Friday, May 14–City Engineer Pitches Green Projects

OCEAN CITY — The town of
Ocean City is looking to take significant steps toward the popular green
movement as it eyes adding geothermal, solar and even wind technology in or on
city-owned facilities.

City Engineer Terry
McGean was given permission from the Mayor and City Council to move forward
with a feasibility study that would determine which city buildings would be
good fits for green technologies and the findings of that study were presented
on Tuesday.

Richard Anderson, of CQI
Association Energy Consulants, narrowed down the city-owned buildings and
facilities and pointed out which alternative energy technologies would be the
best fit for each.

At the end of the day,
the council elected to move forward with $17,000 in grant money to install a
geothermal ground source heat pump in the Northside Park building in uptown
Ocean City.

“Right now, we feel that
the equipment at Northside Park is soon to be in a state of failure and since
we have this grant money that can only be used for these types of alternative
energy projects, it makes the most sense to put this project at the forefront
of our request”, said McGean.

In addition, the
three-phase presentation, which included a pitch of geothermal heat pumps at
the Ocean City Municipal Airport as well as wind turbines powering the Inlet
Parking Lot in 2011, included outlines of potential alternative energy sources
attached to City Hall, Winterfest of Lights, the Public Works headquarters on
65th Street and the Convention Center.

As perhaps expected, the
idea of having wind turbines powering the electricity of the Inlet lot lights
was not well received by some conservative members of the council.

“I think we need to have
a discussion about the turbines in the Inlet lot, as I’m not sure having a
bunch of those things down there will be good for those people who want to see
the view over towards Assateague,” said Councilman Jim Hall.

McGean noted that the
potential placement of the vertical axis turbines, which are much smaller in
scope than the traditional wind turbines, could be placed on the median strip
near the tollbooths as people enter the lot.

McGean also noted that
the town could use a number of options that would keep the town’s contribution
to the projects below $30,000 and have a payback of less than 10 years.

“We could produce half
of the energy that we use currently in the Inlet lot, but these are projected
numbers, so of course, we want to make sure that in all cases, the savings are
real,” he said.

Some of the sites, such
as the Public Works building and the Convention Center, would be huge projects
that would utilize solar technologies, but in both cases, the price of the
projects were in excess of $2 million, and the payback for the initial
investment would be 35 years or more.

“The one thing to
remember that these costs and estimates are based on the market now,” said
Anderson. “These technologies are improving at a rate where they are improving
100 percent every 11 months, so by 2013, your savings could be much higher and
your costs could be as much as 45 percent less than the ones stated here

In almost all the cases,
with the exception of the aforementioned Convention Ccenter and the Public
Works building, the town’s potential contribution to these individual projects
would be less than $75,000 each and would receive a payback from their initial
investment anywhere from three to 20 years, depending on the project.

In 2012, McGean and
Anderson pitched the possibility of the town’s $105,000 investment in
alternative energy projects to City Hall, Northside Park’s Winterfest of
Lights, and had saved the Convention Center and Public Works for 2013
consideration, although both of those projects were mildly looked upon as pipe
dreams from the council, perhaps due to budgetary concerns.

“We are going to take
the most conservative approach and use the money that we have to address our
existing concerns and needs, but we would like to pursue alternate funding
options in the way of grants for the Inlet lot wind turbine project with no
cost to the town,” McGean said.

The council voted to
allow McGean to look into the Inlet lot turbine project in a unanimous vote.