Local school officials gathered at Meadowview Magnet Middle School recently for the unveiling of a solar panel array thanks to donations from two entities.
In January the nonprofit agency NC GreenPower visited Meadowview to kick off the start of a project – one of only four in the state – where a school would have a solar energy system built on campus.
With a $10,000 donation from GreenPower, the school could have had a 3-kilowatt system installed, but the project was bumped up to 5 kW when the State Employees’ Credit Union Foundation added another $10,000 to the project. The Surry County Schools Educational Foundation then provided a $10,000 matching fund.
The array has 12 panels roughly the size of a door that produce 435 watts of power each, according to Vicky McCann, vice president of NC GreenPower. With a dozen panels, that comes to 5.22 kW in total.
The array is erected on a racking system well off the ground so that no one bumps their head on a panel, while also keeping the array far enough off the ground that shrubs and bushes won’t block the light.
Not only is Meadowview the only middle school among the four campuses in the Solar Schools program, it was also the first completed, making it the only Solar Schools array in the state until the others come online.
Surry County Schools held a ceremony to commemorate the unveiling. Meadowview’s seventh grade band, under the direction of Jennifer Riska, performed.
While the solar energy system will help reduce electricity costs at Meadowview, educators are more excited about what this will allow them to teach in classrooms.
“Jeff is the one who got the ball rolling,” said Dr. Travis Reeves, county school superintendent. Jeff Edwards is the coordinator of the Science Institute, working with teachers at the 19 locations of the Surry County Schools system to enhance science programs.
Edwards, who wrote the grant application for the school system, believes the solar project aligns with the science curriculum and will provide students with a greater understanding of solar energy.
All system students will have the opportunity to visit the Science Institute at Meadowview in the upcoming school year and engage in lessons about how photovoltaic systems operate.
“This will support the mission of the SCS Science Institute to provide students opportunities to engage in meaningful science experiences with which to deepen their knowledge of scientific concepts,” said Edwards.
“Students participating in summer STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) camps will be the first to learn about solar energy. The theme of these camps is sustainability and one focus will be on the use of solar energy.”
Five Meadowview students discussed why the world needs renewable energy sources and the benefits of using solar power.
Other guest speakers included Reeves; John E. Priddy, board of directors for the Surry County School Educational Foundation; Dr. Robert K. Koger, president of NC GreenPower; and Michael L. Clements, board of directors for the State Employees’ Credit Union.
The solar array’s monitoring system will be hooked into the internet so that each of the schools can go online and pull up relevant data coming from the panels to use in class discussions, said Edwards.
The solar PV array with the monitoring equipment, weather station and curriculum will serve as an educational tool in the classrooms, and the system will likely produce enough renewable energy to power the school’s main office. The solar PV system will save an estimated 6,570 kilowatt hours in electricity with a potential cost savings of $657 annually.
Edwards said one of the things that excites him is the teachers getting their own raw data that they analyze. The students can compare data from Surry County with that coming from the three high schools that are next: C.E. Jordan High, Durham County; East Columbus High, Columbus County; and New Bern High, Craven County.
Reach Jeff at 415-4692.