AMERICAN CANYON — Energy conservation pays. Just ask Napa Valley Unified School District officials.

At Thursday’s school board meeting at American Canyon High School, trustees received a check from Pacific Gas & Electric for more than $94,000, with reportedly more to come.

According to Jeri Gill, chief executive of Sustainable Napa County, the savings are the result of the efforts of the district’s facilities team, local nonprofits and PG&E.

Over the past two years, Gill said, the district’s facilities team has targeted and eliminated wasted energy at many of its campuses. In cooperation with Napa County Energy Watch — a partnership of PG&E, the nonprofit Sustainable Napa County and the philanthropic Gasser Foundation — the district combined special rebates with staff research to find and install energy-conserving equipment, often with zero out-of-pocket expenditures, according to Gill.

The apparent result is more efficient buildings and a healthier bottom line.

Gill said project successes include energy conservation campaigns on efficient classroom lighting, districtwide computer energy management systems, and efficient pumps for five district swimming pools.

The pool pump retrofit alone, the result of a more than a year of study by staff and coaches, will save $66,000 annually, according to Walt Blevins, district operations and maintenance manager. The district worked with a private contractor, Pool Solutions Group of Santa Rosa, on the pump retrofit for the pools at Napa and Vintage high schools, as well as Harvest, Silverado and Redwood middle schools.

Blevins said the result was “pretty extreme energy savings.”

The computer energy management system involved installing “smart” power strips for 2,600 personal computers, resulting in savings of $5,000 per month, Blevins said.

Gill told trustees that the rebates on those projects cover all or most of the costs of installation, totaling nearly $200,000, with a simple payback of well under a year, making conservation a smart business decision. Gill said energy efforts will provide annual electricity cost savings of almost $280,000, nearly 1.8 million kilowatt-hours saved and 460 tons of greenhouse gas emissions avoided each year.

The idea is to make each facility efficient before looking to install renewable energy sources, such as solar panels or wind generators.

“The whole point is to make the physical plant is as efficient as possible and create an energy conservation culture,” Gill said. She said energy efficiency also supports teachers by providing project-based learning opportunities. Vintage High, for example, offers a class on the physics of alternative energy.

It also allows schools to stretch limited educational dollars further, she said.

Energy-saving efforts need to be ongoing since technology is constantly improving, according to Sally Seymour, project manager for Sustainable Napa County.

“The energy-efficient marketplace is changing daily,” Seymour said.

No conservation efforts have been needed at American Canyon High. A PG&E newsletter from November 2011 praised the then-1-year-old school as “one of the most energy-efficient public high schools in the nation.” The school uses solar panels and natural lighting features among other energy-conservation methods.

Last week’s event was Gill’s first visit to American Canyon High, and she let board members know she was impressed.

“This high school is something to behold,” Gill said.

(10) comments


Got Grapes,

Where did the money come from to pay out these "awards", if they came from ANY government entity or one that is funded by the government then we are doing nothing but throwing good money after bad?

When doing the ROI calculation the true figure that need to be used are TOTAL COSTS, not the cost to the local school. Since many of us still pay Federal taxes, stimulus funds are just pulling money out of our left pocket and putting it in our right pocket.

In the end we the taxpayer still paid the bill, and the ROI calculation will be far worse if the TOTAL cost is used when calculating potential savings.

Additionally how much administrative costs did we have in getting those dollars to the local entity? Obviously many agencies were involved all of them adding to the inefficiency and adding costs. It wouldn't surprise me if it didn't cost $2 to bring $1 in "savings " to Napa.


To Got Grapes - Its kinda lonely in the blogs since the Register cut the public out of the discussion. Guess only a few people have $1.95 in their pockets to pay the on line fee. Probably will get worse if the Dems win. But then the people on the dole will get a handout that your taxes will pay for.


Lonely in the blogs? Not enough liberals for you to pick on? People on the dole thank you for your generous nature. Count your blessings.
The "dems" did win. Celebrate. You now have four more years to moan and groan.


I don't see any mention in this story of the $5 million that the system actually cost.


Congratulations to Sustainable Napa County, the Gasser Foundation and the NVUSD for having the vision to lead by example with the development of this facility. Having both the private sector and public sector collaborating is a good thing and there are plenty of people like me who appreciate your efforts.


Um…. 25 yr ROI on panels that typically run about 50-60% @ 20 yrs? I’d bet that ROI isn’t close in the end.

Only a tax payer funded program can produce a KWH @ 2X $$ what PG&E sells it for and calculate a savings. That 2X includes, of course, the cost to build a MW system but not the cost to keep it running which shortly will be substantial.


I am amazed that this article came out the day before the elections.

Some things to ask Walt Blevins and the School District et al:

Currently how many gallons of water is the new pool still leaking at American Canyon High School?
Does the alarm system for the Solar panels even work yet? Or are we still paying for the watchmen like we have been?
Has the problem with the solar windows been worked out yet, and if so, do they work now finally? How is the fire alarm coming along? Does it still have over 300 trouble problems in it's system?
Regarding the pump retrofits, has the school district been reimbursed for the failed pumps for the in-ground HVAC system there? Has action been taken so that this does not happen again?

Regarding Napa High and Vintage High's pools, can he leave his hands off of them and save the taxpayer's their money the next time he thinks he can "take care of things" himself and let the outside contractors he finally had to hire do their jobs? Or do we have to pay again, like at the Vintage pool?
Things to ponder.. on 11/06.


We need more people like this on the inside of the school district who will speak out and tell this community the truth. I wish we would have known why $11 Million of Stimulus funds was used to keep unneeded teachers on the payroll. I wish we would have known that the district indebted this community to pay $28 Million for $7 Million in Capital Appreciation Bonds in 2010.
Too bad NVUSD is a culture of secrecy and deceit.


Which teachers are unneeded? Do you really understand how many teachers could be paid for $11 million? Please source this information.
The bonds were voted for and there is a public committee overseeing the disbursals. That isn't secrecy and deceit.
Oh..and you're welcome. I turned the lights off every time the kids went out to recess.


@DashRiprock....You really have detailed information/questions/comments. You must be closely connected to the issues.

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