Wayzata students pitch solar to school board

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A small group of Wayzata senior high school students didn’t let the pandemic keep them from trying to persuade the Wayzata School Board to invest in solar.

One of the district’s high school social studies teachers, Peter McKown also runs the district’s Compass Program, which is an experiential career studies program for “highly motivated juniors and seniors.” McKown has been developing relationships across the clean energy sector, including with Clean Energy Economy MN. He even brought a group of his students to Clean Energy Business Day at the Capitol this past March. As part of the Compass Program, McKown introduced his class of four seniors to Andy Stahlman, Director of Sales at CEEM-member IPS Solar

The Sunrise Program

For more than a decade, IPS Solar has been teaching Minnesota students about solar at K-12 schools, colleges and universities. Stahlman describes how the educational program came to be.

“After a few years, we began to get questions from school administrators and teachers about how they could incorporate solar energy into their classroom. We embraced the opportunity to educate the next generation of energy leaders and created the Sunrise Program,” Stahlman says. 

The Sunrise Program is dedicated to developing innovative and engaging educational content about solar energy. IPS Solar offers schools complete STEM programs designed to spark students’ curiosity and give them the tools they will ultimately need for success. The Sunrise Program offers schools classroom presentations, fully developed STEM curricula and educator workshops that can be mixed and matched to best serve each community.

Giving back 

As a former graduate of Wayzata High School, Stahlman embraced the opportunity to mentor and teach students in McKown’s Compass class. He said he structured the lessons to teach students about the financial, educational and environmental benefits of solar, and assisted them in their pitch to help educate decision makers at the district.

Financial, education and environmental benefits

From benefits like no upfront costs, to policy lessons about how the Minnesota legislature and the federal government can incentivize solar, to teaching students about how his employer IPS Solar has assisted other school districts, Stahlman helped educate the students about the myriad benefits solar can offer consumers and government entities like school districts. 

The students recently presented their pitch to the school board and shared how that experience went with Stahlman. CEEM listened to the presentation. The students shared how they used the need for a new roof to position their argument as a way for the district to minimize costs and maximize savings. They shared the following about their experience: 

Inspiring a new generation

“My experience with IPS Solar enabled me to realize that solar energy isn’t just something that the most forward thinking and ambitious can adopt,” said Wayzata High School senior Aviral Asthana. “From seeing solar panels on other buildings and being confused about the entire world of solar, working with IPS Solar I was able to recognize the ease of adopting solar and the educational, economic, and environmental benefits that come with it. I will always promote solar options to businesses moving forward because of the real possibilities IPS Solar helped me see.”

“I am extremely grateful for the opportunities that the COMPASS class has afforded me. Being able to become this involved with a company that is as committed to the future of renewable energy as IPS Solar has been truly inspiring. I wouldn’t trade it for the world,” said Wayzata High School senior Brendan Bloom.

“Working with IPS Solar has been a great experience. I believe the company’s mission in leading the momentum of clean energy while positively impacting their clients is amazing. The opportunity has allowed me to leave a lasting impact on the Wayzata School District and I can’t wait to see what the future holds,” said Wayzata High School senior Avery Lash.

“This year working with IPS Solar I felt so much purpose and meaning in the work we did as a group, this project could leave a massive impact on the Wayzata School District, and I felt that purpose throughout every minute of this project, I’m very excited to see what the school district decides,” said Wayzata High School senior Blane McLaughlin.

Teaching why solar makes sense

Stahlman says it’s been a really positive experience for him to give back to his home school district. “In my five years developing solar projects, the common theme is that each project starts by educating the customer. Most people have never purchased solar before, and need to learn everything from how it works, to what the business case looks like. In working with students, it’s rewarding to see them truly understand which situations make sense for considering solar. The more we can normalize the concept of adding solar as a prudent business decision, the better. The group did a fantastic job presenting useful information to the school board, and I enjoyed my time working with them,” he said. 

Stahlman and the students say the Wayzata School Board was very receptive to the presentation and committed to evaluate solar for each of their buildings that have planned roof replacements in the next two years.