Students at Bluffsville Elementary School in Worthington, Ohio, in 1999 discovered the “wow” moment that really got them excited about science and math—the solar energy system they installed was generating electricity. Bluffsview was the first solar school in American Electric Power’s Learning from Light! program.
Learning from Light! is expecting to welcome its 100th school during the 2002-03 school year.
Learning from Light! is a hands-on program for teaching students about energy resources. Developed by AEP with the Foundation for Environmental Education and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Learning from Light! is available to any educational facility through local partnerships, with the greatest participation being among elementary and middle schools. Some international schools are also participating in the program. One, in Porvenir, Bolivia, is using its photovoltaic system to provide the only electricity in the village.
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Teachers at Learning from Light! schools use a curriculum developed by the Foundation and the National Energy Education Development project to make classroom connections between the photovoltaic installation at the school and the in-class activities. Proficiency test scores in math and science improved at Bluffsview following installation of the solar system.
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“That’s the true mission of AEP’s ‘Learning from Light!’ program,” said Paul Loeffelman, AEP director of environmental public policy. “Give teachers an exciting resource, and students will prosper.”
The typical school installation is a 1,000-watt ground-mounted photovoltaic panel system with a 10-by-8 footprint. Panels are usually placed in a high traffic location, so students, teachers and the public become familiar with the technology. Once the solar panels are up, the students can graph how much power is generated hour by hour, while another graph shows them how much power their school is consuming.
An Internet connection to http://www.aep. com/environmental/renewables/solar/ default.htm allows students to check out how much power their school is generating compared with other Learning from Light! schools. Total generating capacity from all schools is about 100 kilowatts. DOE’s Office of Renewable Energy certifies each project under its Million Solar Roofs and Energy$mart Schools programs.
A system typically costs a school about $10,000. With data collection systems and teacher training, the complete system is valued around $12,000. AEP facilitates contract arrangements between schools and vendors and helps schools apply for grants offered by some states for renewable energy projects. The state energy office in Ohio is providing $3,000 per school. Local sponsors often contribute money, and some AEP power plants have also adopted schools in their communities.