Krissy Taft, a Spring 2009 Island School alumna, is in her final semester at Middlebury College and has been very focused on senior thesis, which concerns the efficient use of the solar panels located in Middlebury’s own solar panel field. We got in touch with Krissy to hear more about her impressive project and how she is truly being a leader effecting change.
“I am a physics major, and I’ve added my own focus in environmental studies. One of my favorite physics professors has been in charge of getting our field of solar panels working. I’m really interested in renewable energy, so I asked him if I could work with him this fall. One of the biggest issues with solar panels, second to their high cost, is that they are not very efficient at converting solar energy into electricity, so my professor and past students have been working to make our panels as efficient as possible.
Our system has a capacity of 140kW and consists of 34 solar trackers located in a field right behind our science center. Solar trackers can pivot around their posts, as well as adjust the angle of the solar panel. This allows us to point the panels exactly where we want to. On really sunny days, our computer system tells the panels to point directly where the sun is because that alignment allows them convert solar radiation into electricity most efficiently. Past physics theses have focused on this task of alignment on really sunny days. My project is actually looking at how our solar panels perform on cloudy days. When it is cloudy, light from the sun is scattered everywhere instead of coming down in direct rays. Our panels still point to where the sun is on cloudy days, but this might not be the most efficient alignment due to the fact that almost all the light coming from the sun is scattered at different angles.
My goal is to use data we’ve been collecting over the past two years to figure out how we should align our panels on cloudy days so that they operate with the highest efficiency. Hopefully whatever I find can be incorporated into the algorithms that tell our panels what to do every day!”
Congratulations to Krissy on her final semester at Middlebury and best of luck completing your senior thesis!
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Fall 2013 alumna Krissy Truesdale had an impressive resume even before she attended The Island School this year, having started her own charity, Solar for Our Superheroes. Since returning home after her semester ended in December, Krissy has been keeping herself very busy and making huge strides with her growing non-profit. We heard from Krissy earlier this week who gave us a complete run-down on the project, from how it all began to where the project stands now:
The thinking began something like this: I felt responsible to do something, anything, about climate change, and began looking at the world with eyes on the prowl for ideas. During this “brainstorming” period, I went on a family vacation to Texas, and when flying home, I noticed each of the cookie cut homes below me extending for miles and miles. In each home I imagined my family; my sister playing XBox downstairs, my mom cooking in the kitchen, me reading a book in my room under the lamplight. I imagined a little puff of CO2 popping up over each home and forming a massive cloud engulfing the neighborhood. Being miles high in the sky, I played God, and pretended to plop solar panels on each home one by one, making the cloud grow smaller and smaller until there was just a gaping, growing hole in the expanse. The image stuck with me and the idea to get solar panels to people was born.
Deciding who to give solar panels to was pretty easy. I have always had profound respect for those who dedicate their lives to serving others. My Grampy was a big factor for this. He was a firefighter, the fire house cook, an electrician, plumber, and father. Saving lives didn’t pay very well, hence the other jobs he took on, but he still found a way and was an example of selflessness I hope to replicate. I also have many other family members in service, and my sister hopes to join a branch of the military when she gets older. Therefore I aimed the project at helping local “superheroes”, specifically veterans, teachers, firefighters, and police officers. The idea was to have neighbors recognize and get to know their heroes, save them some money, and promote renewable energy, which then would have myriad effects like promoting energy independence, cleaner communities, and of course, carbon reduction. Our community leaders could also be leaders in renewable energy. After running the idea by a number of people in the field, it turns out all kinds of people from different backgrounds were respected as leaders. For that reason, the decision was passed on to the communities. The areas that are the most active fundraising and spreading the word are also the neighborhoods who get to decide who to recognize. We still focus on the categories, but are no longer limited to them.
In the past few months, we have made a number of strides. We are officially incorporated in the state of Massachusetts under Honoring Our Mother Earth Inc., and Solar for Our Superheroes is our first project. We are nearly finished with the 501c3 paperwork to become an official charity, and we have had a lawyer helping us for free which as been a huge blessing. We’ve also set the goal at raising $10,000 by the end of the summer, and we are getting there through many means. Recently, by chocolate bar and lemonade stand sales, but we have a larger concert fundraiser in the works for the end of the summer. Our fundraisers are always looking for ways to get people involved and get to know each other, as a big part of what we do is recognizing our neighbors. We have hit roughly $200 of that goal so far so we still have a ways to go for sure, but I just got out of school and will be giving it my all this summer! We have been recruiting volunteers to help with various aspects on nonprofit work and have found a few people very committed to helping over the summer. We also just found help with some marketing and a logo designer. We have coverage with our local Coffee News, and will be having our own newsletter coming out this summer! Everything from the legal to the organizational to the actual raising money is just taking off and really gaining momentum. I look forward to the process! If you want to learn more about Solar For Our Superheroes and our fundraising efforts, visit the Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/solar4heroes.
I also recently gave a TEDx talk at Central Catholic High School in Lawrence, MA about starting a nonprofit. It was certainly the highlight of my spring! Public speaking gives me such a thrill! Between being the first to go on stage and being the only female (and teenage) at the event, I was nervous, but it went really well!
The future looks bright and I look forward to experimenting with fundraising and learning the best methods to Solar to our Superheroes. Personally, I look forward to learning, failing a few times, and getting closer to making my favorite corner of the world a cleaner, greener, and more friendly place.
Congratulations Krissy on all of your hard work and accomplishments! We cannot wait to hear of your future successes with Solar for Our Superheroes–and beyond!
After six straight years of perseverance, Fall 2004 alum, Dustin Kloempken has finally succeeded in getting six small solar panels installed at his high school! Ever since Dustin returned from his semester at The Island School in 2004, he has been trying to get his school, Hopkins High School in Minnesota, to consider more eco-friendly practices, like using solar panels. This feat is just the beginning of what Dustin hopes is a long line of sustainable efforts at Hopkins High School and the surrounding areas. It is this determination and execution of The Island School’s mission of “leadership effecting change” that we like to see in our alumni after they leave campus. You can read more about the process Dustin went through to get the solar panels here! Congratulations, Dustin!