Renewable energy program lowers fuel budget for school district
HUGHESVILLE – During the spring members of the Muncy Creek Watershed Association, Inc. visited East Lycoming School District’s renewable energy program on solar and bio-energy power and their proven records of using diversified energy to cut down on fuel costs.
Business Manager, David Macejiewski met with the group initially before the tour and gave an overview of the district’s project on biomass energy and their long term approach that will give “paybacks over a fifteen year period.”
The curriculum itself is using a hands-on approach to teach students about alternative energy that include horticulture classes and a culinary program at the Lyoming Career and Technical Center. “Our science teacher is a Master Gardener,” Macejiewski told the association.
“We have built an Energy Star program using 5 plus years of built data,” he said, “from insulation, roofing, and water pipes.” They maintain consistent temperature control with the energy efficient system of 68 degrees in the winter and 75 degrees cooling in the summer.
The lighting was changed two and a half times due to technical improvements like sensors.
Power savings help also since students are using i-pads in grades 3 through 12. “We have no computers now that beed turned on night with the monitors, and we are looking to get LED lighting in the classrooms.”
All buildings in the district are under the EPA Energy Star portfolio and the benchmarking process began in 2000 with benchmark energy efficiency ratings as low as 30 at Ashkar that went up to 88 by 2012. Ferrell was at 34 and improved to 82, Renn from 55 to 99 and the high school building went from 47 to 80. Ashkar was the first building in Lycoming County with the Energy Star rating according to Macejiewski. Renn and Ferrell are now geo-thermal which helped to increase their ratings and solar supports the high school building combined with natural gas and wood burning chips.
A tour was given at the high school showing the new furnace room, and the auger that breaks up the wood chips. “Basically everything is disintegrated, burning at 2000 degrees,” Macejiewski said.
Approximately 30 acres of willow is planted to yield 11 tons per acre. “We are hoping for 15 tons or more with a harvest on a 3 year rotation,” Macejiewski further explained.
600 tons of wood chips are burned per year. Last year’s hybrid willow crop is now ten feet tall. “This is truly a renewable energy source,” said Macejiewski as he took the group through one of the willow fields. “This is clean burning and the ash is high in nitrogen, so it can be reused in the willow garden.” The ash is emptied into a 15 gallon drum using a pump made from Grizzly in Muncy. “This is a savings of $30,000 a year,” Macejiewski added.
The solar energy panels that were installed in 2011 produce a savings of $50,000 a year of electricity generated each year. “It basically paid for itself after the first year. It is offsetting 100,000 dollars each year in our budget. With a 25 year expectancy, I just know no other school that has this biomass tech that we have,” Macejiewski conclcuded.
Evangelical Hospital in Lewisburg is operating under a similar system.