Mason County Central Schools recognized for energy efficiency
Mason County Central Schools was one of five school districts in the state to be recognized for making strides in energy conservation and efficiency through performance contracts for building upgrades.
The Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) — formerly the Department of Environmental Quality — announced Thursday that MCC was selected by the Michigan Energy Services Coalition as a recipient of the 2019 Leadership in Energy Efficiency Award for a district-wide facility upgrade and energy conservation project conducted by Honeywell in 2017 and 2018.
MCC’s project consisted of upgrading to LED lighting systems, installing room occupancy sensors and an energy management system, replacing boilers, installing sensors to monitor the quality of the air and ensure that fresh air is being distributed into the classrooms at regular intervals, among other improvements.
Along with projects in Baraga County, Ecorse Public Schools, Eastpointe Community Schools and Flushing Community Schools, the Honeywell project exemplified energy efficiency and environmental stewardship, according to a statement from EGLE.
“These five outstanding projects are worthy of recognition not only for their investments in energy efficiency that will benefit building users, but also for the big savings that will result for local taxpayers,” said Robert Jackson, assistant division director of the Materials Management Division of EGLE. “Cutting energy use, whether through large projects such as these or through individual efforts, is good for the environment and in combating climate change.”
MCC Superintendent Jeff Mount told the Daily News on Thursday that it felt good to receive the award on behalf of the district.
“It was neat to be recognized for an awesome project,” he said.
MCC qualified for a $3.1 million investment loan from Honeywell to fund the project, and Mount said the district was ultimately able to finance significantly more because of the amount the work was projected to save the district in energy costs.
“Really, for the district, was a $3.9 million deal, with $3.1 million being energy savings initiatives,” Mount said. “The program that Honeywell does, the way you’re paying it off is because of your realized energy savings. Honeywell makes a projection of how much in savings you could get, and they guarantee it. If we don’t meet that, they cut a check,” Mount said. “So far, we’ve hit that mark and then some. The district is actually seeing better savings than they expected and we expect it to be the same over that 15-year period.”
According to EGLE, the savings are an estimated $117,457 per year.
Mount said the result has been a benefit both financially and academically.
“Through the savings of energy — by going all LED and replacing inefficient boilers with efficient boilers — we’ve been able produce significant savings on energy costs,” he said, adding that “having fresh air … and control over the temperature of classrooms … has created a better environment for learning.”
MCC is on a 15-year plan to repay the loan it received for the project from Honeywell. Mount said the district is on track to do just that, using energy savings alone.
“Being able to pay that $3.9 million over 15 years out of the general fund and not out of taxpayers’ wallets is quite an honor, and we are in such a better place because of (the upgrades),” Mount said.
Additionally, the projected savings allowed the district to pay for other improvements.
“We financed $3.9 million because of the projected savings. We were able to do asphalt repair, resurface the track ... beef up our technology and other things,” Mount said.
Mount said the project benefitted from the hard work of many people, including the school’s maintenance director Mike Baerwolf, and Kris Courtland-Willick, business manager, among others.
“We were in dire need of some of those (upgrades). The timing was right and obviously it was recognized as an award-winning program,” said Mount. “We’re really proud of that work.”
Mount said MCC is considering more projects involving alternative energy and energy conservation, including potentially installing a solar array on one of the unused green spaces on the campus.