EDEN — Imagine the carbon emissions 76 million miles of driving would create.
Such an epic excursion would leave a gargantuan carbon footprint on an already fragile environment.
Now, picture Rockingham County school children erasing that footprint completely.
That's essentially what they have done with their teachers, staff and an innovative energy specialist Gene Kelley by saving $4.7 million in energy costs since 2014.
Kelley's taught children and his school system how to save this massive amount of energy simply by minding light switches, unplugging computers and phone chargers, tweaking timers on heating and ac systems, and dimming a few bulbs.
This rigorous attention to the details of conservation recently earned the school district top honors from Cenergistic, the energy conservation consulting company with which it has partnered for the last six years.
Cenergistic's Kelley has implemented sustainable strategies that will continue to save much for years to come, his fans said.
And the $4.7 million savings achievement recently earned the school district Cenergistic's Chairman's Sustainability Award.
“Rockingham has found consistent savings through top-down support of the program,” said Troy Williams, senior vice president of strategy at Cenergistic.
“This program is positioned to continue its success thanks to a commitment to conservation across every level of the District.”
RCS personnel work closely with Cenergistic engineers, experts and energy specialists to audit and create healthy and efficient buildings where energy needs and use are fine-tuned and tailored by Kelley and staff of 30 schools and the district's numerous other buildings.
Among Kelley's jobs: to track energy consumption at all campuses with state-of-the-art technology, identify waste and protect occupants.
And in a special response to COVID-related safety issues and shutdowns, Kelley has used hundreds of facility audits to improve air quality and support campus operations to ensure students can return to classes safely, Cenergistic administrators said in a recent press statement.
“This profound change absolutely is attributed to the Cenergisitic Energy Specialist, Mr. Gene Kelley,” said Dr. Sonja Parks, RCS
assistant superintendent of operations and logistics. “He continually manages our utility usage, building automation, and community relations.”
For example, Kelley assesses the district's buildings throughout the week, paying attention to variations in energy use throughout the day and customizing plans for each facility to extend the life of lighting and HVAC systems by reducing their operating times, Parks explained.
“Since March, Cenergistic has been a valuable partner as we got schools ready for reopening,” said E.C. Stophel, RCS Director of RCS Director of Maintenance. “The dollar savings on top of that have proved this partnership a valuable resource.”
The energetic Kelley, known by name to nearly everyone in the district, has charisma and a vibrant teaching style when educating kids about how they can prolong the lives of their Iphones and Nintendo systems by unplugging them when not in use.
He's also had success in sending conservation lessons home. Students report back to him that they are sharing efficiency tips with their parents, making their own homes more green.
“Young minds like this idea of conservation,” Kelley said. “Kids look around the room and they see things plugged in and they realize that they don’t need to be. It’s easy for young minds to understand conservation.”
Consider Douglass Elementary School, among the most impressive of Kelley's campus success stories. The Eden school was able to reduce its energy consumption by 33 percent in one year, Kelley said.
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