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Otay Mesa LPOE Getting Greener Thanks to Innovative Funding Programs

December 1, 2021

by Javier Fernandez

uture solar panel connection conduits (left) at the roof of one of the new port buildings. A new electrical switch box (right)
Green Planning - Future solar panel connection conduits (left) at the roof of one of the new port buildings. A new electrical switch box (right) has been installed ready for the future installation of solar panels.

Energy savings and sustainability projects can help federal agencies reduce their carbon footprint but the process for programming these types of projects isn’t easy. After all, they require careful planning, including conducting energy audits, expected energy savings and life cycle costs analysis, and payback period calculations. With all of these steps, it’s easy to understand why some federal agencies may find the programming and technical aspects of the planning process daunting. However, the greatest obstacle for agencies executing energy savings and sustainability projects comes down to the considerable upfront costs and lack of funding.

Luckily, there are alternative funding mechanisms available. For example, the San Diego Service Center (SDSC) is investing in energy and sustainability projects at the Otay Mesa Land Port of Entry (LPOE) via partnerships with local Utility companies called Utility and Energy Service Contracts (UESCs), which are similar to Energy Savings Performance Contracts (ESPCs) Region 9 has used in other locations. In the case of UESCs, the contractor company conducts a comprehensive facility energy audit, develops a project proposal intended to meet the agency’s energy reduction goals, and secures the necessary financing to fund the project. UESCs do not provide the same savings guarantee as ESPCs, although they have performance assurance built into the contract which monitors the performance and ensures the conservation measures implemented are performing as intended.

A recent UESC audit of the Otay port identified multiple water and energy savings opportunities, including replacing existing light fixtures, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, chiller and condensing units, and water boilers and pumps with more energy efficient models. The audit also proposed installing two roof-mounted solar panel systems which would jointly produce 461 kilowatts hours (kWh) of power. In total, these projects are expected to achieve savings in excess of 1.4M kWh and savings of $260,895 a year. The project is scheduled to be awarded by the end of December 2021 with work expected to begin in May 2022.

“UESCs are a powerful tool for implementing upgrades on a large scale without the considerable upfront costs that typically require special funding,” said Lubica Tomasovich, the Energy Program Manager for GSA Region 9. “Particularly for our regional LPOEs, which have unique 24/7 operational requirements. For this reason, our ports are heavy energy intensive facilities which will benefit greatly from these energy conservation projects.”

Even traditional funding streams are being used to make the port even more sustainable. The Service Centerwill utilize BA-54 funds to facilitate the installation of future solar panels atop the roof of new buildings being built by the Design and Construction Division as part of the port modernization and expansion prospectus project. The photovoltaic panels will provide the port with a new clean, renewable energy source. The Service Center also recently awarded a nearly $1M project building automation system (BAS) to replace outdated pneumatic HVAC controls dating back to 1984. The new BAS will allow GSA to better control the port’s HVAC system to ensure maximum occupant comfort, reduce the number of O&M service calls and increase the system’s overall sustainability.

“By installing the infrastructure for future solar panels now, Region 9 is positioning itself to capitalize on future funding opportunities to make the port even more sustainable,” said R9 LPOE Manager, Anthony Kleppe. “It also reinforces our agency’s commitment to making our real estate portfolio greener and less reliant on non-renewable energy sources, especially for our ports which are traditionally heavy users of power.”

Last Reviewed: 2021-11-30