The city of Merced held its Conservation Celebration this morning to mark its efforts in “Going Green for Generations to Come.”
School children from John C. Fremont Charter School helped kick off the event in Applegate Park.
The event will celebrate Merced’s progress on its $7.2 million energy conservation project, and other milestones in its efforts to go green, according to a news release. The city efforts range from changing out bulbs, using new technology to control sprinklers, replacing all city streetlights, going to paperless agendas and even changing fonts in an effort to save resources and money.
The city has an energy efficiency and facility improvement contract with Siemens Industry, Inc. that guarantees the city will save 3.3 million kilowatts of electricity during each of the first three years of the contract. Most of the subcontractors on the project have been Merced-area businesses, according to the news release.
A reduction of 3.3 million kilowatts per year reduces annual greenhouse gas emissions by 2,276 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions from 446 passenger vehicles or CO2 emissions from 255,105 gallons of gasoline consumed.
The energy savings will more than pay for the improvements. Savings are expected to continue beyond the three years with the continued rising cost of electricity.
The city is using federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grant funds and a long-term loan that will be paid off with the energy savicgs. Once the 16-year loan is paid off, there will still be more than $2.6 million in savings.
The efficiency program will be applied to 17 main city buildings, seven city parks and the Merced Regional Airport.
A large part of the project will be replacing more than 5,600 streetlights in the city at a cost of $3 million. The new induction lights have a whiter, cleaner light and a wider light pattern than the old yellowish sodium vapor lights.
The streetlight upgrade project began in South Merced and is moving northward before finishing early next year.
Locally owned Best Electric is the subcontractor for the streetlight work.
Upgrading to the greener technology is expected to save the city as much as $268,924 a year in energy costs, a 44 percent reduction in the total streetlight bill. The new parts come with a 10 year warranty so on-going repair costs will also be reduced.
In addition to the city-owned streetlights, there also are streetlights with wooden poles in the city limits owned by Pacific Gas and Electric Co. that are not part of the city’s upgrade. The downtown’s decorative green street lights will not be changed nor will street lights owned by Caltrans along the state highways that go through Merced.
Antiquated heating, air conditioning and ventilation (HVAC) units will be replaced as part of the project at a cost of $1.8 million and another $507,000 will be spent on internet-based HVAC controls that will result in more efficient use of the machinery.
Some of the improvements are low-tech, but helpful, such as the low flow water fixtures that will be installed throughout the city at a cost of $72,000.
Local subcontractors on the project include: Modern Air of Merced replacing the rooftop unit for the South Police Station, Merced Airport, Senior Center, Public Works Corp Yard and Central Police Department; First Day Electric of Merced has been working with Sylvania assisting in the interior lighting retrofit at the Merced Civic Center and other buildings.
The city's news release said it has been going green for many years. Staff has moved from thick agendas printed on paper to electronic agendas. Staff has even standardized typefaces to use less ink and paper when they do print things out. (Arial or Times New Roman give the best balance between ink use and paper consumption.)
One of the more visible green efforts is in the city fleet of vehicles. The city has:
Five (5) compressed natural gas garbage trucks
Seven (7) compressed natural gas pickups
Two (2) Tier IV diesel trucks that are clear burning than CNG
Seven (7) Ford Hybrid Escapes, 31 miles per gallon
The city just received a grant for $493,000 that will be used to replace 18 existing vehicles with hybrid vehicles averaging 30 MPG.
The city also has on staff a water conservation specialist to help education the public on the wise use of water, preventing stormwater pollution and not fouling the wastewater.
The council is in the process of reviewing and approving a Climate Action Plan that provides guidelines on how to achieve our greenhouse gas reduction target.