Running a school district gets more challenging every year. With state and federal funding being cut and energy costs rising at alarming rates, operating capital is always at a premium. K through 12 school districts spend 7.5 billion dollars a year on energy costs, which is more than they spend on text books and computers combined. Spending on energy comes in right behind salaries and benefits.
Although school districts have less control on funding, they can however control energy costs. Having a defined energy plan not only makes sense for a school district, it can be done without a lot of capital investment.
Many school districts, hospitals and government organizations turn to ESCOs to provide EPC or energy performance contracting.
What are ESCOs?
ESCO stands for Energy Services Company. ESCOs provide varying levels of energy performance contracting which usually encompasses a turn-key approach for energy management or design/build construction.
GUSCO Energy can provide a total turn-key energy management solution for an entire school system for an extended period of time. Or we can do a smaller energy solution such as upgrading the lighting in a gym to LED. GUSCO Energy and Brint Electric have an extensive 45 years of design/build experience.
GUSCO Energy Services
Provide comprehensive energy audit or investment grade energy audit – Our staff of auditors and engineers have extensive experience in energy audits for lighting, HVAC, Cogeneration and CHP, Renewables and Building Envelopes.
Comprehensive Energy Audits – are a no cost way to have your facility examined to determine energy efficiency opportunities. These audits uncover low cost, shorter term paybacks that address code issues and improvements to lighting comfort. Once the audit is completed a comprehensive proposal is prepared that covers improved efficiency measures and capital investments. The audits typically start with an analysis of your current and historic utility bills and then an onsite assessment of the physical building is performed. Ultimately, the audit will provide recommended efficiency measures and their costs and financial benefits such as: return on investment or payback period, net present value, operational and maintenance savings and any incentives available.
Investment Grade Energy Audits – are fee based comprehensive energy audits for major capital improvements. These audits typically include everything a comprehensive audit does but also includes monitoring, analysis and engineering of a variety of building systems. Investment grade audits will provide you with a long term capital improvement and energy plan.
Engineering and Design – GUSCO Energy uses both an internal engineering staff for CAD, photometric and lighting audits and partners with several premier partners for HVAC.
Arrange Project Financing – One area that can be a big benefit to a school system is project financing. There are many different options and benefits for financing energy projects, even if you have the capital. In most cases, the energy savings is substantial enough to cover the monthly financing.
Tax Exempt Municipal Leases – are truly a benefit to municipalities and school districts and offer the lowest possible interest rate because the income the investor makes is tax exempt. A tax free municipal lease is a Lease to Purchase Agreement. Entering into a municipal lease allows a school district to implement projects without having to go to the public with a bond offering. Additionally, the lease is subject to annual appropriation and is not considered debt for constitutional limits.
PACE Financing (Property Assessed Clean Energy) – If you’re a private or charter school PACE financing could be a great option. PACE financing takes longer term energy paybacks and spreads the financing over a longer term, typically 15 to 20 years. Instead of paying a monthly lease payment, the PACE program adds the financed amount to your annual or semi-annual property taxes.
PACE is a great program for organizations that don’t have a lot of funds, but would like to implement energy efficiency projects. The property assessment stays with the building, so if the building is sold the new owner gets the assessment and gets to take advantages of the energy savings.
State and Local Financing Programs – many states have passed energy conservation programs. A good example of this is the State of Ohio’s HB264 program. The program was established in the mid 1980s to allow schools districts to make energy efficiency improvements to their buildings and use the costs savings to pay for the improvements. Another advantage this program offers is the ability of the districts to borrow funds without having to pass a ballot issue.
Additionally, the program was design to make the process for vendor selection less cumbersome. The district selects the vendor it wishes to provide the service. The Ohio Facilities Construction Commission’s engineers confirm the energy savings. The savings are used to pay for the energy improvements.
Efficiency Measures – GUSCO will design a comprehensive set of efficiency measures for a K thru 12 schools systems buildings based on its greatest needs such as: LED lighting, Renewables, Co-Gen or Building Envelope upgrades.
GUSCO Energy is an ESCO with 45 years of experience in a wide variety of energy savings programs. GUSCO Energy is a wholly own subsidiary of Brint Electric Inc., a commercial and industrial electrical contractor. The partnership between GUSCO and Brint is a benefit that many other ESCOs don’t have. Most ESCOs do the design work and energy management, but sub out the installation process which adds to the overall costs of the project. GUSCO Energy can provide the majority of the design and engineering work, procurement, rebate facilitation and installation in-house.
The Gusco Our Approach
We have a different approach than most ESCOs. We look for the areas that provide the greatest payback and implement them and use those savings to help pay for other longer term payback energy efficiency measures.
One of the best and most efficient energy upgrades you can do, is to upgrade your facility to an LED lighting system. Continued increases in efficiency and lower costs have made LEDs the perfect option for K through 12 school districts.
LED lighting and controls for K through 12 schools
LED lighting not only provides lower operating wattages, they also work exceptionally well with controls. LEDs produce light by using a semiconductor material (electroluminescence). When electricity passes through the circuit, it produces light. And since they are an electrical circuit, they function very well with other circuits such as lighting controls. LEDs can be turn off and on or dimmed many times without any adverse effects.
Energy savings advantages with controls
At Tecumseh Public Schools in Tecumseh, Michigan, we installed occupancy sensors with dimming in the classrooms and replaced 3-lamp T8 fixtures with Orion LED couture retrofit troffers. The old 3-lamp fixtures consumed about 100 watts, and the new Orion LED fixtures use 35 watts, a 65% reduction in energy used. The amount and quality of light was so much better with the LEDs that the schools system is setting the dimmers at 50%, so each fixture is actually using about 18 total watts.
Occupancy sensors automatically turn lights on as soon as someone walks into the room and after a predetermined time, they automatically shut off if no one is in the room. How many times have classroom lights been left on after everyone is gone, wasting energy? Additionally, occupancy sensors can integrate with HVAC systems so one sensor can provide feedback for both lighting and HVAC. If the room is unoccupied, why light, heat or cool it?
Why are LEDs the perfect choice for classrooms and office spaces
There are many advantages to implementing LEDs for K through 12 facilities. Most people think of the energy savings as the biggest advantage. But most people overlook the spectral power distribution, more commonly known as CRI (Color Rendering Index) as a big advantage. Fluorescent lights produce a much lower quality color spectrum than LEDs. Fluorescent tubes produce spikes of colors mainly in the yellow and red/orange range. LEDs produce a far broader range of colors, with a smoother output compared to fluorescent lights.
The above spectral power distribution graph was provided by Margery Conner, BSEE with permission. Margery used a UPRTech MK350 with MoreSpectra software to calculate the spectral output. You can see from the CRI calculation table on the left and by the graph that the fluorescent output produces a spiky color output.
This graph also provided by Margery Conner, shows how much better an LED chipset produces light. LEDs, produce a much smoother and broader light spectrum than fluorescents. Not only do LEDs produce more colors, they also produce a very large blue spectrum which is very important for vision. Blue light enters the eye differently than greens, yellows and reds. Blue light actually enters the eyes though the sides and helps with visual acuity.
Implementing an LED lighting solution will not only impact a school district’s energy costs, but it will provide a better learning environment for the students, educators and staff.