MPC explores potential for wind and solar power
In November 2012, Marathon Petroleum Corporation (MPC) installed a 6,000-panel solar array at the municipal Water Pollution Control Center in Findlay, Ohio, with the objective of studying the potential for using solar energy at company-owned industrial facilities.
“At the three-year mark, the array had generated 2,460 megawatt hours, all of which we donated to the city of Findlay,” said Jim Northrup, an engineer with MPC’s Supply, Distribution and Planning organization.
That amount of electricity offset the city’s power costs by more than $190,000.
“That’s a significant savings for the city, and we’re happy to continue making that contribution,” said Northrup.
But if the array were generating power for an MPC facility, those cost-savings wouldn’t be enough to offset the amount of investment made in the facility for construction and ongoing maintenance.
“We’re learning a lot about how a solar array works, but we’re not seeing a cost reduction we would consider compelling,” he said.
Implementing what has been learned from the Findlay array, MPC installed solar panels to power monitoring equipment on storage tanks in Florida, helping avoid running power lines to the equipment.
MPC will operate the Findlay solar array at least until late 2017, continuing to gather data on its performance.
MPC is also exploring the potential for wind power. In February 2016, a wind turbine at the pipeline pump station in Harpster, Ohio, began operation. The turbine – built, owned and operated for MPC by a third party – generated about 673,000 kilowatt hours through April, providing a savings of $4,000.
“So far, the wind turbine is generating results that are about what we expected,” said Northrup.
The main driver behind the turbine is its potential to save the company money. In the area where the pump station is located, projected electricity costs are likely to increase over the next several years. The agreement with the company that built the turbine gives MPC a slight reduction in power rates each year for the term of the agreement with them.
A second reason for the project is to gain knowledge.
“The wind turbine company will share all project and operating information with us,” said Northrup. “This gives us the opportunity to learn about how wind technology might be useful at some of our other locations.”