The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Friday December 9th

UNC students join organization to support solar energy


“The general overarching idea of Solar Head of State is to act as a catalyst of policy change regarding renewable energy, so we want to bring awareness to the viability of solar as an energy option,” said Rebecca Chaisson, a sophomore geography major and the spokesperson for Solar Head of State.

James Ellsmoor, a senior geography major, is the director of project development and is responsible for the logistical side of projects. Ellsmoor said about two-thirds of those working with Solar Head of State go to UNC.

Ellsmoor said the projects the group helps coordinate, including an upcoming installation in June, are primarily in the Caribbean.

“The reason we are working in the Caribbean is because it has some of the highest energy prices in the world,” Ellsmoor said. “In North Carolina you pay about nine cents per kilowatt, and in the Caribbean you can pay up to 50 cents.”

People in countries such as those in the Caribbean generally have low incomes, Ellsmoor said, which means solar energy is both economically and environmentally beneficial.

Chaisson said climate change factored into Solar Head of State’s mission.

“On a very broad scale, these islands are going to be the ones that are going to be initially, directly impacted by effects of climate change,” she said. “It’s not like these islands are big emission producers. They aren’t the ones causing these huge surges of greenhouse gases.”

Ellsmoor said in June, Solar Head of State will install solar panels on the head of state of Saint Lucia’s residence.

“Obviously, our UNC system isn’t going up there with a hammer and nails to install a system, but we help bring the logistics of all the different partners who have donated their services together and coordinate between all of those,” he said.

Chaisson said the hardware used to build the solar panels is donated by various companies, some of whom also have ties to UNC.

“Companies see a value in what we’re doing as a way of promoting their product, and so that means we can get in-kind donations,” she said.

Solar Head of State also receives support from Campus Y, which gave the group a Social Venture Incubator grant of $5,000.

First-year Erik Johnson said he got involved in Solar Head of State because of an interest in renewable energy and environmental-related initiatives. Johnson works on fundraising for the organization.

He said the organization goes beyond merely installing solar panels.

“Our panels are more symbolic,” he said. “Not only do we save government money, but we also help demonstrate a commitment to clean energy standards.”

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