Oktibbeha County has partnered with an energy audit company in an effort to see what steps it may be able to take to reduce its utility expenses.
Nathan Wells, with the Jackson-based Path Company, spoke to supervisors about his company’s services at Monday’s board meeting. Wells said Path can conduct an energy audit, at no cost to Oktibbeha County, to determine where the county can save money.
Once the county receives its report, it can choose whether it wishes to contract with Path Company to implement the changes.
Wells said once the audit is complete, the company presents recommendations on how to improve energy efficiency. He said the recommendations focus on using technology — switching to LED lights instead of fluorescent ones or using better weather-sealing to prevent air from escaping through cracks — for improvements.
“We do infrared imaging through the building to see where you’re losing heated air or cooled air,” Wells said. “We look at plug load — so, printers and copy machines that you have throughout your county that are sucking energy every minute of the day, put a plug load to where those are actually off in the middle of the night. It’s simple, basic things that you don’t think about — counting your meters to make sure you don’t have meters you’re getting charged for that aren’t actually in use.”
Path works with other entities throughout the state.
“Tate County, Mississippi, where we’re working right now — they have roughly 132,000 square feet of space,” Wells said. “Your county is obviously bigger than Tate, but it’s a good example. Roughly, their utility bill is $200,000 every single year. By our initial numbers, applying just basic technology to it, they’re going to save roughly $63,000 a year.”
Wells said Path is also working with the Long Beach School District, which has 487,000 square feet of space. He said the district spends $553,000 per year on utilities. He said Path’s findings show the district can save $149,000 per year with efficiency upgrades.
An annual utility spending estimate for Oktibbeha County wasn’t available on Wednesday. County Administrator Emily Garrard said her office had just initiated gathering information and should have it at a later date.
While supervisors approved the initial audit, some wondered if the savings would actually carry through.
Wells said Path Company guarantees the savings from its audit report and said the savings from the improvements can pay for the improvements themselves.
However, District 3 Supervisor Marvell Howard questioned if any potential savings would last long enough to be worth it, in the long run, for Oktibbeha County.
“We’ll have to go and secure funding to pay the whole deal and then we’ll hope that savings will pay the note on the funding,” Howard said. “But if the note extends 10 years and the savings’ gadgets and stuff start to go out in five years, or if the utility costs increase in five years, then that’s kind of like we’re not going to be able to pay the note with the cost savings you originally guaranteed.”
Garrard also noted the county could look for grants to help fund any improvements.
Wells said energy efficient technology is generally built to last. LED lights, he said, are built to last up to 20 years.
He also said that whether Path recommends going ahead with a project will depend on the audit’s findings.
“If we came back to you and said this was going to be a break-even proposition, we would likely recommend don’t do it,” Wells said.
Oktibbeha County can look at another local entity for an example of successful energy cost-savings measures.
Mississippi State University Chief Communications Officer Sid Salter said the university has saved more than $50 million in energy costs over the past decade by taking steps to improve its energy efficiency.
As an example, he said the central chiller plant, which produces 7,000 tons of air conditioning to distribute to campus using a 10-mile network of underground chilled water pipes had an efficiency improvement. He said the university used a large drilling rig to put a new set of lines that run 50 feet below the Drill Field in the middle of campus.
“That’s just one example out of a comprehensive set of energy efficient streamlines the university is working on in concert with (the state Institutions of Higher Learning) to produce cost savings in the area of energy efficiency,” he said. “It’s been an award-winning effort for MSU, and the savings help to hold down costs and to enable us to do things that are closer to our primary mission.”
Alex Holloway was formerly a reporter with The Dispatch.
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