Project Independence solar PV system at Chisago Lakes Middle School: Reflecting on first 2 years

Project Independence is a 44-panel solar panel array at the Chisago Lakes Middle School in Lindstrom, MN. The project received large support from the community as well as major grants from the State of Minnesota and the Metro Clean Energy Resource Team (CERT), but science teacher Pat Collins would tell you that his students really took ownership in making it happen.

Collins initiated the project when he was looking for a way to both save on energy costs to the district and to have a tool to demonstrate sustainability in his life-sciences classes. Check out a live update of power generated from the installation in the video below!

Read a CERTs case study to learn more about the project >>

Tom Niemisto the Video Production Specialist with Minnesota 2020. He is a recent graduate of St. Olaf College with a degree in music and media studies. Tom attended the Media Institute for Social Change and has taught a radio documentary course focusing on issues of social change and public policy in the Twin Cities. See Tom’s original post on the Hindsight Blog.

Testimonial from Chisago Lakes Middle School about their work with CERTs

A Hope Grant for Project Independence

Project Independence was a quest to put a 10kw solar photovoltaic system on Chisago Lakes Middle school. These 44 panels were to be fully funded by students and staff with no cost to the school. We began the process in 2008 when the world economy fell apart so our project began against great odds. Trying to raise $73,000 at a time like that was going to be difficult. We knew, however, that this project was so worth doing and would teach kids so many lessons about life, persistence and the importance of working through difficulties to make sacrifices to make the world a better place.

Our project had many ups and downs. It seemed like at our darkest moment, when it looked as if all our hard work might just not be enough, CERTs came to the rescue with a $5,000 SEED grant. I think the name SEED is appropriate for the name of the grant but for us it was a HOPE grant. The grant and the encouragement we received from CERTs came just at the most critical juncture and renewed us to continue the fight for something we believed in. The funding gave us leverage to seek out other groups that could help us since obviously others had less faith in what we were trying to accomplish. We had been told by funding sources who didn’t believe we had a chance to pull this off, to “come back when you get closer to your financial goals”. The CERTs funding allowed us to say “we’re back…” and to help us make Project Independence a reality.

CERTs is a wonderful organization of like minded people with the expertise to help you make dreams realities. The students at CLMS will walk underneath our gleaming panels for many years as they enter and leave our building. Hopefully these students will leave our building changed and will be part of the generation that makes solar energy mainstream and oil and gas the alternative energy sources.

– Pat Collins
Science Teacher | Chisago Lakes Middle School

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