District 202 buildings need alternative fuels

The Prowler Staff

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In this day and age, people hear about climate change a lot as well as the dangers of global warming. Some schools have switched over to alternative fuels in order to help out the environment, but not all districts have made the switch.

Plainfield Unit School District 202 currently operates at a monthly cost of $57,596 for gas and $286,174.59 for electricity according to Assistant Superintendent for Business and Operations, Richard Engstrom. Alternative fuel options, such as solar power, provide a safer and financially friendlier solution.

Many colleges and universities such as Colorado State University, Northwestern University and Princeton University have increasingly gone solar especially as the cost for it has been declining in recent years. Ever since Princeton installed solar power, the college has saved $2.8 million annually.

Due to number of buildings in District 202, the switch over to solar power would have to be gradual. In addition, Plainfield’s new Prairie Activity and Recreation Center that opened Feb. 2 should be used as a model.

The park was constructed with a $1 million grant from the Clean Energy Foundation ending up with a Net-Zero design for PARC with 213-kilowatt roof top solar panel system and the latest building materials for energy efficiency.

After the initial installation costs, no matter the energy, alternative fuels save money. Ignoring everything else and just singling out energy efficiency brings down school energy costs by a quarter a year.

District 202 has made some steps to be more energy efficient. It used government incentive funding to install LED lights in all of the schools.  Plus, Charles Reed, Ira Jones and Aux Sable were all given grants from the Clean Energy Foundation for solar panels.

Additional ways to reduce the district’s carbon footprint include getting new ovens in the cafeteria and changing out the lights to be more efficient.

Another advantage of having schools that are energy self-sufficient is that they can serve as a good community shelter in case of a climate-related disaster.  The polar vortex experienced during the last week of January is a perfect example.  Schools could have been used as warming centers for households that lost power.

The only problem with converting to solar energy is that getting the panels installed costs roughly $7-$9 per watt with a five-thousand-watt system ending up costing an estimate of $25,000-$35,000 according to John Kinnear from Solar Power Authority.

District 202 switching from traditional energy sources to solar energy would greatly help save money in building operations, help lesson the facilities negative impact on the environment and improve the general health of students and staff in all of the schools.

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