On Thursday, September 13th, afterschool Maine East High School hosted a celebration in honor of solar panels installed the previous summer on the school’s property. The celebration was referred to as a “Solarbration”. Held in the Faculty cafeteria, the event highlighted the benefits of renewable energy as well as gave students a chance to interact with professionals in the field such as representatives from the same company that installed the school solar panels. Maine East Physics Teacher, Dr. David Schultz, gave a brief presentation on the logistical aspects of the solar panels and how they operated. Representatives from two different renewable energy companies spoke about the potential of renewable energy, its efficiency and how the industry was expanding rapidly. After speaking section of the event, the attendees participated in fun activities, one of which was a solar car race. Students also got the opportunity to interact with the representatives from the renewable energy companies on a one-to-one basis as they asked the representatives questions after the presentation. The representatives from the solar energy companies had also set up a stall that demonstrated how many forms of renewable energy worked and included a lot of information regarding the usefulness of this type of energy. Pizza was also served during the event.
During his presentation, Dr. Schultz explained the difficult process and hard work that culminated in the installation of the solar panels. The effort to put in solar panels was an initiative taken by the Maine East Renewable Energy Club. The club originally applied for I L I T grant from the State of Illinois so that they could explore renewable energy. They spent one year examining different types of renewable energies, and even constructed a decision matrix. The result of all this contemplation was the decision that solar energy panels would be the best fit for Maine East. After the Renewable Energy Club had come to that conclusion, they worked on a grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Foundation. The grant was approved and provided the club money for the purchase and installation of solar photovoltaic panels. The total money awarded through the grant to the club was a hefty sum of $8000. Mr. Schultz explained that solar photovoltaic panels work by taking sunlight and converting it directly into electrical energy. He also spoke about different solar panel such as solar thermal panels that focus on light onto liquid, heating the liquid as a result. The solar panels that had been installed generate 1 kW per hour during peak sunlight and add that energy to the Maine East electrical grid, reducing the school’s carbon footprint. Maine East is one of few schools in the state of Illinois and even in the nation to have this renewable energy tool.
Earth, Wind and Solar Energy representative Mr. John Caravette pointed out several of the problems with the current consumption of fossil fuels and how it is contributing to the global warming crisis. Commenting on how renewable energy could offset the consumption of fossil fuels Mr. John Caravette said “renewable energy has become more affordable and efficient. I want to leave the world a cleaner place for my grandchildren and renewable energy goes a long way towards doing that.” He also shared with the audience trends with the kilowatt hours that the Maine East solar panels produced. This was data that was viewed online. Mr. Caravette suggested to the students that they should think about pursuing a career in the environmental field. He spoke about how the environmental field is one of the fastest growing industries in the world.
Lisa Albrecht of the Nile Solar Service also spoke at the celebration. She told students to find their passion. “Find a problem in the world that really makes you mad and work towards fixing it” said Ms. Albrecht. She emphasized how high school students in the audience were at the very important point of their lives, the point at which they were choosing which colleges something which would have a significant impact on the direction of their lives.
The Solarbration was a very well organized event and was attended by not only students from East high school but also by members of the community. The audience had a great opportunity to learn about the environmental field and specifically about different forms of Renewable Energy Club. Credit must be given to the advisors and the members of the Maine East Renewable Energy Club for providing the school and the community with such an opportunity.