CHAPEL HILL – This weekend will be the last NC sales tax holiday with the Energy Star qualified products tax exemption.
The Energy Star tax holiday began right after midnight on Friday and will continue until 11:59 p.m. Sunday night. The holiday applies to Energy Star labeled washers, refrigerators, freezers, air conditioners, and more.
Matt Schumann is the co-owner of Kitchen and Bath Galleries in Chapel Hill. He says the tax-free weekend brings a lot of business to their store.
“We do about two months of business in two days,” he says. “It’s a good shot in the arm–stimulates our business.”
(Kitchen and Bath in Chapel Hill will not be open on Sunday, so Schumann’s encouraging people to come out before 4:00 p.m. Saturday.)
Elsewhere in Chapel Hill, Lowe’s assistant manager Howie Milligan says the weekend brings in more people, but the main impact of the tax exemption is to spread awareness and knowledge on energy conservation.
The Energy Star tax holiday is in its sixth and final year. Schumann says although this will be the last year of the Energy Star tax holiday they expect to continue sales in future years.
“Certainly I think we’ll lose a little of that business, but…in the long run I think it will all even out, and I think sales will continue on the same pace,” he says.http://chapelboro.com/news/business/last-nc-sales-tax-holiday-ends-this-weekend/
CARRBORO – Piedmont Electric Membership Corporation has begun evaluating the effectiveness of light emitting diode (LED) street and security lighting as a replacement for current lights in Carrboro.
Existing lights use either mercury vapor (MV) or high pressure sodium (HPS). A member from Piedmont Electric, Richard Mabbott, says that there a few lights in Anderson Park that they want to use to test different LED lights.
“What we want to do is replace some of those fixtures, about four of those fixtures, the 100 watt high pressure sodiums (HPS), with LED fixtures, and the one 250 watt high pressure sodium in the dog area with a 160 watt LED fixture” Mabbott says.
Replacing some of the existing HPS fixtures located in Anderson Park with LED fixtures will be at no cost to the Town of Carrboro until the evaluation is completed.
While evaluating the lights, Piedmont will monitor for efficiency, reliability, coverage and quality of the light compared to the current ones. Mabbott says they may put up signs in the park to let people know and to gain feedback from those who use the park.
“There has been some discussion about maybe some signage to inform folks on what’s going on, and solicit their input as it relates to what they think about the quality of light,” Mabbott commentes. “could just try to get feedback from the users of the park.”
LED outdoor and roadway lighting has the potential to reduce energy use by half and reduce our carbon footprint by more than 1,500 tons in carbon emissions. Mabbott says that although the LED’s will save on energy, there could be higher maintenance costs when finding the right LED fixture.
“Hopefully use about half the energy as the high pressure sodium light (HPS) and would have the effect of reducing the carbon footprint about half.” Mabbott claims. “There’s savings in energy, but the fixtures cost more, and we’re not exactly sure how that’s going to shake out until we determine what a good fixture is.”
This project at Anderson Park is just one of the many test sites around Piedmont’s territory that will help determine what effective LED fixture may be used.http://chapelboro.com/news/business/piedmont-to-start-testing-led-lights-in-anderson-park/
CHAPEL HILL – The UNC Board of Governors is working to cut energy and water costs for the schools to make a more efficient system and President Tom Ross says the schools are making small changes to save big.
“You may recall that our strategic plan identifies some key areas of work, like including energy-related research, analysis, instruction, and outreach, where with targeted investments UNC, we believe, can make a real and meaningful difference,” Ross says.
The UNC system averages $225 million per year on energy and water costs. Since last year the university system has saved $63 million in energy costs and $13.7 million in water costs. Since the 2002-2003 school year the total equals $297 million in savings.
System wide, the schools have managed to cut electricity by 20 percent and water by 40 percent, and President Ross says there are more plans to continue making the University more efficient.
“To date, this board has authorized 15 guaranteed energy performance projects across the system,” Ross says. “Ten of these projects are currently under contract producing energy savings of more than $10 million per year.”
Current energy sources can be costly in terms of money and for the environment. The UNC system has often been at the forefront of innovation and new ideas, and energy is no different. Ross says that UNC will stay at the forefront when dealing with energy and water to improve the system.
“Recognizing that most sources of easily accessible energy are limited and that many are non-renewable, the plan calls for UNC to be in the forefront, in collaboration with private industry and non-profit organizations and making discoveries that will fuel our state and the world in the future,” Ross says.
The University schools have worked to reduce costs of energy and water by substantial amounts. However, Ross says that they will continue to work and cut costs for expenses like water and energy.
“But we know we can do more, and we have as a collective goal in our university system to save $1 billion over the next 20 years in water and energy costs,” Ross says. “And while the financial savings are important, we will also be helping to preserve our natural and environmental resources for future generations. “Water, for example, is, we believe, the new precious metal, and we have to be sure its preserved as a public asset and that we protect our water supplies and find new ways to reduce consumption.”
UNC has implemented many ways to conserve water, like grey water in the bathrooms. The University says plans like these will continue to appear as it works to conserve resources.http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/unc-bog-discuss-energy-and-water-saving/
CHAPEL HILL- UNC’s Carolina North project is one step closer to being completed, now that a generator has been installed at the site to convert landfill methane gas into electricity.
“This is kind of a partnership with Orange County,” says UNC Director of Energy Service Phil Barner. “Methane is a big greenhouse gas, and it has some value, if there’s enough of it, to put in an engine and make electricity. We did a feasibility analysis, and it looked like it had some promise.”
The project will use leftover methane gas from the Orange County landfill, which is set to close on June 30. The undertaking is part of a larger plan to eliminate UNC’s carbon footprint over the next several decades.
In order to obtain the gas, Barner says his team used a process involving wells.
“We put in a system of wells in both the north and south landfill, we cleaned it up by getting the moisture out of it, and we can flare what we don’t use,” he says.
Orange County Solid Waste Management Director Gayle Wilson says this project will be particularly useful once Carolina North’s buildings are actually constructed.
“At some point in the future, whenever there’s a building constructed on the Horace Williams track, that power will be used to power the facilities there.”
For now, the electricity is being sold to Duke Energy.
Upon its completion, the Carolina North project will span over 250 acres near the Horace Williams Airport site, two miles away from UNC’s main campus; it’s slated to be used for both academic and research purposes.
Barner says the generator portion of the project will cost between $1 million and $3 million.http://chapelboro.com/news/unc/carolina-north-adds-gas-converting-generator-to-plan/
Forgive me for the title. I do love a pun but when it’s particularly apt, well, I just can’t resist.
This post is about some of the work being done by the Town of Chapel Hill to cut costs during this difficult budget time. But, as explained by Energy Management Specialist Brian Callaway, it’s cost-cutting in a way most of us won’t necessarily notice.
Aside from the budgetary benefit, which I’ll outline in a moment, you may have already experienced the first large scale change in our public facilities if you park in the Wallace Deck. The lights there are always on and in May of last year, the town switched the stairwell bulbs to LED’s, which use less energy but also give off a crisp, white light. While the LED bulbs cost more to buy, they last longer so replacement cost is down, as is the maintenance cost because they need to be replaced less often. Callaway says the town is on track to be paid back for this investment within seven years thanks to that savings. And, if we do notice the difference, it will be the better quality of light.
Not all of his work is that glamorous because some of what Callaway does is review the energy bills for the town’s various facilities and optimize the available rate structures to suit the facilities’ needs. This is more necessary now than ever before not only because of budgetary constraints but because the price of energy is rising and the town’s consumption has been increasing also. Those are two arrows pointing in the wrong direction and if Callaway can’t change their direction, perhaps he can slow their rate or even nudge their trajectory a bit.
Where else can we expect sustainable, energy-efficient change? Certainly, we’ll see more switching of outdoor lighting around town facilities and inside some as well, including the Aquatics Center. The town is also investigating the feasibility of battery-operated electric buses. I got instantly excited at the prospect of buses practically gliding along our streets but Callaway brought me back to reality reminding me that switching the town’s bus fleet wouldn’t just be expensive in the initial equipment cost. The town’s transit infrastructure would have to change to provide upkeep and maintenance of vastly different vehicles.
There’s another project being studied that might have just the right kind of trickle down effect (apologies to all economists everywhere): the town is trying to find a way to support solar investment for residents. Stay tuned for details on that.
Do you know any bright lights working on ideas for our future? I’d like to know about them so please share below or write to me at Donnabeth@Chapelboro.com. Also, leave a comment with any energy-saving ideas large or small.