Back to School with Better Buildings – The Energy Department Visits Arizona’s Dysart Unified School District

By Crystal McDonald on Aug 13, 2015

This week the Energy Department’s Better Buildings Challenge director Maria T. Vargas braved the heat and visited Kingswood Elementary in Surprise, Arizona. The school is the showcase project of K-12 partner, Dysart Unified School District (USD).

This was the first K-12 school that the Better Buildings Challenge has toured for a regional recognition event, and the project has set a high bar for achieving a deep energy savings through innovative building practices and financing mechanisms. Dysart USD has actually set a goal of installing solar energy at all 25 of its schools, and they are well on their way, with 21 schools now generating solar power. According to the District, they see the benefits of harnessing the power of solar, which brings energy costs down and increases the energy independence of the District.

Dysart Unified School District has already achieved 10 percent energy savings since 2011, and Kingswood Elementary is achieving 16 percent energy savings annually. One way they’ve been able to quickly and aggressively pursue solar energy is through working with Constellation Solar, LLC, which coordinates an energy buy-back agreement for surplus energy generated onsite. 

Dysart’s Kingswood Elementary renewable energy and efficiency solutions are on display in the following ways:

  • A live energy-in and energy-out monitor updates students and staff about how much energy the school is producing through their solar panels, and how much energy the school is using, as well as a daily weather report
  • The school is also incorporating solar energy and efficiency into its curriculum and day-to-day life. For example, Student Energy Patrols with vests and badges actively encourage others to take part in energy-saving behaviors
  • Energy efficiency projects include an improved central chiller plant, new lighting upgrades and solar-powered water heaters

Kingswood hosts two solar arrays on its property—the one installed at its parking lot also smartly provides shade cover for cars. The solar PV system generates 469 kw annually, and have helped the school save $44,000 in cost savings per year. Are you a school district with  great energy efficiency and sustainability projects that you’d like to show off in your community? Tell us about it and join the Better Buildings Challenge! Email Crystal McDonald, at

Thanks to everyone in this great group for showing us the inspiring solutions that this Arizona community has to offer. For more on Dysart Unified School District’s work within the Better Buildings Challenge, visit the partner profile and read the Energy Department press release.

Read about this visit in the news: