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EECS Solar Array Celebrated

On Sept. 12, students from Casco Bay High School and East End Community School and supporters celebrated the completion of the new SolaRISE Lean-To on the East End campus. The solar lean-to, which will not only help EECS save on electricity costs but will serve to help educate students about solar energy, is a project spearheaded by SolaRISE Portland, a collaboration of students, teachers, and residents advocating for solar energy to power Portland’s schools.

Casco Principal Derek Pierce said that the lean-to “is an awesome symbol of the students' work to help Portland move towards its goal of carbon neutrality as well as a fun educational resource.”

Pierce provided the following background on the project:

SolaRISE began as a small group of Casco Bay High School students, researching the possibility of installing solar panels on Casco Bay High School’s roof. This idea quickly transformed into a much larger plan: to solarize all of Portland’s schools.

The students developed an organization, SolaRISE Portland, and partnered with other Portland students, teachers and city officials, as well as the Sierra Club’s Climate Action Team and ReVision Energy to craft a proposal to share with the city.

In May 2019, SolaRISE Portland led a march of hundreds of youth and adults through the streets of Portland. Elementary, middle, and high school students spoke about solar energy and its benefits for Portland’s community and the environment. Through a combination of corporate sponsorships, grants, fundraisers, and donations, the group raised over $25,000. They dedicated a portion of the funds to finance a feasibility study about offsite solar arrays. They spent months attending School Board and City Council meetings and coordinating with students and teachers across the district to develop a plan of action. It worked!

Student and community advocacy helped motivate the school district and City to join the CES Maine Distributed Generation Consortium initiative. That’s a collection of Maine companies, organizations and institutions aiming to combat climate change and maximize cost-savings through large solar and small-scale hydro projects. The City of Portland makes up 9.5% of the Consortium projects, and the resulting solar arrays will offset over 23,000 MWh of electricity annually or 75% of the City’s electrical load (school buildings plus municipal buildings). The Consortium brings Portland one giant step closer to its goal of being carbon neutral by 2040.

SolaRISE believes Portland’s city and school facilities should reflect the community’s values and be a teaching tool for sustainability and environmental stewardship. Consequently, SolaRISE Portland financed the construction of the 12-panel demonstration solar array lean-to on the EECS campus, which was installed this past June. This array will generate an estimated 4,282 kWh of electricity every year and save East End Community School nearly $700 annually (based on 2022 rates). SolaRISE hopes this demonstration array inspires future students to continue Portland and the world’s transition towards a green and sustainable future.

The Solar Lean-To project was completed thanks to a grant from the Robert J. Trulaske, Jr. Family Foundation. This grant has also enabled SolaRISE to support a new training program that is a collaboration between PATHS, Portland Adult Education and several Maine solar companies which will prepare workers for jobs in the solar industry.