Dissecting Dollars Makes Sense

During the recent recession, many governmental entities across the country faced diminished valuations, increased operational costs, and reduced earned-income streams due to patrons’ income reductions, lay-offs, and lower discretionary funds. During this time, like many organizations, the Foothills Park & Recreation District in Littleton, Colo., sought to reinvent by evaluating all of the expenses for potential savings opportunities. 

Since the district was spending over $900,000 per year on electricity, natural gas, and water, I, as the Executive Director, knew there was a good opportunity to identify savings throughout the 300,000+ square feet of building spaces. The district entered into an engagement with an Energy Services Contractor that conducted a Technical Energy Audit, to determine energy-saving opportunities. The audit evaluated all applications for high-efficiency lighting (including ball field lighting), water conservation measures, energy-management systems, upgrades to mechanical and electrical systems, electric-motor retrofits, building-envelope improvements (insulation, windows, etc.) and many other conservation measures. In addition, there was an evaluation of the use of solar technologies for pool-water heating, passive solar, and solar photovoltaic technologies for electricity generation.                                                                                                                    

As a result of the audit, the district entered into an Energy Performance Contract. The improvements were financed in the following manner:

  • $1 million in Qualified Energy Conservation Bonds through the U.S. Department of Energy, financed at 2.173 percent for 12 years
  • $1.895 million in traditional financing at 2.42 percent over 12 years
  • $180,000 in utility rebates, provided by the local energy company
  • $40,000 received from the local water agency as a water-purchase contract
  • $299,000 from a local government agency through a grant program. 

The projects included the following:

Ball Field Lighting Upgrades

New energy-efficient lighting was installed on four baseball/softball fields to provide illumination equaling 30 foot candles in the infield and 20 foot candles in the outfield. A remote lighting system was also installed that allows scheduling and runtime reporting capability via web access and a 24-hour call center.

Building Lighting Upgrades

The upgrades included a combination of fixture replacement and lamp/ballast retrofits in many of the district facilities and parking lots that had older T12 fluorescent, incandescent, and HID fixtures. Several areas also had occupancy sensors installed.

HVAC Upgrades, Scheduling, DDC

Throughout the district, there were upgrades to some of the HVAC equipment controllers so those spaces may be more efficiently conditioned. A few of the existing controls were replaced, but most were integrated into a single-user, front-end, graphical-user interface. 

Water-Conservation Upgrades

District-wide facilities had toilets, urinals, showers, and faucets recalibrated and/or retrofitted to deliver the minimum water required for proper performance. Hands-free sensors were installed on toilets, urinals, and faucets.

Energy Miser Technology

Energy Misers were installed district-wide on vending machines and snack machines that were not previously Energy Star-rated. When equipped with a Vending Miser, refrigerated beverage machines use less energy and are comparable in daily energy performance to new Energy Star-qualified machines. Snack Misers will also switch the snack vending machines into an energy-saving mode.

Electric Rater Changes

An analysis was conducted of all electric-use meters to incorporate appropriate rate schedules based upon consumption and demand usages. 

Irrigation-Control Improvements

A Variable Frequency Drive (VFD) was installed on the pump station for the nine-hole executive course at Foothills Golf Course to mitigate the high monthly peak-demand charges from the local energy provider. 

Pool Pumping Controls

VFDs were installed on the three pool filtration/circulation pumps at the Ridge Recreation Center that serve the therapy, family, and lap pools.

Envelope Improvements

Repairs were made at the Ridge Recreation Center to reduce gaps between and under the entrance doors. New electric ADA-compliant door openers were installed to replace the existing pneumatic at Lilley Gulch Recreation Center; the fiberglass clerestory windows in the natatorium were replaced with new double pane; and low-emission windows that closely match the tint of the existing storefront windows were put in place. The entry doors to the pool were cleaned, repainted, weather-stripped, and hung to lengthen the service life and reduce infiltration.

Solar Photovoltaic System (PV)

A 100 kW solar PV array was installed on the west roof of the Edge Ice Arena. The system is net metered and used to supplement the Edge’s electric use.

Chiller Plant Upgrade

The existing ammonia refrigeration plant used to maintain the two ice slabs at the Edge Ice Arena had a new condensing heat exchanger installed and associated water-to-water heat pump to utilize the waste heat instead of sending it all to the cooling tower. The waste heat pump feeds 130 F water to the Ridge Recreation Center, where it is used to heat the therapy, lap, and leisure pools. And the chilled water cools the three compressors on the ice skid and controls head pressure. In addition, direct digital controls were installed to control the ice-plant compressors and ice temperature more effectively.

As a result of these investments on the infrastructure and a commitment to reduce energy use and operational costs, the district is now experiencing over $300,000 in utility savings and operational costs on an annual basis. It has also experienced improved productivity and work environments, and has made the commitment to be “green.” (See chart for environmental impacts due to Energy Performance Contract.)

Because of the excellent success of the conservation efforts as part of the Energy Performance Contract, the district has continued to monitor for additional opportunities to save energy and expenses, as well as ways to use sustainable resources. After significant research, Photovoltaic Solar Panels were purchased in a locally produced renewable energy via community solar facilities to power operations and save on utility expenses. The projected cost savings are nearly $1 million over the 20-year program.

The purchase of 73.8 kilowatts, or 314 solar PV panels in the community solar array located in nearby Golden, Colo., produces over 120,000 kWh’s per year and will specifically help offset the power requirements for the district’s high-demand irrigation systems that serve two golf courses. Purchasing into a community solar model allows electric customers of any kind to buy into locally sited, medium-scale solar arrays and receive credit for the power produced directly on their monthly utility bills. 

The district’s purchase will offset the power used at multiple facilities, recouping the investment in less than seven years, with a first-year payback of 13 percent and more than 270 percent after 20 years—all without forfeiting any open space or adding to maintenance obligations. In addition, the environmental benefit of the district’s purchase is equivalent to the reduction of more than 4-million pounds of CO2 emissions, 4.5-million miles of car travel, or the CO2 absorption power of 6,000 trees.

These projects provided excellent opportunities to address aging and inefficient infrastructure in facilities with high energy consumption, using innovative and fiscally conservative methods. While being good stewards of the environment and natural resources, the district and its patrons have been able to enjoy the significant cost savings and reduction of utility consumption. 

Ronald Hopp is the Executive Director of the Foothills Park & Recreation District in Littleton, Colo. Reach him at rhopp@fhprd.org.