News

HVAC Summer Checklist: Fired Up To Cool Down

Temperatures hit the 90s here in our neck of the woods for the first time recently, but we’ve been fielding calls across the country from businesses flicking on the AC and….nothing. 

Whether your HVAC system is working perfectly or on the fritz, the transition from spring to summer is one of the toughest times of the year for many facilities struggling to tackle huge temperature swings and high humidity. The best way to keep things cool is to schedule regular, professional maintenance with Keen. Of course, there are plenty of small things you can do, too, to make sure every season is a breeze. 

Filters – Every system relies on clean filters to run efficiently, and they’re one of the easiest things to overlook. We think of new filters as crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s; even if you upgrade everything else, you aren’t making the most of your investment without taking care of the details. Check each filter and replace worn or dirty filters wherever you can. 

Check The Lid – We’ve driven hours to warehouses before to help address underperforming or broken HVAC systems, only to learn that the facility had started their air conditioning without removing air conditioning unit covers. Remove any and all covers, and if you rely on other airflow equipment, take the time to inspect those to ensure they’re clear of any dirt, sticks, branches, or other debris that might affect air intake. 

Upgrade Your Thermostat – Investing in a smarter control system can pay for itself, especially in changeable climates with hot summers, cold winters, and big changes in humidity. By getting smarter, more adaptive and intelligent systems, you can set your HVAC to adjust to weather automatically, measure changes in energy use, and help you make small changes that can save a lot of money. Many modern systems even offer notifications on maintenance needs, software updates, and automated alerts based on your personal settings. 

We can help prepare your site for all four seasons to save money and keep your team comfortable, healthy, and productive!

less cancer

Less Cancer Bike Ride 2020: Nearly $70,000 For A Healthier Future

less cancer

Another year, another unique edition of the Less Cancer Bike Ride! Keen Technical Solutions pulled out all the stops to support one of our favorite non-profit partners, Less Cancer. 

This year’s ride was always going to be a little different. Two months ago, we helped make the decision to keep the ride solo. At the time, cycling organizations like USA Cycling and the League of Michigan Bicyclists were recommending only solo rides to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. To do our part, we made changes. While we certainly missed the challenge and camaraderie of a two-day, 250 mile adventure like we’ve done in years’ past, we knew that it was the right thing to do. 

The Alone But Together Bike Ride was born. By the time we made it to the planned weekend of June 6 and 7, guidelines allowed for small groups of riders. Cyclists all over the country signed up to pedal the path to prevention; from six miles to 150, every mile and every rider makes a difference. 

Together Team Keen Technical Solutions raised a total of $3,395, a great contribution to the $68,000 already raised for Less Cancer as a part of this event. 

We think we earned every cent! 

On Saturday, eight riders took on a massive 150 mile ride that looped south to Cadillac before heading north into a strong headwind home to Traverse City, Michigan. The small crew worked together and kept spirits high, with our friend Sean Kickbush driving the SAG wagon packed with snacks, water, and an open spot for any riders needing a break. 

The ride took over seven hours to complete at a flying pace of 20 miles per hour! You can see all the numbers here, plus some more great photos of the ride. 

We’d like to thank Less Cancer founder Bill Couzens for his passion and effort on behalf of the effort to bring cancer prevention to the forefront of thought, investment, and education. 60% of cancers are preventable. By informing healthcare professionals and legislators on dietary and environmental risk factors, we can reduce the number of cancer patients, the number of worried families, the number of financial disasters, and the number of cancer deaths. Prevention is the best investment we can make to a brighter future, and events like the Less Cancer Bike Ride are what make the difference. 

You can still donate to riders from the Keen Technical Solutions team through June 30. You can even sign up and go for a ride yourself and become a part of the team for 2020 and beyond! For more on the Less Cancer mission, make sure you check out LessCancer.org. We’re proud to celebrate our fifth year involved in this great event and to have helped bring the ride to northern Michigan. Until 2021, ride on!

cannabis energy electrical

Energy Remains Key To Cannabis Industry

With new regulations that could further support the booming cannabis industry, plus even more states loosening regulations in the 2020 election cycle, cannabis is ready to explode. However, it’s still the inescapable price of production that could make or break just how profitable companies will be. 

Energy is absolutely critical for a crop that’s extremely reliant on light and perfect growing conditions to meet demand. And that demand is high; cannabis was worth roughly $10 billion in 2019. That number is expected to rise consistently over the next few years, and it could come with a sizeable carbon footprint. The best data we have dates back to 2017, when the United States produced 16.4 million pounds of cannabis. That produced a staggering 1.8 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere. By 2020, the industry is putting out roughly 2.4 million tons of carbon, and that’s something that may see more taxes and penalties in the years ahead. 

That inefficiency has a big impact on the bottom line, too. Electrical demand is a large component of day-to-day expenses for most growers. Behind labor, it’s the biggest operating cost for growers. Much of that is due to the plant’s sensitive need for light. Marijuana often requires stretches of twelve hours of lighting at a time, plus the right humidity and water to grow. 

On average, indoor growers spend 262 kilowatts per hour per square foot. One gram of flowering plant can produce a pound of carbon emissions and cost roughly 24 cents to produce, strictly in energy expenses. Outdoor growers see numbers half of indoor, but it’s still a big dent in the company budget. 

That big footprint can have an impact on the communities growers live and work in. To fight an oversized draw on the grid, some municipalities are putting caps on the number of electricity growers can use, typically around 36 kWh per square foot. Cities in Massachusetts, Illinois, and part of Canada already have this type of legislation on the books, and as the industry grows into new regions and states, those same rules may find traction at the state or even federal level to create an even playing field and protect the environment. 

At present, just 6% of the electricity used in cannabis production can be traced to sustainable energy sources like wind and solar. The vast majority use coal and natural gas, especially in North America. Individual growers are looking at ways to include renewable technologies, more efficient lighting fixtures, and energy storage to lower costs and increase margins as they grow. 

If you’re ready to take a closer look at how you can improve your energy environment and save the planet in the process, we’re one of the most experienced companies in improving efficiency for cannabis growers. Learn more and contact us today!

SAFE Banking Act Finds New Life In Stimulus Bill

The news has been non-stop for months now, and that ever-rushing stream of coronavirus updates include big news for cannabis companies. 

Weeks ago, Congress passed the CARES Act, just one part of what looks to be a series of stimulus bills designed to save and, when the time is right, jumpstart the economy in the hopes of avoiding a long-term recession. Those financial fears are well-founded, with industries from hospitality to manufacturing facing months of uncertainty. 

Cannabis growers, however, received none of that financial support. With marijuana classed as a Schedule-I drug, the industry is essentially barred from receiving federal money, no matter how much that support might be necessary in an environment that has seen 36.6 million people lose their jobs since early March. It’s an ironic situation. Just as many states have deemed cannabis growers and retailers as essential businesses, those same companies aren’t allowed to receive loans. 

The next round of stimulus, however, might just have some good news tucked into the folds. Last fall, the House of Representatives passed the SAFE Banking Act by a comfortable vote, only to see the bill tossed onto a heap of measures awaiting the elusive attention of an unproductive Senate. In the process of drafting the next stimulus package, however, the House has revived much of the language from the SAFE Banking Act and put it into the next round of legislation, which is rumored to be around 1,800 pages long. 

In the majority of states across the country, cannabis companies face the same challenges as every other small business but without the necessary federal support during these trying times. Most experts believe it may be a long shot to expect the cannabis-related language to survive cuts on the Senate floor, but the persistence of the House and the acknowledgment of just how important the industry is for the overall economy going forward is a good sign. 

Cannabis is here to stay, and having fair, reliable access to financial services is going to be a piece of the puzzle that completes the picture. 

How has your cannabis company fared during the pandemic? Let us know; we’re here to help!

Spain

Renewable Energy Growing In Heart Of Oil Country

There is a lot of uncertainty on when and how the United States will get back to its feet. With record unemployment, a huge dent in consumer confidence, and the on-going threat of a pandemic that shows few signs of being under control, it’s important to look ahead. 

For businesses and communities asking questions about what comes next in the world of energy, it’s hard to look past the future of oil. Fossil fuels, in general, saw a reprise of sorts over the past decade thanks to new but inefficient fracking methods in the US. Not only did the practice contaminate the groundwater of millions of Americans, it wasn’t cost-effective. As the OPEC+ in-fighting demonstrated, few of these domestic producers offered a long-term solution to our energy needs. Hundreds have gone out of business in the past three months, and many more are not expected to survive the recession. 

The bright spot, then, is solar. And not just solar, either. As we’ve said many times, at residential, commercial, and even grid-scale, it will take a number of renewable energy sources and an efficient energy storage system to keep America running through the transition away from fossil fuels. If anyone still needs proof that this move is inevitable, look for further than Egypt. 

While not as productive or reliant on oil as other North African or the Middle East, oil does have a strong presence in the Egyptian economy. Rather than rely on domestic supply supported by foreign imports, Egypt is turning its eye to the sky and investing heavily in solar power. The solar field of Aswan, for instance, is the nation’s largest solar array and produces 1.5 GW of power per year, enough juice to power 1.5 million homes in the region. 

All of the Middle East has been built on oil, with just 3% of its current energy needs met by sustainable needs. But that’s changing, and fast. Over the past ten years, its renewable capacity has doubled, and it’s expected to double yet again in just the next four years. Originally, it was non-oil producing countries like Morocco that made the move, but now even OPEC titans like are getting in the game, including offering one of the lowest tariff bids just last year.

While the scale of production is growing quickly, it’s dwarfed by another important factor in the move to renewable energy, and that’s investment. Production is actually behind the cash influx; in the past ten years, the Middle East has grown from just 91 megawatts of renewable energy production to 9 GW; in that same time, investment in green energy has increased by more than twelve times the 2008 level. 

For US businesses, it’s a sign that the move to efficiency, sustainability, and responsible energy production reflects a growing demand in the public and in the energy sector itself. On a firm-level scale, it’s a time to invest in the energy efficiency measures that will allow a business to make the most of low oil prices now and be ready to make the transition to renewables before it’s an arms race. Take ownership of your energy environment for a brighter future.

less cancer

Less Cancer Rides Again: Alone But Together Bike Ride June 6-7

One of the causes that has always been especially important to us is cancer prevention. As many as 60% of types of cancer are preventable, forcing families to face a disease that ravages body, mind, community, and ruins finances. While the world seeks a cure, we can reduce the number of people who face these hardships by reducing cancer rates. 

Our partners at Less Cancer rely heavily on their annual charity bike ride to raise money to support their operations. They work in forty countries around the world and play a vital role in carrying the cancer prevention message to places of power, including Washington D.C. This past winter, Keen co-founder Tim Pulliam was honored in our nation’s capital for his work in promoting healthy, active communities. 

This year’s Less Cancer Bike Ride will have a very different look but the same inspiring spirit. Due to social distancing guideless and in the interest of the rider’s and support staff’s safety, the ride simply couldn’t go on as it normally does. Instead, we’re asking people everywhere to help us pedal the path to prevention. 

You can ride one mile or one hundred. Ride once over the June 6-7 weekend or as many times as you want! Ride in the woods, ride on the roads, ride a lap in your neighborhood. You can even ride an indoor trainer if you feel safer. Even though we’ll be riding alone, we’re Alone But Together, and it’s how we can all play a role in the mission of Less Cancer. 

Can’t ride? Consider making a donation to one of the many teams forming across the country! Our Team is made up of Keen employees and plenty of friends we ride with year-round, including a few that have joined us for the Less Cancer Bike Ride in years past! 

To learn more Less Cancer and the organization’s work, head to LessCancer.org. There you’ll learn about the National Cancer Prevention Caucus, their programs, and the people behind the Less Cancer mission. You’ll also find out more about the Alone But Together Bike Ride, so make sure you sign up and join us!

cannabis energy electrical

1,250%: The Key Number Cannabis Companies Need To Know

cannabis energy electrical

We’ve made the pun plenty of times, but the reality is simply too strong to ignore. Cannabis is a growing industry, and companies across the United States are learning that their energy news isn’t just substantial, but often prohibitive. 

As big as cannabis is right now, we’re only scratching the surface of its true potential. Experts predict it to be a $47 billion industry by 2025. At the start of 2020, recreational marijuana use is legal in 11 states, while 33 states have medical marijuana laws firmly on the books. Recent local and state elections, too, indicate that more legalization is on the way, and the support of politicians at the federal level points to nation-wide legalization sooner rather than later. 

That astronomical growth comes in spite of many hurdles placed in front of young businesses. From inconsistent and changing regulations from county-to-county and state-to-state to variable access to investment, to supply chain and distribution issues, it hasn’t been smooth sailing for many growers. Perhaps one of the biggest challenges is energy. 

The electrical impact of marijuana cultivation is massive. Producing one pound of cannabis produces requires roughly 2,000 kWh, which is the equivalent of two and a half months of energy consumption by a normal household. That’s big. Multiply that to industrial-levels of production in facilities that can fill thousands of square feet and you can begin to see just how much strain cannabis could put on the grid. In fact, marijuana caused seven blackouts in California alone back in 2015. 

The demand is high now, but it’s only expected to grow. Canada, for example, expects cannabis power consumption to increase by 1,250% between 2020 and 2024. That would make cannabis production alone a total of 1% of the country’s entire energy market. 

Not only is it massive, but the source of that huge energy draw is also primarily fossil fuels. With a rise in demand will come a rise in pollution just as the world looks to drastically reduce its carbon footprint to fight climate change. By waiting for governments to shift grid-scale electrical production to renewable sources, the world might be putting a nail in its own coffin. 

Instead, growers are investing in themselves to incorporate renewable energy created from wind and solar, as well as integrated energy storage systems to offer flexibility. Retrofitting isn’t a viable option; many growers say the expense of trying to work with older lighting and irrigation systems isn’t cost-effective, and replacing the whole set-up makes more financial sense. 

Lighting is a huge element to both a healthy crop and to energy efficiency. With the switch flipped on between 18 and 20 hours a day, light fixtures account for approximately 70% of electricity consumption. We’ve been working with growers to create smart, dynamic systems that use the most efficient materials and intelligent automation to control climate. If over two-thirds of consumption comes from a single source, it’s where we can make the biggest difference. 

We’re working with growers across the state and around the country to implement the sort of systems that will keep companies competitive, sustainable, and comfortably within the patchwork of local guidelines. Getting started? Start with a call to Keen Technical Solutions.

Spain’s Bright Spot During Pandemic…

Spain

And now, some good news. 

After months of coronavirus stories out of Europe, one of the countries hardest hit by the pandemic has some shining bright news to share. Indeed, many in the renewable energy sector are taking a bit of pride in seeing a success story just as the world, as Europe, as Spain, and as all of us need something to get excited about. 

Spain has trailed behind only Italy and the United States in the COVID-19 pandemic, losing tens of thousands of lives as it battled to stem the spread of the virus. Just as some non-essential businesses began to reopen their doors and life got back to normal for just a sliver of the population, a crowning achievement in sustainability went online. Spanish utility company Iberdrola announced that the first kilowatt-hour is through the line of the 500-megawatt facility in Extremadura. 

The Nunez de Balboa facility lays claim as Europe’s largest operating solar plant. The station comprises over 1.4 million solar panels and can provide power to over a quarter of a million people in the region per year. That’s especially good news in an industry that has seen its growth scaled back due to the pandemic. Estimates of nearly 130 gigawatts in 2020 are now expected to fall roughly around 106 GW, a drop just shy of 20% to pre-pandemic totals. 

It’s not just solar. Supply chain and manufacturing disruptions have already had an impact on wind turbine construction in Europe, with the Netherlands most affected. There has been little incentive for firms and utilities to switch, with record-breaking low oil prices hitting a floor in mid-April, only with a deal to cut production by OPEC, Russia, and the United States able to keep prices per barrel above prices not seen in nearly three decades. 

Solar in Spain might be one of the bright spots of a season that’s been incredibly challenging in not just Spain, but around the globe. Right now, renewables need to stay on the mind to help countries emerge from the pandemic with as healthy and bright a future as we deserve.