Until several years ago, the solar panels on top of Elsa Elementary School in Round Rock weren’t earning the school district anything.
“They were generating power for the school, of course, but we weren’t [inter]connected with the system,” Round Rock ISD Assistant Maintenance Director Glen Rhoden explained. “Then out of the blue, I was approached by this excellent key accounts guy, and he began to tell me about the programs that PEC offered.”
The “excellent key accounts guy” was Matt Gonzalez. As one of PEC’s key accounts coordinators, Gonzalez works with area businesses to help them take advantage of the cooperative’s commercial rebates and incentives program.
For Round Rock ISD and for Rhoden, whose career expertise in energy management is matched by his passion for returning money to the classrooms, it was the beginning of a beautiful partnership. Gonzalez helped get the solar panel-topped school interconnected with the PEC system. Now, when panels generate more power than the facility consumes, the school district earns money back.
“[When schools and businesses] collect incentive money and rebates from utilities, they can roll that money back into other energy conservation measures — to make that money make more money,” Rhoden explained. “The first thing I’d tell schools is to get in touch with your utility and see what your utility has to offer.”
PEC serves just 12 percent of Round Rock ISD (the rest is divided between Austin Energy and the deregulated market), but with this proactive energy management partnership, Rhoden and PEC have already saved Round Rock ISD more than $22,000. The wide variety of programs the district has taken advantage of include:
- Commercial lighting rebate: One-time savings of $17,529
This rebate for energy-efficient lighting was a windfall for Round Rock ISD as the district began construction on the brand-new Pearson Ranch Middle School campus. And the savings only start there — the efficient lights will reduce the school’s energy bills for years to come.
- Commercial HVAC rebate: One-time savings of $4,652
Rather than a traditional HVAC system, Pearson Ranch Middle and Elsa England Elementary are served by an efficient central chiller plant, which helps reduce the district’s HVAC bills. When Pearson Ranch was constructed, Round Rock ISD received a commercial HVAC rebate from PEC to upgrade the plant.
- Time-of-Use (TOU) Rate: Projected annual savings of $2,646
This rate charges different prices for energy use depending on the time of day and season. When PEC debuted the rate earlier this year, Gonzalez and Rhoden enrolled two of the district’s meters in the rate’s pilot program. The experiment was so successful that Rhoden converted Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex, the district’s football stadium, to the rate as well. He plans to convert more buildings.”It would be senseless not to,” he said, “because we haven’t changed any of our operations, and we’re saving a little bit of money.”
Rhoden encouraged other schools to take advantage of all programs available to them — to reach out to their utilities and state energy conservation offices, as well as to contact the Texas Energy Managers’ Association.
“Every bit of money we save is revenue back into the classroom,” Rhoden said. “And the less electricity that is consumed, the less has to be produced. So, energy management, energy efficiency ties into sustainability and being good stewards of our natural resources.”
Read how other energy-conscious businesses have saved: