Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy

To ignite and nurture creative, ethical, scientific minds that advance the human condition.

IMSA Gets Energized by Alternative Energy

Last year with the seed funding from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation (ICECF), IMSA embarked on a journey that has led to the installation of two solar panels on IMSA’s campus, the addition of summer programs centered around energy explorations and the development of the IMSA Energy Center, a collaboration of staff and students that work together to design and implement explorations in energy.

The tracking solar panel outside IMSA’s main entrance (east side) funded by ICECF and ComEd is the first of many we hope will offset IMSA’s energy costs and energy footprint.  Branson Lawrence, Director of the IMSA Energy Center, said this solar panel is state of the art. “The large 1kw solar panel project was initiated through the generous grant of ICECF.  The panel is a state of the art high efficiency 6 - 167kw photovoltaic cells," Lawrence said.  "The unique features for the cell that help IMSA harness more of the sun's rays are the inverters mounted on each cell. This allows us to convert from DC to AC electricity at the panel rather than in the building," he said.  "The other important feature is the photo cell tracking. This increases our power yield by more than 30%.”

Not only is IMSA interested in offsetting our energy footprint, it is our charge to work with younger learners across Illinois.  In response to that charge, IMSA hosted two Energy@IMSA summer programs this past summer (one in Aurora and one in Edwardsville with SIUe). The impact on those younger learners was positive with some commenting, “it was fun learning about how to be greener." 

Other projects that have sprung up in the last year are the stationary solar panel outside of IMSA’s west entrance (which feeds a solar laptop charging station) and the Energy House, a traveling alternative energy house designed and being built by IMSA staff, students and parents (funded by a grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity) that will educate younger audiences about alternative energy.  In addition, IMSA has begun student explorations of alternative fuels such as biodiesel and ethanol and will be doing a feasibility study of harvesting geothermal energy here on the IMSA campus.

"We see this as the beginning and look forward to working with our students, staff and our community partners to expand our explorations of alternative energy here at the Aurora IMSA campus as well as throughout Illinois,” Lawrence said.

By IMSA Executive Director for Professional Field Services Michelle Kolar

Supporters of the IMSA Energy Center include:

BP A+ for Energy, Briggs & Stratton, ComEd, an Exelon Company, Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, James Hardie Inc., Lemelson-MIT InvenTeam Grant, Solar Power Foundation and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

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