The Hawkins County Board of Education decided to take advantage of a possibility of energy savings Thursday night, contracting with Trane to conduct an energy performance contract study on ways to cut power usage in county schools.

Improvements include heating and cooling systems at Cherokee and Volunteer high schools, cooling tower replacements and loop repair at Church Hill Middle, Joseph Rogers Primary and Mount Carmel Elementary schools, heating and cooling and windows at Hawkins Elementary School and main electrical switchgear at Cherokee and Volunteer high school football stadiums and lighting for two fields located beside Surgoinsville Elementary School.

Kathy Cox, solutions accounts manager for Trane, helped make a presentation before the BOE on what their program, along with a partnership with the State of Tennessee’s Energy Efficient Schools Initiative. It is not affiliated with Trane.

Before the presentation by Cox and the Trane staff, BOE Chairman Chris Christian asked if there was a possibility that replacement of fixtures and bulbs could be done in house by Hawkins County Schools’ maintenance department.

“Not with our current staff,” Director of Schools Matt Hixson said. “There are fixtures that need to be replaced, it’s not just a bulb to bulb replacement, and there are ballasts in our system to change over at this magnitude. That would not be my recommendation to move forward with our in house staff doing such a project.”

“And you’ve seen the savings?” Christian asked.

“Yes, I have,” Hixson said.

According to Cox, Goals with Energy Performance Contracting are to lower utility and maintenance costs, replacement of aged equipment with high efficiency equipment or advanced technology and to guarantee savings with an ongoing measurement verification.

Scott Slusher, representative of the Tennessee Energy Efficient Schools Initiative, was also present to answer questions.

“We work step in step, hand in hand with him on all of our energy performance contracting projects,” Cox said.

Slusher noted that Hawkins County had done a project previously using EESI’s funding mechanism.

The EESI was founded in 2008 with excess lottery funds. The primary focus for EESI is to improve the learning environment in schools across Tennessee.

“We do this through technical assistance and we have engineers on staff that review projects. Not only will Trane engineers supervise the project, the EESI engineering staff will review it,” Slusher said. “We’re the independent third party evaluator of all the projects.”

Slusher also said that by law, EESI cannot indebt a school system.

“We have the funding mechanisms in place, we’ve done performance contracts (worth more than) $120 million,” Slusher said.