Eatonville schools saving on energy bills

The total bill for heating and turning on the lights at Eatonville schools could be about 25 percent smaller this school year, thanks to help from a Texas-based energy-efficiency consultant. Schneider Electric, a specialist in energy management, has completed a $2.2 million contract with the Eatonville School District that involved an overhaul of the heating system at Columbia Crest Elementary School and upgrades of the lighting at Eatonville Middle School and Eatonville High School. The project will enable the district to shave approximately 24 percent off its annual energy costs, officials said. The majority of the contract with Schneider Electric, which is based in Dallas, Texas, focused on improving Columbia Crest's HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) system. Schneider installed a new, integrated system with lighting and direct digital controls. Schneider also upgraded the heat exchanger for the swimming pool at the high school and retrofitted the exterior lighting at all three schools. Eatonville is among 43 school districts in Washington that were collectively awarded $20.9 million in 2012 for energy cost-savings projects by the state superintendent of public instruction. Eatonville's share of $900,000 is the fourth-highest statewide. To qualify, the Eatonville district hired Schneider Electric to conduct an energy audit of its schools. The study found ways that the high school, the middle school and Columbia Crest could reduce their energy use substantially through improvements by Schneider. It's expected that the district will realize savings of $113,000 per year in energy costs. If it doesn't, Schneider will pay the difference. According to Schneider, the district can expect to reduce its energy use by 1.6 million kilowatt hours. State Superintendent of Public Instruction Randy Dorn has said that projects like the one in Eatonville will help produce long-term financial savings for school districts and stimulate construction-industry jobs in heating, ventilation, building system controls, lighting, windows and other building systems. In the past 20 years, Schneider Electric has successfully implemented nearly 500 projects nationally and helped, enabling public-funded entities such as schools to make capital improvements over longer payback periods. The company "worked closely" with the Eatonville district "to help them address their infrastructure needs," said Jordan Lerner, regional director of Schneider Electric. "The upgrades we facilitated for these three schools will not only improve their energy efficiency, but more importantly, will improve indoor comfort and create a better environment for student learning and achievement." Earlier this year, Columbia Crest was considered for closure by the district as a budget-cutting move. The School Board put the decision on hold until least next May while district officials study the possibility of a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) curriculum for Columbia Crest. The board eventually will decide whether to keep the school open or continue in the STEM direction. Eatonville is one of four school districts in Washington that hired Schneider for energy improvements with their portions of the state funding allocated last year. Forty-three districts received the state energy grants appropriated by the Legislature. Seventy districts applied.


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