Next summer, Ithaca City School District (ICSD) is likely to embark construction on a district-wide Energy Performance Contract (EPC)—conducted by Trane Heating and Air Condition Services—that would cost more than $10.1 million. Eighteen years from now the capital project is projected to cover the $10.1 million cost and net the district $7.5 million in additional savings.
By state law, the EPC guarantees the district would see that return on investment in the 18-year period. If that promise is not fulfilled, Trane would be on the hook to pick up the tab. According to Trane’s latest energy conservation measures—presented to the ICSD Board of Education on Tuesday, June 24—the majority of work in the district would include lighting upgrades, building envelope improvements, water conservation and enhanced energy control strategies.
“We want to provide a vehicle for [ICSD] to move forward,” Trane Account Executive Tom Nickelson said, “whereby the energy and operational savings generated by the execution of the scope of the Energy Performance Contract project would not only offset the cost, but hopefully, after building aid and recognized savings, would generate a positive form of income for the district.”
Nickelson said lighting upgrades, which are proposed to occur at every school in the district, would be one of the more noticeable and welcomed changes. BOE President Rob Ainslie asked whether or not Ithacans can expect to see less light pollution from the district, in particular from its stadium lighting.
“When I’m up on West Hill,” Ainslie said, “I know when things are going on because everyone can see the lights are on at the high school. We light up all of downtown sometimes with our lights.”
It is Trane’s hope that would no longer be the case. “We want to standardize what you have,” Nickelson explained, “with low-power, energy-efficient lighting so that you wouldn’t be required in the future to have inventories of hundreds of different styles of light bulbs and fixtures that you have now. More importantly, the changes would be upgrades that would include LED type retrofits, including your exterior lighting.”
Matt Pinczes of Trane added further explained as to how LED lighting might solve ICSD’s light pollution tendencies. “LEDs are traditionally more directed light,” he said. “And so it will be more directed to the point of use. Also, the lighting is more bright and white, so you get away from the yellow lights that aren’t appealing to the eye. You change the color of the light, you require a lot less of it for it to be noticeable by the eye.”
In addition to new lighting, upgrades to the district’s sewer and water facilities is considered a hot button topic in ICSD at the moment, as its bathrooms have been reported to be in terrible condition. Several students have previously presented the BOE with concerns about the Ithaca High School (IHS) bathrooms, noting that the majority of facilities had faulty locks—if any—broken toilet paper dispensers and sinks, and damaged mirrors.
Trane expects the EPC will offer a way to resolve those issues while saving money. “We looked closely at the toilets and sinks—the typical fixtures,” Nickelson said. “We identified their usage and came up with retrofit solutions that would offer water efficiency savings. We learned that there were some bathrooms throughout the district that were out of order or in need of repair. Where we can, we’ll try to improve that situation. But they’re not complete bathroom renovations, however, the bathrooms will become fully functional and in good working order when we’re finished.”
The BOE was excited by the projected numbers of the EPC, and were happy to encourage the district to transition from the assessment stage to the actual construction of EPC projects, which as of now, would begin next summer. Trane representatives estimated the projects, in their entirety, would take approximately a year to complete. The expected $7.5 in savings would begin in the first year after completion, with more than $170,000 in energy savings for the district. If state aid figures are what the district expects them to be going forward, ICSD won’t have to wait 18 years to see its full return of the EPC investment, said BOE member Bradley Grainger, head of the finance committee.
Grainger told the Ithaca Times that the money for the project is borrowed, and is paid back from two sources—a reduction in utility costs and increased state aid. The state aid is for building improvements and an incentive from the state to encourage energy management.
“When you take a look,” he said, “you can see the simple payback is 17.7 years. But with the expected state aid thrown in, it’s 8.9 years. That’s a pretty good return.” Ainslie added that the BOE was “happy to keep (the EPC) moving forward.”
“It’s truly a win-win,” Nickelson concluded, “for everybody that’s involved and everybody that’s affected by it. It saves money, it improves the environment—it’s good stuff.”