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Return-on-investment -- that is the phrase town officials in Huntington, New York, carefully considered before commissioning several projects to improve municipal energy efficiency.
"Saving town residents money on energy bills is one way to help stimulate the local economy. So we looked for projects that would save our residents as much money as possible," said Huntington Supervisor Frank Petrone.
A $1.7 million Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG) awarded via the Recovery Act is funding the town's projects, including energy efficiency lighting upgrades and a residential energy efficiency program.
Big savings on lighting retrofit
Petrone and others estimate significant returns on one EECBG-funded project -- the replacement of 2,400 town streetlights with high-efficiency, induction lighting fixtures.
"Of all the projects our team researched, we found that installing energy efficient street lighting would produce the greatest return on investment," said Terese Kinsley, Huntington's chief sustainability officer. "Street lighting accounts for forty percent of Huntington's annual electricity expenditures."
The induction lighting fixtures are projected to reduce Huntington's annual electricity use by 947,000 kWh. That is enough electricity to power 85 homes per year. The upgrade is estimated to save Huntington taxpayers $151,000 annually.
Kinsley said town officials hired Welsbach Electric Corp., a New York-based electrical contractor, to install the lighting fixtures. The contractor began work in June 2010 and is expected to complete the project by October 2012.
More energy efficient homes
Huntington has also partnered with the non-profit Long Island Green to establish a residential energy efficiency retrofit program that will provide at least 2,000 homeowners with a free home energy survey performed by an energy efficiency technician.
According to Kinsley, technicians will analyze a home's energy usage and recommend low-cost improvements, such as the installation of attic hatch insulation, that the homeowner can undertake to significantly increase energy efficiency and reduce electric bills.
The technicians will also recommend certified local contractors who can implement the recommended changes. Kinsley said the recommended changes will cost homeowners less than $1,000 and can reduce electric bills by five to ten percent, meaning they will pay for themselves through reduced energy costs.
"This program will not only reach a high number of town homeowners, but it will provide work to local contractors," said Kinsley. "We want to stimulate the commercial sector while trying to encourage residents to be as energy conscience as possible."
Technicians have already surveyed about 100 Huntington homes, and Kinsley says that almost half of the homeowners have decided to implement the changes recommended by the technicians.
These two projects are just the tip of the iceberg. Over the course of the next two years officials from Huntington also plan on installing 28 kilowatts of solar panels at the town hall and conducting a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) feasibility analysis for all town-owned facilities.