By Joey Gomez
A ribbon cutting for new solar panels at the city’s Lon C. Hill building on Tyler Avenue marks the the start of what will be a continual effort to be more conservation minded, according to city leaders.
Through an $87,500 Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant given to the city to fund the panel installation, officials estimate that the project will reduce the energy consumption by at least 33 percent for the building, which is an adjunct city hall facility that houses the city’s planning department and parks department.
“I think this is a good start. We are currently a leader in that arena, and we will try our best to continue to look at ways to be green,” Boswell said. “As a matter of fact Harlingen had a component to try and find additional ways the city can be more conservation minded, green if you will, and of course I think is an outstanding initiative and yes it’s part of what I think will be a continual commitment by the city.”
Representatives from the U.S. Department of Energy, Schneider Electric, American Electric Power (AEP), and Harlingen were present at the ribbon cutting, which took place on June 24.
Schneider, which has worked with the city since 2004 to reduce energy costs to city facilities, acted as the general contractor for the project. Harlingen is the first to champion for these type of projects in the Valley, but there have been others across the state and country, according to company spokespersons.
“We sure hope that this inspires other cities and municipalities to look towards energy conservation and renewable projects like this that are not only environmentally friendly intitiatives, but also economically responsible as well,” said Jeff Sherman, Schneider regional manager, whose district includes Texas and other states in the southcentral region. “They (Harlingen) are utilizing incentives and grant dollars to put money back into the city operation budget. My hope is that this is just a sign of things to come for the Valley.”
Energy conservation projects in Harlingen have been in place for quite some time, since at least 2003 when the city converted traffic signals to LED lighting, according to Boswell.
The city is anticipating a significant impact when they welcome the opening of the Valley’s first LEED gold-certified building at Texas State Technical College in August.
The certification means that the structure was designed and built using environmentally friendly features aimed at improving performance in energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, stewardship of resources, and sensitivity to their impacts.
The certification is based on the U.S. Green Building Council’s Commercial Interiors v2009 point rating system.
“U.S. communities are upgrading schools, courthouses, police stations, office buildings, libraries, community centers…you name it, we are upgrading it,” said Chris Galm, communications and marketing specialist with the U.S. Department of Energy, who was present at the ribbon cutting.
A total of 91other Texas communities have received a total of $208.9 million to develop, promote, implement and manage local energy efficiency projects, Galm said.
“The best part is these projects are replicable, cost effective and are creating good jobs from Augusta, Maine to Anchorage, Alaska to right here in Harlingen,” he said. “We congratulate you taking this important step to improving your energy efficiency.”