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Cape panel reviews $2.6M in possible energy-saving projects, including new high school

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Cape panel reviews $2.6M in possible energy-saving projects, including new high school

CAPE ELIZABETH — The town's Alternative Energy Committee began review Tuesday of a town-wide energy audit that recommends $2.6 million in possible renovations.

The committee is scheduled to meet in a workshop with the Town Council May 14, when it plans to have a prioritized list of recommended building upgrades. Tuesday's discussion included  the possibility of including long-term goals for replacing the high school.

While committee members recognized the political difficulties in suggesting a new $40 million to $60 million high school building, they also wanted town officials and citizens to realize the inefficiency of the current building, which was built in 1969, and the cost of continuing to sink money into the 40-year-old structure.

The energy audit, done by private company CM3, showed the high school to be the most inefficient town building, according to committee members. The audit listed recommended upgrades to the building and their estimated costs, along with how many years it would take for energy savings to pay back those costs.

High school upgrades recommended included upgrading and recommissioning boiler controls ($142,000 with a nine-year payback), replacing the current boilers and adding a biomass boiler ($1 million with a 12-year payback), pool replacement ($184,000 with a 47-year payback), and adding insulation ($55,000 with a six-year payback).

Similar upgrades were recommended for other town buildings at varying costs with varying payback periods

The individual upgrade with the shortest payback period would be replacement of boiler controls at the police station – with an up-front cost of $5,000, it would save nearly $1,500 a year for a three-year payback. The upgrade with the longest payback is the pool replacement, saving $4,000 a year for 47 years before the cost would be paid off.

The single largest savings would come from changing the lighting in all buildings. After an initial cost of $733,000, it would take just over six years to pay back with the help of $18,000 from Efficiency Maine.

But some upgrades are not feasible, according to committee members, because individually they'd outdate future building replacements. 

Committee member Alan Lishness suggested they recommend investing only in what's justifiable in the next few years, especially with the high school. "We're looking for bridging investments to get us to an energy-efficient building" in the future, he said.

The committee will do work over the next few weeks to seek out other alternatives, such as using solar-thermal energy in the pool rather than replacing it, and replacing one of the two high school boilers while keeping one for backup.  It will also seek input from CM3 and possibly other companies about more "envelope" upgrades, which would focus more on building insulation than mechanical upgrades.

They'll also have Facilities Manager Ernie MacVane go through the list and help prioritize items, as well as offer further suggestions. Committee member Wyman Briggs acknowledged MacVane's extensive knowledge of town buildings, and suggested the committee might use the CM3 audit "to provide (MacVane with) leverage" in making energy-efficiency upgrades around town.

MacVane has already done a lot to find savings for both the town and School Department, School Board member Kathy Ray said at the meeting. She added he has been working off an audit performed 10 years ago.

The committee also hopes to seek federal stimulus funds for some upgrades, though little is yet known about the extent of money that might be available.

The committee will meet May 14 at 7:30 p.m. with the Town Council to discuss the audit and possible recommendations. Any future decisions regarding actual upgrades would have to be OK'd by the Town Council after public input.

Sarah Trent can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 108 or strent@theforecaster.net.

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