Tahoe-Truckee schools learn about rebates | SierraSun.com

Tahoe-Truckee schools learn about rebates

Andrew Cristancho
Sierra Sun

Energy efficiency in the local schools isn’t just rewarded with rebates and long-term savings, it’s a learning tool.

As a small array of 10, 64-watt solar panels collects sunlight near the entrance to Truckee’s Alder Creek Middle School, Sue Mock’s sixth-grade ecology class measures how much electricity is being produced, how much money that saves the school in power costs and the amount of carbon dioxide reduced by using the sun for energy.

Those findings are recorded, graphed and published on the school’s Web site every day, Mock said.

Learning how to prevent global warming is one thing Austin Stratton, an 11 year-old 6th grader, said he is learning in Mock’s class.

On April 10, the class Web site claimed the panels prevented 723.5 pounds of carbon dioxide from being released into the atmosphere ” and saved the campus $46 on its energy bill.

Besides the sun, the four-year old middle school is realizing an energy savings with its ground-source heating and cooling system, said Rob Koster, Tahoe Truckee Unified School District’s project manager.

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A system of water pipes circulates throughout the building regulating temperature. The water within the pipes is heated and cooled by being pumped 300 feet underground where it is restored to 50 degrees. The water’s temperature is further manipulated by heat pumps. In the winter, once the water is pumped back inside, the heat is sucked out of the water and into the building. In the summer, the building’s heat is conducted into the piped water system, pumped outside and cooled below the earth’s surface.

With the ground source system the school now uses less than half the energy it would have consumed for heating and cooling with traditional boilers and chillers, said Scott Terrell, conservation specialist with the Truckee Donner Public Utility District. The geo-thermal system, which is five times more efficient than a traditional climate-control system, costs about double to install, Terrell said.

But Truckee’s utility district offset the capital costs by giving the school district a $160,000 rebate, according to John Britto, the school district’s director of facilities.

“A lot of the systems cost more ” but there is savings long term,” Britto said. “We want this to be our standard from now on.”

The school is one of only 10 statewide recognized by the Collaborative for High Performance Schools as a demonstration school serving as a model to developers of educational sites nationwide, according to the collaborative’s Web site.

Other energy efficient measures have been awarded with rebates, according to

Britto, with $16,338 paid in to the district in 2007.

The rebates come from electricity providers like Truckee Donner Public Utility District and Sierra Pacific Power Co. that pay incentive funds for lighting retrofits and installation of energy efficient systems.

One of the latest rebates, $4,084, was paid to the Tahoe-Truckee district from Sierra Pacific Power, according to spokesman Karl Walquist.

While three other rebate checks equaling $12,254 were paid by Truckee’s utility, Terrell said the school district simply took advantage of the utility’s commercial lighting rebate program that covers one third of a project’s costs. Terrell said in many circumstances customers can recoup the cost of replacing old lighting and ballast systems with state-of-the-art fluorescent equipment as early as one year after installation by using less energy.

Tahoe City’s North Tahoe High and Middle schools will save 272,000 kilowatt hours annually, enough to power 35 households, according to Sierra Pacific’s John Hargrove, project manager for energy efficiency.