LIVERMORE -- Livermore is about to get a little bit greener this spring.
The city is embarking on a program to install solar panels at municipal buildings and convert existing streetlights to Light-Emitting Diode technology, as part of an energy-efficiency program officials say will save taxpayers more than $10 million over the next 25 years.
"This is an opportunity to save quite a bit in energy costs," said Livermore's principal planner, Susan Frost.
A 15-year, $12.5 million tax-exempt lease is funding the projects. Frost said the savings, along with rebates and incentives from PG&E will be enough to cover financing and return $200,000 per year. After 15 years, the conversion will net $600,000 to $800,000 annually, with the money to be reinvested into the general fund, she said. The city's current energy bill is $2 million per year.
Pending permit reviews, photovoltaic solar arrays will be installed at the main library, Civic Center, airport and other city buildings starting in April. Livermore Mayor John Marchand says going solar will save the city about 5 million kilowatt hours of energy and $250,000 per year.
The project includes converting about 7,000 streetlights to LEDs, with technology designed and manufactured by Livermore-based LED developer Bridgelux. Keith Scott, Bridgelux's vice president of business development, said that besides cutting lighting bills in half and saving up to 90 percent on maintenance costs, the LEDs will provide better roadway visibility than traditional high-pressure sodium lights.
"Because colors are rendered better and the lighting is more uniform, it's a much safer environment in which you're driving," Scott said. After receiving positive reaction from residents during a pilot program on several city streets, the company is starting a citywide LED conversion that is scheduled to finish in June.
The moves come as part of a partnership with Chevron Energy Solutions, which has developed similar energy-efficiency programs with the cities of Dublin, Concord, Union City and the Santa Rita Jail. Alex Stankoski, Chevron Energy Solutions senior city strategist, said the company approached the city to help with its Climate Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and performed an energy audit in the fall of 2011. The audit was finalized last year.
"We defined all applicable renewable energy solutions that would be financially viable with no capital from the city," Stankoski said.
"The exciting part is Livermore is a very forward-thinking city," he continued. "I'm just really impressed with them stepping up to the plate."
In addition to savings on electric bills, city planner Frost said the projects will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 37 percent. The entire program, including solar panel installation, LED street lighting and mechanical retrofits is to be fully implemented by year's end.
Contact Jeremy Thomas at 925-847-2184. Follow him at Twitter.com/jet_bang.