One mayor in US shares his views on the importance of improved energy efficiency

It is encouraging to hear from Jim Gitz, mayor of Freeport Illinois explaining on the journalstandard website about the impact of implementing energy efficiency measures.

 

Mayor’s View: Freeport can save big bucks by implementing energy cost-saving measures

At Monday night’s meeting, Water & Sewer Director Tom Glendenning outlined new energy saving proposals to cut our energy costs by more than $120,000 a year for the waste water treatment plant (WWTP). This is important because while we are rebuilding the city’s infrastructure, we also want to do it cost-effectively.

The changes include a new energy-efficient 200 hp turbo blower for the city’s treatment system, converting the WWTP’s lighting system to LED, and plans to utilize the plant’s bio-gas for heating the anaerobic digester and producing power through cogeneration. Some of these changes are eligible for grant assistance.

So, what are the details?

The city’s WWTP facility is regulated by state and federal law. It uses an aeration system that depends upon billions of microbes breaking down the waste with the help of oxygen as part of the treatment process. The aeration function depends in part upon seven 50 horse power blowers that run continuously at a cost of about $150,000 per year. They also wear out fast. By converting this process to one high-efficiency turbo blower, the city can conservatively save $79,000 annually or close to 26 percent of the entire electrical usage at the wastewater treatment plant. The downside is the expensive upfront cost.

The lighting changes would convert 60 outside lighting fixtures and 100 internal fixtures to LED lighting at an estimated energy savings of $11,760 each year. It will cost the city approximately $47,000 to convert to LED, but our payback on this investment would occur in 2.5 years if we obtain a DCEO energy efficiency grant of $15,450. Even without this grant, we would still recover our cost in about four years.

We have already changed the WWTP’s cooling system in the motor control room to be more energy efficient and installed a more efficient waste conveyor system that uses less power. Together with all the lighting changes, the city stands to save a total of $22,500 annually with the changes to the cooling system and conveyor.

The estimated cost of all these changes is about $843,000, no small sum of money. But we stand to gain annual cost savings totaling more than $120,000 annually. We can accelerate the payback cycle by taking advantage of two grants. We have already been awarded an Illinois Clean Energy Foundation grant for $128,435. The city has a pending DCEO energy efficiency grant that would reduce our cost by another $437,740. This grant depends on resolution of the present budget impasse (even though its funding comes from utility companies). Together, they cut the costs of the changes by more than half.

The bio-gas cogeneration project is more long-term. It is planned as part of an overall WWTP rebuild necessitated by state and federal changes to treatment standards. It would take advantage of the methane gas generated by the digester instead of burning it off. Bio-gas would be used to generate power for the WWTP and to provide heat for the digester. It would result in additional energy savings of about $34,500 per year. Moreover, it would also reduce our carbon footprint.

The contemplated water and sewer system changes are only one aspect of the city’s cost-saving measures. We constantly look for ways to operate more efficiently and to save money, whether the issue is rehabbing buildings, swapping out street lighting or repairing streets.

We also seek to be efficient in our equipment acquisitions. As an example, the Public Works Department just negotiated the purchase of a 544J John Deere wheel loader with less than 2,500 hours in lieu of a new one at a savings of about $50,000.

I know that there are some eye-popping stories in the news about sweet-heart deals and expensive contract buy-outs of university officials. But this is the exception, not the rule. Like many other public bodies, our city remains dedicated to finding ways to stretch our dollars by efficient operation, cutting costs and looking for new ways to leverage our resources.

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