SAD 17 saving on energy costs

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QUESTIONS — Business Manager Cathy Coffey fields a question from a SAD director about the energy program savings at the Dec. 4 board meeting.

PARIS — The Oxford Hills School District continues to see significant savings from some of the energy projects it has implemented in all eight school buildings over the last decade.

Business Manager Cathy Coffey reported to the Board of Directors at its December 4 meeting that overall in Fiscal 2018, the district has a positive cash flow of nearly $218,000 from its district-wide energy savings projects.

CASH FLOW — In Fiscal 2018, the Oxford Hills School District showed a positive cash flow from its energy savings projects of about $218,000.

Topping the list for savings in the amount of $315,000 is Phase 1, which included retrofitting energy savings measures at all eight school in 2007 such as installing lighting retrofits, demand control ventilation and other electric projects.

The project, like others over the last 10 years, have been completed under “performance contracting”  with Seimens. Coffey defined the contracts as a financial vehicle that provides energy efficient facility improvements with no up front costs. The contract with Seimens also includes a Performance Assurance Report that requires the vendor to analyze the results of the project to determine if the guaranteed savings are met.

Each year, the administration reports to the directors the results of the cost savings analysis.

But other projects such as the Paris Elementary and Oxford Hills Middle School wood pellet boilers, which were installed in FY 2015 , saw a negative cash flow of just over $47,000. The Oxford and Rowe elementary school wood pellet boilers installations in FY 2014 also saw a negative cash flow of just under $43,000.

“It’s one project we’re not happy with the performance,” said Coffey of the Oxford and Norway elementary school wood pellet boilers that were financed through a Performance Contract – Siemens, Qualified School Construction Bond, and Efficiency Maine Energy Rebates.

The loss at the Oxford Hills Middle and Paris Elementary schools this year will be offset by as much as $50,000 when the loan payments are completed soon, said Coffey.

The projects with the negative cash flow this year were primarily caused by the declining cost of #2 fuel oil, said Coffey.

The $2.2 million Biomass project at the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in 2011 that was financed with a performance contract  from Siemens, a  Qualified Construction Bond and a grant from the American Recovery  and Reinvestment Act of 2009, showed a slight decline this year.

This year it showed a $2,800 negative cash flow which prompted a few directors to question the cost of the wood chips. Superintendent Rick Colpitts said the district is now buying its wood chips locally instead of from Canada. Those shipments contained debris, such as branches, which tended to clog the augers and result in shutdowns of the boiler. The current chips are clean and help the machinery function well.

Some of the projects were done out of necessity, such as the replacement of the Hebron Station School boiler.

In 2013 more than 1,500 gallons of fuel oil leaked from a Hebron Station School tank room on December 25 and into adjacent wetlands. Remedial efforts included the installation , through a lease/purchase agreement, of  a $95,000 propane boiler.

“It was no surprise,” said Coffey of the negative cash flow for that project. “We’ll be ok when the loan goes away.”

Some schools now have an alternative fuel source that was not available in the past. For example, $1.5 million project, provided wood pellet boilers and backup propane boilers at the Oxford Hills Middle School and Paris Elementary School.

Coffey said the backup allows officials to monitor fuel prices and switch the building’s source of fuel when the prices decline.

Positive results

Despite some negative results, Coffey said overall the energy retrofit projects continue to not only  generate significant savings for SAD 17, but they have other positive effects.

Those include:

  • provided new equipment across the district;
  • reducing operational costs and labor for repair and maintenance;
  • a significant positive environmental impact that equates to saving five acres of forests, removing 107 cars from the road, four railroad cars of coal burned and burning 1,354 barrels of oil;
  • the reduction of the district’s reliance on foreign oil;
  • utilization of local vendors and product;
  • creating a duel fuel system that allows school officials to monitor pricing for maximum efficiency.

School officials will continue to monitor the energy retrofit projects and will report back to the Board of Directors on their successes and failures again in a year.

ldixon@sunmediagroup.net