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York Middle School receives green grant for solar panels

YEEC chair, Eric Hopkins, has worked tirelessly on this project. Congratulations for making it happen.

From the York Weekly:

By Deborah Mcdermott
May 13, 2013 2:00 AM

YORK, Maine — York resident Eric Hopkins remembers the conversations he had with the late philanthropist Cynthia Raymond when the two worked to found York Goes Green in 2005. How could they increase awareness among the town’s residents about renewable energy; and more particularly, how could they get the kids involved?

That conversation came full circle recently, when he learned that the York Middle School received a very competitive Maine Efficiency Trust grant to install solar panels on the gym roof. If all goes well, the array will be in place by fall, generating an anticipated 12,717 kilowatts of electricity annually.

“It’s nice to get a win,” said Hopkins, who worked on the grant proposal with York School Department director of facilities Zach Harding and folks from Revision Energy in Portland, who donated their time. “We’ve been working so hard on this for a while now. To see it come together like this is pretty awesome.”

The $22,278 grant was awarded under Efficiency Maine’s “community demonstration project” for renewable energy. Only $200,000 was available statewide, and the program was open to the entire University of Maine system, municipalities and public school systems and nonprofits.

“It was kind of a perfect fit for what we were thinking of doing, because it had a strong education component,” he said. And education, he said, is key to this project.

As proposed, the 40-panel array will offset the school’s entire fleet of laptops purchased under the Maine Laptop Initiative for seventh- and eighth-graders — some 300 machines in all.

“York Middle School students use their laptops every day,” wrote Hopkins in the grant proposal. “The laptops are a critical educational tool and intimately connected to (students’) life as a learner.”

Hopkins said the laptops are already very energy efficient, using about 15 watts of electricity an hour. Two solar panels the size of a piece of paper, he said, are enough to power one laptop for 20 years. The symbiosis of these two technologies forms a learning moment, he said.

“The idea is to connect this to curriculum, through science and math,” he said. Principal David Williams intends to incorporate more science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, concepts into the curriculum, said Hopkins, and saw the panels as a perfect tie-in.

“The science department sees the importance, and teachers see a ton of connections,” he said.

The grant proposal made clear that if York is successful, the program can be replicated in other parts of the state.

Hopkins said he spent hours on the application, sending it in with some trepidation. He was aware of the competitiveness, but he was also aware that the school had a very competitive proposal.

When he heard the news from Harding that they had been successful, he said he was gratified.

“It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. There were so many details. But I’m pleased with the way it came out,” he said.

The panels will likely be installed in July and an official “plug-in” ceremony will take place when students return.

Hopkins hopes that a plaque can be installed in the gym, honoring and thanking Raymond for her bright idea all those years ago.

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