Category: Energy (page 1 of 14)

Five Considerations for Municipal CNG Fleet Conversion

Kate Fialko is a fellow in the 2018 Leaders in Environment and Finance (LEAF) program. Kate spent the summer of 2018 with Orange Water and Sewer Authority (OWASA), where she assisted with an investigation into possible productive use of biogas from the wastewater treatment process. She built a preliminary model to determine whether a town could economically convert its fleet to run on CNG.

Many of us know the wastewater treatment process generates water clean enough to put back into the environment, but it also produces biogas. Biogas is the mix of gases produced by anaerobic digestion (the breakdown of organic material in the absence of oxygen) and, since a primary component is methane, it can be used as an alternative fuel source. Utilities commonly use a portion of the biogas they generate to fuel the digestion process and then flare the remaining biogas to dispose of it. Rather than just emit this excess biogas, some utilities are investigating additional ways to productively use biogas in order to save fuel and increase resiliency by creating a new energy source. Options include using the biogas to fuel a combined heat and power system and injecting processed biogas into a natural gas pipeline.

Another option is converting biogas into compressed natural gas (CNG) for use in vehicles.  Typically a utility needs to have consistent CNG customers for this to be worthwhile financially, and converting a municipal fleet to run on CNG could provide the needed demand. However, municipalities must carefully consider any fleet conversion decision to ensure they are using tax payer dollars efficiently. Continue reading

Hidden in Plain Sight: Some Next Steps

Guest  post by Brian Dabson

 

The scale and complexity of the issues surrounding North Carolina’s manufactured homes stock was the subject of a previous blog post, Hidden in Plain Sight.  Over 1.3 million people in the state live in 480,000 manufactured homes, making them a vital part of the affordable housing stock especially in rural counties. However, challenges associated with high utility bills, vulnerability to flooding and high winds, and deteriorating condition of older homes suggest an urgent need for action. That said, responsibility and capacity for action is spread across multiple agencies and individuals with little incentive for any concerted or coordinated effort.

The School of Government interviewed 40 stakeholders with connections with manufactured home building, installation, maintenance, financing, regulation, removal, resident representation, and housing policy. It was apparent that bringing these stakeholders together might be a productive way forward. So, in April 2018, the School convened a workshop which attracted 32 participants from 25 organizationsranging from the North Carolina Manufactured & Modular Homebuilders Association to the North Carolina Justice Center, from the Roanoke Electric Cooperative to Habitat for Humanity NC, and from the NC Department of Insurance to the Choanoke Area Development Associationto consider possible strategies and action steps to meet the mobile homes challenge.

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Hidden in Plain Sight

Guest  post by Brian Dabson

Mobile homes are a vital but generally unloved part of North Carolina’s affordable housing stock. They come to public attention in times of extreme weather, particularly high winds and floods. Their condition and location make them especially vulnerable to damage, and often their occupantsthe elderly, people with disabilities, and the poorare least able to cope with the consequences. This blog post looks at some of the challenges and opportunities for improving conditions using energy efficiency initiatives for low-income North Carolinians, particularly in our more rural counties.

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Islanding Puerto Rico

83 percent of Puerto Ricans remain without power three weeks after Hurricane Maria hit the island. The goal is for 25 percent of customers to regain power by the end of October, but it could be months before the territory’s grid is fully operational again. Meanwhile, 36 percent of the island still does not have water service. Since energy is required to treat and deliver water, presumably the lack of power is standing in the way of getting some of those water systems back online. (Water, of course, is also needed to generate energy, but that’s a topic for another time.) Continue reading

Three Applied Lessons from the 2017 Appalachian Energy Summit

The Appalachian Energy Summit, held in mid-July in Boone, North Carolina, had the 2017 theme, “Perspectives: Policy & Practice.” This theme highlighted the interdisciplinary approach necessary for the successful deployment of efficient and sustainable energy.

Three topics from the summit—education, community, and leadership—were discussed in detail, all of which relate to energy in unique ways. The summit’s main ideas of the topics were presented in relation to the deployment of energy-based technology, though they can be applied to almost any industry. Continue reading

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