Education / Environment / Federal government

An Arlington public school is leading the country in terms of renewable energy technologies

Discovery Elementary, which opened last year, was chosen as the announcement site for the Department of Energy's new “zero-energy” schools initiative.

During a tour of Discovery Elementary in Arlington. (Courtesy photo)

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) wants to save more energy and has identified K-12 schools as one area to make a difference.
Earlier this week, department officials announced a new initiative called the Zero Energy Schools Accelerator. The accelerator is a national attempt to make zero-energy schools a mainstream norm (where zero-energy schools are defined as “an energy-efficient building, where on a source energy basis, the actual delivered energy is less than or equal to the onsite renewable exported energy”) . For the moment, the DOE counts 40 zero energy schools across the country, including Discovery Elementary in Arlington where the initiative’s launch event took place.

Discovery Elementary, a public school that opened in 2015, features various renewable energy technologies, including solar panels on the roof and geothermal heating and cooling. The engineering team expects to save $75,000 in energy costs in the first year.
Why is this important?
Well, for one, saving on energy costs could be a way to invest more in actual education. “School districts could dedicate these savings toward other learning needs, including salaries for teachers, computers or books,” a press release about the program reasons.
In addition, the energy-efficient school buildings themselves can be teaching opportunities. “Teachers are also able to transform classrooms into 3D engagement opportunities with the student body by using energy dashboards and new technologies as teaching tools,” according to the press release.
The Zero Energy Schools Accelerator is one of 15 Better Buildings Accelerator programs from the DOE. Together with its partners (school districts, states and a variety of regional and national organizations), the DOE says the Accelerator will:

  • Identify strategies to overcome market barriers related to building zero-energy K-12 schools.
  • Share solutions, resources and technologies that help schools achieve zero-energy goals.
  • Develop replicable road maps to build zero-energy schools.
  • Increase visibility and replication of best practice approaches and successful models.

The Arlington School District is a partner, and as such must develop a zero energy plan within the next year, according to a press release.


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