Little by little the city of Blaine is moving forward in its aim to become more energy efficient, and its latest success, an award of a $500,000 Department of Commerce grant to help lower energy costs, is a huge step forward.
The money is part of nearly $18 million that was distributed by the state’s Energy Efficiency Grant program to 37 local governments and 12 colleges and universities. The grants, which were awarded through a competitive process, can only be used for energy and operational cost savings improvements. Some of the funds were set aside specifically for small cities and the maximum amount local agencies could receive was $500,000. “We’re thrilled that we received the full amount,” said public works director Ravyn Whitewolf. “As long as we can secure the remainder, we’ll be able to move ahead. I don’t think I’m being pie in the sky. It’s just a matter of time.”
In 2012, Blaine partnered with Johnson Controls, a company that specializes in energy optimization, for an audit of their facilities. The firm analyzed the city’s energy usage and determined improvements that they believed would lower energy usage citywide. They estimated that it would take around $2.8 million to effectively renovate and retrofit city buildings to ensure those savings. Whitewolf said that she, along with Johnson Controls and financial director Jeffrey Lazenby, are working on securing the rest of the financing needed for that project.
“We’re reviewing interest rates now. The rest of the financing will probably be loans or grant/loan combinations,” she said. “We feel very confident that the financial picture is going to come together.”
Whitewolf said her team is also pursuing Bonneville Power Administration rebates as part of the financing process. “We might qualify,” she said. “We just have to figure out how much we are eligible for.”
City upgrades needed to reduce power consumption include significant changes to the Lighthouse Point Water Reclamation Facility, a power-guzzling entity that is Blaine’s number one energy user, as well as the Banner Bank building, now home to city hall.
“We’re going to work on how the plant is heated,” Whitewolf said of the wastewater plant. She said that they have plans for a complete mechanical and heating system optimization for the bottom floor of the plant. “We’re going to begin by dividing the heat output between the two floors and installing more intelligent controls so that we can really dial it down.”
She expects that the upgrades on the wastewater plant will start generating energy savings within three years. “That’s the whole point of this program,” she said. “These changes will eventually pay for themselves.”