The Free Press, Mankato, MN

May 16, 2011

Schools earn money for saving money

Energy rebates total $104,634

By Tanner Kent
Free Press Staff Writer

MANKATO — A series of energy-wise projects have netted Mankato Area Public Schools a substantial sum in energy rebates.

During Monday’s School Board meeting, Greg Milbrath, the district’s director of buildings and grounds, presented 14 rebates totaling $104,634.

The district often earns such rebates from energy and utility companies for projects that replace inefficient systems. This year’s total, however, represents the rebates earned from Rosa Parks and Eagle Lake elementaries.

“We went over and above,” Milbrath told the board about the environmentally friendly construction at both schools.

At Rosa Parks, for instance, the school was built with a geothermal heating system, which extracts heat from the ground during cold months and discharges heat into the ground during warm months. That system — as well as things like occupancy sensors for lighting, water-saving fixtures and south-facing windows, to name a few — earned the district a $57,960 rebate from Xcel Energy.

Eagle Lake’s renovation earned a $10,076 Xcel rebate for energy-efficient design and the long-awaited window replacement at Lincoln Community Center earned a $5,204 rebate from CenterPoint Energy.

Rebates were also awarded for such projects as replacing a kitchen chiller at Mankato West ($4,020), installing a new convection oven at Jefferson Elementary ($1,000) and adding steam traps at Washington and Franklin elementaries ($3,811).

Although the rebates are only distributed one time, Jerry Kolander, business manager for Mankato schools, said the projects themselves will continue to save money through reduced energy and utility costs. As an example, he said the savings from Rosa Parks’ energy systems will repay their cost in less than three years.

“These projects continually give back,” Kolander said.

Each year, the district sets aside $25,000 for energy projects. The spending of those funds is determined by an energy committee that meets twice annually and includes administrators, engineers and maintenance staff.

Officials largely credit that committee for the district’s success in implementing energy-efficient systems.

“We talk about everything,” said Kristi Schuck, the board member that sits on the committee. “When you’re talking energy, you’re talking about daily usage. But you’re also thinking futuristically about how we can conserve energy and reduce costs down the line.”