How a school's major energy upgrade will save almost $1 million a year (and help pay for itself)

Thu, 2016-10-20 13:38 -- Doug Peeples


Schools generally are as much at the mercy of tight budgets and aging assets as cities. So when it comes to planning and funding for projects, creative strategies are essential. Our story below describes a large-scale energy efficiency and renewable energy upgrade to be implemented by a Boston-area community college and Council Associate Partner Ameresco. The takeaways for cities (and other schools)? The college will gain a green, sustainable campus with environmental benefits that will extend into the surrounding community—and the substantial savings in the school's energy costs will help pay for the upgrade. And there's also the matter of timing. The extensive energy project will be coordinated with a campus-wide renovation, a strategy that should reduce disruption. — Doug Peeples


Roxbury Community College's $20.1 energy infrastructure makeover is a massive undertaking. The energy savings performance contract (ESPC) with Ameresco calls for 23 separate energy conservation measures involving energy efficiency and renewable energy technologies.

And it's being done in conjunction with a $43 million campus-wide renovation that is already underway.

Examples of the energy project's components include:

  • A complete upgrade of the school's energy management system
  • Inter and exterior LED lighting
  • An innovative geothermal heat pump system coupled with a PV solar power array of about 3,000 panels that will represent almost 1 MW of power

"The innovative tri-level renewable solution for Parking Lot 1 is the most unique aspect of our project, and will be the first of its kind in Massachusetts," said Kevin Hepner, VP for Finance and Administration at the college. "Beneath the parking lot, we'll have 115 geothermal wells, 500-feet deep to function as our heating and cooling source. On the surface, we'll have parking for 320 cars, in addition to electric charging stations for up to six cars. Then, above the lot, we'll have a solar canopy with a one million kWh electric generation capacity providing renewable energy. The triple-value renewable solution provides tremendous strides in supporting and helping to achieve our sustainability goals."

The point of it all is to have a budget-neutral energy infrastructure that makes the facilities more comfortable, reduces energy costs, generates renewable power and shrinks the college's carbon footprint.

The financing angle
The upgrade is funded in part by a combination of general obligation bonds, a clean energy grant, the Clean Energy Investment Program and utility incentives—with the balance to be repaid with savings in energy costs. It is expected to be completed by the end of 2017.

Referring to the project, Executive VP for Ameresco David J. Anderson commented "It is a great example of how the combination of energy efficiency measures and renewable generation are a winning sustainable solution for the urban campus and entire community."

Doug Peeples is a Portland, Oregon-based writer specializing in technology and energy. Follow @smartccouncil on Twitter.