Scottsdale schools look to harness Sun Power

27 Nov
Scottsdale schools look to harness Sun Power  

By Brett Nachman
Independent Correspondent

Four Scottsdale high school students “soaked up the sun” during their fall break to participate in the SunPower Solar Science Academy — a week-long program aimed to educate students on the benefits of solar energy implementation.

Scottsdale Unified School District is the only district in Arizona to participate in this one-of-a-kind initiative.

Five other school districts in California have been involved as well, SUSD officials say.

The quartet of Saguaro and Coronado students to partake in this program included Taylor Clark, Carlos Mora, Jessica Norman and Abraham Ramirez.

The students, at the Nov. 20 SUSD governing board meeting, shared information on solar power and their experiences during the project.

Dr. Karen Benson, SUSD director of curriculum, said that the collaboration with the SunPower Corp. involved “the agreement that we would allow students to showcase their learning in front of our governing board members.”

Dr. Benson recognized SUSD coordinators Chris Brandt and Janey Kaufmann for the “many hours they put in,” as well as “superstar” lead teachers Susan Lindberg and Erika Mills.

The students developed Galileo Systems, a fictional company, and assumed roles within this project.

They discussed the potential of solar power, as well as the progress SUSD has made in embracing this energy.

“Making energy resolve around the sun” represented the slogan of their presentation.

Mr. Mora spoke to the scientific process of converting sunlight into electricity.

Meanwhile, his colleague, Ms. Clark, informed the audience that “enough sunlight falls to Earth every hour to meet our world’s energy demand for an entire year.”

The students shared that solar energy can be incorporated at a household level, as their project partially focused around determining the cost and energy savings of a sample home.

Their example, showcasing a house boasting a south-facing view, 34-degree-angle roof and no foliage obstructions, could save approximately 11,000 pounds of carbon dioxide gas emissions from being released each year.

“Let’s face it, we get a lot of sun here,” joked Mr. Ramirez.

Mr. Ramirez said he advocates solar power because of it being “more eco-friendly, safer, cheaper, more productive and just plain more basic compared to other energy sources.”

This project ties to SUSD’s real-life utilization of solar energy.

The district recently applied the Qualified School Conservation Bond to partner with SunPower and equip 11 of its 33 schools with solar panels.

These newly-installed systems can be found on SUSD school rooftops and on parking lot shading structures.

“QSCB allows companies that wish to reduce energy consumption in public buildings to have bonds to help pay for the expenditure,” said Mr. Ramirez.

This natural form of energy is expected to save Scottsdale schools electricity costs around $25 million in the next 25 years, a May press release states.

During the Solar Science Academy, these students discussed strategies on integrating solar energy into the community, even gaining firsthand experience via taking field trips to various businesses.

Ms. Norman said they visited Stara Technologies in Glendale, which tests solar panels for usage in the military.

The students said they enjoyed the opportunity to participate in the program and better appreciate this form of technology.

“My grandfather tried to promote solar panels 20 years ago, which wasn’t cost-effective then,” said Ms. Norman.

Ms. Norman said she participated in the camp to remember her late grandfather, “but also to increase my knowledge of solar technology and how to improve my lifestyle.”

Mr. Ramirez said he was “oblivious” to this subject matter beforehand, but benefits from having been a part of the SunPower Solar Science Academy.

Mr. Mora attained “business and team management skills” from working on the project with his fellow students.

“I learned lessons on cleaner living that will carry with me for the rest of my life,” said Ms. Clark.

Editor’s note: Mr. Nachman is participating in the Independent Newmsedia’s correspondent program

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