School District 51 going green, saving taxpayers green

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

As budgets continue to tighten, School District 51 is finding ways to loosen its wallet when it comes to energy costs, saving tax payers hundreds of thousands of dollars.

New lights, new duct work, new boilers -- School District 51 says it's all part of ongoing efforts to make our schools more energy efficient.

"We want to make sure that as many of those dollars that we're allowed to spend on behalf of the public are going back into the classroom," says Eric Anderson, resource conservation manager for School District 51.

And Anderson says it's working. At the start of the school year, he says the District thought it would be shelling out $500,000 more for electricity than it paid last year. But thanks to their efficiency efforts, they'll only be paying an additional $50,000.

"It's about a fourteen percent drop in our overall energy use district wide," says Anderson.

Anderson says the secret to their success is two fold. First, doing the simple things like turning off lights and putting mechanical systems on a schedule so they're only on when they need to be.

"Those have really been the primary drivers of our results this year," says Anderson.

Then there's a three phase plan to improve and upgrade energy systems in all of the District's schools. Officials say phase one of that plan is just about finished and has involved retrofitting or replacing nearly 28,000 lights, and installing more efficient boilers, rooftop A/C units, and duct work at Grand Junction High School.

"We do want to save energy but we also want to be sure that we're improving our environments for our students," says Anderson.

The District says the resulting energy savings will pay for the entire cost of the plan. But officials say that's still not enough -- long term, they want to be certified as an Energy Star district.

"I believe the Mesa County School District can be one of the most, if not the most efficient school district in the state," says Anderson.

With four schools already certified and 29 eligible for an Energy Star rating, they say they're on the right path -- paving the way for a greener district that will save green for years to come.

District officials are projecting total energy costs for this school year will come in under the $3.5 million budgeted for them.

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