Mamaroneck School Board needs to replace the boilers in two of its buildings and make other repairs. Its initial attempt to float a $30 million bond was rejected by the voters. A modified $22 million bond issue will be resubmitted for a vote this month that includes $16.5 million for boilers and HVAC at the Hommocks and Central.
Here is how the Waverly School System in upstate New York saved money and energy with a state-of-the-art cogeneration plant that produces heat and electricity at the same time.
In 1990 Waverly School System needed to update an all-electric heating and air conditioning system. Walter Cain, the superintendent wanted to look at cogeneration as a way to save money and be environmentally friendly. The school board and local utility opposed cogeneration, but the superintendent convinced the community and got their support.
Cogeneration is an attractive concept: Conventional boilers and conventional electricity generation both waste a large part of the fuel energy. Cogeneration partially cancels that waste and produces almost free electricity in addition to the heat that a traditional boiler would produce.
The cogeneration modules are fairly small, 82x44x46″, and Waverly installed 5 modules side-by side, each rated at 75 kW and 490 000 Btu/hr.
Mamaroneck’s saving cannot easily be calculated, but it would be substantial.
Waverly now produces 90% of the building’s electric needs plus all of the school’s space heating and hot water and even warms the school swimming pool. In the summer, the waste heat is transformed into chilled water by an absorption chiller to provide air conditioning for about a third of the building. All is controlled by an energy management system that controls temperatures of each classroom.
Waverly estimates it recovered its investment in less than 3 years from the energy savings.
Total cost of the system, in 1990, was $1.3 million. After an energy office grant and other State aid, the final cost to the school district dropped to about $239 000. In today’s dollars, the total cost may be closer to 2 million, but additional stimulus funds may be available.
Whatever the case, these real costs are a small fraction of the $22 million Mamaroneck voters are being asked to approve.
It is fair to conclude that the Mamaroneck School Board, at least up to now, has shown no interest in saving taxpayer money and energy. (I forwarded the Waverly information to Dr. Fried). Dr. Fried’s office explained that the board is not allowed by law to seek exact bids before funding is approved.
The law does not require to rush ahead on such a major capital investment with so little forethought. The bond issue should be withdrawn pending an informed debate. Dr. Fried should lead that debate just as Superintendent Cain did in Waverly.