We hear more and more in popular culture and the media about generating electricity with photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, but relatively few people have actually seen this technology in action. Two Kennebunk, Maine women received some good news this week that will give local residents something to see, and hopefully talk about, on the subject of solar power.
A group of citizens, teachers, and school district administrators and operations staff in Kennebunk formed an Energy Advisory Committee (EAC) eighteen months ago to address energy, recycling, and other sustainability topics in the Maine School Administrative District 71 facilities in Kennebunk and Kennebunkport. (The idea for our group, SEA, was germinated in that group.)
This group has enjoyed tremendous success, attaining Energy Star certification for the 2.5 year old Kennebunk Elementary School, achieving impressive electricity and heating fuel savings across the school district, and driving a sharp reduction in trash through an innovative composting program implemented at the beginning of the current school year.
As I alluded to earlier, two members of the EAC have achieved yet another notable milestone in the local efforts to slow global warming. Jennifer Neise and Sassy Smallman raised seed money and applied for a Maine Public Utilities Commission grant to install a PV array at the Middle School of the Kennebunks. Neise was notified this week that the EAC was awarded this grant, and that installation of the 5.6 kW photovoltaic array can proceed.
The energy data from the array will most likely be available online, and the panels will tentatively be installed where they are prominently visible to the public. I would suggest that a placard be installed to direct people to sources of information about PV specifically and alternative energy in general to maximize the educational potential of the installation.
When people start to see concrete action taken at the local level, they will begin to realize that individual, incremental progress can be made in combating serious environmental issues.
On the web:
Middle School of the Kennebunks
Pemetic Elementary School, Southwest Harbor, Maine online PV reporting system
This graph is from Pemetic's PV array: