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      Energy savings deal expected to save Horry County thousands of dollars

      Horry County government is looking to save money by saving energy.

      The county's new energy savings program could save more than a half million dollars a year.

      The county worked out a deal with Pepco Energy Services that guarantees Horry County will save $571,000 yearly on utility and water expenses.

      If the savings fall short of that amount, "Pepco's contract says they make up the difference directly to us," said the county's construction and maintenance director, Gary Watson.

      At a budget retreat Thursday in Little River, county council got an update on the deal.

      It calls for Pepco to install more efficient systems for things like lighting, air conditioning and water use in the county's 107 buildings.

      Watson says the heart of it all is a centralized control system.

      It makes sure that buildings like the C.B. Berry Community Center where the budget retreat was held are only consuming energy when people are actually using them.

      "All night long we will not heat or cool this building, because no one's here. So occupied and unoccupied become a true measure of the operation of our system," said Watson.

      More than half the county's projected savings will come just from installing new light fixtures. The 18 watt LED bulbs being installed appear to be the same as 32 watt fluorescents, but they're more than 40 percent more efficient.

      There will be 20,000 similar LED bulbs installed throughout the county.

      Watson says Horry County is the first large county in the state to sign an energy performance contract.

      "South Carolina has not been at the forefront like North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland have for 5 or 10 years, but it's picking up."

      Watson says the yearly savings will go toward paying off new equipment over the 15 year life of the deal. After that, any savings will go right back to the county.

      The energy performance contract was approved in November. The changes are expected to be complete by April, 2015.