The Challenge: Outdated Coal Boilers
With blue skies and wide-open spaces outside, it was hard to imagine that the air inside Colorado’s South Routt School District buildings posed a health risk. In fact, the district was one of two in the state still using coal burning heating furnaces in its high school, middle school and administration buildings in Oak Creek, and in an elementary school in Yampa. Coal dust settled throughout the buildings, affecting air quality for staff, teachers and students. The coal boilers, installed in the 1970s, were also expensive to maintain. No natural gas service and no budget for capital improvements, coupled with the high cost of alternative heating and cooling systems left the district with few options for correcting this situation.
The Approach: Working Together to Find Alternatives
Finding the funds to update its energy practices was the school district’s biggest challenge. The GEO worked with McKinstry Construction, a pre-approved Energy Service Company, to determine which programs and grants might be appropriate for South Routt. An initial energy audit, funded through the GEO’s Energy Performance Contracting (EPC) program, determined that the GEO’s Biofuels and Local Fuels program could be used – with no upfront costs to the school district.
The Solution: GEO and Voter Funding
Working with the GEO and McKinstry, the school district was able to obtain grants totaling $2.8 million or 64 percent of the total project cost including:
Governor’s Energy Office grant - $75,000 for biomass boiler
Colorado Department of Education - $2,102,000
Colorado Department of Local Affairs grant - $625,000
In-kind contributions from McKinstry for engineering, biomass boiler installation and other costs
GEO grant funding helped the district persuade voters to pass a bond issue for an additional $1.5 million – the remaining 36 percent of the funds needed to complete the school district’s energy makeover. The $4.3 million project took one year and two months to complete.
The Result: Coal Dust Free
The removal of coal heating systems solved the schools district’s indoor air quality problems. In addition, with its new highly efficient geo-exchange and woody biomass systems, the South Routt School District reduced its carbon footprint by 977 tons of CO2 per year. Other environmental improvements included higher quality lighting, better heating and venting system controls and lower hot water temperatures.
Operations, maintenance and utility costs are expected to decrease for school year 2009-2010. The district is also saving $15,000 annually by using wood pellets instead of propane.
The district’s new energy system benefits the environment outside too. Wood pellets used in the biomass boiler are produced locally from trees killed by pine beetles, which in turn promotes forest health and reduces the chances of wildfires.
Project at a Glance