GALVESTON COUNTY DAILY NEWS
Texas' Oldest Newspaper
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
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
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
— 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