Solar panels help Clover Middle School students learn about renewable energy
For the past few years, sixth-grade students at Clover Middle School have had a new kind of teacher—the sun.
A solar panel solar cell array was installed in 2014, thanks to a partnership between Santee Cooper and York Electrical Co-Op for Green Power Solar School initiative.
The 2-kilowatt solar power system panel was mounted high on a pole and continues to produce electricity 100 percent from the sun’s rays.
The Santee Cooper program is part of the organization’s specially-designed “renewable energy curriculum,” which meets state science and math standards for sixth grade students, said Mollie Gore, manager of corporate communications with Santee Cooper.
As part of the program, three sixth-grade science teachers at Clover Middle School were trained on how to teach students using the new technology and gave the teachers solar power lesson kits and materials to incorporate into their science lessons.
Students were then able to get a hands-on look at how the sun can harness energy and save money.
Students could log in each day to a “sunny portal” online through Santee Cooper that monitors the panel to see exactly how many kilowatts of total energy was being captured.
“It was a great learning connection for our sixth grade students to have a panel on site when we did our solar energy lesson,” said Morgan Lombardo, sixth grade science teacher at Clover Middle School. “Students could see the direct link on how it worked in the school.”
Students were able to see the energy harnessed by the solar panel on sunny days versus cloudy days, and also could tell when the sun set each evening and rose each morning based on the readings, Lombardo said.
“The higher the kilowatt per hour the more energy it is able to produce—if it’s cloudy, there’s a dip,” Lombardo said. “At night it was cool for the students to see how the energy production flat-lined because it was dark.”
As an additional part of the lesson, students were given mini solar panels and were asked to build a car that runs solely on solar power.
Students had to place the solar panels on the cars and adjust them so that the solar panels were angled perfectly towards the sun.
“They made the connection that the panel is an energy source and the car needs electricity to run,” Lombardo said.
After the solar cars were built, students raced them outdoors in a competition to see which went the fastest using just sunlight.
The Santee Cooper Solar Schools Program is part of the organization’s specially-designed “renewable energy curriculum.”
There are 28 solar schools around the state of South Carolina and the mission of the program is to promote renewable energy.
“The intent is to help middle school students learn first-hand the opportunities and challenges that come with solar power,” Gore said. “The great things about these programs is that Clover Middle School students see in real time what the panel is generating and what it has generated over time.”
The initiative is designed to encourage interest in the environment and demonstrate the feasibility and limitations of renewable power generation. The solar power system provides a teaching and research opportunity for students.
Santee Cooper launched and dedicated its first solar school in 2007 and is working to add more Green Power solar schools, in partnerships with local electric cooperatives, Gore said.
As of 2015, the Green Power program across the state has produced 1 million megawatt hours of electricity.
Clover Middle School principal Calub Courtwright said he’s been pleased with how much the solar panels have enhanced the school’s sixth grade science program.
“We teach our students that global warming threatens our environment and in the classroom, the teachers do a great job of discussing the importance of taking care of the environment,” he said. “Overall, it’s a great real-life learning experience.”
Paul Basha, CEO for York Electric Cooperative added, “These dynamic lessons empower our youth and energize our future.”
While Clover Middle School relocated to Barrett Road from its previous location on Highway 55 this school year, Lombardo said the solar power kits moved over with them and once construction on the new building is complete, teachers expect a panel to be installed at the new school.
The old site will become a Ninth Grade Academy next year, with the school’s electricity still being harvested.
To learn more about the program, visit www.scgreenpower.com.