How Can Schools Lead by Example?

I am a senior at Whatcom Community College in Bellingham Washington. I have gotten together with one of my professors to investigate the possibility of incorporating solar (or alternative energies) into our public schools. I believe that for this new technology to catch on, we must teach it to the future generations and demonstrate these implications through the school system. I was wondering if you could help me understand what steps would have to be taken to get this technology in our schools. — Zoey C. Whatcom Community College in Bellingham Washington

Zoey, Both the US Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency have school technology assistance programs. See the web sites below for contacts on these programs. Schools can be less dependent on non-sustainable energy by using energy conservation: including compact fluorescents or traditional fluorescent lighting as much as possible, use of “smart” thermostats that automatically lower temperatures at night, use of ‘power strips’ so computers and other appliances can actually be fully turned off at night (and buying Energy Star appliances). Obviously when building new schools using LEED standards, double or triple pane windows, daylighting, solar water heating, ground-coupled heat pumps, solar absorption air-conditioning systems, and clean distributed energy systems where possible will have the maximum benefits. How effective can a public solar-powered facility be? Energy efficiency, ground-coupled heat pumps, and solar water heating are absolutely cost competitive. Use of small wind and photovoltaics for remote power such as area and security lighting, etc. are also cost competitive. Solar air-conditioning, photovoltaics and small wind energy systems can be cost effective particularly sized to offset high energy rates such as demand charges, peak power rate and ratchet rates – depending on your location and electric (natural gas and fuel oil) rate structures. How could I create my own model to demonstrate solar energy (i.e. photovoltaic panels) to my peers? See if your community, State energy or environmental office has funds to pay for or subsidize a small system. Make sure that solar or small wind system has remote diagnostics so that students and teachers can track the performance maybe in the school’s computer lab or at a computer in your science or math classroom. Develop posters on the solar or small wind system so other students, parents and teachers are educated on the system. A small system to power a spotlight on the flag or school sign or for night time or security lighting for the school or for the parking lot are lower cost options. Bigger systems can be used to dedicate power to the computer lab so the computers are not subjected to power surges in the electric grid that could harm their performance and also back them up in case of power outages. And solar water heaters can provide hot water whose temperatures can also be monitored. And how do I think schools would be affected by this change? The more students are aware of these technologies the more open our society will be to use them. Students of today are the decision makers just 20 years from now. Energy is the 2nd highest cost of education – so less taxes will be needed to sustain schools so that more funds can go to programs where they belong. A list of links follow that should be of some help. Good luck and let me know how I can help. Best regards, Scott Sklar
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Scott, founder and president of The Stella Group, Ltd., in Washington, DC, is the Chair of the Steering Committee of the Sustainable Energy Coalition and serves on the Business Council for Sustainable Energy, and The Solar Foundation. The Stella Group, Ltd., a strategic marketing and policy firm for clean distributed energy users and companies using renewable energy, energy efficiency and storage. Sklar is an Adjunct Professor at The George Washington University teaching two unique interdisciplinary courses on sustainable energy, and is an Affiliated Professor of CATIE, the graduate university based in Costa Rica. . On June 19, 2014, Scott Sklar was awarded the prestigious The Charles Greely Abbot Award by the American Solar Energy Society (ASES) and on April 26, 2014 was awarded the Green Patriot Award by George Mason University in Virginia.

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