My name is Greg Holman, and I applied for and won a $20,000 solar installations grant from PG&E in 2005. Let me share with you a little about the process, hopefully to inspire you to start your application today.
As a sixth grade teacher, for years I had been searching for that “hook” to get students more interested in science. One year while teaching about renewable energy, it dawned on me that we really should “practice what we preach.” The search for funding began. While talking with our facilities manager, he directed me to contact PG&E. From there, they directed me to their solar schools website: www.pge.com/solarschools
The thought of finding time to write my first grant was a little intimidating. After looking over the application, I could feel my anxiety fade away. Not only was this something I could do, but the thought of a chance at a free solar array for my school…. exciting!
First, I pulled together my resources: teachers, administration, and my wife (the world’s best editor.) Next, I brainstormed responses to each part of the application. How would this look at our specific site? Where would we install the array? How can I use this with students? How were other teachers using solar in their classes?
The fantastic thing about the PG&E application is that it is so open-ended. They allow you to design a program that fits your specific site, grade-level and subject. You teach writing? Yes, solar can be your topic for debating the best energy source, or discussing the types of energy that can reduce climate change. You are a math teacher? Your focus will be graphing solar data as it relates to weather, or looking for a relationship between daylight and solar output.
The most important step is to finish and submit the application. Review, revise and edit – just as you tell your students. I showed one of the drafts to my students and let them help revise it. In fact, they helped add to the application. Ask for help. I would be happy to discuss how to handle any portion of the application you are “stuck” on. Questions about any aspect of the process? – feel free to contact me at: email@example.com. I’m working part-time this summer to help The Foundation for Environmental Education support schools in the PG&E Solar Schools Program.
Several weeks after submitting, our little school was ecstatic to hear we had been selected. Since then, it has entirely changed our school atmosphere. What before was a good place, is now amazing! It has created our own identity. “Oh, you work at the school under the solar panel.” News reporters, homeowners, and staff from other schools are often stopping by to find out more. Our students have become “energy experts” in our little town. Slowly, solar is changing from “alternative energy,” to just “solar energy.”
If you are fortunate enough to live within PG&E’s service area, apply today. If not, take some initiative and contact your state department of energy, or local utility. Ask. You may be surprised how easy it is to become a solar school.