Technical Assistance

Huntsville Better Buildings Challenge

Why You Should Participate in the North Alabama Building Performance Challenge

If you’ve been around this blog long enough, you’ve probably heard something about the North Alabama Building Performance Challenge (NABPC). But what you might not have thought about is why you should take the challenge yourself. It’s time for us to change that.

6 Reasons to Participate in the North Alabama Building Performance Challenge

Simply stated, the goal of the HBBC is to reduce energy consumption by a targeted 20% in participating buildings across the city. Huntsville has already committed itself to becoming one of America’s most sustainable cities, but the municipal government simply can’t do this on its own. That’s where the Challenge comes in. By increasing efficiency by just 20%, we can save literally millions of dollars in North Alabama alone.

So why should you participate? Let’s take a look at a few of the reasons.

1. The North Alabama Building Performance Challenge will save you money

We couldn’t start this any other way. The first, most obvious—and probably most important for lots of people—reason you should participate in the North Alabama Building Performance Challenge is because it will save your business money.

How? Simple—increasing efficiency means paying lower utility bills. A lower utility bill means your company is saving cash. Most business exist to make money, so this is a win-win situation all around.

2. And you can reinvest that money

You’ve just saved your company bundles of cash by increasing energy efficiency by 20% in your building. Great, but now what? Well, you could reinvest those savings in any number of ways. With more capital freed up, your company could raise wages, make further improvements to the building, or embark on a totally new venture.

It really is up to you. But the main thing to remember is that these investments will come entirely from energy savings—and would essentially cost the company nothing.

 

3. You’ll help the community

By taking the Challenge, you won’t just be helping your own company. You’ll also be bringing loads of benefits to the community.

To understand why, think of the big picture. Plenty of businesses just like yours will be participating. Together, your upgrades will foster new business opportunities throughout the area while creating a more sustainable footprint.

And the upgrades will show up everywhere: Municipal buildings, hospitals, universities, and commercial sites are just a few places that could take the challenge.

 

4. You’ll spread the word

We believe in 100% percent sustainable energy for all, but we can’t do it alone. By taking the Challenge, you’ll help spread the word about sustainable energy.

The NABPC will publicly recognize partners and participants when they reach their goals. In addition, we’ll use a public map to promote buildings and owners who achieve ENERGY STAR certification. There’s no such thing as bad publicity, as the saying goes, and that’s especially true here. Who doesn’t like hearing about increasing efficiency and saving money?

 

5. It’s a good way to go green

Have you ever thought to yourself that it would be nice to go green, if only you could find a way? Here’s your chance.

Increasing efficiency is good for the environment. Using less electricity reduces demand and lessens the burden on the grid. And that’s not all. It also helps reduce America’s dependence on foreign oil.

From Energy.gov:

More efficient commercial, institutional, multifamily, and industrial buildings reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil, protect the environment, and save billions of dollars in energy costs that can be spent growing businesses, investing in new technologies, and creating American jobs.

More jobs. Economic growth. A better and greener environment. What’s not to like?

 

6. And most importantly…

…You’ll get this sweet participation decal.

So what are you waiting for. Contact us today for more information.

Distributed Generation benefits

Distributed Generation: What Are the Benefits?

Increased efficiency. Reduced rates. Improved reliability. Diminished emissions. If all of that sounds good to you, then you ought to know about the benefits of distributed generation.

A few weeks back, we covered microgrids and why they’re important in the context of the larger, main grid. As you might recall, microgrids are defined not by their size, but rather by their function—crucially, their ability to break off from the main grid and operate autonomously. Got it? Well, if that makes sense, think of distributed generation as a network of systems just like that.

That’s oversimplifying it a little, but the overall concept holds true. Distributed generation is when electricity comes from many small energy sources. Generally, these sources are local and renewable. They’re all connected to the larger grid but can also function separately.

If all this sounds unfamiliar, that’s because it’s not the “normal” way of doing things. But it does have its advantages.

Distributed generationThe traditional model

In the traditional transmission and distribution (T&D) grid, large sources provide power to huge numbers of residential, commercial, and industrial customers. Some of those customers live close to the centralized power plants. Other live far away—sometimes very, very far.

In contrast, a distributed generation (DG) system has smaller, decentralized sources that generate electricity much closer to the people who use it. There are lots of producers, and even though they produce less individually, they’re all connected to the grid. Together, they can be quite effective.

Several technologies form the backbone of a DG system. Some of the most prominent are solar, wind, and hydro. Another is cogeneration, which is the production of electricity from what is essentially the leftover energy from other forms of generation. Yet another is an energy storage system, which stays connected to the grid and holds energy until it’s needed.

So what are the benefits of distributed generation? In 2007, the U.S. Department of Energy released a report outlining some of DG’s advantages. Here’s what they came up with (h/t Energy.gov):

  • Increased electric system reliability
  • An emergency supply of power
  • Reduction of peak power requirements
  • Offsets to investments in generation, transmission, or distribution facilities that would otherwise be recovered through rates
  • Provision of ancillary services, including reactive power
  • Improvements in power quality
  • Reductions in land-use effects and rights-of-way acquisition costs
  • Reduction in vulnerability to terrorism and improvements in infrastructure resilience

Those are all really important concepts, but let’s focus on that first one.

Distributed generationIncreased reliability, better performance

One way to think about the benefits of distributed energy is to visualize your cell phone’s network. Imagine for a moment that your carrier had only a few towers in just a few spots around the country. The towers would be massive and powerful, but you wouldn’t have the same reliability and coverage that you have now. The reasons should be obvious. With a network of smaller, more evenly placed towers, cell-phone carriers are able to provide the best service possible to their customers.

Distributed generation is no different. When centralized power plants transmit energy over long distances, some of that energy is lost. With distributed generation, the generators are closer to those who use the energy. Thus there’s less waste. Increased efficiency. In the old model, a loss in service at any point of the grid means everyone suffers. In the new model, that’s less likely to happen.

DG can also serve as a backup to the grid, acting as an emergency source for public services in the case of a natural disaster. Here in North Alabama, that kind of service could be invaluable after a tornado. And by producing energy locally, DG systems can reduce demand at peak times in specific areas and alleviate congestion on the main grid.

Finally, because distributed energy tends to come from renewable sources, it’s good for the environment. Using more renewables means lowering emissions. And lowering emissions makes the world a more enjoyable place for all of us.

Huntsville Better Business Challenge

U.S. Space & Rocket Center and Huntsville City Schools Join North Alabama Building Performance Challenge; Commit to 20% Energy Reduction by 2025

Huntsville, AL – Two of Huntsville’s largest community institutions, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center and Huntsville City Schools, have joined the North Alabama Buildings Performance Challenge, committing to achieve at least 20% reduction in energy consumption within 10 years. These community organizations are reducing operating costs to deliver more resources toward their mission: Education.

The U.S. Space & Rocket Center has created a three-pronged approach to focus on energy education, displaying best practices, and social interaction. We will continue to build on this approach as a Better Buildings Challenge partner and becoming a showcase for energy excellence.

The North Alabama Buildings Performance Challenge aims to support the Department of Energy’s goal of helping businesses save energy costs, enabling them to grow, invest in new technology, and create American jobs. Energy Alabama has identified over $50 million dollars of low hanging savings potential in Huntsville.

Huntsville City Schools aggressive approach to energy conservation targets both energy and maintenance costs.  Those savings are then reinvested back into the priority of the school district, educating the students with added resources.  Additionally, by incorporating the teachers, students, and families into the Energy Master Plan, Huntsville City Schools shares the knowledge, and best practices, with society in general to improve a future generation.

About the North Alabama Buildings Performance Challenge

The North Alabama Buildings Performance Challenge is modeled to be part of the Better Buildings Initiative launched by the Department of Energy in February 2011 to catalyze private sector investment in making America’s commercial buildings more energy efficient. The instrumental partners in the Better Buildings Challenge include private sector companies, financial institutions, and local governments, with a coalition of partners taking the lead to move Huntsville forward. The North Alabama Buildings Performance Challenge is a joint effort of the Energy Alabama, Avion Solutions Inc., and Energy Huntsville.

About Energy Alabama

Energy Alabama is accelerating the transition to clean, sustainable energy throughout Alabama. We accomplish our mission by educating young and old alike, informing smart energy policy, and providing technical assistance to help deploy more sustainable energy. We believe in 100% sustainable energy for all.

About Avion Solutions

Avion’s Energy Solutions provides our customers lower operating costs at their facilities through reasonable measures of energy efficiency.  Our experience with, excitement for, and education about energy efficiency – led by a Certified Energy Manager – translates to immediate and future savings. We are not interested in using our services to sell you high-priced products; our interest stems from our own desire to be both fiscally and environmentally responsible and an eagerness to encourage that responsibility throughout the Huntsville commercial community.  Avion was founded in 1992 to support Army Aviation and we are using our extensive experience in support services to reach new customers.

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If you would like more information about this topic, please contact Daniel Tait by phone at 256-303-7773 or by email at dtait@alcse.org.

solar isn't the answer to energy efficiency

Solar Isn’t the Answer to Energy Efficiency

We talk a lot about solar here at Energy Alabama and I think sometimes that confuses people and makes them think that that’s what we are all about, but it’s not true. Solar is great, solar is awesome, but solar isn’t the total answer to energy efficiency.

First off, there are many areas where solar just isn’t even a possibility. I live in the woods so installing solar on my house would just be silly because of all the tree coverage. However, there are many things I can do to improve energy efficiency and we’ve been working on that quite a bit lately.

In January we had Southern Valley Services come out to our house and provide an energy audit. We live in a home that was built in the mid-1960’s, and while it was well-built for the time, it has some issues and we knew it. It was pretty interesting to watch Tommy Marr go through our house with an infra-red camera and point out spots where the cold was getting in. He then provided a very thorough list of ways that we could improve our home’s energy efficiency. His list included things that would benefit older homes including a heat barrier in the attic area above our garage, proper insulation in a variety of areas (sometimes I wonder if the insulated this place at all), sealing of duct work, finding and sealing air leaks in our sunroom windows, and encapsulation of our crawl space.

None of these were huge things as far as price goes, but the all work together to cause major energy inefficiency. We’ve not done everything on the list yet but just the few things we chose to do first have made a big difference in our home’s comfort level.

You may recall our interview with Rick & Pat Trescott; their home is about the same age as mine. They’ve spent years improving their home’s energy efficiency before they finally reached a point where they were ready to install solar panels. They live in an area where they have the right solar access so solar made sense after they had completed all the other improvements. They knew that if they’d put solar on first it would have been a huge waste of money, because they would simply be grabbing energy from the sun only to have it escaping due to improper insulation, unsealed ductwork, poorly sealed windows and poorly selected blinds. The list of small things you can and should do to improve energy efficiency is endless. Solar is just the icing on the cake.

Here are just a few things you can and should do to your home to improve energy efficiency before you consider solar:

  • Seal all ductwork (including the spots where ducts enters the house)
  • Make sure that all walls and attic areas are properly insulated
  • Encapsulate your crawl space
  • Update your water heater and/or heat pump to ENERGY STAR rated versions
  • Update all light fixtures to LEDs
  • Replace all appliances with ENERGY STAR rated appliances
  • Replace windows with ENERGY STAR rated windows

So, the next time you start getting a little anxious that you don’t have solar yet, calm down. You might not be ready for solar yet. In due time. Look for the small things that you can do now to improve the energy efficiency of your home. Solar will just keep getting cheaper and it’ll still be there when you are ready.

Bill Carswell in front of his UAH lab

Think Tank for Sustainable Energy Startups at UAH

“Alternative energy is the Internet of twenty years ago – It’s in its infant stage. We just have to create the pathways to make it grow and be available to everyone.” – Bill Carswell

Bill Carswell’s career has taken plenty of interesting twists and turns: he’s been involved in space research with NASA, border security around the world, and project management education at Emery Riddle. Before all else, Bill is a Scientist. He’s currently the Principal Research Scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and the Executive Director of the Energy Huntsville Initiative.

Lab for Sustainable Energy Research at UAH

WHY ENERGY?

  • Renewable Energy is socially relevant.
  • Renewable Energy is technically challenging.
  • Renewable Energy is heavily funded.

WHY NOW?

“There’s a large cottage industry of startups trying to tap into this energy revolution that’s going on and the problem with energy is its really expensive. You can’t just start a garage business with an app – I mean, this stuff is expensive! I’m putting together a resource that entrepreneurs can use so they don’t have to buy all the energy infrastructure. They can just focus on the element they want to build a product or a business around.”

HOW DOES IT WORK?

Entrepreneurs creating sustainable products can borrow Bill’s lab, complete with equipment and resources – solar panels, generators, high-tech batteries, smart meters, and business automation system. Startups have access to Bill’s extensive network of experts from UAH, ALCSE, and Energy Huntsville. The scientist himself is available for questioning too. Test your product in the safety of the lab over the course of one year (seasons make a difference) to get ready for market. Finally, pitch the finished product to the company or military institution that will buy it.

Bill’s laboratory is a veritable mecca for mad scientists and mad-scientist wannabes.

An initial survey of the tiny fenced-off area tucked behind UAH’s NPR radio station reveals uneven terrain, faded signs, and decades-old solar panels. But don’t let the humble façade fool you; inside this little building is Bill’s energy lab, and it’s brimming with scientific discovery.

Let’s go see what’s happening……

Project: Commercial Building Automation System

Key Players: Johnson Controls, Dynetics, Huntsville Utilities, Aerojet, ALCSE

Purpose: Monitor a building’s energy use & move to backup source during peaks

building automation system

batteries

Project: Hybrid Generator & Battery System

Key Players: Aviation Research Developing & Engineering Center (AMRDEC), UAH Systems Engineers, Aerojet

Purpose: Use electricity generated from diesel fuel and generators as efficiently as possible.

(Batteries, load bank (building simulator) and graduated cylinder to measure fuel consumption with the generator.)

Project: Phase Change Solar Thermal Water Heater

Key Players: Aviation Research Developing & Engineering Center (AMRDEC), King Energy

Purpose: Find economical way to keep water heated longer

IMG_2125

e1c27182-8880-4f7f-abd5-26cf90a71a66

..Not a smart meter, but they’re some pretty sexy batteries…

Project: (Coming soon!) Smart Meter Student Penetration Contest

Key Players: UAH Cybersecurity Research Lab, ALCSE, Huntsville Utilities

Purpose: Protect smart energy from computer fraud

Project: (Coming soon!) Mobile Sustainability Demonstration Lab

Key Players: ALCSE and Others….

Purpose: Teach sustainable practice to community & train workers.

genearator

Drawings of a mad scientist, generator modified for laboratory use, and a generator efficiency curve developed from research

Have a sustainable product you need help with? Contact:

Bill Carswell, Ph.D.
256.679.2276
bill.carswell@energyhuntsville.com
www.energyhuntsville.com