Turning off the lights really does pay, as many Lee County Schools received substantial incentive checks recently in response to their school-based efforts to reduce energy consumption.
Calendar year 2012 marked the first year of a district-wide Energy Conservation Program. Each facility's target was to reduce consumption by 10 percent or above from calendar year 2011.
In total, 41 schools were able to reduce their annual energy consumption by 10 percent or above. Another 33 schools also achieved a reduction from calendar year 2011.
Energy conservation recorded by the Lee County Schools for 2012.
Mariner Middle School achieved the largest percentage reduction in the district, reducing their consumption by 29.60 percent from calendar year 2011. This equates to a $47,925.00 incentive check that the school will receive.
Principal Rachel Gould stated that the funds will be used primarily to give the media center a face lift that will include new reading materials and furniture to make the center a place where students will want to be before school, during lunch or after school.
Gould cited several strategies implemented at the school that led to big energy savings - turning off the lights, not leaving doors open in air conditioned rooms and disconnecting the refrigeration circuits from the drinking fountains.
"It was an effort that every member of the school was a part of," she said.
Gould watched the school's energy consumption decrease each month and even engaged in some friendly competitiveness with a neighboring school, eventually topping all schools in total percentage change from calendar year 2011.
Other top performing schools included Villas Elementary (29.5 percent reduction), Rayma C. Page Elementary (29.09 percent reduction) and Cape Coral High School (28.97 percent reduction).
The total district-wide reduction in energy use for calendar year 2012 was 11.10 percent.
As part of the Energy Conservation Program, schools who achieved a 10 percent or above reduction from calendar year 2011 received 50 percent of the actual savings, and these funds can now be used for school-based improvements and student initiatives. The other half will be utilized by the district for other energy conservation projects in schools.
The efforts of local schools saved the district a total of $2.4 million in calendar year 2012.