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Imaginations ignited by new solar panels

By Carolina Amengual
The Daily News

Published November 17, 2003

SEABROOK — Sixth- and seventh-graders at Seabrook Intermediate clustered around a solar panel Friday morning for a hands-on lesson on renewable energy. The 72-cell panel is one of eight installed on campus for educational purposes.

“I think some of these kids will end up in some related field,” said Sandy Peck, coordinator of the Science Magnet program. “This is going to spark and ignite their imagination.”

The Clear Creek Independent School District school is the first in the area to get a photovoltaic system through the Texas Solar Schools Program.

The 1 kW system, a computer-based monitoring device and a learning kit cost about $10,000.

The State Energy Conservation Office funded 75 percent of the cost and a local sponsor, Green Mountain Energy Company, paid the remainder.

“The goal is to make the kids, faculty and everybody aware of this source of energy,” said Jaya Jackson, engineering manager with CSG Services, the contractor overseeing installation. “We want them to know it’s just as reliable as other conventional sources. Schools are gateways to the community. We start with students and, hopefully, they’ll take it to the parents.”

The panels will generate enough electricity to power one classroom with three computers, Jackson said.

During Friday’s class, students discussed how photovoltaic cells, also referred to as solar cells, convert sunlight into electricity without creating air or water pollution. They also talked about possible uses for solar energy beyond calculators, cars and crosswalk warning signs.

“The more you know about solar energy, the more you want to know,” said student Dean Durban, a member of the school’s Solar Team.

In the coming months, the children will be tracking the amount of energy produced by the panels and comparing production and consumption to electricity derived from fossil fuels.

They will also start a Web site to share data with 11 school districts across the state and work on several projects, including building small-scale solar panels for their homes.

“I want to help with electricity bills,” seventh-grader Michael Pontikos said.


Solar Energy Timeline

3rd century BC — Greeks and Romans use “burning mirrors” to ignite fires and burn sails of enemy warships.

20 AD — Chinese document use of mirrors to light torches for religious purposes.

1500 AD — Romans build baths with large windows to use heat from the sun.

1767 — Horace de Saussure invents the first solar collector.

1839 — Edmund Becquerel observes photovoltaic effect.

1861 — Augustin Mouchot patents solar engine.

1880s — John Ericsson, the “first American solar scientist,” develops solar-driven engines for ships.

1908 — Carnegie Steel Company invents the first modern type of roof solar collector.

1950s — Architect Frank Bridgers design’s the world’s first solar-heated office building.

1954 — Birth of solar cells.

1950s — Solar cells used in satellites.

1970s — U.S. Department of Energy established. National solar research laboratories created.

1980 — Several states establish their own research solar facilities.

— Source: CSG Services for Watts on Schools


• Texas has more renewable energy potential — solar, wind and biomass — than any other state because of its size and diverse climate.

• Direct solar radiation is strongest in west and north Texas, though the entire state is suitable for small-scale solar installations.

• Renewable energy resources provide the same energy services that we get now from fossil fuels.

— Source: State Energy Conservation Office

Copyright © 2003 Galveston County Daily News

Updated: 2016/06/30

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