The Beginning of a Big Idea
The idea for a small hobby solar panel project at East Jordan Middle/High School (EJMHS) was suggested to the school’s Shoe Club in 2020 by Matt Hamilton, a teacher at the school and founder of the EJMHS Shoe Club. The thought was to purchase one solar panel to power some lights at the school, but it quickly became the largest student-led project the school has ever attempted.
The EJMHS Shoe Club formed the EJ Solar Spark group. They researched solar energy, met with organizations, local businesses, and other potential donors throughout the 2020-2021 school year. With a plan in place, they set a goal of raising $70,000 for a 30kW solar array to be installed by Earth Day of the same school year.
While the real hard work began, so did the setbacks. First, the students confidently applied for their first grant and were denied. Then they experienced a lack of support for renewable energy, along with differences between their aggressive timeline goals and the not-so-aggressive timelines of some organizations and businesses. There were concerns throughout the community questioning whether the students could accomplish such an ambitious goal. That was until they saw the students’ persistence, passion, and knowledge.
GLE Classroom Grant Helps with Funding
The first grant awarded was a $2,000 Great Lakes Energy Classroom Grant for the 2020-2021 school year to integrate a solar array.
This is the third GLE Classroom Grant the school has received. About seven years ago, he received a grant to purchase a drone for his video production class, providing countless videos and access to technology they would never have acquired without GLE.
Perseverance Pays Off as Students’ Dream Becomes Reality
There was a brief moment the group thought they might have to reduce the size of the solar array based on the amount of money they had at the time. Then, miraculously, within 24 hours, three donors came through with about $24,000, once again sparking their energy and confidence.
With perseverance, the student’s big dream became reality. On Earth Day, April 22, 2021, the EJMHS Shoe Club brought to light the school’s new 30-kilowatt solar array. This $70,000 project will supply about 6% of the school’s energy and save the school nearly $4,300 per year. With a life span of 25-30 years, the school will continually save money, provide education about renewable energy, expose students to careers in clean energy, as well as many benefits to the environment.