Solar power helps students learn, school save

Wednesday , February 29, 2012 - 8:08 PM

Students, teachers and staffers at West Haven's Quest Academy are pleased that the school will save...

WEST HAVEN -- Students, teachers and staffers at West Haven's Quest Academy are pleased that the school will save a few thousand dollars a year with its new solar panels.

But the fun part for the science-themed charter school is what can be learned from their own private data collection system on solar power.

"Our science teachers will be able to talk about how solar power is generated, and get our kids thinking about alternative energy sources for the future," said Principal Lani Rounds. "Data will be used in math class, and little bits of information will work their way through our entire curriculum. The students will have fun seeing how much power is generated on a sunny day versus a cloudy day. And our kids, and any interested community members who want to learn more, will be a little ahead of others in knowing this information that will be so important in the future."

The project, which includes 44 solar panels installed on the roof of the school's main building and an informational monitor, was funded by a $58,542 grant from Rocky Mountain Power's Blue Sky Program, which allows customers to donate by checking a box on their power bill. Quest Academy's management company, Academia West, applied for the Blue Sky Program grant.

Grant writer Bonnie Hagen said the solar panels have been a big hit in another school the company manages, Early Light Academy in South Jordan.

"It's an amazing educational opportunity for students, the staff and the community," Hagen said. "They install a monitor at the entryway of the school, and there is real-time data of how much power is being generated, how many trees are being saved, how much carbon dioxide is being avoided. By using the solar panels, it saves our schools thousands of dollars, and we get the opportunity to help the community understand sustainable energy. And when our students grow up, they will be able to make good decisions about the environment and their impact on it."

Rounds said she believes the solar array will save the school $3,000 to $4,000 per year in power costs.

The solar panels at Quest Academy, a kindergarten through eighth-grade school, are expected to generate nearly 18,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually. The entryway monitor is not yet online, so measurements have not yet begun. Once the monitor is functioning, anyone interested can see real-time data on a solar generation link to be added to the school's website, www.questacademycharter.org.

More than 35,600 Utah residents and businesses participate in the Blue Sky program, according to Rocky Mountain Power, which also is the nation's second largest utility owner of wind-powered electric generating resources.

For information on the Blue Sky Program, visit www.rockymountainpower.net/bluesky.

"Grants are limited, and it's exciting to be chosen," Rounds said. "And I think we are the only solar-powered place in West Haven, so this is an exciting thing for the whole community."

Quest Academy, 4862 W. 4000 South, West Haven, hosts a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 9 a.m. Thursday for anyone interested in learning more about solar power at the school. Information will be presented by Rocky Mountain Power and Wasatch Sun, the company that installed the 44 solar panels.

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