UNE student group’s work culminates with unveiling of Camp Ketcha’s solar panels

UNE’s solar ambassadors celebrate the ribbon cutting with representatives from Revision Energy, Camp Ketcha and RE-volv. L-R: Le
UNE’s solar ambassadors celebrate the ribbon cutting with representatives from Revision Energy, Camp Ketcha and RE-volv. L-R: Leah Soloway; Heather Baron; Hannah Buckley; Johanna Sorrell, commercial design specialist at Revision Energy; Tom Doherty, executive director of Camp Ketcha; Emily Murad, Hanna Sihler, Remy Watts, and Andreas Karelas, executive director of RE-volv.

February 06, 2018

Andreas Karelas of RE-volv and UNE Associate Professor Noah Perlut
Andreas Karelas of RE-volv and UNE Associate Professor Noah Perlut

On January 27, Camp Ketcha, a Scarborough non-profit serving the southern Maine community with programs in youth development, family enrichment and summer day camping, held a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the commissioning of its newly installed solar panels—an addition to the facility that was made possible, in part, by the efforts of a University of New England undergraduate student group.

The students, guided by Associate Professor Noah Perlut, Ph.D., of UNE’s Department of Environmental Studies, and spearheaded by student-lead Hanna Sihler, a junior double-majoring in oceanography and biophysics, composed a Solar Ambassador team that worked with the non-profit RE-volv to raise more than $35,000 for the panels. RE-volv, which empowers people to use crowdfunding to finance community-based solar projects, will maintain ownership of the panels for the first 20 years. During this time, it guarantees that Camp Ketcha will see at least a 15 percent reduction in energy costs. Camp officials predict that the threshold will be met, as they anticipate that approximately 98 percent of the camp’s electricity will be generated by the solar array. At the end of the 20-year period, the panels will become the property of the camp, which can then benefit from the free energy produced by the panels on an indefinite basis.

According to Sihler, the solar panels will “increase the ecological and financial sustainability of Camp Ketcha, enable children and community members to see hands-on the power of solar and renewable energy and will hopefully inspire them to continue with the growth of renewable energy.”  With the project now having come to fruition, she stated her hope that it will encourage the emergence of other community endeavors that work towards sustainability. “It sets an example for other community-based projects that renewable energy is attainable and feasible now,” she noted.

To get started in this endeavor, Sihler and fellow “solar ambassadors” attended a weeklong training, provided by RE-volv, in San Francisco in the summer of 2016. There they learned about RE-volv’s mission, solar policy and finance, community building, campaign strategy and leadership management. “RE-volv not only helps with the technical aspect of the project but also with what it takes to be a good leader based on one’s personality,” Sihler explained. “I found out so much about myself … and what I need to do to be a successful leader.”

To raise the needed funds, the student group created a fundraising video, held various fundraiser events and maintained a Facebook page as well as a website to accept donations.

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