Powered by rooftop solar panels and known as one of the nation’s first net-zero schools, Richardsville Elementary School has been honored by the Kentucky Association for Environmental Education.
In a news release, the KAEE said it selected Richardsville as its Outstanding PreK-12 School for Excellence in Environmental Education.
“We are very proud and humbled to receive the award,” Richardsville Principal Stephanie Paynter told the Daily News on Monday, noting the award came with a commemorative plaque for the school.
The KAEE said: “Richardsville Elementary, a net-zero school, has 2,000 solar panels on the roof and 700 on the parking structure, as well as an electricity grid. It’s geothermal (HVAC) heating and cooling system allows for environmentally responsible efficiency.”
After opening in 2010, the school earned recognition for its use of renewable energy. The school generates and contributes excess electricity back to the Tennessee Valley Authority, helping power up to 50 homes and businesses in the area, according to the school’s website.
Along with its solar panel technology and geothermal HVAC system, the school uses insulated concrete forms, an energy-efficient building practice. The school’s ventilation system also uses a carbon dioxide monitoring system to maintain indoor air quality, and the school’s positioning north to south allows for efficient use of natural light. Artificial lighting isn’t used for up to 70 percent of the school hours. Additionally, its use of wireless laptops cuts down on energy used to run desktop computers.
The KAEE praised Richardsville for integrating sustainability into its curriculum via built-in features like its divergent hallways dedicated to geothermal and solar energy, water conservation and recycling.
“We have an energy team as well here at school,” Paynter said of the student-led team. “The energy team is in charge of updating our boards and letting people know how well we’re doing with our energy consumption.”
With its exposed piping, Richardsville’s geothermal hallway features a temperature gauge so students can monitor the system’s performance, the KAEE said. In its solar hallway, a laptop charging system illustrates how energy is pulled from the school’s network of solar panels.
Students can also monitor how much rainwater they’ve collected for the school’s garden, and how materials they’ve recycled can make a global impact, the KAEE said.
Terry Wilson, a Western Kentucky University professor and director of WKU’s Center for Environmental Education and Sustainability, credited the school for its efforts.
“At Richardsville Elementary, the administration and the teachers see the school as a building that teaches, and focuses on, sustainability,” Wilson said in the release.
– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @BGDN_edbeat or visit bgdaily news.com.