Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009
Solar thermal seems the way to go
By Janie Southard
ROCKFORD - The recently completed energy evaluation for the school district has resulted in a recommendation for a solar thermal system as opposed to the other possibility of wind power.
"Solar thermal will heat hot water, which is a lot more efficient, for our domestic uses like sinks, dishwashers, etc.," Superintendent Greg Puthoff said. "We're also looking at a solar system to let our boilers heat the buildings in the winter ... We'll put solar panels on top of our two gym areas facing south."
Greg Smith of Waibel Energy Systems in Vandalia presented the results of the evaluation at a recent board meeting. In his report, he stated the school would reduce its natural gas costs by 32.9 percent and the electrical consumption by 22.8 percent if it went forward with this solar thermal system. In terms of money, those savings together total more than $78,000 per year.
He said the gas and electrical usage in the district is already 12.3 percent more efficient than the average Miami Valley district with like facilities. There already are conservation measures in place, such as using tanks filled with ice (chillers) to more efficiently cool the air.
Smith's recommendations have a price tag around $730,000. Without grant money, the project would require 30-40 years to pay off.
The total project includes a number of renovations such as replacing the district's thousands of high-energy light bulbs with low-energy bulbs. That savings itself is more than $18,000, including the fact that the bulbs would be replaced less frequently.
Another part of the project would increase areas, which basically reduces how much of the building is heated or cooled at one time.
"Right now our building has three different zones that require heating and air conditioning. Our new programming is to make 10 areas. So instead of having to heat or cool one third of the building for various meetings, etc., we'd only need to involve one-tenth," Puthoff said.
The superintendent said the district already has applied for stimulus money on a couple projects.
"Plus there's the Ohio Renewable Energy Grant and DP&L offers an energy conservation grant," he said. "Weibel said the project would be around $643,000 after grants and rebates."
After payback, the district expects to save about $101,000 a year. The project also qualifies for the Ohio School Facilities Commission Energy Conservation program.
Puthoff highlighted there also would be an energy education and training program that would involve certain district staff, a board member, teachers, students and some community residents.