Del Mar school district to cut energy bills with boost from state funding

New homes along Carmel Valley Road in Pacific Highlands Ranch.
(Karen Billing)

The Del Mar Union School District will save some green by going green.

At its Feb. 25 meeting, the board heard about how the district will achieve energy and cost savings by implementing the $850,000 they will receive from Prop 39, the California Clean Energy Jobs Act.

The district hopes to see an estimated annual cost savings of $63,000 by replacing an old, inefficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning system at Carmel Del Mar, adding a central HVAC control for the entire district, and adding LED lighting at two campuses.

Prop 39 was approved by California voters in November 2012 and provides funding to kindergarten-through-sixth-grade public schools, county offices of education and charter schools for energy-efficient projects and job creation. The funding is given over a five-year period.

Part of the Prop 39 application process is conducting an energy audit. The district applied to participate in SDG&E’s energy assessment and solutions program in 2014 and selected Alternative Energy Systems Consulting to perform a free energy audit, saving the district $40,000.

The audit was completed between March and July 2014.

According to Mike Galis, director of maintenance, operations and facilities, the schools were already fairly energy-efficient compared with other districts, but each campus was found to have similar energy-consumption and peak-demand problems.

Galis said the auditors found that HVAC unit control and operation throughout the day was insufficient; energy use had large increases over a few peak hours per day; lights and HVAC units were often left on in unoccupied rooms; and doors were propped open while HVAC systems were operating.

The typical school in the SDG&E territory has an energy use intensity of 6.45 kilowatt hours (kWh) per square foot. Because of their older HVAC system, Carmel Del Mar has an average energy-use intensity of 4.32 kWh, resulting in an average cost rate of .28 per kWh used, the highest in the district.

Galis said the goal is to reduce the average cost of electricity with peak-demand reduction and energy-efficiency measures by installing an energy management system.

The peak-demand charges have a higher impact on the average cost: When all HVAC units turn on at 8 a.m. when students arrive or during warm afternoons, new demand peaks are reached.

The district plans to install a Carrier iVu energy management system to reduce those peak demand “spikes” at each school through preset demand controls.

Galis said the system works by not allowing some units to turn on when peak demand is at a certain level, waiting until another unit is ready to turn off. This will keep peak demand below a certain threshold, he said.

The Carrier iVu will be installed at Carmel Del Mar, Ocean Air, Sycamore Ridge and Torrey Hills, bringing them in line with the other district schools. The installation at these four schools alone will result in a savings of $19,000 and $31,000 at all eight schools.

This summer, the new HVAC units will be installed at Carmel Del Mar. The units have motion sensors and controls to reduce overall energy consumption. Along with occupancy sensors for lighting at the school, the district could save $16,000 with the project.

Galis said the district would also take advantage of an SDG&E rebate offered right now for LED installation. Current light fixtures use about 72-100 watts each and they will be replaced with longer-lasting 40 watt LED lighting, saving 32 to 60 watts per fixture.

Del Mar Heights and Sage Canyon will get the LED upgrade for their 308 and 429 fixtures respectively, with occupancy sensors and dimming controls.

The total estimated cost of all the Prop 39 work is $834,000.