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Champions

There are organizations and individuals who are using the principles of Reinventing Fire to make money and gain durable advantage in their industry. We invite you to explore some champions below.

Transportation: Jimmy Yates of Mesilla Valley Transportation

Jimmy Yates of Mesilla Valley Transportation has achieved a significant amount of success with his large locally-owned freight service. What's his secret? In addition to decades of experience maintaining, driving and managing class-8 heavy trucks, he focuses on efficiency. The big rigs in his fleet are sleeker than typical 18-wheelers, with a variety of modifications that help to reduce aerodynamic drag and rolling resistance.

But it's not just the trucks—Jimmy also offers quarterly rewards to the most efficient drivers in his fleet. Each year, the top driver on his team has the chance to win an even bigger prize, such as a '69 Mustang, cash or a Harley Davidson motorcycle. The payoff? His profitable fleet today averages 8.5 MPG—more than the EIA projections point to truck efficiency averaging 7.8 MPG by 2050. Jimmy's fleet is years ahead of the competition. 

The innovations found in Jimmy’s fleet are only the beginning of technical, operational and logistical improvements for trucks. Transporting freight, not individuals, uses upwards of 28 percent of the fuel used for overall transportation. Despite an industry whose trucks use very efficient (45+ percent) diesel engines, a majority of that fuel is wasted; but it doesn't need to be this way. With a sharp focus on design and operations, we can reduce large transportation truck diesel fuel consumption by 48 percent by 2050.

Jimmy Yates spends time with each driver in order to train them to accelerate gently, cruise efficienctly and utilize the aid of electronic tool kits that show real-time MPG changes. In addition to this, he employs a 63 mph speed governor in each truck and monitors the performace with an on-board tracking system. The end result of these simple efforts? A 6 percent increase in miles per gallon, one that translates into real savings when you take into account the amount of trucks running and the miles each one covers each day.

Buildings: Malkin Holdings and the Empire State Building

The visionary thinking of Malkin Holdings, owner of the Empire State Building, took a planned capital improvement renovation to a new level by asking a team of experts including Rocky Mountain Institute to recommend sustainability measures that would help them invest intelligently. 

Industry: Texas Instruments

Founded in 1951, Texas Instruments (TI) is one of the largest designers and manufacturers of semiconductor products in the world, ranking 223 in the Fortune 500. It has operations globally and each one of its semiconductor plants consume large amounts of energy to manufacture the devices that drive everything from phones to projectors to prosthetics.

Historically, sustainability has not been the core focus at Texas Instruments. Wafer fabs are complex, extremely capital-intensive (often several billion dollars), and highly energy-intensive. Furthermore, reliability is crucial—production stoppages can cost more than $1 million per day. In 2003, when TI was designing plans for a new plant in Richardson, Texas, TI had the courage and the initiative to explore opportunities in energy efficiency. Paul Westbrook, TI’s Sustainability Development Manager, led TI on an effort for major cost reductions as well as a more sustainable fab. These goals, which conventional thinking would say are competing, forced TI to question everything, go back to the drawing board, and innovate.

Using energy-efficient equipment, waste heat energy recovery methods, and innovative designs, TI succeeded in building a unique chip fab which reduced facilities systems energy use by 38 percent and cut natural gas consumption by more than 50 percent. At its completion, the Richardson facility had a capital cost 30 percent less than the previous chip fab (built just 6 miles away), and saved more than $4.0 million per year in operating costs. By building in Texas with innovative fab designs, TI also successfully kept 1,000 high-tech jobs at home and heightened synergies with existing plants.

TI continues to work on multiple sustainability goals, including reductions in resource consumption, waste, and emissions. By 2015, TI anticipates energy and water reductions per chip by an additional 45 percent. Westbrook notes that managing energy is now a part of TI’s DNA—he has employees from all departments calling him up with new ideas. The culture at TI has created an organizational pull for energy management, serving to accelerate progress in sustainability. Thus, though energy constitutes a small part of its total costs, TI serves as a model for other companies that energy management can result in benefits for shareholders, employees, and for society at large.

Electricity: UCSD Microgrid

Local impact, national influence, and global reach. These are the goals that the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) strives for in its academic and research programs. With passionate leaders such as Byron Washom, UCSD’s first director of strategic energy initiatives, UCSD is making good on these aspirations. The University has created an experimental microgrid, which balances and optimizes electricity production, consumption, and storage with state-of-the-art control systems. Dubbed the “living laboratory,” UCSD’s microgrid may become the model for a new utility paradigm of the future.

Foreshadowing the important role that energy management would play at UCSD, the Central Utilities Building was the first structure built after the University’s founding in 1960. Today, UCSD is striving to become a zero-waste campus by 2020, and all new campus buildings are constructed to meet the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design silver or gold standard. Yet, UCSD’s leadership in electricity may have some of the greatest impact on the world. Its experimental microgrid offers a unique combination of software and hardware that takes advantage of advances in information technology (IT) and demand-side technologies and is enabling powerful applications in bidirectional power flow, distributed intelligence and operational control.

The heart of the UCSD energy system is its energy management control system. It controls UCSD’s central cogeneration plant, as well as a set of photovoltaic systems. In addition, the management system is intricately connected to most major loads on campus. With the push of a button, loads can be reduced or shut off completely. Though invisible to the majority of campus residents and visitors, this vital balancing of generation and demand becomes an extremely powerful tool to save costs and drive higher reliability. During emergency events, for instance, a microgrid may disconnect and operate in islanded mode. When the rest of the grid may be threatened with loss of power, UCSD is able to significantly reduce campus demand (by turning down its 4,000 non-critical thermostats by a few imperceptible degrees) and increase on-site generation to maintain its critical operations. When wildfires threatened the local power infrastructure in 2009, for instance, UCSD not only kept its own critical loads on, but it also helped to support the local grid from going down as well.

UCSD’s work with the intermittency of its distributed generation is breaking new ground as well. The output of major renewable energy sources like solar fluctuate with the weather. Integrating these sources into conventional grid operations adds variability and uncertainty to the system. As a result, UCSD’s Associate Professor Jan Kleissl is working with Washom to develop an optimal solar forecasting method to better integrate solar energy into its energy portfolio. If successful, UCSD’s microgrid will serve as a model for future grids that may need to accommodate higher penetrations of solar energy. Moving forward, Washom has plans to incorporate additional electricity storage capabilities as well as electric vehicle charging stations, simulating a new layer of complexity that future grids will have to face.

UCSD is a small component of the grid, but its IT and demand-side solutions may have larger implications for the entire grid. If Washom’s experiment is successful, UCSD’s microgrid may enable a new paradigm of utility operation where microgrids are woven throughout the nation’s electricity system.

 
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