Danville High hosts showcase on energy savings
DANVILLE – This year, Danville High School GLOBAL House students have been learning about renewable-energy sources with the help of a six-panel solar array that was installed on the school.
On Wednesday, students and staff held the first Sun Festival to showcase some of the things they've been learning about, and to dedicate the solar array to a district employee who has received statewide recognition for his energy-conservation efforts throughout the district.
Last year GLOBAL House staff chose renewable energy as the house's first "thematic unit of research-based learning," meaning the global issue would be used help teach the math, English, science and social studies curriculum throughout this school year.
Soon after, they partnered with Illiana Power Corp. to secure a $10,000 grant from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation to purchase the solar array and a computer software monitoring program. Illiana Power also assisted the school and foundation in installing the equipment and provided teachers with a year-long solar energy curriculum.
The solar array was mounted on a southwest wall of the high school in August. Since then, students and staff, even community members, have been able to get output data at Illiana Power's website or the district's website.
Chemistry teacher Rebecca Anderson, who spearheaded the festival, said the solar panels are helping to achieve the house's mission, which is to equip students with "the tools needed to thrive as world citizens who proudly and responsibly contribute to the global and local community.
"As we learn about how to build a solar panel, how it saves us money, how to read data online and how to use alternative energy sources, we help our students become world citizens who care about our environment, who learn to be fiscally responsible, and who take pride in our community," Anderson said a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the array.
At the ceremony, students and staff said it was only fitting to dedicate the array to Jack Harrier, the high school's head custodian, who has served as the district's energy specialist for four years.
"So far, Mr. Harrier has saved the district $1.436 million" in energy costs, said senior Courtney Meeks, who introduced Harrier. She added that's the equivalent of 88 million BTUs or 267 trees. "He accomplished this by going around the school at night and making sure all computers, lights and televisions were turned off. He left notes to the teachers reminding them to turn (things) off to conserve energy."
Through Harrier's efforts, 11 of the district's 13 buildings have earned the Energy Star rating, Meeks said. She also said that when the first school, Danville High, earned the designation in 2008, fewer than 1,000 schools in the nation that had.
Wearing a District 118 ball cap and shirt embroidered with his nickname, "Cutback," Harrier rode a lift up to the solar array and cut a green ribbon that had been tied to it.
"This means more to me than the governor's award," he said of the recognition. Earlier this year, Harrier was one of 20 people from across Illinois to win the state's Environment Hero award for their energy-conservation efforts. Gov. Pat Quinn presented him and the other recipients with a plaque at a ceremony in April. The plaque, along with Harrier's picture, now hangs in the Danville school board meeting room.
Assistant Principal Rowdy Fatheree, the GLOBAL House administrator, thanked Illiana Power and Harrier. He added Harrier has been a valuable asset in many ways from helping with the Lights of Learning drive, in which students raised money by selling energy-efficient light bulbs, to being a good example.
"He's been a perfect fit," Fatheree said. "The efforts we're trying to do, he's been doing for years."