New Jersey

Ridgewood School district saves green on energy

The Ridgewood school district has already reaped at least $55,000 in energy savings for the 2013-14 school year, based on the calculations of an energy conservation company.

The savings are the result of the Board of Education’s (BOE) decision last year to hire a new energy specialist and contract with Cenergistic, an energy savings company. The total represents roughly 19.5 percent of what the district would have spent if it had not started the energy conservation program, said specialist Michael Parigi.

Parigi and two consultants from Cenergistic attended the Jan. 27 BOE meeting to explain the results of their work.

To help the district accomplish Cenergistic’s aims, Parigi was appointed as the district’s energy specialist last June at a salary of $75,000. Starting last summer, he began making changes in each of the district’s buildings.

“When you’re not in the classroom, shut the lights off,” Parigi noted. “For example, at Ridge School last summer, the air conditioning was running in certain areas. … We shut it all down.”

“Basically, this is what the program is based on,” he said.

Ridgewood Schools Superintendent Daniel Fishbein noted with a chuckle that even he received a reminder from Parigi after he rushed out of his office one day and left his computer monitor on.

“There was a little Post-it reminding me in the future to make sure my monitor is off,” he said.

Though the first-year goal for Ridgewood was a savings of 24 percent, district officials said they are not concerned, since the data so far includes only eight district buildings, excluding George Washington Middle School and Hawes and Willard elementary schools.

“Two of the buildings received new meters when we did construction,” Fishbein said, and PSE&G has been slow to return the data.

“We have a lot more money to save in those three schools,” said Business Administrator Michael Falkowski, adding that he believed that Cenergistic was “accurate” in its savings computations.

During their pitch last spring, Cenergisitic representatives guaranteed that Ridgewood would save money. They said they hoped to help Ridgewood accrue more than $3 million in net savings over the course of 10 years, representing a roughly 30 percent reduction in expected energy costs.

“Maybe we can take a look again at the end of the school year … to see if we’ve met our goal,” BOE President Sheila Brogan said after the presentation. “But this is very encouraging.”

Beyond educating the administrative staff, Parigi is also working with teachers, who he said “are very happy that someone’s making an effort to turn the lights off.”

Additionally, he plans to talk to students about energy conservation.

“I talked to a couple of the teachers over at Willard,” Parigi said. “I’ve been asked to talk at a couple of their programs and clubs.”

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