On a gloomy winter’s day where sunlight is struggling to break through the clouds’ threshold, the last thing on most AHS students’ minds is the sun. However, for two AHS seniors Chelsea Hu and Kevin Zhao the sun was the basis for a semester-long internship project involving solar energy.

Kevin Zhao and Chelsea Hu, seniors, worked first semester to increase solar energy usage in Andover. (Photo by Steven Kimball)
Kevin Zhao and Chelsea Hu, seniors, worked first semester to increase solar energy usage in Andover. (Photo by Steven Kimball)

Hu and Zhao worked on a project tilted “Solarize Andover” through the recently established Environmental Sustainability Internship Course. Along with their mentor Anil Navkal, the two students worked on a proposal that was submitted to Rick Sullivan, the State Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs. The proposal was accepted and Andover was selected as one of eight communities state-wide that will receive funding for the project this year.

The state-wide initiative, known as Solarize Massachusetts, encourages communities to apply for funding that will allow for reduced-cost solar paneling. There are currently 29 communities statewide that received the designation, in addition to the eight communities from 2013. The program will permit residents to purchase solar panels for their homes at discounted prices. Discounts range from 5 to 25 percent off the price based on the amount of homeowners interested in the program. Navkal also noted that he is encouraging local banks to create financial packages for individuals looking to install the solar panels.

According to project organizer Navkal, “Andover only needs 40 people to get the full discount; however, I’m hoping for 200 installations.” Installation on the panels will begin in March, according to Navkal.

When interviewed, Navkal explained that the installer was still undetermined, but was to be confirmed soon.

In addition to helping submit the proposal, the two AHS students were responsible for identifying properties that receive maximal sunlight.

On a community level, Hu and Zhao were responsible for creating an informational website about the solarize campaign. The website included a survey that residents could take regarding their interest in solar energy. The site also included news about various other green projects throughout town.

Hu believes the project will have lasting implications on the Andover community. She explained, “Although not everyone in the town will get the solar panels installed, there will be a greater understanding of the importance of solar energy.”

Hu and Zhao presented their project along with others ESIC interns on January 17 at an event that was attended by many, including local environmental innovators and various town officials.