CENTENARY — Gallia Academy High School is undergoing changes to help increase efficiency and decrease environmental impact.
Construction began recently on the hill behind the high school in Centenary with steel frames going up. Solar panels will be secured to these frames generating electricity for the school building. New changes inside the building are taking place as well to help increase the efficiency of the building’s electrical use.
Vista Consulting is the firm that has managed the new changes, which are a result of House Bill 264, a state level program that enables districts to borrow money against the savings generated by the improvements.
“It is a state program for schools that allows them to do things that reduce energy and maintenance costs and finance it over time,” said Garibay. Normally, a school district cannot borrow money for more than a year unless a specific instance makes it possible, like this one. Gallipolis City Schools will have 15 years to pay back funds used to create these improvements.
Inside the school, new LED lighting has been installed, which lasts longer and is more efficient; both ways reducing long term costs. Control systems will also be improved.
“There has been a problem in the schools, particularly the middle school, with varying temperatures in classrooms, causing the heating and cooling systems to run all the time,” stated Pat Garibay of Vista.
Reviewing these systems and improving them will reduce the amount of time HVAC systems are on, leading to savings in operational expenses and reducing wear and tear on expensive systems.
The new solar panels are owned and operated by a private third party, but are installed on school district property. This third party pays for the cost of building and maintaining the system. According to Garibay, the district will receive electricity from the panels at a reduced rate, saving about 30 percent on the costs of electricity.
“Immediate savings with no out of pocket expenditure,” said Garibay. “The reason this works out for schools is that the motivation are federal tax credits.”
According to Garibay, this incentives third party companies to own and operate the solar panels and sell the electricity at a discounted rate for schools.
Savings are estimated to exceed $175,000 per year for all of the changes. Solar panels will be installed at three locations: Gallia Academy High School, Green Elementary, and Rio Grande Elementary. The new solar panels will will create a total output of 1300 kilowatts, saving the district nearly $30,000 annually. For comparison, the United States Energy Information Administration’s website reports the average home in the US used almost 1,100 Kilowatthours in 2015.
“The key is, all the costs of the program are paid for out of savings. They get renewable energy, reduced energy and operational costs, and improved comfort for teachers and kids,” stated Garibay.
Part of Vista’s goal is to guarantee that the savings will cover the costs of improvements, so money that would be going to the utility company is now going to paying of the note borrowed from the state, leading to extensive savings in the long term for the school district.
Reach Morgan McKinniss at 740-446-2342 ext 2108 or [email protected]