January 25, 2012
Catch a glimpse of Bob Stonerock, ’69 driving down the road in his new electric-powered Chevy Volt and it’s safe to assume he has a passion for environmental preservation. But peel back the layers of this Rollins pre-med graduate and you’ll discover a man whose actions demonstrate an unwavering dedication to making a positive impact on the planet.
Even before Stonerock retired from his nephrology medical practice in 1999, he had a strong interest in renewable energy and dreamed of power systems that would drastically reduce his carbon footprint. The jump from doctor to environmentalist isn’t such a big leap, according to Stonerock. “We have to have a healthy planet in order to have a healthy population.”
So, the doctor started doing his part to heal the planet. “One of the things you can do when you believe in a cause is to actually live it yourself,” said Stonerock, who in 1996 began installing 70 solar panels on his Orlando property.
In 2008, he built a structure in his backyard housing 77 200-watt solar panels. Dubbed by his wife as the “Tower of Power,” the structure has allowed him to go completely solar, which means the only electricity he uses is the electricity he produces himself. That includes the electricity that powers the Volt.
“My goal was to reduce my carbon footprint to zero, and I am now about 90 percent of the way there,” said Stonerock, whose daughter, both parents, sister, and uncle also graduated from Rollins.
As one of Florida’s largest residential solar customers, Stonerock is a pioneer in urban solar energy, at least in Central Florida. In fact, when Rollins started investigating the use of solar panels for the Bush Science Center, they sought Stonerock’s opinion and advice.
Four years ago, Stonerock became the president of the Florida Renewable Energy Association, a non-profit that does advocacy and education in renewable energy.
“I have a lot of insight into climate change and the risk that we are taking by putting all of our waste products in our atmosphere. We have powerful forces at work in this country that would stifle the scientific-based facts about climate change,” said Stonerock. “I see it as an emergency and I have to do my part. I’m not about to just sit back and not be proactive.”
By the way, if you don’t happen to catch him cruising I-4 in his Chevy Volt, you can see him perform Handel’s Messiah during the free concert scheduled each Thanksgiving weekend at the Bob Carr Performing Arts Centre. Stonerock isn’t just an avid environmental activist, he’s also the president of Orlando’s Messiah Choral Society.
By Kristen Manieri