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Red Wing schools recognized for being energy efficient

Lights aren't on as often as they used to be. Boilers run less often and at lower temperatures. There's no doubt that Red Wing schools are more energy efficient than they were 10 years ago.

And now that's earned the Red Wing School District the Energy Star Leader Award.

"It's a real honor for the school district to get this. It's a big deal," said Kevin Johnson, the district's director of buildings and grounds.

The award acknowledges that the district has continuously worked to improve the energy efficiency of its buildings systemwide.

What's more, its energy efficiency is currently in the top 25 percent of all districts who apply to receive the Energy Star award. Only 125 other districts in the country received the same award.

Johnson said the push to be greener began about 10 years ago. Since then, the district has done things like installing the most energy efficient lighting. In the high school gym alone, that saves about $10,000 a year.

Staff have also installed motion sensors in most of the buildings, which will turn the lights off if no one has been in a room or hallway for 15 minutes.

At the high school, a baseload boiler, which operates at a lower minimum temperature, replaced the older, larger boiler system. This change saves the district nearly $50,000 a year.

"It is significant," School Board Chairwoman Heidi Jones said. "Those dollars that we save can be added to other areas and still maintain a healthy environment for the students."

In the coming years, there are more opportunities to continue the improvement.

First on the agenda is to improve the efficiency of Red Wing High School. The district received a $25,000 grant from Xcel Energy to study that building and determine how to make it more energy efficient.

In addition to the districtwide award, four out of Red Wing's five schools earned Energy Star awards for the efficiency of each individual building. Red Wing High School fell just short of the requirements.

Sarah Gorvin
Sarah Gorvin has been with the Republican Eagle for two years and covers education, business and crime and courts. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2010 with a  journalism degree.