It may not be noticeable at first glance, but a change is underway in Trumbull schools that could result in significant savings, in both money and energy.

The school system recently received an award from the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education for its Going Green Initiative. The initiative has resulted in a 33% reduction in energy costs just since last year, and school officials expect that number to top 50% by 2018.

“Over the past three years, the school system spends, on average, $2.4 million each year on energy costs,” said Superintendent Gary Cialfi. “They look at reducing that by one-third in just one year, and by at least 50% by the 2018 school year.”

Building manager Mark Demig, who brought the outline of the energy reduction plan with him when he took the job in 2014, broke the Going Green Initiative into three main components: solar systems, performance contracting with utility companies, and upgrading the existing automated climate systems in some buildings.

The solar cells being installed at five schools will allow the school system to purchase the power they produce, about 1.5 megawatts, for the next 20 years at a rate more than 70% lower than previously. The installation is being paid for by a renewable energy credit at zero cost to the schools, Cialfi said.

The performance contracting includes some upgrades to the buildings themselves.

“The HVAC systems in some of the buildings are quite antiquated, averaging 50 years old, so there was a lot of room for savings,” Demig said.

With financing through a 10-year Bank of America low-interest loan, Demig arranged the installation of new boilers, LED lighting and automated HVAC systems. The energy savings from the upgrades exceed the finance payments to the bank, making the upgrades a “no-brainer,” Cialfi said.

Finally, engineers identified additional energy conservation measures in the buildings with existing automated systems, which should reduce energy costs by more than $100,000 annually, Cialfi said.

“These efficiencies provide for a stronger teaching/learning focus in our budget process and subsequent expenditures,” Cialfi said.

School board Chairman Loretta Chory said she and the entire board were proud of the award and the entire Going Green Initiative.

“This program is an example of our school system’s approach to sound fiscal management, an approach creating opportunities for budget savings that are re-invested in the education of our students, leading to more positive outcomes,” Chory said.