Solar Array Project Will Leave Lasting Impact

Solar Array Project Will Leave Lasting Environmental Impact
Posted on 01/29/2020
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Solar array project collage

Lakota East’s National Honor Society is taking on a different type of service project this year – one they hope will leave a lasting impact at the school and in the community.

The group tackled the question: In a school of our size and a district of our size, how can we make a sizable environmental impact?

“We came up with the idea of a solar array [solar panels arranged in a group to capture sunlight and convert it to usable energy],” said NHS president Ashley Swisshelm. “The solar array would offset energy costs and reduce emissions from the power sources currently used. Not only could it have a positive environmental impact, but it would also be a great learning opportunity for us in STEM-related fields.”

NHS members began reaching out to solar companies as well as the district to determine the viability of the project. “It was a cool process to know that students can reach out to Lakota staff and board members to work together on a project,” said Swisshelm. “We are seeing that young people can really cause change and influence the community.”

After the NHS executive committee (students Tanya Kukreja, Eve Beiting, Maggie MacNeel, Olivia Kusel and Ashley Swisshelm, along with advisors Andy Alexander and Stuart Maine) presented a proposal to Chief Operations Officer Chris Passarge, he offered to help facilitate the group through the process. “They have done a great job reaching out to various vendors to help get information and support for their project. I think the group realized the difficulty in getting companies to respond and support smaller solar projects. Most solar projects have some type of tax benefit associated with the financing, but since the district does not pay taxes, it creates the need for a different financing model to be considered.”

Members of East’s NHS group have been fundraising all school year to fund the solar array project. They have held a car wash, wrapped presents at Barnes & Noble and recently held a Sadie Hawkins Dance. East’s NHS hopes to contribute $15,000 to $20,000 toward the project, but are also looking at additional sources of financing. Anyone interested in helping the group can do so by having dinner at Chipotle (6876 Cincinnati Dayton Rd) on Wednesday, Feb. from 5-9 p.m. for an NHS fundraiser or by writing a check to Lakota East and including NHS Solar Array on the memo line.

The goal for the NHS group is to have the solar plans completed by the end of the school year, with installation taking place by the end of the calendar year. The exact energy cost savings for Lakota East is highly dependent on the scale of the array, which is still being determined.

The group hopes that this project could get the ball rolling on a larger project at Lakota or in the community.

“The decision by this year’s NHS members to try to fund a solar array for East, I would say, is a consequence of the growing awareness among young people that global issues such as climate change and the sourcing of renewable energy are in one sense more universal yet in another, more personal,” said advisor Andy Alexander.

“The drive and enthusiasm with which they’ve approached what is a technically difficult project for a student group to put in motion does not surprise me; every year’s NHS members provide tremendous resource for East in terms of skill, ability, and leadership. However, the level of personal investment in the solar array by the 2020 NHS membership has been gratifying and speaks to an engagement in teenagers with the wider world that community members outside of the school don’t always get to see.”

The community is invited to attend the #LakotaGoesGreen Earth Day Celebration on April 18 to see Lakota students sharing ideas like the solar array. The event, held in partnership with the West Chester Farmers’ Market, will be held from 2-4 p.m. at West Chester Square.