Waste Reduction Partners Helps Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Identify Energy Savings

J.M. Alexander Middle School in Huntersville; Photo courtesy of Balfour Beatty
Thursday, October 29, 2020 - 3:11pm

Waste Reduction Partners (WRP) worked with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) last fall to save more than $30,000 per year in energy costs.

Following the 2017 construction of J.M. Alexander Middle School in Huntersville, CMS officials found that the energy usage of the building was higher than that of other similar school buildings in the system. In 2019, CMS reached out to WRP to conduct an energy assessment of the school.

“With the energy consumption of J.M Alexander Middle School running higher than expected, the Waste Reduction Partners team helped us evaluate why,” said Paul Herre, CMS Energy Manager.

Waste Reduction Partners is a non-regulatory assistance group established as a collaboration between the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) and Land of Sky Regional Council in 2000. The group assists North Carolina businesses, schools, and governmental entities in improving their energy efficiency, reducing waste, and improving economic competitiveness. All services provided by WRP are free-of-charge for those they serve, and the group is funded by different local, state and federal agencies.

“Our highly-experienced volunteer engineers and scientists provide clients with innovative cost-saving strategies and resources to meet their goals,” said WRP Manager Terry Albrecht. “Through these thorough energy assessments, we’ve been able to save our clients more than $16 million in total utility cost savings during the past 5 years.”

Finding energy efficiency solutions is a special focus for WRP.  The state’s Utilities Savings Initiative helps pair public schools, local governments and state universities with WRP to perform assessments to identify energy saving solutions.    

This time, WRP did an energy assessment of J.M. Alexander Middle School at CMS’ request. The three objectives for the project were to: 1) review the Building Automation System to determine why the building was using more energy than other schools in the CMS system; 2) assess the cost benefits of other identified improvements; and 3) identify potential environmental improvements.

During the assessment, it was determined that making adjustments to the HVAC system, changing the school’s nearly 3,500 lightbulbs to more energy-efficient LED bulbs, and replacing flush valves with more water-efficient ones would save nearly $30,000 per year and 437,382 kilowatts of energy per year. This energy saving is equivalent to powering 40 homes annually.

Since it was a relatively new school, WRP engineers and the CMS maintenance team were able to make real-time, energy-saving changes. The technology that controls and monitors the energy usage of the school helped the assessment team to quickly pinpoint and fix unnecessary energy use.

After the on-site assessment, WRP staff summarized their findings and recommendations for the school. This included recommendations for electricity and water usage, as well as savings in heating and cooling. It also included emission reductions for certain air pollutants, including sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, and carbon dioxide equivalent, which will reduce greenhouse gas emission from the school by 354,296 pounds per year.

Through the energy assessment, CMS was able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the school as well as curb excess energy usage, reducing the environmental impact of the building and saving money for school system.

Laura J. Leonard, Hannah Anglin