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Kane County, Tri-Cities embracing environmentally friendly practices

Kane County Animal Control is hardly efficient – at least when it comes to energy consumption.

Since 2011, its Energy Star score – which uses a 1-to-100 range to show how a building’s energy consumption measures up against similar buildings nationwide – has dropped from 11 to five, the lowest score logged of nearly a dozen county buildings measured, Cecilia ­Govrik, the county’s resource management coordinator, recently told a County Board committee.

“It’s not performing well,” she said.

Lighting and insulation upgrades are ways to improve energy efficiency at Animal Control, which also has been selected to participate in a solar power pilot program, Govrik said.

“This is a way for us to get our toe in the water,” said County Board member Deborah Allan, D-Elgin.

Animal Control is part of a broader effort to implement environmental-friendly practices throughout the county.

In February, for example, the County Board approved the purchase of an electric vehicle – a 2015 Chevrolet Volt – for the Environmental Resources Division as a way to reduce fuel consumption, fuel costs and vehicle emissions.

The Energy and Environmental Committee this month endorsed an idling reduction program for most of its fleet. Idling not only creates pollution, Govrik said, but it is also expensive, as it wastes fuel, increases vehicle maintenance costs and can shorten a vehicle’s life.

“We have a lot of cars in our fleet,” Govrik said, pointing to data from the 2012 sustainability audit that showed the county had 273 vehicles. “We want to get a good lifespan out of our county vehicles.”

If the county’s entire fleet reduced idling by five minutes a week, she said, it would save almost 790 gallons of fuel, reduce fuel costs by about $2,000 annually and prevent 15,800 pounds of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.

“It’s not really asking a lot,” Govrik said.

Similar green practices have been implemented throughout the Tri-Cities.

St. Charles maintains a list of such practices on its website. It includes hybrid vehicles, concrete and blacktop recycling, an LED streetlight program and the reuse of biosolids, Environmental Services Manager John Lamb said.

Before 2000, he said, the city would send biosolids – a by-product of the wastewater treatment process – to landfills. Now, he said, it is applied on about 50 acres of city-owned farmland and on other farmland through partnerships with other organizations.

“We consider it a big green initiative,” Lamb said, noting the city generates about 4,000 cubic yards of biosolids each year.

A few years ago, Geneva’s “Green Team” – a group of city employees who looked at existing practices – developed several recommendations related to recycling, lighting and vehicle idling, Communications Coordinator Kevin Stahr said.

By installing computers in the City Council dais, he said, Geneva also has reduced its paper consumption because the meeting agenda packets can be accessed electronically.

In Batavia, pickup trucks with a compressed natural gas (CNG) package have been ordered for the city’s smaller public works vehicles, Public Works Director Gary Holm said. This will allow those vehicles to run on that alternative fuel once a filling station opens locally, he said, noting CNG can be cheaper and generally is better from an emissions standpoint.

Batavia also installed solar panels at its public works facility in 2011, Holm said, with stimulus funds paying for the equipment.

The facility still consumes electricity on weekdays, but it has been “greatly diminished,” Holm said. On weekends, he said, the facility sometimes will push power out onto the grid from the solar panels.

“Being a utility, we wouldn’t be paying our own electric bill, so to speak,” Holm said. “It was really set up as a demonstration project for the other industries here in the industrial park and satisfy the City Council’s [interest] to do a green project.”

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