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    Energy audit could save $2.3 million

    By Jackie R. Broach
    Coastal Observer

    Georgetown County Council hopes to turn an investment of $1.4 million into a $2.3 million savings, and help the environment along the way.

    Council agreed this month to pay Siemens Building Technologies Inc. $30,000 to conduct a detailed technical energy audit of county facilities to see where energy and natural resources are being wasted and make suggestions for how the county can cut utilities expenses.

    Over a 10-year period, the company projects it can help the county net a $807,163 profit through savings achieved from energy efficiency upgrades — with no capital dollars required.

    According to a proposal Siemens first made more than a year ago, the company would help the county divert funds that would be spent on utility and operating costs into investments in county buildings.

    Once the upgrades are paid for, the savings would be tacked onto the county’s bottom line.

    “I’ve been involved with programs like this and find them remarkable,” said Council Member Glen O’Connell in his motion to approve the audit. “I think it’s a good opportunity that we should pursue.”

    If the audit confirms savings can be achieved, the county will sign a 10-year contract with Siemens, in which the company will handle the upgrades and guarantee annual energy savings.

    If the promised savings aren’t realized by a decrease in utility costs, the company will pay the difference.

    “This may be among the most significant things we’ve done in years,” said Council Member Jerry Oakley.

    Under the plan, the county would replace and improve mechanical systems, including boilers, pumps, fans and cooling towers, with more energy efficient models. Energy saving improvements, such as lighting with occupancy sensors, low-flow water fixtures, irrigation controls and rainwater collection methods would also be installed.

    The program would result in long-term reductions in energy, water and wastewater costs and usage.

    “You’re not only saving energy, you’re guaranteeing a lot of side benefits that are hard even to imagine,” Kyle Prufer, the county’s purchasing officer, told council.

    One of the efficiency upgrades would include a centralized computer system where thermostats, lights and other fixtures could be monitored and controlled.

    “The technology available is amazing,” Prufer said.

    The audit is expected to take about 45 days.

    If council agrees to a contract, the audit’s cost will be spread over 10 years.

    The second phase of the project will include the upgrades negotiated in the contract and should take about six months. The final phase of the project is “maintenance, monitoring and validation.”

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