When Meters Spin Backwards

Thoughts from Abbie Weeks and Jeff Boyce

-Abbie Weeks-

Today we put up the last of the solar panels on Mr. Conquering Bear’s house and finished a project that began as soon as I returned from Uganda last summer.

I can’t help but smile remembering the moment the solar panels were live and began to generate electricity. All of the team was gathered around the meter and, as miraculously as working against gravity, it spun backwards; energy was going back into the grid.

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Often times, environmental conservation works feels just like that: like working against gravity: as if pursuing sustainability means pushing back at some unstoppable force of economics or some inevitable path for our planet.

But this solar installation on Pine Ridge is another piece of evidence that the protection of our planet and the prosperity of our species are simultaneously attainable. Solar works. Renewable energy is a realistic solution.

This trip to Pine Ridge was full of not only incredible memories and people, but of a sense of community and purpose. Late night campfires and games of Frisbee strengthened friendships and created utter joy. Meetings with the Pine Ridge Housing Authority, lessons from the Solar Corps team at Grid Alternatives, and stories from local tribal members, strengthened my sense of purpose, and created profound awe.

I have graduated high school, and the EcoAction chapter at Cherry Creek High School will be passed on to new student leadership. Yet the experiences I have had working with communities towards affordable and sustainable energy are already writing the next years of my life. How lucky am I to have met so many kindred souls, to have traveled across the world and the United States, and to have the support of my community in this incredible adventure. I want to thank Jeff Boyce: teacher, mentor, and incredible human being for his undying support of my dreams. He helped me make so many of them come true.

There is always a finality to the closing of one chapter and the beginning of the next, but I have no doubt that EcoAction and you, reader, will defy gravity and continue to fulfill our responsibility to our planet and each other. We need action and activists now more than ever.

Best of luck, and my immense gratitude to each and every person I have met so far on this journey.

All my love,

Abbie Weeks

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-Jeff Boyce-

I became an environmental scientist because I care about this beautiful planet that we share. I became a teacher because it is future generations that will need to solve the problems that we collectively face.

The PV install in Pine Ridge was complete when the net electricity meter slowed down and reversed direction. This was the moment that the 3 roof arrays consisting of 21 individual panels came online and began producing more electricity than the home was consuming.

This installation of this 7.2 kW system marks a decrease in the amount of carbon dioxide that is released by the combustion of fossil fuels to generate electricity. This system will generate approximately 15,000 kWh of electricity per year. The Nebraska Power Association generates electricity for Pine Ridge and uses coal for almost 65% of that electricity. A single kWh of electricity from coal releases 1.2 pounds of carbon dioxide. This install represents a decrease of just less than 20,000 pounds of carbon dioxide each year.

This is real change. We don’t to need to wait for people in Washington to legislate change, we need to educate people and change how we approach our consumptive lifestyles.

I want to thank Grid Alternatives for allowing us to partner with them. This trip changed the lives of my students and opened my eyes to the power of learning outside the classroom. The folks at Grid went out of their way to educate, to engage and empower my students each and every day. They are true “Solar Warriors”!

IMG_1091Riley Weeks and Abbie Weeks Sending up the last of the solar panels_MG_1704

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Robin, Abbie, and Lina

 

Nyaka’s One By One Fundraiser on August 12th at 5pm

One-By-One logo

Abbie Weeks and Lauren McMillen will share stories and observations of their recent journey to fundraise for, deliver and install solar panels for the Nyaka Vocational and Secondary School during this evening’s fundraiser for Nyaka in Vail, Colorado.

EcologicalAction club sponsor Jeff Boyce will also be honored!

Tickets may be purchased here.

“Saving Lives One by One.”

At the airport… (Abbie Weeks)

No journey is completed in isolation. To think that one person can change the world without help is sheer folly.  This morning demonstrated that.   We arrived at the airport with 3 boxes containing 6 330-watt solar panels , 2 boxes of racking materials (used to mount the solar panels) and 5 duffel bags containing inverters, charge controllers, tools , wires and the kitchen sink.  Total weight….800 pounds of checked baggage. Over weight, over sized and the folks at United Airlines took care of everything!  Special thanks to Holly, Patty and Jerry Martinez who is the ramp supervisor.   He made sure the solar panels would fit through the doors of the plane and said that he would personally load them. Like I said, journeys like this don’t happen in isolation!

Next stop? TSA. These folks have been getting a lot of bad press of late, but the crew at DIA went above and beyond today.  The boxes that the panels are in are too big too be scanned and had to examined by hand. These folks opened the boxes and made sure they were safe. They were so excited about our trip and really helped make what could have been a challenge a great interaction!

On the plane and off to Washington D.C. for a short layover and then on to Brussels!   I have some anxiety about the solar panels making the connection with us, but we have built in some extra hours in Belgium so they can catch up to us if we miss them. I will keep you posted!

How did EcologicalAction come to be? (Jeff Boyce)

EcologicalAction began because of the commitment of one individual to making the world a better and more sustainable place. That young person is Abbie Weeks. She wanted to start  an after school environmental club because our school cafeteria used styrofoam trays. I taught Abbie how to calculate the cost of the styrofoam trays and then compare those costs with the initial cost of the plastic trays and the cost of cleaning the trays on a daily basis. It turns out (as is often the case) that the plastic trays were the less expensive option in less than a year. (You can look at our calculations here if you are interested.) After a presentation to the principal and the cafeteria manager, the decision was made and our school now uses plastic trays!

So what next?

After that initial success, we decided to embrace that old environmental adage… Think Locally, Act Globally.  Enter into the picture Mr. Jackson Kaguri and the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project (NAOP).  Jackson is one of the most inspirational individuals that I have ever met. And it turns out that an ecologicalAction founding member, Lauren McMillen, felt the same way. Lauren has been fundraising for NAOP since she was in the 7th grade. When I told her that I wanted to install solar panels at Nyaka, she was ON IT.

So here we are…

Abbie, her mother Amy, an amazing science teacher and Lauren, are leaving on Monday (6/6) with the Boyces (Jeff & Amy) for Nyaka. The bags are packed. We have 6 pv-panels that are 330-watts. We will be installing almost 2kW of capacity in a week. We have inverters. We have charge controllers. We have power disconnects. We are going to buy batteries in Kampala on Friday (6/10). We leave Kampala on Saturday and will begin the install on Sunday.

So what about you?

We have been fundraising for almost 8 months and while much of our costs are covered, there is still so much to do! If you feel compelled to give, please give. Here is the link to our fundraising platform. Thank you for taking the time to read about our trip. Thank you for caring!

Cheers!

Jeff Boyce