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County schools could become more energy efficient

The reduction in costs of powering the various campuses that make up the Claiborne school system could be realized, if the county decides to go with an energy efficiency program that promises up to $200,000 per year in savings.

Josh McNeil, account executive for Energy Systems Group (ESG), detailed the program to the Claiborne commission last week with the help of Scott Slusher, deputy director of the Tennessee Department of Education/Energy Efficient Schools Initiative.

“Over the last several months, we’ve been working with Dr. (Joseph) Miller (director of schools) and his team, looking at all the schools in the district from a utility standpoint and the potential for energy efficient upgrades. By looking at the 13 schools that cover your district, you spend right at $1.1 million a year on utilities.

“What we do as a company is to look for ways to reduce that cost to pay for the upgrades we recommend. Some of those upgrades would be energy-efficient LED lighting, which with the technology today, uses about half the energy that the existing TA technology does,” said McNeil.

The campus automations systems – the control systems – are another area for substantial energy savings. Simply cutting them off each evening and back on the next morning could greatly reduce the cost of powering the county schools, he said.

Once the program is approved, McNeil said the engineers and subcontractors would be brought in to “basically sharpen our pencils and fine-tune the numbers.”

The energy upgrades would then be installed via funds from a one percent low-interest loan through the Energy Efficient Schools Initiative.

The loan, he said, would be ‘budget neutral’ and would require no new money or tax increases to pay back.

“You’re looking at roughly $200,000 in energy savings over a 12 year period. That would fund about $2.5 million of upgrades.

“Most importantly, that’s guaranteed. So, if we say you’re going to save $200,000 and you save (only) $150,000, we contractually owe you $50,000 to make up the difference and the payment,” said McNeil.

Commissioner Shawn Peters asked whether the various sports facilities would be included in the project. McNeil said there would not be as much of an ‘energy savings payback’ involved with the facilities because of the amount of time spent using them. However, he said, his company could take another look at the numbers.

The $39,000 in preliminary costs associated with the initial walk through by ESG will be ‘rolled into’ the project costs. If the commission decides against the energy program, the county must repay the costs, said McNeil.

If approved, the upgrades would be implemented immediately and completed within no more than a six month period. McNeil estimated a project cost of $2.5 million not to exceed $3 million.

He said that, when accounting for the expected upgrade warranties, the energy saving equipment should ‘outlast’ the length of the 12-year loan.

The commissioners are expected to come back next month with their decisions.