Does energy efficiency add up for schools? Let’s do the math. Not only are students and staff more comfortable and focused, but energy efficiency also helps funds go further. For these reasons and more, the Sault Ste. Marie Area Public Schools recently completed multiple large-scale lighting projects as part of their ongoing energy-saving efforts.

“Although we had been doing a great deal to reduce our energy footprint, this not only gave us an opportunity for energy savings, but the support we very much needed,” said Larry Perron, on behalf of the Schools’ maintenance team.
With the Board of Education’s approval and the superintendent’s support, the team completed 10 energy efficiency projects at four schools through the Energy Optimization (EO) Commercial and Industrial program offered by Cloverland Electric Cooperative. Cloverland is one of 12 electricity providers working together to offer rebate programs to Michigan home, farm, and business owners.

Project Details
While there are many EO rebates for businesses, energy efficient lighting projects are the most popular because they tend to have rapid paybacks—annual energy savings often offset equipment and installation costs in less than three years. In addition, the lighting industry is no longer manufacturing T12 fluorescent lightbulbs (as of July 2012), which makes finding replacement bulbs challenging.

These factors, along with EO rebates, motivated the Sault Schools to replace lights in four of its oldest buildings. “We are always looking at ways to improve, such as being green schools, staying up with energy savings, recycling, and water bottle refilling stations to name a few,” said Perron. “This was a great opportunity to bring energy reductions to the forefront.”

Another part of the program that appealed to the Schools’ maintenance team was working together with their utility and the EO staff to achieve great results.

“The thing we were impressed with the most is the great people from Cloverland and the energy firm used to supervise the rebate program and assist with new projects,” Perron said. “They have been great to work with—very good at helping us work through the rebate program and great sounding boards for new energy savings within our schools.”?Two elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school in Sault Ste. Marie are on pace to collectively save almost $12,000 in lighting costs each year with just the upgrades that have been made so far. The EO rebates help offset initial purchase costs, too.

Future Plans
The Sault Schools’ maintenance team also has big energy-saving plans for the future, such as changing 90 high-bay lights to ultra-efficient light emitting diodes (LEDs), upgrading an additional 375 light fixtures from T12 bulbs to T8s, and replacing the gym lights at both the high school and middle school for an even bigger payback.

Co-op Member Spotlight
Company: Sault Ste. Marie Area Public Schools

Energy-Saving Actions:

  • Installed 520 high performance T8 fluorescent light fixtures in two schools.
  • Replaced 2,008 standard fluorescent bulbs with reduced-watt fluorescent bulbs in three schools.
  • Converted most incandescent light bulbs to CFLs, LEDs, or low-wattage induction lights.
  • Replaced outdated lightbulbs at once instead of waiting for old bulbs to burn out.

Rebate Amount: $5,809 and counting


  • Lowered electricity use by 102,000 kilowatt-hours per year.
  • Saving $11,600 in energy costs per year
  • Expecting to double energy savings in 2014