Breitung Schools rewarded for energy saving projects

KINGSFORD – Energy saving projects in the Breitung Township School District over the past couple of years continue to benefit the district in the area of energy efficiency as well as providing the students with a safe, comfortable environment to learn in.

Due to these efforts, the school district recently received an energy efficient rebate check for $28,665.31 from Efficiency United.

Efficiency United is a group of 20 Michigan utility providers that offer energy conservation and optimization service in accordance with Michigan Public Act 295. As a part of its innovative energy efficiency programs, it offers cost-effective solutions and rebates for reducing energy use.

According to Bill Edens, director of buildings and grounds for BTS, these improvements were made possible through the support of the 2011 BTS bond. These improvements were made throughout the district’s 327,000 square foot complex.

“The primary goal of the bond is to create a foundation for high academic performance with attention to high-efficiency and modern buildings allowing for improved comfort and reduced environmental impact,” Edens said.

And by lowering the energy consumption by the school district, it reduces future energy costs and lessens the environmental footprint by the district.

Edens added that the updates made to the infrastructure of each of the district’s buildings focused on the objective of total quality.

“One of the main valuable changes is the implementation of state-of-the-art building automation and control system that provides around-the-clock monitoring of the district’s mechanical equipment,” he said.

For example, if there is a malfunction, a text message and e-mail is sent detailing the location and degree of the problem. The district’s buildings are divided into 36 zones and each is controlled by its own time clock allowing the equipment to be programmed to run in an occupied/unoccupied mode base on an individual area’s specific need.

If classes in the school district are on a two-hour delay or cancelled due to weather, the occupied mode for all zones can be delayed or shut down for the day – stopping the operation of more than 180 motors. This process takes only minutes to perform.

“Since one of the greatest energy savings comes from equipment that is ‘off’ when not needed, this system provides tremendous cost savings to the district. An additional feature of this system is the 3-D visual display which is accessible from a desktop computer, iPad or smart phone making monitoring and troubleshooting convenient for maintenance personnel,” Edens added.

The school district saw more cost savings after installing six high-efficiency boilers – three at Woodland and three at the high school/middle school complex. Before that time, they had 48 electric motors running continuously. Now the motors have been replaced with high-efficiency motors, 18 of which harness at least five horsepower and are equipped with variable frequency drives able to speed up or slow down depending on the room temperature, outdoor temperature and carbon dioxide level in each area that they serve.

“This means that even on the coldest days when the setting is on ‘occupied mode,’ fresh air can be brought into the buildings and stale air can be exhausted. Tied to the addition of the new boilers is the elimination of three heating pumps made possible by piping changes. The result of these updates is a more streamlined, efficient heating system for BTS,” Edens noted.

With the bond money, changes were also made to the lighting systems in each building. More than 3,050 fluorescent light fixtures have been replaced with T-5 fixture technology. He said that these fixtures have reduced the number of light bulbs from 10,700 to 6,100 increasing light lumen while reducing operating costs by 65 percent.

Another valuable change has been the installation of 448 occupancy sensors used to control the lighting system.

“As a result of these updates, 115,000 square feet of space among the three buildings has multi-level lighting capable of operating at 75 percent or 100 percent efficiency,” Edens noted.

The district also replaced 38 parking lot lights and 66 wall-pack lights with LED technology – resulting in a 70 percent reduction in operating costs.

According to Edens, need-based updates have been made to the hot water system in each building, resulting in an 80 percent reduction in operating costs. With the installation of on-demand water heaters, reductions in heated storage capabilities from 2,150 gallons to 500 gallons have been made possible.

There are new high-efficiency pumps in place with a time clock system to control and limit the use of the recirculating lines when the demand for hot water is not present.

Insulation has also been added in various locations throughout the district buildings. This was also done where needed and has been effective in significantly reducing the overall expenditures, he said.

Edens noted that the results of all these updates/improvements has been significant for the school district. The estimated electrical savings a year is 430,000 kilowatts and the estimated natural gas savings is 130,146 CCFs.

“For perspective, the reduction of annual greenhouse gas emissions from these energy savings equates to removing 80 passenger vehicles from the road each year. The reduction of CO2 emissions from these savings equates to 454,466 less pounds of burned coal. The carbon sequestered from these energy savings equates to 9,369 tree seedlings grown for 10 years,” he said.

Linda Lobeck’s email address is llobeck@ironmountaindailynews.com.