SAD 51 board OKs district-wide energy audit

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CUMBERLAND — With natural gas delivery coming soon to the area, School Administrative District 51 is looking into additional ways to maximize its energy efficiency.

The SAD 51 Board of Directors voted unanimously March 24 to hire Siemens Building Technologies to conduct a district-wide energy audit. The district contacted four vendors about doing the work, but a committee composed of staff and School Board members recommended Siemens, which is already the district’s mechanical contractor.

Once the audit is complete, Siemens will suggest projects the district can undertake to boost its energy efficiency, such as lighting retrofits, boiler conversions, HVAC system improvements, energy savings at the Greely High School pool, LED lighting in parking lots, and ensuring buildings are well insulated.

“They’ll take a look at things around the district that … could produce energy savings, in order to pay for these conversions,” SAD 51 Finance Director Scott Poulin said. “… There’ll be a menu of items that the audit will include, and then it’ll be up to the district to make a selection of the items that they think will have the best payback over time.”

Conversion from oil to natural gas will represent an approximately 40 percent savings in heating costs, which helps offset the conversion costs, Poulin explained.

“Over a period of time … you pay for the improvements, and then you start realizing the savings once you’ve realized the cost benefit,” he said, adding that the net savings could come after about 10 years, or sooner.

If SAD 51 has Siemens do the energy efficiency projects, there would be no cost for the audit, Poulin noted. Otherwise, the audit would cost about $35,000.

“However, that’s extremely unlikely, because just the natural gas conversion is a 40 percent savings to our fuel line,” Poulin said.

The energy contractor must guarantee, by state statute, the savings to the district, and “if they don’t meet the savings that they’ve projected, they have to write … a check back to the district,” he explained. “So there are protections built into this.”

Installation of the main natural gas line into Cumberland, Falmouth and Yarmouth is due to begin in May; Blanchard and Tuttle roads, and part of Foreside Road, are among those to be brought online this year.

The Summit Natural Gas project will include laying 1.2 million feet of pipe in the three towns, where leaders see natural gas as a less expensive heating fuel than oil, Town Manager Bill Shane has said.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.