School District Uses Lighting Retrofits, Chiller Replacements to Conserve Energy

By Greg Zimmerman, Executive Editor  
OTHER PARTS OF THIS ARTICLEPt. 1: Public School Facility Managers Can Use Energy Management Campaign to Spur SavingsPt. 2: Collaboration With Maintenance Staff Key to Eliminating Energy WastePt. 3: This Page

Both school districts have achieved some fairly remarkable results in the first few years of their energy-reducing programs. When the Gilbert School District began its program in 2006, buildings were using an average of 18.38 kWh per square foot per year. In the 2007-2008 school year, electricity use had fallen to 16.24 kWh per square foot. The changes were almost totally from operational and behavioral changes.

More recently, because of some advanced planning and by securing some grants, the district was able to spend money on energy efficiency improvements, including lighting retrofits, energy management system upgrades and chiller replacements. During August and September 2009, energy use dropped 795,000 kWh compared to the same two-month period in 2008. The district's goal is for all its buildings to use less than 12.60 kWh per square foot per year, or 1.05 kWh per square foot per month, which Peterson says is the average for Arizona school facilities. Overall electricity use has fallen a total of 13 percent, despite the fact that the district has increased in size about 4 percent.

Peterson says there is still plenty the district is planning to do to cut energy use even more, including experimenting with air cycles in and out of the building to try to reduce the number of air changes, but maintain good enough indoor air quality. With a $1 million grant from the local utility, Gilbert is installing photovoltaic panels on one of its high schools as well.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools have also achieved some impressive results in a short amount of time. The school district reduced electricity use during the 2008-2009 school year by 6.67 percent despite a small growth in square footage. The district was under its utility budget by more than $2 million for the 2008-2009 year, and so requested $2.4 million less. Chamberlain says that, already this year, they're $1 million ahead of their forecast.

Part of the district's plan is to register all its facilities with Energy Star. Currently, the district has about 40 schools that score 75 or better, meeting the Energy Star label. The goal is to get about 10 more schools labeled each year.

Chamberlain says plans are in the works to retrofit some school buildings with demand-response equipment to cut down on peak energy loads, and thus energy costs. The school district also takes part in a rebate program administered by its utility, Duke Energy, whereby a portion of a cent for every kilowatt hour goes into a rebate investment pool. The district (and other non-residential energy customers) can then get rebates of 20 to 25 percent of the cost of energy-efficient equipment. "To date, we've received more in rebates than we've paid into the program," says Chamberlain. And that should continue.

Chamberlain says the district decided to focus on energy as a key cog in its overall environmental management plan because of its impact on both the bottom line and on the district's greenhouse gas emissions.

"We use a lot of energy," he says. "So, at the outset, energy stood out because every bit of energy has a corresponding carbon footprint and cost savings." And because of the nature of public educators and their willingness to collaborate, Chamberlain says, the program continues to be successful. "People drawn to public education seem generally to be pretty conscious of environmental responsibility," he says. "And we firmly believe that setting high standards for all students creates a greater opportunity for future success."

Continue Reading: Fresh Thinking for K-12: Part B

Public School Facility Managers Can Use Energy Management Campaign to Spur Savings

Collaboration With Maintenance Staff Key to Eliminating Energy Waste

School District Uses Lighting Retrofits, Chiller Replacements to Conserve Energy

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  posted on 4/1/2010   Article Use Policy

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