Gesu Catholic School and Environment Michigan Celebrate Student-led Solar Project

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Nathan Murphy

Detroit, MI – Today, Gesu Catholic School and Environment Michigan celebrated the student-led solar panel installation on the roof of the school gym. The solar array consists of 68 panels and could generate up to 24.8 kilowatts of clean, renewable energy. The solar array is expected to reduce Gesu’s electric bill by 20% per month on average in future utility bills. Funding for this effort was provided by UAW-Ford National Programs Center through a capital improvement grant and by a grant won through the My Solar School Contest. The panels were installed this summer.

“Last week people from around the globe gathered in San Francisco at the Global Climate Action Summit to highlight local action to combat climate change and protect public health. This project is a great example of how people right here in our communities are taking action every day and showing the world we’re part of the future,” said Nathan Murphy, State Director of Environment Michigan. “Our Renewables on the Rise report documents the rapid growth in renewables around America in the last decade thanks in part to projects like this,” continued Murphy.

The Gesu Solar Club, a group of engaged Gesu students interested in solar energy, advocated for the project to school administrators and worked to apply to the My Solar School Contest. Working together with school leadership, the students created a winning proposal that laid the foundation for the project.

“The idea of solar power came to us as a way not only to help improve our school, but our community as well. So, we began research on why adding solar energy to the building would be a benefit.” – Seth Kirk, 7th grader at Gesu.

“One important reason is that solar energy reduces pollution. Due to the burning of fossil fuels, harmful gases are released into the air. We discovered that air pollution is the third-leading

cause of asthma. Twenty-seven percent of Detroiters have asthma, and four of the 10 members of our Solar Club have asthma.” – Rehema Klueg, 8th grader at Gesu. The student experiences and learning during the advocacy for and development of the project created an exceptional educational experience where students gained knowledge in grant seeking, advocacy, and solar energy as well as other related issues.

“I especially appreciate this project because of all it has taught our students. Being a part of the contest and seeing their project become a reality is a life lesson,” said Gesu principal, Christa Laurin.

The solar array installed on the gymnasium roof of the 94-year-old building demonstrates the flexibility and potential for these projects for existing buildings, including older buildings. The clean energy provided by the panels results in less fossil fuels burned. Solar panels are part of the solution for improving the air quality in the metro-Detroit area.