Written By: Thomas Sheffield

It is important for the United States to be a leader in the solar industry. Relying on clean, reliable energy like solar is essential to the health and well-being of communities.  When we use and support clean energy, we save money on healthcare. Essentially, we save the planet. 

Becoming a leader in using solar is not just a public policy issue, it is also a personal responsibility issue.  Whites Creek High School in Whites Creek, Tenn. is preparing students for the future.  The school is the host of the Academy of Alternative Energy, Sustainability and Logistics.  It is the only such Academy in the state of Tennessee.  There is a solar project happening that call for our support.  It is an example of forward thinking and how we should have our children prepared for the 21st century. 

The Whites Creek High School Solar project is intended to be an educational tool and pilot for what is possible for disparate communities in the green economy. The purpose of the project is two-fold:  First, we can employ economically disadvantaged communities of color in green jobs; specifically, solar energy, building photovoltaic systems for middle class and affluent communities.  Secondly, communities of color will be encouraged to engage in this economy if its leaders from their community. The project is led by a local entrepreneur Jason Carney.  Carney’s company, Energy Electives LLC, was started with this in mind. Community Solar was determined as the answer to the historical barriers of costs and roof space availability. 

The diversity of the Whites Creek community presented as the perfect test case community; especially because its high school already contained an Academy of Alternative Energy, Sustainability and Logistics. Carney introduced students to curriculum on the green economy, professionals in the industry and academia, and renewable energy projects around the city. Students were surveyed pre-and post-programming to determine their level of interest. 

During this process, Carney could secure a donation of 40 solar panels from the Brian D. Robertson Memorial Foundation, a commitment from a local installer to help with the installation, and engage the local community. Going forward they will need to further develop the curriculum and raise money to purchase the remaining components of the system. Carney started a GoFundMe page toward this effort.  Recently, the high school secured $20,000 that they intend to apply to this project.   

This project is an example of what can be done despite the attack being waged on its community.  There are friends, neighbors and students making positive things happen that will bring value. We are constantly reminded of what we don’t have and what “they” won’t let us have.  Let’s use what we do have to make a better future for our community. If you wish to show your support, you may donate here.

If the above inspired you and you wish to share your ideas, you may contact the author at thomsustainableconsulting@gmail.com