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BLP looks for lower carbon footprint with hybrid trucks

January 30, 2009
By MIRIAM MOELLER, Journal Staff Writer

MARQUETTE - They are quiet, use fewer natural resources and help reduce the Marquette Board of Light and Power's carbon footprint.

The municipal utility company is currently looking to buy a plug-in hybrid electric truck to save money while being more eco-friendly and energy efficient.

"At the job site we're looking at running the engine 80 percent less than what we have today," said David Lynch, superintendent of distribution.

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Currently, the BLP has 10 diesel trucks to support new construction and maintenance. Often, Lynch said, the trucks idle to supply power to run truck devices such as a boom or outriggers, using many gallons of diesel and sending hours worth of exhaust into the air.

"Idling is the worst thing you can do with a diesel (motor)," Lynch said.

Since the hybrid runs off rechargable batteries and fuel, the truck does not have to run its motor to supply power. Aerial lifts and other devices are simply plugged into the batteries, Lynch said.

Besides the positive environmental impact, the hybrid can also save the BLP as much as 2,371 gallons of diesel or $7,113 per year.

"It's a cost savings in the life of the vehicle and it reduces the carbon footprint," Lynch said.

One question presents itself, though, how much coal is burned to produce the hybrid's power and how does that reduce the BLP's carbon footprint?

Lynch said the hybrid would be charged during off-peak times, overnight, ensuring better efficiency of the power plant.

In addition, Lynch said the emission controls of the power plant abide by higher standards than diesel trucks.

"It's proven that the emissions from the diesel engines are a lot more," he said. "It's helping our overall carbon footprint."

The BLP is currently looking at three manufacturers who sell these types of trucks for about a quarter million dollars. Lynch said customers pay a premium price for the vehicles, but the extra investment pays for itself in about five years.

"In the next 10 years we may look to replace the whole fleet," Lynch said, adding that the BLP usually replaces one vehicle annually.

Lynch also said that the linemen are happy about the hybrid because it's much quieter than regular vehicles, making communication on the job site safer and easier.

"We're really excited about this," Lynch said.



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