Schools Win Awards For Energy Efficiency

School kids have been learning how doing something as simple as turning off vending machines at night and opening blinds to let in more sunlight in the day can save energy, and reduce levels of harmful CO2 emissions.

The students were from three U.S. public high schools that have been declared winners of the National Environmental Education Foundation’s (NEEF) Sustainable Energy Award.

classroom

image via NASA

The awards follow a nationwide search for schools that had a shown a collective effort to make energy savings through “the creative and innovative use of technology.”

The three schools were: Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy, in Erie, Pa.; Boston Latin School in Boston and the Secondary Academy for Success, in Bothell, Wash.

At Northwest Pennsylvania Collegiate Academy, the process got underway after an environmental science class decided to carry out an energy audit for the whole school. The students consulted Energy Star, a program run jointly by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy, which gives practical advice on how to lower your energy use.

The students implemented a number of recommendations including turning off lights, installing motion detectors and cleaning air handling filters. After a year the school had saved nearly $11,000 and more than 180,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) of energy. In recognition of their efforts the school was awarded a grant to install a 10.4 kilowatt (kW) solar array on its roof.

In a statement David Steel, the Executive Vice President of Strategy of Samsung Electronics North America (who sponsored the awards), said: “These winning schools demonstrate the enthusiasm and creativity students bring to sustainability.”

Besides being a great educational experience and sensitizing the next generation to the importance of renewable energy, the awards could help make a significant cut in emissions if they helped inspire more schools nationally to reduce their carbon footprint.

According to Energy Star, the nation’s 17,450 K-12 school districts spend more than $6 billion annually on energy, which is more money than goes in to computers and textbooks combined.

Students at Boston Latin School turned off the lights in vending machines after school, lowered the hot water temperature, and replaced hundreds of light bulbs in the school auditorium with energy-efficient bulbs. Thanks to funding it received from the Facilities Department of the Boston Public Schools, the school carried out a $75,000 lighting retrofit that has led to savings of 200,000 kWh a year, a gain to the school of $33,000 a year. The school also has a 28-panel PV array on its roof.

When the Secondary Academy for Success moved to its new state-of-the-art campus in Bothell it incorporated LEED green building into the design. As a result the school uses digital controls to monitor the heating, cooling and lighting systems, as well as the ventilation and metering for water, gas and electric. The school is also renovating a trailer into a mobile renewable energy kiosk for students to learn and teach others about sustainability.

All three schools received $10,000 in prize money.

Paul Willis has been journalist for a decade. Starting out in Northern England, from where he hails, he worked as a reporter on regional papers before graduating to the cut-throat world of London print media. On the way he spent a year as a correspondent in East Africa, writing about election fraud, drought and an Ethiopian version of American Idol. Since moving to America three years ago he has worked as a freelancer, working for CNN.com and major newspapers in Britain, Australia and North America. He writes on subjects as diverse as travel, media ethics and human evolution. He lives in New York where, in spite of the car fumes and the sometimes eccentric driving habits of the yellow cabs, he rides his bike everywhere.