St. Cloud turns to renewable energy to shrink utility bills

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For most cities, wastewater and drinking water treatment plants are major energy hogs.

So when St. Cloud was looking for ways to trim its utility bills, it made sense to look at the sprawling wastewater treatment plant on the city’s south side.

The city launched an innovative project to use renewable energy to power the plant. Solar panels generate electricity to keep it running when the sun is shining. Methane gas produced during the treatment process is captured and used to produce more electricity.

• Related: Dayton administration pushes ambitious renewable energy mandate

“In all likelihood, we’ll be 80 percent renewable energy by 2018,” said Patrick Shea, St. Cloud’s public services director. “I don’t know another municipality of this size in the state that’s at that level.”

Solar panels generate electricity at the wastewater treatment plant.
Wastewater treatment plants are big energy users for local governments. Kirsti Marohn | MPR News

A growing number of Minnesota cities are looking to renewable sources to reduce their energy use and meet public demands for sustainability. The cities of Hutchinson, Mankato, Red Wing and Maplewood have all recently completed solar projects.

But St. Cloud’s methane recapture project is fairly cutting edge, and other cities are paying attention, said Peter Lindstrom, local government outreach coordinator for the Clean Energy Resource Teams.

“Quite frankly, it just makes a lot of sense,” Lindstrom said. “These wastewater treatment plants are often times the biggest energy users that a local government has. And so any means by which they can cut that utility bill, they should and are looking at.”

St. Cloud’s effort began about three years ago when city officials were looking at ways to become more sustainable, Shea said. In 2015, they agreed to allow a private company to install solar panels on the roof of the wastewater treatment plant.

“We wanted to make sure we walked before we ran,” Shea said.
The project required no upfront costs for the city and offered guaranteed energy savings. The city agreed to buy the electricity generated by the panels for the next 20 years.

That project paid off. A second solar array was installed next to the plant. Last fall, the city added digesters to remove the methane created during the wastewater treatment process.

Wastewater treatment plants are big energy users for local government.
St. Cloud uses solar panels that generate electricity and a methane digester that produces more electricity. Kirsti Marohn | MPR News

The methane is fed into a generator, where it produces about 5 million kilowatts of electricity a year.

“Between that and the solar array, we’re capable at certain times of the year and certain days of the year of being completely off the grid,” Shea said.

The digester offers another benefit. Craft breweries and beverage companies produce a lot of waste that’s high in sugar but doesn’t contain any human or animal waste. It can be fed directly into the digester, creating even more electricity.

Eventually, the biofuel will be stored so it can be used to keep the plant running all the time, even when the solar panels aren’t producing. The facility could become the first in Minnesota to be completely energy independent.

• Full coverage: Environment

St. Cloud also added solar panels to its police station and two fire stations, and replaced its street lights with energy-saving LEDs. Shea expects the city’s energy bills to go from about $3 million a year to about half a million dollars a year in the next decade.

The city actually produces more energy than it uses annually, Mayor Dave Kleis said.

“We look at in almost every aspect we can to look at reducing our carbon footprint, reducing our energy use and — bottom line for me — saving a tremendous amount of dollars for the taxpayer,” Kleis said.

Lindstrom said renewable energy projects offer cities some predictability when it comes to their future energy bills, because they can lock in their costs for the next 10-20 years.

Besides the financial benefit, there’s another incentive. Lindstrom said there’s public pressure on local government officials to take action.

“I think that elected officials are hearing from folks when they’re out there knocking on doors and at community meetings,” he said. “The public wants to know what are they doing to not just save money, but also be a leader in sustainability.”

However, cities face obstacles when it comes to renewable energy projects, including a lack of capital and public officials who are averse to taking risks, Lindstrom said.

“It makes them a little bit nervous to be on the cutting edge, some may say on the bleeding edge, of new technology or new financial models,” he said. “Folks don’t want to get caught a few years down the road with a project that for whatever reason went south.”

Florida eco-friendly town opens for business – Taipei Times

With a farm-to-table restaurant, driverless shuttles, homes built with the latest “green” techniques and a massive solar farm to offset energy use, Florida’s first sustainable town is now open for business.

The buzz about Babcock Ranch, an eco-friendly city of the future and the largest development of its kind in the US, this month drew more than 15,000 people out for a peek.

“We are building a new town from the ground up and that just doesn’t happen very often,” said Syd Kitson, a retired American football player who dreamed up the vision for Babcock Ranch more than a decade ago.

“We can do it right from the very beginning and that is what we have set out to do,” he said.

Kitson bought the 38,000 hectare ranch in southwestern Florida in 2006.

He sold most of the land to the state as a wildlife preserve, keeping 7,284 hectares for his plan to build an environmentally friendly town on one half, setting aside the other half for open spaces and nature.

Then, the global financial crisis struck in 2007 and Kitson’s plans ground to a halt.

However as the US economy recovered, builders regained interest in the project and began purchasing parcels.

Momentum began to accelerate in the past few years.

Bulldozers are a common sight and vast empty spaces remain, but builders are hard at work erecting homes that in the next two decades are to host a community of about 50,000 people.

“The first phase is going much quicker than we thought,” Kitson said. “You are going to see a lot of people living here very, very quickly.”

A handful of model homes have been completed, and during a two-day Founders Fest this month, visitors streamed in and out to see the latest in energy-efficient designs, along with outdoor kitchens, high ceilings, swimming pools and front porches with rocking chairs.

“It is beautiful,” said visitor Jason Brewer, who came for a look around this time last year and said he is amazed at how much work has been done since then.

“People are excited to see how things are going to turn out,” he said.

The first home — a brand new lakefront house with two bedrooms and a den — was recently sold to a pair of retirees for US$460,000, about twice the average home price in the area, located north of Fort Myers on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

The homeowners are expected to move into their new digs in May.

Some visitors expressed concern about the prices and wondered if they would ever be able to afford to buy there.

Babcock Ranch spokeswoman Lisa Hall said that in the coming years, a series of smaller villas and apartments are expected to be built with a price range of US$180,000 to US$220,000.

These lower-priced units will be mixed in with the larger homes, so as to avoid segregating the town according to residents’ incomes, she said.

A key feature of Babcock Ranch is the adjacent 178 hectare solar farm, which provides enough energy to the local utility, Florida Power and Light, to offset the energy use of about 20,000 homes.

Employees navigate the streets using electric cars, which they charge up with orange cords when parked.

A cherry-red, driverless, battery-powered shuttle called EasyMile, one of just a few in use across the US, is also being tested to transport up to 12 people at a time from place to place.

“Some people are nervous, others are excited” when they see a shuttle with no driver, TransDev North America chief information officer Neal Hemenover said.

Scientists in Norway Developing Eco-Friendly Solar Cells with Enhanced Efficiency

Energy production is in a major state of transition. Technology companies such as Apple, Google, Tesla and Amazon are all investing in solar power.

This is taking place at the same time as a preliminary budget has been sent to Congress that would defund the Environmental Protection Agency.

The large tech companies are aware of the benefits to renewable energy. They have a large demand for power to cool their servers. Apple has reported to have had an excess amount of energy at times for utilizing renewable energy.

The debate on cost for solar energy is over. Research how to install your own panels with instructional online tutorials. Take a look at some of the costs to solar cells on eBay. They are reasonably priced, and installation looks close to doing a roofing project connected with some electrical wiring. (When working with electrical wiring it is important to understand the safety precautions on the job site.)

Researchers and scientists have been developing solar cells for decades. They continue to find new ways to create and maintain energy with safer elements.

Each form of energy production has its pros and cons. One of the drawbacks to solar power energy production is the elements being used to collect and transfer the energy.

Bengt Svensson, a professor within the Department of Physics at the University of Oslo in Norway, has been working on clean energy production with solar cells. reports:

“These are going to be the world’s most efficient and environment-friendly solar cells. There are currently solar cells that are certainly just as efficient, but they are both expensive and toxic. Furthermore, the materials in our solar cells are readily available in large quantities on Earth. That is an important point.” – Professor Bengt Svensson of the Department of Physics at the University of Oslo (UiO) and Centre for Materials Science and Nanotechnology (SMN)

In addition to testing different materials used in solar cells, researchers are also looking to increase the energy output value. Advancements in technology continue to create opportunities for scientists to redefine a quality of life.

“We have managed to produce a copper oxide layer that captures three per cent of the energy from the sunlight. The world record is nine per cent. We are currently working intensely to increase that percentage to twenty per cent. The combination of silicon cells in the one layer and copper oxide cells in the other means that we’ll be able to absorb far more light and thereby reduce the energy loss. With this combination, we can utilize 35 to 40 per cent of the sunlight.” – Bengt Svensson.

ColdFusion goes over recent developments within solar energy production in the first YouTube clip. Find out the international adoption rate in comparison to the United States.

9th Annual Green Festival In Collingswood April 8

COLLINGSWOOD, NJ — Collingswood will host its ninth annual Green Festival on Saturday, April 8, 9 a.m.-2 p.m. along Irving Avenue, the borough announced Tuesday morning.

“The mission of the Green Festival is to give every person a chance to reduce our carbon footprint and to participate in a new green activity that can be easily implemented into your home,” Commissioner Joan Leonard, who organizes the event, said. “Come on out and enjoy!”

The festival unites residents, businesses, vendors and volunteers in an effort to build a better environment. There will be more than 70 vendors and tables at this year’s festival. There will be music and al fresco dining from local restaurants as well as food from local farmers and specialty organic merchants.

Through a variety of recycling opportunities, green-conscious vendors, and eco-friendly demonstrations, attendees will learn what they can do daily to reduce waste, including learning about GMO-free food. A Healthy Foods Tent will help anyone interested clean up their diet.

Other items will include a selection of goods made from recycled materials by local artisans, as well as booths featuring environmentally friendly products. Trees for planting in front or backyards will be also available for sale at a discounted rate, including free sapling giveaways.

The Kids Zone features activities, crafts, and games that will teach them children their environment, in addition to a fun-filled bike rodeo. The Perkins Center for the Arts will feature children’s nature art activities and demonstrations on creating rain gardens.

“It’s up to us to spread the good word about caring for our earth to our children, and the Green Festival makes an immediate impact in our region,” Leonard said.

Attendees are invited to bring household items for safe and efficient recycling.

Free paper shredding will be available from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Used electronics such as old TVs, monitors, laptops, radios, fax machines, DVD players, etc., will be accepted for drop-off between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Gently worn shoes are being accepted for donation, as well as used latex house paint to be recycled and reused.

While medications cannot be disposed of at the Green Festival, they can be discarded year-round at the Collingswood Police Department’s medicine drop box at PD Headquarters, 735 Atlantic Avenue.

Hazardous waste may also be dropped off at the Public Works building, 713 North Atlantic Avenue, starting at 8:30 a.m. at the Camden County Hazardous Waste Collection event.

Patrons are dared to find a way to use just one bag of trash per day during the festival’s “One Bag Challenge.”

They will also learn how to conserve energy, as well as the benefits of using solar power in their home or business.

Attendees can also learn the many different ways to use rainwater. The Water Tent offers the chance to learn more about water conservation and water quality. Residents can also take advantage of low prices on composters and rain barrels.

Guests can mingle with local gardeners while checking on the progress of Collingswood’s Community Gardens. They may also stock up on plants and herbs available for purchase and grown by the local high school students working in the school greenhouse.

At the Bike Share tent, guests can donate or purchase bikes, receive a free tune-up or join the program, which offers bike rentals for only $25 a year. Bike enthusiasts can also get tips from the pros for tuning up their bikes at home.

The festival is in need of volunteers to help out with the event. They are needed for setup from 7 a.m.-9 a.m., and for break-down from 2 p.m.-3 p.m., as well as the post-event cleanup.

During the event, volunteers will also be needed to assist with the children’s area, information booths, food areas and throughout the festival.

Interested vendors and volunteers can call Leonard at 856-858-4545 or email to participate.

The attached images were provided by the Borough of Collingswood

Ways for Cannabis Businesses to Become More Environmentally …

© Stock Pot Images / Josh Chastek

Cannabis greenhouses and retail shops can often demand the use of 24-hour lighting, heating, ventilation systems, and air-conditioning, which often lead to expensive and environmentally irresponsible outputs.

As longtime participants and trailblazers for the cannabis industry, some Denver businesses, city advisors, and engineers came together to start a discussion about best practices to manage the use of energy, water, and waste.

The panel of cannabis and non-cannabis professionals included: Amy Andrle, an owner of L’Eagle cannabis farm and dispensary; Emily Backus, the Sustainability Advisor for the City of Denver; Doug Hargrave, of iconergy; and Ben Gelt, of the Organic Cannabis Association.

As one of the nation’s most energy intensive industries, it’s an issue that’s important to consider as the sector continues to grow.  

Also of note, in attendance was the US Green Building Council (USGBC). While the council does not take a position on the legalization of marijuana, it does “recognize that the cannabis industry is one of the nation’s most energy intensive industries and can often demand the use of 24-hour indoor lighting, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning at grow sites.”

Energy demands

The need for energy can place high demands on the power grid, causing peaks in usage – which can cost businesses a lot of money.

Currently, legalized indoor marijuana growing operations account for 1 percent of total electricity use in the U.S.,  which equates to a production of 15 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually, according to the panel.

The demand will only grow as the number of states that legalize recreational marijuana increases.

The panel agrees that without the use of efficient equipment, these facilities will be responsible for vastly increasing greenhouse gas emissions and an intensifying demand on the power grid.

Barriers for businesses

Backus, the Sustainability Advisor for the City of Denver, took a deep dive into the barriers for these businesses in adopting more sustainable practices:

  • The best practices are unknown, or in development
  • There’s a historic culture of secrecy in the cannabis space (now diminishing)
  • Federal funding barriers
  • Distrust of new equipment and technology, due to faulty products marketed in recent years
  • Rapid technology development in the space
  • Variation in growing techniques and different needs

The good news is that there’s new cannabis equipment, as well as other products, constantly coming out and improving the way the plant is grown. Backus is also seeing the positive effects of growth, and professionalization of the industry in general. That includes the dozens of conferences and learning opportunities for non-cannabis experts to share their best practices and lessons learned.

As a representative for the City of Denver, she also mentions that regulations related to energy use in the cannabis industry isn’t on the city’s radar.

Soaring above the rest in sustainability

There are no ‘best practices’ yet, but that hasn’t stopped business owners from trying to find them.

L’Eagle cannabis company owner Amy Andrle is the only cannabis retail store to have a certification from the City of Denver when it comes to sustainability.

The certification recognizes businesses that demonstrate exemplary environmental practices in 5 key areas:

  1. Energy efficiency
  2. Water conservation
  3. Resource management
  4. Alternative transportation
  5. Responsible business management

Obtained last September, L’Eagle’s retail store is the first – and only – marijuana retailer in Colorado to qualify.

“We are tired of being the black sheep industry,” says Andrle. That’s why she’s trying to adopt these best practices as quickly as possible.

Organic and pesticide-free, nothing treated in the flowering stage, she says. They sell their own product, and do their due diligence to be responsible, and implement eco-friendly business practices.

In her experience, she finds that the most common reason for waste is having to retrofit a space. Fixing up older spaces – rather than building it from scratch – can lead to less than optimal HVAC air flow, electrical systems, and lighting.

On the retail side, she says the key areas to focus on for sustainability are lighting, recycling, transport, and in-store water usage.

When it comes to sustainability in cultivation, she outlines three key avenues of focus, and how to mitigate waste within each area.


  • Lighting – LED/Fluorescent/HPS
  • HVAC – Odor control/pest prevention
  • Avoiding Peak Demand by staggered turn-on


  • Hand watering
  • Accuracy and efficiency
  • Limited grey water productions (runoff)

Recycled Waste

  • Composting media by other places like The Source
  • Bokashi compost system
  • Recycled plant matter provided to local farms for individual purposes

How can non-cannabis companies help?

Iconenergy is in the business of helping big operations identify areas of potential sustainability and best operations.

Having worked for only non-cannabis industries thus far, the Director of Business Development, Carl Hurst, brings an interesting perspective to the panel. He adds that he’s seeing a need for better engineering as cannabis becomes one of the most energy intensive industries.

“As cannabis scales up, we are seeing a breakthrough where we can help,” says Hurst.

The same rules apply for the cannabis industry as any other in these respects, he explains, and the adoption of technology in the industry will lower the cost of the product as the industry normalizes.

On best lighting practices, he says that “the people who wait, they are just paying money to the energy company…Doing nothing doesn’t make sense.”

Hurst also recognizes the legal and financial hurdles specific to cannabis.

The federally illegal status of the plant prevents owners and operators from taking advantage of the same public and private grants that are allowing other industries to refit operations to meet optimal sustainability practices.

Top ten ways to become more sustainable

Andrle knows from experience that “it’s all about balance.”

For example, while the number of solar panels needed for cultivation isn’t really feasible for most, start with trying it out for the retail side. “It’s more realistic,” she says.

Another tip from L’Eagle is to use the eco-friendly LED lights for plants while in the vegetative state. It saves energy, and works well even if you’re opposed to using them for the rest of the plant’s growing cycles.

Overall, the panel mentioned these ten areas for sustainability:

  1. LED lighting
  2. Motor efficiency
  3. Variable frequency drives
  4. Use economizers in air handlers
  5. HVAC system retrofits
  6. Automate production equipment – implement precision scheduling
  7. Demand Response / Load shedding – minimize demand at utility peak times
  8. Retro-Commissioning of systems
  9. Solar Photovoltaics – rooftop and or ground mount systems
  10. Utilities – “all the above” approach to get best ROI

The panel also discussed what they foresee will be needed in the budding industry, like finding a licensed professional engineer (PE) that’s worked in a cannabis facility, and investing in new technology.

From the engineering perspective, the bottom line is that cannabis business owners need to know what they want to change in terms of increasing the sustainability of their operation.

Problem is, much more data is needed. Only with the data can best practices can evolve.

Besides data, the unresolved banking and taxing issues for cannabis businesses at the federal level are also holding back the industry. These businesses need access to capital, and the all-cash business makes it nearly impossible to make that ultimate decision to finance a non-guaranteed investment.

Lodi council OKs solid waste rate hike – Lodi News

Posted: Thursday, March 16, 2017 5:00 am

Lodi council OKs solid waste rate hike

By Danielle Vaughn/News-Sentinel Staff Writer

Lodi News-Sentinel

Lodi residents can expect to see an increase in their solid waste rates next month after the Lodi City Council unanimously voted to increase solid waste rates by 2.738 percent.

According to Public Works Director Charles Swimley, the rate increase is in accordance with the franchise agreement the city has with Central Valley Waste Management. The agreement outlines the guidelines for annual rate increases. As the Consumer Price Index increases, Waste Management can request up to 80 percent of that increase, Swimley said. The agreement will expire in December 2030.

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      Thursday, March 16, 2017 5:00 am.

      Bali trials solar-powered boat – eco

      Millions of tourists are attracted to Bali each year in search of sun, sea and sand.

      According to the Bali Government Tourism Office, up to 5 million foreign tourists visited the island last year, a number that has been increasing since 2008.

      But because numerous people are ferried to, from and around the island in old petrol-powered boats known locally as “jukungs”, Balinese seas have long been exposed to polluting fuel leaks.

      In addition to the damaging impact on fragile marine habitats such as coral reefs and mangroves, holidaymakers report being disturbed by the smell of fuel and the sputtering noise from the engines.

      However, a new social enterprise, Azura Marine Earth, seeks to harness renewable energy to create a more environment-friendly mode of transport in the Island of the Gods.

      In July, the first ever solar-powered jukung will circumnavigate Bali, completely powered by the sun.

      The Surya Namaskar, which in Sanskrit means ‘sun salutation’, will sail from Amed all the way around the island on a 10-day voyage, mooring on the shore each night on the way, to get the message across that a more eco-friendly alternative to polluting boats has arrived on Bali’s shores.

      Belgian naval architect Julien Mélot engineered the conversion of the 8-metre, 8-person capacity boat into solar-electric propulsion using what he calls “organic engineering”. 

      Organic engineering involves keeping costs low, using locally sourced, recycled and sustainable materials, and building a boat that is simple enough to be operated and maintained by local boatmen, explained Mélot.

      The inspiration for the boat came four years ago while Mélot was on a diving expedition in Papua. He experienced firsthand how petrol-powered boats are polluting the oceans and ruining the experience for divers.

      The fact that you go to a marine park with a boat that destroys it means you are part of the problem and not part of the solution. It’s really about respecting the environment.

      Julien Mélot, Azura Marine Earth

      “The landscapes are fantastic but you don’t really enjoy the trip. When you go diving to a few locations, the boat rides in between the dive spots are often tiring and uncomfortable due to the loud noise, vibrations and smell of the outdated boat engines,” said Mélot.

      In contrast, the Surya Namaskar will be completely silent, smell and vibration-free, and as fast as traditional boats. At top speed, the solar-powered boat can sail at 15 knots, or the equivalent of about 28 kilometers per hour in a car.

      This performance is equivalent to that of a 20 horsepower 2-stroke outboard conventional engine found in traditional jukungs, but the main difference is that a solar-powered boat is cost-free to operate every day, Mélot said.

      Mélot hopes to invite local boatmen to switch to solar-powered boats by offering to convert their petrol-powered boats. 

      A boat conversion the size of Surya Namaskar’s costs around S$14,000. For slightly smaller fishing boats which are ubiquitously used as dive or tour boats, the conversion will be around $S6000.

      Under a microfinancing scheme from Azura Marine Earth, local boatmen would need only to pay around a S$500 downpayment. The remainder of S$5,500 can be paid in installments. The boatmen will only pay the same amount of money they would have otherwise used to purchase fuel for their old boats, Mélot said.

      Mélot believes the boatmen will be able to recover the cost of conversion in three years, saving $S5 a day on fuel, and up to $S300 annually on engine maintenance. After that point, they will be able to “sail forever free,” he said.

      Solar panels can last up to 25 years before they need to be maintained. The storage battery and motor would need to be maintained every 10 years, Mélot said. “This is still virtually maintenance-free compared to petrol-powered boats whose engines need to be looked after every week and maintained very frequently.”

      Eco-parks, dive centres and resorts surrounding Bali are taking interest, Mélot said. He shares that reinvesting their earnings in purchasing solar panels and installing them in schools and other off-grid rural villages in the archipelago is part of their social enterprise project.

      “The fact that you go to a marine park with a boat that destroys it means you are part of the problem and not part of the solution. It’s really about respecting the environment,” Melot said.

      Take a first look at Surya Namaskar, the first solar-powered boat to circumnavigate Bali, in pictures below. All images are from Julien Mélot and Azura Marine Earth.

      Surya Namaskar serenely cuts through the deep blue waters of Bali.

      Surya Namaskar testing the waters with some guests.

      During the inaugural crossing, the only solar panel aboard Surya Namaskar enabled the crew to charge phones, cameras, and speakers for free.

      Mission Surya Namaskar Bali founder Julien Mélot.

      Julien Mélot talks to a local fisherman while standing next to Surya Namaskar. An integral part of the social enterprise is making solar-powered “jukungs” affordable for the community.

      Surya Namaskar during her maiden voyage that covered 100 km from Jimabaran to Amed, a journey that took 7 hours.

      Surya Namaskar will circumnavigate Bali from Amed and back in July. The traditional “jukung” will be equipped with a 25 square meter solar roof and storage batteries to enable it to sail to great distances.

      How PNC Helps to Finance the Solar Power Revolution

      By Julie Pippel, director, Division of Environment Management, Washington County, MD at the Rubble1 solar farm

      Across the United States, solar power installations have become an increasingly popular and affordable source of renewable energy.

      In fact, the U.S. hit 1 million solar installations at the end of February 2017, which amounts to about 27 gigawatts of solar power capacity, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. That’s enough power to supply roughly 6 million homes. Still, those 1 million installations deliver just 1 percent of the electricity produced in the United States.

      Finding renewable energy sources and conserving energy are important for the future. Amid rising energy demands and dwindling resources, renewable energy is one of the country’s top three stated priorities and one of the fastest growing sectors of the national economy. Since 2016, the industry posted a record-shattering 95% increase in solar installations, with utility-scale solar power accounting for 72 percent of projects in 2016.

      To support the growth of the solar industry, PNC Energy Capital, a unit of PNC Bank, provides financing for equipment used in solar power installations.

      Yearly Energy Cost Savings

      In Washington County, Maryland, PNC Energy Capital finances the equipment installed on solar farms constructed on reclaimed county landfills through sale/lease-back agreements with the developer. Those farms provide electricity for county government facilities at a discounted rate and send additional electricity to the power grid where it’s sold to other consumers.

      The arrangement is made possible by a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with the project’s developer where the customer pays an electricity rate equal to or less than what other customers pay for their existing power.

      “The first four fields generate enough electricity to offset all the accounts that Washington County has eligible or makes sense to put on a PPA,” said Julie Pippel, director, Division of Environmental Management, Washington County, MD.  “The fields will generate 100 percent of the needs for those accounts.”

      The county estimates it will save $100,000 per year in electricity costs as a result of its purchase agreement. Solar projects are developed through a 20-year public/private partnership with Washington County, MD providing the land. 

      “The county could provide up to 130 acres of landfill property,” said Pippel.

      When completed it should produce up to 25 megawatts of electricity. It will definitely generate more power on county land than the county uses.

      In addition to a paying a discounted price for its electricity, Washington County also will receive rent payments for its landfill property. The solar farm development on the county landfill is nearly half way complete.

      “It’s been a positive story,” said James Jenkins, public relations manager for Washington County. “It’s been nice to be able to talk about how sustainable we are as a government. It also kind of tells the solar story itself.”

      Solar Power Lending Leader

      PNC Energy Capital has been in the solar market segment for 10 years. It is one of the largest providers of capital to U.S. companies that distribute solar generation business.

      As a market leader, the group provides energy services and flexible project finance solutions to commercial businesses and federal, state and local governments.

      In Pennsylvania, for example, a well-known, big box retailer uses solar equipment financed by PNC Energy Capital to provide a majority of the power required to operate five of its stores. Companies invest in these resources as the cost to build solar electricity generating systems continues to decline.

      Recognizing the importance of wise investments, PNC strives to integrate conservation, including water and energy saving technology, into its own building practices.

      Its nationally recognized commitment to green construction has lowered costs, increased efficiency and productivity and enhanced the communities where people live, work and play. PNC is the first U.S. bank to apply green building standards to all newly constructed or renovated branch offices, with more than 250 certifications. 

      Learn more about PNC Energy Capital »

      Read more stories on Point of View Resources, Perspectives Insights from PNC

      Waste Management investing $30 million in renewable energy in …

      The Outer Loop Recycling and Disposal Facility is a 782-acre landfill in Louisville. | Courtesy of Waste Management

      Texas-based waste disposal company Waste Management plans to invest $30 million in renewable energy infrastructure in Louisville.

      Waste Management will use the gas produced naturally during waste decomposition at the Outer Loop Recycling and Disposal Facility, 2673 Outer Loop, to fuel its vehicles and sell off the remainder.

      “The energy recovered at the landfill will be used to power Waste Management’s compressed natural gas-powered collection trucks,” according to a statement from the company. “The facility, the first of its kind in the region, will provide enough energy to fuel 800 trucks — the equivalent of 12,000 homes — per day.”

      Methane gas, carbon dioxide and other gases are natural byproducts of every landfill, and the gases are funneled through pipes and burned off to prevent a gas buildup. Waste Management will simply tap into the existing natural gas supply.

      The company will build a facility on site that will separate the methane gas from the other gases. The methane will be piped into a gas line owned by Texas Gas, Andy Reynolds, the public sector representative for Waste Management in Louisville, told Insider Louisville.

      More than 50 percent of the gas collected is methane gas, Reynolds said. A small amount of the methane will be used to fuel Waste Management’s 80 local trucks, and the rest will be sold off to Texas Gas for the going natural gas rate.

      “The remaining 90 percent of the energy that is generated will go to whoever the purchasers are from Texas Gas,” he said, so in theory, it could be used to power homes locally.

      The non-methane gases will still be burned off by a flare.

      Only one other Waste Management facility — a small landfill in Milan, Ill. — uses the technology that the company plans to install at the Outer Loop Recycling and Disposal Facility, Reynolds said, adding that Louisville will act as a template for a planned rollout of the technology nationwide.

      Waste Management chose Louisville because the company both owns the property and runs the facility at Outer Loop.

      “It’s also working in connection with Mayor Fischer and his strategic goals making sure Louisville is on the cutting edge of green technology,” he said. IL has reached out to the mayor’s office for comment. In 2013, Fischer established the city’s first Office of Sustainability and released a sustainability plan to protect the environment.

      Although it has the same mission and outcomes as a biodigester, Reynolds said the technology that Waste Management is using is “very different.”

      For one, he said, Waste Management is cleaning up and repurposing gas that is already there. The new technology also won’t change the amount of truck traffic coming into or leaving the facility, and the infrastructure Waste Management plans to install is smaller, Reynolds said.

      “The biodigester is trying to recreate what the landfill already does,” he said.

      Last year, an out-of-town company canceled plans to build a biodigester in West Louisville following substantial backlash from the community. Louisville Metro Council has since passed regulations that limit where biodigesters can be built.

      Waste Management is working to secure the proper permitting and move through the regulatory process. The regulatory agencies that monitor the landfill are the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet, the Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control District, the Louisville Metropolitan Sewer District, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, the Federal Aviation Administration and Jefferson County Waste Management District.

      Reynolds said Waste Management hopes to start collecting the natural gas for reuse by end of this year.

      The company has run the 782-acre Outer Loop Recycling and Disposal Facility for more than 45 years and employs 27 people there. The landfill processes 787,700 tons of waste each year, according to Waste Management, and has an estimated remaining life of 48 years.

      The new technology will extend the facility’s estimated life, Reynolds said, but it is unclear by exactly how long. No matter what, the life of the landfill will be prolonged at least 20 years after it stops accepting refuse because waste produces gas for roughly two decades after it reached the landfill.

      “This is something that we are really excited about. This is something that is entirely nonintrusive,” he said. “It doesn’t require behavior changes on anyone’s part, but it still provides better air quality.”