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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.

Please contact the webmaster if you know of additional resources or case studies that should be added to this page. Thanks!

Resources for Energy Conservation & Generation

Resource Title Description
Alliance to Save Energy

The Alliance to Save Energy is a national, nonprofit coalition of energy related organizations and businesses dedicated to increasing energy efficiency. Website includes information about energy conservation, lesson plans, and building tips for new school construction. The Alliance sponsors the excellent Green Schools Energy Program, focused on increasing energy efficiency on school grounds. Additional articles: 1

Green Schools pollution calculator (energy efficiency = pollution prevention)

National, USA
American Solar Energy Society "National organization dedicated to advancing the use of solar energy" National, USA
EnergySmart Schools, Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Network, U.S. Dept. of Energy National program to improve energy efficiency in US schools. National, USA
National Renewable
Energy Laboratory
Educational resources section of this organization's website provides curriculum lessons and links to other renewable energy-related resources National, USA
Schools Going Solar, Solar Electric Power Association Organization focused on encouraging the use of solar energy at schools in the United States. Very good website with extensive online information including many case study examples. National, USA
Bright Schools Program, California Energy Commission A program of the California Energy Commission, offering services to help schools become more energy efficient. Also works with new school construction. California, USA
Energy Quest , California Energy Commission Website with energy education information, sponsored by the California Energy Commission. California, USA
Collaborative for High Performance Schools An organization that is dedicated to improving school environments in California by adding amenities, and making schools more resource efficient, healthy, comfortable, and well lit. California, USA
Blustery Beginnings, Franklin Institute Science Museum Website with extensive information about wind energy education. Includes a section on "Windy Things to Make" with simple classroom materials. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA


Resources around the World

Solar Cookers International All kinds of information relating to designing, building, and using solar cookers. Great ideas to use in the classroom. International organization
Energy Smart Schools Energy efficiency program for local primary and secondary schools, sponsored by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Victoria. Victoria, Australia


Case Studies of Energy Systems on School Grounds

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.

Additional articles: 1, 2

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