Academics / Community

Saving the planet, one solar panel at a time

Over Spring Break 2016, 32 new solar panels were installed on the southern side of the Shipley Center, thanks to previous Dana Hall students.

In Dr. John Doll’s Current Topics in Life Science class in the 2013-­14 school year, he asked students to do a year-long project studying how science connects to society and shapes our world. Fourteen of his students decided that they would research solar power, and wanted to bring it to Dana. Only two years later, in March of 2016, their research and proposal came true, as the company Sun Bug installed solar panels on the Shipley Center.

“During [the students’] work, they investigated the solar installation at Wellesley College’s athletic fields, and spoke extensively with the Sustainability Coordinator at Wellesley,” says Dr. Doll about his students’ work. “They then interviewed multiple solar energy companies and worked with their engineers to assess and decide upon potential sites for the solar panels around the Dana campus. Finally the students presented their proposal to the school administration and The Board of Trustees. When money came available due to a gift from the class of 2016 parents, the panels became a reality.”

While the solar panels are large, they are very unobtrusive, and tend to go unnoticed by many of the students. “I think adding solar power to Dana was a great idea, and I actually didn’t even notice it until you just asked me about it” says Mia Walsh­-Serpico ‘17. “It’s great to know that I go to a school that cares a lot about the environment and is able to get solar panels, and they are something I’ve always wanted to try.”

Adding solar panels is just one of the school’s larger environmental pushes this year, including expanded recycling and composting.

Solar power converts the light from the sun into energy because the particles of light hitting the solar panels are knocking electrons free from atoms, which generates a flow of electricity, causing photovoltaic cells to be produced. Many schools in the Wellesley area, including Wellesley College, have started using solar panels as a way to get electricity. Some schools and home owners are wary when it comes to the idea of solar energy because they believe that they can only be used when the sun is shining. This is not the case, however, as the solar panels actually store up on the energy they are getting from the sun, and use it when it’s dark or cloudy outside. Solar panels at Dana seem to be doing well, and it will be interesting to see if more are installed in other parts of the school during the upcoming years.