Dialing down energy use
Wilson County, N.C.’s courthouse is an architectural gem and historic landmark in the community of 74,000, but it was not necessarily built for energy efficiency. By 2006, the county was struggling with high utility costs to operate the courthouse and nine other aging buildings.
To improve the buildings’ energy efficiency, Wilson County signed a performance contract in August 2006 with Dallas-based TAC Energy Solutions to upgrade heating and air conditioning, lighting and water fixtures. Utility audits revealed that those improvements could reduce the county’s energy costs by 15 percent, or $107,000, annually. Under the contract, the company guarantees the annual utility savings, and the county uses the savings to pay for the project over 12 years.
To begin, the contractor equipped six facilities with new direct digital control (DDC) building management systems to regulate indoor temperatures. Systems in other buildings were upgraded and recommissioned to improve performance. Next, energy-efficient T8 bulbs and electronic ballasts were installed to help lower electric bills and assure uniform light levels. Finally, faucets and plumbing fixtures were replaced with low-flow equipment to reduce water use.
Wilson County then launched a second phase to upgrade its detention center and a newly acquired office property. A DDC building management system was installed in each to conserve energy while improving indoor comfort levels. The $330,000 second phase is saving the county an additional $29,000 annually.
Since the building retrofits were completed in December, Wilson County has been saving the energy equivalent of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 183 tons, which compares to removing 37 automobiles from the roads or planting 50 acres of trees. “Performance contracting has allowed us to make essential improvements to our county facilities,” says County Manager Ellis Williford. “Since we are trading the money we were spending on utilities to complete the work, our citizens are not burdened with a tax increase. In addition, our employees enjoy a better workplace, and the county sets an excellent example of environmental concern by reducing energy consumption.”
Project: Facility energy control
Jurisdiction: Wilson County, N.C.
Agency: County Manager’s Office
Vendor: Dallas-based TAC Energy Solutions
Date: December 2007
Cost: $1.2 million