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Cities use federal grant to ‘Share Good Energy’

Website provides forum to exchange energy-saving ideas


A collaboration among four Greater Des Moines cities has led to some creative energy-saving projects and a new online resource for sharing best practices.

Share Good Energy (www.sharegoodenergy.org) is a campaign to encourage energy efficiency in homes and businesses by demonstrating what Central Iowa cities are doing to reduce energy consumption. The cities of Ankeny, Des Moines, Urbandale and West Des Moines received a $1.1 million federal energy efficiency community block grant earlier this year, the majority of which will be used to fund municipal energy-saving projects. A portion of the funds was used to develop the website.

The idea of sharing best practices came about as the four cities were applying for the funding, said John Konior, an assistant to the city manager who is coordinating the project. “The biggest thing we found is that sharing information was the best way to avoid pitfalls and to find new ways of doing things,” he said. “So we wanted to share our ideas and allow others to share their ideas.”

Each city government was allocated a portion of the block grant based on its population, and will provide in-kind staff time toward the projects. Hanser & Associates Inc. developed the campaign as well as the website, which was launched in mid-July.

Though the projects have been geared to municipalities, “I would say all four areas can be applied to businesses,” Konior said. “Depending on what type of business you have, there are often payback periods of less than five years through efficiency savings. The thing we’ve learned is that it’s best to work with your utility company, because they have incentive programs and rebates available.”

One of the requirements of the federal grant is that the cities will report energy savings on a quarterly basis to the U.S. Department of Energy, including the estimated jobs created, greenhouse gas reductions and dollar savings.

Here are a few of the projects the cities have completed:

The city of Urbandale installed Vending Miser efficiency devices to its facility vending machines. The units use infrared sensors to power down a vending machine when the surrounding area is unoccupied. The units, which reduce average electric usage by nearly 50 percent, cost between $150 and $200. The city used energy savings along with MidAmerican Energy rebates to fund the installations.

The city of West Des Moines installed light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs in its streetscape and parking lot lights in Valley Junction this summer. The retrofit project will reduce energy consumption for lighting in the area by 50 percent, which will save an estimated $2,210 per year in the parking lots alone. The projected payback period of the project is between six and eight years.

The city of Des Moines is replacing windows at City Hall and the police station. Replacing the single-pane windows, which were installed in the 1970s, is expected to reduce energy use in the buildings by as much as 20 percent. Eighty percent of the $1.78 million project will be paid from the federal block grant, with the remainder from city general obligation bonds. Both projects are expected to be completed by mid-November.

The city of Ankeny, using $22,000 of its grant funding, created an internal revolving loan fund for energy-efficiency projects. Its first project was the purchase of a fuel-efficient Ford Fusion hybrid vehicle for the police department. Three additional hybrid vehicles are on order and will replace traditional gasoline vehicles. The Fusion replaced a Chevrolet Tahoe and is expected to generate fuel savings of $1,300 annually, as well as reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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