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Conservation efforts impress U.S. energy official

Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - One of the ways the Beaverton City Library has become more effiecient is by changing over many lights to LED versions, saving them $2,800 a year in electricity costs.The Beaverton City Library is a popular place for people of all ages to absorb knowledge and information.

It’s fitting, then, that the 15-year-old facility itself is smarter than the average two-story building.

It features real-time energy monitoring that shows deviations from normal consumption and unexpected changes, state-of-the-art lighting and heating controls, and a rooftop solar-energy array whose fluctuating power-harvesting data is on display in the lobby.

Those features, along with the naturally lit charms of the library at 12375 S.W. Fifth St., made a clearly positive impression on Maria Vargas, the U.S. Department of Energy’s senior program adviser and Better Buildings Challenge director, on a Tuesday morning tour with city of Beaverton officials and other dignitaries.

“What’s fun about being here is that the building is saving energy, and it’s a wonderful place to spend time,” she said just after the tour. “This is a great example of how you can chip away, with low-cost or no-cost upgrades, and pay attention to find opportunities to save energy.”Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Maria Vargas, senior program adviser for the U.S. Deptartment of Energy and director of the Better Buildings Challenge program, gestures to some light fixtures in the Beaverton City Library to Mayor Denny Doyle. Vargas was in town to tour the city's commitment to reducing energy usage by 20 percent.

Vargas traveled from Washington, D.C., to recognize Beaverton, the city of Hillsboro and the Portland Public Schools district for taking part in the department’s Better Buildings Challenge. The Obama administration program calls for cities, companies and public agencies to reduce energy consumption by at least 20 percent by 2020.

Local partners on the federal program include the Energy Trust of Oregon, Portland General Electric, the U.S. Department of Energy and NW Natural gas.

Vargas joined local officials including Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle, Hillsboro Mayor Jerry Willey, Bobbie Regan with the Portland Public Schools Board of Education, Beaverton’s Sustainability Coordinator Stevie Freeman-Montes and Roch Reasoner, Beaverton’s facilities maintenance technician.

As a Better Buildings Challenge partner, Beaverton officials said the city is saving 15 percent across its entire building portfolio of more than 1.5 million square feet as part of its commitment to reduce energy intensity. The Department of Energy also recognizes the city of Hillsboro and Portland schools, which so far have saved 11 percent and 3 percent, respectively, in cumulative conservation.

Set aside as the city’s showcase facility for the challenge, Beaverton’s main library building’s features include a rooftop solar-panel array that generates 19,000 kilowatt hours annually, saving an estimated $7,000; an energy tracking system that monitors usage and system breakdowns; decreasing electric light wattage and regulating light timing; and upgraded heating and ventilation systems.

Vargas, a University of Oregon graduate, planned to visit the Nike World Headquarters campus near Beaverton, as well as Hillsboro. She said she’s impressed by the examples the cities and local school districts are setting for the Better Buildings Challenge, which she noted is designed to continue regardless of who is elected president.

“We are visiting model cities, not only in Oregon, but others around the country, to see what they’re doing right,” she said. “I’d say Beaverton and Hillsboro and Portland schools are working hard to meet the energy reduction goals of 20 percent by 2020.”

Freeman-Montes emphasized the city’s sustainability department is working to recruit other entities within Beaverton to commit to the challenge. Lanphere Enterprises, which includes car dealerships and construction and development businesses, is already on board.

“We would like to get more businesses involved,” she said, noting the program provides a free tracking system to determine ways to reduce energy. “We think it’s an important thing to do.”

Noting the city is working with the Beaverton School District to join the energy-savings challenge, Doyle said he likes the idea of Beaverton serving as a model for others to follow.

“The (Department of Energy) needs a lot of local communities to do what we do,” he said, noting, “We caught the attention of Washington, D.C. We didn’t ask them to come here. They asked us if they could come here. We don’t always get recognition like that.

“We want to show that this is painless,” he added of the energy reduction. “Come join us.”Photo Credit: TIMES PHOTO: JONATHAN HOUSE - Federal, state and local officials listen during a tour of the Beaverton City Library's energy efficiency improvements.

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