Financial Sustainability Through Environmental Stewardship

Situated on the Upper School roof above the Legacy Theatre, Havergal’s six-kilowatt solar array has helped to reduce the school’s energy consumption, which illustrates the link between environmental and financial sustainability.

The idea to use solar energy at the school began around 2010 when a science class suggested installing a single solar panel to run the filtration system of a large aquarium in the Upper School Biology Lab. The generosity of the donor community exceeded expectations, allowing Havergal to invest in a 26-panel array, which was installed in March of 2013.

The school’s Director of Facilities, Lisa Massie, worked with a student-led group—aptly named the Solar Rays—to determine the best location for the array. “We decided the roof above the Legacy Theatre was a perfect spot because it is south-facing and on an angle, which helps to harvest more of the sun’s rays,” says Massie.

Powering the equipment in the Upper School mechanical room, the solar array has significantly reduced the school’s reliance on traditional power by providing approximately 6,900 kWh of alternating current per year: the amount of energy needed to wash 27,000 loads of laundry, brew 34,000 pots of coffee or run a vacuum cleaner for 5,300 hours. “Shifting to renewable energy allows us to use less energy from the city, reducing our environmental footprint and utility costs overall,” explains Massie. “Solar power is very clean energy; it does not produce any by-products or harmful emissions, such as carbon monoxide, which is common of other energy sources,” she says.

Beyond the environmental and financial benefits, the solar panels have also acted as an educational tool. Using the SolarVu energy portal—a live database that tracks the solar array’s energy and revenue savings—students, faculty and staff can see the tangible benefits of renewable energy.

To help raise awareness for this technology amongst students, Sustainability Council Member Eryka Vella, Grade 11, suggested displaying the data from Havergal’s solar panels on the digital screens throughout the school. “I think it is important to educate students, faculty and staff about the benefits of solar energy because they might be inspired to adopt more sustainable practises, like installing solar panels at home or reducing their energy consumption,” says Vella.

LED lighting, low-flow plumbing fixtures, hands-free faucets and efficient heating and cooling systems are a few of the other design features that have been put in place to minimize the school’s energy consumption. With over 50 different types of lightbulbs required to accommodate the various light fixtures throughout the Upper School alone, it took six months to fully switch over to LED lighting, which has significantly lowered the school’s utility costs. “To reduce your environmental footprint, you have to make a shift,” says Sustainability Prefect and Grade 12 student Skylar Banks. “We can all have a big impact by acting locally to make small changes within our community”.

Havergal’s new buildings and renovated spaces will include all of these energy consumption features, in addition to an even larger solar array, a three-storey BioWall, green roofs and electric vehicle charging stations. “I am thrilled that our community is supportive in shifting to more sustainable practices,” says Massie. “It really is the right thing to do to ensure Havergal is operating with environmental sustainability in mind.”