Energy savings taking off at AirCorps Aviation in Bemidji using PACE financing

Property Assessed Clean Energy

Bemidji’s AirCorps Aviation specializes in the restoration, maintenance, and rebuilding of vintage WWII aircraft. They’re now working from more comfortable, well-lit, and energy-efficient buildings thanks to lighting and insulation improvements financed with PACE.

What is PACE? Property-Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) is a new way to finance energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrades to the buildings of commercial property owners. Energy-saving measures pursued by the owners receive project financing and are repaid as a separate item on their property tax assessment for a set period. PACE eliminates the burden of upfront costs by providing low-cost, long-term financing.

To learn more about the project, we interviewed Sara Zimmerman, Business Coordinator at AirCorps Aviation.

What motivated you to apply for PACE financing?

One of our company-wide focus areas is to eliminate waste, including wasted energy, so increasing the efficiency of the buildings only made sense. PACE financing through Saint Paul Port Authority’s PACE program provided the opportunity to complete the improvements in an economical way that allows cash on hand to be used for growing the business rather than facility updates.

Insulation being added to the walls

How was the experience of going through Saint Paul Port Authority’s PACE program?

The eligibility requirements were clear and easily met and the application form was simple. The financial paperwork required by the third party credit union was quite substantial, but I understand that this will be modified in the future.

Lighting in the shop

What did the project entail and how did PACE help make it possible?

We chose to bring the R-value of the buildings up to the levels recommended by the report that followed our comprehensive energy audit, which involved using spray foam to insulate the walls of buildings to R21 and the attic of one building to R42. We also retrofitted lighting fixtures to LEDs. We upgraded 136 existing indoor T12 8 ft. lamps to LEDs, as well as six outdoor lights to LEDs.

Greatly improved lighting conditions

What are you hoping to get out of the project?

In addition to the energy savings on utility bills moving forward, we are anticipating both gas and electric rebates based on the improvements. We’ll be getting an Otter Tail Power Company lighting rebate and a Minnesota Energy Resources insulation rebate that will decrease the project cost a good bit. On top of the energy savings, the space is now more comfortable and the lighting is better—which is important for the detailed work we do.

Would you recommend PACE financing for energy improvements to other property owners?

Yes, not only would we recommend PACE financing as an option for businesses and property owners to consider, we also plan to use the program again in the future. We would encourage local banks to favorably consider a partnership with the Saint Paul Port Authority’s PACE program, as well.

Media Coverage of Project

We also wanted to give people who made the project possible a chance to say something…

Saint Paul Port Authority was proud to provide financing to AirCorps Aviation through PACE. It’s allowing AirCorps to save money on their energy bills while upgrading their facilities and making a more comfortable and productive work environment.

Peter Klein, Saint Paul Port Authority

This is a great opportunity for businesses in Bemidji and more broadly in Beltrami County. We were happy to work with AirCorps, Saint Paul Port Authority, and Beltrami County to make this work. PACE eliminates the burden of upfront costs by providing low-cost, long-term financing.

Anna Carlson, Bemidji State University

Beltrami County’s decision to make PACE financing available supports the work that we do to be stewards of our natural environment and promoters of local business and industry. If local building owners can reduce their energy expenses while also reducing their environmental impact with PACE, we have created a win/win situation at no cost to our taxpayers. It is simply the right thing to do!

Kay Mack, Beltrami County Administrator

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