Cutting ‘fixed’ overhead and going green


Cutting ‘fixed’ overhead and going green

Skystream by Southwest Windpower Chevron Station Power

On-site wind power is part of the energy savings mix for one Arizona station

A drive to reduce costs and go green led the owners of a Flagstaff, Ariz. service station to find new ways to reduce utility energy consumption. Late in 2009 the station owners installed small-scale wind turbines and have since made energy efficiency upgrades, cutting utility energy use by a total of about 20 percent.

The Chevron station, one of nine stations owned and operated by Hallum Inc., sits on the heavily traveled U.S. 89, a major route to the Grand Canyon. Two Skystream 3.7 wind turbines, made by Southwest Windpower, sit atop 33- and 45-foot high poles at the site. In addition to generating clean energy, the spinning turbines next to the highway draw plenty of attention from customers and passing motorists.

Cutting overhead

Skystream 3.7 wind turbine at a Chevron stationThe wind turbines are part of Hallum’s long-term strategy to reduce costs. “Station owners look at electric bills as a fixed cost that you can’t do anything about. But you can. You just have to be proactive about it,” says vice president David Hallum. “Anything you can do to reduce long-term costs should be on the table. We took a look at our overhead and asked ‘what can we do with the resources available to us now?’”

Hallum Inc. engaged the local Southwest Windpower dealer to assess the company’s sites, and settled on the U.S. 89 location for its abundant wind and high visibility. The dealer provided trenching and concrete work, completed the electrical connections, assembled the turbines and raised the towers. The total installation process took just a couple of days, not including concrete cure time.

The owners also invested in new interior upgrades for better efficiency, with the help of Supermarket Energy Technologies, a firm specializing in efficiency retrofits. New refrigerator fan motor controllers and defrost sensors reduce running time by 80 to 90 percent. The station also saves with new lighting fixtures, LED cooler lights and restroom light motion sensors.

Visible green energy

Small-scale wind power can be an affordable and attractive alternative to other green energy options, such as buying carbon offsets. The spinning blades seem to capture people’s attention and differentiate the station from others in the area.

President Steve Hallum got interested in wind turbines largely as a cost-savings measure, but a green image also played a roll in his decision. “Part of it is making a statement to the public about being environmentally conscious. Wind power makes that statement,” he says.

David agrees. “I’m a firm believer. The use of wind energy at the station sends a message to everyone who sees it that we’re taking steps in the right direction. The more ways we can find to get away from conventional energy sources, the better,” he says.

The station manager notes that drivers often stop in to ask questions about the wind turbines that often spin as commuters and tourists pass by.  

Small-scale technology

Today’s small wind turbines aren’t like the large turbines associated with wind farms that can stand well over 100 feet high. These are much smaller. And they’re not like old farm windmills either. Small-scale modern systems, with sculpted designs, composite blades, embedded software and wireless connectivity, deliver quiet, optimized performance in a variety of wind conditions.

Southwest Windpower developed Skystream 3.7 in conjunction with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to provide quiet, affordable wind energy systems to home and business owners worldwide. Today Skystream is available with solar panels and a sun tracking mechanism attached to the same tower, which delivers more consistent energy than either solar and wind power alone.

Although the Flagstaff project was undertaken independently by the station owners, Chevron Technology Ventures, the venture capital arm of Chevron., is an investor in Southwest Windpower.

Incentives reduce up front investment

Business owners of small-scale wind systems enjoy federal, state and local incentives, depending on their locations.

Hallum Inc. took advantage of a 30 percent federal tax credit, which was applied to the total installed cost the first year and $1,000 per year thereafter. Arizona Pubic Service, the local electric utility, also offered a $6,000 per turbine incentive, lowering the installation cost significantly.

Many states offer rebate or tax credit programs to encourage the adoption of wind and solar power systems. Some of the best incentives are offered in Arizona, California, Nevada, New York, Hawaii and Massachusetts. An up to date listing of incentives is available online at www.dsireusa.org.

Can your station benefit?

Because wind power is a site-specific technology, it’s not suited to every location. Ideal sites are in high wind areas without many obstacles like structures or tall trees. Usually locations like open plains, along coastlines, or on high ridges deliver the best performance.

Even the placement of the turbines in relation to the service station’s structures can have effects. Southwest Windpower recommends that any small wind turbine be situated on a tower that reaches at least 20 feet above any obstacle within 250 feet.

Any business investigating wind or solar projects should carefully consider whether local wind and sun resources will provide enough energy to make the project worthwhile. Online wind and sun estimating tools can help start the process, and a Southwest Windpower representative can follow up with a live site visit.


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