An innovative program that takes energy efficiency and renewable energy projects into Michigan schools is expanding, offering 90 new schools a share of $4.4 million.Energy Works Michigan
, an arm of the Ann Arbor-based Ecology Center
, awarded its first round of $3.5 million in Michigan Renewable Schools grants in November 2009 and will distribute the next round in September to schools that are selected as good candidates to undergo energy efficiency audits and implement new energy programs. The next round will include colleges and universities, in addition to K-12 schools.
Winners use the money to cut energy costs, install solar and wind energy-generating systems, and to implement energy efficiency and renewable energy studies in the classroom. The outcome is not only energy savings but a decrease in emissions into the environment as well as educated students who ideally will change their energy consumption ways.
The Michigan Public Service Commission
provides the money for what is seen as "a pretty unique program…There's not another organization doing this on a such a large scale," says Kendal Kuneman, project associate for Energy Works Michigan.
Energy Works Michigan administers the program that has its employees showing schools how to be more energy efficient, how to install solar panels or wind turbines and training teachers in renewable energy and energy efficiency curricula.
Currently 67 schools, including Allen Park Middle School, the Advanced Technology Academy in Dearborn, Pierce Middle School in Grosse Pointe Park, the South Lyon School District, and several Detroit Public Schools, including Cass Tech High School, are participating.
"All of the projects are currently being wrapped up. Most are completed by now," Kuneman says. Experience from those projects will be used to make the next phase of the project even more effective, she says.
The grants help pay to send engineers into schools to identify energy waste and show the schools how to correct it. Once a school is deemed energy efficient, it can choose to install a small, medium, or large solar or wind energy generating system.
The schools provide matching money to their grants.
"We prioritize how to get a return on investment in 5-8 years," Kuneman says. "So schools are seeing some significant cost savings. Some are getting return in less than five years."Source: Kendal Kuneman, project associate, Energy Works Michigan
Writer: Kim North Shine