Siemens completes schools' energy audit

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Now that Siemens has completed an energy audit of the schools, the board of education can start applying for grants that will pay for improvements to the schools that will save both money and energy.

Siemens representative Kirk Whittington gave the maintenance committee a short Power Point presentation, and handed out binders containing all the information he and his team had compiled after studying the schools.

"The book shows where you are today and where we can take you," said Whittington.

"It sounds like an outstanding opportunity," said committee chairman Craig Michael. Stan Curtis, director of schools, and Janet Wiles, the budget director, agreed to quickly start pursuing the state and federal money that is available as grants for making schools more energy efficient.

Three Siemens staffers spent a week or so in the county, studying all the schools.

"It's a very good school district," commented Whittington. "It's run very well. I've enjoyed working with the folks - we've had a good relationship."

Siemens reports that the school district is currently spending $1,364,777 on combined utility costs. By making all the suggested improvements, the projected annual savings could be $352,733.

Whittington explained that there are plenty of sources for finance, and that there will be no up-front costs to the system - all the costs will be covered by the savings on energy from the existing operating budget.

He recommended that the school board form an energy committee to work with Siemens, and, further, that they select five schools and make all the recommended improvements to those, rather than doing a few improvements at all of the schools.

If Siemens is to go ahead, they will need a letter of intent from the school board, and then their engineers can proceed with the detailed analysis. Then comes the bidding out to contractors, the final proposal and approval, implementation, and, finally, measurement and verification of savings.

According to Whittington, they should be at the final proposal stage no later than January 2010.

The buildings have all been rated for energy efficiency on a scale of 1 to 100, as part of the Environmental Protection Agency's Energy Star program. The goal is to score at least 75. The highest-rated buildings (both scoring 59) are the Central Office and Westhills Elementary, while the worst are Marshall Elementary (9), Marshall County High School (10), and Forrest (11).

Modifications to the schools that will increase energy efficiency include

* upgrading lights to more efficient T-8 fluorescents.

* retrofitting existing exit signs with LED lighting.

* installing occupancy sensors to turn off lights when no one is in the room. Occupancy sensors can also be used to control ventilation systems. Photocells can be installed to turn off lights when daylight is providing enough illumination.

* replacing HVAC thermostats with programmable thermostats.

* installing "de-stratification" fans in gymnasiums: the air temperature near a 30-foot ceiling may be 20 degrees higher than the temperature at floor level.

* installing new dishwashers: the newest styles, using improved rinse technology and variable speed conveyors, can use up to 60 percent less hot water.

* installing low-flow water valves on toilets and urinals, and low-flow aerators on faucets.

* tinting windows is recommended for some schools, and, ideally, Lewisburg Middle School, dating from 1963, would have all windows replaced.

There are no payments until everything is implemented, Whittington said. During the measurement and verification phase while Siemens tracks expenditures, they will pay the school system if the energy savings are not what they predicted.

"Nobody in the state can come close to matching what Siemens brings to the table," said Whittington. "We have a lot of staff; a lot of support."

"I believe in using local contractors," he added.

"That sounds great!" said Michael.