By Antonio Prado
Posted Apr 20, 2011 @ 07:58 PM
Last update Apr 20, 2011 @ 08:13 PM
Hockessin, Del. — Going green does not come cheap as evidenced by the $7.8 million local and federal investment New Castle County is making in its Smart Energy Program.
But the investment is well worth it, County Executive Paul Clark said at a press conference held at Hockessin Library Wednesday, April 20. Government needs to cut costs, as anyone listening to his budget address for the 2012 fiscal year would know, Clark said.
“I’m willing to invest a dollar today if it will save me $2 or more in the future,” he said. “This project does that.”
The county is using a $3.74 million Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant provided by the U.S. Department of Energy through American Recovery & Reinvestment Act leveraged by $4 million in county bonds to retrofit and install energy conservation measures in 20 county facilities, County Director of Economic Redevelopment Karl F. Kalbacher said. The county is nearing completion of this project, which fits in with intent of the federal stimulus package.
The Smart Energy Program is providing employment to 156 local workers, “which is a big deal,” Clark said. And the solar panels are manufactured in Delaware by Motech and SolarDock.
“The idea is not just for us to save energy but to stimulate the economy and getting those people working,” he said. “And hopefully they will go out to lunch here in Hockessin and support the local economy. That multiplies out and helps the economy in the long run.”
State and federal officials joined Clark and other county officials to celebrate the energy initiative. They included U.S. Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.), former county executive, who Clark gave credit for beginning this initiative. Coons was on hand for some brief remarks.
The county has worked with Washington, D.C.-based Ameresco to implement this project.The upgrades made in the first phase of this project are expected to save the county $353,000 per year, Ameresco CEO George Sakellaris said at the event. In phase two, savings are anticipated to be an additional $450,000 per year, he said.
“The cost reductions, at the end of the day, fund the implementation of this project,” Sakellaris said.
The $4 million local investment in the energy project came in the form of 20-year bonds, with the county using its prestigious, AAA Bond rating to secure a 2.64 percent interest rate on those bonds sold in New York, Kalbacher told the Community News after the press conference. With the federal partnership, the county is only paying 55 percent of the interest for those bonds while the feds reimburse them for 45 percent of the interest.
He did not know off the top of his head how much the county is paying on those bonds each year, which includes all of the principal. But the money the county is saving on energy cost more than pays for the principal and interests on the bonds, he said.
The county also received a $367,000 grant from the state’s Green Energy Program to help defray the costs of its solar project, Kalbacher said.
He thanked Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary Collin O’Mara and U.S. Department of Energy Branch Chief David Ross for their help in securing state and federal money for this initiative. Both attended the event.
“You’ve got to eat your energy conservation vegetables first because every electron that you save in energy efficiency is another electron that you’re putting into clean energy, which goes that much further,” O’Mara said.
The county held the press conference in honor of Earth Day, which is on Friday, April 22.