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Building Energy Navigator screenshot for Edwards Elementary School

Edwards Elementary saves money
during Thanksgiving holiday break

Holiday “power-down” project in Eagle Co. schools saves $250

Heather McGregor
Clean Energy Economy News
Dec. 5, 2014

A Thanksgiving “power-down” project to save electricity at Edwards Elementary School over the holiday break has resulted in an estimated $250 in savings.

The power-down started on Friday, Nov. 21, when fourth and fifth grade students in the Edwards Eco-Action Team searched the school to shut down unnecessary electric-powered equipment and devices for the nine-day break. With the help of CLEER’s Building Energy Navigator website, they are now sizing up the results.

“On the weekend days, the savings was about 8 to 9 percent, and on the weekdays, the savings was about 40 percent,” said Mike Ogburn, energy engineer with CLEER.

“As the week went on, those savings added up,” said Ogburn. His early estimate, based on the school’s Navigator readings, is that the school will achieve about $250 in savings for the holiday week power-down.

The Edwards Eco-Action Team students are already coming up with ideas for doing an even better power-down for the Christmas break, he said.

When students get involved in saving energy at their schools, they learn how energy is used in buildings, and how conserving energy resources helps the environment, he said. And when school districts save money on energy bills, they have more tax dollars available for their primary mission of education.

The money-saving power-down is the result of two projects in the Eagle County School District working together:

  • CLEER’s facility energy coaching and its installation of the Building Energy Navigator energy tracking systems at 10 schools in the district, funded by Eagle County.

  • The Eco Schools educational program, a National Wildlife Federation program being delivered in four schools by Walking Mountains Science Center and funded by a grant from Vail Resorts. The program includes a required unit on energy.

A $58,000 grant from Eagle County’s Eco-Build Program funded the installation of Navigator hardware and software. The grant also paid for energy coaching by CLEER staff for the school district’s facilities staff, faculty and students.

The installations were done over the summer, and eight schools are now equipped with data loggers on their gas and electric meters to track energy use in 15-minute intervals. Actual monthly energy bill data is being collected and displayed for 10 of the district’s 15 schools.

“Eagle County School District’s facilities staff was very helpful in identifying which schools would be best for energy tracking,” Ogburn said. “And they were on site with us for every installation.” School district staff also gave CLEER permission to request two years of utility bill history from gas and electric utilities, which was loaded into the Navigator system to provide a baseline for energy-saving projects going forward.

Edwards Elementary is the first school in the Eagle district to run a power-down experiment, guided by Ogburn and by Cindy Tibble, Eco-Schools coordinator for Walking Mountains Science Center. Edwards Elementary teachers Katie Leibig and Jeanine Kenney are leading the Eco-Action Team working on the project.

“We also worked on a summer power-down last spring,” said Tibble. “This Thanksgiving experiment is the first time we’ve been able to view the results on the Navigator.”

For the Edwards Eco-Action Team, access to the Navigator data will help in their quest to achieve a bronze award from the National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-Schools program next spring. Eco-Schools is a comprehensive program for schools to operate as eco-friendly facilities and for students to learn how they can help make that happen. Schools that complete a series of seven steps can apply for Eco-School certification.

In addition to monthly Eco-Schools classes, Leibig, Kenney and Tibble presented an all-day Eco-Institute on a Saturday that was focused on energy and energy conservation. And at Edwards Elementary, the Eco-Action Team has asked each class in the school to assign a “power patrol.” These students in all grades make sure their classrooms are shut down at the end of the school day, with lights out and electronics turned off or unplugged.  

“I’ve observed a great deal of enthusiasm from this group about hands-on projects that will lead to actual change for their school,” said Tibble.

CLEER’s Mike Ogburn said the access to energy use data on the Navigator website helps students see the big picture of school energy use, and the incremental results of their actions to save energy.

“Students know the school is bigger than their own homes, and costs more to run. But they might not know exactly how much bigger. With this data, they can see it costs about $50,000 a year for the electricity and gas used to power and heat their elementary school, and about $200,000 per year for a high school,” Ogburn said.

“After running the power-down experiment, they can see by the very next day whether their actions had a positive impact on energy use,” Ogburn said.

With the success at Edwards Elementary, Ogburn is encouraging other schools in the district to run similar power-down experiments.

And the Eco-Schools program is expanding as well, Tibble said. “Four more schools have said they want to start an Eco-Action Team and will likely get started in the next month or two.”

ABOVE: This screen view of energy use at Edwards Elementary School on CLEER’s Building Energy Navigator shows electric use at the school for the month of November 2014, in the dark green bars, compared to November 2013, in the light green bars. The school’s Thanksgiving holiday power-down shows significant savings during the fourth week of the month.

Edwards Elementary Eco-Action Team

ABOVE: Edwards Elementary math teacher Katie Leibig discusses the difference in energy consumption in various countries across the globe with students in the school’s Eco-Action Team. Students were assigned a country and received a percentage of a donut to represent the percentage of natural resources that country uses.
Photo by Cindy Tibble

 


Resources

For more info on the Eco-Schools program in Eagle County, contact Cindy Tibble at cindyt@walkingmountains.org or 970-827-9725 ext. 136.

National Wildlife Federation Eco-Schools Program

Learn more about the National Wildlife Federation’s Eco-Schools program.