University of Vermont

University Communications

Student Drive -- and All-Nighters -- Lit Way for Solar Panels

If the Clean Energy Fund is a student initiative first and foremost, the latest contribution the fund has made to campus, the rooftop solar panels at the Ellen A. Hardacre Equine Center at UVM’s Spear Street farm, came about through the unusual initiative of one student, Rachel Cadwallader-Staub, who graduated in 2010 and now works at Shelburne Farms.

“Rachel was in my Equus class on a Monday,” in the fall of 2009, said Josie Davis, associate dean at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and a lecturer in UVM’s Equine Studies Program.

“I raised the hypothetical question, ‘How could we make the equine center greener in a way that would have a lesser impact on the animals and maybe give back energy?’”

A student raised her hand and asked Davis is she knew about the Clean Energy Fund. The good news was that resources were available, the student said. The bad news was that applications were due that Sunday.

That didn’t scare off Cadwallader-Staub, who approached Davis after class.

“Isn’t it crazy that we have this enormous south-facing roof on the equine center, and there’s no solar panels?” she asked.  She decided to take on the Herculean task of writing an ambitious proposal, which required a great deal of technical information, from scratch in less than a week.

“She worked around the clock all week to finish the application and made the deadline,” said Davis, who was attending a conference and could only offer editing suggestions after hours.

“It started as a really crazy idea and a great dream,” Cadwallader-Staub said. “But if you don’t try, the answer is ‘no.’”