Zelie aims to save millions in energy costs

Savings will go to customers

October 9, 2019 Cranberry Local News

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ZELIENOPLE — Two moves by borough council Sept. 30 will save the borough millions of dollars in electricity costs.

Council approved two resolutions aimed at saving both the borough and power customers money. The borough purchases power from AMP Inc. and then sells it to borough residents.

The first resolution deals with the borough's participation in AMP's reciprocating internal combustion engine (RICE) project. According to Norm Baron from the borough's energy consulting firm, Utility Engineers, the project aims to reduce the borough's transmission capacity and thus reduce costs.

He said when energy use peaks in the borough, that peak is carried for the next year. The borough has a 7.6 megawatt peak.

Under the RICE program, when energy use hits its peak, a generator system in Ohio will kick in, providing an additional 2.5 megawatts of generation.

The difference is a savings of about $35,000 per month, Baron said. Through 2028, that savings will be applied to the cost of the peaking units.

However, after that point the savings will come directly back to the borough, minus an annual maintenance fee of about $3,000.

“It doesn't cost the borough anything,” Baron said.

The project is scheduled to begin construction in January, Baron said. The borough won't see a difference in power, and if projections are missed, AMP pays for the difference.

Baron said the diesel generators are expected to operate about 40 to 50 hours per year — and likely less. They have an expected life span of up to 20 years. He noted many municipalities on the eastern side of the state as well as communities such as Ellwood City have joined the program.

“It's a win-win for us; we can't lose,” said council President Allen Bayer. “We'd be foolish not to move forward with it.”

Council unanimously approved the matter as well as a second resolution to extend a contract through AMP with NextEra Energy through 2032.

Borough Manger Don Pepe said the current contract was set to expire in 2027, but the extension locks in additional savings of about $80,000 per year. The borough will pay $44.84 per megawatt hour compared to the current $47.48 — a 5.6 percent savings.

The contract also allows for the borough to explore adding solar generation to its grid, although a new contract would be negotiated if that happens.

“It's obvious what we try to do both in the long term and the short term is reduce our electric costs, so we're able to reflect that savings to the customers at the end,” he said.

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J.W.  Johnson Jr.

J.W. Johnson Jr.

J.W. Johnson Jr. is the bureau chief of the Cranberry Eagle. Johnson is a native of Bellaire, Ohio, and graduated from Bellaire High School in 2004. He is a 2009 graduate of Ohio University in Athens with a bachelor of specialized studies degree in English and journalism. While there, he served as a reporter and editor at The Post, the university’s student-run, independent newspaper. In 2009, he was hired as a reporter for The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register in Wheeling, W.Va. Over the course of eight years, he also served as Marshall County bureau chief, city editor and news editor. He also won two first place West Virginia Press Association Awards for his reporting and design work. He and his wife, Maureen, live in Carnegie.