Schools On a Roll Benefiting from Efficiency, Renewable Energy

Schools are on a roll implementing energy efficiency and renewable energy that’s saving them big bucks on energy bills so that their often constrained budgets can be used elsewhere.

Earlier this week, we reported that Green schools save an average $100,000 a year on operating costs – using 33% less energy consumption and 32% less water than conventionally constructed schools.

Ohio leads the country with more green school projects under way than any other state, with 315 LEED certified projects, according to the U.S. Green Building Council’s Best of Green Schools list.

About $9.4 billion has been spent on renovating and building green schools, Sue Meyer, of Ohio’s School Facilities Commission told Dayton Daily News. More than 860 buildings have been newly built or renovated and 175 schools are under construction.

The state pays 60% of the costs, which are supplemented by local funds from a $245 million bond issue passed by voters in 2002. The Dayton Public District expects to save $2.6 million a year from the upgrades as well as providing much healthier learning environments.

Meyer says it doesn’t cost more to build a green school. "Probably in the early phases years ago when we were new at this and we didn’t know what to expect we actually did build in a little additional funding," she said. "But we’re seeing now a lot of the LEED projects are coming in on budget or under budget, which is very exciting news for us."

Schools & Solar

In Calfornia, the Oak Grove School District near San Jose, recently celebrated the completion of its solar PV system, installed on four schools and a district office.

They expect the 1.8 megawatt (MW), which will generate up to 90% of the district’s electricity, will save the district $13 million in energy costs over the life of the project.

At a time when school districts across the country are struggling under the weight of crippling budget deficits, Oak Grove has looked towards innovation as a way to maximize every taxpayer dollar. The savings being generated can now be reinvested into our classrooms where it belongs," says Chris Jew, Acting Superintendent for Oak Grove School District.

The project, installed as parking canopies and shade structures, is installed by Chevron Energy Solutions – yes, the oil company, that’s also involved in solar.

The company says it’s collaborating with school districts across the country to design and implement science curriculum integrated with renewable and energy efficiency systems, exposing students to future career opportunities in clean energy technology. 

Oak Grove School District says they’re using the curriculum to provide students with a hands-on learning experience while teaching the value of environmental stewardship.

Solar is also going up on 10 catholic schools in New Jersey. 

The Archdiocese of Newark expects to save $120,000 in energy costs a year when the 1.5 MW system is installed by Borrego Solar Systems Inc.

The largest project is at Paramus Catholic Regional High School, where the 29,000 square foot roof is covered by solar panels, producing 30% of the schools electricity.

Borrego is using a combination of federal tax incentives and energy credit loans from local utilities to finance the $7.2 million project. Borrego will own and maintain the sites under a power purchase agreement with the archdiocese, which will buy the electricity for about half the price of that offered by utilities for the next 15 years.

"This project was of no cost to our school. In a sense, we’re just renting the roof to Borrego," says James Vail of Paramus Catholic, where a $1.5 million project to install energy-efficient windows is wrapping up at the school, built in 1965.

At the end of the 15-year agreement, the Archdiocese can either purchase the panels at a depreciated price, have them removed for free, or enter into another long-term electricity purchase agreement with Borrego. 

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