AUGUSTA — City officials anticipate a $58,000 study will find enough potential energy savings in several large city buildings not only to pay for the study, but also the efficiency upgrades themselves.

A previous study recommended energy efficiency improvements the city is currently having installed. The city is borrowing about $2 million to improve the energy efficiency of the Augusta Civic Center, Augusta City Center and Buker Community Center. The changes, which include converting building boilers from oil to natural gas, are projected to save the city $83,000 a year, or $1.7 million over the next 20 years, including the cost of paying back the loan that will pay for the work. The work was recommended in a $52,000 study, completed last year, which was similar to the $58,000 study unanimously approved by city councilors late last week.

Councilors expect the new study potentially will find more energy improvements at City Center, Augusta Civic Center, Lithgow Public Library, all of the city’s fire stations, the police station, and all the buildings at the public works complex that will result in enough energy savings to pay for the study, the improvements, and then some.

“We’re not just trying to spend money; we’re trying to actually invest into the infrastructure,” said Councilor Jeffrey Bilodeau. “It will basically pay for itself and start potentially saving us money in the long term. The goal of this is to save money, save taxpayers’ money.”

The upgrades to be looked into will include switching boilers at multiple sites to ones capable of heating with natural gas, solar power and other systems, ways to conserve water, and the potential for microturbines.

The microturbines to be studied for possible use in city buildings would produce both electricity and heat, according to Facilities and Systems Manager Bob LaBreck.

The devices use small jet-engine like turbines to produce electricity. The turbines also produce heat, so they are cooled with water. The water heated by cooling the turbines is then used to help heat the building where the turbine is located, LaBreck said.

“The microturbine is a combined heat/power unit,” LaBreck said. “It will produce electricity for us. In (City Center) it will produce about half the electricity we use annually.”

LaBreck said the microturbine being considered for City Center would also produce enough heat for approximately three-quarters of the heating season, with supplemental heat to be provided by a proposed new natural gas boiler on the coldest days.

The feasibility study, to be overseen by Brunswick-based New England Energy Solutions, would also include an estimate of the payback period for the anticipated savings to accumulate enough funds to pay for the cost of the upgrades.

If any of the potential projects aren’t projected to save at least enough to cover the cost of doing them, they’ll be removed from the study, LaBreck said.

The $58,000 cost of the study would be rolled into the financing for the energy efficiency upgrades if the city decides to have the work done. If the city does not have the work done, it would still have to pay for the study.

Keith Edwards — 621-5647
[email protected]

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