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Lighting and HVAC system upgrades have achieved positive energy-saving outcomes for Veterans Memorial Community Center in Inver Grove Heights.

Case Study: Inver Grove Heights Veterans Memorial Community Center

Energy improvements save nearly $12,000 per year

Aims and objectives. Faced with a combined electric bill of over $250,000 per year, managers at the Inver Grove Heights Veterans Memorial Community Center decided in 2009 that something needed to be done.  Though the 77,500 square-foot Community Center was only built in 1996, significant energy improvements to the lighting and HVAC systems were identified. The Center is home to community meeting spaces, a recreation center, and senior center.

Implementation. All of the old style T12 and metal halide high intensity discharge (HID) lamps and their associated ballasts were changed out with modern T-8 efficient lamps and ballasts. Also, 33 exit light fixtures were replaced with LED equipped fixtures, and 53 occupancy sensors were strategically installed. A modern heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) energy management system was installed to allow full scheduling and control of the building systems. The HVAC system efficiency was also improved with the installation of variable frequency drives on five supply and return fans and two pumps.

“As a large public community center with swimming pools, large spaces with high ceilings, and ice arenas, we use our share of energy,” said Eric Carlson, Parks and Recreation director said. “Going through our buildings’ electrical and mechanical systems and looking for ways to reduce our energy consumption has allowed us to save considerable amounts on our energy bill and redirect those scarce budget dollars towards improvements to our facilities that the public truly enjoys.”

Outcomes: Energy saved, CO2 reduced. Comparing the baseline year of 2010, before energy upgrades were made, to 2012, the community center’s electricity consumption decreased by 6 percent, natural gas use decreased by 12 percent, and CO2 emissions decreased 7 percent. The energy use reductions resulted in energy cost savings of nearly $12,000 per year.

Community Center electric annual consumption
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Figure 1. This Minnesota B3 Benchmarking chart shows electric use decreased 6 percent form 2010 to 2012.

Community Center natural gas consumption
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Figure 2. Natural gas consumption was reduced by 12 percent in 2012 compared with 2010.

Community Center annual CO2 emissions
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Figure 3. CO2 emissions were reduced by 7 percent in 2012 compared with 2010.

Documenting results via B3 Benchmarking. Inver Grove Heights is able to quantify the community center’s energy savings through the Minnesota B3 Benchmarking tool. B3 Benchmarking is available for all state, local government, and public school buildings. The B3 tool allows users to track their buildings’ energy use, monitor the performance of energy improvements, and readily identify poor energy performance. It is available for all state, local government, and public school buildings. “Tracking our energy usage on the B3 Benchmarking site allows us to monitor our progress and look for ways in which to reduce our reliance on energy even further in the future,” said Carlson. To add your building to this database, go to the B3 website and click on “Contact Us.”

Funding. About $100,000 of the $255,000 energy upgrade project was funded by an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant from the Minnesota Department of Commerce. The grant was provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), the federal stimulus program designed to save energy and create jobs. Lighting upgrades to the pool area were not covered by the grant, due to ARRA restrictions. Rebates were received from Xcel Energy for both lighting and variable frequency drive upgrades.

With the national phase out of magnetic ballasts and T12 lamps, many Minnesota utilities no longer offer rebates for converting such lighting systems. However, with rising demand and energy charges for commercial consumers, companies that still have these in place may find it cost-effective to replace them even without rebates. Most electric utilities provide rebates to support change outs of other older lighting systems and to help fund other lighting efficiency improvements.

Resources for public building projects. When seeking energy upgrades, cities such as Inver Grove Heights are encouraged to consult with the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources (DER) and their local utilities. DER provides technical support to local government units, state agencies, school districts, and institutions of higher learning that are seeking to implement energy efficiency and renewable energy measures. Contact DER to discuss which of its efficiency programs can be of help.

Utility representatives can help assess opportunities for efficiency and identify what rebates may help finance projects. Utilities in Minnesota are mandated to achieve an annual energy savings of 1.5 percent of annual retail energy sales.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Building Technologies Office also provides helpful resources for building retrofits.