Kitchener, Ont.
Photovoltaic Man—student Alec Barrett—leads Rockway students in a cheer as the school’s fledgling solar power system was turned on last month.

Environmental superhero Photovoltaic Man and “Bob Dylan” made special appearances at Rockway Mennonite Collegiate last month as the school switched on its fledgling solar power system.

Echoing the “we can do it attitude” of joy and fun, the Jan. 15 celebration was chaired by Photovoltaic Man—mild-mannered student Alec Barnett—and featured teacher John Moyer doing his interpretation of Dylan’s ’60s classic “The Times They Are A Changin’, ” appropriately re-titled “The Climate Is A Changin’. ”

ARISE Technologies president and CEO Ian MacLellan (whose Cambridge, Ont., company built and installed the new photovoltaic system), student Rebekka Gondosch and Rockway principal Terry Schellenberg flipped the switch to have “first light,” a direct reference to the petroleum industry’s “first oil” from a new well. A prayer of blessing was brought by David Martin, executive minister of MC Eastern Canada.

Local federal, provincial and regional elected representatives and the executive team from ARISE Technologies attended the celebration.

Rolf Thiessen, the teacher in charge of the project and celebration, said that solar energy is part of caring for the creation God has given humans to steward. Conservation and renewable energy sources are part of “a reconciliation with the Creator and creation,” he said.

Rockway students raised $15,000 over three years to install the six solar panels on the southern exposure of their school building. These funds were matched by the Toronto Dominion Friends of the Environment Foundation, the Elora Centre for Environmental Excellence and the KW Community Foundation.

The installation is a small one, producing only one-kilowatt of electricity, but the school hopes to install more panels over time as students continue to raise funds for the project.

In the meantime, the current installation will form a significant teaching tool for the school. Plans are underway to have a public display to show students and visitors how much electricity the panels are producing at any given time. Such information can be used by physics and math classes, as well as environmental studies and religious classes.

The environmental project encompasses more than just the panels; a Youth Environment Summit, co-sponsored with Mennonite Central Committee Ontario, is planned for Feb. 29 at Rockway.
Dave Rogalsky, Eastern Canada Correspondent writing in the February 4, 2008 issue of the Canadian Mennonite.