With classrooms empty, schools make energy upgrades during pandemic


an elementary school entrance

Remote learning in 2020 left many classrooms empty. The silver lining? Many schools and colleges seized the opportunity to make clean energy upgrades while buildings were unoccupied, leveraging state bonds, Energy Trust incentives and additional incentives from Oregon Department of Energy.

One of those schools was Myrtle Crest Elementary School in Coos County. In 2020, Myrtle Point School District updated the efficiency of the building’s boiler and mechanical and electrical systems. The mechanical and electrical upgrades alone are expected to save about $10,000 per year in energy costs. Myrtle Point also replaced more than 16,000 light bulbs across its buildings with LEDs, which are estimated to save the district another $6,000 a year.

According to Myrtle Point School District Superintendent Nanette Hagen: “Any dollar I save on utilities is a dollar I can put in the classroom. And we can keep people more comfortable in their work environment.”

Energy- saving investments also create a better learning environment for students. New energy-efficient LEDs provide better quality lighting that can help improve students’ concentration and performance. Updated heating and cooling systems can make every space more comfortable. As schools cut energy waste and reduce overhead costs, they can reallocate those funds toward textbooks and technology.

In Medford, Logos Public Charter School recently moved into its new energy-efficient building, which is estimated to save $17,580 annually on energy costs compared to other buildings of its size. With Energy Trust expertise and incentives, the school incorporated highly efficient features such as indoor and outdoor LED lighting, water-saving solutions, a ductless mini-split cooling unit for its IT room, and a variable refrigerant flow heating and cooling system that allows temperature adjustments for each classroom.

“Our families and staff were just awed when we first saw and walked into the building,” said Kimberly Stein, elementary educational specialist at Logos Public Charter School. “It’s a great space to work, teach and learn.”

Myrtle Crest Elementary School and Logos Public Charter School are just two of the hundreds of schools that invested in clean energy projects with Energy Trust support. Since 2003, Energy Trust has invested $24 million in energy-efficiency and renewable energy projects at 1,100 Oregon K-12 schools.

Read more about all the ways Oregon and Southwest Washington residents and businesses are saving and generating energy while supporting our communities in Energy Trust’s 2020 Annual Report.