Charleston going greener

Charleston has launched a nearly $10 million effort to improve the city government's energy efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The plan follows recent efforts by Mayor Joe Riley to find ways to address global warming, but Chief Financial Officer Steve Bedard said the energy efficiency measures would make sense on purely economic terms.

"It's really a no-brainer," Bedard said.

The initiative, similar to a smaller, $3.9 million plan the city undertook in 2001, is expected to pay for itself by cutting the city's electricity and natural gas needs.

The two energy efficiency plans together are expected to cut the city's energy use by 16 percent, reducing the city's carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 8,417 tons a year. According to Johnson Controls, the company handling the contract, that's the equivalent of taking 4,742 cars off the road.

The latest contract calls for installing high-efficiency LED fixtures in parking garages, upgrading lights and installing sensors in city buildings, installing solar

water-heating systems at the city's four swimming pools, replacing air handlers at Gaillard Auditorium and installing an irrigation-management system called WeatherTRAK that is expected to cut water use by up to 40 percent.

The solar water heaters, for example, are expected to cut energy bills and reduce global warming emissions, but also extend the swimming season at city pools. An irrigation system that automatically compensates for rainfall can save water, reduce costs and reduce runoff, but also improve the health of the plants by not over-watering.

Bedard said most of the work under the contract, which was approved Dec. 18, will take place in the first six months of 2008.