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Pool swaps high energy bills for conservation

by Susie Vasquez

A $6,500 check is in the mail to the Carson Valley Swim Center, compliments of Sierra Pacific Power Co. for a job well done.

In addition to the rebate check, the energy savings on utility bills total another $6,000 over the past three months and there’s more to come, according to Kirk Chiapella, pool director.



Swim center officials are in the process of switching the lighting system from mercury vapor to high efficiency fluorescent lighting. Motion sensors have been installed in the bathrooms and automated devices used to regulate air conditioning and water heating are being turned down at night when the demands on these systems decrease, providing even more energy savings.

“It all adds up. Even the motion sensors will pay for themselves,” Chiapella said.



Energy costs, which total an estimated $160,000 a year, are one of the swim center’s greatest expenses, second only to personnel costs, Chiapella said.

“And those are last year’s rates,” he said.

The process has moved along one small step at a time and so far, customers aren’t complaining, according to Chiapella.

“Some say the new lights work better,” he said.

The project was initiated in the summer of 2005 under the auspices of Sierra Pacific’s Sure Bet Program, which offers incentives for energy-efficient programs to businesses and other public facilities.

Technical experts work with the customers to see how they can retrofit their facilities with energy efficient lights and other equipment, and help them determine the cost-effectiveness of the improvements so they can decide whether to invest the money, Sierra Pacific officials said.

The swim center has initiated another project for 2006 involving the pool’s air-handling system, according to Karen McGinley, engineer with the Sure Bet Program.

“This project is in the verification stage,” she said. “There are two types of projects that qualify for rebates. One is prescriptive in which Sierra Pacific provides a set rebate for common measures, and a second is verifiable, the projects that must be studied by our engineers to determine if the energy savings can qualify for a rebate.”

Currently, the pool’s dehumidification system uses a refrigeration cycle to dry the air. No outside air is admitted through these units. Rather than expend energy to do this job, the concept will bring in outside air, distributing it through the existing ductwork in an air-to-air heat exchange.

“In theory, we can get it to work in the reverse in the summer, by bringing in cooler air to save energy,” he said.

When completed, the combined costs for air handling and lights will total about $220,000, Chiapella said.

In its third year, the Sure Bet Program has served 88 businesses, government agencies and nonprofit organizations in northern Nevada, including Carson Valley Middle School, Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School and Jacks Valley Elementary School.

Both customers and Sierra Pacific save money, said Karl Wahlquist, spokesman for Sierra Pacific.

“It’s cheaper to run our own power plants than to purchase power on the market,” Walquist said. “When we look at the big picture, this is a big commitment by the company, but it also reduces the need to add generators to our existing power plants.”

Sierra Pacific is increasing its ability to generate more electricity with the planned construction of a new gas-fired power plant about 17 miles east of Reno, at the existing Tracy Power Station, Walquist said.

Susie Vasquez can be reached at svasquez@recordcourier.com or 782-5121, ext. 211.

BREAKOUT

Installation of a new UV (ultraviolet) system should improve water quality at Carson Valley Swim Center. will be enhanced with the installation of a new UV (ultraviolet) system this spring or summer.

The light alters the DNA and RNA in organisms and keeps them from replicating, according to an article published by Professional Pool Operators of America.

Chiapella said some organisms, like Giardia, can be very hard to kill but this system will stop them in their tracks.

“It will also break down monochloramines, which can convert to more toxic di- and trichloramines,” Chiapella said. “The new generation UV light is less expensive and easier to work with.”

The system has been used in the United States for about two years, he said.

“We’ve heard rave reviews for this UV system, which has been used in Europe for many years,” Chiapella said.