Reagan Middle School dedicates photovoltaic array

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11339788817577.jpg’, ‘Photo by Dr. Sonia Vogl’, ‘Dixon’s Reagan Middle School Student Council members and visitors wait to cut the ribbon at the photovoltaic system dedication ceremony at the school Dec. 1. Mayor John Burke is in the foreground with the students. Other visitors, including (left to right) Bob Romo, Paul Wallace, Mark Burger, Principal Bruce Williams and Illinois State Rep. Jerry Mitchell are in the back and middle rows.’);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-113397905111020.jpg’, ‘Photo by Dr. Sonia Vogl’, ‘Reagan Middle School’s 5.1 kW photovoltaic array was dedicated Dec. 1 in Dixon. Solar panels produce electricity even when covered by snow.’);

DIXON—Dignitaries and members of the Reagan Middle School Student Council in Dixon participated in the dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremonies for the school’s photovoltaic array Dec. 1. Principal Bruce Williams welcomed visitors. Woody Wasson, retired principal who initiated the solar project with us, returned for the ceremony.

George Riegle of Green Associates, construction services, said the project is not only important in terms of saving money, but even more so in its impact on students.

Mark Burger of Spire Solar Chicago, installer of the array, labeled the project “revolutionary.” Although the installation appears isolated, it is part of a green revolution; 200,000 buildings in the U.S. generate their own electricity, and 2 million use solar power for electricity, heat, and hot water. One of the buildings with a solar hot water system is Dixon’s Kreider Center. The system was installed last year by Solar Service of Niles. We remember our conversations with administrators regarding solar options for their center, and whether solar electricity or solar hot water would better meet their needs.

Paul Wallace, Environmental Program manager for Commonwealth Edison, informed the audience that Illinois has the fifth-largest concentration of solar electricity outside the sun belt. He voiced the hope that this project will help students learn to become better environmental managers. He and ComEd have supported renewable energy for many years, and consider education and awareness important components of any project.

The Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation (ICECF), funding organization for the project, has granted approximately $90 million to schools, park districts, and libraries for energy-saving projects. The ICECF was formed in 1999. Bob Romo, ICECF Program officer, quizzed students about renewable energy facts: How many public and private k-12 schools are in Illinois? (5,652); How many of those use solar energy? (six); how many schools have larger photovoltaic arrays than RMS’s 5.1 kilowatts? (one school in Peoria has 5.6 kilowatts). Dixon should be proud of its unique status.

Illinois State Rep. and former Dixon Superintendent of Schools Jerry Mitchell reminisced about Dixon’s dream of a new school, built when student council members were born. He felt the “solar photovoltaic array” on that school represents forward thinking in Dixon. By using an infinite, clean, free source of energy, the school is doing its part to help clean the atmosphere. An additional bonus is economic: money saved using that energy can be invested in continuing to improve education.

Dixon Mayor John Burke praised the school board for its progressive thinking and the message that the project sends to taxpayers: this is making the best, most efficient use of tax money.

Even though the solar panels were covered by snow, meters proved they were producing electricity. Mark Burger helped visitors read the meters.

Dixon Chamber of Commerce member John Thompson said privately that this part of Illinois is in a unique position in regard to energy with renewable energy, nuclear power, hydro power, and gas peaker plants nearby.

It was rewarding for us to remember that we had alerted Principal Wasson to the school grant program available through the ICECF and to observe how positively people responded to the project.

From the Dec. 7-13, 2005, issue

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