Solar Energy at Hawken?

November 14, 2019

At Hawken, there are a good amount of clubs for environmentalism and climate change. These clubs are trying to bring change and awareness for the environment. The Fridays for Future group held a walkout in September to help send the message about climate change becoming irreversible. Climate change has become a serious problem in the past few years. People are protesting and making a push to make changes in communities. Technology is also changing to be more environmentally friendly. Companies, such as Tesla, are making electric cars to lower the carbon footprint of cars. Exxon Mobil is working to use algae as a source of fuel for vehicles. A leading environmentally friendly technology is solar energy. Many schools have incorporated solar panels into their campus.

I asked a few familiar faces around Hawken a few questions about solar energy use at the school. One person I interviewed was Ryan McMullen from the class of 2021. Ryan is a part of the Fridays for Future club at Hawken and he played an instrumental role in the walkout on September 20th. The Fridays for Future group meets on Fridays during afternoon break. I asked Ryan if solar panels would be able to power all or most of the campus and his response intrigued me. He said that, “we should begin by investing to make [solar energy] a partial inclusion.”

In Ohio, the price for a 10-kilowatt system costs about $20,000. A school the size of Hawken will require about 20 of these systems. Ryan believes that Hawken should add solar panels to a small part of the school before having the whole campus rely on them.

When I was interviewing Mrs. Gilbert, Mr. Kordeleski and Mr. O’Connor joined the interview. I asked them about solar use at Hawken, and all of them responded that they think Hawken’s campus is a place where solar panels can thrive. From the interviews, many said a reason they think solar panels have not been added is because of initial price. However, as Mr. Kordeleski said, “cost is an issue with installing solar panels, but if we continue to go for cost-effectiveness, the environment will not be around for much longer.”

Mr. Kordeleski thinks that our planet will not be able to sustain life if humans continue destroying the environment at the rate we currently are. An article from the New York Times suggests that humans have accelerated the decline of the environment and if deterioration continues at this rate, the environment could be gone in less time than we think. Solar panels could be the next step towards a more environmentally friendly world. Incorporating solar panels into Hawken’s campus, similar to Lake Ridge Academy, could benefit the campus and the environment. 

Lake Ridge Academy has 448 panels that are generating power for the school, making it an environmentally friendly campus. The panels have been working for two years and have generated over 416 megawatts of energy, enough to power about 41 houses. Almost 20% of their campus is now powered by solar energy. 

Also, solar panel prices are at an all-time low. When the solar panels at Lake Ridge Academy were installed, the cost was about $500,000. Now, they can be installed for about $350,000.

Another school that uses solar energy to power its campus is Old Trail School. Old Trail’s solar array powers about 35% of the school. With more and more schools becoming eco-friendly, there is no reason Hawken should not become an environmentally friendly school.

Powering a part of the campus before investing in solar panels for the whole school could be beneficial to the school and the environment. It benefits the school because it allows the school to invest in a few solar panels to see how the endeavor works and how much it costs for maintenance. It helps the environment by using less non-renewable resources to power the campus. Ryan believes investing in solar panels will be beneficial to the school and the environment in the long run. 

I also interviewed Mr. Newman. Mr. Newman spoke to me about the costs of adding solar panels. He thinks solar panels should be added to the campus of Hawken and agrees with Ryan about powering a small amount of the school as a beginning and powering more of the campus later. Mr. Newman said, “the large investments into this school should go in phases. We recently spent a lot of money on Stirn Hall. Maybe the next phase is adding solar panels.”

Mr. Newman thinks we should wait sometime before adding solar panels to the school. I then asked what part of the school we should power first. Mr. Newman said that the roof of the A/C Lobby could be a great place for solar panels because of how much sunlight hits it. The cost for solar panels may be a big investment but there is a possibility of solar panels soon becoming a part of the campus. 

The final person I interviewed was Mr. Dale Lucas, the head of facilities at Hawken. Most of the people I interviewed said the best place for solar panels would be on the roof of Stirn Hall. I asked Mr. Lucas if the roof would be able to sustain the weight of solar panels and he said they cannot carry the weight of solar panels. Since Stirn Hall cannot hold the weight of solar panels, I asked where they should go. He said the most efficient thing to do would be to put a solar farm in an area where there is not much shade from trees. Mr. Lucas also explained, “The first step would be to have a study done to see if solar panels are usable on Hawken’s campus.” 

Solar panels are an existing technology that have received a new popularity with companies such as Tesla who are making solar panels a part of their technology. Schools are also becoming more environmentally friendly. They are being incorporated into schools to make a more eco-friendly campus for students to learn and grow on. We already learned about Lake Ridge Academy, which has a solar farm on its campus. Having solar panels creates an environment where students can learn about being more ecological about the environment. Even if only a small amount of the campus is powered by solar energy, it can be a step towards helping the environment. In a time where the students of today will have to deal with climate change and environmental destruction of tomorrow, raising students to have the mindset to keep their surroundings and environment as eco-friendly as possible is paramount to ensuring not only a sustainable future for Hawken, but also for the world as a whole


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