RIFLE, Colorado - The results of a one-hour experiment to shut down all but the most essential uses of electricity yielded a combined 73 percent drop in demand for 10 schools and three administrative buildings in the Garfield Re-2 School District.Last Thursday, May 19, students, faculty and staff scoured the buildings in a one-hour project called Operation Shutdown, turning off unnecessary lights, air handling systems, and other electric-powered devices and appliances from 1 to 2 p.m.At the same time, town governments in Rifle, Silt and New Castle, along with many businesses in Silt and New Castle, joined in the effort with their own building energy shutdowns.At the schools, students and staff continued with classes as usual, and essential systems remained fully operational.Electric meters on each building showed at least a 70 percent decrease in energy consumption for the one hour, and several buildings reached complete "shutdown" levels, said Re-2 spokeswoman Theresa Hamilton.The project is aimed at saving energy and cutting costs, and to show support for Coal Ridge High School and its quest to win the EPA Energy Star National Building Competition.Re-2 Superintendent Susan Birdsey was impressed by the results."How phenomenal to see each of our buildings committed to energy savings," Birdsey said. "The data speaks for itself. It's amazing. "We realize that we can't operate all day at those levels, but this kind of data illustrates that we are well on our way toward a 30 to 50 percent reduction in our energy consumption over last year," she added.By paying attention to lights, unplugging appliances, managing the air handler systems, and re-investing savings in high efficiency upgrades, Birdsey knows that Garfield Re-2 is saving money and avoiding costs related to energy consumption."It has been very important to keep a close eye on our energy costs," she said."State budget cuts have hit every area of our budget. Those impacts, in large part, are out of our control. Our energy consumption is within our control and it takes a team effort to reduce it. Our staff has been very engaged and supportive."In New Castle and Silt, business owners learned about energy use, catching enthusiasm for the project from students.At City Market in New Castle, assistant manager Angel Goure said store staff paid close attention to office lights and electrical devices."I think it is awesome that these students are trying to conserve energy," said Goure. "It is great that they are out in the community and talking about it."Devin Batista of Devin's Tonsorial Barber Shop in New Castle also participated. "I even unplugged my microwave," she said. Though all of her lights were out, her barber shop remained well lit, with natural daylight streaming in from the large storefront windows."I usually have the TV or radio on all day, but having them off I think has helped me concentrate better," Batista added.Lynette Cerise at Creekside Hair & Skin Day Spa said, "You start saving a little here and a little there and it begins adding up."Businesses that participated include New Castle Garage, Creekside Salon, New Castle Chamber of Commerce, Ajax Mechanical Services, Jim Houg Plumbing, Devin's Tonsorial Barber Shop, Elk Creek Mining Company, Alpine Bank New Castle, New Castle Diner, New Castle Branch Library, New Castle Subway, Country Rose Boutique, Elmer Suds Liquor Mart, Edward Jones, New Castle City Market, Castle Valley Children's Clinic, New Castle Family Fitness, Stop N Save No. 12, Kum & Go, McDonald's, Silt Fire Department, The Country Florist, Columbine Liquor, Tim's LLC, Studio Six Salon, Silt Library, The Miner's Claim, Go-Fer's, Making Waves, Bike Shop, Hogback Pizza and Watkins Jewels.