Okemos High School Goes Solar

Given that the fastest-growing job in the U.S. between 2012 and 2016 was solar photovoltaic installer, and that 2016’s fastest growing job was wind energy technician, today’s students must be prepared to be the future leaders of our clean energy economy.

The Ecology Center and its partners recently assisted a student-driven team in Okemos, MI to develop a 20kW solar photovoltaic project at Okemos High School. The “Okemos Schools Energy Initiative” began in 2015 with the vision and initiative of a class of 2016 student and co-president of the high school’s Earth Club. Over the course of a year the senior helped launch an Okemos Public Schools (OPS) initiative with the following goals:

  • To be a leader in sustainability, while providing Michigan schools with a successful model for energy efficiency and renewable energy impact;
  • To reduce climate change by increasing energy efficiency, renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions;
  • To save money, enabling OPS to address other critical funding needs of students and programming; and
  • To spread awareness of renewable energy and energy efficiency, while increasing learning opportunities at Okemos High School.

The initiative has led to a number of exciting clean energy projects at OPS, including the rooftop solar array. In fact, OPS is one of the first K-12 schools in the state to consider creating a green revolving fund as a district policy. Green revolving funds establish an internal source of money from which “loans” are made within a district to specific energy savings projects. The energy savings created through these building system upgrades are returned to the initial account from which they originated, allowing the account to make additional project loans, growing over time.

Over the years, we have found that students can be incredible clean energy advocates and powerful voices within their communities. We believe assisting and empowering students to participate in clean energy project development and implementation can result in increasing energy literacy, raising awareness and reducing greenhouse gas emissions within school districts.

The Michigan Renewable Schools Program provides technical energy assistance and financing guidance to K-12 students, staff, and school community representatives. Our experience and resources support K-12 facility efforts to save money, reduce operating expenses, and improve classroom environments.

Published on September 26, 2017