D51 gets energy award

School District 51 is one of 44 U.S. school districts named an Energy Star Leaders Top Performer this year by the Energy Star program.

Energy Star is a joint effort of the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency designed to encourage energy efficiency and conservation in commercial and public buildings.

A portfolio of school district buildings has to place in the top quarter among all school districts in the Energy Star database for energy efficiency in order to earn Top Performer status. District 51 placed in the top 10 percent for performance in 2012.

The district has been working on energy efficiency and conservation projects in its buildings since 2000 and ramped up efforts in 2009 with the start of a three-phase, $10.7 million contract with energy renovation provider Trane. The project concluded last fall and will be paid off through money the district would have otherwise spent on energy bills, which have decreased since the project began.

Project work included installing energy efficient lighting, swapping gas ovens for electric ones, switching old boiler and heating and cooling systems for newer models and installing low-flow toilets and sinks. District 51 Manager of Resource Conservation Eric Anderson said the district was able to save about $1 million last year because of energy efficiency efforts.

“We’ve seen a 40 percent reduction overall in combined natural gas and electricity since 2006-07,” Anderson said.

The district decreased budgets for natural gas and electricity by 12 percent and 26 percent, respectively, in 2011-12 compared to 2009-10. The district had surpassed its electricity budget by $753 as of May 31 because a warm winter and spring increased the need to use air conditioning unit, Anderson said. But 2011-12 electricity spending in the district as of the end of May was still $87,578 below year-to-date electricity spending the previous school year.

The district plans to continue its renewable energy iniative this summer with the installation of solar energy systems at Grand Mesa Middle School, Mount Garfield Middle School, Redlands Middle School and Rocky Mountain Elementary School. The district also received grants from the Governor’s Energy Office and the city of Grand Junction to install a 2.4-kilowatt, small-scale wind turbine this summer at the Career Center.

Anderson said the district is searching for grant money to begin a renewable energy vocational program at the Career Center that would incorporate data from the turbine and a solar energy system at the school.


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