For most people, the question “Did I remember to turn off the lights?” refers to one or two rooms, but for Joel Cruz that means hundreds of classrooms, offices and more.
Lights aren’t the only thing Cruz, the Energy Manager at the Harlingen Consolidated School District, has to worry about. It’s his job to ensure that all the district’s buildings are using the least amount of energy possible in the most efficient way, and work with individuals and campuses to find creative ways to conserve.
“It takes the work of everyone to make a difference,” Cruz said. “At the end of the day, its about awareness and educating people on how we use energy.”
The products of these brainstorming sessions have included installing solar panels at Lee Means Elementary School, a windmill at Harlingen and a night conservation system. The system involves the help of overnight security guards, which seek out unnecessary energy usage and create a report to help benefit the current situation.
Cruz has calculating energy usage down to a science, which is exact enough to where he could tell you the energy impact a room will have after having a new brand of light bulbs installed. The formula also works to decrease the District’s utilities bill, and he attributes that to the belief that little changes add up.
“In the way we manage energy, its nickels and dimes that add up,” Cruz said. “Add up to where we can save a lot of energy and money for the district.”
Cruz has been with HCISD for 17 years, and for those who knew him as a teenager, it is no surprise that he has made energy his career choice. He credits his junior high school science project, an energizing model with solar panels, for sparking his life-long interest in energy. Even today, he still continues conducting his own science projects by monitoring temperature changes in comparison to the prior year.
Prior to his current position, he analyzed energy usage for a real estate development company, and various architectural businesses.