Roanoke, Va., is using Recovery Act money to fund four energy-efficiency projects. | Photo courtesy City of Roanoke

Roanoke, Va., is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains amidst the farms and fields along Interstate 81 in southwestern Virginia. With budget cuts, the city put projects on hold. Now, with a $963,700 Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant awarded through the U.S. Department of Energy and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a stalled project is moving ahead and the city is looking at $86,000 in annual energy savings and reduced labor costs across several projects.

Retrofitting Roanoke

"In the business of reducing energy, some of the low-hanging fruit is typically with lighting," says Kenneth Cronin, sustainability coordinator for the city. "We had some antiquated equipment out there that needed replacing, and the block grant helped us tremendously with the upfront costs."

Through the Block Grant, Cronin will oversee lighting and other projects that will have a substantial impact on the city’s energy costs. The projects include a city-wide replacement of incandescent traffic signals with LEDs; courthouse lighting retrofits; the installation of digital, programmable climate controls in the courthouse; and the replacement of high-pressure sodium and metal halide lighting with LED lighting in the Market Square parking garage.

Roanoke has been moving to save energy and decreases costs for some time, but some projects had been put on hold. The Block Grant enabled Roanoke to finish changing its traffic signals to LEDs, a project it had already started. The city is also working on a separate project that has been accelerated by the retrofits — it is calculating better timing for the signals, which also helps motorists save fuel and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

As a member of an organization that focuses on local governmental sustainability, Roanoke has been working toward reducing its carbon footprint for years.

"The way we reduce our greenhouse gas emissions is nice because it means saving energy, which saves the city money," Cronin says. "In Roanoke, 88 percent of our electricity comes from coal, so obviously with electricity-based projects such as lighting retrofits, we can reduce our emissions by reducing our kilowatt hours of electricity usage."

Roanoke’s block grant-funded projects are expected to be complete by the end of 2010, and the city is continuing toward a goal of reducing its greenhouse gas emissions by 2 percent each year through 2014.