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Overlap seen in county building energy studies; Alexander defends second project

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WATERTOWN — A Rochester consultant was recently hired for $7,000 by the Jefferson County Industrial Development Agency to study how energy costs may be reduced at county-owned buildings. But the county already paid Fourth Coast Inc. of Clayton $15,000 last year to do essentially the same thing, according to the project manager.

Fourth Coast was hired by Jefferson County in early 2013 to analyze energy-conservation and renewable-energy solutions at its four Arsenal Street buildings, a project that took most of the year to complete, according to project manager Robert J. Campany. The company, an energy consultant for municipal and residential projects, finished the “building condition survey” in September 2013, including blueprints to install rooftop solar panels.

But that study wasn’t mentioned during the JCIDA’s board of directors meeting this month, at which Entecco LLC, a Rochester energy consulting firm, was hired for $7,000 to study how “smart-grid technology” could be implemented to reduce costs at the same county-owned buildings. Highlighted during a presentation by Entecco at the meeting was the possibility of installing rooftop solar panels and a cogeneration facility at the county’s municipal building and court complex. Agency officials did not mention Fourth Coast’s study.

The board unanimously approved a $7,000 two-month study. Entecco will revisit the board after that study to provide estimates of the cost to implement an energy plan, and it will ask to be hired to complete a separate 12-month analysis of the buildings’ energy consumption.

In an email to the Times last week, Jefferson County Local Development Corp. CEO Donald C. Alexander said “... I could have pointed out that folks representing the County (in addition to other local economic development organizations) have attended every meeting that was held with ENTECCO.”

On Tuesday, Mr. Alexander contended the scope of Entecco’s study is much broader than Fourth Coast’s. He called it the first phase of a long-term strategy that would be developed by Entecco to hatch distributive-energy projects across the county. The county buildings were selected as sites for an energy study because the JCIDA does not have any immediate plans for other projects, he said.

“The point is that the Fourth Coast study was limited in scope — it was to determine if a photovoltaic array would save the county money,” Mr. Alexander said. “We’re talking about starting a countywide energy-distribution system where energy is managed, and the two studies aren’t anything close to being identical in scope. What we’re trying to do is run this study as a test mechanism so we can understand if this is the right fit, if there is value in the proposal by Entecco. We happened to choose the county buildings because they were easily identifiable, and they use a lot of energy at peak-demand times when they pay the highest possible rate.”

But it’s unclear how the scope of the study conducted by Entecco would be larger than what has already been done by Fourth Coast, which conducted a thorough analysis of the buildings, Mr. Campany said.

“Maybe the JCIDA simply didn’t know that this report existed,” he said. “And maybe the JCIDA didn’t understand the capabilities of Fourth Coast. We did a very extensive report to give the county a roadmap of what they could do.”

Richard J. Catanise, CEO of Entecco, confirmed Tuesday that the consulting firm was never informed by the JCIDA about the study conducted by Fourth Coast. But he could not explain how Entecco’s study would offer more than what Fourth Coast has already done.

“We got information over the past few months that made it seem like those buildings were the best locations to do an assessment, but we knew nothing about Fourth Coast or any of the studies that were done,” Mr. Catanise said. “We were just following the lead from the information we got from people we were dealing with. Because we haven’t put the plan together yet, we don’t know how our plan will be different. The question you’re asking today would be better put in 60 days — then you can compare apples to apples.”

The potential of leading energy projects in the future at the business park planned by the JCIDA at Watertown International Airport was what originally spurred Entecco to collaborate with the agency, Mr. Catanise said.

Mr. Campany said Fourth Coast’s study included the following research:

n Review of the energy usage at each building, including electricity from National Grid, fuel oil and propane.

n Review of building envelopes — including doors, windows and roofs — with recommendations on how the county could improve the thermal interior of buildings.

n Review of mechanical and control systems to evaluate what improvements might be made for energy efficiency, including interior and exterior lighting.

n Review of roof conditions, including recommendations for rooftop photovoltaic solar panels.

n Estimates regarding project costs, including how much grant funding could be received from the New York State Energy and Research Development Authority.

The study concluded that the county has already made significant strides in recent years to reduce energy consumption at its buildings, Mr. Campany said.

Building and Grounds Superintendent Spike C. Decker and his crew “have already done a tremendous amount of work over the years, and the county buildings have certainly not been neglected,” Mr. Campany said. “As it relates to making them energy efficient, obviously there’s more they can do to integrate the newest technology and renewables. And because of our expertise in renewables, that was one of the reasons Spike hired us.”

The study intentionally did not include a review of whether a cogeneration facility fueled by natural gas would be feasible, because it wouldn’t be appropriate for the county buildings, Mr. Campany said.

“In our experience, cogeneration generates a lot of heat, and maybe 70 percent is heat compared to electricity,” he said. “To make use of that, you need a facility with heat demand year-round, like a hospital with a laundry facility.”

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