Press-Republican

April 9, 2014

Energy efficiency installed in Tupper Lake schools

By KIM SMITH DEDAM
Press-Republican

---- — TUPPER LAKE — The $1.6 million energy-efficiency project at Tupper Lake schools is complete.

New York Power Authority awarded a grant for the work a year ago and estimates efficiency measures will save the Tupper Lake School District nearly $42,000 in electric costs annually and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions yearly by 340 tons.

Improvements were made to four facilities: L.P. Quinn Elementary School, Tupper Lake Middle/High School, the district’s bus garage and the district-owned Civic Center ice-skating rink.

HEAT, LIGHTING

Superintendent Seth McGowan said electric heating systems were part of the project.

“In both (school) buildings as well as the garage, a lot of the electric heat is on these UniVent systems. Some of them were old or malfunctioning and not operating efficiently,” he told the Press-Republican. 

“The Power Authority project replaced some of them. We had been replacing them as capital funding allowed.”

In addition, new cost-effective lighting was installed throughout district buildings.

“Both at the Civic Center and in the gymnasiums, with a lot of lights, the old fluorescent lighting fixtures were replaced with high-efficiency fluorescent lighting,” McGowan said.

Other work included a new boiler system at L.P. Quinn Elementary, new unit ventilators and a domestic hot-water heater at the Middle/High School, new unit heaters at the bus garage and lighting upgrades throughout the district. 

REDUCING USE

The project grant, drawn from the Energy Smart NY initiative, was awarded after a Power Authority audit done in 2009. 

“We couldn’t fund the capital project because the return would have been too slow (over 18 years) for state-aid funding,” McGowan said.

“Municipal power in Tupper Lake is relatively inexpensive, and it would have taken longer for the project to pay off, so the Power Authority came in with a grant.”

NYPA spokeswoman Connie Cullen explained in a news release that higher fuel costs are pushing market pricing, which affects power costs across the grid.

One way to shore up against high costs is to reduce power use.

“While Tupper Lake, as a municipal electricity customer of the Power Authority, benefits from low-cost hydropower for a significant portion of its electricity needs, the power that it obtains from market purchases has been affected by the higher fuel costs, underscoring the value of energy efficiency investments to reduce electricity demand,” she said in the statement.

‘GOOD FOR TAXPAYERS’

Cost savings will measure up in time.

“Over the course of years, it will pay for itself,” McGowan said.

“We had an initial outlay, but it did not impact the budget. Anytime we can save energy costs, not only is it good for the environment, it’s good for the taxpayers.”

The Power Authority said Tupper Lake receives 19.3 megawatts of low-cost power generated at the Niagara Hydroelectric Power Project.

John Bouck, superintendent of Tupper Lake’s Municipal Electric Department, told the Press-Republican that extensive work was done at the school buildings.

“There were major upgrades to the lighting, and the new boilers are energy efficient.”

But given the extended and intense cold this winter, high-energy demand this season may forestall immediate cost returns.

“This may be a year they may not see as much savings,” Bouck said of the $24,000 previously projected by the Power Authority. “That’s an estimated savings, I’m sure, that could fluctuate based on seasonal requirements.”

GREEN LESSONS

Tupper Lake’s Green Team students were able to learn from the energy-improvement project, McGowan said.

And Sen. Betty Little sees energy efficiency as a critical component of  economic growth for future generations.

“Today’s students are tech savvy and energy aware — keys to the emerging economy and hallmarks of Gov. Cuomo’s economic-development policy,” she said in a statement.

“Savings from efficiency upgrades in our schools can be reinvested in our children’s education, ensuring they will be ready for the job market.”

Email Kim Smith Dedam:kdedam@pressrepublican.com