BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) – The Tennessee Valley Authority has paid a Kentucky school district a little more than $37,000 for producing electricity.
Richardsville Elementary School in Bowling Green became the first net-zero school when it opened, and the Daily News reports it is still the only major school building in the U.S. that also earns money from the energy it produces.
It is tangible evidence that the $12.1 million, 550-student, 77,466-square-foot school does more than just pay for itself – it brings in a little extra too.
Republican state Rep. Jim DeCesare of Bowling Green says the school has “exceeded expectations.”
“We’re seeing a savings of millions of dollars in energy costs,” DeCesare said.
School district spokeswoman Joanie Hendricks said the payment from TVA goes into a separate account, which will be used to replace solar panels at Richardsville when they wear out.
Schools that generate more electricity than they use are turning heads in the construction industry, according to Kenny Stanfield, architect for Sherman, Carter, Barnhart of Louisville.
“That opens up some eyes,” said Stanfield, who has been a leader in designing net-zero schools and uses Richardsville as the model of energy efficiency.
“It is the icon of the green schools movement,” Nathaniel Allen, schools advocacy lead for the Center for Green Schools at the U.S. Green Building Council in Washington, D.C.
The White House, the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the federal Department of Education have implemented a program in recent years called Green Ribbon Schools that offers reward energy-conscious districts.
“The speed that this effort came together is incredible,” Allen said. “This is one issue where everyone agrees.”
Stanfield said paying for utilities is usually an expected expense for schools, but that idea is being questioned with the recent results.
“School districts just accepted the fact that they were going to have to pay utility bills,” Stanfield said.