The Environmental Protection Agency recently certified every eligible campus in the Marana Unified School District with its Energy Star label for the third time. The Energy Star certification, awarded to 16 of 17 MUSD campuses, signifies buildings with efficient energy use.
“It was very exciting,” said MUSD energy conservation coordinator Jenny Downing. “I was really happy we were able to achieve it. It means the employees have been able to get third-party recognition for their work.”
MUSD moved toward being more energy and environmentally conscious in 2013, with a partnership with energy conservation company Cenergistic. MUSD has taken several steps toward making their campuses more energy efficient: smart scheduling with heating and cooling, purchasing optimized and efficient equipment, responsible irrigation, mounting solar panels and more.
“We like to think of the program as all-encompassing,” Downing said. “It’s everything, even from the most basic levels like shutting off the lights when no one is in the classroom.”
According to MUSD superintendent Doug Wilson, since the district began its “serious energy conservation program,” there’s been a reduction in overall energy consumption by 23 percent. That reduction has saved the school district $2 million in energy costs, or the equivalent of taking 2,000 cars off the street.
“Our energy conservation efforts are saving taxpayer dollars while also helping protect our local environment,” Wilson said. “Our success is directly attributable to every member of our staff working together to use our resources responsibly. We are committed to being good stewards of our resources and using our dollars in a fiscally responsible way.”
As of the 2015 - 2016 school year, all MUSD campuses are equipped with solar panels. The district estimates the solar-producing structures will generate approximately 85 percent of the schools’ electrical needs. In turn, the district also estimates electricity generated by the systems will save them nearly $4 million over 20 years. The panels and savings allow for more efficient use of heating and cooling.
“In addition to saving money, we’ve also made the classrooms more comfortable,” Downing said.
An Energy Star Certification is a calculation of a building’s efficiency, measured from 1 to 100. According to the EPA, to be certified “a building must earn an ENERGY STAR score of 75 or higher, indicating that it performs better than at least 75 percent of similar buildings nationwide.” For K - 12 schools, the scores are based on a number of factors, including how often heating and cooling is used, number of workers, square footage, electricity versus natural gas used and monthly meter values.
The 16 MUSD schools earning the Energy Star Certification are: Butterfield Elementary, Coyote Trail Elementary, DeGrazia Elementary, Estes Elementary, Gladden Farms Elementary, Ironwood Elementary, Marana High, Marana Middle, Mountain View High, Picture Rocks Elementary, Quail Run Elementary, Rattlesnake Ridge Elementary, Roadrunner Elementary, Thornydale Elementary, Tortolita Middle and Twin Peaks Elementary.
MUSD plans to continue its energy conservation, striving for future Energy Star certifications while making sure efforts do not grow lax. The district will also continue supporting its key changes in energy conservation, simple behavioral changes and conscientiousness
“Every year, we get new employees and teachers,” Downing said. “And we want to keep making sure everyone is on board.”