By Dawn Krebs
PORT ST. LUCIE - An energy-saving proposal city officials have worked on for almost a year was unanimously approved by the Port St. Lucie City Council at a recent meeting.
Honeywell International audited the city's energy use at the end of 2011. The results were presented to the city council at its winter retreat.
Since then, city staff has worked with Honeywell to use the audit to decide which cost-reducing changes to areas within the city will be made.
"It's no different than looking through your house and trying to figure out why (costs are so high)," said Greg Oravec, Port St. Lucie city manager.
The cost for the recommended changes is estimated to be a little more than $7 million, but due to the cost of some of the materials involved, the final cost to the city would be closer to $8 million.
It was estimated the city currently spends more than $5 million annually on energy costs. Honeywell's proposed changes will not only reduce those costs, but the savings from the reduction will pay for the work done by the company.
"After much negotiation, we've gotten to a place where it's worth it," Mr. Oravec said.
A portion of the project will be paid for from the city's cash funds, and the rest will be internally borrowed from the utility fund. The city plans to repay the money with the saving it receives. It is estimated the city will receive $560,000 in savings the first year and up to $600,000 annually afterward. If the city doesn't reach that level of savings, Honeywell will pay the difference to the city annually.
The recommendations to be implemented affect a variety of areas, from infrastructure to water sources to air-conditioning systems, and are expected to last over the next 15 years.
For example, one recommendation has the thermostat of city buildings being uniformly set at 76 degrees. Another recommendation affects sports lighting in parks, as well as the lights inside government buildings.
It was pointed out that one savings can lead to others. For example, by reducing the kilowatt demand of the existing lighting system, the heat generated by the lighting system is also reduced, which reduces the overall load on the air-conditioning system.
"If it doesn't pay itself back over the life of the improvement, it's not a good business decision for us," Mr. Oravec said. "All of these improvements will help save money."