Reducing energy use saves natural resources and can save your school money. The Energy Investigation will help you find out what uses the most energy at your school and ways that energy is wasted. It will help you find ways to save energy to make your school more environmentally friendly and sustainable. Sustainable practices are those which meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.

Interested in learning how your school can become a certified Nebraska Green School? Visit the Nebraska Green Schools course. Also, read about the program in the Pathways Blog.


How is electricity generated in Nebraska?

Pathway: Energy Investigation

How is electricity generated in Nebraska?

Electricity Generation in Nebraska

The Power of Wind

How is electricity made from wind?

The Power of the Sun

How is electricity generated from the sun?

Fossil Fuels

How is electricity made from burning fossil fuels?

First of all, how are fossil fuels formed? These fuels were formed many hundreds of millions of years ago before the time of the dinosaurs – hence the name fossil fuels.The energy in these fuels comes from energy that producers such as plants, algae, and cyanobacteria captured from sunlight long ago.

As the trees and plants died, they sank to the bottom of the oceans. They formed layers of a spongy material called peat. Over many hundreds of years, the peat was covered by sand and clay and other minerals, which turned into a type of rock called sedimentary.

More and more rock piled on top of more rock, and it weighed more and more. It began to press down on the peat. The peat was squeezed and squeezed until the water came out of it and it eventually, over millions of years, it turned into coal, oil or petroleum, and natural gas.

Combustion Gases

How is electricity made from combustion gases?

The Power of Water

How is electricity made from moving water?


Using Diagnostic Tools

Pathway: Energy Investigation

Using Diagnostic Tools

Toolkit for Students

Green Schools Tool Kit: Students will need diagnostic tools to investigate energy usage and efficiency at their school. A few of the items are needed for the water investigation and the waste and recycling investigation.

Kit includes:

  • Light Meter
  • CO2 Meter – Measures CO2, Temperature, and Relative Humidity (%RH)
  • Infrared Thermometer
  • Western Sportsman Spring and Hook Scale
  • Centigrade Field Thermometer
  • Watt Meter – Kill-a-Watt Electricity Load Meter and Monitor
  • AM Conservation Flow Meter Bag
  • Discriminator Ballast Tester

NPPD will loan out tool kits to schools in our service area. If not in our service area, your local utility may have the tools available. Request form can be found at

Tool kit Video

Discover how to use the tools to collect data around your school.


Increasing Energy Efficiency

Pathway: Energy Investigation

Lighting Calculator

Estimate how much carbon and money can be saved when you switch from incandescent lightbulbs to compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) lightbulbs!

Lighting Calculator

Battle of the Bulbs


Data Collection

Pathway: Energy Investigation

How much electricity does a toaster use? How about a T.V. or a cell phone charger? Investigation how much electricity an item uses, whether it's on or off, can help us make better decisions and save energy. 

Phantom Load

• A phantom load is the amount of energy a device consumes while in standby or sleep mode, or while turned off.
• The off button on many appliances may not really mean off; instead, it means standby. For example, appliances with remote controls or internal clocks—such as TVs, DVDs, and microwave ovens—have phantom loads. Other appliances with phantom loads include computers, printers, and plug-in battery chargers such as those for cell phones, iPods, and cameras.
• Use of a power strip can minimize the phantom energy load loss. Plug all components of a computer, TV, and so forth into the power strip. Turn off the power strip with a single switch. Anything plugged into the strip now is truly turned off.
• You can also unplug appliances when not in use.

Time to Investigate

To investigate how much energy is being used by items in your school, choose 5 items and put them in standby mode, plug them into a power strip, and then plug the power strip into a watt meter. Finally, plug the watt meter into a wall outlet. Leave the items plugged in for the school day or for 24 hours, whichever is more convenient for you.

The watt meter will provide a readout of how much electricity the items used during that time period. If you get the cost per kilowatt hour (kWh) of electricity in your area (obtained from the electric bill or from using the national average of $0.10 per kWh), you can calculate the cost of keeping those appliances in standby mode for a specific amount of time.


Saving Energy at Home

Pathway: Energy Investigation

Make an impact and start saving energy today!

Energy in your home

Check out this cool interactive!

Designing an Energy Efficient House

In this activity, students will engineer a cardboard house and learn how insulation, window placement, thermal mass, surface colors, and site orientation play important roles in energy efficiency. Students will test their houses for thermal gains and losses during a simulated day and night.

Energy Scavenger Hunt

Energy Pledge

Using your scavenger hunt results, find one thing you can do at home to save energy. 

Take the Save Energy Pledge!