Liberty’s solar panels nearly ready
December 8, 2009
By Tim Pfarr
Sustainability curriculum to follow
The installation of Liberty High School’s new solar panels is nearly complete, and the school will likely adopt new sustainability curricula into its science classes next semester.
Science teacher Mark Buchli said the school’s panels were supposed to be installed in August, but contracting difficulties delayed the installation until October.
“It’s been a long haul,” he said, noting that the project has been in the works for two years.
Liberty’s nine solar panels now sit atop a pole about 20 feet from the ground, just behind the reader board at the entrance to the parking lot.
Liberty’s panels were funded by a $26,700 grant from Puget Sound Energy as part of the Solar 4R Schools program. The Bonneville Environmental Foundation oversees the program.
The Issaquah Schools Foundation contributed $9,500 to the school for enhancements to the basic solar panel structure as part of its Big Ideas grant program. The money from the foundation funded a tracking device that allows the panels to physically follow the sun across the sky.
Issaquah School District Resource Conservation Manager John McCartney said the tracking device will allow the panel to produce 25 percent to 40 percent more energy.
“It’s getting the maximum amount of energy from the sun,” he said.
Workers from A & R Solar installed the structure from Oct. 26-28, and it now awaits final cable installations, an electrical inspection and a productivity examination from PSE after the panels are fully operational.
Once the panels are up and recording data, a Bonneville Environmental Foundation official will visit Liberty to inform teachers of the different options available for implementation of a sustainability curriculum.
Buchli said he expects the curriculum to be incorporated into all of Liberty’s science courses except biology.
“I’m excited to see the curriculum piece,” he said. “That’s where we plant the seed.”
Through the grant, Liberty also received a solar oven and portable solar panel that can be used for demonstration and research.
Buchli said the new equipment has caught students’ eyes.
“There’s been a lot of amazement,” he said, adding that he already has an honors physics student who plans to use the portable device to conduct her own research.
Those who have been involved with the project are excited the panels are nearly operational and ready to help students learn.
“I’m just thrilled,” said volunteer Eleonor Schneider, who co-wrote the grant proposal. “Mark is just a bundle of energy. It’s just so neat to give him a tool like this, because I know he’s totally going to take advantage of it.”
In the 2010-2011 school year, the educational outreach program will begin, and Buchli, Schneider and Liberty students will travel to Maywood Middle School and local elementary schools to teach younger students about the solar technology at Liberty.
In the curriculum
New curricula Liberty High School students will see added to their science classrooms:
Ninth-grade physical science: data analysis and organization
Chemistry: the science of making a solar panel
Physics: energy conversion and introduction to AC and DC power
Environmental science: Liberty solar panels’ efficiency in comparison to other panels in the area
Tim Pfarr: 392-6434, ext. 239, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.