Valley schools going green for fall

Students at J.A. Laird Elementary school will come back from summer vacation to find a shiny new solar wall gracing the south face of their building.

Work on a new solar wall at J.A. Laird Elementary School should wrap up by the time school starts September 7.

Work on a new solar wall at J.A. Laird Elementary School should wrap up by the time school starts September 7.

Students at J.A. Laird Elementary school will come back from summer vacation to find a shiny new solar wall gracing the south face of their building.

Work on the wall began three weeks ago, and School District 6 energy manager Craig Edwards says if all materials arrive on schedule the project will be finished by the time classes resume September 7.

The $100,000 project (funded by a grant from the Climate Action Secretariat) includes a solar-air preheat system and solar-thermal panels, which will help heat the school’s water supply. Together, they’ll save Laird an estimated $15,000 per year in propane heating costs.

“There’s perforated metal panels installed on the south elevation with about a foot gap between them and wall, and the air gets heated up behind them before it goes into the ventilation system for the school,” explains Edwards. “So it reduces the amount of heat we need to heat the air and provide ventilation for the students.”

Laird principal Jill Jensen says the environmental upgrades have already sparked interest, with members of the school leadership club teaching other students about the solar panels at a year-end assembly.

“They learned about how the panels work and then explained it to the rest of the student body in a visual presentation,” she says. “Eventually there will be a display created in the hallways so that students can track and monitor our energy use and consumption.”

The Laird project is one of two in the Valley funded by grants. At Edgewater Elementary School workers are currently installing high-efficiency heat pumps, to replace gas-fired rooftop units. Several district-wide upgrades are also underway.

“We’re basically upgrading the lighting in all the schools throughout the district,” Edwards explains. “We’ve been replacing boilers and installing new control systems in the buildings and increasing insulation and sealing them off from air leaks.”

Edwards estimates the Rocky Mountain School District has reduced its overall energy consumption by 20 per cent since it began rolling out its energy retrofits two years ago.

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