Schools get solar systems from stimulus funds

Pear Park and Dos Rios elementary schools will install new energy-efficient technology next year, thanks to a $103,152 grant.

The district will use a grant from the New Energy Economic Development, or NEED, program to buy and install Solatube technology atop the schools.

Solatube systems consist of placing tubes that look like skylights on the roof of a building. The structures contain mirrors that tip as the sun moves across the sky to bring the maximum amount of sunlight into a room during daylight hours. The sunlight is spread throughout the room and can substitute for electrical lights on sunny days.

The tubes will be installed at the end of next summer, according to Cal Clark, School District 51’s director of maintenance and operations.

Around the same time, the district will complete an ongoing energy-efficiency project that involves refitting light fixtures and replacing out-of-date systems such as boilers. The project could save as much as 15 percent on the district’s utility bills. The district also has six Energy Star-certified schools, and another 20 to 22 schools are near certification, Clark said.

Gov. Bill Ritter announced $1.5 million in NEED grants Friday. The grants are funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009.

Grand Junction-based business Penikin Inc. also is one of the 14 grant recipients. Penikin received $30,000 to create the Colorado Geothermal Heat Exchange Association. The nonprofit advocacy association will educate people about geothermal heat-exchange systems and encourage people to install the systems in their businesses and homes.


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