Net Zero Facility Zaps Energy Costs

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Press Release: Leon County Board of County Commissioners

Leon County Government continues to be a leader in renewable energy and practices. Imagine if your home’s energy consumption for the year was zero. That’s what happened with Leon County’s Sustainable Demonstration Center, a net-zero facility, which generated as much power as it consumed over the past 12 months.

The Sustainable Demonstration Center, also known as the Leon County Cooperative Extension building, 615 Paul Russell Road, was transformed into a net-zero facility in March 2012 with the addition of solar power and an ultra-energy efficient geothermal heating and air system. One year later, the data proves this retrofitted 50-year old building operates as it was intended. The building’s net-zero classification means the site produces renewable energy at a rate equal to or greater than what the building annually consumes. In short, it cost nothing in energy consumption to heat, cool, light and power the building over a year. Because of the number of citizens who use the building for community events and other functions at Cooperative Extension, County staff knew the energy demands would be high. However, this net-zero facility has met and exceeded expectations.

“To demonstrate our commitment to the environment, we created an example of success in renewable energy,” said Leon County Commission Chairman Nick Maddox. “The Leon County Sustainable Demonstration Center is one of a handful of ‘net-zero’ buildings in the entire Southeast.”

To be such a success for Leon County, the building includes 253 solar photovoltaic cells on a ground-mounted structure, which also doubles as shaded parking. The solar array is sized to a 60-KW system compared to a 5-KW system used in the average home. This solar array supplies about 40 percent of the energy needed to power the 13,000 square-foot building.

Also, a large portion of the facility's heating and air system was replaced by a geothermal system, which uses the earth's relatively stable temperature of approximately 68 degrees to naturally cool or heat the building. This geothermal system is approximately 40 percent more energy efficient than a traditional heating and air system.

The Leon County Sustainable Demonstration Center represents a mark of accomplishment not only to the community in which it was built, but for the community it serves.

“In Leon County Government, we saw this opportunity as a win-win project,” said Leon County Administrator Vincent S. Long. “In County government, when you can save money, protect natural resources and make a community space even more appealing, we should act. This facility is a great learning opportunity for the youth who visit daily, and for our peers throughout the region.”

More than just an idea, Leon County’s Cooperative Extension facility hosts many programs to improve the County’s quality of life by teaching community gardening, youth development, and family wellness. The facility also conserves natural resources and reduces greenhouse gas emissions. And finally, the building strengthens the local economy by not only saving money for the County and its residents, but by actually earning credit for surplus energy.

For more information, contact Kendra Zamojski, Director of the Leon County Extension Center, at (850) 606-5200 work / or Jon D. Brown, Director of Leon County Community and Media Relations, at (850) 606-5300 work / .

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