation to SMUD’s customers. The projects bring local economic and environmental benefits though the creation of jobs, increased tax revenue for the community, supplemental revenue for dairy farmers, turning wasteland into solar power plants and transforming existing infrastructure and problem wastes into sustainable energy resources. In addition to displacing fossil fuels and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the projects demonstrated that community solar projects and anaerobic digesters can be readily implemented through collaborative partnerships.
 
SMUD has a renewable energy goal of 37% of retail sales by 2020, which consists of 33% RPS plus 4% from a voluntary green pricing program. In addition, a Sustainable Power Supply objective will require greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction to 10% of 1990 levels by 2050. SMUD taps into local renewable resources to help meet its aggressive renewables and GHG goals, mitigate transmission constraints, and bring economic and environmental benefits to the community. SMUD staff developed a collection of projects deploying renewable energy technologies within SMUD service territory.
 
In 2009, SMUD applied and received grants from the US Department of Energy (DOE) and the California Energy Commission (CEC) to implement four projects, which were comprised of a community solar project and three anaerobic digesters.
 
SMUD teamed up with The City of Sacramento and solar company Conergy to develop this 1.5 MW community-scale solar project. Conergy designed, constructed, and financed this photovoltaic system in Sacramento’s Sutter Landing Regional Park, which was built on a closed landfill. The project, which included carport and dog park shade structures in addition to a large ground-mounted system, was designed to address land settling issues. This project met SMUD’s objective of installing community-scale solar generation on disturbed, marginal, publicly-owned land near the region’s load center. It also resulted in excellent public visibility, educational impact, public amenities and aesthetic value. SMUD collaborated extensively with the City, Conergy and DOE to resolve permitting and environmental impact issues so that the project could be constructed. This project became operational in September 2014.
 
Regional County Sanitation District Wastewater Treatment Facility: This CRED project created a co-digestion facility to receive fats, oils, and grease (FOG) and food processing waste (FPW) in order to increase biogas production. The Sacramento Regional County Sanitation District wastewater treatment facility has a new feedstock receiving station and blends local FOG and FPW (such as off-specification soda pop) with sewage to increase biogas generation. This biogas is being used at SMUD’s Cosumnes Power Plant to generate clean energy. The project provides an innovative, local solution to problem wastes that can clog pipes and pumps and previously required trucking to distant locations. It is expected to provide up to 3 MW of additional renewable electricity, generating power for up to 3,000 homes, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and helping local businesses save money.
 
The remaining two CRED projects are dairy manure anaerobic digestion systems (a 600kW covered lagoon and a 450kW above-ground complete stirred tank) for combined heat and power (CHP) applications, which deliver electricity to SMUD’s grid. These anaerobic digesters were installed at the New Hope and Van Warmerdam dairies. Through a power purchase agreement with SMUD, the projects generate enough electricity to power roughly 500 homes in Sacramento. Waste heat from the engine-gensets is used to heat the digesters.
 
In addition, both projects improve farm operations by providing a better system to handle the manure, which stabilizes the waste and reduces odors and flies. The projects began commercial operations in mid-2013. SMUD matched the project developers with the dairymen, provided the DOE and CEC funds, provided expertise with permitting and grid interconnection, provided long-term power purchase and greenhouse gas offset contracts.
 
Beyond reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the CRED projects demonstrate that solar projects and anaerobic digesters that directly benefit the community can be readily implemented through collaboration between developers and local business owners, and supported through a combination of state and federal programs. SMUD fostered the partnerships needed for each project and secured grant funding from DOE and the CEC to lower capital costs.
 
Other communities could replicate the these projects and learn from SMUD’s experience with the CRED program to assess, overcome barriers, utilize and benefit from renewable energy generation in their region. The Simply Solar project is a good example of installing community-scale solar on disturbed, marginal, publicly owned land. FOG and FPW are abundant in most metropolitan areas, and the U.S. has approximately 21,000 publicly owned wastewater treatment facilities. In addition, there are more than 1,400 registered dairies in California but only 16 have digesters. SMUD is already developing another dairy digester and has additional local projects in the pipeline, which could benefit from California’s Cap & Trade and SMUD’s Climate Change programs.
 
Judges’ Comments.This was a challenging program to accomplish, given the range of disparate technologies involved; it would not have gone forward without persistent leadership from SMUD. The commitment shown by the utility offers valuable insights into how to overcome challenges and work with others to achieve clean energy goals. Moreover, the CRED program shows that community-based deployment of small, innovative energy projects are replicable with proper local, state, federal and other stakeholders’ support.”

For more information on the CESA Awards program, please visit www.cesa.org.

 

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Bioenergy  •  Energy efficiency  •  Energy infrastructure  •  Energy storage including Fuel cells  •  Green building  •  Photovoltaics (PV)  •  Policy, investment and markets  •  Solar electricity  •  Solar heating and cooling  •  Wind power

 

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