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Empowering Students with Energy Education & SFPUC Career Awareness

Thank you notes from students of the Green Academy
  • Elisa Rodriguez Furey

This past November, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) staff from Distributed Energy Resources, Power Communications, and Policy and Government Affairs, visited students at Abraham Lincoln High School who participated in the school’s Green Academy. The team presented on SFPUC Power programs and initiatives such as CleanPowerSF, Hetch Hetchy Power, Our City. Our Power., in addition to providing the students with an explanation of how solar power works and an overview of internship and career opportunities at the SFPUC. And to cap off the day, students got a personal tour of the Sunset Solar Array. 

So, what is the Green Academy you ask? 

Started in 2010, the Green Academy was created to help students learn about the environment and climate issues, sustainable energy options, and impactful ways to mitigate climate change in San Francisco. Led by Valerie Ziegler, who was also named teacher of the year in 2010, the Green Academy is an educational training ground for students interested in a future career in clean energy, climate resilience, or environmental justice. 

Offered as an elective course for sophomores and juniors, students who participate in Green Academy become a “Green Ambassador,” which consists of understanding concepts of physics, engineering, design and green-clean technologies. From field trips across San Francisco to hands-on projects such as building wind farms, electric cars, solar ovens and so much more, this program teaches students about what a sustainable city (and country) looks like and how they can be part of solutions living in a climate-changed world. 

Full Circle Moment for Recent Green Ambassador and Now SFPUC Employee

Lincoln High School alumnus and recent Green Ambassador, Jennifer Olivero Reyes, who graduated in 2013 shared her experience from Green Academy and talked about how it influenced her educational choices and interest after graduation. Fast forward to 2023, Olivero Reyes is now a Policy Analyst for the SFPUC. 

Leading by example, she spoke with students about pathways to careers at the SFPUC. Students learned firsthand that a future in clean energy and sustainability is possible especially with the SFPUC through opportunities such as summer internships, like Project Pull, to help rising students gain valuable experience in the work of public utilities. 
The Sunset Solar Array 

To conclude the visit with Lincoln’s Green Academy, Chris Paras from Power’s Distributed Energy Resources team led a walking tour to the Solar Array at the Sunset Reservoir, which provides clean electricity for both Hetch Hetchy Power and CleanPowerSF customers in San Francisco. Touring the site, the students were able to connect what they learned in the classroom and see firsthand how it works to help keep the lights on for many customers, including their school. Students also used the tour to ask questions about solar arrays and how they produce clean energy. 

Here are some comments received from students from the Green Academy:
“It taught me about specific jobs and the different aspects of creating and managing solar energy.”  

“We learned details about solar energy not usually mentioned, such as the specific angle a solar panel must be set up to receive the most sunlight.” 

“The information shared at the Solar Array was helpful because I got to know more about how a portion of the neighborhood get their power and specifically how solar panels are designed to work.” 

Call To Action 

Engaging the next generation of climate change and clean energy leaders starts right here at home. Know teachers or schools that would benefit from a presentation and tour from SFPUC Power staff? Feel free to share this story and video with your network so they too can learn firsthand how San Francisco is committed to creating a clean energy future for all.