A new cooling plant and several energy conservation upgrades should significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions and power use at city government buildings in Port St. Lucie, Fla.

The $7.1 million facility and infrastructure improvement project is expected to cut the city’s electricity consumption by approximately 5.4 million kilowatt-hours per year — enough juice to light up an average of 460 homes.

At the project’s core is a cooling plant that will be used to provide chilled water to Port St. Lucie City Hall and two other buildings in the city’s municipal complex. Honeywell and various subcontractors will be handling the project — a combination of renovation and new construction on an existing site and infrastructure.

Honeywell is guaranteeing that the project’s costs will be recouped from savings achieved by the upgrades, through a 15-year energy savings performance contract. The company will reimburse the city if the returns fail to meet the savings expectations. Port St. Lucie also expects millions of dollars in additional savings beyond what’s promised by the company.

In an interview with Government Technology, Daniel Holbrook, director of planning and zoning for Port St. Lucie, said Honeywell will provide an annual report and analysis of water consumption and energy use to ensure the savings. Honeywell is also upgrading the lighting in more than 40 city facilities and parks.

Port St. Lucie isn’t kicking back and letting Honeywell do all the work, however. The city is involved with a number of energy conservation measures as a portion of the overall project. For example, the city was tasked with installing power-saving sensors in vending machines that cut off light and power to the devices when not in use. In addition, city staff has replaced kitchen range hoods, so that when food is not being prepared, no cold air is sucked out by the fans and wasted.

Many of the 16 energy conservation measures that are part of the city’s contract with Honeywell are already complete or under way. The cooling plant, which will be located on the far western side of the municipal complex, is scheduled to break ground this month. The facility will connect to the three city buildings through a series of underground pipes that will be built under parking lots.

City personnel will be joining Honeywell to work on the pipe installations and other aspects of the project, which should be complete in less than a year.

“They’ll be working with our building maintenance crews, where they are making the connections and [making sure] that they don’t disrupt any of our functions,” Holbrook said. “We have a crew that is very familiar with what we have here on the ground. Each one of the construction managers has responsibilities and obligations to the city.”

Green Power

New software also will contribute to the sustainability efforts. The city is installing a program that will automatically handle energy consumption. End-users also should benefit from GreenPrint, a system that gives city employees sustainability controls during print jobs.

In addition, Port St. Lucie is entering an agreement with the Florida Power & Light Co. to turn off power to renovated city facilities during peak times. Those buildings will then operate on generator power to reduce costs.

“It’s nice to say you’re going green, but it’s nicer to get green back,” Port St. Lucie City Manager Greg Oravec said in a statement, referring to the projected cost savings. “We’re in the same position as other municipalities across the state and country, trying to do more with fewer resources each year. Anytime we can cut millions in unnecessary expenses, make critical improvements and return cash to the budget, it’s an absolute victory for the city and taxpayers.”

Brian Heaton  |  Senior Writer

Brian Heaton is a senior writer for Government Technology. He primarily covers technology legislation and IT policy issues. Brian started his journalism career in 1999, covering sports and fitness for two trade publications based in Long Island, N.Y. He's also a member of the Professional Bowlers Association, and competes in regional tournaments throughout Northern California and Nevada.