Facing the future: Toby Thorpe ventures out from Huonville High. Photo: Peter Hannam Toby Thorpe, shares the stage with Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi (left) and Nursultan Nazarbayev, President of Kazakhstan. Photo: Supplied
It’s not every day an n high school student from gets to share a stage with Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince, Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed and the President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev – and walks away with a $US100,000 ($132,000) prize.
But for 15 year-old Toby Thorpe, this week’s award ceremony in Abu Dhabi was merely the end of the beginning for a two-year plan to spur interest in renewable energy and energy savings among students and his local community south-west of Hobart.
”It’s been a long time coming … now we can actually put our plan into action,” Mr Thorpe said. “It’s quite exciting.”
So far, about 20 students have helped design and install a pellet mill, bio digester, a bicycle-powered mobile cinema, and started work on a greenhouse made from 2500 recycled bottles.
The main venture, though, will now proceed with the funding from the Zayed Future Energy Prize. That venture will transform a decrepit former dental clinic at the school into a six-star energy rated training site on campus.
“It will be a research centre for students and an example for community members and other schools to learn what we’re doing so they can take it back and do it themselves,” Mr Thorpe said.
Those other schools may include fellow finalists for the Oceania category of the prize scooped by Huonville.
“[It’s] a lighthouse school for the region,” Geoff Williamson, the school’s principal said. “We’re already having conversations with Samoans and the Fijians – a lot of their projects are similar.”
And for Mr Thorpe, the adventure may be just beginning. His long-held plan to become a civil engineer with the n airforce may get a makeover after a visit to Abu Dhabi’s main renewable energy research centre, the Masdar Institute.
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The author was a guest at IRENA’s seventh annual assembly and the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi.