Show Us Your Bills – Red Lodge, Montana

Our Energy Engineer, Danielle, using a thermal camera to assess the building envelope of an office. Photo: NCAT

This past year, many commercial buildings across Montana were positively impacted by the team’s energy efficiency efforts, resulting in significant savings. In Red Lodge, Montana, we asked the City’s Wastewater Treatment Facility to show us their energy bills to see just what kind of impact the installation of two Variable Frequency Drives (VFDs) had on their energy consumption and, equally as important, their monetary savings. A VFD is used with AC electric motors that run pumps, water heaters, and other equipment in many different applications. They adjust the frequency of the motor to run at different speeds, allowing the motor to run as efficiently as possible. A very common application of VFDs is actually in water treatment facilities. In April of 2018, one month after the installation, the facility’s energy bill was $4,104, and in April of 2019, the bill had lowered to $3,355, a savings of about $750.

Oftentimes, including this VFD project, efforts towards energy efficiency and conservation are carried out in a concerted effort by Energy Services and members of Energy Corps, an AmeriCorps program run in collaboration with NCAT. Energy Corps operates within the overall Energy Program. Members of national service are hosted across the state of Montana by environmental organizations, government agencies, institutes of higher education, and other nonprofits. Members spend their service term planning, implementing, and supporting projects that are geared towards sustainable solutions for communities across the state, as well as providing “boots on the ground” to improve efforts and bring ideas to reality. Members of Energy Corps hosted in Red Lodge over the past few years have been hard at work with energy-saving installation, retrofitting, and helping to keep the motivation elevated for sustainability projects, and they’ve enjoyed considerable success. Red Lodge’s Carnegie library saw major energy savings after the installation of a solar array, a project carried out by Energy Corps members. As a result of this project, the library’s energy consumption dropped from 1,677 kWh in October 2018, to 548 kWh in October 2019, for a monthly savings of $111.51. In this community, Energy Corps has successfully implemented several other efforts, including installation of water bottle-filling stations around town, organizing rain barrel workshops, implementing the city’s Energy Conservation Plan, and continuing to put on the popular Earth Day Block Party. Read more in the 2020 report , created by Energy Corps member Robin Adams, summarizing the impact Energy Corps has made in Red Lodge.

Here you can see the difference in energy usage before and after the solar array at Carnegie Library was installed. Used with permission.

As technology continues to advance and interests to conserve energy and create more sustainable infrastructure increase, our program’s goal is to tackle today’s concerns with holistic approaches to solutions. With interdepartmental collaboration, we can continue to build capacity and bolster our efforts. When customers show us their bills, we see concrete results from our efforts, but we also see how it affects the people of the community and the environment they live in, and that makes the work all worth it. Please click around on the Energy Tree to learn more about our work and visit our blog page for more stories and highlights!