Environmental Sustainability

Student Power

After student push, solar panels installed on gymnasium roof

By Madison Munroe ’22, Wirth Munroe ’22, Daniel Stancioff ’23 and Julian Stancioff ’22, Students for Solar

Work began on the installation of solar panels on the Ransom Everglades upper school gym rooftop on January 3, 2022. A dream of ours that began three years earlier was in motion. We are excited to tell you about this important project that will reduce the school’s carbon footprint and save money.
We were first exposed to solar when three years ago our parents began looking into solar options on our homes. We learned that the energy produced by 40-50 solar panels saves a tree every day and matches the production of 30 100-watt bulbs. And, after seven years, the system would be paid for by electricity cost savings.
With this knowledge on solar benefits and a drive to help save our planet we were motivated to make Ransom Everglades go solar. We were excited because we knew the positive potential this idea had for both our school and the environment.
Before taking our ideas to the school, we started researching. We reached out to Dr. Kelly Jackson – she is now RE’s Director of Environmental Sustainability – who had overseen the installation of a sample array at the middle school to use for education purposes. She was an immediate advocate for our effort. Dr. Jackson relayed that it would take funds and the support of the school’s administration to make our vision a reality.
So, we started building a case. We met with a representative at Solar United Neighbors of Florida, a non-profit that holds a plethora of vital information on solar. We learned about how solar worked and what it took to implement. We collected roof diagrams and rough estimate costs. We also learned about the impact solar schools can make. At that point, two years ago, there were 5,489 solar schools in the United States that produced 1.4 million megawatt hours annually, enough to offset about 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. That is equivalent to taking 221,000 cars off the road or planting 27 million trees! And that was only five percent of the schools; imagine the impact if every school went solar. Armed with that knowledge, we were sure we wanted Ransom Everglades to contribute to this effort. With more research and planning, we were ready to spread our plan and message.
We put together a presentation and shared it with Head of School Penny Townsend. She gave us the go-ahead to present to the Ransom Everglades Board of Trustees and seek approval. It was an exciting challenge to present to the board, but we were ready and believed in what we had to say. Then the board approved our effort. We were thrilled and relieved!    

However, we soon found the work had only begun.
Over the next year we interviewed installers, dove even deeper into the technology and learned how to best implement solar panels at Ransom Everglades. There were hurricane considerations, angles of the rooftop to the sun, uncertainty about how many panels could fit and questions about what type of panel was best suited. We eventually partnered with Goldin Solar, which has installed solar all over South Florida and is based in Coconut Grove. We ultimately chose Goldin Solar because they shared our excitement for the impact Ransom Everglades can make and were dedicated to incorporating the education of our community on the importance of sustainability.
With the planning and configuring complete by early 2022, the installation of a solar array on the top of the Henry H. Anderson, Jr. ’38 Gymnasium began in late January. By the time this magazine goes to press, we will have helped “flip the switch” to go live. On that day, and many after it, we will produce 160,036 kilowatt hours of energy from 305 panels installed on the gym rooftop. This will translate to planting 63,122 trees, driving 243,740 fewer miles per year and taking 21 cars off the road. Over 25 years this will save Ransom Everglades nearly half a million dollars. We will be able to see every day what is being produced and the impact that this one installation is having.
Of course, we don’t want this installation to mark the end of Ransom Everglades’ solar journey. We see it as merely the beginning. As all of us near graduation, we now are tasked with finding more Students for Solar and supporters.
Who’s in?
To support environmental sustainability at Ransom Everglades, contact Melanie Hoffmann at mhoffmann@ransomeverglades.org or 305 460 8820.
Founded in 1903, Ransom Everglades School is a coeducational, college preparatory day school for grades 6 - 12 located on two campuses in Coconut Grove, Florida. Ransom Everglades School produces graduates who "believe that they are in the world not so much for what they can get out of it as for what they can put into it." The school provides rigorous college preparation that promotes the student's sense of identity, community, personal integrity and values for a productive and satisfying life, and prepares the student to lead and to contribute to society.