As Central Hudson ratepayers struggle with sky-high bills in this unusually cold winter, Woodstock officials sought advice on how they make the town’s heating and cooling systems more efficient and save taxpayer money. One of the biggest energy users is the town government itself, which used $17,500 worth of electricity last year.
While that figure may sound astronomical, Town Supervisor Jeremy Wilber points out the old highway garage, which was one-third the size of the new 15,000-square-foot facility, would have cost $13,257 in today’s dollars for a combined oil, electricity and propane bill.
Still, there are ways to make the garage’s new geothermal heating and cooling system live up to its potential.
The Town Board on March 18 heard a presentation from Pat Courtney Strong, a contractor for New York State Energy Research and Development Authority, (NYSERDA) about a program that may help troubleshoot the town highway garage’s geothermal heating system, which hasn’t quite operated as designed since it was installed in 2005.
NYSERDA’s FlexTech program is an in-depth energy audit of existing equipment. The program helps ensure building systems perform as designed, that they meet operational needs and that staff are trained in proper maintenance of the systems.
The FlexTech program will pay up to 10 percent of the town’s latest annual electric bill to defray the cost of a study. In the town’s case, that’s about $1,700.
“We can’t include January and February?” joked councilman Bill McKenna, referring to the unusually cold winter.
A geothermal heating and cooling system, installed in the town’s highway garage during construction, promised significant energy savings, though it has not lived up to its potential. A similar system, in addition to photovoltaic cells, was installed during the recent Town Hall renovation. That system is not yet online.
“It’s intended to be an inducement to look into the matter if you wish,” Strong said. “On the other hand, from the conversations I’ve had with users of large geothermal systems, your fix might not be that terribly difficult to figure out.”
Strong mentioned that Bard College, a user of FlexTech services, would likely be willing to speak with the town about issues they’ve had and how they’ve overcome them.
“It’s a great program for getting some questions answered. They really have good data now,” she said. Initiating the services is “really just a phone call,” Strong said. Services are then coordinated with the state. “Eventually you would apply online or your consultant would.”
Strong recommended the town issue a request for proposals from energy consultants recommended by NYSERDA.
Some possibilities may include separating out the office and garage areas, councilman Ken Panza said. Panza suggested the town look into wind energy, which is not at all dependent on natural gas for electric generation.
Central Hudson recently notified customers that a major reason for those sky-high bills is a jump in the price of natural gas, which is used to generate much of the electricity in the area.