At its April board of directors meeting, the Sunflower County Consolidated School District reportedly agreed to a $1,675,932 contract with energy and sustainability experts, Schneider Electric, to replace the current lighting fittings and install new fixtures at most of the schools in the district. The Drew Hunter Middle, Inverness Elementary and Moorhead Middle schools are not included in the project.
Beginning with the start of the new school year, nine school facilities including, AW James Elementary, Ruleville Elementary, Ruleville Middle, Ruleville High, East Sunflower Elementary, Carver Elementary, Robert L. Merritt Jr. High and Gentry High plus the central office will receive an illumination upgrade, inside and out.
The rationale behind the lighting project is to improve the look and efficiency of the schools’ facilities and will involve the installation of over 7,500 new lighting fixtures throughout the district, interior LED lighting to brighten classrooms, hallways, gyms and cafeterias and exterior LED lighting to keep outdoor areas safe and well-lit at night. The work is scheduled to begin in June with a completion date no later than Dec. 21, of this year.
A press release from Schneider stated that the district is strategically reinvesting energy and operational cost savings to fund a complete lighting transformation that will allow it to achieve an ideal learning environment with the guaranteed savings of a 22 percent reduction in annual utility costs, which equates to nearly $2.5 million over the life of the project.
Schneider called it a sustainable solution, since the new lighting technology is rated to last well over 20 years and will enable the SCCSD to save over 1 million kilowatt-hours a year.
According to Allie Harris, sales team leader, Schneider Electric, the project came back under the original budgeted amount, so she presented them with additional options to bring some additional value to the project and district officials inquired about adding replacement canopies at Gentry High and adding additional exterior lighting there and at Merritt Jr. High.
Marvin Hawkins, district maintenance director asked about installing additional lighting at the Drew Hunter Middle School, but was promptly informed by Superintendent Miskia Davis that the school was not a part of this project. “We were already doing some work with them and their lighting was not as bad as the other areas,” said Davis.
The district has secured financing for the project through Sterling Bank and according to Lily Robey, finance manager, Sterling will pay Schneider directly, based on increments of completion and the district will begin repaying the loan institution beginning January 2019.
When asked about the technology being used and the basis for the implied savings, Harris said, “We made 3-D energy models of all of the schools, so we modeled what they were spending and then we applied the new technology to that building model to figure out what they will spend with the new technology.”
In their analysis, a comparison of the run-hours for the current equipment in relation to the new equipment, allowed them to determine that the district’s light bill would decrease by half.
She said they used the district’s actual utility rates, which make their numbers more accurate, whereas other companies use a blended rate. “So, sometimes we might not have the highest savings if we’re competing with another company, but ours are legitimate,” she said.
The district will be paying for the project the next 15 years, although the guarantee is for 20 years. Schneider’s guarantee of an annual savings will help offset the cost of the project and their intent is for the new installation to provide those resources. “But if for some reason we come below that, then we would write a check every year of the project duration to reconcile that discrepancy,” said Dave Horton, Schneider senior performance assurance consultant.
Carver Elementary is scheduled to be the initial starting point because it has the greatest need and is the largest facility followed by Ruleville Central High and the other schools will be addressed based on severity of the conditions.