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Greenon seeks savings through energy program

Clark school districts have used state funding to help cut costs.

Greenon Local Schools will once again use the House Bill 264 initiative to borrow money to replace outdated lighting and the boiler heating system at Indian Valley Middle School.

“We’ve done an energy audit, and we’re down to a decision having to be made,” said Greenon Superintendent Dan Bennett.

Under the long-standing state program, school districts take out a low-interest loan for funds that must be used to purchase new energy-efficient systems to replace old utilities. The utility savings, calculated over a long-term period, end up paying for the loan. Then districts begin to realize true savings.

“I think it’s been a long journey in terms of really looking at this,” said Bennett. “From having a company come in to do an energy audit to looking at the ways to address the most critical issues we have with these old buildings. I’m not sure people realize what it takes to run these buildings.

“We want to look at getting some savings while keeping the classrooms at a quality level,” he continued. “The board has done an excellent job at asking questions about what’s the best way to approach this. We’ve been looking at this since last fall.”

Replacing the lighting is the key component in the equation.

“If you replace it, that saves you the dollars to be able to take a look at other essentials,” said Bennett.

“We’ve looked at other people who have done these projects,” said Bennett. “Every district is a little bit different. More and more are doing it. It’s been around for a while and changed through the years.”

Bennett said the district used HB 264 about a decade ago to replace the boiler heating system at Greenon High School.

“We’ve got that just about paid for, so the timing is right for us to look at another,” he added.

Springfield-Clark CTC, Graham and Northwestern are among local schools that have recently used the program.

“I think we all have to look at ways that we can efficiently use our finances,” said Springfield-Clark CTC Superintendent Rick Smith. “The relationship that we built with the company doing the project (Energy Optimizers) led to the Straight A Project that we’re in.

“Now we’re working with them to spread our project to other schools in the area,” he continued. “Any time a district can find ways to save money, it’s a good thing. HB 264 is good opportunity to look at best ways to use what we’ve been given.”

It is the second HB 264 go around for Graham as well. The district just finished paying off its last HB 264 project, so “it just makes sense to continue on,” said District Operations and Services Supervisor Don Burley.

“We were able to reduce a significant number of light fixtures with reflector kits and LED light bulbs,” said Burley. “We also consolidated all HVAC controls into one system, which gave us a lot of global control. I can set all our building temperatures with the touch of one button.”

Graham also installed variable frequency drives on its well pumps. Energy Optimizers estimated an annual savings of $93,000. The project has a yearly payment over a little over $56,000 for six years.

“It was a no-brainer as far as the decision went,” said Burley. “We just finished all our installations last fall, so we haven’t had the full year. But just looking at our electric bills, it looks like we are making significant savings.”

Northwestern Local Schools used HB 264 as part of its recently completed building construction project to pay for its geothermal heating and cooling system.

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