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Wilkes-Barre Director of Operations Butch Frati points to meters that monitor the electricity converted from the solar panels on top of the Department of Public Works garage. Wilkes-Barre Director of Operations Butch Frati points to meters that monitor the electricity converted from the solar panels on top of the Department of Public Works garage. Roger DuPuis | Times Leader
Wilkes-Barre Director of Operations Butch Frati points to meters that monitor the electricity converted from the solar panels on top of the Department of Public Works garage. – Wilkes-Barre Director of Operations Butch Frati points to meters that monitor the electricity converted from the solar panels on top of the Department of Public Works garage. Roger DuPuis | Times Leader
An array of solar panels on top of the roof of the Department of Public Works garage are part of an energy savings program in Wilkes-Barre. An array of solar panels on top of the roof of the Department of Public Works garage are part of an energy savings program in Wilkes-Barre. Roger DuPuis | Times Leader
An array of solar panels on top of the roof of the Department of Public Works garage are part of an energy savings program in Wilkes-Barre. – An array of solar panels on top of the roof of the Department of Public Works garage are part of an energy savings program in Wilkes-Barre. Roger DuPuis | Times Leader

WILKES-BARRE — On paper the long-term energy savings program the city entered into with Johnson Controls has been performing better than projected.

The actual savings, however, were less clear as the annual calculations included entries not based on actual measurements.

Over 20 years the program is to deliver approximately $11 million in savings. When factoring in the more than $8 million to finance it — interest and principle to pay for the $5.9 million contract with Johnson Controls — the city should come out ahead by more than $2 million.

Five years into the program, Johnson Controls guaranteed savings of $478,917.

The most recent performance report for February 2018 through January 2019 listed overall savings of $619,471 for a litany of improvements from new light emitting diode streetlights throughout the city and pumps in the Brookside neighborhood, to solar panels on the roof of the Department of Public Works garage and rainwater harvesting cisterns.

The program outperformed by $140,554, continuing a pattern begun when the first report was issued in 2015.

But the Year 5 report indicated some of the savings were based on projections and usage.

“As outlined in the contract agreement, no measurements were taken for this measure,” the report said in reference to specific projects, such as the cistern installed behind the Hollenback Fire Station to collect rainwater from the roof.

The tank has been rarely used, said a firefighter.

Still the report calculated $496 in annual rainwater harvest savings from the 46,200 gallons collected in the fire station’s cistern and $473 from the 44,000 gallons at the DPW’s cistern. Combined the savings totaled $969 and $5,062 over the first five years.

A call to a Johnson Controls spokesman in Milwaukee, Wis., was not immediately returned Friday.

The city’s point man on the program Director of Operations Butch Frati acknowledged the savings don’t occur by themselves.

“You can’t turn your back on this thing. It needs your attention weekly,” Frati said Friday. He presented the report to city council at its June 13 public meeting.

“We could take more advantage of this if we just follow procedures,” Frati said.

And the city has, for the most part, he added.

The biggest savings have come from the new light emitting diode technology installed in the streetlights. This year the city saved $232,549 and approximately $1.2 million over five years, the report said.

Frati said the city has reduced maintenance costs for the more than 2,700 streetlights. It used to spend between $18,000 to $22,000 a month to maintain them. The outages are under 4 percent and sometimes the contractor hired to maintain the lights doesn’t submit a bill, Frati said.

Electricty costs also have been cut due to the reduced usage, Frati said. The city buys electricity on the open market and pays less for it, he explained.

“When you use less, you can get a better price,” Frati said.

The city has been able to reduce electricity costs for the DPW garage as a result of the array of solar panels installed on the roof. The report listed annual savings of $10,205 and $48,385 for five years.

The installation of the panels makes the city eligible for Solar Renewable Energy Credits. The report listed $1,788 in eligible credits accumulated in the fifth year and $9,227 over five years.

The credits can be sold, but with the low selling price the city is holding onto them for when it rises, Frati said. “They don’t go to waste,” he said.

Frati admitted he was skeptical about the savings. But since the improvements have been made and new equipment installed, it has made him a believer.

“You can see it,” Frati said of the turnaround. “As long as people maintain the system and work with the equipment given, we’re fine,” he said.

Wilkes-Barre Director of Operations Butch Frati points to meters that monitor the electricity converted from the solar panels on top of the Department of Public Works garage.

An array of solar panels on top of the roof of the Department of Public Works garage are part of an energy savings program in Wilkes-Barre.

Reach Jerry Lynott at 570-991-6120 or on Twitter @TLJerryLynott.



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