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Energy Efficiency, Sustainability Second Nature in Southwest Dallas

Learn how businesses in Southwest Dallas make energy efficiency and sustainability a key part of their day-to-day operations.

By Robert L. Sample on August 19, 2016

Cedar Hill, TX
Cedar Hill / Courtesy of Oncor Energy

Businesses in the U.S. spend about $200 billion each year to power commercial buildings, according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Businesses in Southwest Dallas County and Northern Ellis County are taking a big bite out of energy costs through conservation, LEAN buildings and environmental sustainability.

It starts with the region’s customer-centric utilities, which can provide businesses of all sizes with guidance on emerging energy-efficient technologies – including measures businesses can take at no cost as well as investments they can make that will more than repay their cost outlay over time.

Oncor, the electricity-transmission utility that supplies one-third of Texas, views sustainable-energy projects as a key element of community service.

“We constantly look to new technologies to benefit our customers and improve reliability,” says Kenneth Govan, community operations manager for the utility.

Oncor’s Competitive Renewable Energy Zones (CREZ) are a great example of this approach. Oncor built 1,000 miles of transmission lines to help big-consumption areas such as the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex take advantage of renewable energy generated in West Texas.

“This program has provided the infrastructure necessary to approximately double Texas’ renewable energy goals,” Govan says.

TXU’s 10-year-old Brighten Greenback program has provided valuable assistance to both large and small enterprises alike. TXU is the Lone Star State’s biggest energy retailer. The program provides business customers with energy-supply rebates in exchange for their investment in energy-efficient projects. The size of the rebate is based on the size of a company’s investment in energy-efficient technology.

“Over time, the value Operation Greenback brings to business customers can be significant,” says Juan Elizondo, senior manager of corporate communications for TXU Energy. “It can often total in the tens of millions of dollars.”

HVAC projects are widely popular, especially among companies that operate manufacturing and warehousing facilities.

“Not only do we have high summer temperatures during the daytime, but the heat can last well into the night in Texas,” says Elizondo. “Companies want people to be able to work comfortably and efficiently under those conditions, and that requires effective climate controls.”

In addition, production facilities have their own energy nuances, Elizondo points out. Heavy machinery takes a large boost in power to start up in the morning, which can cause a drain on the electricity grid. TXU offers manufacturing customers incentives to stagger their start times, to minimize that drain on the system. Enterprises of all kinds reap the rewards of that focus on efficiency.

Abundant sunshine makes solar power an attractive, cost-effective option. In Hutchins in Southwest Dallas County, Federal Express has taken advantage of that plentiful resource. In October 2015, a solar installation at FedEx’s 630,000-square-foot facility went online, supplying 20 percent of its power needs.

The area is also a leader in the manufacturing of energy-efficient products. Oncor’s Lancaster facility produces its smart meters, which monitor usage and control customer energy costs. In the experimental realm, Oncor has also developed batteries that can store electricity and act as a backup resource for industrial users.

One global producer is DIAB Americas, a division of a Swedish composites maker. Composite materials are strong, yet lightweight, materials in which the fibers of multiple substances are bonded together chemically. One DIAB specialty is specialty materials for windows and buildings. At its DIAB Americas facility in DeSoto, the company is helping to develop an enhanced foam thermal insulation for commercial window systems.

DIAB is part of a team that has received funding for this development project from the U.S. Department of Energy. This new product aims to provide superior insulation from heat and cold and help building owners realize cost savings from lower energy bills.

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