Archive for Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Douglas County maintenance director plans to cut energy use 30 percent by 2015

March 22, 2011


By 2015, Douglas County maintenance director Bill Bell has a goal of reducing the county’s energy consumption by 30 percent.

His ideas of how to get there aren’t glamorous ones.

In the past six months, $183,000 has been spent to upgrade the county’s heating and cooling system at the Douglas County Judicial and Law Enforcement Center. Crews have digitized the variable air volume boxes stored in the duct work. They’ve finely tuned when the building’s air handlers turn on. And, they’ve installed software to track room temperatures online.

Bell predicts energy savings from those changes will repay the $183,000 expense in six years and reduce energy use by 20 percent. Already, they’ve seen a $5,000 reduction in the monthly energy bill.

“Between the courthouse and this building, I think that (30 percent reduction) is going to be possible,” Bell said.

Bell’s goal was one of 12 in the county’s recently created sustainability plan. The plan, which still has to be adopted by the Douglas County Commission, enlisted employees from departments throughout the county to help figure out ways to be more sustainable.

Most of the departments were already taking steps, said Eileen Horn, who was hired a year ago to be the sustainability coordinator for the city of Lawrence and Douglas County.

“A lot of time sustainability measures make good economic sense and operational sense,” Horn said.

Suggestions ranged from having reusable mugs instead of Styrofoam cups for drinking coffee to planting more native grasses along the county’s roadways.

“We looked top to bottom throughout the organization,” Horn said.

The work of putting together a plan had departments re-evaluating their practices, said Mike Perkins, operations division manager for public works.

“It was really helpful in asking, ‘Why is that the best way?’ Maybe you think that is the best way, but what about this?” Perkins said.

Along with planting native grasses, the public works department is looking at how to purchase more fuel-efficient vehicles for a fleet that includes everything from sedans to earth-moving equipment.

So far, some of the most dramatic changes have occurred at the law enforcement center.

Bell’s department has digitized all of the variable air volume boxes inside the duct work of the building. With the digital information, Bell determined the offices along the outer walls of the building were losing heat and interior rooms kept a fairly steady temperature, even when heat was lowered during the weekends. They’ve adjusted the temperature accordingly.

The county also made upgrades so its air handlers didn’t turn on all at once and didn’t have to run constantly at 100 percent capacity. The changes allowed the county to lower its peak energy use and reduced the electric bill.

Horn said she hopes the steps the county takes through its sustainability plan will spark other businesses to look at ways to consume less and save more energy.

“Citizens are interested in this. We want to be seen as leading the way and setting a good example and that means pushing ourselves and setting goals that are meaningful and ambitious,” Horn said.


oneeye_wilbur 3 years ago

It's all fluff. Let us know how much the bills are each month and don't forget to include the rate hikes.


toe 3 years ago

Reduce staffing. That will reduce energy used.


cutny 3 years ago

Put some solar panels on that roof. Got all the sun in the world.


pace 3 years ago

good work Mr. Bell. Thank you. and thanks to the county commissioners for supporting the efforts. I hope you will keep us up to date, let us know about what worked and what didn't.


Les Blevins 3 years ago

Something more to consider. I've read it takes about 87 calories of fossil fuel derived energy to transport one calorie of perishable food from the west coast to east coast. Therefore I believe it takes something more than 35 calories of fuel to transport perishable food from either coast to Kansas. I believe if my proposal were to be accepted by Lawrence and Douglas County there would eventually be a greenhouse based food growing operation spring up between Lawrence and Eudora that put some multiple acres under greenhouses that provided year round fresh food to the Douglas Co area at considerable savings in both cost and in greenhouse emissions. Therefore I think we should ask ourselves why would Eileen Horn and others in responsible positions try to hold so tightly to the concept of transportation of our food supply over long distances?


Les Blevins 3 years ago

What is the basis of my proposal? Gov. Sebelius and others said we needed to reduce reliance on coal plants and encourage development of wind farms. This sounds good on the surface but sets us up for considerable trouble and discord. Why is that? Because when the wind isn’t blowing strongly enough (about half the time) we would still need coal-fired power plants. Thus we would still need to maintain and have them ready. An idle plant isn’t making money; it’s costing money. Who wants to pay for idle power plants? I don’t think the investors in those power plants will want to. According to Department of Energy figures, Kansas gets about 75 percent of its power from coal plants. So we can see that for about 37.5 percent of the time we can cut coal use some by just keeping those boilers warm, ready, (and polluting) which they are not designed for. Are we to believe the governor wants us to pay for wind farms and transmission lines to connect them to the grid to only save small amounts of carbon emissions at double the cost to consumers? There is a more workable solution that should be welcome by both consumers and utility companies because it resolves the above situation. It’s not a coal-or-no-coal proposition. It’s a third way called community energy. It solves far more of the energy, economic and environmental problems than wind power can, and it can do so without polluting our atmosphere or polluting our pristine horizons with wind turbines. And it can protect the jobs of local workers like our sanitation employees and it can create more new jobs than wind energy can and it can show the world how to avoid building any more coal-fired power plants and with coal-fired power plants coming on-line in China every week we here in Kansas are as much at risk as the rest of the world's population. Les Blevins, Lawrence


Les Blevins 3 years ago

I would like the public to know i proposed changes that would have produced approximately $1M in savings for Douglas County residents each year to Mayor Amyx who referred me to Eileen Horn and her so called energy advisory group, and while my proposal would have also achieved several of the area's other primary objectives the proposal was rejected by her group for some unknown reason, a reason she refuses to reveal, and so far as I can tell her group included no engineers who were qualified to analyze the proposal. It seems Miss Horn's group is only out to find small improvements when much larger more sweeping and more dramatic improvements are called for that not only protect local workers but create more jobs for locals.


workinghard 3 years ago

I did that and guess what? My electric bill was actually higher. When you cut back and their profits drop, they raise the rates. Now they have to get government approval for those rate hikes and the government keeps giving them to them. The Government officials are hypocrites and punish the consumer for doing what they tell them they need to be doing.


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