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Operational Efficiency: All About Energy
gwaxberg

This is one in a series of web stories about Pingry operations. From the School's solar panels and strategic budgeting of building repairs, to the impressive skill of its Facilities Team, we will unveil the behind-the-scenes and "beyond the classroom" work that Pingry undertakes to ensure that the School runs efficiently and effectively.

building with solar panels on the roof
Solar panels on the Upper School building's roof. Also visible
is The Carol and Park B. Smith '50 Middle School (right), whose
energy systems are integrated with the Upper School building.

In this age of rising energy costs and burgeoning energy technologies, Pingry seeks to capitalize on as many cost-saving and earth-friendly tools and tactics as possible. From negotiating with energy companies for lower costs to creating its own solar energy—and virtually everything in between—these efforts have been underway on the School's campuses for more than a decade and are yielding measurable results.

For an excellent example of the School's forward-thinking decisions in the area of energy efficiency, one might look back to 2007-08, the inaugural year for the nearly 30,000-square-foot Carol and Park B. Smith '50 Middle School. Significantly, even with the campus expansion, energy consumption decreased by 32 percent. How? It resulted from Pingry's integration of the Middle School's water, sewage, and energy systems with the main Upper School building and Hostetter Arts Center. The entire campus operates more efficiently as a cohesive system.

Four years later, in December 2011, a 394-kilowatt solar panel array became operational on the Upper School building's roof, producing about 20 percent of the building's electricity (depending on the amount of sunlight during the year). From a financial perspective, Pingry benefits from the solar panels in three ways:

  • Solar power reduces the burden on the campus's power grid because the sun is typically shining brightly when the demand for energy spikes during school hours. Reducing that amount of electricity used during these peak load hours and creating a steady pattern of electricity usage translates to a lower overall cost.
  • On certain days, such as sunny summer weekends, the solar panels produce more power than the campus uses. Pingry receives a credit for the excess, resulting in a net reduction to the School's electricity bill.
  • The School benefits from tax incentives, thanks to a 10-year SREC (Solar Renewable Energy Certificate) contract with JCP&L.

How does a non-profit organization benefit from tax incentives? Chief Financial Officer and Director of Operations Olaf Weckesser P '25 explains. "The State of New Jersey offers incentives for installing renewable energy systems, so we are entitled to a tax credit per unit of solar power. As a non-profit institution, Pingry doesn't pay taxes, so we can't take advantage of the tax credit directly. Instead, we entered into a lease transaction with a financial institution—technically, the bank owns the panels, and benefits from the tax credits, while Pingry was able to obtain the panels for a lower cost than we otherwise could have. Pingry then also receives payments from the state based on the amount of solar power produced."

Less than one year after activating the solar panels, in October 2012, Pingry unveiled the energy-efficient, LEED Gold-certified Beinecke House (headmaster's residence), proudly and painstakingly designed to be one of the greenest homes in New Jersey. Among its numerous features, the home boasts solar electricity, a solar thermal hot water system, energy-efficient windows, dimmable LED lighting, Warmboard radiant heating in the floors, and exterior walls constructed with 18- to 24-inch thick Durisol Blocks (a cost-effective, sustainable alternative to more ubiquitous materials such as brick, block, and timber-frame).

Most recently, energy efficiency at Pingry took center stage with the Miller A. Bugliari '52 Athletics Center (BAC), which opened in January 2017, featuring the most current technologies. Mr. Weckesser points out that "the entire building is heated by two boilers the size of filing cabinets, and the Newhouse Family Sports Arena is ventilated by the same sophisticated air rotation system used by the New York Giants in their indoor practice facility. It's impressive how quiet the building is—you don't hear anything, and there's no draft."

Kevin Aitken, Senior Sports Architect at CHA Consulting, Inc., the engineering firm responsible for the excellent work on the BAC, reveals additional, behind-the-scenes intricacies: exterior walls composed of high R-value materials (insulating materials that resist heat flow—the higher the R-value, the higher the insulating power), such as three-inch insulated metal panels that control air leakage and high R-value roof insulation; tinted glass to reduce solar heat gain; and argon gas-filled windows (gas between panes of glass offers better insulation, which increases energy efficiency). Other energy-efficient features of the BAC include water fountains specially designed to fill reusable water bottles (while encouraging users by displaying a running count of how many plastic bottles have been saved) and low-flow shower heads in the changing rooms. The BAC is even designed to be able to accommodate solar panels, a decision the School will make in the future, based on energy market economics.

On a smaller scale, Pingry's energy-saving initiatives include LED lighting throughout the Lower School, Middle School's Wilf Family Commons, Upper School classrooms, and BAC (with plans to update remaining areas during future renovations); energy-efficient condensing boilers; a Building Management System that monitors hot water and heating throughout the campus buildings; and wireless lighting featuring occupancy and daylight sensors, which automatically turn off lights when they are not needed. The School also participates voluntarily in the New Jersey PLC (Peak Load Contribution) energy curtailment program. Pingry's curtailment partner, Tangent Energy Solutions, analyzes PJM (Pennsylvania-New Jersey-Maryland) grid demand and makes projections for future demand. When Tangent believes there is potential for a day with a high demand for electricity, they notify large power users of the need to conserve power. In these instances, Pingry turns off non-critical systems in order to receive credits for each watt saved. For example, during the summer of 2016, Pingry reduced demand by 71 kilowatts, providing $3,000 in savings. This past summer, Pingry reduced demand by 235 kilowatts, providing an estimated savings to the School of $18,000.

And, leaving no stone unturned, Pingry's operational efficiency efforts are not limited to stationary structures on its campuses. In 2017, two charging stations for electric vehicles were a new addition to the Basking Ridge Campus. "Electric vehicles are more operationally efficient than internal combustion engines," says David M. Fahey '99, Assistant Director of Operations and Strategic Initiatives. On average, charging an electric vehicle costs one-half to one-third the price of filling a car with gasoline. "We'd love to eventually replace all Pingry vehicles with electric vehicles. We could have fleets of electric vehicles that we're able to charge on campus," Mr. Fahey says. A visionary, energizing thought, indeed!

Contact: Greg Waxberg '96, Communications Writer, gwaxberg@pingry.org