Archive for the 'General Info' Category

Saint Malachy School sees the light

Friday, December 5th, 2008


Story submitted by the team at Saint Malachy

Everyday sunlight strikes a portion of earth for 7 to 8 hours. Solar energy is the most abundant energy resource in the world. The sun delivers 4 million watts of energy to an acre of surface on a sunny day. If the sun had shown for 8 hours on an acre of soil in your back yard yesterday, it would have received enough solar energy to generate 32,000 kilowatts hours of energy. It would only take about 5.5 acres of sunshine to provide Geneseo with all it’s daily power requirements if we could find efficient methods of converting, storing and transmitting solar energy to electricity for Geneseo residents.

Saint Malachy School students, led by Mrs. Franque’s sixth grade class, are going to study how a photovoltaic cell solar system reaches out to collect sunlight and convert it to electrical power for school use. Classroom lessons designed around a solar energy collector will include mathematics, accounting, chemistry, physics, computer technology, and meteorology. Students will have “hands on” interaction with more ecologically responsible technology tracking how power generation is affected by sun angles, cloudiness, length of day, air temperature, and equipment efficiency.

Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation granted Saint Malachy School the money needed to purchase and install a new solar collector system and Commonwealth Edison is helping to pay for the teacher training workshops and the Illinois Solar School Program administration. 

Dave Merrill of Sunair Systems from Byron, Illinois supplied and installed the new equipment on September 11, 2008. Father Pakula is Pastor of Saint Malachy Catholic Parish and School and Stan Griffin is principal of this K-6 grade parochial school located on I-80 just 20 miles East of the Mississippi River. This beautiful church/school campus is used to educate 120 children with the dedication of 11 teachers and 3 aids. 

Gregg Swanson, Building and Grounds Maintenance Supervisor said that the One Kilowatt System has provided about 55kWh of energy in the first 18 days of operation, saving the Parish almost $11.00. One classroom can be lighted with the power generated by the new solar system on a sunny day.

Other schools in the area who have similar solar collection systems are


  • Logan Junior High School: Princeton, Illinois
  • Alwood School: Woodhull, Illinois
  • Nelson Elementary School: Nelson, Illinois


You may go to the following websites to gain more information on solar collection systems:

Spreading the word about Solar

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008

Hi, I’m Lucy Whitmore and I go to Evergreen 6 in Paradise California. Today I’m going to tell you about a special trip that five kids from my school got to go on to Red Bluff.

Evergreen 6 is a PG&E solar school. We have our own solar array, which powers Evergreen’s computer lab. Sometimes, Evergreen is invited to go on special trips to teach other people about solar power. This year, one of the trips was to Red Bluff to teach other sixth graders about solar. There are about 96 kids that go to Evergreen, and fifty qualified to go on the trip because they had all their work in. Many people wanted to go, but only five were picked. I was really happy that I got to go. Two days after they announced who was going, the lucky five got to school at 6:00 in the morning. Once everyone got there, we left for Red Bluff.

When we got to the Red Bluff science fair, a day where all of Tehama county’s sixth graders went to the fairgrounds for lessons on hands-on science, everyone set up the solar equipment. Some people set up solar gadgets on the tables, and others put up the “Evergreen 6” banners and blew up a solar balloon, which eventually popped. When all of that was set up, we got out the solar ovens and started making cookies so that the kids could try solar cooked food. By the time we finished that, we only had a few minutes to practice our presentations before the first group of kids showed up.

The first time that we did the presentations, it was nerve-wracking. I expected some of the kids to goof off and start talking to their friends, but they all just sat and listened. They were all really interested. With each presentation, it got easier to project your voice and just speak to all of the people.

We taught the other sixth graders about solar gadgets, like solar cell phone chargers, and about how solar ovens work. We also taught them about what solar power could be used for in the future and how it could work. After each group had listened to the presentations, we let them come up and try the solar gadgets and taste the cookies. It was really great, because all the kids were smiling and looking really excited. Most of the people there had never seen a solar panel in real-life, and they really liked it.

Going to Red Bluff was really fun. Besides, about a hundred more people now know more about solar. Some of those people could go home and tell their parents or siblings about solar power, and then even more people know about solar! It feels really good to know that you’ve taught more people about something important in our world. Also, it was so much fun!

Lucy Whitmore, 11, is a sixth grader at Paradise Intermediate School in the Evergreen 6 program. She enjoys reading, playing with friends, and making tie-dye things.

Lucy was among five students who, using the NEED philosophy, taught various aspects of solar energy to their peers in a neighboring county. Her contribution to the Red Bluff Solar day was to talk about large-scale solar, solar concentration, and alternative transportation. (Using solar to power small electric vehicles.)

Looking for 100 People Under the Sun

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

“More energy from the sun hits the earth in an hour than all the energy consumed by human beings on our planet in an entire year. “  Nate Lewis, Professor, California Institute of Technology

Many of our readers already have heard this statement…but what does it really mean, and how do we plug in?  Who are the leaders among us around the world, how can our communities learn from them, and what new lessons can we build on in 2009?  Most of our readers are connected through our solar schools…as I type this, we are close to 100 posts on our Energy Seeds site and have close to a thousand visitors a month from around the world (only 50 of you comment…but we know you’re out there)!  We are very happy to have you with us as we start a new effort…and I hope you will find it as exciting as I do.

Today I leave to join the 100 People team for a trip around the world…to begin telling a new story of solar leaders around the world – 100 People Under the Sun.  Some of you will be featured in this launch…and we hope to include others as we expand this effort over the next months and years.  Our team started in Paradise over the weekend with a trip to visit Greg Holman and Mario – both are contributors to Energy Seeds, and one of the first schools selected for the PG&E Solar Schools Program.  Tonight, we leave for the Philippines…then on to Malawi and Spain.

You will hear more about this effort in the coming months.  Check out the site below, and consider having your school join this effort…we will highlight leaders among us, and hopefully reach many new students around the world.

Here’s a little background:
The 100 People Foundation is proud to announce a new project in collaboration with our energy partner, SunPower Foundation.

In a world that has become increasingly interconnected and interdependent, the need to understand commonalities, shared values and resources is vital. The 100 People Project set out to do this through the simple means of educating and connecting the people of the world through photography and film.
SunPower Foundation seeks to create a future where sustainable, clean solar power is an essential component of the global energy mix.  With 100 People Under the Sun, we have joined forces to help educate a global population about the tremendous potential that sunlight offers.

Rowe-Clark and Exelon, an Alliance Ahead of the Curve

Saturday, October 11th, 2008


Story by Katie Kizer

In a world where one of the most constant sources of concern is money, and big businesses tend to emphasize profit, a major exception to this rule has emerged.  ComEd, a company owned by Exelon, is pushing for alternatives to the burning of fossil fuels.  The company is conscious of the economic strain on the wallets of hardworking Americans and has allied with a grassroots movement for energy efficient and renewable projects.  Aside from these green developments, Exelon is known for its hydroelectric and nuclear power, and the production of energy from fossil fuels.  One could assume from this list of assets that such a company would support the continued devotion to burning fossil fuels and other mechanisms of power which we hold so dear to our hearts.  However, what Exelon has added to that list is its status as “the largest provider of wind power east of the Mississippi River.”  And while wind is the company’s specialty in regards to renewables, Exelon has also branched out into solar energy.  



When inventions such as electric cars debut in this culture, the first thing many of us say is that it will threaten the automobile industry, and by extension threaten the livelihoods of many hardworking individuals.  As the harvesting of corn takes off for purposes of Ethanol, we await the cries from big oil.  Likewise, when solar and wind power are used more continuously to supplement energy use, we all turn to energy companies and wait for the protest.  Exelon has done something different.  It has examined all possible options, factored in the well-being of its stakeholders, and decided to aid in the fight to save money and protect our natural world.  This major conglomerate has committed itself to easing the transition from fossil fuels to alternative energies and ComEd has carried out this commitment in the Chicagoland area.  Paying tribute to these sponsors is important because often they are misrepresented as big bad utility companies with nothing but self-interest in mind.

Now a little bit about how this all relates to a solar installation at Rowe-Clark Math & Science Academy, otherwise known as The Exelon Campus of Noble Street Charter School.  Part of the Noble Street Charter Schools, Rowe-Clark is a college prep campus with an emphasis on math and science, located just west of downtown Chicago.  I interviewed Rachel Kramer, Director of External Affairs at Rowe-Clark, who explained exactly how the alliance between the Noble Street Charter Schools and Exelon came about.  “Frank Clark, Chairman & CEO of ComEd, and John Rowe, Chairman and CEO of Exelon, along with Exelon Corporations, invested in Noble to name the Rowe-Clark Math & Science Academy campus.”  Rachel describes the solar installation as a “natural addition” during the renovation process preceding the August 2007 opening.  This is a rare sequence of events in that the school opened its doors for the first time with this renewable energy project already in place.  This is true evidence of solar PV technology becoming engrained within the structure of our nation’s schools.  And what better environment than an accelerated college prep institution with an emphasis on science and math?

Something that I am always eager to learn is how the community in and around the school has reacted to the addition.  It is through these responses that we truly understand the great impact these projects can have.  The truth is that we live in an imperfect world, and even something as sensible as solar can have a rocky start.  Rachel told me about certain frustrations spreading throughout the school while they were awaiting the live online data from the panels.  Everyone was so excited about watching the effects of the project that they felt disillusioned when it was not working properly.  However, Rachel reassured me that “the school community and staff have been very enthusiastic now that our panels are correctly hooked up and we can see the ‘action’ online.”  And of course, a solar PV system in the Midwest is not going to experience as much unadulterated sunlight as those lucky Californians have for their solar schools, so it is natural to feel frustrated throughout the duration of the data collection. 

Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation provided $10,000 in funding for the solar schools project and there is a web page devoted to this project at where the data on the electricity generation from this system can be viewed.  

The ending to this story is nothing but a happy one.  Like many solar schools choose to do, Rowe-Clark held a solar celebration day filled with activities and games all pertaining to the power of the sun.  This includes “making a solar necklace, decorating a cookie to look like the sun (complete with sun spots), making a mini-model of the building’s solar panels, looking at the sun through a solar telescope, playing solar bingo and more.”  Complete with Exelon volunteers, this solar celebration put the final touch on a truly successful endeavor. 

“At Rowe-Clark, we live the Noble Way, dedicating ourselves to scholarship, discipline, and honor as we prepare our scholars for success in college and beyond.”  And if you read a little further into the mission of this school, you will find that one of the priorities is a will and dedication “to learn in a socially conscious environment,” a promise that has been fulfilled above and beyond all expectation.  The people of Chicago can rest easy that the individuals who matriculate at Rowe-Clarke will certainly become a socially responsible citizenry.

The Salinas, Gilroy, Watsonville, Seaside, Santa Cruz, and Pescadero Trip

Thursday, September 18th, 2008

Story written by Glen Kizer

PG&E has 100 solar school installations either completely in or being installed as I type this and I decided it was a good time to take a tour of some of the schools south of the Bay Area in order to connect with some new principals and to visit some of the newly installed systems.  At first, I dreaded the long drive, but by the time I pulled out of Pescadero I felt energized.  Here is a personal diary of my trip.  I apologize for interjecting myself into this story, but I couldn’t help myself.  Later, students at each of these schools will write their own blog story so this is kind of my introduction to those blogs that are yet to be written.


I love Salinas.  It is a wonderful place.  Everywhere you look there are enormous farms where almost any kind of food is grown.  It is known as the “Romaine Lettuce Capital of the World,” but I saw lots of other things being grown in these huge fields.  Everything is laid out in this huge valley with hills on both sides and this lush agricultural empire covering the valley in all directions.  It is a beautiful sight to see.

The PG&E Solar School in Salinas is appropriately enough inside a garden behind the Monterey Park Elementary School.  It was one of the first schools in the PG&E program.  Chris Banks is the principal and she was the principal at the time the installation was completed in 2005.

Monterey Park Elementary School includes grades k-6 and houses 566 students and 24 teachers.  100% of the teachers have their full credentials.  The average teacher experience level is 20 years!


A half hour north of Salinas I came upon the City of Gilroy, California.  Gilroy is great.  It is the “Garlic Capital of the World” and everywhere you go there are signs and pictures of garlic.  The solar installation there is one of the 2007-2008 schools.

James Maxwell is the principal and Rob Mendiola is the key contact for us on the district level.  Mr. Mendiola coordinated the installation.

The Gilroy High School campus is huge.  It is Grades 9-12, but there are more than 2,500 students on this one campus.

School has not yet started for the Fall, 2008 session so everyone was running around getting everything ready.  One of the young women from the soccer team was there with her mother, Katherine McBride, who is a local realtor with Coldwell Banker and they agreed to pose for a picture in front of the solar panels.  Thanks guys.


Leaving Gilroy I went over the hill on the 128 to Watsonville.  Watsonville is a wonderful place.  The cities in the valley base a large amount of their economic life on farming.  Cities on the coast base a lot of their economic livelihood on tourists, fishing, and boating.  Watsonville has it all.  It is on the Pacific Ocean and there are people who are connected directly to the water, but there are huge farms.   I even followed one of the trucks loaded with something, but I could never get close enough to get out of my car to ask the driver what was in the boxes.  (Is it illegal to take pictures while driving?)

The PG&E Solar School in Watsonville is Ohlone Elementary and like Monterey Park in Salinas it was installed in 2005.  Unlike Monterey Park, Ohlone has a different principal now than when the installation was originally completed.  The Principal at Ohlone is Gloria Miranda and I have included a picture here that I took in her office.

There are 437 students in the k-5 Ohlone school.  It is a wonderful school and a beautiful campus.  All of the teachers are so nice.  When I first got there, Gloria was walking around the campus and I went out to find her.  As I walked around the buildings, teachers kept volunteering to help me find her.   They were so busy trying to get ready for the students coming back to school this month and yet they went out of their way to try and help me.

But the most interesting thing about my visit was the farm directly across from the school.  It was an unusual plant growing for what looked like miles so I asked what was the plant growing there.  The answer surprised me.  Artichokes!  For the first time in my life I was up close and I almost touched a growing artichoke plant.

(I only touch vegetables with a fork.)


Down south on CA-1 just a few miles is a cluster of three beautiful communities on Monterey Bay.  The largest of these three communities is Monterey which has a huge waterfront and a fantastic aquarium.  The smallest city is Sand City.  I stopped in Sand City to buy a Diet Coke and there is sand everywhere.  The final city is Seaside where the PG&E Solar Schools Program has a “solar on a stick” installation at Highland Elementary.  It is in the Monterey Peninsula Unified School District.  The students are “The Superstars!”

Highland has a new principal, Ms Taffra Purnsely, and the day I was at the school was also the first day of class.  The phones went out and the web site was overloaded and was failing to load.  But everyone seemed calm even with all of the “first day back at school” gyrations.  The school administration seemed to take everything in stride.

The school consists of grades k-5 and has 437 students.

Santa Cruz

Driving back up CA-1 and past those artichoke farms in front of Ohlone Elementary in Watsonville, I came to De LaVeaga Elementary in the ocean front community of Santa Cruz, California.  De LaVeaga consists of k-5 classes and has 577 students.  De LaVeaga also has a new principal, Ms Ruth Smith.  De LaVeaga is another of the 2004-2005 schools in the first round of the PG&E Solar Schools Program.

What I love about this solar school project is the way they had the installation sited in their school garden.  It is a beautiful setting, but they are serious about their garden.  Many of the PG&E “solar on a stick” installations have gone into gardens according to teachers because “the plants reach up to grab the sunlight in order to grow in the same way that the PV panels reach out to capture sunlight in order to generate electricity.”  This one is a particularly nice one.


Continuing north up the CA-1 (I did stop at the University of California at Santa Cruz which is one of the most beautiful campuses I have ever seen.  There are redwood trees and some of the buildings are very contemporary and the entire campus overlooks the same Monterey Bay.), I drove by some of my favorite parts of California and I love California.  Driving along the coast to Pescadero, there are waves crashing onto beaches and rocks and there was a fantastic blue sky and a whole lot of sun.

The school is technically an elementary + middle school combined to be the Pescadero Elementary and Middle School with 195 total students.  Patty Able is the principal and I took a picture of her at her desk and I have included it here.

My favorite story of the day took place in Pescadero.  I stopped for a Diet Coke at a restaurant in downtown Pescadero.  I was not 100% sure how to get to the school so I asked some young women at a booth in the restaurant if they knew where the elementary school was located.  They said “Go down this street and turn right.  You can’t miss it.  There is a huge solar array on a pole in front of the school.”

We had become a landmark.  Later as I drove away after meeting with Ms Able, I saw the young ladies walking down the street and they all waved to me like they were glad they could help.  Pescadero is a small town 5 minutes from the Pacific Ocean and yet the nice small town people could be living in Ohio or Illinois or Texas.  I love big cities and there is a lot to do in San Francisco and Oakland and San Jose, but those big hearted small town people are hard to beat.

And that was my entire trip.

McCracken Middle School: What came first….the economic….or the energy savings?

Thursday, September 11th, 2008


Story written by Katie Kizer

Skokie school district 73.5 began its venture down the energy conservation path just as many other institutions do: retrofitting buildings in order to make its facilities just a bit more efficient.  What this entails is a process in which small adjustments are made to the buildings in order to lessen the daily energy use.  Specifically, District 73.5 installed motion sensors in its three schools within the more common areas to ensure that the lights come on only when individuals are present.  What subsequently took place for the three schools in this Skokie school district is unique in the face of renewable energy trends.  In 2006, both the school board and administrators decided to go forward with a program to install not only motion sensors, but also a “green/planted roof and a thermal solar panel system” on McCracken Middle School says Steve Ruelli, Director of Buildings and Grounds.

After going forward with this energy conservation plan, Mr. Ruelli began to educate himself about the available renewable energy options for the District.  What he learned was that renewable energies serve as invaluable learning tools to the students, in addition to saving money.  What is imperative to emphasize is that this movement began with the intent to save money, and discovered some very cool ways to also help out the planet.  This is a unique sequence of events.  Often times, people begin to feel guilty about the many CNN headlines entitled, “Our Earth in Peril” and begin to entertain the idea of alternative forms of energy and conservation.  After the decision has been made to pursue these alternatives, environmentalists tend to step in and outline the many ways in which institutions can actually save money through this process.  What Steve Ruelli and others from District 73.5 did was pursue these methods because they save money and they are good for the environment.  No convincing needed there.  All that is left is to carry out the project and pass on the success story.   

There are many ways to pass on this knowledge, including the education of all generations about the value of the sun’s power.  On a site visit in Skokie with my father, Glen Kizer, and Mr. Ruelli, I was able to witness the torch being passed on to the upcoming generation.  Jana Jones, Environmental Education K-12 Program Manager of the Marketing & Environmental Programs at ComEd, came out to McCracken to view the installation and discuss the nature of the project.  She brought her son, Hayden, with her to learn a little something about solar.  While he and I shared the same feeling that it was rather early to be out of bed and talking science, his interest was nothing but perked by this invention.  What Hayden and I will one day have in common is that he too will be sitting around with his friends in a class and he will be one of the only kids to have seen a solar installation at such a young age.  I should know, because much of my childhood was laced with tours of green schools and other energy-related projects.  I have memories of, for example, planting trees when I was still in the single digits.  These steps taken by parents like my father and Jana Jones will lead to at least a conviction that we must protect our environment.  While I did not understand this when I was Hayden’s age, I am now incredibly grateful that I was lucky enough to have those experiences.

Mr. Ruelli researched grants available, applied, and was awarded assistance.  Though it is not quite as easy as the snap of one’s fingers, the process of writing a proposal, applying for grants, and carrying out the project is something that any individual with a little motivation and persistence can carry out.  Steve Ruelli proves this through his experiences.  District 73.5 now has a new solar PV system, which is helping to supplement some of the schools’ energy use.  

While this is an excellent jumping off point for these teachers, students, and community, Mr. Ruelli expresses his wish “for a bigger system that could power more mechanicals.”  What is fantastic about this desire is that we only have potential advancement in our future as a society, or as many would say, ‘no where to go but up’ and these systems will only get bigger.  These projects are not designed to replace entire fossil fuel usage; they are intended to demonstrate the capability of renewable energies.  As a university student in Chicago, I have seen firsthand how those who run utility systems are not comfortable with initiating major projects up front without having witnessed the successful results.  And why should they be?  We have burned fossil fuels since the Industrial Revolution, and to rapidly change this tradition is a scary thing.  District 73.5 has the appropriate mentality in that it has installed a smaller end system that can open the door for future grants and funding for a larger system.  Once an institution has evidence of both economic and energy savings, there is more of an opportunity to add on to such projects.  This District is even ahead of the curve in that it is already aware that there are both economic and energy savings with these projects.  Not only do the fine individuals within this District know these facts without any needed convincing, they are craving more.  Steve describes the sentiment upon the completion of this project.  “I really like our system and can’t wait till the students, staff and community are all able to view this at or new addition dedication.”

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