Schools are increasingly part of high efficiency, low carbon efforts sweeping around the world. This is not only a pragmatic way of reducing carbon footprints, it also serves as a powerful educational tool for students. From the adoption of energy efficiency initiatives, to the installation of renewable forms of energy, green schools can make a substantial difference, today and in years to come.
Cost savings through efficiency and renewable energy programs are an important way to relocate funding to much needed areas. To illustrate the point if US public schools saved 10 percent on energy costs by, that would be free up enough money to hire 16,825 new teachers. Here are five examples of school retrofit programs:
1. Clark County School District (CCSD) in Las Vegas
In 2011 a lighting retrofit program in the Clark County School District (CCSD) in Las Vegas replaced existing fluorescent lights with new T-8 fluorescents in 152 of the older schools. In addition to reducing energy demand this project yielded a daily savings of $12,500 based on the 180-day school year. Nevada’s primary utility NV Energy partnered with the school district for the upgrade. The school district has seen savings of 21.4 million kWh annually since the retrofit, which equates to $2.25 million per year. In addition, in fiscal 2012, the district earned $790,000 in utility rebates for reduced electricity use to help offset its approximately $40 million per year utility bill.
In addition to energy and cost savings the district has reduced its maintenance costs associated with light replacement and air conditioning costs as these new lights don’t generate as much heat as conventional lighting.
2. Solar Schools
There are a number of interesting programs that help to make greener schools a reality. The NRDC has successfully launched its first-ever crowdfunding campaign, in support of their new Solar Schools initiative. As explained on NRDC’s Switchboard blog, Solar Schools is intended to help schools install solar panels by organizing a social platform and providing an interactive guide.
Early in December the NRDC exceeded their goal of raising $54,000 in a single month. They received funding from nearly 300 supporters all over the country, with contributions ranging from $1 to $15,000. A total of 79 school districts were nominated as possible locations for their pilot project.
The first Solar Schools pilot project will be launched in North Carolina in early 2014. In the coming weeks, our Solar Schools team will be working with local partners and communities to select the first wave of schools.
3. Kalispell School District #5
Ameresco is working with Kalispell School District #5, in Kalispell, Mont. to install over $3.29 million of energy and infrastructure improvements at 12 school buildings. The energy efficiency improvements are expected to save the district about $140,569 annually. After an extensive energy audit, Ameresco began construction which expected to be completed by the end of 2013.
The efficiency upgrades are focused on the HVAC infrastructure but also includes interior, exterior, and lighting control upgrades, water efficiency retrofits, building envelope improvements, boiler replacement, variable air volume conversion, variable speed pumping, temperature control systems upgrades, custom bus engine heater control system implementation, domestic hot water heater replacement. The project is expected to generate 1.2 million kWh in electric savings, 56,079 therms in natural gas savings, and 1,526,600 gallons of water savings annually.
4. University of New Hampshire
In 2013, the University of New Hampshire installed a new solar air heating system on the roof and south-facing wall of its science and research building, Kingsbury Hall. This project will save the university between $8,000 and $15,000 in energy costs per year.
Sometimes green school retrofit initiatives go beyond the physical plant of an educational establishment and extend into the wider community. This is the case for an ambitious public private partnership that is driving a $1.5 billion retrofit program in the university city of Cambridge, England. The new initiative is called the “Cambridge Retrofit Project,” it will reduce carbon emissions from buildings by 30 percent as of 2050. In addition to college buildings the program will also retrofit 20,000 commercial properties as well as 20,000 private homes.