Facilities Management

County Buildings
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County Jail
Light fixtures at the jail were replaced with
LED lights that will consume 83 percent less
energy & save taxpayers $178,000 a year.

An Energy Success Story

Allegheny County was among nearly a dozen county governments around the country selected as a success story at the National Association of Counties Forum on Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy in early 2011.

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The conference and the video focus on energy efficiency measures, renewable energy and distribution of the federal stimulus grant funds received by these counties under the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant program.

Fixing windows that do not seal properly
will save energy.

Improving Energy Efficiency in County Buildings

Saving on energy consumed, utility costs, and the associated carbon footprint moved into high gear with the start of Allegheny County’s energy savings initiative project. Led by the County’s Department of Public Works under Deputy Director of Administration/ Operations, Philip LaMay, the project entails reviewing energy and water usage; identifying conservation strategies and opportunities; and implementing selected improvements at 19 of the largest county-owned buildings. The projected carbon savings that the improvements will trigger is a projected 6,000 tons of eCO2 emissions annually.

LaMay said, “The primary benefit (of the program) will be the reduction in energy use across the County. Where the County uses fewer energy resources, this will translate into dollars,” LaMay said. So, what will Allegheny County do with the extra savings from the program? LaMay explained the desired plan for the 2.3 million dollars in annual savings. “We hope to split the savings and put 1.5 million toward paying the debt service on financing the project and then use the remaining balance for the Allegheny County General Fund,” he said.  Allegheny County’s energy savings project employs a special financing model available only to schools and government entities under state law; this model is known as a Guaranteed Energy Savings Agreement, which helps the county to make capital investments and pay for them through the energy savings achieved. 

Replacing leaky corroded water pipes will help
reduce the County water bill.
For LaMay, the energy savings initiative will have the most far-reaching impact of any program of which he has been a part.  The hope of this mission is that County employees will adopt a mindset for energy savings. “Allegheny County is a steward of the taxpayers’ money. We need to be a good steward by being aware of energy use a work,” LaMay said. If all of the employees practiced energy savings steps at home and brought them to work, then LaMay reasons that there would be a dramatic reduction in cost and perhaps County personnel would not experience job cuts.

To help to achieve this objective, the County will be rolling out an employee education program through the expertise of Northeast Energy Savings Company, Inc. (NORESCO), the company that won the County’s contract for the energy savings project through a competitive bidding process.  NORESCO’s team of experts includes a group that will conduct a baseline survey of employee energy and sustainability awareness, conduct a county-wide training program challenging employees to form new habits and then measure behavioral impact. The training program is slated to begin in the summer of 2010.

Uninsulated Steam Pipe
Repairing damaged & missing insulation
on steam pipes will improve efficiency.
Today, though, the NORESCO team of lighting, energy, and water efficiency engineers and experts is busy completing the Investment Grade Audit (IGA) stage of the project, where NORESCO evaluates the current energy components and proposes ways to improve the systems in order to save energy. LaMay said, “The most striking area of the audit so far is how significant the steam use saving will be. The fixes are simple and not high cost”.  LaMay says that the audit stage should be complete by mid May. “We should enter into a Guaranteed Energy Savings Contract by the end of June and establish a financing agreement with a third party, financial institution in order to receive the upfront capital in order to pay for the project,” he said. The actual construction stage should begin between July and August of this summer.

LaMay and the project team are sowing seeds for a hoped-for a second or third phase of this program that will look into renewable energy sources with two separate renewable energy pilot projects: one putting solar hot water on the roof of the County jail and the other adopting geo-thermal cooling at the Kane Regional Center in Ross Township. LaMay believes that areas of more space, like the Kane Regional Centers, could use solar panels as an alternate energy source. “In order to make this happen with renewable, we must couple the program with the pursuit of grant funding because the cost of these sources is still very high and the County’s savings would be long-term. Grants make renewable energy more realistic,” LaMay said.  The two current projects are indeed assisted by grants – a Pennsylvania Solar Energy Program  grant of $154,000 and a Pennsylvania Energy Development Authority grant for geothermal energy for $250,000.

With the current energy savings program and hopes for expanded renewable energy, Allegheny County is taking major steps to reduce their carbon footprint and to save money. The County’s future looks very “green” indeed.