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Energy Systems on School Grounds
Many schools around the world are using their school grounds to teach their students about energy conservation techniques and the generation of renewable energy.
School energy conservation efforts usually begin with a comprehensive energy audit, frequently conducted by the students (of any age), to determine where the school is wasting the most energy--and money. Energy audits typically find lights that are left on in unused classrooms, doors and windows leaking heat in the winter, and light bulbs and other appliances that use more energy than they need to. Many schools have saved energy and money by following the students' recommendations and changing these simple practices. Some schools also seek to conserve energy through the use of strategically planted shade trees that cool air-conditioning units (in warm climates) and reduce the amount of heat absorbed by surrounding asphalt.
Other schools have gone to the next step and decided to produce energy on their grounds. Solar panels and wind turbines are the most common choices at schools, and can be installed in a variety of sizes and combinations. Small systems can do things such as power a pump for a schoolyard pond or provide the energy for night lighting in a schoolyard. Larger systems can be connected to the school's main power supply, or the neighborhood power grid, and offset--or entirely replace--the school's energy needs.
A few schools have tried other renewable energy systems that require further modifications of their buildings' structures or other specialized equipment. Some have installed geothermal energy systems that circulate incoming air through underground ducts to pre-heat or pre-cool it before it enters the rest of the ventilation system. Other schools use passive solar energy systems that rely on the interaction between the climate and the building's design for much its heating, cooling, and lighting. Skylights and windows, for example, can replace much of a building's lighting needs and provide beneficial daylight to the students.
The list of resources below will provide information about energy systems on school grounds and help you to get started on related projects of your own. The list of case studies below includes examples of some of the energy projects that are already working at schools around the world.
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Resources for Energy Conservation & Generation
|School Name||Project Description||Location|
|Resources Efficiency Awareness Program (REAP), Tucson Unified School District||REAP's goal is to "reduce resource use and utility bills throughout the Tucson school system" by reducing energy and water consumption by 35% over a five year period. Program uses student energy audits, financial incentives, education, and energy efficient technology.||Tucson, Arizona, USA|
|Campus Center for Appropriate Technology, Humbolt State University||Website has good explanations of energy system principles. Onsite projects include: photovoltaic array, wind turbine, utility grid intertie, pedal power, and more.||Arcata, California, USA|
|Cool Schools, Los Angeles Unified School District and the Department of Water and Power||This innovative organization is a partnership between the Los Angeles Unified School District and the local Department of Water and Power. The Cool Schools program seeks to improve the energy and water efficiency of schools in Los Angeles by removing asphalt, planting trees, and testing new energy efficiency technologies and site designs.||Los Angeles, California, USA|
|John T. Lyle Center for Regenerative Studies, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona||One of the first examples of "ecological school grounds" at the university level. Excellent model of educational and functional renewable energy systems.||Pomona, California, USA|
|Adam Joseph Lewis Center for Environmental Studies, Oberlin College||
The A.J. Lewis Center was constructed to be a net energy exporter, producing more energy than it uses, even in Ohio's variable climate. The building is extremely energy efficient and uses its orientation and materials to optimize passive solar performance. It also has a substantial array of solar panels, closed-loop geothermal wells, and other energy-related features.
|Oberlin, Ohio, USA|
|ERB Memorial "Solar" Student Union, University of Oregon||A student-led project to add solar panels to the roof of the student union building on the campus of the University of Oregon||Eugene, Oregon, USA|
|Durant Middle School||School saves energy through the use of daylighting (sky lights and windows) in its classrooms and cafeteria.||Raleigh, North Carolina, USA|
|Union Elementary School||Students at this school made solar cookers out of pizza boxes||Montpelier, Vermont, USA|
|Waunakee High School||School has installed solar panels and has connected them to the curriculum||Wisconsin, USA|
Energy System Projects at Schools around the World
|Cassop Primary School||Elementary school with large wind turbine that produces more energy than the school uses each year. Good information about their wind turbine.||County Durham, England|
|Himanchal High School||School with ambitious "green school" projects including a micro-hydro electricity generator.||Nangi Village, Nepal|
|Gunnesbo School||School that has mounted solar panels on a moveable cart for educational purposes (in Swedish and English)||Lund, Sweden|