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Case Studies: Energy Efficient Municipal Facilities and Operations

Examples of Projects That Can Reduce Municipal Utility Bills

Note: All of the links on this page leave the DEC website.

The case studies on this page show projects, in New York and other states, that aim to improve energy efficiency in government facilities and programs and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG). New York State recognizes the leadership and achievements of communities that are working to provide efficient government services by reducing the role of carbon in our economy and environment.

Oswego County energy efficiency projects
Eight facilities in Oswego County are getting upgraded
lighting systems to save energy.
(Photo courtesy of Oswego County)

Communities designated with a star (*) are members of New York's Climate Smart Communities network (see Important Links at right). These case studies are part of the Climate Smart Communities Guide for Local Action. Communities are encouraged to report additional projects for recognition here (use the email and phone contacts shown at the lower right). Many of the case studies reference the strict and comprehensive green building rating and certification system devised by the US Green Building Council, named Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

Communities are Improving Energy Efficiency in Existing Municipal Buildings

Greener, Greater Building Plans is a benchmarking and action project for New York City's municipal and commercial buildings that will insure every city-owned structure in excess of 10,000 square feet (a total of nearly 2,800 structures) and every privately owned structure in excess of 50,000 square feet meets very strict energy efficiency requirements.

Upgrade the Building Envelope

The US Green Building Council offers details about building envelope upgrades and their money-saving results, nationwide. As an example, their Chicago website highlights the renovation of a 60 year old building to create a super insulated tight building envelope rated Platinum under the LEED Building Standards. Accomplished at a cost comparable to a conventional rehabilitation, the renovation saves approximately 45 percent in annual energy costs ($18,000 a year for a 15,000 square foot space) compared to a building constructed to code.

Upgrade Building Systems and Components

  • BUILD SMART, NY - A state initiative designed to accomplish Governor Cuomo's goal of improving energy efficiency in state buildings 20% by 2020. Over the next seven years, the program will measure building energy performance in all state buildings larger than 20,000 square feet. The largest and poorest performing buildings will be targeted for energy audits, energy efficiency upgrades, and best practices will be implemented for building operations and maintenance.
  • *Town of Red Hook, NY - Installed energy saving lights and programmable thermostat, and weatherized the doors in town hall. The town's website notes a recent achievement, completion of a greenhouse gas inventory.
  • *Town of Saugerties, NY - Performed energy audits on the old town hall and the senior center. As a result, lighting in the Justice Court has been upgraded and the oil furnace in the senior center replaced with a high efficiency gas furnace.
  • *Schenectady County, NY - With assistance from NYSERDA, the county performed energy audits of six county buildings in 2009. All recommendations from the audits either have been completed or are being done as part of the 2010 weatherization grant from RFP 10. A recently completed energy feasibility study on the ice rink shows potential for some significant savings.
  • *Village of Larchmont, NY - The village has upgraded the HVAC system in the library; installed new thermostats in the library and village center; installed new lighting in the North Tunnel and plan to upgrade other lights, pipes and add insulated doors.
  • *Village of Montebello, NY - An Energy Audit of municipal buildings was completed a couple of years ago, and lighting, insulation and Energy Star upgrades have since been completed, saving one third on the village's energy bill. Montebello is the first village municipality in Rockland County to install solar panels on a government building (village hall). The mayor estimates that the village netted about $3,000 in "returned electricity."
  • *Onondaga County, NY - In 2003, Onondaga County awarded an energy performance contract to audit and implement energy-related capital improvements at 25 of its largest energy using facilities (representing more than 80 percent of the county's annual energy usage). The county and contractor selected energy conservation measures that had favorable paybacks and implemented them: energy efficient lighting, HVAC and engines in several facilities. In addition, as part of a SUNY ESF study of the relative efficiencies of sustainable roofs, the county has installed four different types of sustainable roofs on identical buildings at the Onondaga County Correctional Facility.
  • *Potsdam, NY- Evergreen Park, a public housing development, was rehabilitated with energy efficiency measures, including Energy Star windows and energy efficient lighting fixtures, heaters and laundry machines. Profiled at Enterprise Green Communities.
  • *City of Albany, NY - 80 percent of the City Hall has converted to Compact Fluorescent Light bulbs ("CFLs"), resulting in savings of $85-$90 per CFL bulb.
  • *Town of Greenburgh, NY - After a New York Power Authority (NYPA) "walk-through" energy audit on all municipal buildings and a detailed energy audit on the Town Hall, the Town Hall was retrofitted with energy-efficient lighting and occupancy sensors and the Parks Department undertook to reduce carbon emissions by replacing windows with double glazing; installing insulation as part of building rehabilitations; installing electronic programmable thermostats and motion activated light switches and photo cell timers; replacing incandescent lights with compact fluorescents; lowering winter temperature settings for buildings and raising summer settings; installing a more efficient cooling unit in the Administration Building; retro-fitting greenhouse insulation panels and reducing the operating temperature by 10 degrees during the winter months. To view information on Greenburgh's community development and conservation follow the link and click on "Greening Greenburgh" on the left-hand side of their web page.
  • *Oswego County, NY - The county has initiated lighting and lighting systems upgrades to several county facilities.
  • Ventura County, CA - With the installation of two solar energy systems on County owned buildings generating over 700,000 kilowatt-hours of power each year, the county avoids 206 metric tons of GHG emissions.

Improve Electric Power Management

  • New York State - Under Executive Order No. 111 for Green and Clean State Buildings, state buildings are adopting the following power management practices: turning off office equipment when it is not being used; adjusting the setting of space temperatures; turning off lighting in unoccupied areas; inspecting and decommissioning or retuning heating, air conditioning and ventilation equipment to ensure optimal performance; cycling and restarting equipment on a staggered basis to shed electricity loads and minimize peak electricity-demand usage.
  • Buffalo, NY - A project team found that low-cost/no-cost measures could reduce city government's power consumption by 595,060 kWh annually, saving an estimated $71,000. Measures for city hall include turning off copiers and printers after hours; shortening the period of inactivity before copiers go into "sleep mode" during business hours; reminding staff to shut down personal computers, monitors, and other plug-load equipment during extended daytime absences; replacing inefficient appliances with ENERGY STAR® models; specifying an upcoming new copier lease bid to ensure energy efficient models installed and properly configured.

Financing Energy Efficiency Improvements in Existing Buildings

One important financing source that local governments are using to audit and retrofit buildings for energy efficiency is an energy-performance contract (EPC). An EPC is a comprehensive audit and energy upgrade of all buildings, conducted by an energy services company (sometimes referred to as an ESCO). Performance of the energy efficiency equipment/measures installed are guaranteed by the energy company and the costs of these measures are paid from the savings generated by the upgrades. Many other local governments are finding innovative methods to provide incentives for community retrofit projects. Recent case studies:

  • *Saratoga Springs, NY - An EPC estimated possible reductions in the city's total electric-energy consumption of 11 percent (495,188 kWh), and in natural gas use of 16 percent (3,105 decatherms), lowering greenhouse gas emissions for the city by 429 tons of CO2e annually.
  • Brattleboro, VT - Steps to and results from Brattleboro's EPC are highlighted in Clean Air-Cool Planet's online Community Toolkit.
  • Cambridge, MA - A city-sponsored non-profit organization, the Cambridge Energy Alliance (CEA) is investing over $100 million to enable energy-efficiency retrofits of half of all city buildings, and reduce electricity demand by 15 percent and annual GHG emissions by 150,000 tons (10 percent of city's total). Under the program, CEA participants (residents and businesses) will pay for efficiency and clean energy projects directly or through CEA-arranged financing for a term of up to ten years such that loan repayments are matched or exceeded by annual energy bill savings. No upfront costs will be required for such installations, and there will be no cost to Cambridge or state taxpayers.
  • *Town of Babylon, NY - In 2010 the Town received New York State's Environmental Excellence Award for its Long Island Green Homes (LIGH) project, the first municipally-administered and financed energy efficiency retrofit program in the nation. This incentive program began in 2008 using startup capital from its solid waste
    Three people standing in front of a house (the homeowners and the town supervisor) holding a Long Island Green Homes sign
    A Long Island Green Home (Courtesy of the Long
    Island Green Homes program)

    management fund. The program has resulted in more than 400 houses receiving energy efficient retrofits and the average participating homeowner saving over $1,000 annually in utility costs. Residents from the near-by environmental justice community of Wyandanch, NY are being trained in green jobs to provide a skilled workforce to the program's contractors. In the first two years, the project had saved 115,300 kilowatts of electricity, 75,485 gallons of oil, 29,000 cubic feet of natural gas and 2,421 gallons of propane - along with a reduction of 1,080 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.

Communities are Incorporating Energy Efficiency into New Municipal Buildings

  • *Town of Ossining, NY - Ossining's recently completed new public library is one of the first public buildings in New York State to be certified by LEED as meeting the Silver standard. The library uses geothermal energy to heat and cool the building, and sunlight provides up to 90 percent of the light needed. Materials for the structure were sourced within a 500 mile radius of the library, and the building's landscaping employs native plants that are drought and pest-resistant.
  • *Town of Greenburgh, NY - In late 2008, Greenburgh proudly opened the doors to its new town library. The design included energy efficiency and green building measures, including a new geothermal heating system. Reuse of the existing structure of the old library preserved materials that were already on site and in place in the old library (avoiding cost and energy use for purchase, shipping and installation), and reduced the amount of waste (which would have required energy to remove from the site and dispose, as well as space in a landfill).
  • New York State - Department of Environmental Conservation headquarters building in Albany, NY, incorporates state-of-the-art technology to minimize its impact on the environment. The innovative design and operation of the building qualified it for LEED Silver rating from the U.S Green Building Council. The building costs approximately 40 percent less to operate than a typical building this size. Recycled materials represent more than 50 percent in dollar value of the building materials used in the structure, with 20 percent of the building materials manufactured within a radius of 500 miles.
  • Enterprise Green Communities profiles green public housing projects nationwide, including three New York City new-development projects:
    • Intervale Green (Bronx) is the largest (128 units) affordable, multifamily high-rise building in the United States that is Energy Star-certified. The building is expected to use 33 percent less energy than a standard building. "Green" features include Energy Star lighting fixtures and appliances, low-e windows, tight air sealing and maximum insulation, recycled vinyl strip flooring and two green roofs. On the site, 35 new street trees and a half acre of new vegetation will help take up greenhouse gas emissions.
    • David & Joyce Dinkins Gardens (Harlem) includes homes for families earning less than 60 percent of the Area Median Income and youth aging out of foster care. Examples of green building innovations and materials: non-toxic and recycled construction materials; EnergyStar-rated appliances and light fixtures; a green roof with a rainwater harvesting system to be used to irrigate a community garden/outdoor classroom; permeable paving; natural day lighting; sun shading on the south-facing exposure; energy-efficient lighting.
    • Diversity Houses (Manhattan) will transform two vacant lots on East 2nd and East 3rd Streets into 44 affordable apartments for families. Green development can include environmentally friendly construction, energy efficiency, water conservation and healthier building materials.
  • Kitsap County, WA - The county's recently-opened administration building is a model for extremely efficient new building design: natural ventilation is used instead of air conditioning; lighting fixtures have sensors integrated within the control system; an under floor air distribution system will have an estimated life cycle cost savings of $175,000 to $330,000 compared to traditional HVAC systems. The building uses recycled material in the building such as carpet, gypsum wall board, rubber flooring and concrete.

Communities are Improving Treatment Plant Operating Efficiency and Conserving Energy

  • *City of Binghamton, NY - A 49.68 KW solar panel system at the City's water treatment plant is expected to save Binghamton taxpayers up to $560,000 over the
    Four long strips of solar panels on black roof
    Solar panel system at Binghamton's water treatment
    plant (Courtesy of the City of Binghamton)

    life of the system and eliminate more than 23 tons of carbon dioxide production annually by reducing the plant's yearly use of fossil fuels up to 12%. The estimated lifespan of the solar panel system is 25 years. Partially funded by a federal Recovery Act grant administered by NYSERDA, this is the first on-site renewable energy generation system for a city facility and includes 18 arrays of 204 photovoltaic modules. The water treatment plant serves 44,000 people.
    Contact: Amelia LoDolce, Sustainable Development Planner, phone (607) 772-7028, e-mail

  • *Town of Lewiston, NY - Two 30-kilowatt (kW) microturbines are providing about one-third of the electricity needed to run the Town of Lewiston Water Pollution Control Center, a wastewater treatment facility. Microturbines are small turbo-generators, fueled by natural gas or, as at Lewiston, by anaerobic digester gas (ADG).
    Two micro turbines and a heat exchanger sit on a concrete pad
    Two micro turbines and heat exchanger at Lewiston's wastewater
    treatment facility (Courtesy of the Town of Lewiston)

    ADG is a fuel that is produced through sewage treatment plant operations. This energy source provides both the electricity and heat used in the plant's digestion process. The microturbines will allow the town to save about $40,000 annually on its electric bill, and, by replacing a diesel-generator at the end of its useful life, will cut atmospheric emissions by 90 percent, or about 30 tons each year.
  • *City of Kingston, NY - Through a NYSERDA Flex Tech study in 2007 the City of Kingston completed an energy audit of 24 buildings and facilities including the wastewater treatment plant. As a result of the audit, the city entered into an energy performance contract and the WWTP received several process related upgrades. In 2010, these upgrades realized Kingston an annual electric savings of 946,518.1 kWh and a cost savings of $113,964. In addition, 295 tonnes CO2e3 were avoided which is equal to CO2 emissions from the consumption of 622 barrels of oil.
  • Gloversville-Johnstown (NY) Wastewater Treatment Facility is saving $175,000 annually on its energy bill. Converting a damaged floating cover in the anaerobic digestion and gas conversion facility to a fixed cover with a separate low-pressure gasholder is expected to pay for itself in a little over three years - and after that, the annual savings will continue.
  • Olympia, WA - A cogeneration system in a wastewater treatment plant uses methane gas from the sewage to fuel the system. The system is expected to save $228,000 per year in utility costs.
  • City of Ventura, CA - The Water Reclamation Facility produces over 2 million kilowatt-hours of electricty annually with renewable waste gas cogeneration. This is about 20% of the facility's energy use.

Communities are Improving Energy Efficiency in Local Government Services

Street Lighting

  • *Town of Ossining, NY - The town replaced inefficient street lighting with low energy bulbs.
  • City of Ventura, CA - The upgrade of 500 street lights with light emitting diode (LED) lamps saved 400,000 kilowatt-hours of electricty.

Traffic Signals

  • New York - According to NYSERDA's Existing Facilities Program, at least 15 local governments throughout New York have upgraded to LED traffic signals with state incentives. Participation in the Existing Facilities program reduced simple payback by up to one year.
  • Saratoga Springs, NY - The City of Saratoga Springs estimates that replacing 156 traffic signals would yield an electric-energy savings of 190,221 kWh and $14,763 annually, a reduction of 1,409,511 lbs of CO2e. NYSERDA estimates that the overall potential energy savings for New York State at 230 million kWhs, which would reduce CO2e emissions by 108,062 tons annually.
  • Rome, NY - The City of Rome upgraded 46 traffic signals to LEDs (light emitting diode systems) as part of a larger lighting-upgrade project that included ten city buildings. The LEDs themselves were estimated to cost $226,339 after a NYSERDA incentive and save $17,513 annually. By incorporating the LED project into lighting upgrades for ten city buildings, the total project cost of all lighting upgrades was $667,982 after the NYSERDA incentive, with an annual cost savings of $107,492 for a simple payback period of 6.2 years. In total, the project is expected to save 710,241 kW h annually or almost 700,000 lbs CO2e.
  • Portland OR - In the past 10 years, the City of Portland has cut energy bills by nearly $10 million under its City Energy Challenge. The basics of the program include identifying energy-saving opportunities, assisting in securing project funding and providing technical assistance, including facility energy audits, project bids, cost-benefit analyses, and product testing.

Trash Collection

Albany, NY - The City of Albany expects to substantially reduce its greenhouse gas emissions associated with trash collection by the installation of 100 solar trash compactors throughout the city. These new compactors contain computer chips and software that triggers a text message when full alerting the need for a pick up. "Instead of stopping at 100 trash cans every day, our workers only have to stop at 3 or 4. Everything from gas to man power turns into savings," said Dan DiLillo, assistant commissioner of General Service for the City of Albany. The compactors were funded by an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant from the United States Department of Energy.

Community Maintenance

City of Ventura, CA - Solar panels installed at the City Maintenance Yard produce 45% of its electricity needs equating to about 180,000 kilowatt hours per year.