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‘Green City’ effort starts to cut costs

June 13th, 2006

The University of Louisville is saving money through the Partnership for a Green City, a project organized about two years ago to conserve resources, cut costs and improve the quality of life.

The partnership, funded with an $800,000 U.S. Department of Energy grant, is a joint effort of U of L, Louisville Metro Government and Jefferson County Public Schools. New technologies being explored by all three organizations to save energy are starting to pay off, U of L President James Ramsey said June 13.

“We’re beginning to see impressive results,” Ramsey said.

Last fall, U of L tested several soft drink machines on Belknap Campus to see how much power they were consuming. The results showed each machine was using about $210 worth of electricity a year.

Partnership staff installed power misers — small motion sensor devices that turn machines off when they are not in use — on 34 soft drink machines in an effort to cut power costs. The step is expected to save between $3,000 and $4,000 a year.

In another project, energy audits of four U of L buildings have identified nearly $63,000 in cost savings.

“When you consider that we have about 100 buildings on Belknap Campus, you begin to see the huge potential for saving energy and money,” Ramsey said.

Also through the partnership, the city is now testing three solar-powered streetlights on Market Street between Sixth and Seventh streets. U of L faculty and students will monitor the lights over the next eight months, tracking reliability, maintenance costs and output.

“We want to determine if solar-powered lights are feasible in an urban setting,” Louisville Mayor Jerry Abramson said.

The city leases about 25,000 conventional streetlights from LG&E at an annual cost of $2.6 million. If the solar streetlights work, they could lead to big savings, Abramson said.

“If they work the way we hope they will, there will be a whole new way to ‘light up Louisville’ using the sun,” Ramsey said.

Jefferson County Public Schools is using solar-powered technology in several of its schools, said Superintendent Stephen Daeschner.

A solar-powered hot water system is being installed at a new elementary school on Billtown Road and a new school is being built on Aiken Road using traditional energy sources. Researchers will compare costs at the two schools to see if the solar system saves money.

Daeschner said he hopes the project will enable JCPS “to educate the rest of the community about the benefits of using a pollution-free energy source.”

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