October is just two weeks away and is annually designated as National Energy Awareness Month. The U.S. Department of Energy (US DOE) participates annually with the intent to draw attention to our nation’s electrical grid system and “to highlight the importance of energy to our national prosperity and security.” As the US DOE states, “Energy, our most critical infrastructure, is all but invisible to most, but our focus on continued innovation protects American lives today and ensures better lives tomorrow.”

This year, Metropolitan Energy Center (MEC) will use this truth to draw attention to energy efficiency and how it relates to our infrastructure, including our transportation systems and built environment. There is indeed innovation happening on a national scale, and it’s occurring quickly. MEC is either hosting, co-hosting, or cross-promoting a number of events this October to highlight all the ways our nation can modernize the way it uses energy to create a prosperous future for our youth and future generations. Click the links below to learn more about each event and how to participate (more links to come as the suite of events is finalized).

Whether an industry professional or policy maker or technician or a member of the general public, we have at least one event for you. Join us and our members, volunteers and friends during Energy Awareness Month. We’ll celebrate recent achievements and foster accelerated adoptions of energy conservation, renewables and cleaner fuels.

Energy Awareness 2021 Event List:

Native Plant Sale & Drive Electric Week Event at Project Living Proof with Master Gardeners of Greater Kansas City Sept. 25
National Drive Electric Week: South Park in Lawrence Sept 25
Lion Electric School Bus Ride and Drive: Lee’s Summit Schools Sept 28
National Drive Electric Week: Presbyterian Church Prairie Village Sept 29
National Drive Electric Week: Independence Chamber of Commerce Oct. 2
National Drive Electric Week: ICT (Wichita Towne East Square) Oct. 2
National Energy Efficiency Day (Ask Emily for a model Proclamation) Oct. 6
Marquee Event: Our Best Buildings Yet: A Forum on Energy Efficiency in the Kansas City Region and Beyond Oct. 7
Webinar – EV Fleet Trends: Advice from the Experts (hosted by Louisiana Clean Fuels Coalition) Oct. 13
Day of EVs (In-Person): Fleet Workshop with City of Olathe Oct. 19
Day of EVs (Virtual): Fleet Workshop Electric Yard Tractors with Orange EV Oct. 19
Halloween Trunk or Treat EVent: Project Living Proof (Discovery Center Parking Lot) Oct. 28
Weatherization Day 2021 Oct. 30

Want to know what’s happening with Electric Vehicles and infrastructure? Check out this webinar as we dive into the new advancements for EVs.

Join Metropolitan Energy Center (MEC) as we partner with financial planner Nova R Wealth to talk about the present and future of the Electric Vehicle sector! We will discuss all things related to EVs, including information on companies and how they are approaching the future of EVs. Learn about what is happening in the Kansas City region, nationwide, and internationally as we look at where technology is now and where it is headed.

The webinar will be Monday, September 20th at 4:00 pm CDT. Our panel will consist of Tami Alexander and Brandt Hertenstein, both from MEC, and Tim Rodgers, founder and CEO of Nova R Wealth. This webinar is for anyone who wants to educate themselves on EVs and anyone thinking about investing or wondering where to start in the EV sector of the stock market.

Our Panelists


Tim Rodgers is the Founder and Principal of Nova R Wealth. Rodgers oversees the daily operations of the company, which provides financial planning and wealth management for individual and corporate entities. He has garnered over 39 years of experience in the financial services industry and has served in leadership roles involving client service, asset management, and financial planning.

Rodgers attended his undergraduate studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas city Block School of Business and is a certified financial planner. Community involvement includes serving on the board of directors for AdventHealth Shawnee Mission and AdventHealth Foundation.

Tim lives in Louisburg, Kansas with his wife, Susan, and together they have raised three sons.

 

Tami Alexander joined MEC in 2017 to support the biofuels project in Kansas and is Senior Program Coordinator for the Central Kansas Clean Cities Coalition, managing event coordination, outreach, and program administration for transportation projects. She has Bachelor’s degrees in Mathematics-Statistics and Geology and a Master’s in Environmental Science, all from Wichita State University.

A life-long Kansan, Tami lives in Wichita with her husband and their three children. She is passionate about promoting the environmental and economic health of both urban and rural communities in Kansas.  In her free time, she volunteers with her sons’ BSA troop and her sorority housing board, and enjoys DIY projects, spending time outdoors, and cheering on the Shockers, Chiefs, and Royals.

 

Brandt Hertenstein joined MEC in the fall of 2020 as a Program Coordinator. His focus is on the transportation sector, specifically advocating for electrification of vehicles and infrastructure development in the Midwest region. He is co-coordinator for the Kansas City Regional Clean Cities Coalition.

Prior to joining MEC, Brandt was a member of Bridging the Gap’s city-wide recycling team. He received his Bachelor’s degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology with a minor in Chemistry from the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, where he also completed his Master’s in Bioenergy.

Outside of work, Brandt enjoys time with his family, traveling, and learning about investment strategies. He hails from Chicago and continues to have a vested interest in all Chicago sports teams, rain or shine!

 

There are plenty of popular ideas floating around about alternative energy, and about energy in general.  Many are flawed, conspiratorial or just plain wrong.  Should we call them “myths”?  After all, a myth, even though supernaturally themed or wildly imaginative, can still be valid, revealing truths about human nature.  The Odyssey or the tales of King Arthur come to mind.  On the other hand, trying to explain something about the physical world by means of imaginative story-telling is a risky proposition.  A case in point:

Anyway . . .

We do have a reliable system in place which does a really good job of explaining the physical world.  It’s called “science”.  Perhaps “meme” is the best name with which to tag these ideas in the age of cloud-based, cloudy online information.  So, without further ado, here’s the first in a series of takes on popular memes about energy, renewable and otherwise – and what the data say.

The Deadly Menace of Wind Turbines . . . and Cats and Buildings and Cars . . .

Wind turbines can and do kill birds and bats.  Fish and Wildlife Service estimates for the US range from 140,000 to around 500,000 birds killed per year.  Songbirds account for the most fatalities, with raptors second.  Digression – weirdly enough, it appears that the cause of death, at least for bats, isn’t being struck by blades.  Instead, scientists have discovered that barotrauma (like the bends for scuba divers) may be the specific mechanism.  Sudden, dramatic air pressure changes near blade edges are believed responsible for rupturing the lungs of bats found dead in wind farms with no other signs of injuries.  End of digression.

As in real estate, optimal wind turbine placement is all about location.  This is true for the site in general, and where you place individual wind turbines within a given facility.  The original Altamont Pass wind farm (famously featured in the 80s movie “Less Than Zero”) in California is a classic example of a bad location, and was lethal to birds.  At its peak, over 6,000 small turbines, some dating back to the 1970s, ran at high speeds birds had no chance of avoiding.  At peak turbine count, Altamont Pass was killing more than 10,000 birds every year, including more than 2,000 eagles, hawks and owls.  The good news is that after years of pressure and delays, removal of the oldest and deadliest turbines began in 2015.  A complete replacement of 569 remaining 100 kW units with just 23 modern turbines was planned for completion by 2022.  Problems are likely to persist after the repower.  Even running at slower speeds, new turbines are so tall that their blades operate at the flight height of nocturnal migratory birds.  But since upgrades and removals began at Altamont, overall bird deaths have dropped there by between 40 and 50%.

                Where do wind turbines rank as a threat to wild bird populations?  Short version – very close to the bottom.  In 2018, the US Fish and Wildlife Service published its estimates for bird deaths by cause, drawn from multiple scientific studies.  Here are their low-range numbers:

  • Oil Pits:  500,000
  • Electrocutions:  900,000
  • Collision with electrical lines:  8,000,000
  • Poison:  72,000,000 (median estimate)
  • Collision with vehicles:  89,000,000
  • Collision with building glass:  365,000,000
  • Cats:  1,400,000,000
  • Wind Turbines – 234,000 (mean estimate)

Bear in mind that this total – 1,838,400,000 bird deaths – is the sum of low-range estimates (with the exception of poison).  High-range totals for the same categories produce an estimate of 3,536,700,000 annual bird kills through various human activities (and, of course, the activities of our four-footed, long-tailed furry friends).  Even high-end estimated totals of bird deaths through wind turbines (327,586) amount to a total of .0092% of total mortality in the same high-end estimate.  As wind power expansions continue, raw numbers of bird deaths will likely rise as well, but at a very low overall percentage of total mortality.

Wind Turbines And Human Health

The dangers of wind turbines to birds and bats are established.  To some degree, they can be mitigated.  What about us?  For years, studies and anecdotal evidence have shown there are issues with noise from turbines.  As noted by the College of Family Physicians of Canada, turbine noise can disrupt sleep, particularly as wind speed varies.  The consensus :  these issues are real, and reduce quality of life, and the closer people live to large turbines, the worse these problems.

Others living near wind farms have reported problems including headaches, fatigue and depression.  These have been blamed on the flickering shadows produced by blades, or on infrasound – sounds too low for humans to perceive.    However, an exhaustive study by the Council of Canadian Academies, which covered peer-reviewed, unpublished, and “gray literature” found only “limited” causal links between wind turbines and sleep deprivation.  Evidence of connections to more serious issues – vertigo, heart disease, diabetes – was “insufficient”.  In addition, other reports noted the following:

People living near wind turbines who received rent from them were “less likely to report adverse health effects” than other living nearby:

In two studies, two groups of test subjects were exposed either to silence, or to infrasound, through headphones after watching videos.  Those who watched a video warning of the dangers of infrasound were more likely to report symptoms and more severe symptoms from infrasound, even if they were exposed to silence.  Those watching a video minimizing the same dangers were less likely to report any symptoms.

To the best of our knowledge to date, the dangers to birds from wind power are real, but limited.  The dangers to people seem minimal, though noise exposure can be harmful.  And the successful uptake of a new technology doesn’t just mean the act of adopting it, but doing so carefully, with ourselves and the rest of the world in mind.

Nuclear power may be America’s most controversial source of energy.  A dam can drown a stunning stretch of river.  Coal may loom larger in climate and public health debates, given its airborne pollutants and toxins buried in coal-ash dumps dotting the nation.  Solar-thermal plants, seen as environmentally benign, can incinerate birds in mid-flight.  Using any technology has consequences, but with nuclear power, they feel more . . . consequential.  It might be origins of nuclear power in the fires of World War II.  It could be echoes of Chernobyl or Fukushima.  Whatever the reason, bring up nuclear and you may generate heat that has nothing to do with physics.

The Nuclear Landscape

Whatever the opinions, these are the facts – 95 reactors at 57 plants in 29 states supply about 20% of America’s electricity.  As mentioned earlier in this series, nuclear plants are baseload plants.  They operate at maximum output nearly all the time, except when refueling or during maintenance.   The oldest active reactor came online in 1969, the newest in 2016 – the latter the first such in 20 years.  Two more reactors are now under construction in Georgia.  And though we’re down from 107 units operating in 2003 –upgrades and more efficient refueling mean total output is about the same as it was 17 years ago.  France remains the most nuclear-heavy country – more than 70% of its power comes from fission.  But in terms of total output, the US still leads the world.

It’s all driven by physics on a scale that’s hard to grasp.  Atoms of a few heavy, unstable elements like uranium are prone to split, or “fission”.  In the process, they release neutrons – neutral subatomic particles – and huge amounts of energy.  As those neutrons speed away, they hit other atoms.  Some of them split, releasing more neutrons and more energy.  That energy boils water, which generates steam, which turns a turbine – and so on into the grid.  Under controlled conditions, you’re in the control room of a nuclear power plant as smokeless fire converts steam to electricity.  Under uncontrolled conditions, you’re in the New Mexico desert on July 16th, 1945, as light brighter than the sun springs from the earth.

Keeping intense heat and potentially deadly radioactivity under control is an expensive, complex process.  American reactors are surrounded by massive containment domes of concrete and steel.  They’re cooled by networks of pumps and condensers backed up by multiply redundant systems in case of emergency or loss of power.  And given their fuel, they’re operated to the most exacting standards in any industry in terms of security.  All this adds up.  It’s not that nuclear power is all that expensive in terms of routine operations, fuel and maintenance.  EIA data show that between 2008 and 2018, these costs for fossil plants ranged from 3.5.to 4.1 cents per kilowatt-hour.  For hydropower, it was .9 to 1.2 cents and for nuclear, ranging from 2.1 to 2.7 cents.

Up-Front Costs vs. Climate Benefits

What has tilted the table against nuclear projects in recent years has been costs – driven by this need for safety.  An example:  the Tennessee Valley Authority began construction on its Watts Bar plant in 1974.  By the time a second reactor was done in 2016, total costs for the project hit $12 billion.  “Abundance of caution” fits the industry’s outlook.  After the Fukushima tsunami in 2013, new flood protection measures more than 6% to the costs of  that second TVA reactor.  And in Georgia, two new units for the Vogtle plant, first priced at $14 billion in 2009, are now estimated at $25.7 billion.

Despite high capital costs, nuclear power has one huge advantage over other forms of electricity in an era confronting climate limits.  It produces power without producing CO2 or other greenhouse gases.  Obviously, building plants and parts and refining fuel consume energy and generate greenhouse gases.  But nuclear plants – with up to nearly 4 gigawatts of capacity, and operating flat-out for months on end – do so without any GHGs.  With this in mind, there’s a big effort to extend the lives of nuclear plants now in service through the USDOE with improved materials, plant upgrades and risk analysis.

What’s Next?

There’s been a great deal of time and money invested in developing the next generation of nuclear technology.  We’re now in the fourth generation of plant designs, though none have gone beyond prototypes.  Some designs use water at very high pressure, others use helium or molten salt as coolants.  This next generation is designed to operate at higher temperatures, use much less fuel and generate way less waste.  Some new designs can use nuclear waste as fuel.  An additional important field is the development of passive safety designs – reactors that need no or minimal human intervention in emergencies.

Finally, given the high costs of nuclear, modular design is seen as the wave of the future.  Smaller, more efficient reactors could allow for deployments of this form of low-carbon power without the enormous costs seen in current projects.  Whether economic conditions and public opinion permit the deployment of this fourth generation will be one of the big climate/energy questions of the 2020s.

Rural towns and smaller municipalities have specific challenges when it comes to using electric vehicles in their transit systems and installing electric vehicle charging infrastructure. From power delivery and lack of community support to local availability of electric vehicles and overall lack of awareness, rural townships may face multiple roadblocks.

In this webinar, Clean Cities coordinators from Oklahoma, Louisiana, Texas, and Kansas will share case studies and best practices to help avoid the pitfalls that can impede plans to deploy EVs and develop an equitable charging infrastructure that fits the needs of a smaller transit system.

Guest speakers Eric Austin of Francis Energy and Chris Nielsen of eCab North America will share their experiences working with rural areas on electric vehicle projects. Francis Energy, headquartered in Oklahoma, works across the US with utilities and Coops of all sizes to bring EV chargers everywhere. eCab North America uses Low-Speed Electric Vehicles (LSEVs) for their fleet of eCabs as part of a grant providing eCabs and drivers to rural transit systems for first/last mile trips, a cost-effective way to extend the reach of the transit. As part of the Q&A section, Chris will discuss his experiences with LSEVs and F/L mile applications and provide tips to enhance your LSEV experience. Eric will share best practices and lessons learned for working with EV charging providers and how you can partner to bring this technology to your customers.

On KKFI Radio’s show for 7/12/21, listeners had the opportunity to hear from Mary English, Energy Program Manager, Building Performance, and Miriam Bouallegue, Project Manager, Sustainable Transportation, both with Metropolitan Energy Center (MEC).

Eco Radio host Brent Ragsdale talked with Mary and Miriam and discussed two initiatives MEC is working on with Kansas City MO – the building benchmark ordinance and streetlight EV charging stations.

https://www.kcmo.gov/programs-initiatives/energy-and-water-benchmarking

https://metroenergy.org/programs/current-projects/streetlight-ev-charging/

Tune in here for a recording of the discussion.

“We at EcoRadio KC are glad to encourage awareness and protection of our world. We can create a sustainable present for a sustainable future!”

It is understandable to freak out over climate change, but the challenge is … to work hard on this crisis while still enjoying life on what is still a beautiful planet.

https://kkfi.org/listen/

Like many technologies, the windmill is nothing new.  People have been using the wind to grind grain and pump water for over a thousand years.  If not for the windmill, there’d be no Netherlands as we know it.  Settling America’s plains states during the 19th Century would have been nearly impossible.  But the use of wind to generate electricity at scale is new, going back only about 30 years.  In that short time, this evolving technology has produced the biggest single leap in renewable electricity output since the Age of Dams in the early-to-mid 20th Century.

In theory, generating electricity from wind is simple.  Air moves over the turbine blades, generating lift and setting the system in motion.  The shaft on which the blades are mounted rotates.  In doing so, it spins a magnet inside the generator’s windings, producing electricity.  Turbines can be direct-drive systems, but most use gearboxes to speed up their blades, since higher RPMs generate more efficiently.  The electricity produced by the turbines hits the grid and powers everything from toasters to cities.  Simple, no?

The Where Of American Windpower

Well, not quite.  There are more than a few complications.  Wind is generated by the sun’s heating of Earth’s surface, which is uneven.  Geography, climate and terrain add more variability.  Result – the wind blows reliably only in certain regions.  In America that means the Midwest , especially the Great Plains.  That’s why Texas leads the country in wind energy capacity, with Iowa, Oklahoma, California (outlier!) and Kansas in spots two through five.  And that’s why eight contiguous states in the southeast to date have zero installed capacity.

Onshore, the strongest winds blow in thinly populated states far from power-hungry big cities.  Transmission lines can cost millions of dollars per mile, and they’re not always popular, locally or politically.  And as the seasons change, so does the wind.  On the High Plains, America’s wind power sweet spot, output falls during the hottest months, when electrical demand for cooling spikes, rising again during winter.

Upsides – Income & Jobs

However, there are multiple benefits to wind.  Unlike coal or uranium, the wind is free.  Building turbines means leasing land.  Those leases bring in between $5,000 and $8,000 per unit per year to farmers or ranchers, though they can also limit construction and access by landowners. Turbine maintenance means turbine techs.  More than 7,000 Americans are already working in this fast-growing sector, with median pay of nearly $53,000 per year.

Efficiency keeps improving.  In much of America, the higher off the ground, the stronger the wind.  Taller turbines are taking advantage of that fact.  Between 2000 and 2018, average turbine height jumped nearly 100 feet, with bigger units providing more power.  And the environmental benefits of wind energy are substantial.  Beyond the carbon embedded in building and installing the systems, electricity from wind is carbon-free.  As markets for clean energy credits grow, and clean energy demand grows, so does the financial case for wind.

Rapid Growth And What’s Next

For all these reasons and more, wind’s growth has been simply explosive.  In 1990, wind provided 3 billion kWh, or about 0.1% of all electricity.  10 years later, it had doubled, and was still stuck at about 0.1% of the market.  Total share in following years:  2005 – 0.4%; 2010 – 2.3%; 2015 – 4.7%; 2019 – 7.3% – the same year that wind overtook hydropower.

But this intermittent (though clean) energy source has limits.  Surpassing those limits means going to sea.  That’s because offshore wind potential in the United States is about twice the nation’s current electricity demand.  But offshore wind power is almost non-existent here, with exactly one site currently up and operating.   Beyond that, grid upgrades and the addition of large-scale energy storage are going to be necessary for wind energy to make its next big jump.

Join us for a FREE workshop to learn more about biodiesel and how it works in today’s diesel engines.

Changes in vehicles and fuels require changes in service

Vehicles, equipment and fuels have changed significantly in recent years. Alternative fuels are becoming increasingly more available in the marketplace. National, state and organizational goals to reduce vehicle emissions and increase use of domestic and renewable fuels have resulted in new pollution control equipment, reduced sulfur levels in fuel, and increased use of biodiesel. Mechanics and technicians in the vehicle and equipment industries need the most current information on fuel and vehicle changes and to better understand how biodiesel operates in today’s vehicles and equipment.

The goal of this workshop is to educate diesel mechanics, automotive technicians and other automotive industry professionals with the most up-to-date knowledge on biodiesel, allowing them to accurately diagnose fuel-related issues, answer customer questions about fuel, and provide recommendations about proper fuel handling and use best practices.

This workshop is targeted at fleet mechanics, diesel technicians, diesel technology students and others who work on diesel engines. Participants should have basic diesel engine experience.

After completing a workshop, participants will be able to:

    • Describe and compare the characteristics of petroleum diesel and biodiesel
    • Explain how the fuels work together to power vehicles and equipment
    • Match biodiesel blends with compatible vehicles and equipment
    • Accurately identify fuel-related issues
    • Provide recommendations for preventing fuel-related issues through best management practices

MEG Corp is an ASE-accredited Continuing Automotive Service Education (CASE) provider. ASE Continuing Education Units (CEUs) will be offered for those that meet the requirements for this training. Please indicate when registering if you are interested in ASE CEU credits. Requirements for CEUs are as follows:

    • Take a pretest before the workshop
    • Take a posttest after the workshop
    • Complete a workshop evaluation
    • Complete a survey provided 30 days after the workshop

Participants receiving 80% or higher on the posttest receive a certificate of completion with corresponding CEUs. Participants receiving lower than 80% receive a certificate of attendance.

The workshop will be presented by Hoon Ge of MEG Corp.

In order to provide adequate opportunity for attendees to ask questions, workshop size will be limited. Register today to reserve your spot!

 

 

Hoon Ge, president and founder of MEG Corp, is a chemical engineer with more than 35 years experience in the fuel industry including refining, additive formulation and alternative fuels. MEG Corp conducts educational seminars for students, farmers, mechanics, fleets and the fuel industry throughout the Midwest to provide the latest information on renewable and petroleum fuels.

 

MEG Corp is an industry leader in fuel consulting and testing services, providing technical support to fuel industries and end users. MEG Corp staff have more than 90 years combined experience in traditional and alternative fuels. MEG Corp has been providing diesel/biodiesel and gasoline/ethanol training throughout the Midwest since 2008 and conducts more than 100 events per year to educate current and future transportation industry professionals.

 

This workshop is being offered for free thanks in part to funding from the Kansas Soybean Commission.

 24Travel Stores and Metropolitan Energy Center (MEC) are proud to announce the installation of two retail DC fast chargers at a ribbon cutting scheduled for May 6 at the McPherson, Kansas, Travel StoreWhen it comes to alternative fuels in Kansas, 247 Travel Stores is making its mark as a leader in the state. As electric vehicle usage steadily climbs in Kansas, strides must be made to incorporate robust DC fast charging infrastructure that will properly support the growing wave of drivers.  

“It is time to welcome EV drivers to our facilities.” 

Mark Augustine, President of Triplett, Inc., which owns 24-7 Travel Stores, has been studying the evolution of the electric vehicle. “Through grant funding made possible by Metro Energy, it was time to take this research to the marketplace,” he says. “Just like many other changes we experience in our business, we update our facilities as the transportation market evolves; it is time to welcome EV drivers to our facilities. 

The McPherson location features two 100kW DC fast chargers, with both CHAdeMO and CCS connectors. It is the first EV fast charging owned and operated by an independent fuel retailer in Kansas.  

“The McPherson charging stations fill a key fueling gap for EVs along the I-135 corridor, connecting Wichita to I-70,” says Tami Alexander, Senior Program Coordinator with MEC’s Central Kansas Clean Cities Coalition, who worked with 24-7 Travel Stores on the project. 

The public is encouraged to join 24-7 Travel Stores and MEC at a ribbon cutting event Thursday, May 6 at 1PM for the new charging stations, at 2203 East Kansas Ave, McPherson, Kansas. We will be joined by Kansas Department of Transportation and others to commemorate this important charging stop in central Kansas 

Through a grant funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, MEC reduced Triplett’s cost to purchase and install the EV chargers. 24/7 Travel Stores boasts new biodiesel offerings since July 2020, also supported by these grant funds. 

About 24/7 Travel Stores 

In 1963, when the interstate system made its way across the State, 24-7 Travel Stores opened. Our business model has evolved in those 58 years from two-bay service stations to convenience stores with auto service to travel centers with amenities to attract the traveling public. Whave experienced many changes in our business to keep our facilities relevant as the transportation market evolves. Now is the time to welcome EV drivers to our facilities. Triplett, Inc., owns 24-7 Travel Stores (24-7Stores.com).