Net Zero Schools in Kentucky: Models for the Future Come from Surprising Places

...Kentucky’s crown jewel is surely its net zero Richardsville Elementary School in Warren County. A net zero building is an edifice that produces the same amount (or more) energy as it consumes. Net zero buildings will become increasingly more common as renewable technologies (such as solar and wind), and efficient end-use technologies (such as LED lighting and high efficiency climate control systems) drop in price. But technologies and prices alone are not the real key to creating net zero buildings. The real trick is to apply the holistic thinking required to view a building as a “living” entity that involves integrated planning for the interactions of various systems and the needs of the people inside the building.

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Solar Power a Good Deal Over Long Haul

As a supporter of solar energy in a region dominated by coal, I have faced my fair share of misconceptions regarding solar power. I would like to further educate our community on the benefits of solar power and clear up myths perpetuated by those opposing renewable energy. Southwestern Indiana, with the greatest amount of sunlight in the state, should strive to become the “solar hub of Indiana.” There is no question about the environmental benefits, but this letter will focus on the economic benefits of solar energy.

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Until Recently, Zero Net-Energy Buildings

were found only in areas having moderate to high utility rates, like California or were owned by people concerned about “green” energy, even if it was more expensive. Now, net-zero has come to coal country, where Richardsville Elementary School, in Bowling Green, Kentucky, is the first net-zero energy public school in the United States. This 72,000-square-foot public school achieved net-zero energy status and stayed within the budgetary constraints of the Kentucky Department of Education.

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A Showcase for Cutting-Edge Solar Technology

CHRISNEY – When her son, Larry, graduated college in the 1980s, Eugenia Groves said he saw a future in solar energy and soon was employed with a company on the cutting edge of technology. But Larry soon found himself out of work when the promising venture never quite materialized and the company went out of business.

That was then. This is now.

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Warren School Produces More Energy Than It Consumes

ASHLAND — When it was completed a few years ago, Richardsville Elementary School, located in a small Warren County community near Bowling Green, was officially designated as the first “net-zero school” in Kentucky, but claims by the building’s designers and school officials that the school would actually produce more energy than it used had more than a few doubters.

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Richardsville Elementary Setting Standard With Its Electricity Generation

There’s no big smokestack. You also don’t see a bunch of workers scurrying around in hard hats. Rest assured though, Warren County Public Schools has a power plant.

The district received a check for $37,227.31 this year.

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Riding Wave of Solar Movement

Brad Morton has his eye mostly on the solar side of his business, Morton Solar & Wind LLC. He said that because China is producing high volumes of solar panels and flooding the market, U.S. manufacturers have been forced to lower their prices.This is growing the solar industry, he said, and he wants to help keep the momentum going. "We're excited seeing that solar panel prices have dropped dramatically in the last two years as China has impacted the market," he said. "The result is lower prices for consumers."

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