Wood County BOE talks energy savings

Audra Blackwell, business development manager with Energy Systems Group of Charleston, gives a presentation at Tuesday’s Wood County Board of Education meeting. The board is considering an energy savings project to increase energy efficiency and reduce utility costs at the county’s schools. (Photo by Wayne Towner)

PARKERSBURG — The Wood County Board of Education is looking for ways to save money and increase efficiency for energy utilities.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the board heard a presentation by representatives of Energy Systems Group of Charleston who have been reviewing the district’s facilities and their energy usage to look at possible changes and improvements.

Assistant Superintendent Mike Fling, who oversees facilities for Wood County Schools, said the board has been discussing an energy savings project for the school system for several months and the project would run for several years.

Audra Blackwell, business development manager, and John Sirc, senior performance engineer, said ESG works to identify repairs, upgrades and improvements which can be made in a facility to increase energy efficiency and reduce energy costs. The company audits every building to look for savings opportunities on utility costs and then works with the district through the whole process, from initial planning to quarterly reviews after completion.

Energy use intensity, or EUI, describes a building’s energy use as a function of its size, typically in energy per square foot per year (kBtu/sf/yr). It is calculated by dividing the total energy consumed by the building in one year (often measured in kBtu) by the total floor area of the building (often measured in square feet), and can be useful for comparing performance of buildings across sizes, types, and locations.

Wood County Schools Superintendent Will Hosaflook gives an update on various projects at Tuesday’s meeting of the Wood County Board of Education. (Photo by Wayne Towner)

According to ESG, normal commercial building energy consumption averages 68.8 kBtu/sf, while a review of Wood County’s facilities by the firm showed an average of 85 kBtu.sf, so there is room for improvement, Sirc said.

A variety of improvements can be made, including lighting upgrades and controls, HVAC improvements, window improvements and more. One example Sirc cited was Parkersburg High School which has four different control systems in place to handle its energy systems, none of which are integrated with the others so they often work against each other.

One of the main culprits of higher EUI numbers is deferred maintenance, with equipment replacement, repairs and upgrades being pushed back to save money, which can be a growing problem in older buildings. ESG identified an estimated $75 million backlog in deferred maintenance work.

ESG is recommending a $16.5 million project over 15 years to address a portion of the school district’s energy needs. If the district chooses to adopt ESG’s proposed improvements it would result in savings of 25 to 30 percent, or more than $1 million in savings per year, which would nearly cover the cost of the project over a 15-year period, Sirc said.

Board president Rick Olcott thanked the ESG’s representatives for their input and said the district will be sending out requests for proposals in the near future to ESG and similar firms with the idea of moving forward with such a project.

“I don’t think it’s work we can ignore,” he said of the need for the overall project.

“These companies offer us the opportunity to buy much-needed equipment over a period of time plus reduce our energy bill. That’s what pays for the equipment,” Fling said of the savings in energy costs if the project is approved.

In other action, the board unanimously approved a base bid of $753,665 from Nagle Athletic Surfaces for the Parkersburg High School Track renovation project. No timeline was available Tuesday, but officials hope to have the project started and completed before the beginning of the 2019-2020 school year in August.

The bid is lower than the limit approved by the board for the project in 2018, but board members expressed concern the cost might go higher. Fling said there is no way to know until work on removing the current surface physically begins to allow contractors to see what the actual situation is under the track.

The board also approved renewal of Intra-State Insurance Agency as the Worker’s Compensation Agent of Record for the board at an estimated annual premium of $336,406 using Erie Insurance for the 2019-2020 fiscal year; approved payment of unused sick leave bonus to all eligible employees for fiscal year 2019 in accordance with board policy; and approved the PHS Auditorium seats as surplus property and donated them to PHS Foundation.

Olcott said the board will hold a budget planning session for the 2019-2020 budget year at 9 a.m. Saturday at the board office. The meeting will be open to the public.