KATY MAGAZINE NEWS
July 13, 2023
By Natalie Cook Clark
Katy ISD continues to strive in excellence even when students aren’t in school. Through strategic energy savings, the District will save close to a million dollars this summer. This along with their continual education of technicians and best practices contributed to their honor of Best in Class: Energy Efficiency Plus Health recognition from the United States Department of Education.
The solar field at Haskett Junior High has shown a 40% savings at the prototype school. Photo credit: KISD
Katy ISD recently earned the honor of Best in Class: Energy Efficiency Plus Health recognition from the United States Department of Education, U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency.
KISD Looks to Save Money as Energy Costs Rise
“With energy costs on the rise, Katy ISD has been proactive in modernizing its building control systems which have contributed to energy conservation as well as operational cost savings for the District,” says Nathan Fuchs, Executive Director for Maintenance & Operations.
This achievement highlights efforts to maintain good air quality while efficiently conserving electricity across the Districts 98 campuses and facilities.
“This effort is made possible because of voter-approved bonds which have allowed the district to optimize the HVAC and Building Management Control Systems (BMCS) at aged campuses and facilities,” says Fuchs.
Included in the 2021 bond, voters approved the District-wide BMCS upgrades across the campuses and facilities. Another major component that contributes to the District’s energy efficiency is that Katy ISD is continually educating technicians on best practices and learning how to properly maintain equipment to get the most out of it.
So far, the campuses with the new BMCS upgrade have shown a 25% annual savings.
A Combination of Best Practices Saves Money, Puts Funds Back to Students
“This combination of a lot of different things play a part in maximizing what we do,” says Fuchs. “Every utility dollar saved means more money for teachers and students in the classroom."
Fuchs says that he and his department are always looking at how they can save the District money. Somethings that they do is to stay on top of current rebate programs. CenterPoint Energy offers programs that focus on a combination of changeouts and measurement and verifications. Each year offered, KISd has earned the maximin rebate savings of around $440,000. KISD also received an additional $39,750 under CHEF (Commercial High Efficiency Foodservice) program for energy efficient kitchen equipment.
Katy Schools Compared to Katy Home Usage
“Our systems are complex,” says Fuchs. To put it in perspective he breaks it down and compares school usage to an average 2,500 square-foot residential home. Now look at Katy schools; an elementary school uses roughly 55 houses of that size, a junior high school uses 79 houses worth of that usage, and a high school would use 243.
Haskett's Solar Field Saves 40%
Another way the District works to save money is to negotiate and lock in energy rates. Katy ISD is currently locked in at their current rate through 2027. They are also in conversations to look at selling back into the grid because of solar panel field at Haskett Junior High. The conversations are said to be “promising.”
When Haskett Junior High opened in Fall of 2021, the school became the first Katy ISD school to introduce a solar field of 1044 solar panels equating to 391.5 KW. The teachers at Haskett Junior High embrace their District pilot status through incorporating the solar field into their curriculum and science and even history classes.
The District is always evaluating the benefit of these panels both monthly and annually. So far, they are saving the junior high around 40% in savings, but Fuchs says that he will be interested to see the benefit in the long term when the District needs to replace panels.
As the District continues to grow and look at ways to save money, they evaluate the need for renovations and new schools.
“The projects that we do go through the bonds and the community has been generous enough,” says Fuchs. “We’re always taking taxpayer bonds and putting it back into the future of Katy ISD efficiency.”
Fuchs also says that the District is always looking at best practices and doesn’t just sign up for the newest things to be a “Guinee pig.” Instead they are looking at what practices are best and that can earn the greatest return on investment.
Katy ISD turns out the lights on space not used over the summer. Here is Haskett Junior High's cafeteria in the dark. Photo credit: Natalie Cook Clark
How Katy Residents can Learn from the District's Energy Savings
Summer is a great time to save and the District has made the most of this time. They have rolled back AC usages on campuses not in active use. This practice has saved Katy ISD close to a million dollars this summer.
This is a practice that Fuchs says that Katy families can apply to see savings and energy conservation in their own homes. When on vacation or away from the home, Katy families can dial back their AC usage. Even with all the ways the District saves money, the best way is through the behavior piece. While the District uses sensors to cut lights off when not in use, families can practice turning their lights off when not in a room.