Shelby County School Board: Positive energy for the schools

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Power conservation delivers solid savings

By Todd Martin

With difficult and depressing budget forecasts recently dominating meetings, the Shelby County Board of Education received some good news during Thursday's gathering at Clear Creek Elementary.

District Energy Manager Sherman Adams relayed big savings the district has seen with some electric upgrades, rebates and habit changes.

The district uses the 2009-10 school year as baseline data, because it's the year before Adams started in his role.

So far, during the first six months of the year the district has used 350,616 fewer kilowatt-hours than in same period 2009-10, even with the addition of Collins High School.

The changes have helped the district ease the budgetary pain of a 15 percent increase in electric rates.

"We're actually using less energy now as a district than before Collins was built, and that's including their [Collins’] electricity," Adams said. "If we didn't have another school added in the district, the savings would be about $55,000 over the six months, or down about 22 percent district-wide."

Adams cited two recently finished projects that will reap big savings for the district. A district-wide switch to compact fluorescent bulbs from incandescent in existing fixtures, about 850, will save the district an estimated $7,000 annually, and a rebate from Kentucky Utilities fully funded the project.

The upgrades in lighting and fixtures in Heritage Elementary will save the district nearly $4,200 per year.

Adams also noted upgrades in controls in buildings, so power supply can be monitored and dropped when necessary, has provided major savings.

"These projects will take continued monitoring to watch the buildings and look for areas where the use can be cut," he said.

Adams said he continues to have students work on Energy Teams in each school, spreading the word on how to reduce use to students, teachers and administrators.

Board member Doug Butler asked what the district could expect in future reductions: "Is it safe to say we've done all the easy things?"

Adams said there's still more that can have quick impacts.

"Yes, but there's more we can do," he said. "I've tried to use my time finding things that will pay for themselves quickly, within a year or two."

One big help, he noted, would be a system similar to one Bullitt County recently installed, a program that controls the entire district.

"That would be nice, but it's very expensive," he said.

Board member Sam Hinkle inquired about solar energy, but Adams said without the addition of a large grant, like the Tennessee Valley Authority has done in some areas, the effort is still not cost effective, despite the fact that some electric companies are paying more for the additional energy that can be sent back to the grid than it charges for energy.

Although not included in energy savings, the board did recognize North Shelby Water for committing to helping the district save about $2,100 per year by removing a $90 per month charge for fire protection at West Middle and Painted Stone.