Times-News: Buhl Ecology Club pitches school efficiency program

April 23, 2010 in Grantee Stories, In The News

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Buhl Ecology Club pitches school efficiency program

By Blair Koch – Times-News correspondent | Posted: Friday, April 23, 2010

BUHL — The Buhl School District could save more than $25,000 annually by upgrading elementary and middle school lighting, according to an energy audit completed by the BHS Ecology Club.

Club members presented the findings to school trustees during the board’s Wednesday meeting.

“We found that Popplewell Elementary School and Buhl Middle School could greatly benefit from a major upgrade in their light fixtures used and installation of light sensors to control the energy used by lights during the day,” said member Ruth Loza.

Armed with an array of meters, the club performed energy assessments of district schools, checking on the types of lighting fixtures used and energy consumption.

The club found substantial cost savings could be realized by the district if older T-12 fluorescent lights were replaced with T-8 fluorescent lighting. The T-8 lights use significantly less energy, produce less heat, are quieter and provide a better color.

Those lighting changes would produce a savings of more than $2,000 a year at the elementary school and more than $24,000 yearly at the middle school.

Savings could also result from installing sensors on lights and other equipment to conserve electricity by powering them up only when people are present or they’re otherwise needed.

Club member Mollie Bourner said more energy equipment were turned off or unplugged when they’re not in use.

“When we gave this presentation to the student body we found that there are habits we’re willing to change,” Bourner said.

The audit, which was verified by Idaho Power personnel, was sponsored by an Idaho Power pilot program focused on energy education and energy efficiency audits of schools, said Idaho Power Community Advisory Committee Chairman Bill Chisholm.

“This is not just an exercise. There is potential that their recommendations might be implemented, either through Idaho Power’s energy efficiency incentive program or via stimulus grants administered through the Governor’s Office of Energy Resources,” Chisholm said.

A program through Idaho Power would provide a discount of 20 to 30 percent of the total cost to install new lights at both schools. Even with the incentive, the cost to the district would be about $84,000. It would take 14 years for the lighting upgrade at the elementary school to pay for itself, but the upgrade at the middle school would pay for itself in a little more than three years.

The board didn’t take any action on the recommendation but thanked the club for its presentation.

Blair Koch may be reached at blairkoch@gmail.com or 316-2607.