Energy-efficiency upgrades worth $11.3M underway citywide

A computer rendering shows solar panels on the roof of Fire Station No. 5, 1911 Stewart Ave. About 1.4 million of sustainability projects have been added to the city’s capital improvement plan for 2017.

Solar panels, LED lights and new heating and cooling systems are some of the $11.3 million in upgrades being installed as part of the city’s new energy conservation program.

About 40 percent of the improvements will go toward LED lighting. Nearly all of the city’s 40-plus buildings — including City Hall, the Lawrence Public Library and recreation centers — will have LED lights installed. Lighting within downtown, parking garages and sports fields and courts will also be replaced with LED fixtures.

“Overall, these lights are going to be using significantly less energy while providing a better light output,” said Justin Pape, construction project manager at 360 Energy Engineers, the general contractor for the project.

The project is part of the state’s Facilities Conservation Improvement Program, which the City Commission voted to join in December 2015. In February, the commission authorized Lawrence-based 360 Energy Engineers to move forward with projects. 360 Energy Engineers completed an audit of the city’s facilities, and a performance contract guarantees that the energy savings will cover the payments on the bonds issued to fund the upgrades.

Pape said projects to weatherize city buildings and install new windows at City Hall recently began, and the lights, roofs and heating and cooling systems of various city buildings will be replaced throughout the summer and early fall. He said all the projects will be complete around mid-October. Pape said engineers will then inspect and fine-tune projects and ensure the upgrades are paying off according to the contract.

“We’ll track the actual utility bills,” Pape said.

Lawrence-Douglas County Sustainability Director Eileen Horn said she thinks Lawrence residents will notice the lighting upgrades, especially in ball fields, parking garages and other facilities used at night. In addition to the energy efficiency, Horn said the LED lights provide a whiter, more directional light.

“A lot of this work will also be a safety and aesthetic improvement,” Horn said.

Another project likely to catch residents’ attention is the $240,000 installation of solar panels on Fire Station No. 5, 1911 Stewart Ave. More than 300 solar panels were added this week to the roof of the station, which is also home to administrative offices and training facilities, according to a city press release. Use of solar power will save the city about $12,600 annually in utility bills, covering the cost of the upgrades in about 19 years. It’s estimated the solar power will offset 18 percent of the station’s total energy use.

In total, the $11.3 million will fund 30 energy-efficiency improvement projects. It’s estimated the energy and maintenance savings related to the projects will cover their costs after about 19 years.