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.