Colorado State University Professor Leads Public-Private Sector Effeciency Initiative: a Model for Community Energy Use

As the summer heat creates record power demands across the state and brownouts throughout the nation, a Colorado State University professor is initiating an innovative public-private sector energy efficiency program. Mechanical engineering Professor Wade Troxell is leading the Northern Colorado Energy Efficiency Initiative, a core group of organizations that will demonstrate how to better use existing energy resources to save energy, reduce costs and lessen environmental impacts while promoting local energy-technology companies.

"The vision of the Northern Colorado Energy Efficiency Initiative is to develop a partnership among private companies and public institutions that fosters mutually beneficial energy efficiency, innovation and economic development," said Troxell. "We are striving to reduce energy costs and be more responsible with our natural resources while also strengthening the area’s economic base."

One focus of the initiative is to reduce peak electricity demand through the use of distributed energy resources: small-scale local energy systems that provide alternatives to traditional electrical power generation. During peak energy-use times, power providers often purchase electricity from wholesale power generators at high prices to meet the demand. Power companies recover these costs through time-of-usage demand charges. Up to 80 percent of electric bills at many businesses are demand charges.

The initiative proposes that power companies notify a network of participants during high-demand times so these organizations can use distributed energy resources to either produce their own electricity or reduce their demand for electricity. Troxell and his colleagues are working toward demonstrating how this model, called distributed generation and load-shedding, can save energy, decreases costs and benefit the environment throughout an entire region.

"Using distributed energy sources during peak demand times decreases overall community energy loads and saves participating companies money," said Troxell. "Over time, this type of consistent activity can also reduce the need for new power stations and power lines to meet increasing electricity demands while saving money and energy."

Troxell added that participating companies may be able to earn money for their energy-saving efforts. Electricity produced by companies through distributed energy resources, beyond what the organizations need, could be sold to local power companies to supplement supply. Instead of a public provider paying for additional power on the wholesale market, the surplus supply created from distributed generation sources could drive down prices.

"These ideas will really take off when we can show that these efforts make economic sense and are the right thing to do," Troxell said. "That is what the partners involved are working toward, and in achieving this goal, this initiative could become a national model for using distributed energy resources and positively impacting economic development."

The Northern Colorado Energy Efficiency Initiative is promoting energy-technology companies by showcasing their products and services, demonstrating the benefits of energy technologies to the community, developing an effective avenue to spin out new knowledge from research and encouraging new investment in Northern Colorado companies.

Troxell believes Northern Colorado is the ideal location to introduce the Energy Efficiency Initiative. Supported by innovative government and public institutions including Colorado State, the city of Fort Collins, the Platte River Power Authority and the Poudre School District, the area has become a hub of energy research and technology companies. Troxell added that Colorado State in particular can support the development of the initiative with world-class engineering, natural resources and business expertise in a broad range of sustainable development and energy-related disciplines. The school currently conducts an estimated $10 million of energy research annually.

The Brendle Group, Sixth Dimension (of which Troxell is a co-founder), Enerdynamics and Spirae are a few of the initiative’s early participants. The Brendle Group consults in the areas of energy efficiency, distributed generation, sustainable development and pollution prevention. Sixth Dimension is a software startup that created a network platform to control power systems remotely that could monitor participants’ energy use over the Web. Enerdynamics provides innovative, customer-focused education services to the energy industry. Spirae works with Fortune 1000 customers in the areas of energy, telecommunications, transportation and infrastructure security, helping them to move from product to service-oriented companies.

Troxell also is director of the Center for Networked Distributed Energy Resources which investigates the impacts of large-scale networked distributed energy resources as they relate to efficiency, economic and environmental benefits.

For more information about the Northern Colorado Energy Efficiency Initiative or to learn how organizations can participate, contact Troxell at (970) 491-6618.