Michael, students, and the IPS team at the Mounds View High School ribbon cutting.
Solar for Schools
Michael Cartwright, or Mr. Cartwright as his students know him, has been teaching physics at Mounds View High School for over 25 years. In the summer of 2014, he took a course for teachers at the University of Minnesota that focused on renewable energy and bioproducts. Michael chose to center his research during the course around the environmental and economic opportunities that solar power can provide.
That research led to a meeting with IPS Chief Development Officer Eric Pasi to discuss options for installing solar panels on Michael’s home. During their conversation, they bonded over their mutual appreciation of Hawaii and talked about some recent rooftop projects IPS had completed with the Chisago Lakes School District. After learning about the opportunities for schools through state legislation and Xcel Energy incentive programs, it seemed to Michael that solar was a great opportunity for Mounds View, economically and educationally.
Michael met with the district’s Assistant Superintendent to discuss solar’s feasibility. It was then brought to the Superintendent and eventually the School Board. After much consideration and research, Mounds View Schools applied for three school projects in a fairly competitive field of requests. This was through the Made in Minnesota program, which used a lottery system to provide incentives to over 1,400 projects in 50 counties to stimulate the growing solar industry. Eventually, after three years of the program, 13 of the school buildings had 40 kW solar arrays operating.
Michael’s fascination with solar didn’t end there. He wanted to utilize the rooftop panels to help teach his students about renewable energy. He leant his expertise to IPS and helped us create the Sunrise Program, even taking a sabbatical from teaching in order to give the program his full attention.
The Sunrise Program offers complete STEM programs designed to spark students’ curiosity and give them the tools they will ultimately need for success, offering schools three approaches. classroom presentations, fully developed STEM curricula and professional development – that can be mixed and matched to best serve each district. The program runs annual workshops for Minnesota educators, several of which Michael has led himself.
IPS and the Sunrise Program wouldn’t be the same if it weren’t for Michael’s enthusiasm and drive to educate future generations about the importance of solar energy. We’re grateful for his exceptional work, and are inspired by the impact he makes on students, schools, the community, and environment every day. Thank you!