Park City students study renewable energy |

Park City students study renewable energy

Douglas Greenwood, of the Record Staff

Students throughout the state will soon begin studying the effects of solar power from their classroom. As part of the Solar for Schools program, at least one school from every district in Utah will receive about a 60-foot array of solar panels. The panels will produce about 5 kilowatts of electricity, enough to power a small residence.

Park City High School received the array in early November, said Steven Oliver of the Park City School District. The panel, which has not yet been set up, will only offset a fraction of the energy used by the high school, according to Oliver.

"This program was never set up to save money," he said. "It was an education tool."

Funding for the $3 million grant came from the U.S. Department of Energy as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The grant covers the cost of installing the 73 panels as well as a renewable energy curriculum training program, which will help 200 teachers throughout the state integrate the use of solar energy into their science and math curriculum.

Administrators from Park City School District will send between two and six teachers to the training, who will in turn pass on what they learn to the remainder of the faculty.

Oliver said the school principal is likely to send science teachers and those who have an interest in environmental studies or clubs to the next faculty training scheduled for late winter or early spring.

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"Science technology instructors can incorporate it into the curriculum," Oliver said.

Some teachers in the district already have some experience in reading and interpreting this kind of data. Ecker Hill Middle School and Park City High School currently have small solar panels on the roofs that science teachers use. The existing panels are smaller and produce far less power than the new one will, Oliver said.

The new panel would take the place of the older one on the roof.

With 41 districts state-wide and 73 panels, not every school building will receive one, but every district will.

"A school doesn’t have to have a panel to take advantage of it," said Utah’s Solar for Schools project manager Bruce Munson. Munson works for Johnson Controls Inc., a national company with a focus on renewable and sustainable energy in charge of distributing panels, setting them up and training teachers.

School districts across the state will be able to publish data from the panels, allowing students to look at and compare local information to that from outside their own environment, Munson said.

Munson said that the company is considering whether to install a second solar panel in the district, placing it on the roof of Ecker Hill Middle School. Munson said it’s likely to happen.

"I think Ecker Hill will be an excellent candidate for a second site," Oliver said.

"There is a pretty broad span of potential for the classroom," he added. "It’s going to further the acceptance of solar power and sustainable energy."