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While the Reedsburg Area School District’s energy use is up slightly, a cost analysis shows an eight-years savings of more than $550,000 because of a number of efficiency improvement projects.

Jim Schieble of the Reedsburg Utility Commission gave the school board an overview Monday night of the district’s energy usage from the 2003-2004 school year through the 2011-2012 school year.

Usage showed a decrease because of a mild winter last year and what Schieble called an increase of supply over demand economics.

“Gas in America has increased in supply,” Schieble said, “so there is more supply than demand, and the price goes down. That trend may reverse according to forecasts. There is less demand from industry and a lot because of the supply and new drilling techniques.”

Last year, the gas billed for the district totaled $140,110. For 2011-2012, that bill decreased to $117,545.

That’s nearly half of what it was eight years ago. The gas bill for the 2003-2004 period was a whopping $232,241.

Schieble said electricity costs were up recently because of a long heat spell last summer and a jump in the use of technology.

However, by taking numerous proactive measures to conserve electricity, the district has brought its costs down over time.

Over the years, some of those projects include a massive exchange of lights to lower wattage and air system control upgrades.

Building and grounds director Randy Johnson said over those eight years, the district hasn’t spent anywhere near $550,000 in upgrades for energy efficiency.

“We’ve probably spent less than $100,000,” Johnson said. “The technology is getting better and the cost is coming down. Some of what we did we needed to do anyway. As ballasts and lamps have failed, we’ve replaced them with energy-efficient lights. We would have had to spend that money anyway.”

Johnson said LED lighting replaced much of the old lighting, other bulbs have been replaced with compact fluorescent bulbs at far less wattage and motion detectors have been installed in many rooms that switch the lights off when no one is in them.

Recently, all 40 200-watt bulbs that light the seating area in the CAL Center were replaced with 18-watt LED light bulbs.

“We have better light with 10 percent of what we had before,” Johnson said. “They’re expected to last the next 10 years. That was about $2,400 to purchase the light bulbs. WPPI Energy and Focus on Energy paid for 60 percent of that.”

The air system limiter that sends an indication warning when the system is reaching a certain power demand cost about $25,000.

The Reedsburg Utility Commission donated and installed a solar panel that contributes about 6,000 kilowatts of energy in a school year. However, Johnson said the district uses about one kilomillion watts per year.

“That’s a drop in the bucket,” Johnson said, “but it helps.”

Schieble said the costs of electricity have been on the upswing, so the conservation projects have met the impact of that rise.

“The amount of reduction we achieved steadily improved,” Schieble said. “We’re at 40-plus percent less than in 2002 or 2003. If we had not done the things we did in lighting and vent control, we would have spent that much more money.”

Between late 2003 and 2012, the district has managed to trim its electricity bills by $557,922.

“I watched the energy go down,” Schieble said, “and watched it go up again because of expanded use. There are an increasing number of computers and smart boards, or projectors. We need to be aware those do have an impact.”

In another matter, District Administrator Tom Benson said the old school property in the town of Dellona will be listed with a real estate agent soon.

The parcel, about an acre, was discovered earlier this year after Dellona town clerk Lynn Eberl obtained a county report on the town’s tax-exempt properties.

The parcel showed up as Consolidated School District No. 9, and was the former location of an old country school with one room.

The building has long since been torn down, and the property is all land with no structures.

The property is adjacent to the Dell Creek Wildlife Area, public land under the control of the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

On another side of the parcel is a historic cemetery.

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