Valdosta recognized for solar power, LED lighting, wastewater improvements

City of Valdosta PR today 5 December 2014, Valdosta Named “Smart Energy Municipality of the Year”,

The City of Valdosta was named “Smart Energy Municipality of the Year” by the Technology Association of Georgia (TAG) on Dec. 4, at an awards banquet held at the Georgia Tech Wardlaw Building in Atlanta, Ga. The event recognized successful individuals, businesses and municipalities who have shown dynamic leadership over the past year in Georgia’s large and growing Smart Energy sector.

Sixty nominations were received collectively in the three categories. In the municipality category, which includes cities, counties and state government agencies, the City of Valdosta was one of two finalists and the overall recipient of the award ” the other finalist was the Georgia Department of Corrections.

“We are extremely honored to have been selected for this award,” said City Manager Larry Hanson. “The City of Valdosta has consistently sought out energy-saving initiatives that demonstrate stewardship of our natural resources. We are a strong supporter of smart energy technology, and we consistently pursue efficiencies to optimize our operations. Utilizing cost-effective investments and creative conservation measures, our goal to reduce our energy consumption needs by 10 percent will soon be a reality.”

Hanson accepted the award on behalf of the city and presented Valdosta’s most recently implemented energy-efficient and demand-management strategies, which include:

  • In partnership with the Valdosta-Lowndes County Development Authority, a 20-year lease was negotiated with Sterling Energy Assets and Hannah Solar, LLC, in 2011, to develop a 0.35 megawatt solar array on open city property located near its Mud Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. The project represented a $1,750,000 capital investment by Sterling Energy Assets and Hannah Solar in equipment and construction. Electricity generated at the site is purchased by the Georgia Power Company under a 20-year purchase agreement.
  • In 2013, again in partnership with the Valdosta- Lowndes County Development Authority, the city was approached by companies specializing in the development of renewable/ sustainable energy projects proposing to develop and operate a solar photovoltaic facility in response to the Georgia Power Company Advanced Solar Initiative (GPASI), approved by the Georgia Public Service Commission. After review of proposals submitted by each company, Hannah Solar was again selected to construct and operate another solar array facility on remaining available land near the Mud Creek facility. A 20- to 30-year lease was granted on this property with Hannah Solar to produce up to 2.0 megawatts of solar energy for sale to the Georgia Power Company. The project represents a $2,500,000 capital investment by Hannah Solar in equipment and construction.
  • As is often the case, innovation is ahead of regulation. Currently, Georgia law does not allow direct sale of alternative energy to a user, but the energy must be sold to a regulated utility, then re-sold. Legislation is being considered to change and modernize this process. The city’s goal is to one day soon convert these land lease agreements to direct energy agreements (land use for energy) so that the Mud Creek facility can be powered directly by the solar energy created on its property.
  • At its newly modernized Mud Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, the city installed energy efficient fine-pore diffused aeration systems. This state-of-the-art process incorporates highly efficient turbo blowers, which greatly reduces energy costs and increases treatment efficiency. Along with numerous other plant improvements, such as energy-efficient filtration processes, pump upgrades, and LED lighting, the Mud Creek plant will provide energy-efficient wastewater treatment for years to come. This facility also has a state of the art power generation system for back-up power as well as use during peak rate season and peak day usage.
  • Within its wastewater collection system, efforts are ongoing to modernize and optimize the city’s pump stations via its comprehensive Lift Station Rehabilitation Program. Since 2011, various contracts have been awarded to design and upgrade 12 of the city’s 28 wastewater pump stations, with more stations on the horizon. These improvements include the installation of energy-efficient pumps and screening systems, LED lighting, and state-of-the-art computerized monitoring systems. Stations not scheduled for complete rehabilitation have been integrated into the monitoring system and retrofitted with LED lighting and energy efficient motors, where necessary.
  • 300x232 Curb, in Smoke Testing, by City of Valdosta, 5 December 2014 Energy consumption and costs associated with inflow and infiltration (I&I) into wastewater collection systems can be extreme. With the environment and efficiency in mind, the city initiated a broad manhole and sewer rehabilitation program to thwart I&I problems. Through the use of smoke testing and Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) view of over 300 miles of sewer lines, the city is able to significantly reduce I&I through a find-and-fix approach ”a process that is saving energy and chemical costs in treatment and essentially creating new capacity at the plants to avoid multi-million dollar expansions. With ongoing sewer line improvements and a goal of rehabilitating a minimum of 30 sewer manholes per year, the city is on track to significantly cut energy costs related to I&I by 2018.
  • Over the years, Smart Energy processes have also been implemented within the city’s water treatment and distribution system. In 1993, the city built its Water Treatment Plant using Ozone as the primary disinfectant ”the first plant of its kind in Georgia. When the plant was expanded in 2003, the most modern technology was installed so that the plant can be remotely operated if necessary ”including chemicals, deep wells, and plant processes. This plant, named the 2013 Georgia Association of Water Professionals Water Treatment Plant of the Year withdraws 3.3 billion gallons of water a year from nine onsite wells located 300-400 feet into the Floridan aquifer, then treats it and delivers it through over 300 miles of lines to over 20,000 customers. In addition, LED lighting is being installed or retrofitted throughout the water system at storage tanks, water well sites, and the water treatment plant. The plant is equipped with its own stand-by generator, frequently generating its own power on high-demand days in order to free up power for other utility customers.
  • The City of Valdosta Engineering Department changed all traffic signal bulbs to LED bulbs about 10 years ago, realizing substantial cost savings in both power and life expectancy. Also, through a pilot project with Georgia Power which begins in January 2015, the city will be changing all of its street lights to LED lighting ”resulting in future power savings and tremendous efficiencies. Valdosta will be one of the first five cities in Georgia to make this change and the first in South Georgia.

Although these improvements are a good start toward improving energy efficiency, the city realizes that Smart Energy will not succeed without an energy conservation mindset and culture. Understanding this, city leadership routinely educates its management and staff on the importance of energy efficiency and environmental awareness and encourages other community organizations to do the same.

“The City of Valdosta will continue to pursue and incorporate Smart Energy processes in managing our public assets,” said Mayor John Gayle. “We encourage other entities to implement environmental sustainability and energy-efficient practices, as well. In doing so, we can collectively and significantly impact jobs and economic growth in our community and throughout South Georgia.”

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