EE Ford Project of Interest – Midland School

Building a School’s Renewable Energy Infrastructure with Students at Midland School

M idland School in Los Olivos, CA was awarded a $50,000 EE Ford grant with a $60,000 matching component for Midland’s pioneering solar project, in which the 10th graders build the school’s solar infrastructure in annual 3-kW arrays, each of which meets another 3% of Midland’s communal electricity needs.As of 2012, 25% of campus electricity needs are met by student-installed arrays.

Midland’s history makes it an ideal proving ground for students to build a solar-powered future.A rigorous college-preparatory boarding school, Midland has always subscribed to its founder’s, Paul Squibb’s, belief that, “money, light, heat, and water are not things that flow naturally out of pipes, but are things for which somebody has to spend time and thought and energy… I believe the [student] who has learned not to take the material blessings of life for granted will live a more vivid and interesting life and will be the better citizen.” Making visible the hidden costs of convenience is a tangible way of teaching personal responsibility.It started with Squibb’s unwavering belief that work is good for us – not just work of the mind, as exists in schools everywhere, but work of the hands.It builds character.It’s a way of life that all Americans once lived daily, but that slipped away, as waves of prosperity were accompanied by groundswell habits of insulation from the elements and passive consumerism.

Midland aspires to be a replicable model, a living demonstration that annual incremental action can accrue to 100% over a generation.Midland has touched upon a truth in its iterative approach to community-based renewable energy, begun in 2003.Doing it every year spreads its cost and expands its educational impact.With an ultimate goal of grid neutrality, education is at the heart of Midland’s project.Midland repeats the lessons with successive classes, tying lessons to the science curriculum, keeping abreast of the technological curve, and leading all students towards positions of authentic problem solving.

The EE Ford grant will fund another three years of solar installations as well as blueEnergy wind workshops, installer of community-supported wind turbines and water filtration systems in Nicaragua, founded by a Midland alumnus.With 100% of Midland’s water pumping and a growing proportion of Midland’s kitchen met with solar, the grant’s matching component will take Midland to the next level of self-reliance in its facilities.Midland will upgrade its infrastructure for long-term water and food security by replacing its principle well (drilled in 1936) and installing a backup propane generator system that can power the kitchen and dining hall in the events of power outages, ensuring uninterrupted refrigeration for produce from Midland’s organic garden and grass-fed beef from its pastures.