With large, flat rooftops free of shade, Ridgefield Academy (RA) saw an untapped opportunity to install solar panels on its buildings as part of a conscious effort to make environmentally appropriate choices in the best interest of its community. The solar installation is the third of many measures being taken by the school in support of its mission to act as a good steward of the environment, lower greenhouse gas emissions, reduce its carbon footprint, improve student and teacher health, and reduce energy costs.
The Academy, which serves children in preschool through grade 8, began its effort to convert to clean energy three years ago when the majority of the fuel oil used for heating purposes was replaced with propane. A propane furnace operates at a 90 percent efficiency rating (versus a 60 percent efficiency rating for an older oil furnace) and has far less impact on the environment as it produces significantly fewer emissions than oil and has low carbon content.
Ridgefield Academy continued its fuel-efficiency efforts a year later by upgrading from fluorescent lighting to LED lighting made possible by using energy credits and other incentives. LED lighting is mercury-free and one hundred percent recyclable making it the most environmentally safe lighting option. LEDs also use less energy than any lighting technology available and incur much lower maintenance costs – all without impacting a student’s learning environment.
As the third step in becoming more energy efficient, Ridgefield Academy recently installed 443 solar panels on the major buildings of its Ridgefield campus, which, in time, will generate approximately 80 percent of the electricity used. Solar energy is a cost effective way for schools to shine, and schools across the nation, like RA, are taking advantage of this environmentally friendly, cost savings opportunity. RA is also seeking to leverage the solar program as a learning opportunity for students. Larry Curry, RA’s Director of Facilities mentioned, “We want to combine this with education. Monitors will be permanently set up in both the Summit and Annex lobbies displaying statistics of the benefits of using this source of energy so that our students can see.” As one example, RA’s solar panels will generate enough electricity to power 20 homes for a year! More interesting statistics can be found here.
Commenting on Ridgefield Academy’s recent efforts to increase its environmental awareness and decrease its carbon footprint, CFO Briggs Tobin said, “We have a responsibility to maintain and preserve what makes Ridgefield Academy special. Ridgefield Academy has a magnificent history and sits on land that has been well cared for and loved for generations. We are stewards of an important legacy, and our efforts today both honor that legacy and build strongly upon it.”
Looking ahead, Ridgefield Academy is committed to identifying other ways to become as environmentally efficient as possible, including eliminating single-use plastics, improving current recycling procedures and possibly creating a composting program. In doing so, RA will set an example for its students and surrounding communities to show that, apart from the important work of educating and shaping the citizens and leaders of tomorrow, schools can make significant contributions to our entire community by becoming better stewards of our earth.
Established in 1975, Ridgefield Academy is a Preschool – Grade 8 private day school located in Ridgefield, Conn. serving students from Fairfield and Westchester counties. Ridgefield Academy is located at 223 West Mountain Road in Ridgefield, Conn. 203.894.1800. www.ridgefieldacademy.org.
Photo shows Director of Facilities, Larry Curry and our CFO, Briggs Tobin who are shown signing the deal for the recently installed solar panels at RA