"Energy Efficiency is at the heart of energy affordability." Tony Earley, Chairman, CEO and President of PG&E Corporation

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Business Park Gets Energy-Efficiency Facelift

By David Kligman

T12 fluorescent bulbs, first created in the 1930s, are being replaced by more efficient T8 bulbs.

T12 fluorescent bulbs, first created in the 1930s, are being replaced by more efficient T8 bulbs.

MENLO PARK — From the outside, Menlo Business Park could be any other business park. Its tenants include small- to medium-sized pharmaceutical companies and biotech research and development firms busy doing the work that helps keep this Silicon Valley business community humming.

It’s what’s inside that sets it apart.

Tour the 1 million-square-foot 14-building campus and you quickly see it’s a role model for energy efficiency. Those who have worked on the upgrades say it’s one of the most integrated energy projects of any business park in California.

Learn more about the California model for energy efficiency

The project, two years in the making, was honored today (April 20) with a ceremony and remarks from the city’s mayor and even a speech by Hunter Lovins, a co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute who was once named a “Hero of the Planet” by Time magazine.

“Energy efficiency makes good business sense,” she said. “Who innovates rules the world. If we want to compete, it will be because of buildings like this.”

The Menlo Business Park features exterior induction fluorescent fixtures, lamps that last 10 years. (Photo by David Kligman.)

The Menlo Business Park features exterior induction fluorescent fixtures, lamps that last 10 years. (Photo by David Kligman.)

The event culminated with a check presentation from PG&E to the business park owners for $542,000, rebates from PG&E and its partners. The project will save Menlo Business Park and its tenant more than 2.7 million kwH of electricity a year or enough energy to supply 366 California homes. The result will be avoided emissions that are the equivalent of 192 cars.

PG&E customer relationship manager Josh Fredriksson worked with Dave Tarlton, the business park’s vice president and director, from the start. Fredriksson began with a financial analysis and immediately moved the business park owners to a more business-friendly rate plan, which saved $100,000 a year.

“I told him, ‘Even by doing nothing, you’re going to save $100,000,’” Fredriksson said.

Tarlton wanted to do more, so they had lighting experts perform an energy audit—a campus-wide analysis of every lighting fixture. That led to air conditioning and heating upgrades.

Hunter Lovins, co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute and chief sustainability officer for Natural Capitalism, spoke at Friday’s event that coincided with Earth Day. (Photo by Libby O'Connell.)

Hunter Lovins, co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute and chief sustainability officer for Natural Capitalism, spoke at Friday’s event that coincided with Earth Day. (Photo by Libby O’Connell.)

Hunter Lovins, co-founder of the Rocky Mountain Institute and chief sustainability officer for Natural Capitalism, spoke at Friday’s event that coincided with Earth Day. (Photo by Libby O’Connell.)

The result is a business park that minimizes energy usage.

Ultra-efficient light fixtures sense body heat and automatically turn on when you walk in an office and turn off when you leave. Thermostat levels can be controlled anywhere in the country using a dashboard on a tablet or iPad. Every aspect of lighting, air conditioning and heating can be customized.

“If there’s grid alert for high temperatures in California and you’re in a meeting in New York, you can control the energy,” Fredriksson said. “Or you can use pre-sets that automatically adjust depending on how hot or cold it is outside.”

PG&E’s San Francisco-San Mateo region plans to use the results of the business park as a benchmark for other business parks.

The $3 million in improvements have added up to big savings. The $1.5 million-a-year energy bill for the San Mateo County business park was reduced by about $400,000. A third party engineering company verified the energy savings.

Energy efficiency specialist Bay Proctor points out one of the 5,000 advanced control sensors at the Menlo Business Park. (Photo by David Kligman.)

Energy efficiency specialist Bay Proctor points out one of the 5,000 advanced control sensors at the Menlo Business Park. (Photo by David Kligman.)

The business park owners also took advantage of PG&E’s On-Bill Financing program, which provides 0 percent interest financing for certain energy efficient upgrades. (Click here to see a video on the project.)

But it’s more than just saving money and kilowatt hours.

“I’m just excited that the customer has a different perspective of what PG&E is all about because that’s what we’re all trying to do here,” Fredriksson said. “That’s better than any energy savings because this is a customer who is imbedded in the community. If they have a great relationship with PG&E then they’ll reach out to other business owners to do the same.”

For the business park, the improvements have led to the biggest occupancy increase in three years. And that has to do with tenants who are wowed by the technology, Tarlton said.

The CEO of a medical device company recently toured the facility and learned about the innovative lighting system and its controls.

“She just immediately got it,” Tarlton said. “It just clicked for her. She literally turned to her broker – they were halfway through a series of tours – and said, ‘You can cancel this afternoon. We want this space.’”

E-mail David Kligman at david.kligman@pge.com.

This story originally appeared on pgecurrents.com.