RIDGWAY – The experiment was born out of a desire to save the polar bears, whose ice is disappearing as the planet warms. By the time it was completed last week, Ridgway School fourth and fifth graders, known collectively as the Positive Energy Committee, had demonstrated a clear case for energy savings in their classrooms.
The PEC sat down during the final days of the school year to calculate the results of their year-long efforts, which had seen them hatch a project plan, engage the community, including the local power co-op, raise over $3,000, install solar panels on the school roof, and devise a study around three classrooms using three different lighting systems: one with coal-fired standard fluorescents (the control room), one using new LED lights (also coal-fired; the efficiency-upgrade room), and one getting its energy from the solar panels (the alternative-energy-offset room).
The results clearly showed savings from both the LED bulbs and the solar-generated power. In fact, according to Ken Haynes of San Miguel Power Association, who helped with the project and with the final “energy math,” the solar panels “produced more energy than the lights in the room needed.”
Project sponsor, 4th-grade teacher Krista Javoronok, reported that students “added daily totals of light use for each of the three participating classrooms. They dealt with rounding errors, moving decimals and hard long-division problems in order to calculate kilowatt-hours per day used.
“With Mr. Haynes’ help, [they] converted total hours of use, found the average of hours of use per day, and then determined the total kWh per room.
“In Ms. Javoronok’s classroom they found the LED bulbs saved 3.66 kWh/day” over the standard fluorescent lights. “Haynes explained each kilowatt hour used roughly equates to eight cubic feet (perhaps twice as large as a plastic milk crate) of CO2. As a class we determined that we will save an estimated equivalent of 490.5 (milk-crate sized) cubes (since CO2 is measured in cubic feet) per school year.”
Haynes told The Watch that the energy saved was tiny compared to the electricity used by the school as a whole, but that the project “sets the stage for future improvements. It’s an example of what can be done.”
He also said that the control room, the one with standard lights and no solar panels, “disobeyed instructions” and that students took it upon themselves to improve efficiency in their classroom by turning off the lights whenever possible. The project thus demonstrated the effectiveness of all three components of future energy savings: reduce the need for power; reduce use through efficient technology (the LEDs); and replace the use of traditional power sources with alternative sources (the solar panels).
The PEC wants to thank Ken Haynes and SMPA for its help, including the grant money needed to purchase the LED lights. And also Ridgway’s Alternative Power Enterprises for help with the solar component, Potential Power Systems of Ridgway, enLighten of Telluride and Lynn Padgett of Ridgway.
The PEC’s triumphant joint statement reads: “Even though we can’t walk up to a polar bear and tell them that we’re helping them, or that we can’t change the world with one group of kids, we can still make one small step for Ridgway that will hopefully make one giant leap for the world (with a thanks to Neil Armstrong :-).”