Penns Valley

On Centre: Penns Valley | Project aims to help Millheim save money, energy

A project is underway in Millheim that aims to save money and help conserve energy.

The Millheim Energy Independence Project was officially launched Thursday with a community party and information session.

It’s an initiative that will last for two years.

The SEDA-Council of Governments Energy Resource Center will provide technical assistance to the Millheim community with help from a $25,000 grant through the federal Appalachian Regional Commission, said Stacy Richards, director of the energy resource center.

“The goal is to save money by reducing energy use,” she said.

About 18 months ago, the Millheim Borough Council began to take steps to reduce energy in its buildings and “helped save taxpayers money,” Richards said.

“They had good success so they said, ‘Let’s have a project that allows the community to be a part of it,’ ” Richards said. “Because elected officials wanted to offer the community a better option, they asked for our help.”

It was endorsed by the Borough Council last January and was approved through SEDA-COG in September.

Richards said the project will follow a similar one in New Berlin, Union County, that started in 2009 and was completed in 2012.

During about five years, that municipality saved $1 million, Richards said.

New Berlin has a similar population as Millheim, and its project was used as an example for how to move forward with the Millheim Energy Independence Project.

Richards estimated that if every household in Millheim participates, the energy savings could be 30 to 70 percent.

According to the Census Bureau, Millheim had a population of 881 in 2013. Richards said there are about 375 residences.

SEDA-COG will follow up after two years and tackle the results from the project, Richards said.

“We want to see results and spread awareness about this sort of initiative,” Richards said. “We think it works for the community and the environment.”

As energy costs continue to skyrocket, it gets expensive for some families to keep up, Richards said.

“In the community, they may not know where to begin, and how much they could save and what they can invest in,” Richards said. “It’s a cost-saving resource for them and this project can show them what they can do.”

On Oct. 13, the plan was presented to students at Penns Valley Intermediate and Centre Hall elementary schools, and again on Thursday to the public at the Millheim Fire Hall.

“It was what I hoped it would be, and they (the students) loved it and understood it and got that education on energy reduction,” said Nate Althouse, Penns Valley Area School District spokesman.

Richards added that community volunteers have also been going door to door to introduce the project to residents and make sure the services SEDA-COG provides will meet their needs.

“A lot of families are using up to four different types of energy,” Richards said. “We can identify their energy and identify their needs.”

It will take about 20 volunteers to complete the home energy assessments. They started about two weeks ago and hope to be finished by the end of the month, Richards said.

An energy audit is also being offered to households for $50 — about $100 less than the normal rate, Richards said.