According to 2012 EPA data, the median Energy Use Intensity (EUI is the calculation of a building’s kbtu/ft2 per year) of a K-12 school was 123. Are you ready for the challenge of maintaining a net zero school – one that produces the same amount of energy onsite, or more, than they consume? In order to achieve net zero energy, a building would need an EUI of 20 or better. While this may seem challenging, it is extremely worthwhile when the long term benefits are considered.
With utility tracking software such as UtilityDirect, you can have your finger on the pulse of your schools’ utility cost and consumption, and have the opportunity to develop a sustainable conservation program. Net zero energy is being considered by more and more schools, and has become the reality for a few. Achieving the goals can include:
- Onsite renewable energy sources such as solar panels and wind turbines produce electricity that is then sold back to the utility provider
- A purposeful, committed focus on efficient energy performance and the reduction of EUI
What are some of the strategies employed by schools striving for net zero energy usage?
- Daylight-harvesting light sensors combined with LED lighting
- Geo-thermal HVAC systems
- Vacancy-sensing light switches
- Insulated concrete walls with high R (retention) values
- Ovens that use convection and steam rather than fryers that require large energy guzzling exhaust fans. This also provides the added benefit of healthier lunches for students.
Use of lower energy consuming laptop computers rather than desktops
What are the benefits of maintaining a net zero school?
- Money previously spent on utilities can now be spent in the classroom: teachers, technology and special programs. Some net-zero schools have actually received a check from their utility providers at the end of the year as a result of their efforts.
- Integration of energy education into the curriculum as students attend school in their very own ‘living laboratory’.
- Environmental benefits of greener buildings
Currently between 35 and 50 net zero energy schools are operating in the US, with more coming online each year. The cost of renewable and sustainable energy sources continues to decrease and is becoming increasingly affordable. How will your school embrace the opportunity of creating a sustainable energy conservation program? Feel free to share your experiences as you delve into sustainable energy at your organization.