AKRON — Tippecanoe Valley School Corporation is setting an example not only for its community and students, but other school corporations. “We preach it, but we live it,” stated Todd Glenn, corporation director of maintenance.
The corporation is the only one in at least two counties — Fulton and Kosciusko — that has gone to energy alternatives. This has saved the corporation funds and the need to reduce staff and programs, while other corporations have been faced with reduction in staff and programming.
A wind turbine on the main campus and installation of solar panels at Mentone Elementary are the two major energy alternatives. Brett Boggs, TVSC superintendent, noted the turbine has saved the corporation $150,000 a year in electric costs at the high school and middle school. The 44 newly installed solar panels, which produce 265 watts each, was designed to carry the full load of the building and designed for future electric demand. “It will produce enough electricity for 50 homes,” Glenn stated. The yearly electrical savings is estimated at $70-$75,000.
Efforts by the corporation began in 2011. Not only was the wind turbine looked at, but so was solar energy. But at that time it “made more sense to go with the turbine,” said Boggs. Then three years ago, the corporation looked again at solar energy. The corporation was one of 20 chosen to participate in an energy program through one of the local energy companies.
But there was a catch. There was a 15 year lock-in rate. “We thought that was foolish on our part. We didn’t want locked in, so we did not go that way,” noted Boggs. Also at that time the cost to install solar energy was $1.1-$1.2 million.
But they didn’t give up. A lot of research began. Technology improved and became more refined. Plus the cost dropped. “We have a neat structure situation,” Boggs said.
The corporation worked cooperatively with Jeff Streater, Ag Technologies, Rochester, and Craig Welding/Ag Tech, Mentone. Between the two companies a viable and unique system was built. The solar panels have a patented adjustable mounting bracketry developed and manufactured by Craig Welding. Its life expectancy is 25 years. But also unique is the panels can be adjusted three to four times a year. It’s not a fixed system.
Corporation officials have done their homework. “The product is better and involving local community,” Boggs said.
There’s more behind the scenes energy savings being done by the school corporation.
The old HID lights in all gymnasiums have been replaced with LED lighting, more than 1,200 fluorescent lights have been switched to LED lighting in schools, dropping the wattage from 123,000 to 40,000 and resulting in a $30,000 savings. Burket Educational Center received a new geothermal heating and cooling system in 2009. Lights in parking lots throughout the corporation will be switched to LED lights.
When the Akron Elementary facility was rebuilt the latest energy efficient systems were installed.
Future projects also have energy savings in mind. Major systems in the middle school, built in 1995, are needing replaced. Glenn noted those systems will be replaced with more energy efficient systems. “We’re always looking for opportunities to save money,” said Glenn.
While these projects are being handled through the corporation’s capital projects fund, the savings are noticed in the general fund – where salaries and programs are paid.
Boggs noted also on the corporation’s website people can find monthly wind turbine performance reports, a year to date production schedule, annual wind turbine production schedule and answers to frequent questions.