A wet and gloomy Monday, the sun nowhere in sight, was the setting for the announcement at Hillside Middle School that 73 solar panels will be installed atop 73 schools across Utah.
The solar photovoltaic arrays will be placed on the roof of at least one school in each of Utah’s 41 school districts to generate renewable energy for the schools and teach schoolchildren about energy efficiency and alternatives.
“I think it’s really cool that as a school, we can make a difference by being ‘green’ and not wasting as much energy,” seventh-grader Annie Connolly said. “It’s cool that we are different from other schools that pollute the earth.”
“This is an incredibly exciting day,” said Gil Sperling, a U.S. Department of Energy senior adviser for energy efficiency and renewable energy. “As far as I know, Utah is the first state in the country to systematically implement this kind of program.”
Educating students and teachers about energy is one of the main goals of the Solar for Schools programs.
“Solar for Schools gives us an opportunity to educate students about the role of energy in their lives,” said Elise Brown, renewable energy coordinator for the Utah Department of Natural Resources. “It is our hope that students who benefit from this program will go on to inform and inspire others about this very important topic.”
More than 200 Utah teachers will attend a class this year sponsored by the National Energy Foundation. They will learn how solar, wind and geothermal energies work, with a special focus on the implications of renewable energy in Utah.
Sperling said the Solar for Schools program has four major benefits — strengthening the economy by reducing dependence on imported oil, offsetting carbon emissions by the increased use of solar energy, creating jobs, and increasing awareness and education about energy efficiency.
The DOE estimates that over a 20-year span, the effect of the Solar for Schools program will be the equivalent of planting 11,000 trees.
“This program is about educating students, teachers, parents and the community at large,” Sperling said. “People are going to look at these panels and say, ‘This is what we ought to be doing.’ ”