“Solarize-ing” McDougle Middle School

By Rachel Nash Posted May 1, 2014 at 2:07 pm

McDougle Middle School has launched a new initiative with a mission of educating students and the community on the possibilities of solar energy.

The school is currently raising money to install a one Kilowatt solar system to be shared with the Carrboro Branch Library. The idea was realized through the efforts of Solarize Carrboro and Yes Solar Solutions.

The solar array will be installed at the front entrance of the middle school, which is adjacent to the library and will be visible to the public.

Dan Schnitzer, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Sustainability Coordinator, said that the energy generated by the installation will be minimal at best, but that’s not the point.

“Really if we want to measure the energy impact that it has, it is much better measured by the educational value and if it inspires anyone to consider solar for themselves,” Schnitzer said.

Students and library patrons will be able to monitor the energy produced online.

“Everyone can have a piece of it which is really exciting and really community-based, which again is the goal to create massive change.”

Schnitzer said efforts to make the project a reality go beyond the district.

UNC Students Drew Chandler and Michael Balot joined the Solarize Carrboro initiative in the spring of 2014 as interns and have worked closely with McDougle students and teachers to launch the initiative.

The fundraising campaign for the project kicked off on April 23 through the donation website, Indiegogo. In less than a week, Schnitzer said they had raised $1,000.

“The campaign is part of the process, so, of course, we need to the funding to make it happen, but it is about engagement. I would love to see this $8,000 raised $5 at a time,” Schnitzer said.

The goal is to raise $8,000 by May 24. The money will be used to build the solar array and install web-based solar monitoring software that will transform the project into an educational tool.

Schnitzer said they hope to have the installation up and running by the time the students return in the fall.

Sustainablity is a full-time job

Schnitzer’s position was created in November of last year as part of a larger CHCCS initiative to educate students about sustainability.

The district had previously worked with a consultant on efficiency efforts, but decided to bring the position in house.

Schnitzer said he works to make sure that the buildings are running optimally in water, lighting, and energy consumption, but also gets to do the “fun stuff,” like working with the students on composting, garden and renewable energy projects.

“One of the goals both from the district and personally is the integration of every aspect of sustainability to the students.”

Several schools across the district already have small solar projects, and many have solar thermal initiatives, he said.

For information on how you can donate to the Solarize McDougle Project, click here.

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