Lakewood Ranch school installs its first round of solar panels.
The Out-of-Door Academy installed 705 solar panels on its Uihlein campus in Lakewood Ranch, and it’s not stopping there.
The 705 solar panels on the Fox Field House, arts center and new middle school building were the first phase in continuing the school’s sustainability efforts. The school started installing the panels in June and completed the installation this month.
“We have a green mindset in terms of everything we do and extensive recycling protocols and initiatives,” said David Mahler, ODA’s head of school. “We do everything possible to reduce our carbon footprint and minimize waste to try to teach kids and the community the benefits of being thoughtful about consumption.”
ODA is now looking toward installing solar panels on the rest of its Lakewood Ranch campus’ facilities.
Mahler said the second phase depends on if the school receives funding for the project, which would possibly be done next summer when students are not in school.
An anonymous donor provided the $500,000 to fund the first phase, which is projected to save the school $100,000 annually. Mahler said the savings could go toward teachers, curriculum and programming.
If the second phase is completed, Mahler said ODA will be close to having the entire campus “powered by the sun.”
The push for investing in sustainable energy started on ODA’s Siesta Key campus when the school installed solar panels on every roof on the campus in summer 2017.
“This was something we were interested in both because we believe it’s absolutely the right thing, but it also reduces our overhead,” Mahler said. “We hope eventually that up to 95% of our electrical consumption will be covered by our solar arrays.”
The solar panels are just one aspect of ODA’s sustainability efforts, which also includes organic gardens that produce food to be used in the school’s food programs on both the Lakewood Ranch and Siesta Key campuses.
Other efforts include using green cleaning products, recycling, using hydroponics and organic gardening, and eliminating the use of plastics on campus.
Mahler said the school uses as many recycled materials as it can during construction projects, such as recycled carpet, furniture and fabrics. Buildings have energy management systems, high-efficiency glass and LED lights, and motion sensors.
“Through our program, in our curriculum and in our investment in sustainable initiatives, we are raising awareness in our own school community, and so a lot of ideas [for sustainability efforts] flow through our students,” Mahler said.