MAHS solar energy efforts commendable

As fuel prices rise across the globe, many are looking at renewable energy sources with a renewed focus.

However, renewable energy sources like solar and wind power have benefits far beyond the pocketbook.

One great example of this is taking place in Marquette Township at the at Marquette Alternative High School, which is planning to install a rooftop solar energy system. The idea is based on an array of potential benefits, including education, hands-on career preparation, sustainability and energy savings.

The Marquette Township Planning Commission on Wednesday unanimously approved a special-use permit for the installation of the system, and Jason McCarthy, township planning and zoning administrator, said the township supports renewable solar energy in all its zoning districts.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for the community, a great opportunity for the township to promote the alternative high school and their endeavors,” McCarthy said.

MAHS teacher Brian Prill, who is involved in the project, had indicated the solar panels should not have any foreseeable effect upon emergency services, sanitary sewers or traffic volumes, McCarthy said.

However, it would have a profound effect on the educational system so students can analyze how energy is produced and the costs of production.

“They’re looking to put in a 20-kilowatt system that allows the school to supplement their energy and move toward sustainability with education as it will also serve as an educational purpose where students can analyze the cost versus the benefits of solar energy with real-time data,” McCarthy said.

We believe this project will provide invaluable real-world experience for students, especially those who are preparing for further education and careers in the renewable energy sector. And those careers are out there, as the Clean Jobs America 2021 report indicates that “clean energy remains the biggest job creator across America’s energy sector, employing nearly three times as many workers as work in fossil fuel extraction and generation.” The report further states that median hourly wages for clean energy jobs also are about 25% higher than the national median wage, meaning that this hands-on experience for students could pay off greatly in their futures.

Prill said the system would start as a supplemental provider of energy to the school.

“Hopefully, if it’s cost-effective, we’ll grow the system and make it bigger,” he said.

Prill said the Marquette Area Public Schools Board of Education will have to approve financing for the system, which has a price tag of $65,000. Should that funding not be approved, grants can be sought.

While this price tag is hefty, it’s likely to pay dividends — financially and educational — for years to come. Students will have hands-on experience that can translate to well-paying careers and organizers expect the system will pay for itself within 12 years. Plus, the MAHS project could even serve as a blueprint for installing additional renewable energy systems throughout the district.

This is a key move toward carbon neutrality, a stated goal of entities such as the city of Marquette, Northern Michigan University and the state of Michigan. We commend officials at MAHS and Marquette Township for this forward-thinking plan and will look forward to seeing the impacts of the system once it is implemented.

— The Mining Journal, Marquette


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