Friday, August 26, 2011


City buildings, schools get energy upgrades
Aug 19, 2011 12:00 am

A majority of Portland students returning to the classroom this fall will be in buildings recently renovated with millions of dollars worth of energy efficiency upgrades.

Work is under way to convert 10 schools to natural gas heating, and a number of other projects are in motion or scheduled across the city, all aimed at making Portland's schools and public buildings cheaper to maintain. These projects are part of an $11 million bond package approved by the City Council about a year ago after plans were set in motion in 2008.

"It's taken three years or so to get to this point, but we're going to start seeing the results," said Councilor David Marshall, chairman of the Energy and Environmental Sustainability Committee.

"We're doing a lot of different things," he said.

About $9.4 million of the bond is being spent with the energy services company Ameresco. It's overseeing the lighting system and boiler plant upgrades, as well as various other heating control upgrades and other efficiency improvements.

"A large part of the savings on this project is natural gas conversions," said Ian Houseal, the city's sustainability coordinator.

He estimated that once the conversion for the the 10 schools and eight city buildings is complete, it will mean nearly $900,000 in annual savings, based on current fuel prices.

"The bright side of higher fuel costs is higher savings," he joked.

The remaining bond funds are almost entirely going to pay for new roofs and windows for city schools, he said.

Peaks Island, Lyseth Elementary and Presumpscot Elementary schools are getting new windows. King Middle, Peaks Island and Lyseth are receiving roof upgrades.

"It's been a very comprehensive overhaul of the school systems," said James Morse, the district's superintendent.

"We're very excited," he said. "Obviously, there's a lot of reasons to want to divorce yourself from fossil fuels. … It just makes incredible sense."

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