S.Col is a 'star' energy saver

— The South Colonie Central School District is making strides in energy efficiency and was one of about 200 organizations nationwide to be named an Energy Star Leader by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at the end of February.

“We have worked to a point where we have gotten the energy leaders award where we improved portfolio-wide — all of our buildings — our usage by over 20 percent,” said Jim Brown, energy educator for the district.

Energy Star Leaders must meet one of two energy efficiency improvement milestones by either recording a 10 percent improvement in energy performance across their portfolio or being a “top performer,” meaning the buildings in the organization’s portfolio perform on average in the top 25 percent of similar buildings nationwide.

In the 11 years the district has been involved with the EPA program, which provides an Energy Star Portfolio Manager tool to help track energy performance, it has saved more than $3.5 million in utilities.

“People talk about utility prices constantly going up, so it’s even more impressive considering we’ve added on to many of our buildings since we began,” said Brown.

There was no “big ticket item” that pushed the school district over the edge in energy conservation. It was a combination of little things, like turning off lights, fans or computers not in use, and it was Brown’s job to pinpoint where those actions were needed.

“By having the position in place to constantly look for where are ways we can conserve energy, you’re keeping that in check,” said Brown. “I go and walk through all the buildings, just looking and listening and seeing and hearing what’s running. … Does this need to run or can it be shut down, whether that be computers, printers, lights, fans, any electrical consuming device?”

Brown said shutting down a few vacant computer stations or flipping a few light switches won’t turn a building upside down, which is what some people may think.

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