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Video pitch for ‘energy farm’ video wows Vernon Hills officials

Two high-school age brothers from Vernon Hills think they have a good idea and, given the initial feedback, their vision for an “energy farm” near school may have a chance to get off the ground.

Devin and Jack Mulcrone, who will be a freshman and senior respectively at Vernon Hills High School, each has participated in various sports at the Vernon Hills Athletic Complex and noticed two things at the site: it’s often “really windy” sometimes to the point of disruption; and, there are a lot of lights, which coaches say are expensive to run.

So, they spent about a year researching solar and wind technologies, learning computer programs and associated work to create a video to make their case for wind power to create electricity for the site and establishing an energy education and research facility at the complex.

“Our goal is to create something that solves a problem and also educates people about renewable energy,” said Devin, 14, and Jack 17. They also knew this “big important project” would need buy-in from several sources.

With support from the school administration, the first step was to see what local officials thought. On Tuesday, they played “What If Vernon Hills …?” a 3 minute, 58 second YouTube video for the village board.

After the presentation, trustees appeared almost stunned at the level of thought and professionalism.

“Fantastic idea and great presentation. I’m certainly fully in favor of this. I think it’s brilliant,” Trustee David Oppenheim said.

“That was one of the best pitches I’ve ever seen from two young kids like yourselves. That was awesome,” added Trustee Craig Takaoka.

Takaoka suggested the pair pitch the idea to professionals at Northwestern University, the University of Illinois or closer to home, Stevenson High School.

“I’d be more than willing to help you, and I think anyone else on this board would be willing to help you,” he added.

Other trustees expressed similar sentiments. Trustee Thom Koch, a longtime teacher, suggested a staff liaison help the teens navigate the next steps.

By the end of the meeting, village Public Works Director/Engineer David Brown had said he already contacted ComEd on their behalf with “something you might be able to help them with.”

The presentation was lean on some specifics, such as exact location and potential cost, but the intent was to gauge support.

“We honestly didn’t expect to get so much positive feedback so quickly,” Devin said Wednesday.

Establishing a nonprofit organization for fundraising; having district parents donate expertise to design, engineer and build the facility; introduce local, state and federal officials to “a winning bipartisan deal” and then have them secure energy grants; securing corporate donations to buy equipment; and developing an app for teachers and students to monitor the operation in real time, are strategies outlined in the video.