The Bubolz Nature Preserve is a non-profit environmental preserve located in northeast Wisconsin. For more than 45 years, the preserve has invited the public to enjoy its beautiful recreational and educational opportunities. In 2017, Faith Technologies Incorporated (FTI), the parent brand of EnTech Solutions, partnered with Bubolz on a much needed rebuild of their nature center facility.
A not-for-profit organization, Bubolz had been engaged in a facility-improvement fund-raising campaign for several years. With similarly aligned values of environmental preservation and sustainability, FTI offered a comprehensive solution: a smart system building that not only met the challenging initial needs of the client, but also delivered energy resilience and environmental sustainability to support the future of the non-profit organization.
Deploying renewable energy was a key to enhancing and preserving the environmental facility. Faith Technologies, a sister division to EnTech Solutions, engineered the photovoltaic system.
To further the renewable energy capabilities of the new Bubolz facility, an energy producing microgrid was designed and implemented. The Bubolz microgrid utilizes five distributed energy resources (DERs), as well as power from the utility. It can also function in island mode, utilizing no power from the grid. These combined systems eliminated the preserve’s power utility bills, reducing their yearly energy spend by $30,000.
The Bubolz microgrid controller has the capability to make decisions based on economics and weather data to determine the most economical power generation capabilities. It is managed by Schneider Electric’s EcoStruxure™ Microgrid Advisor, a cloud-based software platform. The sophisticated tool can autonomously configure the DERs into a range of different combinations to produce the most efficient, clean and cost-effective blend of energy resources available at any given time. Any excess energy can be fed to the central electric grid, providing grid stabilization for the larger community. The advanced microgrid was designed and operational in just six months.
With the abundance of energy produced by the Bubolz microgrid, EnTech Solutions was also able to install six level-2 electric vehicle (EV) charging stations, which utilize solar power and two forms of energy storage as the primary source of power. The charging stations are available to the public free of charge and are an additional environmental amenity for Bubolz visitors to sustainably charge their vehicles.
Not a typical component of a microgrid, the Immersion Center at Bubolz was developed to help tell the story of the technology. It houses the microgrid controller – the ‘brain’ of the project – and features an equipment viewing area. Pre-assembled in a shipping container at Excellerate, a sister division of EnTech Solutions, and delivered to the site, it also serves to demonstrate the type of container build options available: either retrofitted to attach to an existing facility or serving as a stand-alone unit. Data from the microgrid can also be monitored remotely.
Bubolz Nature Preserve’s 18,000-square-foot lodge features the most advanced fixtures, including energy efficient bulbs and lighting control. The preserve’s output of lighting-based energy was reduced by more than 50% of a typical building. In addition to lighting efficiencies, EnTech leverages the abundance of electricity produced from the solar field to power an innovative Variable Refrigerant Flow (VRF) heating and cooling system. This controllable system utilizes compressed refrigerant, similar to a heat pump, for highly efficient heating and cooling, and can be operated on power created by the solar field and stored on batteries, making it a living lab for demonstrating leading-edge energy technologies.
FTI and EnTech Solutions created an energy solution for Bubolz Nature Preserve that supports the environment, promotes research and development, and creates overall operating expense reduction. As a non-profit organization, many of the preserve’s past fundraising dollars went to utility and facility costs. Their new facilities, leveraging clean, efficient energy generation enable them to focus on more impactful fundraising to help grow in their mission:
To serve as a gathering place for the community to become inspired by, appreciate and enjoy nature through educational programming and recreational opportunities, while fostering a healthy environment and providing an improved quality of life.