Esko Fire Department sets out to ‘build a better light bulb’The monthly light bill at the Esko Fire Department runs about $180. Soon, thanks to a grant-funded energy efficiency upgrade, that amount could easily be cut in half, along with a number of other cost-saving measures.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
The monthly light bill at the Esko Fire Department runs about $180. Soon, thanks to a grant-funded energy efficiency upgrade, that amount could easily be cut in half, along with a number of other cost-saving measures.
“I think it’s going to be real savings for us and the people of Thomson Township,” said Fire Chief Jeff Juntunen.
The department was one of 27 selected to receive seed grant awards through the Clean Energy Resource Teams (CERTs), a non-partisan, non-advocacy group that works with citizens across the state to strengthen their communities by supporting money-saving energy efficiency projects and building entrepreneurship around Minnesota’s growing renewable energy industries. Some $10,000 in seed grants was awarded to each of the CERTs’ seven regions, with funding provided by the Division of Energy Resources of the Minnesota Department of Commerce.
When Pat Oman, Carlton County’s economic development director, first heard of the grants, he took the information to one of the meetings of the Thomson Town Board. According to Clerk Rhonda Peleski, the township then decided to conduct an energy audit of the town hall, the township garage and the fire hall to evaluate their energy efficiency and the potential savings from upgrades. The audit was performed free of charge by Minnesota Power and Minnesota Energy Resources.
It was determined that the fire hall was most in need of energy-saving measures, and a grant application was submitted with the help of Oman and township administrators.
The resulting $1,000 grant to the Esko Fire Department will now aid in covering labor costs for the implementation of recommended upgrades for the Esko Fire Hall. Among them are the replacement of outdated lighting with more efficient fixtures, the installation of occupancy light controls that cycle on when someone is in the room and off when they are not, connecting cooling timers to drinking fountains so coolers run less frequently when the building is closed, and adjusting the water heater controls from 140 to 120 degrees (each 10-degree reduction in water temperature saves 3-5 percent in energy costs).
According to Juntunen, these upgrades are anticipated to result in an annual cost savings of some $1,025 and collectively have a payback of less than two years.
Work on the project, which Juntunen said will be done by union labor, is expected to commence later this spring.
These energy efficiency improvements will then be shared with citizens of the township and other local fire departments as benchmarking tools for others to utilize.
Other projects around the region to be funded through the seed grants range from solar heating for mobile homes in Pine River and a solar hot water system for student housing at Vermilion Community College in Ely to a small wind turbine bulk purchasing program across southern Minnesota and the creation of clean energy community centers in Shakopee, Milan and Oakdale.
For more information on CERTs grants, go to www.cleanenergyresourceteams.org.