North Sanpete schools have visions of a green future
MT. PLEASANT—The North Sanpete School District, under the direction of Superintendent Sam Ray, has partnered with Siemens, an energy company, to make North Sanpete schools more energy efficient, and also provide students opportunities to learn about green energy.
“The heating systems, the lighting systems, they’re aging out to the point where we can’t even buy the replacements,” Ray says. The heating systems in many of the schools are comprised of air pressure based systems that, Ray says, had become obsolete back in the late 1980’s.
Ray discovered Siemens, a German-based company, at a conference in Salt Lake over the summer when the district was seeking ways to improve the degrading energy components of local schools. Rather than borrow the money from the school board and, in effect, taxpayers, Ray sought to outsource the project to an energy efficient company, where the savings on energy spending could eventually outweigh the project costs.
“We’ve tried to say, ‘what other ways could we generate funding to try to resolve our problems,” Ray said.
Currently, Ray says, the district’s energy spending equates to roughly $400,000 per year between electricity and Questar gas. By decreasing the energy spending to as low as possibly $250,000, Ray hopes to use the savings to pay off the project loan.
“Once that loan is paid off, 100% of the savings are ours,” Ray said.
One of Siemens’ service claims as an energy company is to guarantee a certain amount of energy savings per year to their clients. If the figure that they propose is exceeded, Siemens will write a check for the difference to the district.
As of now, Siemens is currently working on an “energy audit” of all schools in the district to determine what they can do to improve the energy efficiency of the school buildings and the cost of what it would take to fix all that is necessary. The audit lasts about 90 days, of which Ray says about two-thirds of it has completed.
Once the audit has been completed, which Ray says will likely be on Oct. 29, Siemens will report to the district with a prioritization of what the schools need most and what financing to pursue to meet those needs.
Ray and the district started turning their attention towards energy efficiency last year by installing LED lights in North Sanpete Middle School and North Sanpete High School. They then installed LED lights in Fairview Elementary last summer.
As a former technology teacher, Ray says he has seen the industry of green energy, particularly solar energy, as a thriving future job market, and is looking to involve students where he can. In cooperation with Ray’s vision, Siemens has proposed a solar farm to be built in the empty field next to the district office in Mt. Pleasant, and Ray is looking to involve students in the process.
The process of constructing the farm would take place in sections over the course of about 20 years. This is where the opportunities come.
Because the systems built in to the farm each year will incorporate the latest in solar energy technology, students will be educated on a variety of systems. The best part is that under professional supervision, the students, Ray says, will be the ones to install the panels and everything in the system. In essence, student hands can build North Sanpete’s access to more efficient energy usage.
Ray has contacted Snow College about providing teachers to give this important vocational training to interested students as North Sanpete’s designated technical college. Ray plans on an introductory class provided to freshmen to teach about green energy that will lead into a class taught by Snow to 11th and 12th graders about installing the solar farm components.
“This is an industry that is growing exponentially fast,” Ray says. “This is an opportunity to get our students in a front-row seat.”
The farm has the potential to power North Sanpete High School, as well as the district offices. Other smaller farms will be installed to smaller schools.
No timetable for the project has been currently established. The board hopes to make more plans following Oct. 29.