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The Winsor School’s Planet Protectors Reach for the Sun

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Winsor climate activists, leaders from the student-led environmental club Planet Protectors, led an informative assembly and ribbon-cutting ceremony on November 3, 2022, following the success of their 3.5-year journey to install more than 300 solar panels on the roof of the Lubin-O’Donnell Center at The Winsor School. 

Aoife Beswick ’24 and Skylar Goldstein ’24 kicked off the assembly, presenting to the community about the solar panel installation story and journey. This idea has been long in the making, beginning with club members presenting the initial concept to school administrators in the fall of 2019, obtaining approval from the board of trustees, and progressing to the solar panel installation in March of this year, and, finally, arriving at the date when the solar panels were turned on and connected in August 2022. Over the course of the project, students toured Winsor’s electrical room and the roof of the Lubin-O’Donnell Center (LOC) where the panels would eventually be installed, and met with Director of Facilities and Construction John Crompton, representatives from Resonant Energy, and partners at KW Management. 

The solar panel system will account for 33 percent of Winsor’s energy needs and save approximately $1 million over the 25-year lifetime of the system. The energy produced by Winsor’s system will save the environmental equivalent of 150 acres of forest annually. 

The project recap concluded with a panoramic video with spectacular drone footage of the solar panels on the roof of the LOC. 

Following the presentation, Emeline Daley ’24 and Charlotte Wheler ’27 led the audience in a fun and interactive Kahoot game to test their knowledge of the information that was just presented. Ms. Pelmas then came to the stage to moderate a panel discussion with panelists Nika Bigelow ’25, Lauren Folker ’26, Emeline Daley ’24, Skylar Goldstein ’24, Project Manager at Resonant Energy Mr. Greg Coppola, VP of Outreach and Sales and Co-founder at Resonant Energy Ms. Madeleine Barr, and English Faculty and Planet Protectors’ Advisor Ms. Laura Beebe.

Ms. Pelmas started by asking the student panelists what advice they would give to other students who are proposing new ideas. 

“Have the confidence that you can make a big change in the community,” advised Nika Bigelow ’25. “We had very responsive teachers and the Board of Trustees. Find the community who will support you.”  

Continuing to encourage younger students with big ideas, Lauren Folker ’26 reminded the audience, “Age doesn’t matter. Even though all of us are in Upper School now, we were all Lower School students when this started.” 

Ms. Pelmas asked the panelists to talk about something that surprised them and the horizon of learning. 

“It’s such a long process, understanding the process, permits, pandemic holdups, and site visits. It’s not just an advocacy movement, we witnessed a lot of cool meetings and learned a lot about how complicated the process was,” recalled Skylar Goldstein ’24.

“We hadn’t had a project that was student-led before,” Ms. Barr at Resonant Energy said. “It was exciting to see how the project could be driven by the students and to think about that precedent for future projects.”

Ms. Pelmas turned the question over to Ms. Beebe, asking what advice she would give to other advisors. “It’s important for adults to remember that the best thing you can do is get out of the way and let students do the work,” said Ms. Beebe. “They had the enthusiasm, the intelligence, and each other,” she stated, remarking on the club members. 

Nika Bigelow ’25 said she hopes this is the starting point for many projects to come, saying “We want to be the most environmentally friendly school that we can. These projects take a long time, maybe you will have some ideas, think big, and hopefully there will be more projects to come and that starts with you,” directly addressing the younger students in the room.

The Planet Protectors are now supporting their peers at other schools in the Boston area who want to install solar panels. “We’re seeking more clients,” said Skylar Goldstein ’24. Inspired by the leadership demonstrated by the Winsor team, Resonant Energy developed “Students for Solar,” a campaign designed to help other student groups, teachers, and faculty in Massachusetts bring solar to their schools.

For other schools, it’s important first to consider, “Can our building support solar panels?” said Lauren Folker ’26. Winsor’s academic building, with its slanted roof, was too old to support the heavy panels, but the LOC with its flat roof was perfect for the project.

Finally, there was a ribbon-cutting ceremony on the stage.

Resonant Energy presented each of the Planet Protectors involved in the project with a gift; a copy of All We Can Save, an anthology of writings by 60 women at the forefront of climate work, edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katherine K. Wilkinson. 

The Winsor community can expect to see a monitoring station installed in the LOC lobby later this year. The station will include an interactive display, which will allow users to find production charts, current power output, current weather, and see individual panel production to learn more about what’s happening on the roof. 

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