Are we a greener school district than we were one year ago? Absolutely. Are we saving taxpayer dollars in doing so? You bet. It seems appropriate, as I write this column today: Earth Day, to share with the community how PUSD has contributed this year toward a greener Payson.
We are in the final phases of the RCMS and JRE construction projects. The new and remodeled buildings at the two school sites have been built utilizing materials and design concepts that will greatly improve energy efficiency.
A less visible, but certainly important bond project has been districtwide energy savings solutions. We have completed an entire upgrade of our lighting fixtures and bulbs, and in many areas, installed automatic motion sensors to control when lights go on and off. We have replaced a significant number of heating/cooling units and installed a comprehensive energy management system. This system utilizes Web-based technology. Our maintenance department can set and monitor temperature controls for every classroom and workspace in the district; all from one computer workstation.
A computer accidentally left on after school? Not a problem. A new software program shuts down all CPUs left inactive after a certain time period. Over the next 15 months we will complete additional HVAC replacements; primarily at PHS, to further improve overall efficiency.
The investment in energy upgrades will total slightly more than $1.3 million, including $200,000 dollars we obtained via a competitive state grant. To date, we have saved nearly $60,000 this year on utilities. We anticipate a significant increase in annual savings once all projects have been completed and our energy management system is tweaked to give us maximum efficiency.
We have also taken measures to conserve by changing behaviors. Teachers and staff are removing personal appliances from classrooms and workspaces. Small refrigerators are real energy hogs. It’s a small personal sacrifice to have to walk to the nearest refrigerator or microwave, but collectively this change will save significant dollars for our district. This is not only being greener, but given our current recession, it’s a way to help preserve jobs.
On the horizon we are planning in the next couple of months to request that our governing board approve an Request for Proposal for a “power purchase agreement” for a large-scale photo-voltaic electric power generation system. Basically, this would be an agreement between the district and an outside commercial entity (that best meets the qualifications defined in the RFP). A photovoltaic system is installed, at no cost to the district, utilizing district ground and/or roof space.
The district pays for the power generated by the system at a fixed reduced rate, with a provision to assume complete ownership of the system after a certain number of years. There are a number of state and federal incentives that make such an agreement attractive for the commercial interest installing the system. Scottsdale Unified has taken the lead in this area, but we hope to be able to follow in their footsteps soon and on a larger scale.
Lastly, my hat is off to the PHS Green Club. This highly-motivated group of students is working to establish a viable recycling program for our district and potentially beyond.
We currently recycle all waste paper, but the Green Club looks to expand this to other recyclable materials. So, it’s with some confidence that I say we at PUSD can take pride this Earth Day in contributing toward a greener Payson.