Nov 06 2023

LeadingAge23: How Senior Care Organizations Can Reach Their Sustainability Goals

A Winchester, Va.-based retirement community shares lessons from its solar energy project during the LeadingAge 2023 Annual Meeting.

Senior care organizations are likely already familiar with sustainability programs that promote better recycling, the use of LED lighting and energy-efficient utilities. They may, however, still be learning about building up their own renewable energy project.

Leaders at National Lutheran Communities and Services discussed the solar energy program at The Village at Orchard Ridge in Winchester, Va., one of its retirement, during a session at the LeadingAge 2023 Annual Meeting and Expo in Chicago.

At the “Renewable Energy Solutions for Life Plan Communities” session, the speakers explained the reasons behind the project, the perspectives from residents and the benefits the community is already experiencing since the solar array went into service in March 2023.

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Creating More Value for Senior Care from Excess Acreage

National Lutheran Communities and Services has made sustainability part of its strategic plan for years, outlining its program to include renewable energy efforts, energy-efficient solutions and electric vehicle charging stations, waste reduction and recycling, and key partnerships to support its goals.

Richard Mazza, president of Coach Lane Advisors and former CFO of National Lutheran Communities and Services, discussed how The Village at Orchard Ridge had land that was not suitable for building more housing but could be used for another purpose.

“It's not unusual to have access acreage on your land that's not useful for additional housing or service development,” he said. “I would suggest that you look at land use in other ways, to generate power and save on electricity costs.” 

Slide 1
A slide from the National Lutheran Communities and Services’ presentation on the solar array at The Village at Orchard Ridge in Winchester, Va.


The solar array was built in 2022, with minimal disruption for residents, and placed in service in March 2023.

“This project meets 85 percent of the community’s energy needs by producing an estimated 2,396 MWh of energy per year — the equivalent of powering up to 330 homes annually,” according to DDS Renewables, the solar power development company that worked with the community.

It’s also putting in the work to offset carbon emissions, an amount equivalent to taking more than 360 gas-powered cars off the road, noted National Lutheran Communities and Services.

Slide 2
Another slide from the session details the clear benefits of the community’s new solar array in reducing its carbon footprint.


Susan Dailey, resident board member at National Lutheran Communities and Services, shared how residents became involved as important stakeholders of the project.

“People are feeling that it’s a positive legacy for their kids and their grandkids,” she said. “We wanted to have a seat at the table, be informed of what's happening, and that did happen.”

And when it comes to the maintenance of the area, Dailey said that due to the rocky, uneven terrain, the community went with a natural option for keeping the grass short: a herd of sheep and kunekune pigs.

The design and aesthetic appeal of the solar array were also important considerations for the community as the area includes walking trails and sits in the scenic Shenandoah Valley.

“The organization is building something that’s good not only for residents today but for future residents for generations to come,” Mazza said. “It’s a legacy type of project that benefits the entire community.”

Keep this page bookmarked for our coverage of the 2023 LeadingAge Annual Meeting and EXPO, taking place Nov. 5-8 in Chicago. Follow us on X (formerly Twitter) at @HealthTechMag and join the conversation at #LeadingAge23.

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