AUGUSTA — A revised proposal to make some large city buildings more energy efficient would still be partially powered by the sun, but now financed by the city.

Councilors will consider the new proposal when they meet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in council chambers at Augusta City Center.

The initial proposal would have had private companies purchase, install and continue to own energy-saving heating systems including solar hot air panels at the Augusta Civic Center, Augusta City Center and Buker Community Center. The companies would have owned and been responsible for maintaining the equipment in the buildings, with the city committing to purchase the energy the systems created in a long-term power purchase contract.

Now, however, New England Energy Solutions and Revolution Energy are proposing a similar project but with a more conventional financing method, in which the city would lease-purchase the equipment and pay off the debt over 20 years. The city, not the companies, would own the equipment.

“In the original proposal, they’d put in the systems and we’d agree to purchase the energy they produce at a fixed price,” said Ralph St. Pierre, assistant city manager and finance director. “With this, the city would own the equipment from day one. If it still makes sense, we’ll take a look at it.”

St. Pierre said the new proposal could be better for the city in that it would own the equipment and the deal appears to have a better potential payback for the city than the previous proposal. And the city would not be locked into a power purchase agreement.

In the new proposal, the city would finance $1.85 million over 20 years. The efficiency upgrades are projected, based upon current fuel prices and an assumption those costs will increase about 4 percent each year, to save $144,000 a year, with the cost of the project being paid back with savings within 13 years.

The efficiency upgrades would include a 4,000-square-foot solar hot air system of panels on the Augusta Civic Center wall facing the University of Maine at Augusta and Maine Municipal Association building.

At Buker Community Center, what St. Pierre describes as a highly inefficient steam boiler would be replaced with a hot water heating system fueled first by propane and then converted to natural gas if and when that fuel becomes available through a proposed new pipeline into Augusta. St. Pierre said a wood pellet boiler was considered for Buker but rejected because the cost was too high to provide a good enough payback.

And at Augusta City Center, oil burners would be replaced with a micro turbine, a gas-condensing boiler, and other efficiency improving equipment, and new heat pumps and a new cooling tower would be installed to replace equipment that has been in the building since it was built, in the 1980s.

The proposal was revised by the companies involved, not the city, St. Pierre said. Revolution Energy’s owner could not be reached for comment on why the proposal was changed Tuesday.

Councilors are also scheduled to:

* Discuss a proposed Demolition Delay Ordinance, which could require public notification before some significant old buildings could be torn down;

* hear an update on the former Statler Tissue site;

* discuss changes to the by-laws of the city’s dog park;

* consider changes to the policy manual for the local CTV-7 television broadcasts;

* discuss a request for a beer garden;

* discuss applying for a 2012 Firefighter’s Assistance Grant.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647

[email protected]

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