When doors open in August to start a new school year in the Socorro Consolidated School District, students, teachers and staff will notice a considerable difference in lighting.

Socorro Consolidated School District aims to reduce its annual utility costs by 30 percent and nearly 22.1 million pounds of CO2 over the life of the project. The project is only the second K-12 GESPC project to be awarded in New Mexico under the revitalized state program.

Last week, Yearout Energy Services in Albuquerque began working with contractors to help the school reap in the benefits of energy conservation projects. Yearout is promising to save the district money. If the district doesn’t save money with the implemented new projects, Yearout will write a check for the difference in order to make the payment on the loan the district took out for the projects.

More importantly the savings could pay for the entire amount of the loan. Plus future savings would go toward any other future operational needs the district would have.

“The school district is very happy to be one of the first in the state to commit to reducing our energy, water and operational costs through the services provided by Yearout Energy,” said Socorro Consolidated Schools Superintendent Ron Hendrix. “The changes implemented will help to address the District’s deferred maintenance needs while also improving the indoor learning environment for our students and staff. Furthermore, the cost savings more than justify these changes and will help us to focus on providing more programs for students.” 

What’s happening?

Presently, contractors are beginning to retrofit or replace the existing interior and exterior lighting equipment with new LED lighting. This would include upgrading more than 4,500 fixtures in the district buildings including the administration office, Midway Elementary School, Parkview Elementary School and Socorro High School. By installing LED lights, the district would reduce its energy consumption by almost 60 percent.

In addition to the lighting, the district will replace about 50 HVAC units. Currently the district has aging and inefficient HVAC equipment in several of its buildings. According to Yearout, the district’s HVAC equipment has met its useful life and should be replaced.

Superintendent Ron Hendrix also noted contractors will be replacing all the aged rooftop units. At Midway Elementary School, Yearout recommended the district replace a non-functional gym unit as well as a non-functional service room DX mini-split. At Parkview Elementary School, Yearout suggested replacing the admin evap units as well as those located in the cafeteria, science lab, computer lab, as well as those in the kindergarten and pre-kindergarten evap units. At the high school, recommendations included replacing the main gym evap unit as well as 22 units located throughout the high school.

Other items the district will be updating include the building’s door systems, window seals and roof-wall seams. In its presentation earlier this year, Yearout indicated sealing the leads and replacing the damaged or missing insulation would significantly reduce energy consumption losses.

Water consumption also could be reduced, as the district plans to install toilets with modern toilet flush valves and tanks as well as retrofitting urinals, lavatory faucets and shower heads. By retrofitting the water fixtures the district would save approximately 554,000 gallons of water annually.

Replacing eight electrical transformers at Socorro High School with high-efficiency units will save the district a substantial amount of money.

The final two pieces of energy savings involve replacing the roof at Socorro High School and reviewing the rate changes for two district buildings – the administration building and San Antonio Elementary School. Currently the two building are being charged at a large commercial rate and should be charged at a general service rate. The rate change would reduce the district’s annual utility cost by $2,750.

Ten-month construction period

The contract is now in the preconstruction phase, with an anticipated 10-month total construction period. Initial work began in January 2018, when Yearout Energy was engaged to perform an investment grade audit (IGA) of several school facilities in Socorro.

“It was important to establish a baseline performance of each facility so that we could propose measurable improvements,” said Alex Montano, vice president of Project Development for Yearout Energy. “From there, we worked closely with the District to identify opportunities and co-develop measures that would render meaningful changes to reduce their utility expenses in electricity, natural gas, and propane, as well as water and sewer costs. Overall, the District should see a nearly $130,000 savings in utility costs and an additional $26,000 in operational costs in their first year.”

Facility improvements include:

• LED lighting

• HVAC equipment and controls

• Building envelope

• Water conservation

• HE transformers

• Solar photovoltaics

• Roofing improvements

• Utility management

Project financing includes:

• $1.95 million capital contribution from SCSD through bonds

• $1.96 million in systems grant funding from the New Mexico Public Schools Facility Authority

• Nearly $20,000 in utility rebates

• Remainder funded through guaranteed utility and operational savings financed using Cleaning Energy Revenue Bonds through the New Mexico Finance Authority