Back in 1972, when Londonderry High School was first built, renewable energy, efficiency, and carbon neutrality weren’t necessarily taken into account. Even to this day, 50 percent of the energy produced in New Hampshire is nuclear. Changing the way we use and produce energy is essential, and Londonderry High School’s senior class president, Jeff Cieslikowski, is helping his school to begin doing so with a small-scale solar array.
Last year, Cieslikowski was inspired by his AP Environmental Science teacher, Daniel Grant, to create a project that would take the first steps in making the school as energy efficient and carbon-neutral as possible. While students have the option to complete an official senior project, Cieslikowski felt that the school’s criteria for it was not exactly relevant to what he wanted to do. So, he chose instead to pursue his own project.
Last May, after speaking with Principal Jason Parent, it was recommended that Cieslikowski reach out to Buildings and Grounds Director, Chuck Zappala, for help with the project. A month later, Cieslikowski began reaching out to as many as 30 different solar companies in search of a donation of used solar panels. Only one gave him a call back, only to tell him that donating the panels would be impossible.
By December, Cieslikowski thought that he may have to change his idea and create a compost bin at the school instead. “This would have been fine,” he explained, “but it would have required a lot of maintenance and wouldn’t have given back to the community the way I wanted the project to.”
All while doing his best to make his project take off, Cieslikowski was busy applying to and being interviewed by colleges. During his interview with a Yale graduate student – where he will be attending in the fall as a physics major – he spoke about the project and his hope to have solar panels donated to the school. The student interviewing him happened to be a sustainability major, and had previously worked at Stonyfield. On a whim, the student reached out to Stonyfield, and the company offered to donate eight of their old panels to Cieslikowski; he was able to get them in March of this year after months of contract negotiation.
“We put the array on the building this week! Six of the eight are up now,” Cieslikowski said. “I’m also hoping to create a display case in the lobby that will show how much energy is being saved over time, as well as a few posters about sustainability and renewable energy.”
“It sounds childish, but one of my favorite quotes is from the Lorax: ‘Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not’,” Cieslikowski laughed. “You have to be willing to take the steps on your own to make a change.”
While only $500 will be saved by the school each year by using the panels, Cieslikowski explained that the project wasn’t about money: it was about starting a conversation. “While my portion of the project is coming to a close, I hope that other individuals will continue to talk and create similar projects,” he said. “This is the beginning of a new age of sustainability at the school.”
After working with Cieslikowski on this project, Zappala has nothing but good things to say about him. “In the 30 years that I’ve worked here, I’ve probably me thousands of students,” he said. “Jeff is so impressive, low-key, involved, and has just the best personality. We’re all very happy for him.”
Zappala was happy to see this project take off as well, as he had already commissioned a study with the school for more renewable energy in the past.
With the help one of the school’s maintenance employees, Bob Lees, electrician Brian Costigan, and Zappala, Cieslikowski was able to make his idea a reality. Although it’s a small-scale project for now, it will bring awareness to an important issue, and hopefully, it will evolve with advancements in technology in order to make the community a more efficient and sustainable place.