For Warren County Public Schools, promoting energy conservation pays – literally.
The school district recently received a $375,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to support solar installations in several of its schools.
Chris McIntyre, the district’s chief financial officer, said the effort is part of the district’s overall Guaranteed Energy Savings project. The $26 million project will focus on LED lighting upgrades, improvements to aging HVAC systems and plumbing upgrades to minimize water consumption.
“What we will be doing is cutting down our energy consumption through these different mechanisms,” McIntyre said.
McIntyre said the grant will be used to make the new Jennings Creek Elementary School, which is under construction along Russellville Road, a net-zero school. Net-zero schools are completely energy independent.
Richardsville Elementary School became the nation’s first net-zero school and it actually sells energy it creates to the Tennessee Valley Authority. Each year, the school spends about $55,000 on energy consumption and receives $85,000 in payments.
The construction of Jennings Creek Elementary presents an opportunity for the district to expand its net-zero schools, McIntyre said.
“Having a new building, there’s no better time to make a building net zero,” he said, adding the district plans to target another four to five buildings as well.
Bristow Elementary, Jody Richards Elementary, South Warren Middle School and South Warren High School are the closest to being net-zero schools, McIntyre said. However, the district has not yet decided where to install the panels.
As it stands, the district is the 16th lowest in Kentucky when it comes to energy consumption, McIntyre said. Through its Guaranteed Energy Savings project, it hopes to take the No. 1 spot.
The project includes several infrastructure projects across the district’s facilities. It includes replacing some older HVAC systems, installing more water-efficient plumbing systems and LED lighting upgrades.
Greenwood High School, William H. Natcher Elementary and Warren Elementary School will also be converted to geothermal heating and cooling systems. The system pumps a liquid solution similar to antifreeze through an underground system that’s naturally heated and cooled by ground temperatures, McIntyre said.
For McIntyre, the district’s energy conservation approach not only helps it save money, but promotes a learning environment for kids. Students at Richardsville Elementary often gives tours to visitors curious about their energy efficiency.
“It’s a win-win,” she said.
– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @BGDN_edbeat or at bgdailynews.com.