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Starpoint School District officials say their campaign to conserve energy has paid off in a big way.

The district spent $468,019 less on things like electricity and heating fuel for the 34-month period from September 2001 through last June 30 because of conservation efforts. It is projected to save a total of $3.2 million if it continues on the same path through August 2011, according to a report released this week by Energy Education, an energy management consulting firm.

The School Board hired Energy Education in 2001 to help the district find ways to control energy use. It paid $111,000 for the first three years of the service and will pay the company another $36,000 this year, but from now on will get the service for free.

Charles D. Fasnacht III, president of the company's Northeast division, said the savings were realized by making the district staff more energy conscious and managing energy use closely at all levels -- all the time.

"It involves everything from having teachers turn off lights in a classroom when they go to lunch to zoning when and where things are done" in the school buildings at night, Fasnacht said. It also means having a part-time energy manager that continually finds creative ways to avoid using energy and making sure mechanical systems are working efficiently, he said.

He said his energy management consulting firm works for 630 school districts nationwide and has been able to help school systems reduce energy use by anywhere from 15 to 30 percent. His company also has done work for the Niagara Falls, North Tonawanda and Niagara-Wheatfield school districts, he said.

District Director of Administrative Services Stephen J. Lunden, also the district's energy manager for the first three years of the program, said company consultants gave the district a multitude of ideas on how to cut energy costs.

For example, Lunden said, "We were able to cut energy use during the summer by consolidating all the district's lunch food in one freezer and shutting our other freezers off."

Superintendent C. Douglas Whelan said things should get even better this year because the district's new energy software system is running smoothly after a year of ironing out its kinks.


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