FPL, PMHS join forces on solar project
Educators hope program will spur careers in green energy
Posted: November 10, 2010 - 12:17am
Source: St. Augustine Record By Jennifer Edwards
It's easy to miss them when you walk into Pedro Menendez High School, but the 22 solar panels near the office are generating a buzz -- literally.
The panels, sitting quietly in a fenced-in square adjacent to the administration building are a $75,000 gift from Florida Power and Light and Jacksonville's Sunworks Solar.
"We know that renewable energy, specifically solar energy in Florida, is going to be important to our state, important to the country, important to the economy," said Maureen Wilt, FPL education program manager.
"We really want to be able to continue to work with students so they can get excited about the future." The five kilowatt system has been up and running since August, pumping enough energy to the school's grid to eventually power five classrooms.
Pedro Menendez is one of eight schools in the state to get one of the photovoltaic installations, called Next Generation Solar Education Stations. Wilt said FPL chose Menendez because "Not only did they have a great science department, but they had this great construction academy," she said. "Some of the first students I met were some young ladies that came out in steel-toed boats."
Teachers Teresa Miska and James Crutchfield said the panels would be a powerful tool to teach students more about alternative energy. "I'm using it as an anchor point," said James Crutchfield, building construction technology instructor. "Something to start discussing green energy." Crutchfield said such discussion was important because it starts students thinking about careers in green energy. "I want ... these kids to think of alternate forms of energy as the main source of energy ... not alternative any more," Crutchfield said.
Crutchfield said the school has software that allows students to see how much energy the panels generate at different times of the day, and how many gallons of gasoline the energy saves. "It will take about a month to get enough data to really see" the impact, Miska said. Miska, an Earth Space Science Teacher, said she intends to build lesson plans around solar energy, complete with solar-powered food cookers, motors and other gadgets. "I think they'll have a blast with it," she said.
The solar power idea was a hit with Catherine Hauer, a senior and one of Miska's students. "I'm a big fan of the environment," she said. "We could always use more types of green energy. "I like where it's going," she said. Crutchfield is already thinking of ways to build on the teaching tools. He'd like to see the school net a solar-powered energy station "so we can travel to job sites and have our own power," he said.
Miska said the school was grateful for the gift. "We want to express our gratitude to Florida Power and Light for giving us the opportunity to learn about solar-powered energy," Miska said. "We are very grateful."
What is it?: A five-kilowatt solar system.
How much power does it generate?: Enough to power five classrooms.
Why are FPL, Sunworks Solar doing this?: To encourage students to consider careers in green energy
How many schools in state are participating?: Eight
What classes will benefit from this?: Science classes, construction academy