County to Audit Facilities for Energy Savings

Written by Neil Farrell

Neil has been a journalist covering the Estero Bay Area for over 27 years. He’s won numerous journalism awards in several different categories over his career.

March 26, 2021

San Luis Obispo County’s move toward upgrading facilities with an eye at energy and water savings will take a further step with the awarding of a contract to draw up specs and cost estimates to possibly do the work.
According to a March 2 staff report from County Energy and Water Coordinator, Annie Secrest, the County entered into a $95,000, design-build contract with Willdan Energy Solutions (WES) at selected County Operations Center (COC) facilities.
In January 2020, Willdan had conducted on-site audits of various County-owned facilities and office buildings assessing them for “energy and water efficiency measures, beneficial electrification measures, and other facility improvements for consideration to make long-term upgrades,” Seacrest’s report said. “The focus of the on-site audit was heavily weighted towards ways to reduce and/or eliminate inefficiencies, increase occupant comfort, and improve site operations for the future.”
The County got that audit done for free by leveraging a “local government partnership” with Pacific Gas & Electric and SoCal Gas Co.
The County is now ready to take that “preliminary audit report” to the next level and put prices to the projects, which range from simply installing low-flow toilets and fixtures, to replacing whole HVAC systems. Many projects involve replacing florescent lighting with LED fixtures that are brighter and use less energy.
And a lot of these buildings are older facilities along Kansas Avenue off Hwy 1 used for maintenance and storage, as well as older office spaces.
Here’s a partial list of buildings and proposed upgrades:
• Maintenance building 1200: replace two rooftop cooling units with “premium efficiency units,” install new LED lights and low-flow toilets;
• Sheriff’s detectives’ office: new LED lights and toilets;
• Sheriff’s storage building (where evidence is kept): new lights, toilets and fans for the walk-in freezer;
• Water Quality Lab: new lights, and install sash-stops for two fume hood/chemical storage cabinets; and,
• Sheriff’s Office and Main Jail: replace hot water boilers with condensing boilers, replace air conditioners, lights and “low consumption fixtures and centralized usage controls for Main Jail.”
And at the Honor Farm, where the most changes are proposed, the study suggested installing ozone and water recovery systems for washing machines, and a heat recovery system for the dryers; new air conditioners, toilets and urinals; and new fans for their kitchen freezers. The Honor Farm does all the laundry for the jails and also has the kitchen that feeds everyone.
The West Jail is proposed to get nine upgrades to its HVAC units; replace packaged air conditioners; new lights and install “destratification fans” in the day rooms.
The destratification fans would also be installed in the relatively new Women’s Jail day rooms.
The company will do all the work. “WES will outline the details of the facility improvement measures, obtain final pricing, and finalize the annual energy and maintenance savings guarantee for the desired improvements.
“WES will also fully produce design and engineering drawings, specifications, bid documents, manage the competitive pricing process, and completely develop the implementation and measurement and verification plans for the facility improvements.”
“The intent of the IGA,” Seacrest said, “is to develop a self-funded project through an Energy Savings Performance Contract [ESPC]. An ESPC would allow the County to procure energy and facility improvements with no upfront capital by guaranteeing the improvements will generate energy cost savings that will pay for the project.”
It’s the same kind of deal the County worked to have solar power equipment, including a 1-megawatt solar farm off Hwy 1, installed in places like Dairy Creek Golf Course, and the Health Department Campus on Johnson Avenue in SLO. A private company comes in and builds the facilities, guaranteeing a set price for electricity at a price below normal utility rates, with the County having the option to take over the facilities after the contract is up.
WES has a good incentive to make the projects pencil out, as their pay depends on it.
“There are two payment scenarios if WES develops a self-funding project to the County,” the report said.

  1. If any of the projects identified in the IGA are executed, the $95,000 fee for IGA engineering and design services will be incorporated into the construction phase amendment and will not be due to WES under this agreement.
  2. If WES develops a self-funded project that the County does not proceed with into construction, the County will owe WES $95,000 for the engineering and design services.”
    Money for the contract is coming out of the County’s Energy and Water Audit Project fund. And any proposed work to be done will have to first be approved by Supervisors.

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