Every year, America produces 30 billion gallons of propane, two-thirds of which is exported to other countries, according to Jim Bunsey, director of communications and business development for the Propane Education and Research Council.
Bunsey recently sat down with Rod Walton, managing editor of Microgrid Knowledge, to discuss one example of how that abundance of propane is being used to reduce emissions and energy costs as well as improve customer service at one of America’s most cherished national parks.
The unique case of Bryce Canyon National Park’s Ruby’s Inn
Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah is known for its stunning red rock formations. The park attracts millions of visitors each year, many of whom stay at the historic Ruby’s Inn, which is located just outside of the park’s borders.
Bunsey explained that the resort had a major problem – its infrastructure couldn’t keep up with the guests’ hot water demands. As a result, the resort was refunding thousands of dollars a year because of cold showers.
After exploring solar, electric and natural gas options, the resort’s leadership opted to move forward with a propane-powered solution.
Propane is hydrogen rich and with a carbon intensity of 79.25, it’s cleaner than the electric grid in most states, Bunsey told Walton. Plus, he added, with infrastructure already in place from coast to coast, moving propane via barges, trains and pipelines to where it’s needed is relatively easy.
The inn installed 214 propane-powered tankless hot water heaters spread across the 19-building complex. With hot water available on demand, guest complaints about cold showers dropped dramatically.
Bunsey reported that Ruby’s Inn discovered that its propane usage actually dropped because water was heated on demand, rather than being stored at temperature in tanks. As a result, the inn was able to add a propane-powered snow and ice melt system to reduce slips and falls in the winter.
Now, according to Bunsey, Ruby’s Inn is investigating how propane generators can power electric vehicle (EV) superchargers to better serve guests that drive EVs.
Propane solutions easily tie to other decarbonization efforts
During the wide-ranging interview, Bunsey and Walton also discussed the safety and stability of propane, the exciting prospects of renewable propane and how propane-powered generators can advance decarbonization efforts.
Bunsey also said that propane is an excellent fuel to provide backup generation for renewable-powered microgrids because it’s a resilient energy source that allows everyone from resorts to commercial and industrial companies to become grid independent.