The City of Grass Valley, California has completed the first phase of renewable and energy efficiency program with Op Terra Energy Services.

he program is aligned with the City’s broader vision to achieve long-term savings through reduced energy and water use and lower maintenance costs, while also addressing aging infrastructure.

Grass Valley is set to save nearly $7m in energy savings as a result of solar and energy efficiency upgrades across 14 City facilities.

Making an Impact with Energy

Starting in the summer of 2013, Grass Valley leaders collaborated with a team of engineers from OpTerra to develop a program that would enhance energy performance across City sites, while improving fiscal stewardship aligned with a local commitment to environmental sustainability goals.

City leaders viewed an opportunity to upgrade their energy profile as a way to generate a positive environmental change for the community, while also benefiting citizens through stimulation of the local economy with job creation associated with the project.

At the June 28th City Council meeting, the OpTerra team presented project close-out details on the work done across the City’s publicly-facing service and administrative sites, from City Hall to Memorial Park Pool.

Improvements across Grass Valley include new solar generation, LED streetlight retrofits across the City, ADA compliance retrofits for all streetlights, upgraded interior and exterior lighting, and installation and replacement of the roof at City Hall.

Generating Sustainable Savings through Solar

Through a comprehensive approach to energy program design, OpTerra worked side by side with the City through the program development and implementation phases, identifying viable grants and incentives to offset the cost of the energy project.

As highlighted by team members at the Council meeting, financial risk after implementation was reduced because OpTerra monitors the annual savings and guarantees 80 percent of the savings for 20 years. If energy savings ever fall short during the partnership, OpTerra writes the City a check for the difference.

A large source of energy savings for the City is directly from new solar power. OpTerra built two new solar arrays and a solar hot water heating system at the Memorial Park Pool.

A total of 1,700 square feet of solar panels were installed atop an existing shade structure and an extra matching shade structure was built for a heating system at the pool.

To save on pumping energy costs for heating and water circulation in the pool, more efficient pumps were installed and the existing pool cover was replaced with a thicker, increased tensile strength cover. These upgrades lowered maintenance costs and provided better thermal insulation to maintain pool heat during non-use hours.

Additionally, a 777 kW ground mounted solar array was installed at the Slate Creek Lift Station and an 86 kW shade canopy PV solar system was installed at the Wastewater Treatment Plant, providing a reliable platform for the City to generate clean, renewable energy for years to come.

Sustainability for the Sierra Foothills

Community members attending the City Council meeting met with OpTerra team members and other local subcontractors who worked on the project prior to learn more about the far-reaching impact of Grass Valley’s upgraded sustainability profile.

As both members of the public and the City Council celebrated during the Board meeting, Grass Valley’s energy technology overhaul has helped bring about more long-term impact as well:

Electricity spending is down by 50%

City roads are safer and more inclusive for all community members, with brighter LED traffic lights and ADA compliant streetlight
Carbon emissions avoided as a result of the energy upgrades is the equivalent to removing 237 cars from the road annually.

Through this successful partnership, Grass Valley has implemented an integrated suite of energy solutions with assured project lifetime savings of $7m.

City of Grass Valley Mayor Jason Fouyer said: "We are proud to have this significant achievement in both energy savings and fiscal stewardship for the Grass Valley community through our energy project.

"This is a major win for all of us, as a small community committed to protecting the special place we call home through sustainable choices that also empower us to reinvest our savings right back into the community."