Facing rising energy costs, Henderson County, N.C., received a mandate from its county manager to reduce energy consumption by 10 percent. In an attempt to meet this goal, Henderson County launched a comprehensive resource conservation plan focused on facility improvements; vehicles and equipment; and behavior modifications.

“Gathering utility usage data to help establish baselines and better understand trends is an important part of our resource conservation plan,” Rachel Kipar, environmental programs coordinator at Henderson County, says. “To analyze historic and current spend on utilities, Henderson County has been using new energy management software.” 

By thoroughly tracking its own consumption data, the county is able to set targets for reductions, gauge progress toward goals and assess current and future usage trends. The automated tracking has also made it easier to share data and related successes with the county manager and commissioners, which is critical to reviewing year-to-year benchmarks and justifying future investments.

“One challenge for the county’s efforts has been creating consistent behavioral changes among building occupants,” Kipar says. “This includes turning off lights and shutting down computers – minor details with big collective impacts. To combat this, we share data with each department head on their department’s energy usage and cost, as well as opportunities for improvement. This encourages their participation in supporting energy reductions.”

Additional improvements include changing to energy efficient light bulbs, installing LED exit signs, shifting from reactive to preventive maintenance and reducing fleet size. Another project included the installation of a solar thermal water system at the Henderson County Detention Center. The solar hot water system consists of 32 collector panels, which use sun’s energy to heat the facility’s water supply. The water is stored in an insulated tank and is used as needed throughout the day for laundry, showering, and kitchen preparation. With this project, the county has reduced the facility’s usage of natural gas by 56 percent.

Henderson County’s advancements in tracking utility data and environmental stewardship improvement initiatives have reduced the county’s energy consumption, exceeding their goal of a 10 percent reduction. The county’s energy saving strategies have not only helped reduce costs and energy consumption footprint but also made a positive impact on the community at large.

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