Coconino County is always evaluating the latest tools and methods to increase customer service, efficiency and to enhance how we deliver the best possible services for our citizens. It’s something we are getting pretty good at – we’ve even received recognition nationally.
But for some jobs, such as energy efficiency, our best efforts only get us so far. To go further, our best ally for efficiency can be found skyward: the sun.
In an effort to increase energy efficiency, further the organization’s “green” initiatives, and save taxpayers millions of dollars in energy costs over the next decades, last fall, the County Board of Supervisors approved plans for the County to harness solar energy at several Flagstaff facilities.
In the coming year, the County will venture into the use of solar photovoltaic energy by installing solar panels at the County Public Health Services District and Community Services building, the Flagstaff/Sheriff’s Office Law Enforcement Administrative Facility (LEAF), the County Jail and Juvenile Services buildings.
The Flagstaff region receives about 165 clear, sunny days per year, which makes our facilities prime locations to harness solar energy for use on-site.
On average, the County organization as a whole spends more than $623,000 in electricity costs per year. The four sites selected for solar panels account for more than 60 percent of the County’s electricity consumption. By employing solar at these locations, our energy bill will be cut by about one-third.
In addition to saving county taxpayers millions in energy costs over the lifetime of the system, utilizing solar panels supports the County’s sustainability efforts while allowing us to diversify the organization’s electricity sources. And as solar technology continues to advance, the County could still utilize newer systems to help offset the remaining two-thirds of its electricity usage.
However, the push for energy efficiency doesn’t end at county government facilities.
Coconino County has partnered with local developers and homeowners looking to build sustainable structures through the County Sustainable Building Program (CCSBP). There are currently 21 projects utilizing resources available under the program, which is aiding 18 residential and three commercial projects within Coconino County.
CCSBP has also partnered with the Willow Bend Environmental Education Center in Flagstaff, where visitors can participate in free monthly educational sessions to learn the latest sustainability methods, tools and resources available to all community members. The County is also working with partners such as the US Green Building Council in developing tools for local governments to monitor their sustainability efforts.
The success and growth of such programs demonstrates the increasing interest within our communities – and the County as an organization – to build and occupy structures that use energy more efficiently.
Lower energy costs allow organizations, businesses and homeowners alike to invest in other areas of importance. By harnessing and utilizing solar energy at several county facilities, the County can expect a consistent, clean energy source at a predictable cost.
While we prepare to venture into the use of solar energy, the County’s Facilities Management Department continues to seek other energy efficiency initiatives.
Crews have fine-tuned and upgraded climate control systems at public buildings to ensure they are running as efficiently as possible, and have worked to properly seal windows and doors to maintain comfortable temperatures throughout our buildings. They have also installed low-flow and waterless plumbing systems in many buildings, and they use thermal imaging tools to find weaknesses in facilities to target and reduce energy waste.
Increased energy efficiency is just one additional tool we employ to enhance what we do every day, rain or shine. FBN
For more information on the Coconino County Sustainable Building Program, visit www.coconino.az.gov/sustainablebuilding or call 928-679-8853 or toll-free at 800-559-9289 ext. 8853.
Cynthia Seelhammer serves as Coconino County manager.