Environment

Officials with the U.S. Department of Energy paid a visit to Mt. Washington Elementary in Bullitt County on Tuesday to recognize the district for its energy efficiency improvements.

In a little more than a decade, the Bullitt County Public School District has reduced energy use in schools by about 30 percent, which amounts to about $6 million in savings across 27 buildings.

The district, which serves more than 13,000 students, is a partner in the Department of Energy’s Better Buildings Challenge, a program that encourages energy efficiency.

“We are thrilled to be here in Bullitt County today recognizing the work the county is doing to improve the energy efficiency,” said Maria Vargas, who runs the Better Buildings initiative.

Vargas said the country spends about $200 billion a year to run buildings like schools, but as much as 40 percent of that energy can be saved through energy efficiency improvements.

To demonstrate what Mt. Washington is doing, the school took reporters on a short tour. Inside the bowels of an industrial backroom, we heard the thrum of water pumping through a maze of large pipes. Energy Manager Kimberley Joseph explained that’s the school’s new geothermal heating and cooling system.

“Water circulates through these pipes and goes back to the ground and in the wintertime the water is circulating pulling heat from the ground and bringing it back and doing an exchange with the heat pumps,” Joseph said.

Back in the school library, the student energy team explained how the school uses energy efficient LED lighting. The team said it’s their job to help audit the school, making sure people recycle and are turning off the lights. Through the program, they also learn how to better manage our planet.

“I’m Ava and over the past two years in energy I have learned there are a lot of resources that are renewable, but there are a lot of resources that are not renewable and we have to learn to use them wisely,” said Ava, a student at Mt. Washington.

This year, Mt. Washington Elementary estimates it will save $28,000 in energy bills.

Ryan Van Velzer is WFPL's Energy and Environment Reporter.