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Northampton businesses use energy-efficient ‘concierges’

  • Bud Stockwell pulls down one of the energy-conserving covers on the refrigerated fresh produce display at Cornucopia Foods.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    Bud Stockwell pulls down one of the energy-conserving covers on the refrigerated fresh produce display at Cornucopia Foods.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • This beverage cooler interior L.E.D. lighting, which creates virtually no heat, is one of the energy-saving upgrades at Cornucopia Foods.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    This beverage cooler interior L.E.D. lighting, which creates virtually no heat, is one of the energy-saving upgrades at Cornucopia Foods.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • This beverage cooler interior L.E.D. lighting, which creates virtually no heat, is one of the energy-saving upgrades at Cornucopia Foods owner Bud Stockwell has installed through an energy conservation program.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    This beverage cooler interior L.E.D. lighting, which creates virtually no heat, is one of the energy-saving upgrades at Cornucopia Foods owner Bud Stockwell has installed through an energy conservation program.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • The touch of a button on this monitoring device pauses the compressor on a walk-in refrigerator at Cornucopia Foods in Northampton for 20 minutes, allowing employees to work in the room in relative comfort.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    The touch of a button on this monitoring device pauses the compressor on a walk-in refrigerator at Cornucopia Foods in Northampton for 20 minutes, allowing employees to work in the room in relative comfort.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • This beverage cooler interior L.E.D. lighting, which creates virtually no heat, is one of the energy-saving upgrades at Cornucopia Foods owner Bud Stockwell has installed through an energy conservation program.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

    This beverage cooler interior L.E.D. lighting, which creates virtually no heat, is one of the energy-saving upgrades at Cornucopia Foods owner Bud Stockwell has installed through an energy conservation program.
    KEVIN GUTTING Purchase photo reprints »

  • Bud Stockwell pulls down one of the energy-conserving covers on the refrigerated fresh produce display at Cornucopia Foods.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • This beverage cooler interior L.E.D. lighting, which creates virtually no heat, is one of the energy-saving upgrades at Cornucopia Foods.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • This beverage cooler interior L.E.D. lighting, which creates virtually no heat, is one of the energy-saving upgrades at Cornucopia Foods owner Bud Stockwell has installed through an energy conservation program.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • The touch of a button on this monitoring device pauses the compressor on a walk-in refrigerator at Cornucopia Foods in Northampton for 20 minutes, allowing employees to work in the room in relative comfort.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING
  • This beverage cooler interior L.E.D. lighting, which creates virtually no heat, is one of the energy-saving upgrades at Cornucopia Foods owner Bud Stockwell has installed through an energy conservation program.<br/>KEVIN GUTTING

What he doesn’t love — or have the time for — is figuring out what energy-efficient investments make the most sense for his business. Because of that, Stockwell said, such improvements have been “low on the priority list.”

That changed a year ago when the city launched Leading the Way, a partnership with National Grid and Columbia Gas to assist small commercial and industrial businesses and property owners make energy-efficiency improvements.

The program includes an aggressive outreach effort through an “energy concierge” service. The service, staffed by employees of the Northampton office of the Center for EcoTechnology, helps local businesses obtain energy assessments, receive utility rebates and tax incentives and identify financing options.

This one-stop contact “allows businesses to stay focused on doing business,” Lorenzo Macaluso, CET’s green business manager, said at a ceremony at Thornes last week recognizing participants. “We’re able to be a catalyst to take advantage of opportunities available to them.”

Mayor David J. Narkewicz said finding time to investigate various energy-saving programs can be a problem for businesses.

“There’s not just one program, there’s multiple programs and obviously folks who are trying to run a business or manage a building don’t always have the time to do all the research that is necessary,” Narkewicz said. Since its launch about a year ago, Leading the Way has helped more than 150 Northampton businesses, including Cornucopia, Thornes Marketplace and Cooper’s Corner and State Street Market, figure out what improvements can be made, the best ways to pay for those improvements and the potential savings they will produce.

Twenty-four businesses have invested $438,700 in energy conservation measures through the program. National Grid and Columbia Gas have reimbursed $327,100 of that in the form of rebates.

The improvements have included upgrading air-conditioning and refrigeration systems, insulating roofs and replacing outdated lighting fixtures.

Other businesses have received whole-building engineering assessments that establish long-term energy improvement plans.

City officials estimate that the investments the 24 businesses have made will save $75,000 annually and lower Northampton’s annual commercial electricity use by 625 megawatt-hours and its gas use by 2,555 therms.

At Cornucopia, Stockwell estimates the $6,000 he’s spent so far is saving the business about 20 percent on its monthly electricity bills. He predicts savings of $50,000 over the next decade.

In addition to upgrading lighting, Stockwell said, Cornucopia has installed curtain-like night covers over its fresh fruit and other chilled products and LED lights inside its six coolers. The lights create a brighter presentation and don’t give off heat, he said, saving on refrigeration costs.

The store also installed new refrigeration compressors that save energy and are more comfortable for employees because air no longer blows on the back of their necks while they stock the coolers, Stockwell said.

“I’m really happy to take part in the program,” he said, adding that he’s already recouped his investment in the form of rebates. “I’m ready for more.”

At State Street Market and Cooper’s Corner, owner Richard Cooper started off with small improvements like new lighting and attic insulation. He has since made other changes using a long-term energy saving plan created by CET’s concierges, including installation of energy-efficient refrigeration compressors and a new air-conditioning unit.

“Rich just exemplifies the fact that a business can start out small and continue to pick off additional measures,” said Chris Mason, the city’s energy and sustainability officer.

Cooper said the $40,000 the business has invested in the last nine months is already paying off thanks to rebates and lower energy costs.

Rich Madowitz of Thornes Marketplace, another program participant, was recognized at the ceremony for his long-term efforts to improve the mall’s energy efficiency. Measures such as converting the building’s heating system from oil to natural gas have produced significant savings, Madowitz said. The building has lowered its energy consumption by 30 percent in the last six years, which has led to a 15 percent drop in energy costs.

He also enlisted the concierge’s help at two other downtown buildings he owns.

“It really pays to be green,” Madowitz said.

In addition to being good for sustainability and the environment, Narkewicz said, such upgrades benefit the local economy because businesses are able to reinvest savings back into their operations.

“It makes good business sense,” the mayor said.

CET’s executive director, John Majercak, credited the city and the participating utilities with having the foresight to initiate a program aimed at smaller operations.

“It isn’t like this in every community in the commonwealth,” Majercak said. “We are leading the way and we’re proud to be a part of it.”

More information about Leading the Way can be found at www.northamptonma.gov/NLTW.

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