Putnam Valley School officials are considering ways to reduce their carbon footprint while saving money for the district by exploring energy performance contracts.
According to a presentation by Ahmed Ibrahim, an employee with Ecosystem Energy Services Inc., there are several opportunities to improve energy improvements across all three schools including replacement of windows in the 1970 wing of the elementary school, enhancing the geothermal system in the high school and middle school to make it more efficient, and making changes to the heating system in the elementary school, specifically in the cafeteria, gymnasium, and auditorium.
“There are pockets of hot air,” said Ibrahim. “Students can’t leverage their building the way it was supposed to be as an elementary school and it causes a lot of discomfort and issues.”
The district is also considering the installation or partial instillation of solar panels as part of the project, which would cost approximately $175,000. However, the state would offer a $50,000 incentive rebate upon the completion of the project, thereby reducing the final cost to $125,000. Overall, Ibrahim predicts that if all projects are completed the district could see a possible energy reduction of 25 percent to 35 percent and a possible savings of $100,000 to $130,000.
Although the improvements would technically be considered capital improvements, the district wouldn’t need to utilize a bond to pay for the project. The energy performance contracting company would fund the project and district officials would pay off the debt service to the chosen company using the assets acquired from the reduced energy costs, therefore allowing the work to pay for itself over the course of approximately 20 years. Even if energy prices decrease over time, energy savings is quantified based on the reduction in units of electricity used, meaning that the savings to the district will remain constant.
Because the project will not require a bond, the district is not required to submit it to resident voters for approval; however the state does offer a 10 percent incentive if the proposition is put out to voters and approved. Patrick Bellino, Director of Operations, Technology, and Transportation recommended the district allow residents to vote on the proposition in the interest of full transparency.
In addition to improving the energy efficiency of the district, Ibrahim and board of education members noted that the work required for the project could be integrated into class curriculums across all three schools.
“The science, the ecology, the economics, the math; there’s a treasure trove of curriculum opportunities in this project that we could implement in our schools,” said board member David Spittal.
The board agreed to begin looking into the prospect of hiring an energy performance contractor, which is a process that will potentially take a year and a half. Once the district issues a request for proposal (RFP) the process must continue for twelve weeks, which is one month longer than the typical RFP process. Following the acceptance of a bid, the project must be submitted to the State Education Department for approval. Ibrahim estimates that, if the process were to start immediately, work could begin on the project in 2016, with the bulk of construction taking place while the students are out of class.
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