Sun Power for Schools
Learning about renewable energy and its impact on the environment can produce a significant "yawn factor" for many students, but Sun Power for Schools, a new initiative of Green Power EMC and Irwin EMC promises to make the lessons more interesting.
In the 2005-2006 school year, Irwin EMC partnered with Irwin County School System to install a photovoltaic system to harness energy from the sun. Sun Power for Schools represents the first statewide academic program to showcase the benefits of solar energy.
"The EMCs were the first utilities to offer renewable energy to Georgians," says Hope Paulk with Irwin EMC. "We’re delighted to broaden our efforts and share another environmentally friendly technology with middle and high school students."
According to Paulk, Sun Power for Schools was a logical choice because electric cooperatives have a history of successful partnerships with schools.
In August 2005, a photovoltaic system was installed at the C.A.S.E. Farm at Irwin County High School in Ocilla. The solar installation was the first in the state as part of this project and will become an important component in the school’s curriculum and provide students with a hands-on example of renewable energy generation.
A monitoring device will allow students to see the amount of energy produced each day, and the accumulated data will be used in math and science classes to provide additional resource materials to support classroom projects. The data, available on the Internet, can be shared by other schools. The solar panels will be located outside for easy access and viewing by students, their parents, and other members of the community.
The solar panels will become part of a mix of renewable energy sources provided by electric co-ops to help reduce pollution, preserve natural resources and reduce the state's reliance on traditional energy sources.
"It was exciting to show the students a fan powered by a portable solar panel. They were amazed that a shadow over the unit was able to slow the fan down," says Paulk.
The Sun Power for Schools Project was made possible through a $160,000 donation of Green Power EMC, an energy cooperative formed by 16 of the state’s EMCs, including Irwin EMC. Created in 2001, Green Power EMC contracts for electricity generated by renewable resources, like biomass, solar and low-impact hydro. The green electricity is distributed by the EMCs to the electric system that supports the consumer’s home or business.