The state of California has been granted $1.1 billion by the Department of Energy (DOE) through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and many California cities are hoping to capitalize on an opportunity to boost their energy efficiency because of it.
Of that $1.1 billion, $351.6 million will go to local governments for energy efficiency efforts through the new federal Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program. Local governments with a population of more than 30,000 are currently in the application process for their piece of the pie.
Those with less than 30,000 are awaiting information on the competitive grant process. Applications are due on June 25 and the DOE is looking for projects that create jobs, meet the objectives of the program and are using the money for eligible activities, said DOE spokeswoman Jen Stutsman.
“If an application doesn’t do one of those things, we will go back and forth with these local governments until we can get a plan that we can approve,” Stutsman said. “Our goal, absolutely, is to get these funds to the states and city governments.”
One such local government feels confident their application is ready for approval.
Bakersfield Solar Facility
The city of Bakersfield’s population was 279,000 at the end of 2004; it increased to 328,000 by the end of 2008. With increased population, comes increased energy demand. To meet the demand of such a boom, the city commissioned a $200 million expansion of its wastewater treatment facility in southwest Bakersfield in 2007.
With the expansion set to be complete by 2010 and the capacity of the plant going from 16 million gallons per day to 32 million gallons per day, energy costs to the city are expected to be on the rise.
”We’re doubling the treatment capacity of the plant itself,” said Bakersfield Wastewater Manager Art Chianello. “Electricity will go up.”
As for some relief, Chianello expects 40 percent of the energy demands created by the expanded facility (which measures one square mile) to come from a new solar facility expected to be partially funded by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant.
The city has been allocated $3.04 million through the grant which will partially fund the $6.8 million solar facility. Other grant funding and about $1 million from the city of Bakersfield will fund the remainder. The solar facility will be constructed adjacent to the treatment plant.
“It [the solar facility] highlights the intent of what this [block grant] is supposed to do, it’s a way that we are able to leverage the dollars from the Department of Energy with other funding sources to do something that is not just fully funded by the federal stimulus package, it’s a portion of the funding,” said Steven Teglia, Bakersfield administrative analyst with the city manager’s office.
The city expects the solar facility to help support the larger blower motors that the expanded wastewater treatment plant will run off of, as well as assist the city in keeping its annual budget within reality.
“When I plan for costs, I can have a smaller amount in there [the budget] for annual electricity costs,” Chianello said. “It certainly would have a positive impact on the rates.”
City officials hope to have the solar facility complete to coincide with the completion of the wastewater treatment plant expansion in 2010. The next step is to get the application into the DOE and then contract out for construction – the city of Bakersfield currently has no staff that can implement such a project.
Teglia said this demonstrates how this block grant is helping to “stimulate” the economy.
“This is just one isolated project, but you would not have roughly a $7 million investment in this renewable energy plan for this facility and you would not have the jobs that go along with the contractors that come in to design and construct the facility,” Teglia said.
Both Teglia and Chianello hope to contract out to local energy companies, following an application approval.
“Given our proximity to the L. A. area, to Fresno, when we put that request for proposal out, there may be contractors in other areas that apply as well,” Teglia said.
The city of Santa Clarita has been allocated $1.5 million through the Energy Efficiency and Block Grant Program.
The funding will be used to support five programs: retrofitting of lights on bridges to induction style lighting ($550,000); energy efficiency upgrades to the new Newhall library ($500,000); implementation of a 35-gallon trash container for a volume-based rate program available to city residents ($102,640); UV air conditioning coils for city facilities ($100,000); and a green energy incentive program for city businesses ($313,160).
Santa Clarita Director of Public Works Robert Newman said these specific projects will demonstrate leadership.
“We looked at a full cross sectioning of how can we best use this funding and demonstrate energy efficiency. Through a city standpoint how do we show leadership, how do we get other people to do that; you’ve got to demonstrate that that technology works,” Newman said.
Santa Clarita, like Bakersfield, is in the process of preparing to meet the June 25 deadline for the block grant.
Newman points to the green incentive program for city businesses as the most important of the five programs.
“There is an opportunity through this funding that the Feds are making available through the energy efficiency program to provide onetime grant opportunities to local business,” Newman said.
The program will promote businesses to strive for energy efficiency.
“It could be in lighting, it could be in HVAC, it could be in another uses,” Newman said.
The other programs include replacing 800 metered bridge lights with a more energy efficient alternative bulb that would reduce energy costs by 50 percent, Newman said. The city will also encourage residents to decrease the amount of trash discarded by converting the current 96-gallon residential trash container to a 32-gallon container.
Newman said as a whole, the five programs will allow for doors to open on other potential projects.
“If we are spending less money on a monthly power bill it gives us money to do other programs,” he said.
The Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program was initially part of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, but it was first funded under the Reinvestment Act. For more information visit www.energy.gov/recovery/index.htm.