Richardsville Elementary School, in rural Kentucky near Bowling Green may become the first school to be off the grid.
Today the state of Kentucky awarded a $1.374 million grant to Warren County Public Schools to purchase solar panels for the new school. The school was designed to use 25% less energy than a typical school of the same size. With the addition of the solar panels, it is reported the school may actually be able to sell energy back to the Tennessee Valley Authority.
“According to our knowledge, this will be the nation’s first net-zero energy school building. What an accomplishment. The addition of these solar panels to this school brings us into the national spotlight on energy,” Jane Beshear said in making the presentation on behalf of Governor Steve Beshear.
Christopher Hayes who has been working on this project and similar ones for over ten years told Beshear…
“We are going to take the extra energy that we made and don’t use and sell it to the energy company and get paid for that to help make up for the cost of the school.”
The grant is funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act from the U.S. Department of Energy and distributed through the Kentucky Department for Energy Development and Independence. Its purpose is to accelerate energy efficiency and renewable energy projects for Kentucky schools, create energy costs savings and reduce carbon emissions.
Sustainable schools such as Richardsville Elementary not only have a positive green impact by protecting the environment and helping with national energy security, but also teach children how to live their lives as responsible environmental stewards, Beshear said.
“Schools across our state and especially here in Warren County have taken a leadership role in energy efficiency and conservation,” Beshear said. “This is not only important for the cost savings and for a healthy environment, but also because it provides an educational opportunity for our students and everyone who walks through those school doors. High-performing school buildings teach children how they are affected by their surroundings and the importance of being responsible for their environment.”
“When you used to talk about green, people thought it was about money. It still is,” Beshear said. “Everything that we do that protects our environment and preserves and conserves our energy use converts to dollars, and the exciting part about that is within our schools. It returns to the students.”
Warren County schools in the last 10 years have offset about $5.1 million in energy costs, said Superintendent Tim Murley.
“We have a lot of building going on right now and we are trying to do this in a way that will protect the environment,” he said.
Warren County Schools has four Energy Star buildings. As a net-zero school, Richardsville Elementary is designed to use only 18 kBtu/sq. ft.—annually 75 percent less than the ASHRAE 90.1 design standard for elementary schools.