'Going green together': solar panels installed on fieldhouse

Illinois Clean Energy installed the new solar panels to the fieldhouse on Oct. 13. The school funded the solar panels through a grant for which Environmental Club applied.
Illinois Clean Energy installs the new solar panels to the fieldhouse on Oct. 13. The school funded the solar panels through a grant for which Environmental Club applied.

By Maddie Conway
Executive News Editor

As a self-described “big proponent of alternative energy,” 2010 graduate Matei Guran was interested when he heard about an opportunity for Prospect to gain its own solar panels at one of the monthly District Energy Environmental Committee meetings that he attended for Environmental Club last year.
As one of only two students to attend the meetings, Guran was part of the discussion about how several schools in the area had applied for a grant through Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, including Thomas Middle School in Arlington Heights. With that in mind, Guran and Environmental Club sponsor Mollie David applied for the grant to fund the solar panels, which they were awarded.
On Tuesday, Oct. 5, the solar panels were installed on the field house roof. They were funded by the $10,000 grant that Environmental Club received through the program K-12 Solar Schools.

The program, which started in 2006, has had an increase in the number of grants awarded to schools each year, with about 50 grants for solar panels given to schools just this past year.

According to Nick Poplawski
, Illinois Clean Energy Program Analyst, in order to receive the grant for the solar panels, schools send the program an application and action plan on how they will use the solar panels to better their school environment.
Poplawksi said that a large part of the program’s goal is
more to educate students on solar power and green energy using “working models” than to produce electricity to offset energy with the solar panels in schools.
David also said that the solar panel’s impact will go beyond just generating energy through solar power.
The solar panels will generate a certain amount of electricity that will feed into Prospect’s general electrical system, but David said that the solar panels will also create learning opportunities, including the chance to research solar power and how it works hands-on.
According to the Illinois Clean Energy website, “The solar installations let students see first-hand on a daily basis how sunlight is converted to electricity, raise awareness and demonstrate the benefits of solar power as a clean, ready and available source of renewable energy in Illinois.”
“Having a working model there makes the education that much better,” Poplawski said, “because students not only learn about how it works and what it means in the classroom, but they also see the physical equipment.”
For this educational purpose, the solar panels will be connected to the internet through IllinoisSolarSchools.org in a way so that students can track and access how much energy the solar panels produce in different situations. For example, David said science classes will have the opportunity to research how the time of day, season or weather affects the amount of power generated by the solar panels.
In addition to data relating to the amount of energy that the solar panels produce, the Solar Schools website will also include an interactive map that shows the locations of every “solar school” in Illinois.

Senior and second-year Environmental Club member Haley Smetana agreed that the solar panels will be a “cool” opportunity for Prospect.
“It’s kind of cool to see [the solar panels] actually come true,” Smetana said. “I know I’ve never seen how solar panels work, so it could also open up new opportunities for kids to study them and get new ideas for the future or what they want to do with their life.”
But in addition to the solar panels’ educational purposes, Smetana also said she thought the solar panels are a “big step for Prospect” and a step toward going green, even for those not involved in Environmental Club, as all students will be able to see the effects of the new solar panels and will have opportunities to learn about how they help the environment.
One of the most beneficial effects of the solar panels, Smetana said, is ”
showing that Environmental Club actually has the power to do something and that we’re not just there to talk about ideas.”
Because Environmental Club and Prospect are being active to help the environment, Smetana said, she hopes that students will feel more a part of Environmental Club’s efforts.
“This isn’t just an idea that we have — it’s something that we can actually do,” Smetana said. “So maybe [students] can actually contribute to our efforts … to make the school greener together.”