by Patrick McDonnell
Striving to enhance public education in Southcentral Connecticut, Area Cooperative Educational Services (ACES) provides valuable resources to 25 school districts and also operates eight special education and Interdistrict Magnet Schools. ACES provides programs that improve the quality of teaching and learning and continually seeks opportunities to be a community leader.
Seeking cost-effective solutions to improve the environmental impact and exemplify its sustainable culture, ACES recently completed an energy-efficiency project at its Wintergreen Interdistrict Magnet School. Efficiency measures implemented at the K-8 building in Hamden, Conn., reduced operating costs while maintaining an optimal learning environment for its 640 students.
To ensure core energy goals were met, ACES partnered with The United Illuminating Company (UI), as part of the Energize Connecticut initiative, throughout the Wintergreen project. In addition to helping the school secure approximately $133,000 in financial assistance through the Energy Efficiency Fund, the New Haven utility provided technical insight and developed a strategic plan to utilize key energy-saving technologies.
Lighting in the school entrance, halls, library, and gym were upgraded to high-efficient fluorescent technology and light-emitting diode (LED) lights. Inefficient, high-maintenance metal halide light fixtures outside the school were retrofitted with LED lighting systems. The cumulative lighting upgrades completed generated an estimated $36,000 in annual savings.
The school’s two oversized, outdated boilers were replaced with one high-efficiency condensing gas boiler. Variable frequency drives (VFDs) were also added to the primary circulation pumps, preventing the system from constantly running at full speed. The updated drives allow the system to operate on an as-needed basis, often at a lower speed, reducing energy use and associated costs. The boiler upgrades and VFDs installation resulted in an additional $6,250 estimated annual savings.
“When you look at the annual expenses and tight budgets of a school, energy cost is one area to reduce without negatively impacting the quality of education provided,” said Tim Howes, assistant executive director at ACES. “The energy-efficient improvements implemented at Wintergreen improved our bottom line, and the resulting savings will go right back to our students in enhanced programs and services.”
The efficiency projects completed at Wintergreen align with the school’s sustainable culture and green environment. The liberal arts education supports lessons and activities on renewable energy, sustainability, composting, and recycling. Every classroom also maintains an indoor hydroponic garden, where students can harvest greens and herbs.
Looking ahead, ACES is on track to undertake several more energy-efficiency projects with Energize Connecticut support, including construction of a new special-education high school in Hamden and installation of roofs with solar panels at two special-education elementary schools.
There are vast opportunities for schools to enhance energy usage and reduce operating costs. Energize Connecticut programs are available to help schools initiate energy-efficiency projects and experience the financial and environmental benefits.
The programs are part of an initiative of the Energy Efficiency Fund, the Connecticut Green Bank, the state, and local electric and gas utilities with funding from a charge on customer energy bills.
Patrick McDonnell is senior director conservation and load management at The United Illuminating Company.