The system was recently recognized with the ENERGY STAR Leader award, meaning it has achieved an energy efficiency portfolio among the top 25 percent of K-12 school systems in the county.
Not only has the Talladega County school district reached the top national percentile, it is the only district in the state to hold Leader recognition.
“It’s quite an honor to be named a Leader. There are so few,” said Dave Galik, a consultant with Energy Education.
He said there are only 69 school districts in the country with the Leader award.
While the school system was recognized as a whole, 13 individual school sites were also honored with ENERGY STAR Labels for their conservation efforts.
Labels are awarded to entities that significantly reduce greenhouse gases caused by ineffective energy use.
There are now 17 ENERGY STAR Label school sites in Alabama, 13 of which are in Talladega County.
The school system’s energy manager, Alex Stewart, explained that these 13 sites actually cover 15 schools because schools that share buildings count as a single site.
The Talladega County Board of Education really pushed with its energy conservation efforts in 2006 when it partnered with Energy Education. This company is based in Dallas, Texas, and helps organizations like schools and large churches build energy efficiency programs.
“They’ve been with us four years. Even though they’re out of contract since February we’ve continued to work with them,” Galik said. “We’ve had good cooperation here. It’s been a good partnership.”
Since partnering with Energy Education, the system has saved more than 13 million kilowatts of power and 380,000 cubic feet of gas.
Stewart said that these savings have reduced carbon dioxide produced by the schools by more than 2,300 tons.
Greenhouse gases are not the only reductions that energy efficiency has helped with. The school has saved about $2.3 million in utility bills over the last four years.
Stewart said that together with Energy Education, the schools developed several ways decrease the electricity usage in their day-to-day operations.
“What you do at home every day is what we try to do as a district,” he said.
Stewart said most of the conservation methods are simple, everyday adjustments, such as turning off lights and maintaining thermostat levels. Superintendent Suzanne Lacey said this is especially important during holiday periods when people aren’t present.
“It’s all a matter of being resourceful,” she said.
Heating and air condition levels are also kept under tight control, especially in unoccupied buildings or other parts where there are no students around.
“Anyway we can save, that’s what we’re looking at,” Stewart said.
Lacey said that even when the schools are using more technology as part of the 21st Century Initiative “there are always things that can be shut down.”
“We depend on every staff to keep the programs going on a daily basis,” Stewart said.
Lacey said being recognized by ENERGY STAR shows the district’s commitment.
“It’s always exciting when you work on a project for so many years and see it come to fruition,” Lacey said.
The Leader and Label awards were officially presented at the May 11 BOE meeting.