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Energy Audit of Claremont Schools to Begin

Claremont — Johnson Controls will begin an energy audit of five of the district’s school building next week, Ned Raynolds, a Johnson account executive, said yesterday.

With an accelerated timeline to complete the project, Raynolds said they want to get a fast start next Monday.

“It will be a four day blitz,” Raynolds said, describing the initial review of the buildings’ current energy systems.

A team of four, including the project manager and an engineer, will be making observations and taking measurements as a first step toward completing draft energy reduction plans for the five schools: Disnard, Bluff and Maple Avenue elementary, Claremont Middle School and Stevens High School.

“The scope of the work will be to see what you think will be measures (windows, lighting) that we will develop to include in the project,” Raynolds said.

On Town Meeting day, voters approved a warrant article, 1,548-611, to authorize the school district to enter into a lease/purchase agreement for hybrid wood pellet/propane boilers and other energy upgrades at the district’s schools. Under the estimated $7 million, 20-year lease, the projected savings in annual energy costs would be equal to or greater than the cost of the annual payments, thus there would be no anticipated impact on the tax rate. Currently, the school district’s annual energy costs are about $600,000.

Two days after the voters approved the article, the school district and Johnson Controls entered into a $74,000 contract, called a Project Development Agreement, to “explore the viability of an Energy Savings Performance Contract.”

Raynolds said their goal, which he termed “ambitious,” is to complete the audits of each building and provide the district with the energy reduction plans for each school by May 31. According to the contract, each plan will have, among other items, a complete description of the school, including age, size, energy consumption, mechanical systems and general condition; a description of proposed facility improvements that would be installed, with both the installation costs and the energy and operating costs that will be saved; cost and description of any ongoing services; and a description of operating and maintenance that Johnson believes can reduce energy consumption and operational costs.

Prior to the March 12 vote, Johnson told the School Board that if the projected savings in the energy reduction plans are not enough to cover annual lease payments, then the district is not obligated to go any further. The Performance Development Agreement makes that same stipulation.

“The whole job is finding a balance between the energy savings with what it will cost for the products,” Raynolds said.

The contract states the “mutual goal” is a project that does not exceed $7 million and would be self-funding over 20 years. It also estimates annual increases in the cost of heating oil, propane and wood pellets.

Johnson’s audit will also determine which buildings qualify for improvement-based financial incentives offered through the New Hampshire Public Utilities.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at ogrady54@yahoo.com.