WV’s Leading Electricity Innovator – Terry Tilley

I cannot think of a single person who has had as much impact on innovation in WV’s electrical system as Terry Tilley, Wyoming County schools’ building manager.  While we are being deluged by press releases about WVU research on smart grids and by whining from WV politicians about the war on coal, Terry goes to work every day saving Wyoming County tax payers (and the rest of us as well) millions of dollars.

Here is a good (but incomplete) description of what Terry does.  Terry’s focus on efficiency investments has provided work for engineering firms and construction companies.  Here is what Terry has done:

The upgrades have helped the district realize a significant amount of savings on energy costs, he said. This year, from January to April, the school district has saved $149,566 in heating and cooling costs. Since the program was implemented in January 2004, the district has saved $1,690,450.

“Our buildings cost 94 cents per square foot to heat and cool for a year, whereas the national average is $2,” Tilley said. “The most expensive school costs $1.50 per square foot – still well below the national average – and the lowest costs only 65 cents per square foot to heat.”

The least-expensive school to heat is Mullens Middle School, built in 1928, which stands as proof that old buildings can be retrofitted well enough to register a significant amount of savings.

“Mullens is an old building, but we put in a new roof. We added two-inch insulation in the roof, and 18-inch insulation in the ceiling. We installed new windows as well, and that’s just one example,” he said. “Then there’s Pineville Middle School, which used to cost $110,000 a year to heat and cool. It now costs $33,000 a year.”

If you talk to Terry, which I have done, he will be the first to tell you that everything he has accomplished is really pretty simple.  Terry uses Internet based tools, available to anyone, to benchmark Wyoming County’s buildings against Energy Star standards and performance results of schools across the US.  Note in the quote above how Terry can tell you exactly how Wyoming County ranks against national performance.  Then he hired an engineering firm to do an assessment of what investments would yield the most savings.  Then the Wyoming County School Board supported Terry’s projects and saved their tax payers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Terry monitors the energy performance of his buildings in real time and can control energy use from his notebook computer using Internet enabled “smart grid” control technology.  Yeah, while WVU researchers are crowing about their cutting edge work, Terry is just doing it.

The WV Commerce Department story linked above is incomplete, because it leaves out a significant part of Terry’s work.  Because Terry can control energy use immediately across the school system’s buildings, he sells demand management resources to PJM Interconnection.  When PJM needs to limit demand at high demand times, Terry can dial back unneeded air conditioners or lighting and actually sell those demand management services to PJM.  Wyoming County schools are actually earning money using their energy efficiency systems.

There is very little interest among WV county school boards in this kind of innovation.

“We [Wyoming County schools] have eight out of 10 of the ENERGY STAR schools in West Virginia,” said Terry Tilley, Wyoming County Schools energy manager. “Five more schools in the county are awaiting audits.”

So only two schools outside of Wyoming County are even rated acceptable by Energy Star ratings.  This is, quite simply, a disaster for WV tax payers, and for energy innovation in our state.  If even 50% of WV school systems were as committed to this kind of aggressive management as is Wyoming County, how much expensive investment in new generation capacity could WV rate payers be avoiding?  Remember, too, that school systems are funded almost 100% by local, state and federal taxes.  How much of that savings could flow toward better teachers and better classrooms in our own communities, instead of being sucked out of our pockets by Ohio-based AEP and FirstEnergy?

So far, in West Virginia, there has been little political or regulatory support for the kinds of things Terry Tilley has been doing in Wyoming County.  In the meantime, Terry will just keep going to work and doing his job.  After all, he has five schools to get ready for new energy audits by Energy Star.

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