Knox sees “green” after first year of energy program

The Knox County Board of Education is seeing “green” as a result of the district’s push to reduce energy and utility consumption.

Chris Taylor, energy manager for the school district, reports that Knox County saved $80,922 in expenses during the first year of the school energy manager project.    

According to Taylor, total energy consumption dropped 3% during 2010-2011 and when combined with contract negotiations resulted in a savings of $23,350.  The Board Annex made the largest initial drop in consumption with Lynn Camp’s middle/high school building making the largest overall reduction.

“Our maintenance staff went beyond the call of duty last winter by going in on snow days to make adjustments to temperature settings in our buildings,” said Taylor. “They would work on Sunday if school was cancelled for Monday to make the adjustments and reduce costs.”

Taylor also credits teachers and office staff for following best practices for energy reduction.  Each classroom has a shutdown list posted with recommendations on turning off lights when the room is not occupied, using natural light on sunny days, and turning off computer monitors and other electronic devices when they are not being used.

Other reductions were seen in the district’s gas and waste costs.   The district reduced gas consumption by 19% for a savings of $18,572.  A restructure of the district’s waste management program, with a reduction of dumpsters and recent implementation of a recycling program, saved nearly $39,000.

“We are just now getting started with our recycling program in the district,” said Taylor.  “With students and staff helping to sort recyclables, we are hoping to save even more during the second year.”

The district recently purchased recycling bins for each school.  Several schools in the district already have recycling containers placed by the Barbourville-Knox County Recycling Program and Barbourville Mayor David Thompson.

“We appreciate the support from Mayor Thompson to make recycling a win-win for both the city and the school district,” said Taylor.

“By reducing the number of dumpsters needed and modifying the pickup schedule, the district is expected to save around $39,000 annually based on previous costs.”

Taylor estimates that Knox County could save up to $100,000 this school year if the current pattern continues.

“We are looking at several other building improvements and changes that will result in even larger savings than already experienced, however student and staff participation is essential for on-going savings,” stated Taylor.

The district held a summer professional development workshop for science teachers with presenters from the National Energy Education Development program and Kentucky Green and Healthy Schools.  Participating teachers learned how to easily integrate energy and utility reduction activities into their curriculum.

“Getting more student involvement and more teachers on board with energy teams and completing school energy audits will be the next step for Knox County to further reduce consumption and costs,” stated Taylor.

Taylor is the energy manager for the Knox, Barbourville, Bell, and Pineville school districts.   The school energy program was initiated in 2010 by the Kentucky School Boards Association and the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet. In 2008 the Kentucky General Assembly passed House Bill 2 (KRS 160.325) which requires public school districts to respond to rising energy costs by focusing on the management of its various uses of energy.