TOMS RIVER – From the installation of a high-tech heat and power fuel cell to replacing lighting systems and upgrading existing heating and air conditioning systems, Ocean County is moving ahead with implementing plans that will substantially reduce electric energy consumption at some county buildings.
“I am pleased to announce that we anticipate seeing a 33 percent reduction in our electric energy consumption once we have completed upgrades and changes to several of our systems,” said Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari, who serves as liaison to the county’s Department of Buildings and Grounds. “We will be reducing our energy bills and installing state of the art systems in our buildings that run cleaner and more efficiently.”
During its Oct. 11 preboard meeting, the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders were given an update on the county’s plans to reduce energy consumption and save money by implementing the recommendations of its Energy Savings Improvement Program.
Assistant Administrator Michael Fiure said the County currently is awaiting bids for the Combined Heat and Power & Fuel Cell (CHIP) equipment.
“The bids are expected on Oct. 17,” Fiure said. “This is one of three phases of installing the CHIP. The other phases include installing the infrastructure for the electric consolidation and then the actual connection.”
Ocean County officials were notified earlier this year that the County will receive $1.1 million in incentives from the state Board of Public Utilities for the installation of the energy efficient heating and cooling system at the Ocean County Justice Complex on Hooper Avenue, here.
“These kinds of incentives make undertaking the energy master plan extremely worthwhile,” Vicari said. “This is an important step in the work Ocean County has been doing to create more energy efficient facilities.”
He noted that the Justice Complex is a multi-use facility housing courtrooms, some of the divisions of the Ocean County Sheriff’s Office, jail facilities and other government functions.
The new 600 kW CHP system will generate electricity to power the facility, while capturing and using the waste heat for space heating, cooling, and water heating.
According to Vicari and the BPU, the energy efficiency measures will provide both energy and cost savings.
“The estimated annual energy cost savings as a result of this change is expected to be $383,000,” Vicari said. “That is substantial savings for the county taxpayers.”
In addition, the County also expects to go out to bid in the next 30 days on other energy master plan suggestions including upgrades to the lighting systems, automated controls for lighting, upgrades to existing heating and air conditioning systems and some building improvements.
“Ocean County has closely been working with the BPU on energy upgrades at County facilities,” Vicari said. “Overall the estimated annual energy savings will be about $955,000 when all the recommendations are completed.”
In late 2016, the County was notified by the state Board of Public Utilities that it accepted and approved the county’s plan for energy upgrades.
“This audit is very important to us as we begin to introduce ways to reduce costs and improve our energy efficiency,” Vicari said. “We are starting the process of implementing a number of beneficial suggestions.
Under the program, Vicari said, costs for the improvements would be offset by incentives from the state.
And, he said, the money saved on energy could be reallocated to pay for additional energy upgrades. The audit’s recommendations could reap a self-funding potential of $19.3 million which is more than $1.3 million more than the amount appropriated for the upgrades.
Another step being taken by the County is to participate in a reverse auction for electricity.
“The online bidding is called a reverse auction because the county is seeking the lowest price, while during a traditional auction individuals or companies are generally looking to garner the highest price,” Fiure said. “The county has been successful in the past in securing the best price possible for commodities like natural gas and electricity.”
Vicari said that all of the steps being taken by the County combined will reduce the amount of energy used and will also reduce the costs.
He added the county will continue to work with the BPU as it announces a new round of local government energy audit possibilities in order to look at other county facilities.
“This original energy audit was the result of an exhaustive examination of six facilities that receive a lot of traffic both from the public and with our employees,” Vicari said. “That is why they were chosen for this initial review.”
In addition to the Justice Complex the other facilities included the Ocean County Courthouse, the Ocean County Administration Building, the Ocean County Jail, the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office and the parking garage all in downtown Toms River.
“These facilities total 1,022,775 square feet,” Vicari said. “They produce an annual energy bill of $2.3 million.”
The BPU’s Clean Energy Program promotes increased energy efficiency and the use of clean, renewable sources of energy. The County began the process in late 2014 to participate in the Local Government Energy Audit to identify cost-justified efficiency measures. The audit results provided the Board of Freeholders with various energy alternatives that can be implemented.
“They looked at electric and natural gas usage, building architectural and engineering drawings, lighting systems, heating and air conditioning equipment and controls, roofs, windows, doorways, occupancy schedules and maintenance practices,” Vicari said. “Now we are in the process of making the recommended changes and saving tax dollars.”