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AEP Spreads the Sunshine
The utility teaches school kids about solar power.
A merican Electric Power (AEP) has launched an innovative program that uses solar power to teach school children about renewable energy while-hopefully-getting them interested in math and science. The "Learning from Light!" program was started in 1999 by AEP, and now boasts membership of its 100th school.
It's a hands-on project for the kids.
The students choose the site and best angle for the solar panel. In fact, AEP has a Web site on how to make electrons work harder, i.e., "make electrons sweat," which details the efficiency of various solar panel angles from a true south, east, or west position. The kids will find out that the tilt of the panel is important. For example, at the first school to take part in the program, Bluffsview School in Ohio, the best tilt for average efficiency was found to be in the 40-degree range.
But to really make the electrons in the solar cells work hard, advises AEP, the students should change the angle every month. AEP points the kids towards a "SUNANGLE" program they can use to figure out the best angles for placement of solar panels for their school, or any location. The Web site explains that solar panels must be kept clean, just as a light bulb must be dusted off to allow all the light into the room.
AEP provides direction on how schools can sign up for their program, starting with obtaining a free video on the Bluffsview experience. AEP says that the program helped improve math scores at Bluffsview, and Bluffsview will send a letter for the principal and school board attesting to that. Then the principal needs to send an e-mail expressing interest in taking part to the Foundation for Environmental Education, the Energy Management Corporation, and to AEP. They in turn will send a speaker to the school to explain the steps for joining.
Then there is the cost. The AEP Web site says the program works best if a local bank is contacted to handle donations. It suggests that the Superintendent of Schools send home a letter with all students explaining the project and noting "you should try to get a lot of donations," since a projects costs between $15,000 and $20,000. In fact, Edison Electric Institute spokesman Keith E. Voight explained it costs between $10,000 and $12,000 for a solar panel that generates about one kilowatt. But not to worry. AEP explains that since the school will actually buy the project, businesses might be willing to give a lot more, because they might be able to get a tax deduction.
The Web site is full of helpful tidbits for the students, such as the section on how to make and read a graph, which shows how much power the solar panels are producing and how much energy the school is using. Students can point and click to create the graphs on the Web site. They can create graphs for daylight, night light, and total school electricity usage.
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