The Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency has hired a Rochester consultant for $7,000 to study how to generate renewable energy at county buildings but a Clayton company already completed much of that work last year.
In September, Fourth Coast Inc. designed photovoltaic solar arrays to be installed on the rooftops of four county buildings off Arsenal Street, according to county Building and Grounds Superintendent Spike C. Decker. He said the county intends to install those rooftop arrays, which will reduce electricity costs significantly, when funding is available.
But Mr. Decker was not present during a presentation Thursday morning at the agencys board of directors meeting, in which Entecco LLC of Rochester highlighted the potential benefits of installing smart grid technology, including solar panels, at those same county buildings.
After the presentation, the board unanimously approved a $7,000, two-month study led by Entecco to determine how much it would cost to implement an energy plan at the countys municipal building and adjacent court complex off Arsenal Street. That plan would include the installation of rooftop solar arrays and possibly a cogeneration facility powered by natural gas, said John Bay, president and COO of the company.
Mr. Decker, who met with Entecco officials after the meeting on Thursday afternoon, was surprised to learn that the company was seeking to complete a study to reduce energy costs at municipal buildings. He told the company that Jefferson County already is leading the way with its energy initiatives, and they were surprised to learn that solar panels already had been designed by Fourth Coast. Mr. Decker said the county would not hire a company to redo work that already was accomplished.
I had no clue someone was proposing something for my building, and I told them weve already done the work, Mr. Decker said. Weve been very proactive in the last 10 years by increasing energy efficiency here, so theres really not a lot that they can gain. If we havent done it, its because its cost-prohibitive right now. And I dont think a cogeneration facility is a good fit for an office building downtown because you need space, and thats one thing we dont have here.
But that wasnt the message JCIDA board members absorbed Thursday morning during Enteccos presentation. At the time of the presentation, Mr. Bay was unaware of the work done by Fourth Coast.
After Entecco completes its $7,000 study, the JCIDAs board will be asked to approve a 12-month assessment of how much energy is being consumed at the two county buildings, Mr. Bay said. That phase of the project would include the installation of smart meters to accurately determine energy consumption at all four county-owned buildings off Arsenal Street.
According to Mr. Bays presentation, that phase of the project also would include the installation of a rooftop solar system providing up to 200 kilowatts that would be used jointly by the municipal building and court complex.
The proposal also includes an energy-management control center for the county buildings to control the use of energy derived from multiple sources, Mr. Bay said.
Mr. Bay said the countys four buildings off Arsenal Street are billed by National Grid at their peak usage rate more than a third of the time, according to a review of energy bills by Entecco. If were able to manage that peak and get that cost of 12 to 14 cents per kilowatt hour down to 6 to 8 cents, you can see there are savings right there, he said during the presentation. We have to do a little bit more investigation into when, during the course of the day, your billing peaks are and what is the best solution to get that peak down. If its during the afternoon, it might be solar; if its during the morning, it might be your own gas generation.
Donald C. Alexander, CEO of the Jefferson County Local Development Corp., said that the smart grid technology designed by the company could later help the JCIDA draw businesses to its corporate park planned at the Watertown airport.
As an example, we have a couple of hydroelectric projects which are being considered in the area now at the countys industrial parks, Mr. Alexander said. If some of that energy could be distributed in a more direct fashion, the idea is that an industry would look at this park and demonstrate that the cost of energy would be substantially lower because were using this distributive technology. It has to be a competitive advantage, and thats what were trying to drive this train toward.
Jefferson County Administrator Robert F. Hagemann III could not be reached Thursday afternoon for comment.