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Energy study pits potential savings versus project costs
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The Hall County Board of Commissioners is considering whether to move forward with several proposed energy-efficiency projects.

Those projects include lighting retrofits, water conservation measures, power management upgrades and conversion of fleets to natural gas.

In an effort to reduce energy consumption and save on operating costs, Hall County hired two firms last fall to study county buildings and properties to find ways to make aging infrastructure more environmentally friendly.

Siemens and Pepco Energy Services reviewed energy performance at several government buildings, including the government center, courthouse, local libraries and community centers, and the Emergency Operations Center.

The review also included examining what it would cost to capture natural gas from local landfills for use in county vehicles.

Siemens reports it can save the county about $513,000 annually in energy costs and, when combined with reductions in capital improvement costs, will save about $9 million over 15 years. The project costs, meanwhile, will total about $6.6 million, and include lighting and water retrofits, upgrades to building heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, and automation and power management improvements.

Pepco reports it can save the county about $39 million over 15 years with a project costing more than $20 million.

The project includes lighting retrofits at area libraries and community centers, as well as converting county vehicles from diesel and gasoline to compressed natural gas.

The county has proposed building a plant that would capture methane at local landfills for conversion to natural gas, hoping to recoup costs by selling that fuel.

But whether the energy savings offset the project costs remains to be determined.

Finance Director Vickie Neikirk said the project costs could run between $2.3 million and about $3.5 million annually over the 15-year window identified for the energy savings.

In a report to the county, Siemens writes, “Rather than allocating additional tax dollars to pay for these improvements, the dollars that normally go to pay utility costs are redirected to fund the improvements. The savings are guaranteed by Siemens and this assures the county that the project will be budget neutral.”

The Board of Commissioners had little discussion of the proposed projects at its work session Monday, but will vote on whether to move forward with them when it meets at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Hall County Government Center, 2875 Browns Bridge Road, Gainesville. If the board chooses not to contract with Siemens and Pepco, it will owe the firms more than $100,000 each for the studies.