Kenny Lujan, chairman of the West Las Vegas school board, says he wants more green construction in the district, but he complained that the state won’t help out.
During a special board meeting last week, Lujan said the state Public School Facilities Authority will not pay for environmentally friendly projects.
Robert Gorrell, the agency’s director, said Wednesday that such comments are “laughable.”
“We have led the way for alternative energy in public schools,” he said.
At the meeting, Lujan said that he has been reading articles published by the National School Board Association detailing work being done by other school districts to turn to alternative forms of energy like wind and solar power.
Lujan handed Superintendent Jim Abreu a magazine article about other schools in the country that are using small wind turbines to generate some of their electricity.
“There are some schools that are using wind power. The windmills are smaller versions of those used in large wind farms, but they power some of the school buildings, at great savings to the taxpayer. Maybe in the future we can look at generating power at our schools,” Lujan said.
Lujan said he spoke to the district’s architect Antonio Ortega about using alternative energy in any future building projects.
“Unfortunately, the Public School Facilities Authority doesn’t agree with that. PSFA will not fund us if we go green — you would think that the state would fund you if you want to go green,” Lujan said.
Board member Christine Ludi added, “They are not completely aware about how it works, so to them, it’s not something they will consider.”
Lujan said he has spoken to area legislators and told them that it is a shame that schools can’t be innovative and use green technology because the Public School Facilities Authority is not willing to contribute to constructing those types of buildings.
“They won’t do anything. I asked about putting solar panels on the roof if we build a new gym and they said they would not participate in anything of that kind,” Lujan said.
Ludi said, “We need to send them a copy of Al Gore’s video, ‘An Inconvenient Truth.’”
Gorrell said his agency investigates green methods that work. He said the state needs to make sure that there are truly energy savings for taxpayers. So the agency can’t make decisions with the emotions of the moment, he said.
“We are fact-based because we have a responsibility to the taxpayers,” he said.
Gorrell said as for solar panels, his agency hasn’t seen a situation in which they make sense economically. But it all depends on where schools are located, he said.
Gorrell said his agency came close to having a solar-assisted project in Animas, a southern New Mexico community. But the project fell through because of other reasons, he said.
Gorrell said his agency is considering a wind turbine for a project in Tucumcari. And it’s made much use of heat pumps that take advantage of the natural heat underground, he said.
The agency also has taken part in programs in which it finds ways for school districts to reduce their energy use, with some projects involving students themselves, he said.
“We are a resource available for West Las Vegas. We are glad to help them tomorrow. They can develop behavior modification for energy use,” he said.