Ballpark figures: NEEA expands energy program, enlists heavy hitter

The Seattle Mariners will save about $250,000 in energy costs after an engineer went through Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance training.

The Seattle Mariners will save about $250,000 in energy costs after an engineer went through Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance training.

An expanding Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance training and certification program has already counted one very high-profile success as the group looks to add more participants around the region.

A key energy manager at Safeco Field, home to baseball’s Seattle Mariners, has completed the Building Operator Certification program, a national offering presented under the auspices of NEEA and its utility Puget Sound Energy, and has implemented at least one measure that saved the ballclub nearly $250,000.

The BOC program offers training and credentialing in HVAC, lighting and energy benchmarking for building maintenance employees. The program aims to give employees experience and knowledge to help facilities achieve the optimum building energy performance.

While the Mariners have gained big benefits from the effort, NEEA wants to expand the program to more participants. It will do so by “addressing market barriers to participation in BOC, such as lack of time, ability to pay, lack of service in rural markets, lack of awareness and product performance standards.”

Chris Hunsaker, a building engineer and HVAC lead for the Mariners, took the BOC courses during his normal workdays. He completed his certification while applying his training to his daily duties.

“I learned a lot about energy usage, gained competitive information about utility costs and received a broader knowledge on the costs to run a facility,” Hunsaker said. Specifically, Hunsaker discovered that a set of domestic water boilers weren’t running efficiently.

To solve the problem, “We installed a control system at a very small cost and within six months saved almost a quarter of a million dollars,” he said.

NEEA has offered the program in Oregon and Washington through its utility partners — which include Bonneville Power Administration, Energy Trust of Oregon and Pacific Power — since 1997, and will expand into Idaho and Montana in 2014. BOC has certified more than 9,000 professionals in 28 states and Canada.

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