By Mike LaBella
---- — HAVERHILL — Homeowners everywhere are looking for ways to save money in the face of rising energy costs.
Northern Essex Community College has joined the crowd — and found a way to save $400,000 a year, college leaders said.
It took a $6.2 million investment, funded by a state bond that Northern Essex will pay back. The project received additional support from Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance, the college and National Grid.
That money paid for improvements to energy systems at the Haverhill and Lawrence campuses which will pay for themselves in a few years, officials said.
Yesterday, state officials joined NECC President Lane Glenn and college students in celebrating the completion of the first large project certified under the state’s Accelerated Energy Program.
Officials said the program helps make state buildings more energy efficient, create jobs, and allow these energy saving projects to pay for themselves. Low-cost bonds are financing the projects, and the debt will be paid through the energy savings generated by the projects, officials said.
Glenn said the college expects to save about $400,000 each year through the upgrades. That is the equivalent of the electricity used by 449 homes, officials said.
“In addition, we’ll have significant reductions in greenhouse emissions and a more sustainable college which is very important to us,” Glenn said.
State officials said the reduction in greenhouse gases is equivalent to the emissions from 231 cars.
Glenn highlighted the changes that have taken place over the last two years during yesterday’s presentation in the Hartleb Technology Center on the Haverhill campus.
Marcy Yeager, professor of natural science at NECC, brought several honors students to yesterday’s presentation.
“We’re looking at ways of creating positive solutions for the world, so I wanted my students to learn about what the college is doing,” Yeager said.
Most of the energy-saving changes are behind walls and locked doors, such as a new energy management system. Others are more visible to students and staff, such as new interior and exterior lights, programmable electronic thermostats and classroom occupancy sensors.
The project included converting six Haverhill campus buildings from electric heat to gas heat. Officials said the electricity was inexpensive when the campus opened in 1971, but not any more. Two buildings, the new Hartleb Technology Center and the renovated Behrakis One-Stop Center, were already being heated by a natural gas system.
Other changes included domestic hot water system improvements, water conservation measures, energy management system upgrades, hot water boiler replacements and door weatherization. The project received a significant Mass Save incentive of $823,000, primarily from National Grid.
Other improvements at NECC include single-stream recycling on both campuses, solar lighting for the shuttle shelters on the Haverhill campus, holiday shutdowns to save energy costs, and buying energy from solar farms.
“Being environmentally aware is a priority for the college, which is why we’re so pleased with the results of this project,” Glenn said.
Yesterday’s program included a tour of the college’s Haverhill campus led by Dick Goulet, NECC’s director of facilities. Glenn and his guests toured the Behrakis One Stop Student Center to see the new energy efficient interior and exterior lighting, a room that has new energy controls and room sensors, and a stop at “the penthouse,” where much of the new equipment is located.
Carole Cornelison, commissioner of the state’s Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance, told the crowd that the completion of NECC’s project marks the first large project completed as part of the state’s Accelerated Energy Program.
She said the program’s goal is to undertake energy efficiency projects at 700 sites in 700 days.
“About 406 sites have been completed so far,” she said, adding that the total energy cost savings will amount to about $40 million annually. In addition, thousands of jobs are being created and greenhouse emissions will be reduced by about 40 percent, she said.