A representative from Trane, a manufacturer of heating and air conditioning units, recently surveyed the district’s facilities and offered some options, said GCSD Business Administrator Robert Farnsworth. There was no cost for the service, he said.
“We had them look at energy consumption and solar power,” Farnsworth said. “And we had them look at our cooling system, particularly at the high school.”
Lighting in each building also was studied, and Farnsworth said Helen M. Knight Elementary School and the Technical Science and Art Center located adjacent to the high school “did very well” in that assessment. He noted that the elementary school and high school both have a five-kilowatt solar panel that brings in electricity to the buildings.
According to the survey, the quickest way for the district to realize financial savings would be to update lighting in the middle school and high school.
“For solar power, the rate of return was farther out,” Farnsworth said.
The consultant also studied the cooling unit at the high school, which Farnsworth said is 15 years old and nearing the end of its life. The suggested option was to use an “ice chiller” that would operate at night instead of running the compressor during the daytime, Farnsworth said.
The chiller would create large amounts of ice with water circulating during the day to lower the temperature in the building, said Farnsworth, who called the technology “the newest thing.”
He said the feedback from Trane was interesting, but the district does not have money available to launch into renovations right away. Specific costs of various options were not presented and would have to be determined by engineering studies, for which Farnsworth said the firm would be paid.
The district doesn’t plan to go ahead with those studies at this time. In the next few years, as equipment becomes older, the district will probably take a closer look at the issue, Farnsworth said.
“Our board is really interested in solar power,” he said. “Again, there’s an up-front cost.”
GCHS Superintendent Scott Crane agrees that it was valuable to get some information on the current systems and alternatives, but finances remain the issue.
“We wanted to see what it would take to make our buildings more cost effective,” he said. “It was just the first step. Of course, everything costs a lot.”