County officials are predicting reduced energy costs, but utility rate caps will be coming off od provider PPL in January. It seems possible there could still be a net increase in utility costs, even with these green advances.
“Lehigh County is taking a leadership role in the green movement not just by talking about it, but actually utilizing the renewable energy technology,” said Lehigh County Executive Don Cunningham. “This not only creates construction jobs and saves money for taxpayers, but reduces our carbon footprint and is another example of environmental stewardship.”
New energy efficient lighting will be installed in eight county buildings including the Government Center, Utility Garage, Prison, Juvenile Detention Center, Inmate Work Program, Agricultural Extension, Voter Machine Storage and Parking Garage. Motion sensor lighting will be placed in restrooms, pantries, conference and break rooms to reduce usage.
“This will result in annual electrical savings of $78,160 and will reduce electrical consumption by 1.2 million kilowatts as well as carbon emissions by 786 tons,” said Cunningham.
Two natural gas high-efficiency boilers will be installed at the Prison, reducing electrical consumption by 690,000 kilowatts and carbon emissions by 851,000 pounds.
About $169,000 of the grant will be used to install 72 solar panels and a geothermal heating and cooling system at Trexler Environmental Center at Trexler Nature Preserve in Schnecksville. By replacing a traditional HVAC system with a geothermal heat pumps and constructing a “green” roof, the county expects to save an estimated 52,375 pounds of carbon dioxide a year and 25,000 kilowatts of electricity.
The Trexler Environmental Center will house county park offices, a satellite office for the state Bureau of Forestry and a community room for environmental education. The $1.3 million building is being funded with help from the Trexler Trust, DCNR and the federal grant. It’s expected to be completed by February 2010.
These projects are part of Cunningham’s plan to find ways to reduce energy consumption and position the county to meet future energy requirements.
Most recently, the county completed the first phase of an energy upgrade at its nursing home facilities. The project included changing light bulbs, replacing windows and upgrading the HVAC system. The work is expected to reduce energy consumption at Cedarbrook in Allentown, Fountain Hill Annex, Cedar View Apartments and Cedar Village. Phase two of the energy savings initiative includes the Government Center, Hamilton Financial Center, the Prison, County garage and Agricultural Center.
“The intent is to take pro-active action now to reduce energy consumption and future cost increases,” said Cunningham. “It’s the right thing to do for the environment and taxpayers.”
One idea rejected by Cunningham is the washing machine - john combo, which would have been perfect at either the Prison or Cedarbrook. Used washing machine water could easily flush a toilet bowl, providing spring breeze aromas instead of the usual. As an added benefit, if some senior forgets toilet paper, he can just grab someone's shirt or underwear right out of the machine. Fortunately, that idea is still under serious consideration in Northampton County.