The Martinsville Metropolitan School District (MSD) is spread across twelve locations in a suburban Indianapolis county. Many of those are "Energy Star Certified" by the EPA, a federal program which recognizes facilities that take the proper steps to ensure their power is used in the most efficient manner possible. The school district administration was puzzled by the fact that South Elementary, though the newest school in the district, consistently rated sub-par in energy efficiency. The answer to the puzzle was revealed last year when the district approved funding for a maintenance overhaul made possible in part by a $50,000.00 grant from Hoosier Energy.
"There's a false perception that, to a utility provider, it makes no difference if a facility is operating efficiently or not," said Dan Brackemyre, Business Development Manager of South Central Indiana REMC (SCI-REMC), the co-op that distributes power to Morgan County from Hoosier Energy. "We're tasked with providing electricity to several industrial facilities, and energy waste puts a strain on us, and makes it more difficult to meet the needs of our other industrial customers. Addressing and correcting these problems is better for the customer, better for the REMC, and better for the wholesale power provider, in this case, Hoosier Energy. It's a win-win-win." Recognizing this, Hoosier Energy started a Demand Side Management program in 2010 to make their local co-ops more aware of energy saving options to pass along to their clients.
Though consisting of twelve buildings at separate locations throughout Martinsville, the school district is classified by the SCI-REMC as a single commercial industrial customer. Brackemyre explained, "Commercial industrial clients are a large portion of our business while making up relatively few accounts, so they're important to us in a number of ways." For years, several of Martinsville's schools were "Energy Star Certified," with an overall Energy Star rating of 75 or greater, based on standards set by the E.P.A. South Elementary School, on the other hand, averaged an energy efficiency rating of only around 48%.
This fact frustrated Brady Piercefield, Energy Management Coordinator for Martinsville schools. "The school is 50K sq. ft, but consumed enough energy for 140K sq. ft., and for all that power, didn't cool or heat efficiently."
Piercefield consulted with Peine Engineering of Indianapolis. They concluded that the HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) system in South Elementary was the cause. "The system ran 24/7," said Piercefield. "Plus teachers had no individual control over their classroom temperature. Some rooms were too cold, others too hot."
A two-part maintenance solution was proposed, which ultimately cost around $210,000.00. First, computer controls were added to the HVAC system, allowing school engineers to program overall unit operation. It would run at full power during school hours, power down to a hibernation mode after school let out, then power back up in the early morning in time for students' arrival. Secondly, they added a dial control in each classroom so teachers could tweak the temperature plus or minus three degrees. "It addressed a real comfort concern and also gave the teachers a sense of control," said Piercefield.
SCI-REMC worked alongside Piercefield to submit the school's proposal to Hoosier Energy for an efficiency upgrade grant. "They made it very easy for me, and we received a check for the full amount of $50,000.00 very quickly." The grant from the rural electric cooperative allowed Piercefield to add dial controls, CO2 sensors, motion sensors, and other equipment that increased the efficiency of the school. The upgrades were installed in the summer of 2012, between June and August, completed just in time for the start of the school year. A year later, the school consistently scores above 75, a dramatic increase from the previous score of 54, and has cut annual energy use by nearly 35%.
"South Elementary School received a custom rebate," explained Jim Wittman, Hoosier Energy Key Account Manager. "They submitted a proposal with several parts, a plan that would bring about greater energy efficiency overall. We approved the maximum amount, based on the plan submitted." Hoosier Energy recognized that each customer has unique needs and opportunity, so in the case of South Elementary, the utility was happy to customize the rebate program to help the school achieve its energy conservation goal.
"One of our goals is to ensure our customers are using energy efficiently," said Greg McKelfresh, C.E.O. of SCI-REMC. "We like to sell electricity, but it doesn't do anyone any good if a customer is adding to the demand unnecessarily." Wittman added, "We want our key accounts to operate as efficiently as possible. There's no value in generating something that wasn't needed to begin with." Programs like the efficiency grants and the Demand Side Management programs are just two ways Hoosier Energy is committed to helping its customers obtain optimal energy efficiency.
SCI-REMC is an energy provider for all of Morgan County and parts of Monroe, Brown, and Owen Counties. www.sciremc.com The MSD of Martinsville consists of eight elementary schools, two middle schools, a high school, and an off-campus facility. www.msmsdadmin.scican.net. Learn all about Hoosier Energy at www.hepn.com.