With a long-term solar panel project in phase two, Presentation Academy is taking concrete steps to care for the environment — something the close to 200-year-old school has always been passionate about, according to its president.
Presentation started the project last year — with the leadership of its students — by installing 16 solar panels on the roof of its Arts and Athletics Center, located on the corner of South Fourth and Breckinridge Streets across from the school’s historic main building.
This month, the school moved into the second phase, adding 32 panels to its array on July 23, said President Laura Dills.
“Presentation Academy has always aligned with social justice issues and caring for the environment is clearly an issue Presentation has been passionate about. This is really a very concrete way that our young women, alumnae and friends of Pres can take part in” Pope Francis’ call to care for creation, said Dills during a recent interview.
Since the first 16 panels were installed in January of 2020, they’ve produced close to 11,000 kilowatt-hours of energy and cut production of carbon dioxide by eight tons, said Dills.
With the installation of the additional 32 panels, the school can cut its energy consumption by 18 percent, she said.
The school’s science and math teachers use an App to track this information and incorporate the findings into classroom lessons, she noted.
The solar panel project will also save the school money on its energy bill.
Elizabeth Ruwe, Presentation’s director of development, said the school is currently saving about $200 a month on its energy bill and, with the additional panels, is looking at energy savings of about $100,000 over the next 25 years.
“We have a lot of capital needs. With these savings, we can offset some of this cost,” said Dills.
While the financial savings of this project will help the school, it’s not all about finances, said Ruwe.
“Pres wants to be a good neighbor to the downtown Louisville community. The urban heat island heat effect is an issue Louisville is working to address and we want to contribute,” she said. “It’s the most vulnerable people who are being impacted. … We want to live out Mother Catherine Spalding’s mission of helping the most vulnerable.”
The roof of the Arts and Athletics Center can accommodate up to 700 solar panels, and the school wants to take advantage of that, said Dills.
School leaders are now planning phase three of the project. The cost of the 48 panels totaled about $41,000 all of which came from donors, including alumnae, the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth and Our Earth Now, a local environmental group led by youth including students from Presentation, said Dills.
Our Earth Now initiated the project, noted Dills and their efforts sparked the interest of the alumnae who have contributed to making phase two possible.
The school is now looking into getting state and federal funding to further the project, said Dills. She’d like to see the Arts and Athletics Center become a net-zero energy building powered by solar energy alone.
Other high schools in the Archdiocese of Louisville are also working toward a similar goal of reducing energy consumption.
Mercy Academy, 5801 Fegenbush Lane, for example, is working on a project to install solar panels in the fall.
Mercy is currently installing a new energy-efficient roof as well, said Becky Montague, the school’s president. Funds for the solar panel project were raised by Mercy students earlier in the year.