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Cape Coral Youth Center Helps Light the Way to Energy Savings

May 18, 2011 - 4:32pm


 Cape Coral Youth Center Manager Mark Cagel stands in front of a tamper-proof thermostat at the Austen Youth Center in Cape Coral, Florida. | Photo Courtesy of the Cape Coral Youth Center

Cape Coral Youth Center Manager Mark Cagel stands in front of a tamper-proof thermostat at the Austen Youth Center in Cape Coral, Florida. | Photo Courtesy of the Cape Coral Youth Center

The city of Cape Coral, Florida -- a town of located on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico -- is using funding from the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) program to help reduce the city’s energy use by 40 percent over the next 15 years. Cape Coral officials have used the funding to create an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy, a document that EECBG Project Officer John Johansen says will pay dividends for the city during and beyond the period of its EECBG grant.

One Cape Coral city employee, Mark Cagle, is doing an exemplary job helping the city reduce energy waste, and began making huge changes to save energy and money before the city even published the plan. Mark, the Cape Coral Youth Center Manager, made several improvements to two city buildings -- the Austen Youth Center and the Eagle Skate Park. Thanks to a few minor changes around the Youth Center, Mark is helping save the city 98.1mWh of electricity annually – which saves almost $8,000 annually. The building is using 37 percent less energy compared to 2008, which is the equivalent to the annual energy usage of seven typical Cape Coral-area homes. “What makes the savings even more remarkable is that when we started the energy conservation project in 2008, our youth center usage doubled,” Mark said.

Now, Mark and the Cape Coral Facilities Maintenance Department are serving as a model for other city-run facilities. Mark says the upgrades made to the youth center were relatively easy. “We put lockboxes on the thermostats, installed LED lighting, and automatic lighting that goes off after the room is empty. Anybody could do this -- in your homes, businesses, anywhere.”

These small changes are already paying off for residents of Cape Coral. Mark has been the manager at the Cape Coral Youth Center for nearly five years. He says the Youth Center sees an average of about 5,500 to 6,500 youth per month at the facility. In addition to the upgrades he and the facilities maintenance staff have completed, Mark is also sharing the importance of energy efficiency with the children and staff at the Center and teaching them the benefits of keeping lights off and electronics powered down when not in use.

While Mark made the majority of the improvements to the youth center before the city released the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy, he says he’s been able to use the expertise of the city’s energy engineers who came on as part of the project to save additional energy and money.

“Because of the EECBG grant, the engineers were able to research more efficient lighting techniques, and decided to implement a Google PowerMeter to find out our peak energy times,” says Mark. The Google PowerMeter is a free device that homes and business can synch with their electricity meter to monitor energy usage through Google. “We put the technology into the Youth Center after we had already saved money -- but were able to learn that there was a spike in energy use at night -- during the times when we’re not even open,” Mark says. “The PowerMeter was able to show us that the lights we used for outside the facility at night for security reasons were wasting the most electricity.” Mark and an engineer working with the Facilities Management Department were able to identify the energy waste, and changed the outside lights to infrared cameras that can monitor outside areas at night and use significantly less energy than the lights.

Mark has already nearly achieved the goals set for the Cape Coral Youth Center’s portion of the city’s 40 percent energy reduction target by 2025. In cities across the country, its leaders like Mark who are lighting the way to sustainability and helping us reach our energy conservation goals.