IUSD’s solar panels and other green initiatives earns kudos from local Sierra Club members

In recent years, IUSD has engaged in an ambitious campaign to harness solar power, cut electrical consumption, reduce waste and promote sustainability while adding an 18-lesson curriculum on sustainable energy in grades five and six.

And these efforts have not gone unnoticed.

On Wednesday, representatives from the Sierra Club’s Orange County Committee on Climate Change lauded the district’s solar project and other green initiatives while announcing IUSD as a recipient of its “Solar Energy and Good Practices Award.”

Members of the Sierra Club, considered the nation’s largest grassroots environmental group, presented the award during a brief visit to Plaza Vista School, where they watched as science specialist Danielle DeFrank walked students through a hands-on lesson on the role of the sun as an energy source for the food chain.

The students later showed off smaller solar panel kits that they had personally assembled. Each was capable of powering modest electric lights or plastic propellers.

Superintendent Terry Walker was there to receive the Sierra Club’s accolade, as was Mark Sontag, IUSD’s coordinator of math and science. (Both are pictured above with Sierra Club member Suvan Geer.)

In March, IUSD held an activation ceremony to mark the installation of solar panels at 13 schools and two support facilities. Officials believe these panels will generate 25 percent to 60 percent of each campus’ electrical consumption, covering about 10.5 percent of the district’s needs while offsetting more than 57 million pounds of carbon dioxide.

But solar power is just one piece of the ecological puzzle.

Over the last four years, IUSD has been walking a greener path in nearly all areas of its operations, from its standards-based instruction and service-learning projects to conservation campaigns and new construction strategies that save energy and produce less waste.

“Solar power units on the school sites have profoundly energized Irvine’s educational opportunities,” said Dr. Chuck Buck, a member of the Sierra Club’s O.C. Committee on Climate Change. “These are the kinds of in-depth and hands-on learning experiences we all want our kids to have to prepare them for an energy-aware future.”

“IUSD and the teachers have been brilliant in putting together this amazing educational package,” Buck said, “to teach about science and sustainable living by using what’s on campus.”