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SU, ESF group plans to install solar panels on main campus, worldwide

In the two years since its creation, a Syracuse University and SUNY-ESF environmental group has changed its name to expand its awareness and think of bigger and better goals.

Anna Ebers, State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry graduate student, is the founder of SunRaisers, formerly known as SunRazors. The organization consists of staff members and students from SU and ESF who work to bring solar energy to places around the world that are in desperate need of electricity.

Since changing its name, SunRaisers has added another project to its list of endeavors, new campaigns geared toward raising students’ awareness and an online fundraiser. The group decided to change its name because it received feedback that people were confused about the connection between the group’s function and its title, she said.

“When we thought of the original name, we thought of razors being sharp, edgy and modern like our members,” Ebers said. “But some people started thinking it was some sort of shaving company.”

Ebers said she wanted the name to reflect the fact that the group is a technology company that brings sun to underdeveloped countries.

She said the group will be making new video advertising projects and is thinking of starting a new crowdsourcing campaign on the website Indiegogo.

The group is looking to raise about $4,000 and plans to begin the campaign before Thanksgiving, she said. The money will go toward the cost of purchasing solar panels, making the videos and sending gifts to backers, which Ebers said will be handmade gifts from the Mexican village they built panels in.

She said the upfront cost of the solar panels is the most expensive factor. SunRaisers will be giving panels to 35 houses in Mexico and is still calculating how many they will give for its next project located in Puerto Rico.

Last year, SunRaisers held a two-mile run on the Quad to raise money for its project in Mexico, she said. This year, the group plans to do something “entirely different,” such as installing the first solar panel on main campus, Ebers said.

SunRaisers is hoping to install it at the College Place bus stop, where Ebers said it could later generate electricity and also serve educational purposes.

Along with Ebers, the project is led by the Rev. Gail Riina, the Lutheran chaplain at Hendricks Chapel, and a group of interns chosen every semester that are either participating for credit or simply dedicated to the cause, Ebers said.

The project has gained more recognition, creativity and productivity after being accepted into the Syracuse Student Sandbox, Riina said.

Riina said clean energy presents a cost effective, alternative energy source that also encourages economic development. She said it also has wide-ranging health benefits because it eliminates the fumes usually emitted from burning kerosene in houses, which can cause asthma.

The SunRaisers’ project not only runs out of Syracuse, but also has international partnerships with nonprofit organizations throughout the world, she said.

Though the groups are based in different areas of the world, all hope to help achieve the common goal of bringing solar energy to those who need it, Riina said.

Ezra Dike, a SunRaisers intern, said in an email he was drawn to the project because of its systematic approach to solving the energy problem at hand. He said the project isn’t just focused on fighting global warming, but also improving people’s lives.

Said Dike: “This project is about improving the quality of life of very rural, very poor, very kind, very cut-off people, who, in the words of habitat, just need a helping hand in order to break a cycle of poverty, not a hand out.”

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