District 16 avoids $22,000 in energy costs

By Elyse Kaner
Staff Writer

Spring Lake Park District 16 has become more energy-use savvy and, so far, has avoided costs of $22,000 for utility expenses.

Andrew Dahmen, energy efficiency coordinator Ann Arney, Romail Ahmed, Samatha Boss and Moises Garcia-Martinez of Northpoint Elementary School last year participated in a comparison experiment of voltage output from small appliances. The lesson was meant to teach wise use of energy. File photo by Elyse Kaner

The district in October 2010 entered a behavior-based Schools for Energy Efficiency (SEE) program designed to offer low and no cost strategies to reduce energy usage. The program involves training building managers and kids how daily use of energy resources can make a difference.

“The SEE program has been a positive experience as we identify and implement ways we can change behaviors and improve operations across the district to save energy and avoid the costs of higher energy use,” Superintendent Jeff Ronneberg said.

The district in October 2010 partnered with Hallberg Engineering’s SEE with a goal of establishing a specialized energy program and improving management of human, financial and physical energy resources.

The numbers for the third quarter are now in. From January 2011 to September 2011 since the tracking of energy use began in the district as part of the program, District 16 has avoided costs for overall gas and electric usage by more than $22,000, according to Ann Arney, SEE program energy efficiency coordinator.

“Spring Lake Park District 16 has done phenomenally well,” Arney said. “They’re really succeeding at this program.”


So what strategies have the district implemented as participants in the program?

•An energy policy is in place that calls for keeping building temperatures between 68 to 70 degrees in the winter and between 76 and 78 degrees in the warmer months.

• Buildings have de-lamped. Using a light meter, SEE has measured the amount of lumens in district buildings. Light bulbs have been removed in over lit areas. The bulbs are removed systematically in a pattern. In doing so, SEE stays within guidelines for learning, according to Arney. “The most important thing is to keep a healthy and safe environment for students,” she said.

• Northpoint Elementary School last year held an Earth Day event teaching K-3 students about energy efficiency. Energy-use trainers hooked up small appliances, a hair dryer for example, to a light and watt meter to discover how much energy it used. They also pedaled a human powered generator in an effort to light a bulb. They found the compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulb required less energy (and pedaling) than the incandescent bulb.

• Westwood Middle School’s student council has produced an energy awareness video. The story is about energy super heros who find wasted energy and save the school. The focus is on helping students learn how to save energy.

• Repositionable notes (with adhesive) in some buildings are used as motivators. A “wow” sticker is positive reinforcement for students or staff who remembered to turn off lights or computers. An “oops” sticker might be placed on a leaky faucet.

• A Girl Scout troop at Westwood Intermediate School is planning this month to conduct an energy audit of the building in an effort to earn a bronze award. They will share their findings with the administration.

Since 2002, the SEE program has been implemented in more than 700 buildings in the United States, according to Arney.

“Most importantly, the behavior changes of students and staff have an impact beyond the walls of the school to our daily lives,” Ronneberg said.

The SEE program was initially developed by Hallberg Engineering of White Bear Lake. It came about as a result of requests from school districts seeking a way to reduce energy costs without spending large amounts of money on improvements. The program now operates independently as Energy Efficiency Programs, Inc., but continues to collaborate with technical experts at Hallberg Engineering to provide energy saving solutions, according to the SEE program’s website.

The program operates on a five-year plan. After five years, districts have the option of joining an alumni club. They can choose in a la carte fashion, to continue the relationship with an energy-saving consultant or to use the company’s utility tracking, for instance.

“The district (16) has embraced it,” Arney said about the SEE Program. “I think those $22,000 in nine months shows it and those numbers keep showing up.”

Elyse Kaner is at [email protected]