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Supervisors approve ‘green’ facilities updates

County officials introduced a new solar array Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2011 that’s expected to save the county millions of dollars over the next few years.
County officials introduced a new solar array Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2011 that’s expected to save the county millions of dollars over the next few years. Merced Sun-Star

The Merced County Board of Supervisors this week approved a project that will update county energy use and move toward greener consumption habits while saving money.

The energy retrofit project will reduce power consumption, conserve water and embrace clean, renewable energy.

The county will contract with Oakland-based Opterra Energy Services for $11.7 million. The projects will save the county $17.7 million over 30 years, officials said. Various bonds are being researched to finance the projects, said Stephanie Dietz, who works in the county CEO’s office. The project will generate enough savings to pay for itself.

The retrofit project includes numerous updates and additions to 13 facilities across the county, said Dietz during a presentation at Tuesday’s board meeting.

District 5 Supervisor Jerry O’Banion said he looks forward to the project and its benefits.

The county’s heating, ventilating and air conditioning systems are 50 to 60 years old, inefficient, no longer supported by manufacturers or have exceeded the end of their useful life, Dietz said. Under the project, the HVAC systems would be replaced in the Atwater Library, public works buildings, health department, juvenile justice complex, the Los Banos Library and the Marie Green Center.

The project also calls for indoor, outdoor and street lighting retrofitting with energy-efficient LED lighting. The upgraded lighting inside and outside county buildings would extend the life of lamps and reduce the costs of maintenance and energy, staff reports said. As for street lighting, the updates would be done under a special PG&E program with no cost to the county or property owners in lighting districts.

The plans also include retrofitting plumbing fixtures at the main jail and juvenile justice complex to reduce water use. Staff reports note that inmates often abuse toilets by flushing contraband, flooding cells and clogging pipes. The upgrades would allow jail staff members to control inmate toilet and shower use.

New solar parking canopies also would be erected at the County Administration Building on M Street in Merced. The structure would offset electricity use at the building, along with a new solar array at the correctional facility.

Brianna Calix: 209-385-2477

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