By Katie Kizer
People tend to start renewable energy projects – and more specifically, solar PV projects—for all sorts of reasons. They want to educate students, promote awareness in the community, or they may just want to prove they are “going green” along with the rest of the world. After taking the initiative to start these types of projects, a more appropriate question that arises is, why do they keep going? As Steve Ruelli of the Skokie School District 73.5 explains it, he was bitten by the bug.
After a successful solar PV installation at McCracken Middle School, Steve’s interest immediately turned to possible improvements on the John Middleton Elementary School. He explored various options for energy efficiency and renewable energy, yet he decided to once again pursue a solar PV system. This is because roof-mounted solar PV panels can easily be integrated into existing buildings, such as the elementary school. They installed another 1 kW solar PV system, for which data is available to monitor online, and Steve is already looking to expand. The project’s funding was made possible by ComEd and the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation.Back to the original question, why keep going?
It’s because people like Steve know that it works.
It’s also because the Skokie School District is very supportive of green technologies, and in the type of environment where innovation is encouraged and even facilitated, renewable energy thrives. All it takes is one committed person, like Steve, who knows the ropes.
Like the McCracken installation and all of the Illinois Solar Schools, this system will be used as an educational tool for students, staff, and community to learn about the power of the sun. As the district has continued to expand upon its green credentials, its reputation has mirrored the advancements. Steve explains that he is being asked to be part of a “green tour” as a result of the example that the district has set. He has also been asked to head a test project for a 30-50 kW solar PV system. Such a large system would offset a notable portion of energy while saving a chunk of change on utility bills.
Not only have the people of Skokie School District 73.5 seen this technology work, they are continuing to set the bar for what these installations can achieve. Steve told me that his goal is to be a leader in the industry and to exemplify these successful systems for other educational facilities—a way for others to learn from Skokie’s example. If you ask me, we should all be bitten by the bug.