2017-11-09 / News

St. Ignace School Recognized for Efforts Toward Energy Efficiency

By Stephanie Fortino

St. Ignace Area Schools was named a 2017 Leader in Energy Efficiency by the Michigan Agency for Energy and Michigan Energy Office Wednesday, November 1. The school was recognized for its recent $1.2 million in upgrades, which were paid for by an interest-free bond. The project, which began in August 2016 and was completed this spring, saw new energy efficient lighting and a new heating and cooling system, and was reported in The St. Ignace News March 2.

To complete the upgrades, the school worked with Johnson Controls, which said it might qualify for the Leader in Energy award. St. Ignace Superintendent Don Gustafson applied.

The accolade is great affirmation for the project, he said, noting his excitement that the award was given by an outside agency that agreed it was a positive improvement for the district.

“We were surprised to be chosen and selected for the award,” Mr. Gustafson told The St. Ignace News, “but it also supports and endorses the decision the school board made to move ahead with this project.”

The biggest improvements were seen at the elementary and middle school building, which had an entirely new LED lighting system installed, replacing the original systems that were installed in 1991 and 1994.

Most of the new lighting was installed by January, and as part of the award application, Mr. Gustafson determined the energy savings from January to August this year as compared to the same time period last year. The new lighting alone was able to reduce energy consumption by 45%, from 274,400 kilowatt hours in January to August of 2016 to 152,000 kilowatt hours during the same period this year.

With changing electricity costs, Mr. Gustafson said, it’s difficult to say how much money the school district will save, although he noted electricity bills are significantly lower this year.

Over in the high school building, only the lights in the cafeteria and gymnasium were changed, because the lighting in the classrooms was upgraded in the early 2000s. Those improvements have reduced the high school’s energy consumption by 15%.

Motion-sensors were also installed in the cafeterias and gymnasium, helping to further reduce energy consumption. Previously, the old mercury vapor bulbs needed 10 minutes to reach full illumination, he said, so often the lights in the gymnasium were left on throughout the day. Now, the lights shut off when the facilities are not in use.

The boiler system in the elementary and middle school building was also improved with a more efficient and bigger boiler. That has resulted in a 22% reduction in thermal units used in the building, Mr. Gustafson said.

While savings are already being seen, he continued, energy and cost savings will be realized for years to come.

The school acquired an interestfree Qualified Zone Academy Bond, or QZAB, from the state to pay for the project. The bond requires a local partner, which First National Bank agreed to fulfill.

In all, six projects at public buildings were recognized. Branch County, the City of Grand Rapids, Monroe County Community College, Oakland University, and Parchment School District near Kalamazoo were also named 2017 Leaders in Energy.

More than $39.5 million was collectively invested in the upgrades, which will result in almost $2.1 million a year in energy savings for the different institutions.

The awards are sponsored by the Energy Services Coalition – Michigan Chapter.

The award recipients, said coalition chapter president Dan Mack, “have demonstrated leadership and stewardship in their commitment to reducing wasted energy, shrinking their carbon footprint, and improving the work and learning environment for building occupants.”

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