City schools save big with energy effort
Posted: November 30, 2012
The Winchester Star
WINCHESTER — The city school division is turning things off.
Lights, computers, kitchen appliances and roof exhaust fans are all going dark and falling silent when they’re not in use.
All the while, energy specialist and operations assistant Jean Harper-Smith has been vigilantly overseeing all energy consumption so she can quickly identify and correct areas in need of attention.
As a result of its increased emphasis on energy conservation, the division has achieved a 24 percent cost savings over the past two years totaling $787,839 — money that has been applied toward personnel and instruction.
According to Executive Director Kevin McKew, $400,000 a year is the equivalent of seven teaching positions.
“We knew we had to generate internal savings to keep programs alive,” he said.
“It’s the little changes adding up to huge savings. When we have 800,000 square footage of school space and classrooms, if half aren’t practicing efficiency, it translates into huge dollars.”
The savings began in 2010, when Winchester Public Schools formed an alliance with Texas-based energy conservation company Cenergistic to implement an energy-savings program.
The company trained Harper-Smith and staff to analyze all energy use throughout the division, including natural gas and electricity, water and sewer, heating and cooling, energy management systems, behavior modification, and grounds care.
Harper-Smith tracks energy consumption with energy-accounting software and compares consumption now to what it was before the program started.
“This district is very good about cooperating with the program,” she said. “Everybody works as a team.”
The savings have come from turning off roof exhaust fans and units when buildings are not being occupied, setting heating and cooling to come on at certain times of the day instead of running 24 hours, reducing energy use in the summer months, updating old or failing systems, shutting down all elementary school kitchens in the summer and storing food at one kitchen, and reducing water used in landscaping and irrigation.
There have also been behavioral and cultural changes.
Teachers and staff are now advised to turn everything off at the end of the day and to keep their eyes open for things like leaky faucets or lights left on in empty rooms.
“At one time, custodians would come in and turn on all the lights in the entire school,” Harper-Smith said.
“That’s dollars out the window,” McKew added.
Because of the savings, the division’s proposed utilities budget for fiscal year 2013-14 is $1.5 million instead of $2.3 million, McKew said.
The division is paying Cenergistic — which will present the division with its Environmental Excellence Award on Dec. 10 — $8,000 per month for the first four years.
In 26 years, the company has worked with more than 1,250 educational, ministry and health care organizations to help them save more than $3 billion in utility costs.
— Contact Rebecca Layne at email@example.com