Energy Efficiency Projects Reap Multiple Benefits

Schools teach students to think ahead to solve problems in hopes that they take that knowledge to become successful adults. Santa Ana Unified School District administrators took a page out of those lesson books when they turned their attention to energy efficiency measures.

In 2012, voters had passed the Clean Energy Jobs Act, or Proposition 39, to close a tax loophole and reallocate those funds toward schools for energy efficiency projects. Santa Ana Unified officials began plans to upgrade outdated energy systems with the goal to save energy costs, money, and improve classroom lighting and air quality.

Multi-zone heating and air conditioning units at Monte Vista Elementary before (top) the upgrade and after (bottom).

It took about a year to audit how the district was using energy and where to maximize the investments and savings. For the first of five years of funding, the district chose to replace old heating and air conditioning systems at three elementary schools. One site was in such poor condition that staff was adding Freon to units almost every day for several months. The new, code-compliant units will save utility and maintenance costs, but also improve the air quality.

Santa Ana Unified, which is the seventh largest in the state, submitted an application for $1.6 million in Proposition 39 funding using the California Energy Commission’s on-line system. The funding was used to clean and seal leaky ducts, install controls, replace seven multi-zone units and 31 efficient all-in-one heating and air conditioning package units. The result is a better learning environment for more than 1,800 students at Harvey, Kennedy, and Monte Vista elementary schools.

The district’s early planning and successful Proposition 39 application meant these energy projects were completed in 2014. The district saved an estimated $90,000 in energy costs in the year after projects were installed, according to the final project report filed with the Energy Commission.

District officials reaped immediate financial and environmental benefits from Proposition 39. For their second-year funds, the district has already installed efficiency measures at 10 school sites. They are working on applications for subsequent years.

To see the list of approved Energy Expenditure Plans by district, visit the Energy Commission’s Proposition 39 (K-12) program webpage and click on Expenditure Plans Listing.

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California Energy Commission

The California Energy Commission is the state's primary energy policy and planning agency created by the Legislature in 1974.
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