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Central Nebraska District Cuts Costs with Energy Efficient Upgrades

Sumner-Eddyville-Miller (SEM) Public Schools in central Nebraska plans to implement more energy efficient heating, cooling, lighting, windows, and electronic controls, and switch to a renewable energy heat source. The upgrades will significantly reduce the district's utility and operational costs, and it plans to use those savings to pay for facility and equipment upgrades.

Several months ago the district conducted a technical energy audit of its facilities. "The audit identified many measures that can and will improve the learning environment, while significantly reducing utility and operational costs," said Jeff Walburn, district superintendent, in a prepared statement.

The district hired Ameresco, an energy efficiency and renewable energy company, to make the upgrades as part of an Energy Savings Performance Contract (ESPC). Under the ESPC, Ameresco will handle procurement, design, construction, commissioning, and project management. The project will involve more than $1 million in energy efficiency upgrades on 57,000 square feet of facilities, including installing new heating and cooling units, retrofitting lighting, replacing windows, installing electronic controls, and switching the school from propane heating to an expanded ground-source heat pump system.

Benefits to the school include improving energy efficiency in multiple buildings, lowering the district's cost of electricity, eliminating drafts, and providing cooling where none was previously available. The upgrades are expected to save the district approximately 31 percent in energy costs annually and significantly reduce its carbon footprint. "The cost savings, from reducing energy and operational expenses, can be used on much needed facility upgrades and replacement of aging equipment. There will be no tax levy to pay for these improvements," said Walburn.

The project is scheduled for completion in early 2014.

Sumner-Eddyville-Miller Public Schools is a consolidated school district between Kearney and Lexington in central Nebraska. The district has one elementary school and one high school serving 204 students and employing 25 teachers, two administrators, and 18 staff members.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

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