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Written by Kelsey Dayton


The National Outdoor Leadership School, NOLS, known for its “leave no trace” philosophy in the backcountry, is now bringing this philosophy to their work outside the mountains and wilderness. The company, which teaches leadership and outdoor skills, recently added 90 solar panels, capable of producing 23.5 kilowatts of power, to its International headquarters building, in Lander, Wyoming.

The panels are expected to go live by the end of September, said Karly Copeland, Sustainability Coordinator with NOLS. The panels were installed by Creative Energies and a grant from Rocky Mountain’s Blue Sky Renewable Energy program financed the bulk of the project.

The building is one of several the company has outfitted with solar panels, including the Rocky Mountain branch building, the Noble Hotel and the Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus, which are all located in Lander. Additional buildings include the Teton Valley campus in Driggs, Idaho; the Southwest headquarters in Tucson, Arizona; and the Pacific Northwest headquarters in Conway, Washington; as well as buildings in Mexico and Australia.

The estimated production of all NOLS solar power systems is 221,370 kWh a year, Copeland stated.
The first solar panels NOLS used were installed at the Mexico facility, which is entirely off the grid, in 1985. In 2008, the company started a sustainability mission that included carbon reduction goals and that same year, it installed its first panels on a NOLS building in the US. The solar panels are meant to reduce energy costs, and enhance the NOLS’ mission, which includes environmental stewardship and reducing impact on the Earth.

NOLS’ Australia building, along with its Mexico facility, run completely on solar energy. Solar provides 75 percent of the power for the Arizona building. The panels on the National Headquarters building will offset 5 percent of its electrical use. The company also recently performed an energy retrofit on the building.

The building will have an educational display on the second floor that will talk about the solar panels on the building and also about NOLS’ arrays around the world.