"Energy Efficiency is at the heart of energy affordability." Tony Earley, Chairman, CEO and President of PG&E Corporation

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Palermo school district upgrades to energy saving lighting

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California Conservation Corps worker Nick Mathews puts finishing touches on a new lighting fixture Monday at Helen Wilcox School in South Oroville. He and other members of the CCC Energy Corps helped install more efficient lighting through an energy conservation program. Barbara Arrigoni — Mercury-Register

Originally published in OrovilleMr.com

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California Conservation Corps Program Manager Scott Linton holds a magnetic light emitting diode (LED) strip that will replace the existing fluorescent fixtures at Helen Wilcox School in South Oroville. Barbara Arrigoni — Mercury-Register

Oroville >> Classrooms will definitely be brighter at Helen Wilcox School when school starts this month.

On Monday, a work crew from the California Conservation Corps Energy Corps spent the day removing old ballasts and fluorescent tubes throughout the campus and replacing those with light emitting diode fixtures, or LEDs.

The work was done through a partnership between PG&E, the Conservation Corps, an organization called Richard Heath and Associates and the California Energy Commission.

Palermo Union School District Superintendent Bryan Caples said it feels great to finally get the work done.

“It’s been a work in progress for the last year and a half,” he said. “It’s a great partnership with PG&E and CCC. We really couldn’t have done it without their help.”

The installation of LED lighting was the result of a long process that began with an energy survey done by members of the CCC Energy Corps, according to Conservation Corps Program Manager Scott Linton.

After the survey, the data was sent to an analyst who made recommendations.

“Now, through partnering, they’re coming back to help install the lighting at low cost,” Linton said.

Funding from Proposition 39 that was set aside for energy efficient projects in schools paid most of the cost.

PG&E provided rebates and helped guide the school and district through the process of applying for Proposition 39 money.

Linton said the utility has been a good community partner, helping with the often-confusing steps.

PG&E works with North Valley Energy Watch and Richard Heath and Associates to sponsor installation.

“Instead of the school doing the work, RHA comes in and does the cost and the school already has a rebate,” said Jillian Rich, Proposition 39 coordinator.

PG&E Spokeswoman Terri Meyer said Helen Wilcox School will save $15,000 annually and the district will save $35,000 a year.

The district did not use any money from its general fund, she added.

Meyer said the CCC Energy Corps was funded directly through Proposition 39 to train members of the corps in energy conservation measures.

The first step of the training was on how to do energy audits, which included measuring all the rooms and checking every piece of equipment that uses energy.

The data went to analysts at UC Davis who then compiled a report that went back to the school district. Eventually the state Energy Commission had to approve the project.

“One thing that’s exciting is many of the people in the Corps who are here today came and did the audit,” Meyer said. “Now they’re doing the work and get to see how it works. It’s part of their education program.”

Jason Bougie of RHA said without the Proposition 39 funding, it would have cost Palermo Union School District $240,000 to redo its lighting system at all four campuses.

Richard Heath and Associates worked with PG&E and the CCC to build a project plan. The PUSD board approved it in the summer of 2014.

Meyer has worked with 50 schools in the north valley, from Live Oak to Lassen County.

Several schools in Butte County have been retrofitted already, including Chico Country Day School, Chico Unified School District schools, all Oroville Union High School facilities and some schools in Glenn County.

Moreno said the lighting will be more efficient, longer lasting and beneficial, to both the district and the Conservation Corps crews.

“It not only reduces cost and is better lighting, but it also provides better training for the Corps members,” he said.

He also said Helen Wilcox School was the first north valley area site to have the Energy Corps install the fixtures.

Caples said the district should save $35,000 to $40,000 a year with the upgrade. The funds will be used in other ways, for technology and reinvesting money toward more energy savings.

“It will be nice to have a little chip of money we’ll save,” Caples said.

The district will get roughly $100,000 a year over the next five years and will work on other energy-saving projects, such as heating and air conditioning. Proposition 39 funds can only be used for energy conservation projects.

“We found this was the biggest saving and fastest way to save energy,” Caples said. “The light is better and more efficient.”

Contact reporter Barbara Arrigoni at 896-7767.