With a program deadline of July 28, more than 100 homes have had on-site evaluations for solar panel installation, and most of those homeowners have proposals in hand. Signed contracts are coming in — more than a dozen and counting.
The program numbers have been inspiring, but inspiration can come from unexpected sources, as CETF Chairman Scott Thompson and I discovered recently.
Rabab Hussain Syed, an Osborn Hill School mother, PTA member and solar energy advocate, approached us with the idea of visiting the school to speak to a group of students studying “City Engineering;” their projects examine ways to make Fairfield a better place to live, and many projects involve the environment and renewable energy.
My first reaction was, “Really? I have to meet these kids!” Scott (an environmental engineer himself) and I jumped at the chance, and I offered an enhancement: a field trip! My house, with solar panels on the roof and an electric car in the garage, is but a short walk from Osborn Hill; would the kids like to come see them? Rabab coordinated with us and David Hudspeth, a gifted resource teacher at Osborn Hill, to create the event.
On a sunny Wednesday morning, about 20 eager kids from third, fourth and fifth grades gathered in a classroom for Scott’s “Clean Energy” slide show. PowerPointpresentations were nothing new to them, nor, it seemed, was a lot of the information Scott reviewed on clean versus dirty energy, renewable energy, energy efficiency, and in particular, solar energy. They competed to answer questions Scott posed, and were not shy about asking questions themselves. We got a good sense of the company we were keeping when a third-grader raised her hand and said, “I don’t have a question but I have a comment,” and weighed in on the environmental impact of strip mining. I wondered if at home she curls up with Highlights magazine or Scientific American.
Scott wrapped up his talk with a mantra, “The cleanest energy is the energy you don’t use.” And then, it was off to my house down the street.
The kids were clearly energized by being outside, and bounced along like fillies and colts that got out of the corral. As we herded them along Stillson Road, I was thankful for the sidewalk that the town laid down a few years ago, making the trip to my house quick, safe — and non-polluting.
At my house, they admired the solar panels on the roof, and inspected the demonstration panel I borrowed from All Green it. A barrage of questions followed: “Wow, it’s bigger than I thought! (I thought so too!) How many do you have?” (32.) “How much does one cost?” (Um, I don’t know exactly … a few hundred dollars each.) “What’s your electric bill?” (Pretty much zero.) “Zero? Awesome!” (Agreed!)
The clever question, “What happens at night?” led me to explain that I’m still connected to the power company for nighttime, or when the panels are covered with snow, and that I send “extra” electricity from my solar panels back to the power company to make up for it. And that people can now get batteries that will store extra electricity to use at night or when there is a power outage. “Cool!” (Very!)
But the showstopper was my Volkswagen e-Golf. “There’s no tail pipe! “ (Nope.) “No pollution!” (Right!) “How far can you go?” (80 to 100 miles.) A savvy student observed that I couldn’t go on a long trip —which prompted me to tell them about the dozen charging stations around town and in lots of other places — especially the one in my garage. I showed them the charger plug where you would expect to find a gas cap. “How long does it take to charge up?” (Less then four hours if the battery is empty. I mostly charge overnight.)
The students returned to school and wrote reflections on the day. These two sum it up:
“Electric cars use clean energy. Solar power is a form of clean energy. It saves money and does not pollute the air.”
“I will take away the idea that if we work together, we can save the world from pollution.”
OK, kids, here’s my reflection: We were inspired and heartened by you, our future public officials, entrepreneurs, scientists, artists, and voters who will inherit our planet. You will demand clean energy solutions, but we need to hand you a planet that’s not beyond repair. The Solarize Fairfield campaign, therefore, is really for you.
Hey grownups! There has never been a better time to “go solar.” On Saturday, June 11, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., there are two open houses (3 Beacon View Drive and 923 Morehouse Highway); see a solar installation and talk with the owners. On Monday, June 13 at 7 p.m., you can attend a solar workshop at Black Rock Congregational Church, 3685 Black Rock Turnpike.
For inspiration, bring your kids! Also check out www.solarizect.com/fairfield.
Ron Blumenfeld is a Fairfield writer and retired pediatrician. His “As I See It” column appears periodically. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.