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Grant could help Flowery Branch save more energy
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Flowery Branch is trying to get one of the remaining slices of a federal stimulus-funded energy grant program that specifically targets smaller governments.

The city has applied for a $59,500 Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant. The program was set up by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and is administered in Georgia by the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority.

In its funding request, the city said it would use the money to upgrade heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems in four city buildings and install three electric tankless water heaters at city buildings.

"The beauty of the grant is that it requires no match (from the city)," City Planner James Riker said.

The HVAC upgrade will replace old systems, a move expected to save about 19,139 kilowatt hours per year.

In 2010, Flowery Branch was awarded a $204,000 block grant on energy upgrades.

In all, there "were 59 contracts with different communities around the state ... and as those projects were completed, the ones that came in under budget or a community that decided not to proceed with part of a project, that money was returned to GEFA," said Shane Hix, the authority's spokesman.

"That allowed us to give the communities that had completed their projects the opportunity to apply for more money," Hix said. "... They had already gone through the process with all the requirements of the federal money, so they understood what was involved with the (program)."
GEFA began the program with $13.3 million.

"We're still in the process of recovering unspent funds, but the total is expected to be (about) $200,000," Hix said.

Flowery Branch spent most of its allotment at its Atlanta Highway sewer plant, where it installed equipment that cuts down on the amount of air blown in certain plant operations.

The last grant amount called for the installation of five electric tankless water heaters. However, "because of funding shortfalls, we were only able to install two of the units," Riker said in the city's request for more money.

The city's conservation efforts are based on recommendations from an earlier Georgia Power energy audit.

"Given that the (projects) ... do not include structural modifications to any of the buildings, (they are) anticipated to be completed within 70 days of grant approval," Riker said.

Earlier this year, officials said they hoped the city would spend about $20,000 to $25,000 less on electricity costs annually through the sewer plant project.

"The equipment has been installed for a while, and we have been fine-tuning it over the last couple of months," Riker said. "So, we're hoping to produce a report in the upcoming months showing the savings."

GEFA plans to award the next round of grant money on Jan. 15.

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