Districts Head in Direction of Greater Energy Efficiency

Tight budgets don't always mean cuts. For districts in Illinois and Texas, finding a way to reduce expenditures recently meant finding a way to receive the same commodity at a reduced cost, specifically energy. With the help of energy solutions provider TAC, which guarantees at least minimum annual savings and agrees to pay the difference if those savings are not realized, both districts were able to ensure future savings that should have quite a favorable impact on their respective budgets.

In Ashton, IL, a small community about 90 miles west of Chicago, the 600-student Ashton-Franklin Center Community Unit School District has contracted TAC to address several critical issues adversely affecting comfort and energy efficiency in its elementary school serving grades K through 4. Such issues included a leaky roof, single-pane windows that caused significant heat loss in winter months, and an outdated pneumatic controls system.

With pressure to have a substantially improved environment in time for the new school year beginning in August, a spokesperson for TAC said the company will quickly address these costly and disruptive problems, first by replacing the roof, and then by implementing several projects including installation of a new HVAC system, replacing the windows with double-paned glass, and installing DDC controls system. The company has guaranteed an annual energy cost savings of at least $10,000 after these upgrades are completed.

Some 1,400 miles south-southwest, meanwhile, the Santa Rosa Independent School District, serving about 12,000 students in Santa Rosa, TX, has been experiencing energy and comfort problems at the opposite end of the spectrum. Extreme temperatures in buildings on its three campuses, comprising about 264,000 square feet of indoor space and located in the state's southernmost county, have led to exorbitant energy costs and similar complaints about general comfort.

Lucio Mendoza, business manager for SRISD, was faced with these problems, along with outdated HVAC appliances and, at the other end, the same budget constraints being felt by districts nationwide. The performance contract with TAC, he said, funds improvements with offsets from energy savings and is "the best way to control our high utility charges and start upgrading our infrastructure without having to find new financial resources."

SRISD's contract with TAC will provide for conservation measures such as a unified energy management system, installation of occupation sensors, and more energy efficient lighting. The company guarantees the district an annual energy savings of more than $183,000 after changes made under this performance contract.

Many districts throughout the country, TAC reported, have, through energy performance contracts, experienced a wide range of cost savings. The company also noted that several have, over time, substantially, and in some case completely, offset the costs of the respective contracts and equipment upgrades.

About the Author

Scott Aronowitz is a freelance writer based in Las Vegas. He has covered the technology, advertising, and entertainment sectors for seven years. He can be reached here.