Intern to look at town’s energy efficiency

Duane Hicks

With an eye to look at energy cost-savings, as well as possibly generating revenue from solar energy, the Town of Fort Frances is developing a community sustainability plan.
Heading up the development of that plan will be sustainability co-ordinator intern Travis Rob, who was hired two weeks ago.
The internship is being funded by a Ontario Northern Heritage Fund Corp. grant.
Rob, who recently obtained his civil engineering degree from the University of Manitoba and has several summers’ experience working with Public Works here, will be spending the next year working on the plan.
In an interview Friday, Rob said the plan will focus on reducing energy consumption within town-owned buildings and systems, co-ordinating energy retrofit projects, improving preventative maintenance programs for all buildings, and the possibility of electrical energy upgrades within some town-owned buildings.
“There’s a lot of buildings to look at, and a lot of our costs are in gas, electricity, water,” he noted.
Rob said this part of the plan will involve looking at the town’s buildings to see where they’re using energy, what kind of energy they’re using, and how much they’re using.
“Then I’ll be looking at the system within the building, like the HVAC systems, the lighting systems, the water system—toilets, sinks—and going through to determine where we can improve, how we can improve, and different funding avenues to pay for the improvements,” he explained.
“And, eventually, actually going out and putting in some of these more efficient light fixtures, using something simple as a motion sensor light switch so the lights are only on when you’re in the room.
“Maybe we can find some grants so we can do some windows and doors and the bigger stuff—bigger cost-wise and bigger impact,” Rob added.
The plan also will explore micro-FIT solar generating systems where the town will sell power back to the province.
“I am just kind of getting started on that,” Rob noted. “There’s some feasibility studies coming back in the next week to help us determine which buildings are the best candidates for a project like that.”
Rob said sustainability plans like this are becoming more common these days.
“The ideas have always been there but as time progresses, the governments are focusing their attention on them a little bit more, and then they start saying [to municipalities], ‘Okay, you need to get a sustainability plan and you need to get into different energy-saving saving techniques,’” he remarked.
“As time progresses, you’re going to see a lot more of this. Sustainability is going to become a lot more important, it’s going to be in everything,” he stressed.
 Rob said the town indicated in its official plan that it would be doing a sustainability plan—spurred on the by the fact the province has said there’s not only a need to do it, but it may open doors to possible funding.
“The funding opportunities open up a lot more when you start talking about sustainability and ‘green’ energies and those buzz words,” he explained.
While he’s just getting started, Rob said he’s looking forward to the job and learning more about the possibilities of energy savings here.
“There’s a whole bunch of stuff that applies not just to town buildings and not just to this sustainability plan,” he noted.
“The technology that’s out there is just mind-blowing and it changes every day.
“It’s interesting to what all is out [there] and what different people’s ideas are,” Rob added. “It’s the way the future is going, towards sustainability, efficiency, and energy savings.”
Fort Frances CAO Mark McCaig said the town needs a sustainability plan in order to be eligible to qualify for any new “green” funding coming from the province.
“We want to make an assessment of all our buildings, and identify areas where we can do retrofits or just identify areas where we can improve the energy aspects of the buildings and achieve cost-savings,” he explained.
“That’s going to be a big focus in [Rob’s] position.
“We haven’t really the resources or the time to do a thorough review and study of our buildings in trying to make them more efficient from an energy perspective, and I think the time is now given all the initiatives the province it taking,” McCaig added.
“I am sure he [Rob] will work closely with the power corporation, identifying programs and opportunities for the town to take advantage of.
“It’s something we have to do,” McCaig stressed. “We’re looking for cost-savings in every single area of our operation.
“And if we can make our buildings more efficient and get on the ‘green’ energy train, we’re definitely going to do it,” he vowed.