Among the many upgrades and improvements completed over summer break, the installation of 705 solar panels on the Uihlein Campus was one of the most highly anticipated and exciting new additions to the School’s physical plant. The solar panels were installed on the Fox Field House and arts building, as well as the 14,000 square foot state-of-the-art Middle School building completed this August.
Head of School, Mr. David Mahler is pleased with the execution of this first phase of solar energy integration at the Uihlein Campus and looks forward to the continuation of improving Out-of-Door’s sustainability practices.
“At ODA we believe in doing everything possible to minimize our carbon footprint and to teach the next generation about effective sustainable practices,” said Mr. Mahler. “Thanks to an incredibly generous donor who provided all of the funding for this project, we are projecting a 65% reduction in our electrical expenditure at the Uihlein Campus this fiscal year, resulting in $100,000 in overhead being re-invested towards the support of our educational program. This is truly the gift that keeps on giving.”
Mr. Dan Dennehy, Director of Facilities, is anticipating the creative ways faculty will integrate data generated by the solar panels' software into their lessons, noting how this will open the door to new learning opportunities, especially in the STEM fields.
“Every time we do a solar project we make sure there is an educational aspect to it,” said Mr. Dennehy. “At the Lower School, one example of how the solar energy we produce is quantified is by the dashboard we have—it displays real-time energy savings statistics that can be utilized in a variety of ways in the classroom. I look forward to seeing how STEM teachers at the Middle and Upper School work the new solar energy technology into their curriculum.”
The addition of these solar panels is another example of ODA’s ongoing sustainability efforts on both the Uihlein and Siesta Key Campuses. In the summer of 2017, 550 solar panels were installed on the Siesta Key Campus, greatly reducing the overall annual energy consumption. Additional environmentally conscious efforts, including composting, utilizing organic and aeroponic gardens to grow produce for the School’s lunch program, and recycling have become integrated into daily campus life for staff and students alike.
Gesturing upward toward the solar arrays gleaming in the sunlight, Mr. Mahler said he sees the potential of positive educational opportunities both inside and outside of the classroom. “[At ODA] we have a green mindset in terms of everything we do...We do everything possible to minimize waste to try to teach kids and the community the benefits of being thoughtful about consumption.”