The City of Dover, in partnership with no-money-down financing through Eversource’s Municipal Smart Start Program, and local contractor Affinity LED Lighting, is reaping hundreds of thousands of dollars of energy savings through energy efficiency retrofits. Much of the leadership for the energy projects comes from Gary Bannon, Director of Dover’s Recreation Department.
Gary Bannon’s office is comfortably nestled between the Butterfield Gymnasium and the Adult Learning Center of Dover’s big brick McConnell Building. This hub of municipal services, which houses everything from Work Force Housing Coalition to NH Division for Juvenile Justice Services, shares a parking lot with the public library and lies no more than a stone’s throw from City Hall. Gary likes the office because it allows him to keep a finger on the pulse on the city’s rhythms.
The McConnell Center was one of Gary’s first energy projects. As late as 2014, the building’s noisy, decades-old transformers were spewing off an “unbearable heat,” senselessly wasting away thousands of taxpayer dollars. Through a partnership with Johnson Controls, Gary swapped out the 20th century transformers with modern replacements. The city saved $60,000 in the first year alone.
As we tour the building, dodging a stray basketball from some teenagers shooting around on the newly finished courts upstairs, Gary enthusiastically explains the recent energy projects. “So these lights you see here in the gym, they are actually wirelessly controlled and set at 80% of their wattage. We call it ‘squeezing the sponge’. First, the switch to LEDs saved us $27,000 per year here in McConnell, and another $27,000 per year over at the Ice Arena, but now we can ‘squeeze the sponge’ of savings even further by remotely setting the lights at 80%, 50%, 20%, whatever we want really.”
We stop to look out the window at the frozen lawn of the brand new Veteran’s Park outside (another project of Gary’s Department), and across the street to the city hall of New Hampshire’s oldest settlement. City Hall is another in the long list of buildings Gary has recently helped renovate with modern energy technologies, saving still more taxpayer dollars. It is a grey and frigid dusk now and the new LED streetlights will be coming on soon.
“We made the decision to be the first city in New Hampshire to install smart street lighting” Gary tells me. “Our streetlights have the same wireless dimming ability as the lighting you see in the gym – the only difference is when we set the streetlights at 50% at 3am, there are no cost savings associated with that. It has to do with the way the utility tariffs work. We installed them anyway though, as an investment in the future.”
We circle back to Gary’s corner office and I ask him about the challenges to implementing all of these projects. “Strange as it sounds,” says Gary, “there wasn’t the slightest bit of skepticism or pushback. We took a positive approach, and saving dollars is important to everyone. Modern infrastructure is important, and people get that.”
The long and growing list of energy upgrades, including new transformers in the McConnell Center, new compressors in the ice arena, the controllable LEDs across the entire building fleet and along every street in the city, has resulted in well over $100,000 of annual savings for the Dover community. Better still, the wireless control technology is laying a foundation for a modernized municipal smart-grid system.
Affinity LED is the Dover-based lighting company selected to retrofit all of Dover’s the municipal buildings, streetlights, and schools. Affinity President Steve Lieber has a motto: “doing well and doing good are not mutually exclusive business goals.” The company operates out of Dover’s enduring Washington Street mill building using a workforce of U.S. military veterans to assemble the lighting fixtures.