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Cedar Hill City Hall goes solar, while Dallas City Hall conjures way to embrace the gas industry

November 26, 2011

 

 

 

Cedar Hill, Texas has chosen to go solar at the city government center as reported in the Dallas News.  Once again, Cedar Hill has become the leader in Dallas county southern sector forward thinking. For years now, the population that once was the back bone of southern Dallas has not only migrated south to the Cedar Hill area, but has also created the new and abundant retail development that continues to grow by leaps and bounds.

Now, Cedar Hill city government has chosen to go ‘solar’ at it’s government center. Seems like once again, the smaller communities figure out how to create a better way of living while the bigger cities such as Dallas cannot see the ‘forest for the trees’. Or in the case of Dallas, cannot see the trees because WalMart and other industries want to kill them off.

Take a look, then ask Mayor Mike of Dallas, why Dallas cannot do the same?

 

DallasNews.Com

CEDAR HILL — The exterior of Cedar Hill’s government center is rose-colored limestone, but there’s a lot of green inside.

A bird’s-eye view of the building reveals 480 rooftop solar panels that have been supplying the municipal, police and school district offices below with enough electricity to power 14 or 15 average-size homes.

City officials say the $1.2 million system was built with the assistance of federal, state and utility programs, and cost the city just $21,000. The solar energy system is on track to pay back the taxpayer investment by its anniversary in July.

“It goes into powering the building so we pull less power from the grid,” said Assistant City Manager Melissa Stephens. “Our electricity bills are essentially lower than they were this time last year.”

Cedar Hill’s municipal and school district offices were moved into a new government center in 2008 to allow the agencies to share building operating expenses. Two years ago, the city applied for federal economic stimulus funding, $40,000 of which was used for an energy conservation master plan.

“That’s when this whole idea started stirring,” Stephens said. “We thought it was a great opportunity for us because we have such a mass of space on top of this building.”

The government center consolidated numerous city and school district buildings into a 117,000-square-foot complex.

City planners had originally set a goal of receiving up to $250,000 in grants over five years for the master energy-conservation effort, but they were able to fund all but $21,000 of the solar project with grants and rebates.

“And this, by far, blew that out of the water,” Stephens said.

The solar project reduces the government center’s electric consumption by about 8 percent, Stephens said. It will cut the government center’s carbon dioxide emissions by 279,098 pounds each year, the equivalent of planting 35 acres of trees or removing 24 vehicles from the roads, according to Cedar Hill calculations.

“We viewed it as a way to illustrate to the community the importance of renewable energy,” Stephens said. “It’s pretty significant when you have a one-year return on investment.”

Vital to growth

Alternative energy projects like the one in Cedar Hill are important to the state’s economic growth, said Oncor spokeswoman Catherine Cuellar.

“It both improves both our air quality and it enables more businesses to come here and hire people,” Cuellar said. “It’s important because anything we can do to diversify the sources of energy makes it more stable.”

Oncor is a distribution and transmission business and does not generate electricity.

Cedar Hill received $950,000 from the Department of Energy and $165,000 from an Oncor’s “Take a Load Off, Texas” photovoltaic incentive program.

Demand for the Oncor program has been high. The company has already allocated the $19.4 million it budgeted for the three-year program that was to last through 2012, Cuellar said. Programs receiving the solar funds include 40 municipalities and two counties.

Gauging the benefits

Cedar Hill is creating an “energy dashboard” that will allow people to monitor the city’s green energy production online or through a touch-screen monitor in the government center lobby. Plans are to display the green energy production by various measures, including dollars saved and reduced carbon dioxide emissions.

“You will be able to see, minute by minute or month by month, the production level at any time,” Stephens said.

Cedar Hill is working on other environmental projects, including the city’s first electricity-generating wind turbine, Stephens said. In addition to adding electric power to the government center grid, the 4.4-kilowatt wind turbine will allow people to see and experience the renewable energy systems at one location.

The wind turbine is projected to save the city about $500 a year, Stephens said.

“It doesn’t have a huge return on investment; however, we feel it does have a huge return on the ability to educate,” Stephens said. “You can see it, touch it.”

The turbine is being purchased with a $50,000 State Energy Conservation Office grant and $12,500 in matching city funds, or about the cost of a streetlight, Stephens said.

“We really wanted this project as an illustration of another form of clean, renewable energy,” she said. “This project will not have a huge financial benefit to the city, but … is a statement that we are trying various types of renewable energy.”

In December, the government center will install four charging stations for electric vehicles — two for municipal and school district vehicles and two for public use. The total cost of the charging stations, $8,620, is covered by a grant through Ecotality Inc. of San Francisco.

Looking ahead

Cedar Hill council member Stephen Mason said the city’s efforts in alternative energy fit well with growing interest he has observed as president of Mas-Tek Engineering & Associates.

“My trade is always green initiatives, green building and how can we build from a green perspective,” he said.

Mason said he is especially happy about Cedar Hill’s plans to buy two electric cars.

“I didn’t really think we were going to see anything this quick, and here it is,” he said. “I am really amazed at how quick that we are able to have this opportunity.”

Eventually, the city would like to install solar trash compactors in city parks. The solar-powered cans would compact trash as it is deposited and email or text the parks department when they are full and need to be collected.

Cedar Hill is interested in adding solar power to its other buildings, including the library, fire stations, as well as panels at the government center that would double as covered parking spaces.

“Once those funds become available again, we are going to be competing,” Stephens said.

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