Grants target energy efficiency at Federal Way schools

Federal Way School District has received a financial boon.

The district was one of 15 school districts in the state that received $500,000 to improve energy efficiency.

In total, 59 school districts received $16.7 million.

The grant program is funded through the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI), and the money was made available by the state Legislature. Other districts received anywhere from $5,500 to the full $500,000.

The money will go toward putting in new lighting in Camelot and Nautilus elementary schools; 12 other schools will receive new and more efficient lighting in the larger spaces like gyms and cafeterias, said Ed Novak with the school district's Resource Conservation Office. Also, Illahee Middle School will be getting two new boilers and a retro commission of the heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems.

In addition, the district will receive matching grants from Puget Sound Energy for $225,000. The district will also contribute about that much, bringing the total to $1.2 million. The project is part of the construction bond that was passed in 2007.

"We applied in the first week of December," Novak said. "We had a number of projects pending that we were able to put in. It worked very well for us."

Projects will begin within the next month in some cases, although projects like the new boilers at Illahee will have to wait until the summertime when students won't be affected. However, all projects are expected to be completed before the start of next school year.

To qualify for the funds, districts were required to conduct audits of the school facilities to identify projects that could demonstrate guaranteed energy savings. The districts also had to show what local financial resources they had for the project.

According to OSPI, the combination of state grant funds, district funds and utility incentives will total about $43.3 million in construction projects in 23 counties around the state.

The projects will save an estimated $2.1 million in energy costs each year. In units of energy — primarily electricity and natural gas — the savings can be compared to the annual energy use in 2,700 average Washington homes.

OSPI received 81 grant applications.

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