Brattleboro could save over $2 million with energy upgrades

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BRATTLEBORO — Nearly $2.4 million worth of savings is projected in a new energy audit.

The figure has to do with an estimate on when town-owned facilities will reach the end of their lifespans. The projected savings are subtracted from the approximately $1.4 million price tag behind all the recommendations.

"It is based on a certain assumption of fuel price. If it goes up in the future, which it very well may, you'd have even more savings," said Paul Cameron, executive director of Brattleboro Climate Protection, the nonprofit which collaborates with the town and community on energy-related issues and projects.

The estimated cost for fuel oil in the report is $2.83 per gallon. It is an average cost over four years, according to Cameron, who says the numbers used were conservative.

The audit, paid for out of the town's energy efficiency fund set up a couple years ago, will be presented to the Select Board on May 3. Margaret Dillon, of Sustainable Energy Education & Demonstration Services based out of Jaffrey, N.H., will explain the findings. The document is now available on the Energy Committee's page at brattleboro.org.

According to Assistant Town Manager Patrick Moreland, the audit cost $42,488. But through the "generous support" of the Windham Wood Heat Initiative and Efficiency Vermont, he said the price was reduced to $28,938, with the Initiative chipping in $7,650 and Efficiency Vermont putting in $5,900.

The audit is focused on building envelopes, meaning insulation and air sealing. But it also looks at moving to wood heat, and improving mechanical equipment and controls.

Changes at the Municipal Center could bring a first-year savings of $17,788 with a $237,047 investment. An 8 percent return on investment or ROI would be expected. Throughout its lifespan, the savings could be in the neighborhood of $360,748, according to the audit, which suggests replacing valves and windows, eliminating mold in the basement, and moving to a wood-pellet heating system that would be shared with the Brooks Memorial Library.

At the library, the first-year savings would be about $12,962 with a $235,691 investment. Estimated is a 5 percent ROI and about $341,021 worth of savings throughout the building's lifespan. This would involve changing the air system and installing roof deck insulation.

The Gibson-Aiken Community Center's first-year savings is expected to be about $25,844 with a $357,710 investment. This could result in about $286,843 worth of savings throughout the building's lifespan and a 7 percent ROI. The audit suggests door and window replacements, kitchen improvements and upgrading the roof insulation.

First-year savings at the Nelson Withington Skating Facility could be about $7,643 with a $98,575 investment. An 8 percent ROI is expected with about $158,931 in savings over the building's lifespan. Suggested are measures around air sealing, pipe and duct insulation, controls and wall insulation.

Making changes at the Public Works Garage would cost about $210,121. First-year savings could be about $12,814. A 6 percent ROI and about $394,460 of savings over the building's lifespan are anticipated. Ideas include moving to programmable thermostats and a wood-pellet heating system, insulating the walls and upgrading the ceiling.

About $77,429 worth of upgrades at the Pleasant Valley Water Plant could result in first-year savings of about $15,178, with an overall 20 percent ROI and $315,830 worth of lifetime savings. Measures would involve air sealing, reducing building temperatures, insulating filter tanks, wood-pellet conversion and installing window quilts.

The cost of projects at the Retreat Wells is $25,761 with a $4,691 first-year savings, 7 percent return on interest and $91,723 overall savings. This would involve improving the controls, air sealing and insulation. Roof replacement also is recommended.

Changes at the remote pump stations, estimated to cost $40,465, could result in first-year savings of $5,512, a ROI of 13.6 percent and an overall savings of $567,247.

Projects at the Transportation Center would cost about $151,323 and result in first-year savings of $10,995, with an ROI of 7 percent and $278,575 worth of savings of the facility's lifetime. Measures would involve air sealing, wood-pellet heating conversion, control replacements, window quilts and wall insulation.

Dillon "did an extremely thorough job," said Cameron, who expects the town's staff to have ideas around funding some of the audit's recommendations.

"I think her projections are sound," he said. "We'll have to look at each building on a case-by-case basis, which we're doing. We're meeting with the department heads to make sure the work makes sense for each building. I think it's something that, in general, the town is solidly behind because it will save a considerable amount of money for taxpayers and improve the buildings."

The town's enterprise fund could be used for upgrades at the water plant and Transportation Center. The fund holds income having to do with fees collected for utilities and parking. The Select Board is not required to get approval from Town Meeting members to use that money as it is not raised through property taxes.

"Additional work in the other buildings would have to come to a vote at (annual Representative) Town Meeting during 2017 as a separate item or part of the budget for the next year," Cameron said. "But the time sensitivity is around the (Windham) Wood Heat Initiative because the program goes away next year. We want to make sure to get the work done while we can still get the incentive."

That incentive provides funding for 25 percent of the cost to switch heating systems. The program, which was funded through the Vernon-based nuclear plant Vermont Yankee's settlement with the state, is expected to conclude by the spring of 2017. But Cameron said there might be an extension.

"It's a great opportunity," he said. "We've looked at it in the past but it hasn't been quite cost effective. With that incentive, it makes it a lot more feasible."

Almost all the buildings currently use oil. But some use propane, said Cameron.

In his estimation, an energy audit should be conducted every 10 to 15 years as new technologies are coming along all the time. Cameron has noticed LED lights becoming a lot more common than they were eight to 10 years ago. This type of lighting saves on both money and energy.

Before the Energy Committee formed, Brattleboro Climate Protection had worked with a group called Honeywell on a project that mostly focused on the mechanical and lighting systems in town and school buildings. Completed in 2008, it was considered a success since it resulted in significant savings.

"But we realized there were lots more opportunities for savings," Cameron said.

Chuck Clerici, of Efficiency Vermont, did a walkthrough of the municipal buildings in 2012. A report highlighted opportunities for more savings.

Since then, the committee has advocated for the town to move forward with energy audits and further work. Cameron said the latest project falls in line with the energy committee's mission, which is to save energy and money over the long term for the town and reduce the tax burden on property owners. The committee began advocating for the audit about four years ago.

"The sooner we can get the work done the sooner we can start saving money," said Cameron. "The more the years go by, the more the savings are going to add up."

Contact Chris Mays at cmays@reformer.com or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.


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