Vermont High School benefits from energy performance contracts

Vermont High School benefits from energy performance contracts

Over the past few years, the school budgeted nearly $300,000 a year to meet its energy needs. With the fully implemented energy performance contract, the school expects to spend closer to $100,000 a year in heating fuels and electricity. Part of the upgrade included the installation of a wood pellet boiler to supply most of the school’s heating needs. 

The Otter Valley upgrades are well under way and will be completed by the end of summer or early fall 2016.

BRANDON, VT. — More cost effective while boosting energy efficiency, energy performance contracts are becoming more of a financing face of the construction industry landscape. So much so that Michigan Governor Rick Snyder recently signed a bill, which will make performance contracts — that help pay for energy efficiency improvements, which are then paid back through annual energy and operational savings — more commonplace.

Take Otter Valley Union High School in Brandon, Vermont, for instance. It is the third district in the past three years in the Rutland region to undertake major building improvement projects paid for with energy cost savings through a partnership with Johnson Controls.

It’s a tremendous way for schools to improve their teaching and learning environments through better use of their energy budgets,

— Ned Raynolds

The two are implementing a $3.6 million energy performance contract that will help the school make much-needed upgrades to the building and dramatically reduce its carbon emissions, while paying for the improvements over the next 18 years through substantial energy cost savings.

Prior to working with Otter Valley, Johnson Controls partnered with the Rutland City Schools in 2014 to make $5.2 million in improvements to its six schools, while Proctor School District implemented $1.6 million worth of upgrades to two schools during the summer of 2015.

“Energy performance contracting is both a financing and project delivery mechanism that school districts can use to make needed improvements to their facilities, which are paid for through guaranteed annual energy and operational cost savings,” said Ned Raynolds, Johnson Controls, who oversees energy performance contracts with local governments and K-12 schools in northern New England. “It’s a tremendous way for schools to improve their teaching and learning environments through better use of their energy budgets.”

Over the past few years, the school budgeted nearly $300,000 a year to meet its energy needs. With the fully implemented energy performance contract, the school expects to spend closer to $100,000 a year in heating fuels and electricity, while making an annual payment of about $160,000 to pay for the project, which also includes the installation of a wood pellet boiler to supply most of the school’s heating needs, as well as replacement of 42 classroom unit ventilators and all the windows that are original to the 1961 portion of the building.

Pay for performance is the next step in the industry. It’s a way for the school to finance necessary upgrades that it otherwise couldn’t get done,

—Victor Holt

One of the two existing Buderus 615 Series oil-fired boilers.

“Pay for performance is the next step in the industry. It’s a way for the school to finance necessary upgrades that it otherwise couldn’t get done,” said Victor Holt, project manager, Johnson Controls.

Performance upgrades

One major element of the project, a 227kW solar photovoltaic array on the school’s roof that would produce half of the amount of electricity used by the school annually, is on hold pending resolution by the state’s Public Service Board and local utilities, including Green Mountain Power, of a logjam over further approvals of grid-connected solar projects across the state.

“By using wood pellets, Otter Valley will also help support the forest products industry, an important part of the local and regional economy. Because wood pellets are considered “carbon neutral,” they along with the solar array will reduce the school’s carbon footprint by more than 75%,” said Raynolds.

The Otter Valley upgrades are well under way and will be completed by the end of summer or early fall 2016. In addition to the window and unit ventilator replacements and addition of the wood pellet boiler, other major improvements at the 101,000-sq.ft. high school include:

• Unifying the building’s three separate heat circulation loops that serve different parts of the school, a legacy of the school’s 1983 and 1991 additions, notes Bryan Covey, project manager, Northern Peabody, LLC/Hansen-Fox Co., and upgrading its heating and ventilation controls system to provide better comfort and efficiency.

• Retaining two existing Buderus 615 Series oil-fired boilers and installing a Viessmann VITOFLEX 300-RF Pyrot wood-pellet boiler in place of an older H.B. Smith oil-fired boiler. The unified primary/secondary loop system serving the entire building will be controlled, so that the Viessmann boilers supply 75-85 percent of the school’s annual heating load, with the Buderus boilers called on at times of peak heating demand and for back-up.

• Installing Greenheck energy recovery ventilation systems in the gymnasium and auditorium and demand-controlled ventilation in the cafeteria.

• Improving the interior lighting system, including installing efficient and dimmable LED lamps and controls, and upgrading parking lot lighting to LED technology.

“We’re excited to be working with Johnson Controls to make these improvements to our educational environment while becoming much less dependent on fossil fuels and electricity from the grid,” said Jim Avery, principal of Otter Valley Union High School. “These improvements will benefit more than 550 students in grades 7-12 as well as faculty, staff, parents and visitors for many years to come.”

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