The construction and dairy industries have little in common, but what they do share is crucial: Both are committed to lowering greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).

As some of the largest contributors of emissions, the construction industry has adopted net-zero building practices, just as the dairy sector’s National Farmers’ Union set an ambitious goal to achieve net-zero farming by 2040.

Both efforts were on full display in the heart of cheese country, Little Chute, Wisconsin, where a year-long construction project using clean, renewable energies recently wrapped up.

Agropur is the fifth-largest producer of cheese in the United States, with a target to reduce GHG 30 percent by 2031. When it came time to build a new 210,000-square-foot cheesemaking facility in Little Chute, curbing jobsite emissions was a priority. The solution: two microgrids that harvest 40kW of solar, paired with 176kWh of battery storage and backed by a 35kW Generac propane-fueled generator. The off-grid utility powered two jobsite trailers, temporary lighting for a wastewater treatment plant, charging for power tools, and engine block heaters to keep construction vehicles operating throughout the winter.

The results: nearly 77,500 pounds of CO2 avoided — equal to the amount of carbon sequestered by 43.1 acres of forests, according to EnTech Solutions, which supplied its Xcape microgrid units to the jobsite. That’s thanks in part to propane, a low-carbon fuel that powered the backup generator.

Readily available energy

While the jobsite could have been connected to the grid, a temporary power cord to connect the north and south sides wasn’t immediately available, threatening to postpone the project by six months.

“That’s a long delay, so they saw this as an excellent opportunity to demonstrate renewable power on a jobsite,” says Michael Voigt, EnTech Solutions’ project development manager. His team set up the microgrid system in under two weeks. That got the project back on schedule. “These can be rapidly deployed,” he adds.

The system was also equipped with real-time monitoring software, allowing the construction manager to keep tabs on the amount of solar power available and battery capacity, among other metrics. EnTech Solutions, likewise, could calibrate the system remotely to optimize efficiency.

This microgrid system, combined with battery storage and a propane-fueled backup generator, was equipped with monitoring software so operators could track the amount of available solar and battery capacity in real time.


Clean backup power

The 35kW Generac propane-fueled generator was an integral part of the power puzzle. The unit kicked on when cloud cover capped solar power and the batteries drained down. But even on the cloudiest days, the construction team was able to squeeze out several kilowatt hours of solar power.

When it was on, the propane-powered backup generator operated at peak efficiency, maximizing the amount of electricity it could get out of the fuel. That’s because the generator can run at nearly 100 percent of its capacity, which is the most efficient. Compared to other job sites without solar and batteries, the required generator constantly fluctuates with the varying load demands, which is not good for fuel efficiency, Voigt explains.

Curbing emissions also meant specifying a clean fuel source. That decision came down to diesel or propane for backup power. Propane produces significantly fewer particulate matter and NOx emissions than diesel, making it the clear winner.

Beyond construction

Microgrids for temporary power on construction sites have proven to be an efficient alternative to grid-connected power and, in some cases, it’s more affordable, Voigt says. EnTech Solutions also deploys the microgrid units as a power solution for concerts and EV charging, using propane to make a renewable power source even cleaner.

“When we’re remote and off-grid without natural gas lines there, we move forward with propane because it produces fewer emissions than diesel,” Voigt says.

Check out our Ultimate Guide to Power Generation for more onsite power solutions.