School Children Learn by Using Solar Panels





Legislators can promote early familiarity with solar power by encouraging their departments of education to work in partnership with electricity utilities to install small solar panels in schools. In Hawaii, 'Sun Power for Schools' is a voluntary partnership between the State Department of Education and electric companies. Funded through a green-pricing programme, Hawaii's utilities are installing, operating and maintaining solar electric systems in selected schools, which give students a hands-on opportunity to see renewable energy at work. The Utilities also work in partnership with the State Education Department to integrate the systems into a renewable energy curriculum.


The idea:


In the US state of Hawaii, electricity utilities have been working with the state Department of Education to install solar photovolactic (PV) panels on public schools, and integrate these systems into a renewable energy curriculum.


The Hawaiian Electric Company (HEC), and its subsidiaries - Hawaii Electric Light Company and Maui Electric Company - launched Sun Power for Schools in 1996 with $140,000 of earmarked funds. Since its launch, the utilities have contributed over $300,000 more to the programme, raised mainly through a green-pricing programme, and voluntary contributions from customers.


Under the programme, HEC has installed small solar electric systems on the roof of school buildings. Most of the systems installed at schools are fairly simple two-kilowatt solar electric systems. On average a 2 Kw system is only large enough to supply roughly two-percent of the electric load of a school, so the dollar savings from the programme are not huge, rather the emphasis of the programme is on education and awareness.


Schools are selected for the programme on recommendation by the State Department of Education, based on technical considerations and the schools' receptivity to energy and environmental curricula. The solar photovolactic systems are installed and maintained by the electric company personnel, and the Energy Utilities also work together with the Department of Education to integrate the solar electric system into a renewable energy and environmental curriculum, and to develop that curriculum.


The programme helps to encourage renewable energy education for the State's school children and to promote the concept of solar power more widely as an alternative to conventional fuels. About 20 Hawaiian public schools have so far received a Sun Power system, which means hundreds of children being educated about renewable energy and its benefits. Other states, such as Ohio, are also undertaking similar projects.