EcoMotion and GGUSD staff submit expenditure plan
There’s something special happening at Garden Grove Unified School District (GGUSD) thanks to Prop 39, the California Clean Energy Jobs Act of 2012. At a large school district with 45,000 students on 72 campuses, several kinds of benefit are in play, from energy saving to shaping young students’ careers and shifting the community toward a sustainable future. Perhaps the highest and best value of Prop 39 is being realized.
The story begins with a dedicated and able group. Director of Facilities Margie Brown is at the helm, supported by her Energy Manager Kevin Heerschap. Their boss Rick Nakano plays an important guiding role. EcoMotion provides technical services for Climate Smart Schools (CSS), taking direction on priorities and timing and melding GGUSD’s best interests with the Prop 39 statutes.
In addition to energy efficiency retrofits, GGUSD students are getting engaged. Thanks to a dedicated environmental sciences teacher with contagious energy, Teri Osborne, now other teachers are stepping forward and joining the initiative. There’s a new, green energy budding on campus.
Climate Smart Schools was formed to serve as an “honest broker” in the Prop 39 space. We’ve pledged to districts to listen carefully to their needs and priorities, and to help them get maximum value from their allocations of Prop 39 funds. In fact, we leverage Prop 39 funds.The process at GGUSD began with gathering all the District’s electric, gas and water bills. Then we created a dashboard to organize and track these utilities on an ongoing basis. The dashboard allows for sorting by energy and water use, relative intensity, then per square foot, and per student.
Graphics made clear the relative energy and water intensities of the school sites. It was not only revealing, but helped sleuth a broken water main at a closed school. A presentation to the District resulted in a guiding discussion and ultimately the GGUSD Prop 39 strategy. It was codified in a Five Year Smart Energy Management Plan developed by Climate Smart Schools and approved by the School Board.
A Prop 39 requirement is that all projects are rooted in engineering analysis. Given gross time-related delays with “no-cost” California Conservation Corps, ASHRAE “Level 1.4” audits, Climate Smart Schools fielded its own assessment team. Our technical team documented lighting, HVAC, and other technologies on each of the campuses in detail. We developed a feasibility study for each campus, presenting the current status, upgrades, cost, benefits and the “SIR” threshold for each and aggregated measures.
Thanks to changes to the guidelines, the economics of our efficiency works were allowed to meld with the District’s half-billion dollar modernization work. The result: Every fixture on campus will now be highly efficient and long-lasting light emitting diodes. We’re bringing the highest efficiency to the District, complete LED retrofits in classrooms, parking lots, gyms, and theaters. Pool savings are also part of the plan, from heaters, to pumps, variable frequency drive controls, and covers.
The assessments, coupled with cost estimates, were used in GGUSD’s first Prop 39 submittal. It was a double submittal involving comprehensive retrofits of two high schools and three elementary schools with a combined Savings to Investment Ratio of 1.17. The submittal was expeditiously approved in December 2014 and was the largest in Orange County at the time.
Climate Smart Schools is very much looking out for its client districts. We’ve evaluated rates, direct access contracts, solar Power Purchase Agreements, PEAs, ESAs, efficiency opportunities of all kinds. And we’ve also got into water, California’s #1 resource issue.
DROPS was being promoted by the California State Water Resources Control Board. The grant program features storm water retention and drought-tolerant landscaping. Climate Smart Schools took the reigns in framing up a successful application. Early on our application was selected for $20,000 of technical assistance. Climate Smart Schools was instrumental in helping the District get a $1.99 million grant, the largest award in the State. Fully $300,000 of this is slated for education and outreach, the water, energy, carbon nexus.
Perhaps more importantly, pursuit of the DROPS grant brought Climate Smart Schools together with teachers and administrators, and the non-profit Orange County Coastkeepers. Working with Teri Osborne, we linked facilities upgrades with her newly formed, 24-member strong Student Sustainability Council. Our shared vision has been to use water awareness as the spear point for a broader sustainability initiative at GGUSD, to save money, energy, water, and to be good and responsible stewards of the environment.
Given the Governor’s 25% proclamation, the District is looking at every opportunity to cut water use. Naturally, schools want to keep their ball fields playable, and that means water use. Climate Smart Schools developed a taxonomy of 17 water-saving measures for campuses in Southern California. GGUSD is now engaged its turf removal in non-functional areas.
To complement the DROPS student outreach, Climate Smart Schools introduced the District to the Power Save Schools program. A program of the non-profit Alliance to Save Energy, its student education is fully funded by Southern California Edison. Students become the eyes and ears of energy and water efficiency on campus. Next year we’ll be offering Power Save Schools to 18 campuses, amplifying the conservation message and ethic while providing student education on campuses not targeted for Prop 39 retrofits. This value to GGUSD is on the order of $400,000 per year.
Another opportunity that Climate Smart Schools has brought to GGUSD is the Zero Net Energy pilot program being supported by Southern California Edison. Could we put up a suitable site for a demonstration? Could we play a role in shaping young students’ interest in architecture and green building? With GGUSD guidance, Climate Smart Schools was able to frame up an innovative ZNE pilot approach. We’ve presented it to the Student Sustainability Council.
Our plan is to take the science wing at Santiago High School and to make it a ZNE demonstration. It will include comprehensive energy efficiency thanks to Prop 39 funding, student education, solar, and storage. Recently we learned that our application has been advanced to the next round of the selection process.
And there’s more to come. Climate Smart Schools is conducting a detailed financial analysis of the solar potential at each of the District’s high schools. At these sites, there may be an opportunity to offset TOU-8 rates, switch to Option R, with fully financed systems that provide performance guarantees to the District.
Another opportunity is energy storage, the use of lithium-ion batteries with smart controllers to suppress spikes in demand and lower demand charges. Given extensive electrical room remodels, it may make sense to incorporate energy storage systems on GGUSD campuses. Given their demand charge reduction feature, Option R solar sites will be likely ruled out, but storage may well make sense on other TOU-8 and GS-3 rates. CSS is also exploring another option, a Local Capacity Requirement program that would fully pay for batteries and provide school and regional benefit.
The list of smart energy management actions being taken at Garden Grove Unified School District is a direct result of Prop 39 funding. GGUSD proves that Prop 39 works and can be highly successful. Thanks to the Planning Fund provision, districts like Garden Grove are able to a) fully utilize their Prop 39 allocations, and b) able to explore means of leveraging Prop 39 funds to extract greater savings on campus and throughout neighboring communities. This is valuable work and valuable action. In Garden Grove, we intend to take ~$12 million in funds, and to leverage tens of millions in savings over time while shaping the next generation through sustainable leadership.
Climate Smart Schools provides consulting and technical services for Garden Grove Unified School District, Poway Unified School District, and Fallbrook Union Elementary School District with a goal to serve a dozen districts by 2016.