Students empowered by solar project

Students at Hunting Hills High School have harnessed the power of the sun to become the first school in Red Deer to install solar panels.

Students at Hunting Hills High School have harnessed the power of the sun to become the first school in Red Deer to install solar panels.

Taking a cue from Lacombe Composite High School a couple of years ago, Adam Milner, Hunting Hills High School teacher and one of the faculty leaders of the environment club, said they wanted to make the school the first in Red Deer to have solar panels.

“They (students) wanted to have a bit more of a legacy for when they graduated,” said Milner. “We thought wouldn’t it be cool to have the first solar panels for a high school in Red Deer.”

But to install the solar panels, they first had to raise about $25,000. Milner said the students put together a presentation to show local businesses.

“We want the students to lead in our club,” said Milner. “So we guided them in putting together a presentation to go around to some of the businesses in town.”

Nova Chemicals donated $10,000 and Berry Architecture donated $5,000. Other funding came from family with connections to the club, as well as students’ fundraising initiatives such as bottle drives and working the concession sales at school football games.

Milner also said the experience of giving presentations to area businesses was invaluable for some students.

“It really gave them good exposure for themselves, particularly the Grade 12s,” said Milner.

“When you’re going around to businesses in town giving presentations in their boardrooms, there are some good skills going on there.”

The club also received a $5,000 grant from the World Wildlife Fund.

“They (students) really bought in, we had some great leadership within the club itself,” said Milner.

Installation of the 17 solar panels, which generate the five kWh of photovoltaic solar energy, took place over the summer. Now that the panels are installed, the club has a goal of raising more money to expand the current system to 7.05 kWh.

That size of a system would take 7.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide out of the air, which is equivalent to what 1.4 cars would produce in a year. The club will need to raise about $20,000 more to purchase and install the additional panels.

“It’s an educational tool and an awareness thing for the kids,” said Milner.

“The power created is pretty minimal, but at the same time it creates some good discussion to have, particularly in the science classes.”

Even though a few of the students who were behind the fundraising effort that first brought the panels to the school have graduated, Milner said the legacy will be there for them to remember.

“When we first started the club, the reality was we didn’t have a lot of students,” said Milner.

“We thought ‘Let’s try to take on something bigger and attract more students.’

“I would say it has created a lot of discussion.”

Outside of the environment club, the solar panels have become a conversation starter as they are visible from a landing at the school.

The club will hold an open house on Nov. 1 to showcase the solar panels from 4:15 to 5 p.m.

For more information, call Milner at the school, 403-342-6655.

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