The North Dakota Office of Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency (OREE) has a variety of programs that promote energy efficiency and renewable energy activities in both the public and private sectors within the state. Through its programs, the OREE partners with local and state government, industry, business, schools, economic development corporations, educators, individuals and others interested in advancing energy conservation practices and deploying renewable energy technologies. These program activities are supported by the U.S. State Energy Program (SEP), and range from alternative fuel pilots to renewable energy projects, building energy efficiency activities, energy education and industry energy efficiency.
The Blender Pump Pilot Project, launched in 2009, utilizes SEP funding to offer grants to North Dakota motor fuel retailers to purchase pumps for dispensing ethanol or biodiesel. SEP funds have not only supported the installation of 80 blender pumps through this program, but they are also being utilized to promote the use of alternative fuels. A grant to the North Dakota Soybean Growers supports a consumer awareness campaign using billboards and electronic and print media. The programs have had a tremendous impact on the sales of alternative fuels in the state. In 2009, prior to the grant program taking affect, annual statewide sales of E85 was approximately 275,000 gallons. In 2011, the annual statewide sales of E85 surpassed the one-million gallon mark by September. Besides reducing carbon emissions from this cleaner burning fuel, the impact is being felt across North Dakota in other ways. As a result of the increased demand for ethanol, farmers are producing more corn than ever before as cultivated acreage has increased from 1.9 million in 2010 to 2.1 million in 2011.
The OREE is also using SEP funds to support a Renewable Energy Market Development (REMD) grant program. Bismarck State College used one of these grants to install a 10 kilowatt (kW) photovoltaic system on the school's National Energy Center for Excellence (NECE). NECE is home to many nationally-recognized energy industry degree and training programs, and the solar project will help prepare the next generation of energy industry employees for careers working with this renewable energy technology.
Blaise Energy Inc. is also using a REMD grant to demonstrate the commercial viability of its Flare Gas Mirco-turbine. The micro-turbine pilot project is converting oil well flare gas (a waste by-product of oil production) to electricity. The project will capture an estimated 600 million cubic feet of natural gas annually from North Dakota oil fields sites and convert it to five-megawatts of electricity.
Other industrial energy efficiency activities supported through SEP funding include the North Dakota State University (NDSU) Agricultural Energy Efficiency program, a grant to support utility rebates and grants for municipal utilities to upgrade their municipal utility systems. NDSU is using SEP funding to conduct workshops on energy conserving farming practices. To date, 43 workshops have been held with 861 participants attending.
Besides industrial and market development activities, 23 grants have been awarded to state agencies and cities and towns to incorporate energy efficiency equipment into their facilities to reduce energy usage. The SEP funding provides for energy efficiency measures that have a payback of less than ten years.
SEP funds are also supporting numerous energy education activities throughout the state, such as Building Code Training workshops for builders and building inspectors. In addition to code workshops, energy efficiency and renewable energy education presentations for farmers and ranchers are being delivered through the NDSU Extension Service. Over the past two years, 579 people have attended one of these workshops or another OREE sponsored seminar.