Schools in Kentucky Examples of a Cleaner Energy Future?

Today’s Herald Leader takes a look at Fayette County Public School’s Locust Trace facility, exploring how the building was designed to “prepare high school juniors and seniors for careers in the equine industry and agriculture, where a return to sustainability is the trend. School officials wanted their facility to set a good environmental example — and be less expensive to operate and maintain.”

Reporter Tom Eblen describes the site, and the building itself:

Sunlight and prevailing winds were analyzed to orient the classroom building and large arena building to make the best use of sunlight and natural breezes. The buildings use 21 Big Ass Fans — large high-volume, slow-speed fans — to help regulate indoor air flow and temperatures.

The arena building, for instance, is heated and cooled with five large fans that pull air through louvers along a roof gallery that are opened and closed manually or with automatic sensors. Clerestory windows along the gallery provide most of the arena's light.

Both buildings make extensive use of solar energy. Sunlight is maximized by window design and "solar tubes" that funnel magnified sunshine through the ceiling. Roof-mounted photovoltaic panels convert sunlight into as much as 175 kilowatts of electricity.

Power not needed immediately is fed into the Kentucky Utilities grid to offset power drawn from it on cloudy days. Electricity is shut off at night, except for a few outlets needed to run things like fish tanks.

More on the Locust Trace AgriScience Farm is available in Eblen’s article.  Locust Trace isn’t the only Kentucky school catching attention for thoughtful design use of clean energy sources in.  Earlier this month, the Interim Joint Committee on Local Government heard testimony that included a description of Warren County’s Richardsville Elementary, which was designed to use 75% less energy than a typical school and built at less than the cost of a conventional Kentucky elementary school.  Richardsville is considered the first ‘net-zero’ school in the country, and has become a bragging right for Bowling Green.

Eblen quotes Locust Trace architect Susan Hill saying "There was a great willingness on the part of school system officials to take a little risk to learn the lessons," she said. "That's really important."

What would it take to build this kind of demonstration project in eastern Kentucky?  How can we go about supporting this kind of environment for our children and our schools?

Kristin Tracz

About Kristin Tracz

Kristin Tracz served MACED’s Research and Policy team from 2009-2012 working on clean energy policy, energy efficiency programs and the Appalachian Transition Initiative. She joined MACED after finishing her Master of Environmental Management degree at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. She now lives and works in Washington, DC.