HUGHESVILLE - East Lycoming School District not only is helping the environment with the multiple energy projects it put into action, but cutting costs, as well.
"What you see is a culmination of doing right by the environment, being fiscally responsible by the taxpayers and looking toward the future," said Superintendent Michael Pawlik.
The district's junior-senior high school now holds a biomass furnace, a 40-acre Chinese Willow field and solar panels, among others.
Michael Pawlik, superintendent, holds a pile of woodchips, which fuels a biomass furnace at Hughesville High School.
Dave Maciejewski, business manager, explained that the district began looking at energy projects as it started a renovation project at the high school. Maciejewski said the district then started looking at ways to save money as it did the project and it has grown from there.
"I think we've been blessed with a school board that looks forward," Maciejewski said.
The biomass furnace in the high school burns woodchips. Pawlik said switching to this furnace had made the building's heating bill "significantly lower."
Maciejewski estimated that during the months heat is used the most - October through April - the bill is about half of what it would be with natural gas.
"It's probably about one-sixth (the price) of fuel oil," Maciejewski said.
Although the district currently buys woodchips to fuel the furnace, starting next year, it will be able to cut some of those costs as well by harvesting Chinese Willow trees it has been growing for the past three years.
"(The 40-acre field of trees) will be harvested starting next year by one-third at a time to fuel our biomass furnace," Pawlik said.
"Although there is an initial cost, there is a savings over time," Maciejewski added.
Pawlick said the trees wouldn't be enough to totally eliminate purchasing woodchips from an outside vendor, but it would help.
The district isn't only cutting costs with heating but electricity, as well.
Three acres holds about 2,500 solar panels, which creates more than half of the building's energy.
"These solar panels, at this time, are generating 55 to 65 percent of the energy for the junior-senior high school," Pawlik explained.
The district partnered with PPL Electricity to put in the solar panels. A grant and one-time only stimulus monies also went toward funding the project.
With these three projects, plus a few others, the district estimated a $250,000 yearly operation costs savings.
"You're never completely finished with the project," Pawlik said.
Maciejewski said that the high school just had its lighting system upgraded with sensors. He explained that the district found it was wasting energy by keeping lights in the hallways on the entire day. Now after, no one is in the halls, the lights turn off automatically but come back on when a sensor picks up movement.
The projects also are discussed during an alternative energy course at the high school and shows students the importance of environmental awareness.
"Having a school board that leads by example (is important)," Pawlik said. "They're not just telling the students to think outside of the box, but showing them how to think outside of the box."