The Effingham County School System is doing its part to “go green” this spring by installing 40 kilowatts of solar power at its new, gold LEED certified Career Academy. Funding for this project, which is the largest solar power system in the area, was provided by a $300,000 block grant from The American Resource and Recovery Act and administered by the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority. A portion of these funds have been used to complete a lighting retrofit at Effingham County High school that will save $6,500 annually.
Energy Education Specialist Eric Harris believes that the addition of this solar production will enable the school system to perform more retrofits and energy saving projects in our school system.
“The solar panel system will only generate about 12 percent of the energy needs at ECA,” he said, “so we aren’t going off the grid at ECA, but we are going to capture the savings and use the generated funds to do more to reduce our energy impact.”
The solar panels will prevent 78339.73 pounds of CO2 from being released into the air each year. These panels will also be a fantastic teaching tool for the Career Academy. The students in the new energy systems pathway will have their own learning station streaming information to them from their own roof.
“The solar panels will stream performance information onto the Web so that the students can see how efficiently we are producing power,” Harris said.
Georgia Power has created a premium rate for solar generated electricity that could mean even bigger projects are coming to Effingham County schools. If the project can get placed into the solar buy back program, Georgia Power will pay 17 cents per KWH. This could mean an additional $8,000 for energy saving projects in the school system per year. A “green team” will be created from teachers and administrators in the school system to determine how these designated funds are spent to save energy in our schools.
Shortly after construction was completed, the ECA received LEED for Schools Gold Certification by earning 66 points. The building design allows natural light into all classrooms and regularly occupied spaces. Fifty percent of the building materials are regionally manufactured and contained 25 percent recycled content. The use of low VOC materials, lighting and hvac controls help create a healthy and enjoyable indoor environment. The building will use 42 percent less water, be 38 percent more energy efficient than a typical building of its size. In addition, 95 percent of the construction waste was diverted from landfills.
The Design and Construction team for the ECA consisted of James W. Buckley and Assoc., architect; Pruett Ford & Assoc., mechanical engineers; Electrical Design Consultants, electrical engineer; Dulohery Weeks, LEED consultant; Trident Sustainability, LEED consultant; and Lavender and Assoc., general contractor.