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 environment project the school has initiated. The goal of the projects is to lower greenhouse gas emissions, reduce its carbon footprint, improve student and teacher health, and reduce energy costs.

Ridgefield Academy, which serves children in preschool through the eighth grade, 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 less impact on the environment as it produces fewer emissions than oil and has low carbon content.

RA 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 100 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, RA 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.

“We want to combine this with education,” said Larry Curry, RA’s director of facilities. “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!”

“We have a responsibility to maintain and preserve what makes Ridgefield Academy special,” CFO Briggs Tobin said, the school’s CFO. “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.”

For more information on Ridgefield Academy, call 203-894-1800 or visit ridgefieldacademy.org.