ROCKPORT, Maine — Five students and two advisers from Camden Hills Regional High School will be flying to Sweden next week fueled by a wind power project that’s caught international attention.
The student group, known as the Windplanners, was selected as one of seven teams worldwide, and the only from the United States, to attend the Volvo Adventure Awards in Sweden.
“It’s definitely amazing to have the opportunity to not only represent your community, your school, your state and your country but to advocate for wind power and renewable energy,” said Camden Hills senior Eliot Grigo.
Grigo has been a member of Windplanners for four years, and his sister had been a member during her high school years.
In addition to competing in the international competition, the Windplanners were notified last week that they received 2012 Presidential Environmental Youth Award. That makes Camden Hills one of 10 schools to be recognized in the country by the Environmental Protection Agency.
Their science teacher Margo Murphy won the Presidential Innovation Award for Environmental Education.
“I’m so glad Margo and the school are getting the national recognition they deserve. Planning, funding and building a wind turbine is a challenging task for anyone, but with students as the driving force behind this project, the accomplishment is simply amazing,” U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, said in a written statement last week.
The Windplanners have worked for nine years to erect a wind turbine on school grounds. Other energy efficiency goals include making Camden Hills a carbon-neutral building, Murphy said.
This year students collected data from the turbine and worked on conserving energy throughout the school, she said. The 155-foot-high turbine, which is more than a year old, produces 10 percent of the school’s electricity. That’s expected to double in the future.
Students head to Sweden next week for the competition and on June 18 will make a brief panel presentation.
“They have to condense nine years worth of work into a five-minute presentation. This is a huge challenge,” Murphy said.
The challenge includes writing papers on the greatest environmental issues of the day, which will be presented to a United Nations panel.
They will compete against students from Fiji, Bulgaria, India, Peru, Turkey and the United Kingdom in Goteborg, Sweden. First prize is $10,000, second prize is $6,000 and third prize is $4,000. Expenses for the trip are paid by Volvo.
Through the years, the Windplanners have helped raise $500,000 for the turbine that the school owns and operates.
Camden Hills Principal Nick Ithomitis said he’s proud of Murphy and the school “for its leadership and dedication to understanding environmental needs and executing a plan to improve our footprint.”
To environmental leaders, the attention is well deserved.
“Bringing in renewable energy will improve overall efficiency and reduce energy costs in the school. I am impressed by the dedication and commitment it took to complete this project,” Curt Spalding, of the U.S. EPA’s New England office, stated in a news release.
Heading to Sweden will be Murphy, adviser Keith Rose, and students Maya Sosland, Anna Mynick, Kiera Haining, Eliot Grigo and Chelsea Hunter.