November 29, 2010 - Bend Bulletin - Bend finds ways to cut costs on energy

Nov 29, 2010

November 29, 2010 - Bend Bulletin - Bend finds ways to cut costs on energy

Bend finds ways to cut costs on energy

Residents probably won’t see a change in their bills

By Nick Grube / The Bulletin
Published: November 29. 2010 4:00AM PST

By turning off a few valves and adding some new pipes to Bend’s water system, the city can save between 23 percent and 67 percent on those electricity bills, a recent study found.

If fully realized, these savings could shave a couple of hundred thousand dollars off the city’s roughly $700,000-a-year energy costs for operating its water system. It’s unlikely, though, that ratepayers will see any changes in their monthly bills.

“In order to have any significant impact on rates, the savings would have to be in the millions,” Bend Finance Director Sonia Andrews said. “You would need savings of over a million dollars for sure. A hundred thousand or less in savings is not going to be noticeable.”

The study was performed by Optimatics, an international firm specializing in finding the most efficient ways to operate water systems. The company analyzed Bend’s entire water infrastructure, from pipes to pump stations to groundwater wells, to determine the most effective way to operate it.

It aimed to maximize Bend’s use of its surface water supply, which comes from Bridge Creek near Tumalo Falls, and is brought by gravity down to the city. By opening or closing some valves and adding more pipe connections to the system, the Optimatics report concludes, the city can change the way water flows through its system and cut down on energy costs for pumping and wells.

By following the report’s suggestions, the city could reduce its wintertime energy costs by about 67 percent and its summertime costs by approximately 23 percent. The city currently spends more money on electricity during the summer because increased demand, such as for irrigation, exceeds how much surface water is available and requires more groundwater to be pumped.

“This is really kind of state-of-the-art information that we’re getting,” said Heidi Lansdowne, the project manager for Bend’s Water Division. “The idea was — looking at our existing system — how can we operate more efficiently? How can we maximize surface water and limit pumping?”

The study, completed in April, used complex engineering formulas to come to its determination, and took into account things like daily energy costs for wells and pump stations, water levels in reservoirs and the amount of pressure coming through city pipes.

Lansdowne said city employees are now implementing some of the “theoretical recommendations” in the Optimatics report to see if they work in the real world without affecting a neighborhood’s water pressure, for instance.

“Is it absolutely perfect? No. No model would be perfect,” she said. “You can have a model that shows you a solution and then you can actually go into the field and have some houses that have low pressure because of that (change).”

The city has already seen some cost savings as a result of following some suggestions in the Optimatics study.

According to Bend’s Finance Department, the city spent $725,842 to pump water and run wells in fiscal year 2008-09. The following fiscal year, which ended June 30, the city spent $652,900.

The city’s contract with Optimatics, which has included change orders for additional work, is for $517,597.40. That price includes the April optimization study as well as others that will be used to update the city’s Water Master Plan.

Nick Grube can be reached at 541-633-2160 or at ngrube@bendbulletin.com.

Published Daily in Bend Oregon by Western Communications, Inc. © 2010

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