District 51 recognized for energy efficiency

District 51 schools expect to save more than $600,000 a year in energy costs because of a slew of efficiency changes at district-owned buildings.

The district enlisted energy conservation specialists at Trane to suggest energy efficiency projects at all 47 district buildings.

Monday afternoon during a ceremony at East Middle School, Trane presented the district with an award as an energy efficiency leader in education. The company has presented the award to other schools it has worked with that have conducted sweeping energy efficiency projects.

The first phase of energy efficiency projects in District 51, which began in July, is 99 percent complete, according to District 51 Maintenance and Operations Director Cal Clark. The first phase included installing energy-efficient light fixtures and motion-sensor light controls in all district buildings.

The second phase, which began in February and should be finished late this summer, includes replacing boilers, switching out electric stoves for natural gas-powered ones, installing sun-tracking skylights at Pear Park and Dos Rios elementary schools, and putting Web-enabled thermostats in 14 schools, among other measures.

Trane contracted local workers to conduct all of the mechanical work for phases one and two.

The first two phases involved more than $8 million worth of work, Clark said. That amount will be paid for by energy savings garnered each year by the district, he said. How long it takes to pay off the project will depend on future utility rates.

The project will be helped by energy rebates from Xcel Energy, which are expected to total between $1 million and $1.1 million, Clark said, as well as a $103,000 grant from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

District 51 has procured a low-interest Qualified Energy Conservation Bond worth about $2 million through Bank of America and will use Recovery and Reinvestment Act money from the Governor’s Energy Office to help pay for the third phase of the energy efficiency makeover, according to Trane and Clark. The details of the third phase have not yet been set but may include water conservation, photovoltaic and geothermal projects.

Clark said he likes to check in on various schools and see the response of teachers and students to recent efficiency changes.

“I like knowing we’re having a positive impact,” he said.


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