Energy upgrades could save Churchill schools $300,000 a year | NevadaAppeal.com
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Energy upgrades could save Churchill schools $300,000 a year

MARLENE GARCIA
Nevada Appeal News Service

A connection to the city of Fallon water system could provide free cooling and heating at Churchill County High School and Lahontan Elementary School, an executive with an energy service company told school board trustees recently.

Jay Johnson is the senior account executive for Northeast Energy Services Company. Inc. The firm was chosen by the board to perform an energy audit of all school district buildings.

An initial survey of energy uses in the district shows an annual savings of between $250,000 and $300,000 if upgrades are made to the district’s natural gas, electric and water systems.

One of the ideas that came out of the energy audit was to implement a water source heat pump system using water from the city to cool the two schools. Johnson said the concept is still being evaluated.

“A stainless steel double-plate heat exchanger would be installed to use the water running down the street as a heat exchange for the water source heat pumps rather than the boiler and cooling tower currently used,” Johnson states in an e-mail. “It would not consume city water. The city water and the building heat pump water loop would be totally separate systems.

“The Ely County Courthouse as well as other buildings in Ely and Elko use this design.”

Johnson says the entire scope of the energy savings plan will be complete in about three weeks.

The company is also exploring a renewable energy project for the high school using solar panels to generate power.

“It will be a great opportunity to educate students of the environmental benefits of not only saving energy but generating electricity,” Johnson told school trustees. “We always include a renewable energy project. It’s not always economical but it has the benefit of being educational.”

Window upgrades and weatherizing doors, along with replacing lighting, heating and air conditioning units are some of the needs identified in the audit.

The $3.5 million in upgrades would be paid from savings on energy costs over a 15-year term. After the equipment is paid for, the savings will go into the district’s general fund.

Equipment in some schools is 20 to 30 years old, Johnson said. When the new equipment is installed, it would only be 15 years old when the project has been paid off.

Noresco guarantees that the savings will be sufficient to pay for the improvements.

“If that doesn’t happen, the energy contractor would write the school district a check,” Johnson said.

The district currently spends more than $1 million a year for gas, electric and water costs.

The audit shows the district will reduce water use by 2.5 million gallons a year. It estimates a reduction of 50,000 therms of gas and 1.2 million kilowatts of electricity annually, the equivalent of planting 460 acres of trees and removing 290 vehicles from the road.

If the board decides to go ahead with the project, construction would begin in November and be completed by August 2008.