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ORLEANS â Thanks to the Whole School Energy Challenge, Lake Region Union High School reduced its energy consumption by 25 percent, saving taxpayers $15,885, and that was enough to make it the top school in a pilot program.
Efficiency Vermont, Vermont Superintendents Association School Energy Management Program and the Vermont Energy Education Program partnered in the program that ran from May 2011 to April 2012.
Champlain Valley High School in Hinesburg, Waits River Valley High School in East Corinth, Spaulding High School in Barre and Twinfield Union High School in Plainfield were the other schools that took part in the program.
âWe wanted to work with schools that had expressed to us an interest in setting some goals toward energy reduction, engaging students as part of a team to reach that goal and had facility managers who were interested in being better operators of their building,â explained Richard Donnelly, strategic planner for Efficiency Vermont.
The organizations avoided categorizing the schools by win, place and show.
âBut, if you look at the numbers of Lake Region verses the other schools, Lake Region went above and beyond. They had the highest energy star score, which is a federal benchmark for building performance.â
Lake Region also achieved the greatest percentage of electrical energy reduction.
Lake Region Principal Andre Messier said the organizations felt that Vermont schools could cut their energy consumption by 10 to 15 percent. The program included working with schoolâs educational programs and conducting energy audits in the buildings. The program kept track of the schoolâs electrical usage and oil as compared to the previous year.
âWe were able to reduce our electrical usage by almost 30 percent and our fuel oil by 30 percent,â said Messier. âWe were able to reduce our consumption by about 6,500 gallons of oil.â
Messier credits the schoolâs maintenance staff, custodial staff and the school board for the success. Funds from the capital reserve fund were used to make improvements to the building, which is 45 years old. Improvements included installing efficient lighting and motion sensors in the gym, parking lot and by exterior doors.
The school also installed two student-built solar and battery-powered scoreboards, insulated windows, installed lower horse-powered motors in the boiler room and insulated exterior doors. In addition, it installed electronic thermostat controls in all classrooms and took several small room refrigerators off line.
âWe made a lot of physical changes,â said Messier. âNow it becomes habit, like turning lights off.â
This summer, the school will change light bulbs to those that are more energy efficient. That will cost about $30,000 but Efficiency Vermont will give a $6,000 rebate. The rebate will be for four years. The school will test some LED lights in several areas of the school. LED bulbs are expensive to buy but last 25 years compared to ones that last 1.5 to 2 years.
The program provided a data sheet that showed how much energy was used each month throughout the year.
âWe use to get our electric bill and just pay it,â said Messier. âWe never looked at it, but now we look at it hard.â
The school used the most energy in February. Messier isnât sure why the usage was more, but suggested there were more home games and other events.
Lake Region received no money for the achievement, but it received a plaque and bragging rights.
âItâs kind of a prestige thing and something to share with the community,â Messier said. âWith the work weâve done, weâve received quite a bit of Efficiency Vermont rebates and support. Whether we got more, because weâre a part of this, I donât know.â