Park City School District looks to optimize efficiency | ParkRecord.com

Park City School District looks to optimize efficiency

Taylor Eisenman, of the Record staff

If someone offers you a 10-percent-off coupon, whether it’s for an oil change or new sweater, the economical thing to do is to use it. What about if the offer is for a 10-percent energy savings? Well, it just so happens accepting that offer is also the economical thing to do.

Park City School District has partnered with Utah Clean Energy, an independent, nonprofit organization aimed at speeding "the transition to a cleaner, safer, more sustainable energy future," in an effort to cut back its consumption by at least 10 percent in the first year, which equates to an estimated $76,245 in savings.

"We want to do our part by having a minimal impact on the environment," Superintendent Ray Timothy said, "and it’s also a savings for taxpayers as well."

Through a grant awarded by the Environmental Protection Agency, Utah Clean Energy identified Park City School District as a good place to start retrofitting schools to run more efficiently.

According to Kevin Emerson, Utah Clean Energy’s program associate, the organization approached Timothy in August 2007 with the idea to go green and the district responded positively.

Timothy said this is something he’s done in the past with other districts. "You want to make sure you’re being frugal with taxpayers’ dollars," he said. "And one of the ways you can do that is through energy consumption."

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Using Utah Clean Energy’s software, the organization analyzed how much energy and what types of energy each school consumes (excluding the high school, which has been constructed with energy efficiency in mind) to give them an idea of how much 10 percent in energy savings really is.

Since the assessment, Utah Clean Energy has been bringing in stakeholders and experts to provide audits for certain types of energy use. Rich McClain, an energy consultant for Rocky Mountain Power, visited a variety of facilities over the past couple weeks to determine where the district can lose a few more electrical-pounds in certain energy-heavy areas.

Most of the district’s classroom lighting systems were upgraded through one of Rocky Mountain Power’s incentive programs a few years ago. "It’s unusual to pay people to use less of our product," McClain said. "But it’s the same thing as being able to generate more power. We’re just doing it through energy efficiency."

His new findings concluded that areas like the district’s transportation center, as well as the school’s gymnasiums and a few other in-school areas, still have opportunities for more efficient lighting and lighting control.

Part of McClain’s job is to make sure the adjustments are economical. "These changes typically pay for themselves in three years," he said. "It’s a sound business practice, as well as helpful to the environment."

For example, after the district switched from T-12 lighting to more efficient T-8 lighting, an even more efficient T-5 lighting is now on the market. But, the new lamps cost is too high to outweigh the benefits, and the school wouldn’t recover its investment for about 10 to 15 years.

That is too long to wait for a payback, Steve Oliver, director of Support Services at the district, said. Oliver is in charge of coordinating the energy analysis from independent groups. He said the district is looking at making changes where their costs will be recovered in five to six years.

Besides lighting, the district is looking at tuning up its boilers, which heat all the buildings, and is checking on the performances of each school’s Building Automation System, to ensure they are maximizing energy use.

These systems look at information like the air temperature outside and inside, as well as the types of materials a building is made of, to determine when it should start the boilers in order for the building to be heated by the time school starts, and then also when to turn the boilers off toward the end of the day, so the building can cool down efficiently.

Oliver said the district is taking a "piecemeal" approach, improving facilities as auditors come through and assessments are made with no timeline, as of yet, for when all the buildings will be retrofitted for optimum-energy efficiency.

"We’re doing this because it’s the wise thing to do," Oliver said. "It may take some upfront analysis and money, but once you make the corrections, it’s free and it goes on for the life of the building."

After all the measures are implemented, Utah Clean Energy plans to track the energy savings and use Park City as a case study for other schools that are interested in increasing efficiency, Emerson explained. Timothy added that the district would be evaluating its progress in one year to see if the 10-percent-energy-savings goal has been reached.

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