GREEN HOUSE INHABITANTS HOST SEA CLIFF STUDENTS
Sea Cliff residents Karen Lannig and Peter Vollmer welcomed the entire Sea Cliff third grade into their Hawthorne Road home this last Monday afternoon, and an additional two dozen more students and their parents later in the day, to offer a lesson in the environmental and financial rewards to green living. The field trip was organized by the Sea Cliff Elementary School Joint Parent/Teacher Green Committee as a part of the third grade global issues curriculum of which environmentalism is a key component.
The Vollmers outfitted their house with 42 solar panels a decade ago, and have used the energy generated not only to provide electricity to their home, but also to run their car and and power their yard tools.
The cost of the installation was $8,000, Mr. Vollmer explained, and during that time his family has saved about $14,000 in home electricity costs.
When asked by trip organizer and parent Sherry Login, "What happens if you produce too much electricity?" Mr. Vollmer responded that it goes into the power grid, and that "sometimes the power company sends you a check." He said he believed his neighbor, who converted to solar soon after he had, had received payments from PSEG, but that his usage, with grown children living at home, is higher, and as a result, has not so far gotten such a check.
Mr. Vollmer, an attorney by trade, demonstrated the skills of a veteran teacher, eliciting responses from the students using a variety of prompts. Showing a commercial for a Nissan Leaf electric car, he asked the students "Why do you think the polar bear is hugging the man?" "He's not creating pollution like the truck," a student responded. Mr. Vollmer explained that the commercial inspired him to buy a Leaf. "It's important to know where the electricity comes from. We wanted to figure out a way to have this car run on sunshine," he said.
He then asked the students if they knew what a hybrid was - showing a picture of his puggle - a pug-beagle mix. He explained that his family's second car is a Prius, which he figures, since he purchased it, has saved the atmosphere 50,000 pounds worth of carbon dioxide pollution and $9,000 in fuel costs compared to the mini-van he had previously owned. "The polar bear might give me a hug for this one."
The only drawback to having the solar panels, Mr. Vollmer said, was that occasionally the squirrels got at the wires, but that newer installations have taken that into account, by putting the wires in a hard casing. He added that solar panels can't be used on all homes. The right southern exposure is needed, he explained.
As the trip neared its conclusion, Mr. Vollmer offered a suggestion to the children. "Perhaps, all of you could get together with all of you classmates and write a letter to Dr. Melnick asking the school district to start using solar panels," he urged.
"We're talking right now with a solar and geothermal firm," interjected School Board Trustee Sara Jones, who attended the trip along with her son, Ely, a second grader. "But if would be great if we all heard from you."
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