The Centre County Board of Commissioners announced on Tuesday that it is exploring energy conservation measures to save money and move some county buildings toward energy independence.
The board asked planning commission Director Bob Jacobs to solicit bids from energy conservation companies in an effort to audit energy usage at six county facilities and estimate the cost of improvements.
The buildings being studied are: The Centre County Correctional Facility, courthouse, sheriff’s office, Courthouse Annex Building, Temple Court Building and the Willowbank Building.
The energy study will focus on heating, ventilation and cooling systems, water usage, insulation and roofing conditions. The company conducting the study will also be responsible for making any improvements needed at the facilities.
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The bids will include a cost analysis for solar panel installation on the buildings. Board Chairman Michael Pipe said the energy generated by the solar panels will help to offset electricity costs as well as provide an added level of security for 911 and emergency management facilities in the event of power outages.
The cost of the projects are unknown until the bids are returned, but the county does not have to use capital funds for the facility improvements.
In 2010, the state passed the Guaranteed Energy Savings Act (Act 39) to aid counties that elect to make energy-saving design changes. Once the studies are completed, the energy conservation company that is contracted will provide the county with estimated yearly energy expense savings. Act 39 allows the county to use the money saved to pay for the improvements over a 20-year period.
Commissioner Mark Higgins said the counties that have made changes under Act 39 have experienced savings similar to what the energy conservation companies estimated.
“Counties of our size can expect, based on our footprint, to save $60,000 to $100,000 per year on average,” Higgins said. “Obviously this is very much worth our while and because of the law from 2010, we have a lot of flexibility in how the county can finance this.”
Jacobs said the bid requests will be advertised on Friday. The bids will be due on April 24 and the commissioners will make a decision at the May 16 board meeting.
“Many counties have gone down this road already and they have seen savings, but this is just an option at this point and ‘option’ is the key word,” Pipe said. “We may go in several different directions.”