She is part of a group of students at East Chapel Hill High School who received a grant from Duke Energy in partnership with Raleigh-based nonprofit NC GreenPower to install solar panels at their school.
Many schools find it difficult to fund sustainable initiatives. Duke Energy alleviates the financial burden for students in up to 10 schools across North Carolina who are interested in installing solar panels at their schools.
Doherty’s initial interest in solar panels arose after attending a week-long program at UNC called the Climate Leadership and Energy Awareness Program — or Climate LEAP.
“It taught students about sustainability and how we as students can go into our community and help with sustainability,” Doherty said.
Doherty’s passion for the environment led her to other environmentally-conscious students at ECHHS. The group then contacted Dan Schnitzer, sustainability coordinator at Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.
“I knew that Carrboro High School had solar panels before and so we contacted Dan Schnitzer,” Doherty said. “We got a couple of other teachers involved and we wrote a grant with Duke Energy and figured out that we won.”
ECHHS sophomore Emily Liu also helped spearhead the application for a grant from Duke Energy.
“With the grant there will be a curriculum so people are able to learn about renewable energy,” Liu said.
ECHHS will be receiving a weather station, solar panel and monitoring equipment to determine how much energy is produced by the school.
“A timeline of when they will be installed has not been established,” Schnitzer said. “We have to get an engineer and a group of selected solar installers to assist with the installations.”
He said East Chapel Hill High has until the end of 2018 to decide where the solar panels will be installed.
Duke Energy spokesperson Randy Wheeless said working with NC GreenPower allows schools to pay for projects they otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford.
“We are targeting schools that may have shown some interest in the past but maybe the funding was not there,” Wheeless said. “It is an educational opportunity to help them learn more about how solar panels work and some of that power will help power the school as well.”
Schnitzer said it was necessary to create an energy audit of the building to understand how and where energy is consumed.
“Our goal is to bring awareness and education about alternative energy,” he said.
Schnitzer said he hopes the installations will help students think differently as they mature.
“When they graduate and move on to get good jobs, they are not just thinking about things in the same way but from a conservationist standpoint,” he said.