South Bend going green

SOUTH BEND, Ind. It’s getting a little brighter in the parking garages in downtown South Bend. That’s because the city has replaced all the lights with newer, more efficient fixtures. And those new fixtures will shed light on some big savings.

Jonathan Burke, the city’s Municipal Energy Director, tells us that it is a great return on investment, since the city will get all of its investment back in about a year and a half.

The city took advantage of the Energizing Indiana program, which provides rebates for homeowners, business owners, and even cities that upgrade to more efficient equipment. They saved 92 thousand dollars on a 252 thousand dollar project.

The new lights will not only last longer, but they use half the energy, and have a brighter output than the old lights. But technology makes them even better. The fixtures have dual technology sensors on them, looking not only for motion, but the amount of daylight as well. That way the lights won’t be on when they don’t need to be. This will end up bringing another 10 to 20 percent energy savings on top of the 50 percent savings from the fixture itself.

The City has done a lot of other improvements with the Energizing Indiana program, including the Central Services building, where Burke says they have seen about a 40 percent reduction in energy use.

They’re getting ready to start Phase 2 there, and Burke estimates around a 50 percent reduction in electricity use, which will amount to about a 15 thousand dollar per year saving in just one building. But it’s not just about changing out light fixtures, how about actually producing energy?

Late last year, a small hydroelectric turbine was installed at Seitz Park. They are still working out a few glitches, but when it is fully up and running it will produce about 45 kilowatts of renewable power for the city. It will not only power the lights in Seitz Park and along the East Race, but also the ice rink and buildings in Howard Park.

And looking to the future, they have high hopes for a large hydroelectric facility that would run right underneath Seitz Park. It would produce just under 2 megawatts of power, enough to power 1000 homes for a year. Plus, visitors to the park would be able to view the fish ladder through glass walls.

But the great news is that the city is making some big progress in the here and now with the upgrades in place.

Compared to a year ago the city is down almost 10 percent in the use of electricity, which is almost 3.5 million kilowatt hours. And according to Burke, being able to reduce energy that much…”that’s a big story.”

While the upgrades will certainly help the city reduce energy and save some green, as the general costs of energy rise, having more efficient equipment will help to offset those rising costs.

For more information on the Energizing Indiana program:

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