It would be tough to find a group of Maine high school students more dedicated to alternative energy.
A student group known as Windplanners at Camden Hills Regional High School is the driving force behind significant renewable energy projects at the school.
It started with a wind turbine.
Starting in 2004, the students gathered site data, researched wind feasibility, worked with town officials to change local ordinances, attended and testified at PUC hearings, and ultimately helped raise $500,000 to purchase and install a Northwind 100kw turbine.
The 155-foot-tall wind turbine started generating electricity in 2012. A new group of students, inspired, kept going.
“Dependency on foreign supplies of fossil fuels jeopardizes our economic and political safety,” the students wrote on their club webpage. “Current global warming is linked to human activity …. We have to do something about it now! Increasing renewable energy sources on campus is an action we students can take to make a difference now!”
A solar panel program was next, and this summer, 588 solar panels were installed on the school roof. Students also were the impetus for changing all the school lights to low-energy light-emitting diodes, or LEDs.
The next project is creating an energy-monitoring system, to mesh their activism and energy-saving goals with data that can be used in the classroom.
“We’re doing our best,” said senior Aidan Acosta, who joined the Windplanners as a freshman.
Watching the group grow, and accomplish so much, in that time, has been inspiring, he said.
“Every year, this club is growing. Every year it is taking on more and more initiatives and there are more and more students,” Acosta said. The Windplanners club has grown to about 50 students. “The group is really effective and it’s getting a lot of stuff done. It’s really cool.”
Working with Windplanners, he said, also showed him a small group can make a big difference.
“We can still make this change even though our government isn’t necessarily supporting it,” he said, adding that other New England states have done more than Maine to support alternative energy. “When you have a lot of community members to make this change, you don’t need the support of the state government.”
Acosta said the experience is influencing not only his career path, but where he will go to college next year.
“One of the primary things I’m looking for is a place that embraces renewable energy and embraces change. I’m looking for a college working toward being carbon neutral,” said Acosta, who plans to study engineering and environmental sciences.
“It has shaped what I’m looking for in my future.”