Liberty High School will get solar power technology from PSE

May 12, 2009

By Jim Feehan


Solar panels, similar to these at the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, will be installed this summer near the entrance to Liberty High School, thanks to a grant from Puget Sound Energy. By Jim Feehan

Solar panels, similar to these at the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, will be installed this summer near the entrance to Liberty High School, thanks to a grant from Puget Sound Energy. By Jim Feehan

Next fall, Liberty High School students will gain hands-on knowledge about solar technology thanks to a grant from Puget Sound Energy. Liberty and five other schools received $26,700 last month from the energy provider.  

The money will pay for installation of a 1.5-kilowatt solar array at each school, and the purchase of monitoring software and classroom curriculum, to allow the students to track how much energy they are making from the sun. In addition, the Issaquah Schools Foundation contributed $9,600 for a mounting pole, a tracking device and inverters.

The solar panels won’t be hard to find. They’ll be installed on a 12-foot pole in front of the main entrance, said Mark Buchli, a science teacher at Liberty. 

“We wanted to choose a site to make it as visible as possible,” he said. 

At 1.5 kilowatts, each solar array will generate enough power, on average, to operate 15 notebook computers for 1,000 hours. In addition to the solar panels, the grant supports the purchase of inverters to connect renewable energy generators to each school’s electrical system, monitoring software, and teaching, training and lesson plans developed by the Bonneville Environmental Foundation as part of its Solar 4R Schools program.

Students in Buchli’s physics, honors physics and freshman physical science classes will be able to chart the amount of energy produced by the panels. They’ll also learn about the benefits of solar energy and other renewable energy sources, Buchli said.

Next academic year, Buchli and his physics students will also tour Maywood Middle School, and Apollo, Briarwood, Maple Hills and Newcastle elementary schools to discuss the importance of alternative energy sources such as solar panels.

“Any school in the district can tap into this data from Mark,” said John Macartney, Issaquah School District resource conservation manager.

School districts qualifying for the Solar Schools program submitted grant applications earlier this year detailing their educational goals, how their project would bring renewable energy technologies and what steps would be taken to increase community awareness of the potential for using renewable energy technologies. 

Eleonar Schneider, of Newcastle, was looking into solar energy panels for her house when she discovered PSE’s Solar Schools program. 

“I found out we needed to have a resource conservation manager, which we already had in John,” said Schneider, who wrote the grant application. “It’s like the moon and the stars aligned.”

Since 2004, PSE has funded the installation of systems for sites including Western Washington University, Interlake High School in Bellevue and the Issaquah Salmon Hatchery. Neighboring Hazen High School in Renton was among the schools receiving a grant this year.

“Today’s students are hungry for real-world experience, to be able to see first hand how things work,” said Cal Shirley, vice president of energy efficiency for Puget Sound Energy. “Our solar grant program brings renewable energy to the classroom and makes the challenges and solutions we face with energy real and compelling.”

Reach Reporter Jim Feehan at 392-6434, ext. 239, or Comment on this story at

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