Solar array at Dallas Children’s Theater: Chris Arrant

Based on the ringing laughter, singing and frenetic movement onstage or inside the classrooms at the Dallas Children’s Theater, any visitor can ascertain that its scores of students generate a massive amount of energy. It’s not so obvious, but just as true, that the building itself produces more than 21,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a year by converting sunlight into pollution-free electricity. The solar array atop the Rosewood Center, where the Dallas Children’s Theater performs, covers more than 1,100 square feet of roof and offsets 27,800 pounds of carbon dioxide each year. The 60 giant solar panels were installed three years ago by Green Mountain Energy when theater board members applied for a grant from the energy company’s Texas Sun Club. Green Mountain customers can sign up for the club and donate $5 a month that goes toward sponsoring solar panel installation for nonprofits. Since 2002, funds from the Texas Sun Club have been used to install solar arrays at more than 40 nonprofits, most of which are located in Texas. “We wanted to go green at the theater but were limited in options being a nonprofit, so the grant was the best way for us to get some momentum going,” says Robin Flatt, executive artistic director and co-founder of the Dallas Children’s Theater. Last year the children’s theater installed a new R-30 roof with 5 inches of insulation to continue making the building more energy efficient. “Before that,” Flatt says, “the building was doing a phenomenal job of cooling off the air outside of the building.” Longtime Lake Highlands residents may recall that the building once housed the Don Carter Bowling Alley, where years ago Flatt would drop off her children after they got out of school from Hamilton Park Elementary. Flatt is pleased with how far the building has come along since then and says the theater is in the process of switching to more energy-efficient HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) units. So far seven of the 22 units in the building have been converted, and there are plans to convert an additional five units this summer. In contrast to the building’s reduced carbon footprint, the flurry of active feet on the stage increases as the children perform and attend classes all year long. “The train keeps going every day,” Flatt says, “and we have not found a way to slow down.”