Sustainability Projects

Since the opening of the Sustainability Office in July 2017, we have overseen many projects in Athens-Clarke County and are looking forward to the completion of more projects that are in progress. Explore below to view completed and current sustainable projects in Athens-Clarke County.

LED Lighting Program

In 2011, Athens-Clarke County developed and approved Project #23, the Energy Sustainability Program, which describes ACCUG’s intentions to retrofit existing lighting fixtures in government buildings with LED bulbs and fixtures in order to reduce energy consumption. The LED retrofits have a 2-4 year return of investment and will reduce energy use by approximately 30-60%, will save $35,000 in government energy costs, and will prevent 126 tons of CO2 emissions.

In 2017, the Facilities Management Division of the Central Services Department retrofitted 66 interior fluorescent lighting fixtures at Fire Station 1 with LED lights as a pilot installation of the LED lighting program. Georgia Power estimates that these lights will save $1,200 in annual utility savings and will reduce energy consumption by nearly 13,000 kilowatt hours (which is more than the average energy used by a residential household for an entire year!).

Station 1

Since the pilot installation, ACCUG implemented LED lighting systems in sevens other ACC locations including:

  • Facilities Management
  • Recycling Center
  • Airport
  • Fitness Center
  • Department of Corrections
  • Police - Mall Precinct
  • Police - East Side Substation

These installations save $28,000 in utilities cost per year and require 243,000 fewer KwH per year or energy use. The LED lighting will avoid 122 tons of CO2 emissions annually and will earn over $14,000 in rebates to the Athens community in 2018. The program will install three additional systems in the near future at City Hall, ACC Tennis Courts and the Streets and Drainage Facilities.

Transportation & Public Works’ Streets and Drainage Solar Installation

The Sustainability Office utilized a $50,000 rebate from the Georgia Solar Program and SPLOST funds delegated as per Project #23 for a solar energy installation at Transportation & Public Works’ Streets and Drainage campus. This rebate from Georgia Power is provided as a dollar-for-dollar match for the installation of solar energy systems at local government facilities.

The purpose of this plan is to promote the use of solar technology throughout the community and to begin to integrate solar energy as a regular part of government operations. The project features an educational component and utilizes a monitoring system with online updates and news releases that promote the program.

The monitoring software indicates the system is currently producing approximately 250 kWh/day, which offsets approximately 70% of the energy consumed by this facility. The system is on track to reduce annual utility expenses by nearly $5,000, which results in a 10 year return on investment for Athens-Clarke County citizens. Over the course of the 25 year operating life for the solar system, 3,600 fewer tons of CO2 will be released into the atmosphere.


American Chestnut Tree Restoration

Central Services, Sustainability Office, and Leisure Services staff joined forces in an ongoing effort to reestablish blight resistant American chestnut trees at the Nature Center. Eighty-two highly prized seedlings were planted in the Chestnut restoration section of the Managed Forest Project. The seedlings were generously made available to the Nature Center by the Georgia Chapter of the American Chestnut Foundation.

Prior to the early 1900s, as many as one out of four trees in the Eastern US forest was an American chestnut. They grew quickly, annually produced an abundance of sweet tasting nuts, and were a source of very valuable, rot resistant lumber. In the early 1900’s an exotic fungus from Asia was accidentally introduced into the US, and the Chestnut Blight destroyed all but a few scattered trees throughout North America. This tragic event completely altered the forest and both wildlife habitat and the economies of communities that depended this tree. As part of the Managed Forest Project, the American chestnut reforestation effort at Sandy Creek Nature Center is among the first of a growing number of test planting sites in Georgia. The site was selected to be a recipient of early seedling stock because of Athens-Clarke County’s commitment to managing ecosystems for educational and environmental purposes. As one of the first restoration groves in Georgia, this site has the potential to become a key component of a wider effort to restore this valuable tree to its once dominate place in the forest.


Matthews Motors Property Acquisition

In December 2017, the SPLOST Office and the Sustainability Office completed the acquisition of the Matthews Motors Property at 2744 Atlanta Highway. This adds 24.75 acres of property across the Middle Oconee River from 120+ acres of conserved land at Beech Haven. This property has large expanses of river frontage, several Georgia High Priority Habitats, and is the proposed location for a future bridge and trailhead for a Middle Oconee Greenway. As a part of the sale, the seller permanently protected the property using a Conservation Easement held by the Athens Land Trust. The project was a partnership between the previous property owner, Athens-Clarke County, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority. The Mayor and Commission’s 2001 goal to protect 20% of the county as conserved greenspace supports the purpose of federal legislation like the Clean Water Act. In support of a goal to conserve greenspace, staff were able to leverage $375,000 in SPLOST funding with a $435,000 donation from the seller, and a $125,000 grant from the State of Georgia.


East Athens Dance Center Energy Retrofit Analysis 

In the summer of 2016, the Central Services and Leisure Services departments partnered to retrofit the HVAC controls at the East Athens Dance Center. The new system improves scheduling and dynamically controls over 46 individual system components based on inputs from dozens of sensors and thermostats across the facility. 

The Sustainability Office has used the energy monitoring database to analyze various energy outputs for the facility. The last year was the most efficient year on record for the East Athens Dance Center. In total, the control retrofits at the Dance Center have reduced energy consumption by 20% and electricity expenditures by 5% over the previous year. Savings will increase as the older, inefficient uses cycle out of the Georgia Power commercial billing model.


ACC Fleet Enhancements

The Energy Sustainability Program (SPLOST 2011 Project #23) includes funding for alternative fueled government vehicles to offset the enormous financial and environmental costs of traditional gasoline- and diesel-fueled vehicles. This funding enables ACCUG to provide hybrid or electric fleet vehicles when the vehicle replacement program designates a vehicle to be replaced, as well as provides the funds for an electric plug to the host department.

Most recently, Athens Clarke-County Transit implemented the use of 12 new low-emission diesel electric hybrid buses into the daily revenue service fleet. ACCUG partnered with the Georgia General Assembly “GO! Transit” grant program and the State Road and Toll Authority (SRTA) to launch the 12 buses with plans for two additional vehicles in the spring of 2019. The new buses are twice as fuel efficient and improved fuel consumption by 125% as compared to the buses they replaced.

Hybrid Electric Bus

SPLOST Solar Installations

The Energy Sustainability Program (SPLOST 2011 Project #23) includes funding for alternative energy sources in government operations. The funds delegated for this effort include two solar installation projects at the ACCUG Fire Station 2 and the UGA Cooperative Extension Facilities, which will be built on a shared lot. The new facilities will meet LEED certification requirements for renewable energy sources and will sustain a 25-kilowatt system that will offset 20% of energy consumption and 46% of building electricity use.

solar installation