Wyoming County Schools earn ENERGY STAR accolades
By Andrea B. Bond
Wyoming County Schools has been recognized as an ENERGY STAR Leaders Top Performer for achieving an average portfolio rating of 87.
“We have eight out of 10 of the ENERGY STAR schools in West Virginia,” said Terry Tilley, Wyoming County Schools energy manager. “Five more schools in the county are awaiting audits.”
A collaborative effort between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, the ENERGY STAR label was established for two purposes: (1) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants caused by the inefficient use of energy, and (2), to make it easy for consumers to identify and purchase energy-efficient products.
The ENERGY STAR Leaders label was developed to recognize building owners that demonstrate continuous improvement in energy performance throughout a portfolio of buildings. In order to achieve an ENERGY STAR plaque, a facility has to have a rating of at least 75.
Wyoming County Schools had been doing some energy management since 1982, Tilley said, but in November 2003 the district implemented a formal energy policy requiring every employee and student to be an energy saver as well as energy consumer.
“Wyoming County Board of Education recognized that energy costs were about to double in our area and we would have move aggressively to maintain a healthy budget. We developed a hierarchy for our projects based on cost per square foot to operate,” Tilley said.
Energy Services Group was asked to do a comprehensive energy audit. Their findings revealed that the district could replace a 1940 vintage heating system with ENERGY STAR-rated heat pumps and upgrade 4,500 light fixtures county wide with a savings over 10 years.
Last summer, the district replaced a 1960s steam boiler with individualized room heat pumps that reference temperature, humidity, and CO2. The upgrade allows for zone scheduling with Wyoming County’s web control energy management system, which allows the user online remote climate control of each facility.
In other county-wide improvements, energy-saving T8 fluorescent lights have replaced the old incandescent bulbs. School facilities now have motion detectors on all through-the-wall heat pumps, vend misers on all vending machines and UV lights on the condensing coils.
The upgrades have helped the district realize a significant amount of savings on energy costs, he said. This year, from January to April, the school district has saved $149,566 in heating and cooling costs. Since the program was implemented in January 2004, the district has saved $1,690,450.
“Our buildings cost 94 cents per square foot to heat and cool for a year, whereas the national average is $2,” Tilley said. “The most expensive school costs $1.50 per square foot – still well below the national average – and the lowest costs only 65 cents per square foot to heat.”
The least-expensive school to heat is Mullens Middle School, built in 1928, which stands as proof that old buildings can be retrofitted well enough to register a significant amount of savings.
“Mullens is an old building, but we put in a new roof. We added two-inch insulation in the roof, and 18-inch insulation in the ceiling. We installed new windows as well, and that’s just one example,” he said. “Then there’s Pineville Middle School, which used to cost $110,000 a year to heat and cool. It now costs $33,000 a year.”
To top it off, a new project is in the works based out of Wyoming County Career and Technical Center (WCCTC).
“When the state Board of Education was approached for a county to apply for a grant from ARC for a photovoltaic system and green school concept, Wyoming was the logical choice because of our success with ENERGY STAR,” Tilley said.
This spring, Wyoming County will be the first West Virginia County to offer solar panel installation and energy management as courses. The program will be offered at WCCTC and a green team leader will be selected from each facility in the county.
The school district’s energy improvement efforts have attracted notice from other entities: Wyoming County school officials were invited to make a presentation on ENERGY STAR at the West Virginia school maintenance director’s conference and to a New River Gorge National Park seminar, “Climate Friendly Parks Fight Against Climate Change.”
Tilley said the qualifying schools’ ENERGY STAR plaques have inspired a bit of friendly competition among school administrators. When energy efficiency is the name of the game, sometimes a little trash talk is in order.
“During meetings, I razz the schools that don’t have the plaques and commend the ones that do,” he said with a laugh. “Everybody is really competitive down here. They’re not only worried about getting the plaques, but keeping them. Once you’ve attained ENERGY STAR leadership status, the challenge is maintaining that status.”
The Wyoming County Board of Education is provided with in-depth reports twice a year on the schools’ energy efficiency measures. Tilley said he was thankful for the assistance from Wyoming County Schools Superintendent Frank Blackwell in getting the ENERGY STAR program off the ground.
“When you’re doing what we’re doing, you’ve got to have good leadership. If it weren’t for the superintendent and assistant superintendent, I wouldn’t get anywhere,” he said. “It is a team approach that leads to success.”
The district’s next goal is to become ENERGY STAR Partner of the Year, he added. “We have enough qualifying facilities, but we’ve never applied for that before.”
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