The study performed by the Green Building Alliance, and funded by the Sports & Exhibition Authority (SEA) and The Heinz Endowments, found that the electrical system in the DLCC has resulted in $70,000 to $100,000 in wasted-power penalties each year since 2003- a cost that has been passed on to taxpayers. While taxpayer-funded power penalties are undesirable on any public building, it is particularly egregious in this case because the DLCC is a LEED Gold rated building that was designed to be energy efficient.
Upon a review of the extra electrical charges from Duquesne Light Company, it was determined that the 1.5 million square foot DLCC was not running as efficiently as possible and that six to eight percent of the annual bill, or $1.27 million was for wasted electricity. Mary Conturo, Executive Director of the SEA, which owns DLCC, explained that the SEA was aware of the problem and undertook a study to cost-effectively address the waste. The eventual solution was to purchase two large capacitors. The capacitors get rid of inactive energy in order to make the electrical system more efficient. Conturo explained that “[l]arger buildings routinely have these power factor penalties unless they have these capacitors”. Of course, the solution begs the question as to why the capacitors were not included in the initial design of the electrical system. Once installed, it will only take approximately three years of power savings for the capacitors to pay for themselves.
The study of the DLCC raises far-reaching questions related to the LEED rating system: what is the correlation between a LEED rated building and an energy efficient building and whether operation and maintenance testing should be required in order for buildings to maintain their LEED rating.
Cohen Seglias Partner Lane F. Kelman contributed to this post.