Why This Company Wants to be Off-Grid — And On

Jan. 10, 2015
Here’s a company that has the ability to be entirely off-grid–but has decided that’s not exactly the way to go. Alliance Autogas’s Autogas Research & Technology Center, which opened in October, can produce all of its power on-site–40% from solar and 60% from a propane powered micro combined heat and power system.

Here’s a company that has the ability to be entirely off-grid — but has decided that’s not exactly the way to go.

Alliance Autogas’s Autogas Research & Technology Center, which opened in October, can produce all of its power on-site –40 percent from solar and 60 percent from a propane powered micro combined-heat-and power system.

“Sometimes we rely on the grid, sometimes we rely on solar; it’s nice to have a portfolio of sources to rely on,” says Brent Kiomall, application engineer for Blossman Services Inc., which manages Alliance Autogas.

“This is the future — to be energy independent and rely on a number of sources,” he says.

“We divide up power from solar, the grid and the CHP based on any number of factors. If the grid goes out, CHP will back us up no matter what. If it’s cloudy, and there’s no solar, and we don’t want to use CHP, we can run off the grid,” he says.

The 12,500-square-foot facility’s energy bill, for the first month in operation, was only $500, he notes.

“That could be zero dollars but we like to divide up our energy consumption so we’re not reliant on anyone,” he explains.

Also, because the solar is a net metering system, it makes more business sense for the company to use the utility credits accrued during the day than to try to be a net-zero energy facility.

“It’s best to be in the position where you can use the utility credits,” says Kiomall. “It’s the cheapest option. Everyone likes having an environmentally responsible portfolio but it must make business sense.”

For the company, this is more cost-effective than choosing to be net-zero energy. “That’s because at night we get the utility credits from the solar we produce during the day,” he says.

If the company chose to be net zero, it might produce more energy than it consumed. At that point, it would be losing money, he explains.

Kiomall is right. Choosing to be cost-effective, green, independent of the grid and diversified is smart — and it’s the future.

About the Author

Lisa Cohn | Contributing Editor

I focus on the West Coast and Midwest. Email me at [email protected]

I’ve been writing about energy for more than 20 years, and my stories have appeared in EnergyBiz, SNL Financial, Mother Earth News, Natural Home Magazine, Horizon Air Magazine, Oregon Business, Open Spaces, the Portland Tribune, The Oregonian, Renewable Energy World, Windpower Monthly and other publications. I’m also a former stringer for the Platts/McGraw-Hill energy publications. I began my career covering energy and environment for The Cape Cod Times, where Elisa Wood also was a reporter. I’ve received numerous writing awards from national, regional and local organizations, including Pacific Northwest Writers Association, Willamette Writers, Associated Oregon Industries, and the Voice of Youth Advocates. I first became interested in energy as a student at Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, where I helped design and build a solar house.

Twitter: @LisaECohn

Linkedin: LisaEllenCohn

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