Future’s so bright (and energy efficient) at TAHS

By Per Peterson

Tracy Area Public Schools’ Capital Outlay budget for FY18 totaling $718,844.45 — which includes retrofitting the entire high school with new, energy-efficient lighting — was unanimously approved by the District No. 2904 School Board at Monday evening’s meeting.
Tracy Area High School Supt. Chad Anderson presented the 2016-17 capital outlay budget at Monday night’s District #2904 school board meeting. The total of all the requests is down from the original proposal of $761,961.95 presented last month.
Remaining revenues that are used to pay for things like salaries and other expenditures such as busing, electricity and heat, add up to $655,387.55.
The largest expenditure of the budget, which to some extent, covers both schools, is $103,350 for the installation of LED lights at the high school.
The school district accepted a bid of $142,200 from G&R Electric, which informed the board that the estimated rebate from Xcel Energy will be $38,850. Also, the estimated payback from energy savings would be just over five-and-a-half years.
“After six years, everything we spend on lighting will be a savings from what we have spent in the past,” said Anderson.
Anderson said due diligence on the lighting included determining what type of lights are to be installed: 4K (Kelvin) or 5K bulbs. Students and teachers were surveyed about which lights they preferred — about half liked the 4K and about half preferred the 5K (the higher the Kelvin value the more the lights depict natural light). Anderson said the building and grounds committee felt the district should go with the 5K lights. He asked the finance committee if the whole school or part of the high school and part of the elementary school should be retrofitted with LED lighting and the committee felt just the entire high school should be done at this time because the payback will come sooner since fewer panels would be used at the high school.
“It isn’t that the lights are bad at the high school, but we’re looking at the opportunity to take advantage of energy savings and to talk advantage of the rebates,” Anderson said.
Anderson said those rebates are greater now than they were three years ago when the project was first talked about.
“We’re at the point now where it’s a pretty good deal,” he said.
Brad Stoneberg, representing G&R Electric, said the school is looking at a 10-year warranty on the lighting panels. The warranty on the four-foot lamps is eight years. John Hannasch with Northwest Lighting said the rebates are at the strongest point, with prices holding steady. Xcel has not guaranteed any rebates for next year, but said if the district is happy with the new bulbs, it could buy them before the end of the year for the elementary school and still qualify for those rebates.
“The warranty’s the biggest thing,” Hannasch told the board. “You guys aren’t using very many hours, but the thing is if you have a five-year warranty and after the sixth year (the bulbs) starting popping, then we got problems. We want to make sure you’re  covered all the way through your payback period.”
Hannasch said with the four-foot LEDs, the school can get rid of the ballast altogether. The district will not have to purchase ballasts because the new bulbs will be direct voltage.
“Basically you should have no maintenance for the next eight years,” he said.
The only indoor lights that will not be replaced is in the gymnasium.
“Not that it couldn’t be done; we just felt that wouldn’t be a good use of our dollars,” Anderson said.
“There are lamps available for (the gym), but they’re a lot more money than your standard lamp,” Stoneberg said.
The project does not indue exterior lights.

For more on this article, see this week’s Headlight-Herald.