In keeping with its Quaker values, the school is continuing its mission of stewardship to the environment by installing more than 2,000 solar panels on the school’s 140-acre campus.Students, faculty and members of the Friends House community gathered at Sandy Spring Friends School on Oct. 24 for a ceremonial “flipping of the switch.”
“Solar installations are a great fit for educational institutions, providing significant economic and environmental benefits as well as offering educational opportunities for the students,” said Scott Wiater, president of Standard Solar. “This kind of project can influence future leaders while helping the Sandy Spring community and its students take another step forward in their environmental stewardship.”
The solar installation is the latest step in the school’s commitment to sustainability. The school has long demonstrated its commitment in many areas of its operation, from education and curriculum planning to land use, recycling and composting programs and a new community farm.
The panels were installed over the summer and have been fully operational for about two weeks. Head of School Tom Gibian said they are working as expected. Eventually, they will have a live monitor in the school, which shows the real-time display of kilowatt-hours and other measures.
Gibian said the school has been interested in a renewable approach to supply the school’s energy supply for a number of years, and called the project a win-win-win.
“We generate energy at less cost than we were paying, we generate clean, renewable energy, and we integrate the project into our curriculum in a number of areas, including science, finance, statistics and entrepreneurship,” he said. “It’s a way to further real world applications in education.”
The 477 kW solar photovoltaic ground-mounted system will generate and estimated 665,00 kilowatt-hours annually — which is comparable to the amount of electricity used in about 58 average American homes for one year, according to school officials. The estimated carbon offset of a system this size is 504 metric tons, which is equal to taking almost 99 passenger vehicles off the road per year, or a reduction of 1,173 barrels of oil consumed.
The project was developed by the Pennsylvania energy solutions provider UGI Performance Solutions, and was designed and installed by Maryland-based Standard Solar Inc.
UGI Energy Services has entered into a power purchase agreement with the school, and will own the system. This enables the school to use the electricity generated by the system for a fixed cost, lowering utility bills.
Sandy Spring student Naomi Redwan, 15, of Rockville said that the installation of the solar panels is an important way to conserve energy.
“We live on planet Earth, so it is important to help and protect it,” she said. “It’s great that our school did this — it shows how much we care, and it is great to see that we are a leading example.”
Lorne Garrettson has been involved with the school since its inception. His children attended Sandy Spring, his daughter served on the faculty and he is a member of the Sandy Spring Meeting.
He is not surprised by the school’s foray into solar energy, because of the “dazzling” innovations in farming and other areas that have come out of the Sandy Spring community since its founding.
“This school still bubbles with that kind of energy,” Garrettson said. “It’s what you would expect in Sandy Spring. It’s always been very progressive and full of intellectual vigor, and this is yet another example.”