Gallia Local embarks on energy-saving initiatives

By Dean Wright - [email protected]

Contractors construct a field of solar panels next to River Valley Middle School.

Contractors construct a field of solar panels next to River Valley Middle School.

Dean Wright | Ohio Valley Publishing

GALLIA COUNTY — Gallia County Local Schools is embarking on a house bill energy-savings project to save taxpayers money and free up funds to further local children’s education as part of the school’s mission to better local children’s education through new technologies.

According to Gallia County Local Superintendent Jude Meyers, the energy-savings project has been in the works more than the last year. The first part of the project aimed to replace light fixtures in all of the schools with LED lighting. According to Meyers, the schools went from 32-watt bulbs to 18. Every bulb has a 10-year lifetime and he believes the new lighting has “transformed the campuses” inside and outside.

Meyers noted that some of the school’s special education students who have visual impairments no longer need to make use of visual overlays and such implements because the lighting is bright enough now to assist them in completing classwork.

The lighting system replacements were started last fall and completed in February.

Phase Two of the project involved automation of the schools’ climate control systems, along with a plan to add solar panel fields to school properties. Gallia County Local Schools has been in the process of becoming automated so that maintenance workers may not have to make a run as often to adjust heating units. Meyers used the example that one could observe how warm or cool a room was and adjust a temperature setting electronically to address energy efficiency needs. He also noted that if schools were cancelled, one could remotely adjust heating settings to be dropped to save energy for a snow day as opposed to sending a maintenance worker all across the county to manually adjust heat settings.

Solar panel fields are being added to some school campuses as part of arrangements with Buckeye Rural Electric and AEP. Because the fields are being added, the schools will receive discounts on their power bills. River Valley campuses are already seeing the construction of a solar panel field.

“This entire project is being paid for through the savings that we’re going to make on the energy,” Meyers said.

According to Meyers, within roughly a few years, the project’s financial obligations will have balanced out. In layman’s terms, it will be like the school never spent any money on the project because investments in its power use infrastructure will result in greater financial savings due to more efficient energy use.

“The intention of all of this is that when you cut your utility cost and when you cut your operational cost, that means you have more money to invest in students and classrooms and things our kids need to be successful,” Meyers said.

Meyers also said that through such savings the school has been able to provide Chromebook computers for students to assist them in learning new technology and to put them on a level playing field with other individuals their age.

Meyers stressed the importance of students learning new technology as now young people not only would have to compete with fellow Americans, but also the greater world as information systems become integrated throughout the global community. Meyers said many of the jobs available to young people may not have even been created yet as industry progresses.

According to the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission’s website, “The School Energy program was established in 1985 to allow school districts to make energy efficiency improvements to their buildings and use the cost savings to pay for those improvements. The program gives districts the ability to borrow funds without having to pass a ballot issue for the authority to borrow. This limited borrowing authority has given districts the ability to save millions in utility bills and operating costs, and all at no additional taxpayer expense.”

The program is otherwise known as House Bill 264.

According to River Valley High School Principal T.R. Edwards, Gallia County Local students, from second to 12th grade, have access to Chromebooks all day and every day. Students through ninth and 12th grades can take them home as more books are available.

Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.

Contractors construct a field of solar panels next to River Valley Middle School. construct a field of solar panels next to River Valley Middle School. Dean Wright | Ohio Valley Publishing

By Dean Wright

[email protected]