By QUINT QUALLS

The City of Spring Hill was awarded a state energy grant by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation to install a series of energy efficiency projects to create significant taxpayer savings on municipal utility costs.

The City of Spring Hill was one of only 13 government entities throughout the state to receive a share of more than $1 million in grant funds for energy efficiency projects announced recently by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and TDEC Commissioner Bob Martineau. Spring Hill received  $26,409.78.

Grant recipients will implement projects designed to reduce air emissions, improve energy efficiency and create cost savings. Specifically, the projects focus on cleaner alternative energy, energy conservation and air quality improvement.

Spring Hill’s planned energy project is funded under a grant contract with the state of Tennessee and will include reducing electrical and HVAC consumption at the Spring Hill Water Treatment Plant, City Hall and the public library. The 50/50 matching grant will fund the cost of the project up to $55,319.06, of which TDEC will reimburse 50 percent up to $26,409.78.

Based on two years of utility bills, the three facilities use an average total of 2,064,180 kilowatt hours (kWh). The grant will allow the city to install indoor and outdoor LED lighting fixtures, energy-­efficient HVAC components and retrofits such as programmable thermostats and infrared wall switches that are expected to make the buildings 30‐40 percent more efficient. The city anticipates reducing energy usage by 198,025 kWh, equaling $19,802.00 in annual savings.

The estimated return on investment for the cost of all three projects is less than three years, and the recouping of city’s cost portion of the project is about 18 months. The project will be completed within less than six months after entering into a contract with TDEC, Polk said.

“I am very proud to have created this opportunity for the city of Spring Hill and its residents. Knowing these projects will begin saving energy instantly is crucial to starting the payback period,” said Spring Hill Stormwater Coordinator Jeremy Polk, who wrote the grant application. “I would encourage all residents to research energy efficient ideas for their residence. All are welcome to contact me through the city’s website with questions.”

Funding for the projects comes from an April 2011 Clean Air Act settlement with the TVA. Under the consent decree, Tennessee received $26.4 million over the past five years to fund clean energy mitigation programs in the state. TDEC has used the funding to reimburse grantees for a variety of innovative projects to reduce environmental impacts and operating costs at sites of new construction, redevelopment projects, and sites with aging infrastructure.

“This year’s applicants have proposed creative energy efficiency programs designed to decrease emissions and reduce expenses at the local level,” TDEC Commissioner Martineau said in an August state news release about the grant program. “We will continue to look for ways to promote environmental awareness and energy efficiency within state government and in Tennessee communities.”

“I’m pleased that Spring Hill was able to use our energy audit recommendations to successfully apply for a Clean Tennessee Energy Grant and I encourage other communities to utilize the service,” said Molly Cripps, director of TDEC’s Office of Energy Programs. “We offer no-cost technical assistance to public sector entities in Tennessee to identify opportunities to reduce energy and water consumption in public buildings.”

Energy efficiency upgrades to City Hall include retrofitting the existing thermostats with seven-day, multi-time setting thermostats and replacing existing light switches with passive infrared occupancy sensors. The thermostats and sensors will optimize conditions when occupants are present and reduce operating costs during non-work hours. The city also will install a single-room, ductless, split-system HVAC unit in the electronics room.

Other improvements include:

  • The Spring Hill Water Treatment Plant retrofit of 33 metal-halide, 400-watt ceiling fixtures with LED high bay lights. Since these lights operate 24-7, the upgrades not only will save energy, but will significantly reduce the need for constant maintenance. The current lights last only 6-8 months and the new lights will last 8-10 years.
  • The Spring Hill Public Library installation of an automated Energy Management System for HVAC efficiency improvements. The system will monitor daily energy usage and HVAC operation and automatically report any issues to designated personnel. Lighting in the library also will be upgraded, replacing about a dozen 17S-watt metal halide bulbs with 42-watt LED bulbs. Beyond reducing energy and operational expenses, the upgrades also will provide a better experience for library users.

General public benefits show:

  • LED lighting gives off a strong white light that provides better illumination than what is currently installed, enhancing public safety and city employee work areas, and improving security lighting.
  • Programmable thermostats provide instant savings that will continue through the life of the facility. Existing thermostats do not support set back temperatures or schedules to maximize savings.
  • Passive IR ceiling and wall-mounted sensors decrease work time usage when personnel are not occupying areas, ensuring all lighting is off during non-­work hours and extending the life of existing lights, reducing replacement cost and installation labor.
  • Energy Management System (EMS) ensures the public library has a comfortable, relaxing environment while reducing usage and cost of non-work hours in setback mode. The electronic schedule will eliminate on-site personnel making daily adjustments and provide automatic notification of EMS-monitored maintenance issues.