The Libby School District, located in northwestern Montana, serves approximately 1,200 students in a community just south of the Canadian border. Burdened with an antiquated lighting system, the district worked with Johnson Controls to invest in modern, energy-efficient lighting technology to save energy, and reduce utility and maintenance costs. And they financed it through the company’s performance contracting model, which uses energy savings to cover the cost of capital improvements.
Johnson Controls, a $30 billion global company with various divisions, delivers energy efficient lighting solutions to local governments, commercial buildings, and educational institutions across the country. As an Energy Services Company (ESCO), the company has the technical knowledge and design expertise to offer a broad range of energy solutions, including HVAC, controls, solar, geothermal, water and lighting.
Outdated lighting system costly to maintain
Working with the local utility, the Johnson Controls team conducted a thorough interior and exterior audit of the district’s elementary, middle and high school buildings. Lighting technologies were outdated and fixtures were at the end of their useful life, requiring costly annual maintenance. Johnson Controls lighting designer John Doyle recommended replacing existing HID and fluorescent technology with LED. Additionally, wireless controls were added to direct light where it is needed and to turn lights off based on room occupancy. By the end of the project, more than 4,300 fixtures were retrofitted. The company was committed to securing every eligible incentive on behalf of the customer and worked to get their specified products from the DLC approved list.
Today, the showpiece is the gymnasium, a multiuse space serving school, sport and community event needs. The new lighting transformed a dull, dingy and dark interior into a light and bright gathering spot. The transformation has been positively received with demonstrated energy savings and improved light levels throughout each building.
Jim Germany, Libby High School Assistant Principal, is delighted with the work. He said, “Wow! That’s the only expression that I can give you about our new lights. What’s more is that it is the most common expression given to me when people come into our gym and see them for the first time. We have a very old gym with great character and tradition. It has been the center point of our school over the years for all kinds of events. All these years, we’ve never known how dark and dreary it was… until now! It has given the entire facility a spark of life that we never knew we needed. With the new lights and the new floor, our community has one of the nicest facilities in the region.”
Energy savings funded project costs
Johnson Controls organized financing for the district through their performance contracting model. The company looks at what customers spend on energy over a period of time and how much they can save through energy efficient solutions. They show the customer how money spent on their utility bills can be redirected to pay for the capital improvements. In effect, energy savings become the mechanism to fund the project.
Jeff Radatti, project manager, Johnson Controls intelligent lighting infrastructure western division, says the best thing about performance contracting is that savings are guaranteed. “Shortfalls are rare, as our ability to estimate the savings is very precise. But if they happen, we cut a check to the customer for the difference. So, there’s little risk to them and it pays off in long-term efficiency and savings.”
Partners with local trade allies
As they do on many projects, Johnson Controls contracted with local electricians for installation. “We often work with small and medium-size shops on projects like this one,” said Christian Drechsel, regional operations manager for Johnson Control’s intelligent lighting infrastructure western division. “They might have a great opportunity but not the capacity to coordinate multiple energy efficiency solutions. By working together, we deliver energy cost savings for the customer and keep much of the work right in the local community.”