Commissioners approve energy conservation efforts that can save $7 million

The Centre County Board of Commissioners unanimously agreed on Tuesday to conduct an energy study that will identify ways the county can conserve energy and save money.

Centre County Planning Commission Director Bob Jacobs was asked by the board in March to solicit proposals from companies that have the ability to conduct the survey and complete the recommended work. The county received two bids and agreed to retain the services of McClure Company.

“Both companies are highly qualified. They’re large companies that have good financial backing and 30 plus years doing this work throughout the country,” Jacobs said. “McClure has more experience working in the area and they won by a slim margin.”

In April, McClure conducted a preliminary energy audit on six county facilities: The Centre County Correctional Facility, courthouse, sheriff’s office, Courthouse Annex Building, Temple Court Building and the Willowbank Building.

The audit showed that if the county spends about $5 million on improvements to heating, ventilation and cooling systems, water usage, insulation and roofing conditions, there can be $7 million of savings over a 20-year period.

Commissioner Mark Higgins said the county evaluated hundreds of documents during the selection process and the possibility of saving substantial amounts of money makes it worth continuing the process with McClure.

As McClure conducts the in-depth study, the option of solar panel installation on the buildings will be considered as a way to offset energy expenses as well as add a level of security for county residents, according to board Chairman Michael Pipe.

“If we would go off the grid, we do have backup generators, but if it’s for a prolonged period of time, we would have to do EMA services and 911 services and to have a source of sustainable energy services available would be very powerful,” Pipe said.

The Guaranteed Energy Savings Act (Act 39) was passed in 2010 to aid counties with funding for the energy saving projects. The act allows counties to use the saved money to pay for the improvements over a 20-year period. The county will not need to use capital funds to pay for the improvements under the act.

“If we are going to save $6 million to $8 million over a 20-year period, obviously that savings would not evaporate in year 21,” Higgins said. “It all sounds very intriguing.”

The county will begin negotiations with McClure and the survey will begin in the coming weeks.

Leon Valsechi: 814-231-4631, @leon_valsechi