Nate Alisago and Luke Moore, two juniors at SLVHS, took initiative last May when they had an opportunity to do a solar project for their AP Environmental Science class, persevering through money difficulties and a lack of support from the school.
When they first started the project, the students were planning a large-scale operation that consisted of putting solar panels on most of the roofs around school. This was shut down almost immediately due to the cost, and so was an idea of putting a solar awning out in the parking lot – exactly like the ones at Aptos High School. Finally, the boys ended up deciding on a very small version of their original idea: a solar charging station. “The school wasn’t able to pay for anything larger,” Nate said. So with money from the Alisago family’s own pocket, some very generous donations from Jane Orbuch, and a few parts from Land and Sea Solar, the boys felt determined to finish this project.
Their design, a two outlet, one solar panel charging station is meant for students to charge their phones and possibly even their computers. It was placed at one of the tables at the senior lawn, and if it remains in the same condition, the station will be permanent.
Before they even thought about building this project, they had to design the electrical and mechanical parts. These calculations included how much voltage was needed to actually charge the devices and how much voltage the panel produced. Once the planning was finished, they started building at Moore’s house. Moore’s grandpa, Mike Moore, was extremely helpful in building and designing the schematics of the project. Through intense labor and building, they finally managed to put everything together and their project was finished.
On September 3rd, 2016 the design was installed by the boys and the SLV Maintenance Director, Erik Slaughter. Although they had a few repairs to attend to, the charging station is now fully operational and available for use by SLVHS students.
Luke and Nate both hope that this project will motivate the school to start encouraging more sustainable energy projects like theirs. In past years, SLVHS has been reluctant towards these projects because of the added cost and labor to already expensive maintenance around the school. When they were still hopeful to build a large-scale solar project, Luke and Nate were directed by Jane Orbuch to visit David Grant, who has been an advocate of other solar projects in previous years. This was exciting for the boys, and expecting full support, they went into their meeting with high hopes. Unfortunately, Mr. Grant told them that they would have to tame their big ideas down a bit. He told them about his experience with large-scale energy projects with the school, and how the added cost alone would put off most of the administrators. Taking this advice into account, the boys decided on the less expensive idea.
When asked about the school’s inactivity towards big solar projects, Luke said, “The school said they didn’t want anything that they had to maintain, like solar panels on the roofs, and any large-scale projects.” Nate then explained that “Every couple of years or so, the school re-roofs, and having large solar panels would have been too expensive. Adding solar panels would have added over 2 million dollars to the re-roofing bill.”
The school has its reasons for not wanting anything done on the roofs, but does this mean that SLVHS will never see any renewable energy projects in the future? When asked this question, Nate responded saying, “Even with the new administration, they still don’t seem inclined to do any large-scale energy project any time soon.”
By Aiden Le Roux