It was on Vancouver Island that a principal of a tiny school in a small town discovered a huge secret. False Bay School, on Lasqueti Island, with only two classrooms and thirty students, was being run on solar power, even during the dark and rainy fall months. The town itself is completely off the electrical grid, which has forced all 450 residents to embrace the solar power revolution.
Previously run on fuel, the switch to solar energy has saved the school nearly $25,000 per year. And the principal, Reid Wilson, wholeheartedly believes that the technology will advance enough in the next decade that the school will be completely self-sustaining. He now realizes the opportunities alternative energy presents. His own home is powered mostly by a water turbine on his neighbor’s pond during the winter months and solar during the summer.
Teaching Students About Living Off the Grid
While some schools find going off the grid more convenient, others actually offer courses in it. The Mountain School in Vermont is one of them. They don’t just study living life away from the industrial complex, but allows high school students to live on an actual organic farm for a whole term. While keeping up with a normal course load, they must also learn the basics of organic survival.
From chopping wood and taking care of animals to growing their own food, these students are required to get down and dirty as they study forestry and agriculture. The students and teachers live in tiny houses on the property. Perhaps the most challenging part is the lack of internet access. Talk about getting a real taste living off the grid!
Serving a Greater Need
As amazing as it is for solar energy to save taxpayers thousands of dollars on a school’s energy costs, there’s an entirely different side to this story we don’t often think about. We are privileged enough to live in a society where we can take electricity use for granted. Saving a few extra bucks and cutting down on pollution is a great way to remain progressive, but there are still more than a billion people who live in non-electrified villages all over the world.
According to GivePower Foundation President Hayes Barnard, there are still 1.3 billion people who live without electricity. That translates to 291 million kids who go to schools without any form of electricity at all. In poor, impoverished countries like Haiti, Uganda, Nigeria, Mali, and Ghana, GivePower has claimed to have powered over 1500 schools with a simple solar panel stationed on the roof for every two classrooms.
Other companies, like GRID alternatives, has a program where they go into off-grid towns in places like Nepal to help power schools, clinics, homes, and farms to help drastically improve their quality of life.
Where it seems as if those in the western culture are looking for ways to get off the grid, solar technology in more disadvantaged parts of the world will help them catch up to the rest of us by providing badly needed resources, especially when it comes to education.
While the CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, works hard to connect the world by providing internet access to these same impoverished nations, combined with solar energy to power tools like computers, the opportunities for education and growth are endless. And according to Barnard, these opportunities are expanding rapidly.
“We’re growing our company by 500 employees every month and competing for talent against Google and other tech companies. Our employees would rather go to Nepal to be part of an earthquake relief effort or go to Malawi, Haiti or Ghana to install solar than go to a resort.”