Proof that little things add up


Schools’  energy savings top $720,500 

by Michelle Watson


Saving energy and thus money is an important and ongoing goal for the Clear Lake School District.  Under the direction of Mike Callanan, the district’s energy manager since 2007, that goal is being accomplished.

Callanan reported to the School Board that the district has avoided paying $720,561 in energy costs in the six years since beginning a contract with Energy Education, Inc. (now called Cenergistic).  He explains “cost avoidance” is the method used to figure savings.  The amount is determined using a baseline of energy use recorded at each school building, month by month, year by year. A software program, supplied by Cenergistic, compiles the report of usage and savings, he said. 

The school district has completed its four year formal contract with Cenergistic and now costs are limited to Callanan’s salary and software upgrades.  

Callanan said he audits each of the school district’s buildings three to four times each week, checking to be sure things are turned off and heating and cooling systems are set-back during non-occupied times of the day.  He says school staff members are doing a very good job of practicing conservation and taking measures to be sure all systems are operating at peak efficiency.  He enters the district’s utility billing amounts into a software program, along with weather information, which results in the “cost avoidance” report. 

Callanan did report to the board that 2011-12 had numerous challenges.  At the Middle School, which has been under construction, Callanan said he had been battling workers who weren’t savings minded.  He also said that the drought increased irrigation expenditures at the athletic fields to $8,569, creating budget challenges.  

Bringing new cooling systems on line was also a game changer, according to Callanan.  

Last year air units were added to the the high school kitchen, boys and girls locker rooms, superintendents office, and the gymnasium. Two units were also added at the Middle School.  Although the new units are more efficient at the high school, they changed the building’s cooling dynamics as the office is independent and kept at a different schedule.  The kitchen was added and is now connected with the commons, and the school cannot stage due to the air circulation in the main classroom area.  This brought about a new demand charge from Alliant, causing a higher bill even though the KWH usage was down.

“As we learn the ins and outs of our new system we can hopefully improve these functions,” said Callanan.  “The goals of this energy program approach are to make available a comfortable environment when the building is occupied and to turn off or set back everything possible when occupancy is limited.”

Callanan wrapped up his presentation by praising the Board for making a great effort to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars.

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