East High School in Salt Lake City is using the sun to help students learn more about alternative energy, through the installation of a solar energy system.
The school received a 1.7-kilowatt rooftop solar array through a funding award from Rocky Mountain Power's Blue Sky renewable energy program.
The 190-watt photovoltaic panels were installed on the school's roof late last month to generate solar power as part of Renewable Synergy LLC's Utah Solar Schools Initiative.
Brian Smith, owner and manager of Renewable Synergy, said students and teachers helped assemble and mount the solar panels on the roof of the school. The panels will be used as a learning tool and to supple-ment the school's energy supply.
"What we'd like to do is give them some ideas and get them some inspiration as to what they can do with these alternative energy sources," Smith said.
Since the panels were installed in late January, the array has generated 10 kilowatt hours of electricity, which is enough to power four homes for one day, according to the company's Web site.
Last year, Renewable Synergy installed Utah's first solar array at a school at the Entheos Academy, a charter school in Kearns.
"We spent an entire month learning about what is renewable energy and what is non-renewable energy," said Camine Fuhrman, program coordinator at the Entheos Academy. She said the program excited the students, who ranged from first grade through junior high school.
Smith, who is an electrical engineer, said his company specializes in the design of solar photovoltaic and small wind systems to power homes, businesses and schools. The company helped spearhead the Utah Solar Schools Initiative to teach students about renewable energy technologies.
Rocky Mountain Power's Blue Sky program allows customers to support newly developed renewable energy generation by purchasing 100-kilowatt-hour increments, called blocks, for $1.95 per block per month, in addition to a customer's regular electric bill.
Renewable Synergy is currently preparing to design and install a third solar-panel system at Ecker Hill International Middle School in Park City, according to Smith. He said that system will also be a 1.7-kilowatt solar array, similar to the one at East High.
Smith said the nine-panel array at East cost $17,000 from design to installation. A larger system at Entheos cost a bit more to develop, but he estimates future arrays will be in the same price range as the ones at East High and Ecker.In addition to learning about the mechanics of solar energy, the initiative "will get the students thinking about what the social issues are, the environmental impacts and scientific issues," Smith said.