Audit: District can see big savings in energy usage

December 5, 2011 — by Anshu Siripurapu

The Los Gatos-Saratoga High School district has much to be proud of: high standardized test scores, enviable graduation rates and state-of-the art facilities. But a recent energy audit, conducted by Innovate Energy Services (IES), found that the district is lagging behind most schools in one area: energy efficiency.

IES compared LGSUHSD’s energy usage with the energy usage of other neighboring districts. The results showed that at 1,251 kw/H per student, the district’s consumption was the highest of all school’s in the comparison, 47 percent higher than the average. Los Gatos was 31.64 percent above average, and SHS was 25.2 percent above average.
The district had previously taken steps to reduce power consumption on campus. In 2010, SmartMeters were installed to monitor power consumption in real time and provide information on unusual fluctuations in electricity usage. The district also replaced the inefficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system in the district office, netting savings of $7,000.
The report by IES identifies further savings, some immediate and some long term, to further reduce district power consumption.
The study’s findings fell into two main categories: operational/behavioral modifications, which are immediate, and no-cost changes and equipment modifications, which require some investment with different rates of payback, some in several months, others in several years.
The behavioral modifications included such changes as adopting a district-wide energy policy and removing some refrigerators and coolers. The equipment modifications included retrofitting inefficient lighting systems, installing solar panels for pool heating at SHS and Los Gatos and replacing the stadium lights at Los Gatos. The total cost for the projects was nearly $2 million with a payback in close to 11 years.
Principal Jeff Anderson said the biggest change that arose from the report’s recommendations was the decision to install solar panels to heat the pools at both Los Gatos and Saratoga High.
In addition, some minor modifications such as installing motion sensors to automatically turn lights on and off and removing some of the energy inefficient mini-fridges on campus will also be implemented.
“Some of those fridges can cost as much as $50 a month by themselves,” said Anderson. “We’re going to try and get units for each department, to reduce the amount of consumption.”
Some proposals for further reducing the school’s consumption include installing solar panels in the parking lots and displaying the data from the SmartMeters on an LCD screen in the office, but what action will be taken on those remains to be seen.