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Energy efficiency means business as Federal Way doles out grants

Cosette Gibson-Pfaff, director of the South Sound Regional Business Incubator, points to new energy efficient lights that were installed at the SSRBI headquarters. The lights were made possible by a federal grant and Puget Sound Energy rebate. - Andy Hobbs/The Mirror
Cosette Gibson-Pfaff, director of the South Sound Regional Business Incubator, points to new energy efficient lights that were installed at the SSRBI headquarters. The lights were made possible by a federal grant and Puget Sound Energy rebate.
— image credit: Andy Hobbs/The Mirror

Whether through savings or profits, energy efficiency means money, and Federal Way has money to spend.

In 2009, Federal Way applied for money as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The city received about $777,000 with the intention of funding energy efficiency projects.

Following an energy efficiency overhaul at City Hall, Federal Way has devoted part of the remaining money — about $160,000 — to help the community do the same.

The idea is to partner with Puget Sound Energy to maximize rebates for energy retrofits, said Bryant Enge, the city’s administrative services director. Several local small businesses have applied for a share of the grant.

“We have 26 retrofit projects in the hopper as we speak,” Enge said.

One of those projects includes the South Sound Regional Business Incubator (SSRBI). With about $5,000 from the city and about $2,200 out of pocket, SSRBI recently retrofitted the lighting in its facility, 402 S. 333rd St.

Completed in July, the retrofit cost about $16,000 total, said Cosette Gibson-Pfaff, SSRBI director. Some months, SSRBI spent more than $1,200 on the electric bill at its aging building, she said. With the retrofit in the lobby and multiple office suites, SSRBI hopes to save between 25 percent and 40 percent in electricity costs. New features include low-watt LED lights as well as sensors that turn off the lights when no one is in a room. The retrofit should pay for itself in five to seven months, she said.

Illuminate Contracting of Federal Way installed the lighting and equipment at SSRBI, and is among a handful of local contractors that perform such services in connection with the city grant money. Project manager Robert Semingsen said his business must adhere to strict specifications by Puget Sound Energy, which subsequently audits retrofit projects.

When it comes to energy efficiency, business has picked up for Semingsen during the past year. He underwent training from Puget Sound Energy and recently finished a retrofit on a local warehouse.

“It’s a real cut-throat business,” said Semingsen, noting that a typical residential retrofit costs between $30,000 and $40,000.

Last month, Semingsen made a pitch to the city council, urging Federal Way to consider installing electric vehicle charging stations. These charging stations are gaining ground in Seattle and Tacoma. Semingsen says the stations can bring more business into Federal Way.

“The city needs to be a catalyst, especially with this grant money,” he said, noting the long-term savings from such an investment. “Energy efficiency is the cheapest way to go.”

Other Federal Way businesses benefiting from grant money for an energy retrofit include a dentist, naturopath, tire store and casino, Enge said.

 

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