Student Solar Panel Project Update

Here’s a very cool Sustainability Action Plan update from our one of our 2015 Sustaining the Amazon students, Aaron Feigelman from Benicia, CA. What a great example that a little hard work and determination can yield meaningful change:

After coming back from Ecuador, I did a bunch of research on solar projects proposed by teenagers, and I had a pretty hard time finding anything useful. I found an abundance of information about solar — how it works, the pros, the cons — and then researched my district’s renewable energy history. Turns out that several solar panel projects were proposed in the last couple of years, but fell through. The school board members were on board, but the superintendent wouldn’t approve it, so the idea was thrown out. 

About three weeks into my research, I finally had my first breakthrough. I found an article about a girl in San Ramon who did exactly what I was seeking to do. She proposed a solar panel project for her district as a junior, worked with her superintendent and board members, and eventually got a twenty-three million dollar project installed. Now, it took her around three years to actually get the project going–partially because it was during the recession and partially because schools take years to get anything to done, as I’ve already witnessed first-hand during my solar pursuit.

Julia Mason, the solar panel girl, wrote in her article that she and the district were at an impasse for over a year, as they couldn’t find sufficient funding for the project. She said that they were about to give up on the project entirely, but at the very last minute she found a non-profit organization called HELiOS ( that would help them find funding for the project. HELiOS is a non-profit organization in Berkeley devoted to helping public schools get solar. With the help of HELiOS, San Ramon Unified School District was able to use a Qualified School Construction Bond to fund the project. 

After reading about Julia and HELiOS, I contacted both of them. HELiOS responded and has since been assisting me with my project. Tom, the manager of HELiOS, and I have met several times. About a month and a half ago, I organized a meeting with my superintendent, facilities manager, bond manager, and HELiOS to get this project running. I’ve met with my superintendent twice and she’s shown some promising interest in the project. Lately, though, she hasn’t been responding to my emails, so I’m going to have to start getting more persistent. 

Recently, HELiOS finished making a solar master plan of the school district, which outlines possible areas for solar, potential roof/carport projects, and the financial implications of a solar project. I attached the solar plan, so you can take a look at it. It’s pretty impressive!

I’m pretty proud of all that I’ve accomplished in my project so far, even though nothing that significant has happened. My next goal is to reconnect HELiOs with my superintendent again, so we can actually start proposing a future project. 

I’ll update you with any big news in the future.

Thanks for the update, Aaron! Very exciting!!