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Fargo’s Working to Make Every Day Earth Day. North Dakota Not So Much

One one hand, North Dakota is known for a fairly harsh environment with weather extremes and for higher than average per capita energy use and emissions. When compared with our Minnesota neighbors and other states with effective energy efficiency programs we pale in comparison. Just this week a national rating service Wallethub rated North Dakota 47th in the country for energy efficiency.
Most Environmentally Friendly States

Overall Rank
(1=Greenest)
State Total Score ‘Environmental Quality’ Rank ‘Eco-Friendly Behaviors’ Rank ‘Climate-Change Contributions’ Rank
1 Vermont 75.48 1 1 23
2 Oregon 74.23 3 2 20
3 Massachusetts 72.63 5 10 3
4 New York 72.11 4 19 2
5 South Dakota 70.54 6 5 11
6 Minnesota 69.46 2 14 16
7 Connecticut 68.99 9 22 1
8 New Hampshire 68.49 10 18 5
9 California 67.52 43 3 4
10 Rhode Island 66.68 7 28 6
11 Maine 66.63 13 4 17
12 Nevada 64.83 33 8 7
13 New Jersey 63.42 36 12 9
14 Wisconsin 63.40 8 29 13
15 Idaho 63.35 23 11 12
16 Hawaii 62.82 28 7 10
17 Washington 62.65 12 9 22
18 Maryland 62.19 38 16 8
19 Delaware 60.43 25 21 14
20 Michigan 60.38 11 35 19
21 Colorado 56.45 26 15 33
22 North Carolina 56.25 19 32 21
23 Tennessee 56.07 21 41 18
24 Georgia 55.74 18 27 27
25 Pennsylvania 55.17 17 24 32
26 Illinois 55.15 15 31 30
27 Missouri 54.85 14 42 28
28 Arizona 54.79 42 17 25
29 South Carolina 54.27 31 43 15
30 New Mexico 53.13 39 6 36
31 Iowa 52.99 16 20 40
32 Nebraska 52.87 34 25 31
33 Montana 52.35 44 13 29
34 Florida 51.70 24 39 35
35 Virginia 51.05 40 38 24
36 Alaska 50.79 22 36 37
37 Ohio 49.91 46 30 26
38 Kansas 49.77 29 23 41
39 Utah 48.89 30 34 39
40 Mississippi 45.35 20 45 43
41 Arkansas 44.99 45 44 34
42 Indiana 44.60 27 46 42
43 Texas 44.05 48 33 38
44 Oklahoma 40.82 47 40 44
45 Wyoming 40.44 35 37 46
46 Alabama 40.22 32 48 45
47 North Dakota 39.72 37 26 48
48 Kentucky 31.71 50 47 47
49 Louisiana 26.03 49 49 49
50 West Virginia 25.08 41 50 50

Fargo on the other hand, has been recognized for years as a national leader for innovative energy saving and revenue producing conservation efforts earning the designation by the Earth Day Network as the country’s most environmental city in 2007. Most recently, efargo was one of over 50 cities competing for the 2 year Georgetown University Energy Prize. 
Some good news is Geronimo Energy’s 200 MGW solar array in Cass County could provide the city of Fargo with another great renewable energy source to help us reach our efargo goal of being carbon neutral by 2050. Geronimo Energy announced these plans at last years Renewable Energy and Conservation presentation. Local resiliency leaders shared Fargo’s conservation projects and introduction by our grass roots group Citizens Leading Energy Action Network C.L.E.A.N. led by Ed Gruchalla and Paul Jensen.
As the sharing economy is becoming more prevalent, some of us have been working on a feasibility study for allocating some of the new solar and available wind power to Fargo. One way to start this could be allocating offsite renewable power for a pilot hybrid smart meter project that would include: smart chargers, electric car sharing project (EVs to GO) that would help shave peak energy costs, reduce congestion and emissions, store electricity, and add another transportation option that compliments Matbus, Great Rides Bikeshare, carpooling, and walking.  We learned about a similar system at Vulkan 5 in Oslo on our Smart Innovations Learning Tour to Norway in February that I helped coordinate with our eSmart Systems friend Henrik Bache and others.
Photo below. This mixed use residents/commercial/parking development uses mostly renewable energy, has smart EV car charging, and smart meters for the residences to reduce energy use and save money. Norway has a goal to be carbon neutral by 2030 and now a full 50% of new cars purchased are electric.
Here’s an earlier editorial about our efargo team led by Bush Fellow, Young Architect of the Year, and Nominee for YWCA Woman of the Year Malini Srivastava and students and community partners winning the 2 year national competition for the Georgetown University Energy Prize.

Editorial: Fargo’s ‘green city’ efforts save energy and money

The city of Fargo and its partners in conservation have been working hard for years to increase efficiencies and curb energy use. Their comprehensive efforts were recently recognized when they won the $5 million Georgetown University Energy Prize, a two-year competition between 50 semifinalist cities throughout the nation. Over the two years, the city and its residents saved an estimated $2 million in energy costs. That’s tangible evidence of the benefits of energy conservation, which is too easy to dismiss as the lofty aim of do-gooders. It’s all the more remarkable considering that North Dakota consistently ranks at or near the bottom of states in energy efficiency.
Fargo began working in 2014 with its partners—North Dakota State University, the North Dakota Department of Commerce, Xcel Energy and Cass County Electric Cooperative—to form the partnership, called eFargo. But the conservation collaborations evident in Fargo’s winning effort can trace their lineage back years, some instigated by former City Commissioner Mike Williams.

The stench from the city landfill, for instance, prompted city officials in 2009 to turn methane gas into electricity, and convert sewage into water suitable for industrial use. That effort was estimated to contribute $2 million a year to city coffers. Every day, the city treats about 12 million gallons of wastewater. Now up to two million gallons of water per day, once discharged into the Red River, is piped to an ethanol plant in Casselton, earning a profit for the city and reducing the use of groundwater.
Since 2002, the city worked to replace incandescent street light bulbs with energy-efficient LED bulbs, which now illuminate all traffic lights and 85 percent of pedestrian traffic lights, saving $30,000 per year. Similarly, the MATBUS fleet uses biofuel blends and runs eight hybrids to save fuel and therefore reduce emissions. Altogether, city generation from methane, solar power and wind over the years has produced 57.1 million kilowatt hours—impressive, considering 1 kilowatt hour will power a 100-watt light bulb for 10 hours. The landfill methane generator produces enough energy to power 700 homes every day.
The eFargo collaboration builds upon that foundation. Among other steps, it resulted in creation of a website that provides tips, data and games, including an evil character, Waste-A-Watt, to encourage energy efficiency and conservation. Students are a major focus of the effort, since they live where most energy is consumed—homes constitute 85 percent of Fargo’s energy use. The efforts saved the equivalent of 50.4 megawatts of power.

Fargo has long prided itself on being a “green city.” The $5 million prize will help spur further efforts that will make the city even greener. Malini Srivastava, a professor at NDSU and leader of the project, hopes to use the prize money to work toward a net-zero carbon future for the Fargo-Moorhead metro area. One of the criteria that enabled Fargo to win the competition was the replicability of its strategies. We should spread the green; more communities would do well to follow Fargo’s lead.
Editorials represent the views of Forum management and the Editorial Board.
~ End Article~
Fargo has made some solid progress building on good work by many proving conservation saves and pays. While it’s good to be recognized as an environmental leader nationally, we have much more work to do to protect our environment and natural resources. Let’s work together to vastly improve our stewardship of the only home we have, planet earth. After all, it’s in our hands.