Mission Efficient

While most of the country had their focus on Houston, Texas, during the 2017 Hurricane Harvey, Energy Systems Group (ESG) had their attention fixed a little higher. The Newburgh, Indiana-based company had been working with NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston to install backup power to the command center that oversees the International Space Station.

“It is critical for NASA’s operations to be reliable,” says Steven W. Spanbauer, ESG’s senior vice president, federal business unit. “We have a team onsite that operates and maintains this facility so NASA doesn’t have to and, if power goes down, we have a 5.7-megawatt combustion turbine to give them power to keep that space station safe.”

Founded in April 1994, the wholly-owned subsidiary of Vectren Corporation remains headquartered in Newburgh with coast-to-coast offices from California to New York and several locations in between. The project with NASA is one of many the professional services firm handles to provide energy and infrastructure solutions to the public and federal sectors to reduce costs, modernize buildings, and improve their living, learning, and working environments.

“That’s really been the main vein through which everything we’ve done over the past 25 years has centered,” says Meram El Ramahi, vice president, marketing and communications for ESG. “The types of solutions, technologies, and projects have evolved and expanded, yet what has remained consistent is our drive to leave things better than we found them — this is what initiates and carries our interactions with customers across the board.”

The company’s first major contract was with the Evansville Vanderburgh School Corporation around 1995, where for the first time in some of the school buildings air conditioning was installed. Since then, ESG has completed multiple projects for EVSC, the University of Evansville, and the University of Southern Indiana and more recently with the Evansville Vanderburgh Building Authority, Warrick County Courthouse, and McCutchanville Elementary School.

This year, the company has even more heightened awareness in the community with the opening of the new corporate headquarters offices at 9877 Eastgate Court, Newburgh, IN, just east of Epworth Road off the Lloyd Expressway from its previous location on Rosebud Lane in Newburgh. In total, ESG comprises 20 physical office locations with additional virtual offices and 10 energy centers maintained by the company. Across the country, ESG totals almost 400 employees.

While the company works on a diverse range of projects from waste-to-energy solutions and renewable energy to decentralization of central heat plants, the focus across the board is developing turnkey projects from inception to completion.

“Not only do we manage the financial side, we oversee the engineering, installation, and the construction, and guarantee the savings on the end,” says Steve Pride, ESG’s senior vice president, public sector. “We take on a lot of risk for many of our clients from the very beginning to the very end, serving as a single point of accountability which simplifies the process.”

Many of ESG’s projects come with outcomes like reduced carbon footprint and more sustainable practices, but that isn’t the driving force for many of the company’s clients. For them, the draw is an answer to a complex financial decision.

At the Johnson Space Center, the outcome of installing a backup power system to increase energy surety not only resulted in more than $3.9 million in annual energy and operational savings but also in high levels of greenhouse gas reduction.

In 2016, ESG completed a project in Winchester, Virginia, at a wastewater treatment facility where a waste-to-energy opportunity was discovered. Through codigestion of sludge and organic waste (like byproducts from food production), the facility produces methane gas to power the plant.

“We created an opportunity for them to capture that waste, receive tipping fees (or revenue) to collect that waste, destruct it in an environmentally responsible manner, and create biomethane to power that facility,” says Lawrence Roth, ESG’s senior vice president, sustainable infrastructure. “It’s an integrated cycle, and we’re duplicating that model frequently now.”

Closer to home, ESG worked with the Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority in Nashville, Tennessee, to do an energy savings performance contract that included upgrading lighting, heating ventilation, and air-conditioning at the Nashville International Airport. During ESG’s time at the site, the team discovered that in a rock quarry located on the airport’s property water stayed at an even 50 degrees year round. The discovery led to an extensive geothermal energy project that used the quarry water to help cool the airport’s buildings. The project resulted in more than $430,000 in annual utility savings and an annual reduction of 30 million gallons of potable water.

“That one certainly garnered a lot of interest in our industry because of how innovative it was,” says El Ramahi. “There was this body of water that had been out there for years, and to utilize it to help sustainably operate the cooling system of the airport building is pretty neat.”

The key to all of ESG’s work, however, is through every project’s guaranteed savings that allow the clients — most of which are entities funded by tax-payer dollars — to install new energy infrastructure they otherwise would not be able to afford. El Ramahi points out many people wouldn’t think a security system in a school has an energy component to it. By uncovering dollars through energy savings performance contracts with lighting and other system upgrades, however, a school system in Connecticut was able to install a state-of-the-art security system funded by those savings.

ESG guarantees these savings through its team of measurement and verification experts, who can accurately measure and determine the savings of various energy conservation measures and projects. If on the rare occasion ESG falls short on its savings guarantee, they reimburse the client for the difference.

“We often provide a guarantee for 10, 12, or 15 years, so we many times have an obligation to measure and verify those things for the whole term of the agreement,” says Greg Collins, president of ESG.

Not only does ESG work to save energy, but it also creates and distributes energy. As much as ESG is an expert in energy efficiency, it also is an expert in financial efficiency, allowing clients to accomplish goals that would otherwise be out of reach.

“That’s the beauty of much of what we do,” says Spanbauer. “For a lot of our customers they don’t have the money to improve their facilities. We guarantee savings through more efficient lighting or more efficient water consumption, for example, and leverage those savings to pay for other infrastructure that will support their mission.”

A Space to Embrace

ESG’s corporate office keeps teamwork in mind

By Melissa Roe
Photos by Zach Straw

Sunlight beams through the sleek, floor-to-ceiling windows. The fresh scent of newly laid flooring wafts through the air. Walls of glazed glass offices fill the light, modern, and open building. No, you’re not in a tech corporation in Silicon Valley. You’re in the lobby of ESG, located off the Lloyd Expressway in Newburgh, Indiana.

With 70 employees in their corporate office, ESG outgrew their old location on Rosebud Lane earlier this year. There was no better time to relocate, as 2018 is the company’s 25-year anniversary. To celebrate the milestone, ESG designed their new home with growth, collaboration, and functionality in mind.

Leading a large team of contractors on the building project was the Woodward Realty Development and Construction teams. Partnering with ESG, the two collaborated to create a modern space with the ability to expand as the company does.

“We wanted the space to be beautiful, inviting, and motivating, but we also wanted a collaborative space,” says El Ramahi.

Collaboration and teamwork seem to be a recurring theme in the office. From the meeting rooms equipped with top-notch audiovisual capabilities to the multiple group-seating areas or “landing spots” as Ramahi likes to call them, there is no question that teamwork is at the forefront of ESG’s ideals.

Every employee has their own glass office, which cultivates openness and community throughout the space while maintaining privacy.

“It takes it to another level when you get face time with coworkers you don’t get to see often,” says Ramahi.

If a more casual meeting is in order, employees can cozy up inside one of ESG’s heyas, a Japanese term meaning “small room.” The plush, sofa-like booths feature a large, wooden worktop and a flat-screen TV.

“We pride ourselves on being in Evansville and hope that Evansville takes pride in us too.” says Ramahi.

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