Gordy Hall, the newest of the Semester School’s six cabins, is host to eight students this semester: Matea, Sophie, Margot, Shannon, Grace, Tanner, Eleanor, and myself (Phoebe).
As well as being a wonderful place to live, Gordy is now “Off the Grid”. This means that we are no longer connected to the regional energy grid, and all of the electricity that we need to power Gordy is now generated on or within the cabin itself.
As you can see in the photos, Gordy Hall has a large set of solar panels on its roof. They capture energy from the sun, and convert it into electricity. Gordy doesn’t use this energy, as it goes to help power the nearby CEE, or Center for Environmental Education. The power we use comes from a much smaller set of solar panels on the side of the cabin. Inside Gordy, we also have a stationary bike that is attached to our batteries. Biking on it is a great way to stay fit and generate clean energy!
At the beginning of the semester, we were connected to the energy grid just like the other buildings on campus. A few weeks into the program, and once we had gotten used to all of the other wonderful (and time consuming) parts of our Chewonki life, we decided that we were ready to be off the grid. With the help of Laura Hartz, our Sustainability Fellow, and Tom Twist, the Head of the Sustainability Office, we learned how to disconnect Gordy from the grid, and how to store and use energy from Hubert – our store of batteries that was built several years ago. We also learned to navigate our monitor that keeps track of our energy storage and usage. Since we went off the grid, we’ve been much more aware of how much energy we use, and we’ve been conscious to use only the amount of energy we need. The light tubes in our roof also help us with this, because they provide enough light so that we do not have to use electricity during the day.
Being off the grid is an opportunity that few people in the United States will have the opportunity to experience, and a once in a lifetime experience for us, unless we decide to pursue this extent of green living later in our lives. It’s been a very exciting time for our cabin. For me, it has been particularly exciting and rewarding because of the environmental awareness I have gained in my Environmental Issues class, taught by Head of School Ann Carson. In the class, we’ve learned a lot about different energy sources, and their dangers and consequences. In Maine, 48% of electricity is generated from natural gas, 28% from oil, and the remaining 24% from hydropower and other sources. Both natural gas and oil are cleaner power sources than coal, which still provides more than half of our country’s energy, but gas and oil are still very carbon-intensive and contribute to climate change. One of my favorite things about Chewonki has been living in such a way that uses less of these destructive fuel sources!
-Phoebe, Concord Academy, MA