Students Announce the GISS Solar Scholarship

Keenan Nowak and Sky Losier stood in front of an audience of 200 people at the recent Salt Spring and Gulf Islands Renewable Energy Conference and announced the official launch of the GISS Solar Scholarship project.

“Because we are grade 12 students and graduating this year, Sky reported, the Solar Scholarship won’t benefit us directly. But it will benefit lots of students who follow us year after year, and we really think it will be good for the community.”

Keenan agreed, explaining how an installation of 20 kilowatts of solar panels on the high school gym will generate over 20 megawatt hours of power into the grid each year.

“That’s enough to run an electric car for 140,000 kilometers.” he said. “It’s also about $2000 or more in electricity that the School District will save each year. The neat thing is, the District Administration and Board have agreed to put the net savings into a scholarship fund for students at the high school.”

The idea for this “Solar Scholarship” was dreamed up by Kjel Liem and David Denning, members of a group of 12 renewable energy enthusiasts called the Salt Spring Community Energy Group.
Last December the Community Energy Group formed a partnership with School District 64 Board and Administration to collaboratively create the infrastructure for the GISS Solar Scholarship Project, based on community donations and grant funding.

The total project will include the 20 kilowatt solar installation, the infrastructure to tie it safely into the grid, a monitoring system to allow students in all the schools and members of the public to follow the hourly collection of solar energy by the system, electric vehicle charging capacity for the district, and an expansion of renewable energy education throughout the district.
“It’s really important for young people in our community to see positive solutions to climate change issues” reported Keenan Nowak.

Sky Losier noted that plans for disbursing the scholarship include both academic students and students interested in trades training for sustainable technologies. “The system will provide money for at least 25 to 30 years, and the value will keep going up as BCHydro increases electricity rates.”

“We urge everyone in our community to support this creative plan to help students work on the difficult challenges of the future.” With their fellow students in the GISS Environment Club, Keenan and Sky will continue to help the Community Energy Group raise about $60,000 in personal donations for the project.

Kjell Liem reports that donations to the Project go directly into the Gulf Islands Educational Trust Fund, with donations of $50 or more receiving a charitable tax receipt. For more information, and to download donation/pledge forms, visit


By David Denning

I am a film-maker, photographer, naturalist, and science educator who has lived on Salt Spring Island for 17 years. My hobbies include kayaking, mountaineering, gardening and other forms of goofing around. My partner, Deborah Miller, and I are active with the Salt Spring Island Conservancy.

April 10, 2014 7:52 AM