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Simple, Low-Cost, Energy Projects: A League of Minnesota Cities Recap

Jun 27, 2018 7:42:06 AM

Simple Strategies for Low-Cost, Energy Projects: A League of Minnesota Cities Recap


This year was 75F's first trip to the League of Minnesota Cities Conference. And, the City of Saint Cloud and the League of Minnesota Cities did not disappoint! Attendees were excited, exhibitors were at the ready with impressive booth displays, and the decor sent you up north with a cozy, cabin feel. What else could you ask for from a Minnesota-centric conference?!

League of Minnesota Cities Conference BearAs the conference began, attendees settled in with a pre-conference workshop and dove right into the juicy (lucy) training all had traveled far and wide to attend. The 75F team began with the City Sustainability Meet-Up in the Alexander Room. 

City Sustainability Meet-Up

After setting up shop in the Terry Haws Exhibit Hall, our 75F attendees started the day by learning what steps the communities of Edina, Elk River, Saint Cloud, and Warren, MN were taking to meet and exceed their sustainability initiatives.

The city of Edina presented their Pedestrian and Bicycle Master Plan which included the current use of their inner and outer pedestrian and bicycle paths, as well as feedback from younger residents (the kids), as they will be the generation using the paths and trails in the near and distant future. It's always great to see communities reaching for Voice-of-the-Resident input!

Second up, we heard from Elk River Municipal Utilities where the future of their fleet is electric! With initiatives including CO2 reduction and improved air quality (something after our own hearts), ERMU has studied their vehicle use over the past few years and saw the opportunity to adopt electric vehicles into their fleet based on the vehicle need and distance traveled throughout the week. Not a bad way to go green!

Next, we heard from the host city, Saint Cloud, and their Director of Public Services, Pat Shea. Pat spoke about the city's Renewable Energy and Efficiency Initiative that tied in tracking, benchmarking, and community engagement with this energy project. The tracking highlighted the three highest uses of energy to be; Water Treatment, Wastewater Treatment and Street Lighting, which became the first 3 targets in their plan. This plan already appears to be surpassing the 2018 goal that 80% of their energy would be generated from renewable sources. Way to go, Saint Cloud! (A quick note that energy efficient intelligent building controls could help boost that percentage even further, by decreasing HVAC and lighting energy consumption)

Finally, this session ended with Minnesota GreenCorps member, Andrew Boucher. Andrew touched on his thermal imaging project with the city of Warren, Minnesota, to identify which public buildings within the community were losing heat and causing the buildings to use more energy to keep them at the desired temperature. Andrew was able to use thermal imagery via drone at night to target the windows, doors, and other areas of the building that we're dispelling the most heat and identify simple changes that could save on their energy bill. Andrew has also been a great advocate for 75F as he brought 75F and the city of Warren together to deploy a building automation system to save even more money on the city hall's energy costs!

Camp #MnCities Kick-Off

League of Minnesota Cities Conference Legislative Update Family Feud

Following the opening session a Family-Feud-style 2018 Legislative Update, the attendees hit the floor of the Haws Exhibit Hall for food, drinks, and solutions to many municipal needs ranging from legal and insurance-based services to energy-conserving systems like our very own.  

As the smell of buffalo chicken dip and s'mores filled the air, our 75F crew had an oxygen bar set up to invigorate the attendees and help them push through the remainder of the evening.

Throughout the evening, we were able to speak with a large number of communities about their building automation and HVAC needs,  ranging from managing older public buildings (many of which were in need of retrofit systems), to new construction where the current controls are not up to par with their expectations. Many of these communities highlighted their Public Works buildings and community centers as those where the biggest, most immediate impact could be made. It was certainly an honor to speak with and learn from these great communities around the state and where their energy efficiency efforts will take place next!

Low-Cost Energy Projects Session

League of Minnesota Cities Conference BoothFollowing a brief networking break in the exhibit hall and booth tear-down on day two, our team ventured to the Low-Cost Strategies for Energy-Efficient Public Buildings educational session. Amongst 40 participants, our team felt at home, as many of the presenters have put energy efficiency at the top of their improvement lists. These presentations include representatives from the State of Minnesota, Bemidji and Hutchinson!

To start, Peter Berger, the Guaranteed Energy Saving Program (GESP) Manager for the state presented on behalf of the city of Rochester's Energy Conservation Programs initiatives and how their use of the GESP and self-funded loans helped the city not only reduce energy costs, but also reduce maintenance costs.

Here's how the GESP model works:

Guaranteed Energy Savings Program (GESP) Chart

The city used B3 Benchmarking and determined which facilities to address first. The Rochester Recreation Center and a few other locations were then selected for improvements, with many of the goals centering around heating and cooling and lighting. Something we know a lot about, as you can imagine.

But the GESP conversation didn't end there. In fact, one of the most recent success stories was presented by the Mayor of Bemidji, Rita Albrecht. The city of Bemidji sought out to upgrade eight city buildings, its wastewater treatment plant, and the city's streetlights in the most cashflow-neutral way possible to avoid burdening the tax payers. This effort all began with the GESP to oversee the project, which focused on improve the lighting, energy management controls and mechanical systems at these facilities.

So how much money did they save? 

The expected annual energy savings was originally forecasted for 15%, with a cost savings of $126,000 per year. However, in their first year the city has already verified a $139,463 savings! Congrats, Bemidji!

Last up, we heard from John Paulson, the Project/Environmental/Regulatory Manager for the city of Hutchinson. John and his team also used B3 Benchmarking to identify the most critical and lowest-cost strategies. In 2010, the city began Phase 1 by replacing city-wide lighting and with an Energy Efficiency Conservation Block Grant, utility rebates, and the city experienced a $60,000 savings! In 2015, Hutchinson took a much larger step with a move to create a solar garden atop a closed municipal landfill in Phase 2.The solar garden is producing energy at an amazing rate and only costs the city $0.0737 per kWh!

But what's next?

In 2018, Phase 3 will include the exploration of another round of projects that could include:

  • Indoor/Outdoor LED Lighting
  • LED Steetlighting
  • HVAC and Controls
  • Additional Solar PV

We can't wait to see what's next for the fine city of Hutchinson!

Interested in how 75F's automated building control solutions can help you become a Smart City, cut your municipal building operating expenses and improve the occupant experience? Download the 75F for Municipalities Guide to learn more!

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