District Gets Serious About Energy Efficiency

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Thursday June 28, 2012

“Hitting the lights” isn’t the only thing schools are doing to make a positive financial and habitual change for the district’s electric bill. The district is in its fourth year of a relationship with the Energy Education Company in creating an energy conservation program for all five schools. There are several present and future plans that will shape the way faculty, staff, administration, and students view energy conservation.

Energy Specialist Jessica Witty met with members of the School Board at their June 20th meeting to update them about observations she has made and solutions to further reducing energy costs. Witty, who during the meeting was referred to as the “energy czarina,” is cognizant of what is being used at the schools.

“If I find things that don’t need to run, I will turn them off and that is what’s making us a huge savings, and I continue to look,” she said.

In addition to Witty’s attentiveness, “We’ve made some pretty significant, continual upgrades,” Assistant Superintendent Winton Goodrich said.

Energy Conservation and the Vermont School Boards Insurance Trust (VSBIT) provide energy audits and inform the district of necessary upgrades. Removing lamps from vending machines, shutting down air handling units when not in use, replacing windows, upgrading the IT server with free air, and removing the 40–50 current mini fridges being used are all things that will help lower costs. Removing the fridges are expected to reduce costs by $120 a year.

That doesn’t include the changes that have already taken place. Working from a reserve fund, the district already upgraded the lighting fixtures, obtained 15,000 light bulbs (fully rebated) and installed new boiler burners at the high school and Chamberlin School increasing efficiency by 20 percent.

“We’re very technologically based, not only with computers and the learning environment but also in management of the energy usage in this district,” Goodrich said.

The district uses Automatic Logic, an energy management program, to monitor the scheduling and efficiency for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning units.

Grant funding is another important component that helps create an energy-saving environment. At the June 20th meeting, Goodrich informed the Board and attendees that with an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant (EECBG), Renewable Energy Vermont, and the South Burlington Regional Development Council, 5KW solar panels will be installed on the Turf Field storage shed roof at the high school this summer. Savings are expected to be $1,000 a year.

Two years ago, the district was awarded another EECBG grant that helped upgrade the lighting in the high school library and parking lot to LED fixtures as well as install motion sensors in 60 middle and high school classrooms.

The district is currently pursuing an evergreen fund with the help of Efficiency Vermont and Green Mountain Power. The funding would cover the cost of replacing the electric-powered hot water systems in the dishwashers across the schools and convert them to natural-gas. The fund would provide loans for the project over a five-year period, but with $5,000 per year, per school in cost savings, the district would make a return investment in less than the allotted five years.

Witty provided charts and graphs outlining cost avoidance by month, year, and dollar. Business Manager John Stewart also shared a chart of each school, and their individual costs 2007–2012 with gas, electricity, and oil. Board member Diane Bugbee encouraged using actual savings numbers, and not cost avoidance numbers. She also urged Witty to visit Rick Marcotte Central Elementary School where energy savings numbers have not been dramatic.

“We’re going to be on a transition year this year to say either energy efficient or not at all,” Goodrich said.

SOURCE: Miranda Jonswold, Correspondent