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Washington County officials will identify energy cost savings

Washington County officials are taking a good look at the county’s energy consumption, and how to find ways to become more energy efficient.

Still in draft format, a new Energy Plan for Internal Operations is being developed by county staff. Washington County Director of Public Works Don Theisen brought the draft to the Washington County Board of Commissioners at an Aug. 4 workshop. 

Full details in the plan are still being developed, Thiesen said, but when it is complete, it will be a working document that will help guide all of the county’s energy decisions in the future. 

“Energy overlaps on everything the county does,” he said. “This isn’t going to sit on the shelf. This is an effort to develop guidelines and strategies to help move Washington County forward.”

The effort is funded through a federal Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant, issued by the Department of Energy. The plan includes energy use considerations for county buildings, transportation and vehicles, waste, water and energy policy. 

In 2010, Thiesen said, nearly 60 percent of the county’s energy costs came from buildings. Another 31 percent came from transportation. 

The numbers are the most recent available, he said, but also give the county a good baseline on how to proceed with reduction targets. As such, the county has been able to set a few benchmarks to reach by 2017: reduce energy use by 10 percent; reduce transportation energy use by 2 percent; and reduce waste disposal by 10 percent. 

The 2010 numbers did not include water use, but a target to do so will be established through the energy plan, Thiesen said. 

Cost savings are a consideration for many of the initiatives. What those cost savings may be, though, has not been determined yet. 

Solar energy

Using the 2010 numbers as a baseline, the plan also aims to increase alternative energy use by 1 percent by 2017. One of the ways Thiesen hopes the county can achieve this is through solar energy.

Earlier in July, Thiesen and Building Services Assistant Manager Erik Jalowitz introduced the idea of signing on to a Community Solar Garden (CSG), available through the Metropolitan Council. 

The Community Solar Gardens are being built by energy providers, but facilitated through the Met Council. Counties and cities have the option to submit a request for proposal, to ask to participate in the program. There is a fixed subscription fee to participate.

Both Hennepin and Ramsey counties have already signed up for participation in the CSG. Washington County submitted its request to be included to the Met Council in late July. 

The county applied to have up to 50 percent of its total electrical load covered through the solar garden program. Realistically, Thiesen said, Washington County may get about 20 to 30 percent of its request. 

Washington County will learn how much of its request is granted in October.

Michelle Leonard

Michelle Leonard joined the Woodbury Bulletin staff in November, 2014, after 14 years covering news for the Bulletin's sister publication, the Farmington Rosemount Independent Town Pages.  Michelle earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Mass Communications: News-Editorial from Mankato State University in 1991. She is an active member of the American Legion Auxiliary Clifford Larson Unit 189 of Farmington, and served as the 2014-15 Third District President to the American Legion Auxiliary Department of Minnesota. Michelle is also the volunteer coordinator for the Minnesota Newspaper Museum which is open annually during the Minnesota State Fair. She has earned Minnesota Newspaper Association awards in Investigative Reporting, Local News Coverage, Feature Photography and Column Writing. 

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