Bethlehem Press

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Board talks energy efficiency

Monday, November 19, 2018 by Heather Nigrone Special to the Bethlehem Press in Local News

Sschool board directors listened intently while BASD Chief Facilities and Operations Officer Mark Stein presented an energy plan update compiled with the help D’Huy Engineering, Inc. giving a comprehensive overview of district energy savings.

The plan, which was launched in 2011, was set to identify energy costs in the district and strategically begin to increase efficiencies, while reducing costs, in order to allow tax dollars to be used more effectively in the district.

Stein noted that the projected energy costs for the 2017-18 school year were nearly $4.7 million, and the district total came in at an astonishing $2.5 million of usage. Reviewing the data over the nine years of the project paints an even clearer picture. Over the life of the project thus far, the district has spent just shy of $1.1 million in energy upgrades, which seems tremendous, but those upgrades have netted approximately $13.8 million in energy cost savings.

The board was grateful to hear that the results of these expenses returned over $12 million dollars of taxpayer funds back to the district and the students. The data also means that currently 20 of the BASD buildings meet the Energy Star efficiency rating, which is impressive, as only 50 Energy Star school buildings are currently recognized in the entire state. Stein attributes the savings not only to building upgrades that have taken place over the duration of the project, but also to the integration of solar power at some BASD facilities.

Another major contributing factor is the demand response project, which provides energy rebates or payments. This program uses historical and weather data to target certain “peak” times of energy usage, and encourages the district to turn off power or air conditioning to district buildings, to offload usage during those peak moments. These typically occur during the summer months when buildings are unoccupied, but occasionally also occur during the winter, at which point some buildings fire up their oil burning heat systems, to offset electric reliance. Combining solar generation and peak time shutoffs, there is nearly $400,000 in taxpayer money that is returned to the district for other uses.

Looking toward the future, BASD officials hope to continue with energy efficient improvements at all district buildings. As more and more districts statewide continue to develop similar plans, the threshold requirements for Energy Star rebates and payments will continue to get more stringent, so the district hopes to keep up the electrifying performance.