Keys Energy lands big grant

Keys Energy Services will receive a substantial slice of energy funding that it will match with local resources to fund seven projects, including a solar photovoltaic system, a wind turbine, a rebate program and home energy surveys.

The Key West-based utility, which serves about 28,000 homes from the Seven Mile Bridge down, applied for the $434,000 grant last summer. The utility's board agreed to match the funds, for a total of $770,000.

" The grant is made possible by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the U.S. Department of Energy, " said Lynne Tejeda, the utility's general manager and chief executive officer, in a news release announcing the grant. " Pursuant to the grant, the state will fund approximately $434,000 of the total grant, with [Keys Energy] rounding out the difference with matching funds. "

Monroe County, Key West, Marathon and Islamorada learned earlier in the year that they would share a $2.6 million Energy Efficiency Block Grant that was also part of that federal program. Entities that didn't receive or weren't eligible for block grants were instead able to apply for a share of $10 million.

The Florida Clean Energy Grants of $100,000 to $500,000 each are designed to promote energy efficiency and renewable energy among public agencies, nonprofit organizations and agricultural operations.

The projects need to be completed by April 2012 to receive the funding.

Tejeda pointed out that much of the local match is coming through already budgeted staff time, inventory and Florida Municipal Power Agency funding.

Keys Energy plans to spend the grant money on seven projects:

  • Installing a thermal storage unit at Keys Energy's James Street building to shift air-conditioning costs during peak hours. The unit will work by storing energy off-peak in the form of ice, when electricity generation is more efficient and more abundant, and delivering it on-peak, when it is needed most, to help condition the building.
  • Installing an energy management system that will control lighting and cooling at the service building.
  • Constructing a 34-kilowatt solar photovoltaic system on the roof of the warehouse at its generating facility at the end of Front Street on Stock Island. The system would be expected to produce 51,861-kilowatt hours worth of electricity.
  • Keys Energy spokesman Julio Barroso said the project would have to go out for bids, so it's too early to know what kind of system it would be. Keys Energy is already partnering with other agencies in a " peel-and-stick " demonstration on the roof of the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center on the Truman Waterfront.

  • Erecting two wind turbines — one at Keys Energy's Cudjoe Key electric substation on the Overseas Highway and one at its Stock Island generating facility — totaling 4.8 kilowatts. Barroso said the single turbines would have 7-foot blades and a total diameter of only 16 feet. At what height the turbines will turn remains a question.
  • While the solar and wind projects will be just a " drop in the bucket as far as power supply, " Tejeda said they're important for the utility as it gains experience in renewable energy that it can pass on to customers.

  • Offering $100,000 in rebates during the next installment of the utility's popular program for customers who purchase energy-efficient appliances. The 3-year-old program, which also receives funding from the Florida Municipal Power Agency, is already out of funds for this fiscal year.
  • Providing 225 residential energy surveys over the course of 18 months. The surveys, offered in addition to the utility's free energy audits, will include giveaways of compact fluorescent light bulbs, which conserve electricity, and low-flow showerheads and faucet aerators, which conserve both water and electricity.
  • Hosting three workshops for Keys Energy's commercial customers who will learn from experts how they can run more energy efficient operations.
  • Tejeda is excited about the opportunities the grant will afford the utility.

    " We don't have a lot of room in the budget to do some of these programs with renewables and energy efficiency, but they're an important part of the industry, " she said.