What the Truck? Repower Our Schools

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I spotted this truck near Area 15 on May 18. It’s a head-turner for sure, thanks to the dogwood  flowers and Repower Our Schools logo emblazoned on the side, not to mention its 11.5-foot-tall solar array.

What you need to know: The truck is called the Rolling Sunlight and belongs to Greenpeace. Its engine burns biodiesel, but its panels use the sun to make enough electricity for a modern home.

Where it’s been: Over the past two months, the truck has been on an educational tour, spreading awareness about solar technology and popping solar-powered popcorn for students.

Hanna Mitchell of Charlotte Greenpeace drives the truck and presents the campaign at schools in the Charlotte area.

She said she loves the reactions she gets while she drives: “I get a lot of honking and pointing. It’s a one-of-a-kind vehicle.”

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The basics of the Repower Our Schools campaign:

(1) What they want: The Repower coalition is working with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools toward 100 percent renewable energy use throughout the school system. Their main focus is rooftop solar systems.

(2) The community climate: Michael Zytkow of Charlotte Greenpeace said the CMS board, teachers, parents and students are all interested in the campaign. Right now, Repower and CMS are researching what solar would cost.

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3. Solar is growing: One study found the cost of solar installations fell by 50 percent between 2010 and 2014.

In addition there’s a financial tool, called “third-party financing,” that could help schools take on solar. 

The third party is a private company that owns the solar panels and sells the energy to the school. These providers claim hefty tax incentives that schools can’t and the providers tend to installation and maintenance.

4. Costs & Savings: It’s not known what CMS would save with solar. Third-party sales are not legal in North Carolina, although Repower is pushing to change that.

The Repower coalition and CMS are focusing on a similar solution called “rooftop leasing” instead.

5. Who is behind the Repower campaign: The Repower Our Schools coalition is made up of more than 30 organizations and two political supporters.

Much of the planning for the local campaign is done by the Charlotte Greenpeace office. Moms Clean Air Force, Clean Air Carolina, Medical Advocates for Healthy Air, Carolina Climate Action and city council at-large candidate Shawn Greeson were present at the January meeting I attended for the campaign.

BONUS POINTS! Find the truck, take a picture and tweet it to @Charlotte_Five.


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Chris Sirico rides bikes, slings coffee and tells stories. He’s an amateur radio producer and co-founder of Charlotte Storytellers. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisSirico.

 

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