Water department wants to save juice

Friday, June 26, 2009

Everybody wants to cut their electric bill including the Lewisburg Water and Wastewater Department and last week the utility's board decided to investigate a way to do it.

The utility might save $1,000 a month, thereby lowering a $15,000 part of its monthly $20,000 bill by almost 7 percent at a cost of $36,000, but that means the system pays for itself in three years, officials said.

Board Director Gary Bolling was dismayed to learn that the system isn't available for residential use. It's applicable to large industrial electrical motors.

Utility Superintendent Kenneth Carr said, "It sounds too good to be true, but if you don't get this reduction, they will pay the difference."

It's part of the sales contract, he said.

"We have an obligation to save on costs for our ratepayers," Carr said.

George Baker of Energy Automation Systems Inc. explained General Electric saves "millions of dollars per month in electric costs" using his company's device that keeps his clients from paying for wasted power.

"They're our biggest client," Baker told the board Thursday when the directors agreed with Carr that they should visit nearby utilities that use the device.

Hendersonville and White House are prospective Middle Tennessee towns to visit, but Carr said it would be late this week before utility officials know which town to visit, or when.

Lewisburg's raw water intake for its drinking water plant has three 150 horsepower electric motors at the city's dam in Milltown. The pumps draw water from the Duck River and send it through a nine-mile pipe to the treatment plant here.

Other big electric motors are in Cornersville and will be along the new pipeline for new customers who live on Lynnville Pike. The sewage treatment plant has big electric motors, but because of the pending expansion of the plant, the energy savings devices wouldn't be installed there, through a program that could start this year.

The Energy Automation Systems' device is designed so that it will "capture the wasted energy that our motors use and lower our electricity bill," Carr said.

Asked for additional details on the contract, Carr said the project cost could be $46,000, but because the Energy Automation Systems' contract says it can be repaid with savings during a three-year period, the cost would effectively be about $36,000, Carr said.

The water utility spends more than $20,000 a month on electricity, but because the devices can't be placed at all pumps, the savings of $1,000 a month is on $15,000 in costs, he said. With monthly savings of $1,000 during a 36-month payback period, as well as the way the contract is written, Carr calculates the system will cost the city $36,000, not $46,000.

"It appears to be a pretty safe situation," Carr said.