The Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School currently lights up the NStar energy grid brighter than any other single client on the Vineyard, but a high school green committee formed this year by students and faculty has a comprehensive plan to dim its glow.
No Island organization uses more electricity than the high school, where more than 900 students and faculty pass through daily. Reading from a recent statement yesterday, assistant principal Neal Weaver, one of five faculty members on the committee, noted that the high school expended some 66,000 kilowatt hours of electricity over a month.
“And that might well be a low-end month,” he said. By comparison, the Gazette office used 3,600 kilowatt hours during the same period.
The high school also burned some 41,000 gallons of fuel heating the school from August 2007 to September 2008. Since the school expects a 50 per cent increase in fuel costs this year, conservation is a priority for the committee.
Eight fuel catalysts costing $10,000 were recently installed on the high school boilers. Mr. Weaver predicted a return on the devices, which regulate fuel flow by making it burn more efficiently, within two years, adding that other high schools have reported double digit savings on fuel costs.
The committee has begun to participate in Energy Star, a community project which rates energy use, gathering usage data from NStar and Packer Fuel.
Mr. Weaver is also in talks with Charlie Tavers, an NStar account executive, about conducting a comprehensive energy audit for the school.
“We’re NStar’s biggest client on the Island,” he said, “so they’re very eager to help.”
Mr. Weaver said the committee agreed to step up unit ventilator maintenance, noting that temperature control is an ongoing issue.
“I don’t know what to expect when I step into my office, it’s either Africa or Antarctica. It’s been keeping me on my toes this week,” Mr. Weaver said.
A school-wide effort to save money by turning off electrical equipment after hours has drawn mixed results, Mr. Weaver said. Custodial staff have reported that despite a school-wide announcement about the effort, computers, lights and overheard projectors continue to be left on around the school when not in use.
“I will be speaking to those somewhat reluctant staff members,” he said.
Natalie and Dana Munn, chemistry and physics teachers respectively at the high school, are planning a course in which students will build an electric car.
Securing permission from the school land use subcommittee recently, Mr. and Mrs. Munn also are pursuing the conversion of barn space near the gymnasium to function as an alternative energy research center.
At a high school committee presentation last week, Mr. Weaver said some of the early enthusiasm for the project among students has flagged in recent weeks.
“They get really excited when they get started. Then they move on to something else,” he said.
Nonetheless, he said tangible progress has been made.
“We have seven things we’ve started doing since the school year started,” said Mr. Weaver.
Jeff Rothwell, a longtime building trades teacher and director of the vocational program at the high school said he is placing an emphasis on solar and geothermal trades in his classes.
“We’d like to be on the cutting edge of the trades that will use those technologies to heat water and houses,” he said.
In addition to Mr. Weaver, Mr. Rothwell and Mr. and Mrs. Munn, Paul Brisette, chairman of the art department, is also on the committee. The committee invites student members from the student council and leadership class.
The green committee grew out of a high school committee meeting earlier in the year in which West Tisbury member Jeffrey (Skipper) Manter made a controversial argument to ban cars for students at the high school.
It is the sole point on the committee’s report that goes unaddressed, under the heading “future ideas.”
“The one item we’re not getting many ideas on from the students is cars — for some reason,” said Mr. Weaver, drawing chuckles from committee members.