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It’s back to school again for the K-12 crowd.

With Recovery Act funding and U.S. Department of Energy support, school districts throughout the United States are investing in sustainable transportation and renewable energy.

And Kentucky is among those states making the grade.

The Bluegrass State has launched a statewide school energy management program, hiring a team of 35 energy managers – to drive down energy costs and increase financial savings.

Kentucky's School Energy Managers Project (SEMP) will implement energy solutions for 1,000 schools throughout 130 districts in the state – with the goal of saving millions of dollars that can be funneled back to the education system.

The project is potentially the first, large-scale school energy managers program in the United States.

"Most districts have never had a person who has this as 100 percent of their responsibility," says Ron Willhite of the Kentucky School Boards Association (KSBA). "Now we have people with the time to look at ways to save energy."

That’s not all that is happening in Kentucky.

There are new buses hitting the road, as the state starts to deploy 213 new hybrid-diesel buses in 2010 and 2011. The project is part of the Department of Energy’s Clean Cities program and is supported through nearly $13 million in Recovery Act funding.

Hybrid diesel engines work best with a stop-and-go driving technique. Since school buses need to stop frequently to pick up students, they are optimal candidates for this technology.

Thomas Built Buses, one of the manufacturers of the buses, estimates that most typical diesel school bus engines get around 7.5 miles to the gallon. And with hybrid diesel technology, each district can expect around 12.5 miles to the gallon—increasing fuel efficiency by about 5 miles per gallon per bus.

“We’ll be able to tell you exactly how this has performed compared to a diesel bus, we’ll be able to compare across counties and districts,” says Melissa Howell, executive director for the Kentucky Clean Fuels Coalition. “We’ll also be able to ensure that districts are running these buses on the optimal route to get the most of this technology.”

To find why the Kentucky Clean Fuels Coalition is gathering data on the hybrid buses and the impact this technology is having at the local level, check out a full write up on their efforts over at Energy Profiles.

For teachers interested in energy resources and curriculum, visit the “for educators” section of